Author Archives: Angela Vaillant

Canyons – Canyoning at Minakami

If you want a one of a kind of adventure while living in Japan, try canyoning with Canyons Adventure Tours.  My husband talked me into doing a trip to Canyons, Minakami with Yokota Outdoor Recreation for my birthday in July.  It was about a 2 hour bus ride from base.  The first canyoning tours in Japan were started by Canyons in Minakami in 1988 and it has grown into one of the biggest canyoning destinations in the world.  The season typically runs from late April to late October depending on the water flow in the canyons.  The water can be cool but they provide wet suits and all the proper gear you will need.  You can also sign up for a tour using their web-site.  They have many English speaking guides.  We had 3 on our tour and one Japanese guide for the Japanese couple that joined us.  Everything was very well organized, instructions were thorough, and the guides were very attentive to questions and concerns.  We did the Fox Canyon trip which was a half day, approximately 3 hour tour.  From the main Canyons base you take a short bus ride to the start.  One of the guides will take photos the entire trip that you can access after the tour for free.  They also take videos but they were un-savable from their site.  I personally was challenged by parts of the Canyon but my husband thought the entire trip was a blast.  I had a moment of being sucked under a waterfall where they had to pull me out and push me to the other side but I survived to tell about it.  I would definitely recommend this trip for any thrill seekers wanting a challenge.  You cannot be pregnant or have any heart conditions and will sign a waiver before starting.  After the tour was complete they brought us back to the Canyons office for a snack.  You could purchase beer and additional food also at their snack bar.  Canyons also offers White Water rafting tours and you can do a combo trip if you want to make a day of it.  They also offer tours at an Okutama location.  – Angela Vaillant, May 2018

Website: https://canyons.jp/en/
Hours: office is open 8:00am-5:00pm daily

E-mail: info@canyons.jp
PHONE: 0278-72-2811

 

Roberto Perozzi Hair Salon – Shibuya

One of the first concerns I had when we found out we were moving to Japan was where I would get my hair done.  I’ve gotten highlights and lowlights for years but I knew having blonde hair might make it harder to find a good stylist in Japan.  Luckily a neighbor of mine heard of a place in Shibuya and recommended I check it out.  I contacted Roberto Perozzi Hair Salon (RPH) in Shibuya using their web-site contact us link.  They wrote me back with a quote for the services I requested and we quickly made a reservation for the next month.  My neighbor offered to take the train with me into Shibuya since it was my first time training to this area.  Using google maps to walk from the station we got a little off track but made it from East side of base to the salon in 2 hours.  My second visit my husband tagged along and it took about the same amount of time.  Shibuya station is under construction so the exits were different the second time around.  The salon is located in an office building called Villa Moderna in unit C507.  You take an elevator up from the lobby and it sort of looks like you are walking into an apartment.  The salon is small with just two chairs.  Once there I was greeted by Takumi, a male stylist who spoke very good English and chatted with me the entire appointment.  On my first visit it was just me and Takumi but the next time the owner was also styling hair beside us with one assistant.  I showed Takumi a picture of what colors I wanted for my hair and he did exactly what I asked.   For a highlight, lowlight, cut, and blow-dry I paid 22,000yen.  This was for full head foils but you can also do partials.  All of the pricing is listed on the web-site as well as detailed directions by train or car.  After both of my appointments I had lunch at Goo Italiano which was recommended by Takumi.  I also went to check out Shibuya Crossing for the first time with my fresh hairdo!  – Angela Vaillant, April 2018

Website: http://www.robertoperozzi.com/
Hours: Tue-Sat 9am-7pm

E-mail:  perozzirob@gmail.com
PHONE: 03-6427-2444

Head downstairs from the street level to enter the lobby

Take the elevator up to the entrance.

