Anpanman Museum & Mall is kid’s paradise

by Story and photo by Tyler Hlavac
Stripes Okinawa
If you’ve spent any amount of time in Japan, you’ve seen Anpanman. Even if you didn’t realize it. His face adorns t-shirts, backpacks, vending machines and he is very common place in Japanese daycares and schools. My son is in the early stages of learning to talk, and after spending some time at a Japanese daycare, he came back with a new addition to his vocabulary: 
“Anpanman.”
 
So, in the effort of trying to be a good parent, I tried to take some interest in the things my son is interested, and doing so discovered that not only is Anpanman branded on nearly everything, he has his own children’s museum to boot! Eager to escape Yokosuka and entertain my son, the family and I hopped aboard the train and headed to Yokohama to check out the Anpanman Children’s Museum and Mall.
   
The mall and museum are very distinct and separate areas. The mall itself is of no cost to enter and is composed of various shops where you can buy as much Anpanman merchandise as your heart desires. 
 
Want a slice of bread or a pastry that looks like a cartoon character? They have it. Backpacks, hats, shirts, books, shoes with Anpanman’s face all over it? Check. While this may seem pretty lame, I can tell you that kids LOVE IT. Even if you don’t buy anything. 
 
Kids love just running around and seeing Anpanman’s face all over everything. My son, who likes to point out every time he sees Anpanman, was pointing and saying Anpanman seemingly every 15 seconds and he NEVER got tired of it! 
 
Surprisingly, they also had an Anpanman hair salon, complete with chairs that looked like Anpanman characters, television sets playing Anpanman cartoons and toys for kids to play with while they received a haircut. While this may seem over the top, it’s a godsend if you have a child who has never received or is super fussy when getting a haircut. 
 
My son had yet to have his first haircut (my wife tried before but he threw such a fit the barber refused to cut his hair), but the hair salon managed to entertain and distract him long enough to get his unruly locks of hair trimmed and tamed. 
 
The haircut was expensive (approximately $40 for a cut and shampoo) but definitely worthwhile. The mall also had some places to buy toys, an arcade and a play area for kids. You could reasonably spend a day here and not spend any money.
 
The mall also boasted two different restaurants and a couple of fast food-type counters. One of the restaurants was in a kind of 1950s America style and offered burgers and hotdogs. The other one was more of a Japanese style and offered curry, hamburger steak, tempura, etc. 
 
Obviously, both restaurants are kid friendly. Some of the food dishes are even made to resemble Anpanman characters. The food is decent but the biggest draw is it’s totally kid friendly, and no one cares if your kids scream or make a mess.
 
The museum is the other half of the area to visit and costs money to get in. It’s essentially a giant display of Anpanman’s history and characters … that kids can play on. All the various aspects of Anpanman’s history are depicted as statues or play areas that kids are free to interact with as they please, aside from the art gallery which has several large paintings of Anpanman’s characters by various artists.
 
The museum also has many interactive events throughout the day, including story time and an Anpanman video presentation complete with a dancing staff member dressed as Anpanman, who leads the children in a sing-a-long. 
 
There is a long line to visit the museum, especially in the morning when it first opens. The line does disappear later in the day, but this is also because there are less events in the afternoon. 
 
All the events are conducted in Japanese, so they will have questionable value (especially the story time), but the exhibits themselves are really fun to check out. I personally would recommend visiting the mall area until the museum line dies down.
 
While Anpanman isn’t going to resonate with American children like Snoopy or Mickey Mouse, the museum and mall are still worth a visit. Everything is bright, colorful and child friendly with tons of things for kids to play on. It’s also a good way for kids to experience Japanese culture in a way that is fun and entertaining for them.
 
 
Directions: Within walking distance (5-15 minutes) of the following train stations:  
Takashimacho, Minatomirai, Tobe and Shin-Takashima. 
Hours: Open every day 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The mall is open until 7 p.m. and Peko’s Kitchen restaurant will take orders until 7 p.m. 
Address: 4-3-1, Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku,  Yokohama, 220-0012
Phone: 045-227-8855
English Menu: No
Cost: 1,500 yen for each person older than 1 year.  The mall is free. The restaurant meals vary on what you order. Cheaper dishes like curry or hamburger steak run from 1,000 – 1,300 yen. Higher end dishes like steak are 2,500 yen or more.  
Website: www.yokohama-anpanman.jp (Japanese)
(English website offered by the city of  Yokohama)

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