Before

During

After at Shibuya Crossing

Goo Italiano – Shibuya

While getting my hair done in Shibuya, my hairdresser recommended a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch after.  Goo Italiano is a cute little Italian restaurant on a corner not far from Shibuya crossing.  I have been twice now for lunch and enjoyed their Paccheri Tomato Sauce dish on both visits.  Their sets range for 1000yen to 1500yen for lunch and include focaccia bread, salad, pasta choice and a drink.  Their iced peach tea is worth a try!    My husband also enjoyed the pasta of the day special.  Their dinner menu has a lot more variety and includes family style meals.  The dinner grand menu includes pizzas, pastas, salads, lasagna, and Italian appetizers.  They also offer carry out.  – Angela Vaillant, April 2018

Website: http://www.take-5.co.jp/goo-italiano/shibuya/
HOURS: Weekdays 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-12am and Weekends 11:30am-12am
PHONE: 03-6418-8300

Hakone Venetian Glass Museum

Last August my family of 4 visited the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum. My husband found this place on Google maps and knew I was missing Europe’s charms during a particularly wet August here and wanted to give me a piece of Tuscany!  We escaped the rains of Yokota one Saturday and enjoyed beautiful sunshine in Hakone where we visited several museums and the infamous ropeway.  I am writing just about this museum, lesser known among Americans, though the entire Hakone area is beautiful and definitely deserves much exploring! This complex consists of a garden, Venetian glass museum, modern glass museum, cafe, gallery shop, and glass experience studio.

The beautiful spring through fall blooming garden features paved walks lined with many statues and sculptural elements – both glass and other elements.  When we visited mid August, some late blooming blue hydrangeas were still hanging on to life.  There are also rose features, a Christmas feature, a mountain of glass leaves and Autumn foliage feature as well as a permanent light corridor and outdoor gigantic hanging crystal glass twinkling and glittering in the sunlight. I loved the glass sculptural elements playing off the sun, combined with the natural flowers and water features to create fantastic photos! We spent our time walking through every inch of the gardens looking for hidden surprises in each nook and cranny.

The museum buildings housed Japan’s only collection of Venetian glass – both from ancient times, through the Renaissance period, up until modern times. The exhibition was very nice and somewhat extensive but I felt just a bit underwhelmed having toured Venice, Murano and Burano, Italy glass factories just 4 years ago. In the small rotunda of one of the museum buildings there was an area roped off where, several scheduled times a day, 3-4 talented Italian men would play the filled water glasses in a 30 minute concert – featuring a famous Japanese song, a classical music repertoire, and even a Disney favorite! It’s much more than Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde”! The glass concert alone made the visit to the museum worth the trip!

The cafe was gorgeously situated on the manmade link with outdoor covered seating overlooking a panoramic view of the lovely gardens.  There was also an Italian music show featuring piano and singers.  Unfortunately, this is where the similarities to Italy ended as the small menu only offered one Italian dish!! I have to tell you the quality was bellisimo, though the portion size was rather small! The rest were Japanese curry and beef stew and, I believe hamburger. However, looking at the website as I write this, they seem to have amended their menu and now offer only 1 seasonally changing Italian selection along with a variety of teas, coffee and pastries!

The glass experience studio we walked by and didn’t partake as we have done glass blowing before in Europe and didn’t want to spend the money and wait in line for a turn.  They have a special Venetian mask creation studio right now for those visiting in the winter of 2018!  The price for creating your own work of art is on the webpage as varies based on what you create but is not included in the museum visitation price but an additional charge. – Julie O’Leary, March 2018

Web-site:  http://www.hakone-garasunomori.jp/entrance/english/

Oriental Bazaar Harajuku

This Harajuku area Bazaar souvenir and all things authentic Japan is worth taking your guests to for a great selection of souvenirs and Japanese mementos if they are not visiting during base Bazaar weekends!  It is located on the very glamorous and wide Ometesando shopping street parallel to the Takeshita street, sharing the sidewalk with the likes of high end retailers Mikimoto, Rolex, and the like.  However, the prices here in this 3 story Bazaar on mostly new merchandise, though they do offer some used vintage kimono, obi, accessories  are not glitzy at all and are actually very affordable. They also offer tax free for foreigners with passport at checkout. Everything, including custom wood cut panels, new and vintage kokeshi dolls, pottery, weapons & new and used kimono, yukata and obi are to be had here! – Julie O’Leary, March 2018

 

 

Nanadaru Chaya

Nanadaru Chaya – Kawazu, Shizuoka Prefecture

I’m calling this little delicious cafe, “Wild Boar pot and FANTASTIC strawberry dessert cafe!” It’s just a 200m walkfrom the start (away) of the 1km Seven Waterfalls Hike in the Izu Peninsula next to the Kawazu corkscrew bridge!

The food was some of the best I’ve had in Japan! My sons liked the strawberry sets for around $11 for a lunch of champions! My husband very much enjoyed the wild boar hot pot! There’s a very small parking lot at this cafe as well! – Julie O’Leary, March 2018

Keio-Mogusaen Garden – Plum & Wisteria Blossoms

This lovely, private, flowering tree and floral garden is atop a very steep hill not too far from Takahato Fudo temple in the Tokyo -Hino area.  It is an inexpensive 40 min drive from Yokota and not to be missed if you are a flower lover like me! In late February through early March they have a plum blossom festival which just means the private garden is open to all visitors with a small charge of 300¥ for adults and 100¥ for children, when the trees are blooming in all their pink, white, and yellow glory!  The garden features 500 plum trees in 50 varieties!

We visited on a late Saturday afternoon, Feb 24, 2018 and it was only slightly busy.  Besides the stalwart walkers, there were several groups arriving by taxi up the steep hill coming from nearby Mogusaen station.  It’s 1/4 mile up a 20% grade slope to give you an idea of the steepness for those with elderly or mobility impaired visitors.  The gardens were absolutely gorgeous! There were some flowering plum trees that I’d never seen before! There was one field even featuring small yellow and white daffodils in full bloom as far as the eye could see! I am a flowering bulb enthusiast and seeing daffodils in February made my heart happy!
 
Even my teenage sons agreed it was a beautiful place.  There are many beautiful uneven stone stair steps as well as some gravelly inclines leading up to the top past the restaurant where in nice weather you can barbecue and several 30 minute walking trails leading through the garden. At the summit are nice views of Tokyo! Lots of climbing and exercise for energetic kids as well as a man-made tree lined, koi – filled pond with traditional Japanese building housing an art exhibition.  I’m not sure strollers could visit all the trails and do the steps leading up to the cashier at the entrance without difficulty.  A better bet might be a carrier for babies.  We will definitely visit again during their wisteria festival and I will report on this garden again!  – Julie O’Leary, March 2018

 

Unfortunately I could only find a Japanese language webpage but the photos and map on one of the page links were helpful.

Here is the pinned location (actually of the BBQ garden restaurant 200 or so meters straight up many stone stairs from the cashier booth at the entrance to the gardens) on Google Maps:

There is NO parking at the gardens but if you’re lucky you can find places along the street going up to the gardens or in pay parking lots at the bottom of the hill.  Note: It is about a 5 minute steep walk up a paved hill to the gardens from parking. Below is information from their website’s lavender link and it’s in English!
  • Traffic Get off at Keioi Jusugyoen Station 10 minutes on foot or 10 minutes by taxi from Sacred Sakuragaoka Station · Takahata Fudo Station.
    There is a steep slope partway from Hakusakuen Station to this garden.
  • Address Hinohikusa 560, Hino City, 191-0033
  • Telephone number phone042 (591) 3478
  • Closed holiday Wednesday
    (in the case of a holiday, next day, New
    Year ‘s holiday from 30th December to 3rd January※ It is closed every
    day during the event period
  • Opening Hours 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
    (November and December until 4:30 pm)
    Entrance fee Adult / 300 yen Child / 100 yen

Kyoto Fire Ramen Restaurant

After a full day of sightseeing in Kyoto our 5 and 8 year old boys were beat and ready to eat.  My husband had read about a unique restaurant called Kyoto Fire Ramen so we decided to check it out.  Upon arrival they were full so we checked in on a computer and waited outside in the cold with some others for the tables to open up.  Luckily it was only about a 20 minute wait before we were allowed in.  We sat up to a bar where we we given full body bibs.  They took my phone and hung it behind the bar to record our fire ramen experience.  The owner spoke very good English and chatted with us a bit before the official start of the cooking process.  It was fun to watch how the ramen was made.  Once they sit the ramen in front of you, they go down the line of the bar setting them on fire.  My 5 year old was increasingly concerned as the fire got closer and closer to him.  He cried but recovered quickly and ate all his ramen.  It was probably one of my favorite ramens I have had in Japan, and the whole family agreed!  The owner also made everyone take a funny photo eating the ramen.  When we left there was an even longer line of people waiting so I would recommend getting there early.  We arrived at 5:00pm.  They allow approximately 3o minutes for you to complete your meal.  If we ever make it back to Kyoto, we’d definitely visit this restaurant again! – Angela Vaillant, March 2018

Check out the web-site for more info on how the ramen is made and pricing.  Set prices range from ¥1480-¥2150. They also want children to be at least 110cm tall.  http://www.fireramen.com/home/index.html

Open daily – 11:30am-11:00pm (no reservations)

 

Yona Yona Beer Works – Kichijoji

My husband and I have visited Yona Yona Beer Works in Kichijoji 3 times now.  Kichijoji is a great Tokyo neighborhood that doesn’t feel too far away from base.  We had a friend drop us off at Seibu Tachikawa station and made it to Kichijoji station in one hour with two transfers.  The first two times we just went for a beer tasting/drink before lunch and dinner.  We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday there for dinner.  This place has a great atmosphere and lots of beers to choose from.  At lunch or dinner you can get a tasting flight to sample the different beers.  On our last visit they had a special called The Merry Go Round which was a tasting of 9 different beers and one barley wine.  We split this tasting as it was ¥5000 and the samples were larger.  For appetizers we enjoyed the pickled vegetables, salmon and pineapple tartare, and a cheese plate.  For dinner my husband ordered the sausage platter where he chose 3 flavors from about 10 different options.  I had the Buckwheat Pizza which was good (but covered in mushroom that I took off).  The menu is in Japanese and English but I missed the details of what was actually on the pizza.  This place is great for a date night, boys/girls night out, or a destination to entertain out of town visitors.  They also have a nice selection of beer glasses you can buy at check out.  We trained back to Akishima station and took the bus to the stop right outside the East gate so we could walk home from there.  You can also catch a taxi at Akishima for ¥1000- ¥1500 to the East gate. – Angela Vaillant, January 2018

Website: http://yonayonabeerworks.com/kichijoji/
HOURS: Mon-Fri 11:30am-3:00pm and 5:00pm-11:00pm, Sat/Sun 11:30am-11:00pm
PHONE: 042-228-4740

  

Hiking from Mt. Mitake to Okutama

The hike from Mt. Mitake to Okutama is a gnarly one made even more adventurous with an overnight at an inn on the mountain.  I had a cousin of mine, a hard core hiker, coming to town so I researched some of the hiking options in the area.  My research led me to spend a night at the Shukobo Komadori-sanso Inn, a lovely little spot in the village near the top of Mt. Mitake.  This seemingly forgotten and a little bit dusty place (not perfect) was our introduction to the Japanese Inn.  My wife and I and my cousin and his girlfriend arrived after a short walk from the top of the cable car and a stop at the Mitake Visitor Center where we picked up a map of the hike (a map with Japanese letters is a must!).  Upon checking in, the innkeeper insisted that we change into our robes and return for dinner.  Dinner in the small dining room was surprisingly good!  Our room was good sized with futons on the floor and a table inside the room and on the shared patio.  A small onsen tub is available in both the women’s and men’s washroom.  The next morning we were served a hearty breakfast before we headed for Okutama.  This hike is no joke.  We summited two different mountains as we trekked up and down (it seemed like the trail was never flat).  A few of the spots had great views of Mt. Fuji.  Bring lots of food and water; there are no vending machines up here, baby. The trail leads down to Okutama where you can get some food and take the train back home. This hike is not for children. Teens may be okay.  This trip sure makes for a pretty simple 24 hour getaway from Yokota for those with only one day to spare.  Happy Travels!  – Zeke Lyons, January 2018

http://www.komadori.com/

Trout Fishing Near Yokota

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese for their ingenuity.  In the winter months, some of the water parks fill their pools with trout.  One example is the Seibu-yen – the amusement park just about 15 minutes from base up by the Seibu Dome.  I’ve fished both here and at Akigawa International Trout Fishing Grounds and both are about the same setup.  It’s not cheap, but its easy.  You can bring your own fishing poles, but it’s probably best just to use their tried and true rigs. Basically, you can show up with nothing and rent everything; but I do recommend bringing a hand rag and a needle nose pliers if you have them.  They’ll rent you poles and bait and even give you a bucket or a bag for the live fish.  At Akigawa, there was an old man walking around and helping the kids catch fish. It doesn’t get any easier than this.  At the end of the day, you walk your fish to the kitchen and have them cleaned for free at Akigawa or  ¥100 at Seibu.  Both places have a restaurant and cafe and Seibu has charcoal grills and picnic tables to throw the fish on and eat right away.  I was at Akigawa on a quiet day and nobody was cooking fish there, but they do have all kinds of cooking options.  You can even rent a party gazebo with friends to cook and hangout all day.  It’s also a comfortable place for non-fishing moms and dads to relax in the sun on a sunny day.

If you are looking to fish, I recommend starting at Akigawa.  It’s a pretty 30 minute drive up the valley to a sunny spot on the river with artificial pools.  Some English was spoken at Akigawa.  The fish were surprisingly tasty for farm-raised fish. Beware: it’s hard to resist the rides at Seibu-yen; you’ll have to walk through the amusement park to get to the fishing pools.  Both places charge for parking and all in all, it adds up.  At Seibu, I paid for myself and my son.  At Akigawa I paid for just my sons.   Zeke Lyons – January 2018

Parking:  ¥500 –  ¥1000

Fishing: about  ¥3000 + rentals + cleaning per person

No tolls on road to Akigawa

Akigawa English website: http://akigawagyokyo.or.jp/akigawa_english.pdf

akigawagyokyo.or.jp

seibu-leisure.co.jp

Seibu-yen fishing

Cooking fish at Seibu-yen

Akigawa

Akigawa Fishing

Fishing success!

Baseball Batting and Pitching Cages – Hamura Dome and Murayama Sportsland

Taking my sons to the batting cages in Japan bring back great memories of going to batting cages with my dad.   I wish I had discovered the batting and pitching cages at the Hamura Dome sooner.  They are only a few minutes from the base and are a great place to blow some yen on a school night (it’s not super cheap). All the cages are operated by a ticket purchased from the machine and everything is really easy to figure out.  You have to buy pitching and batting tickets separately.  The workers at the desk can give you a kids bat, but other bats and helmets are inside the cages.  Choose your speed and hit away.  Though most of the customers are adults, I found it to be OK – the slowest pitch is 70 kph – for about ages seven and up.  My younger son likes the miniature golf hole.  There are lots of great family places to eat down the street when you make this a weeknight boys night out.

Parking: 200 Yen

Batting cages and pitching cages about 300Yen per session or cheaper if you buy a bundled ticket.  

Hamura Dome Batting Cage

Hamura Dome Mini Golf

Hamura Dome Pitching practice

On the East Side, check out the old-school batting cages at Murayama Sports Land just a few blocks east of Aeon Mall.  There are also cages that spit out soccer balls, ping pong balls, tennis balls and basketball.

Free parking. Most of the cages are 200 Yen.  Zeke Lyons – January 2018

Sportsland Soccer Cage

J.S. Foodies – Tachikawa

If you are looking for a good burger, check out J.S. Foodies in the LaLaport Mall in Tachikawa.  My husband and I stopped into the mall after doing some shopping at nearby IKEA.  We weren’t in the mood for Japanese cuisine so I suggested we get a burger at J.S. Foodies.  I had already visited the restaurant twice for lunch and I thought my husband would enjoy it.  He ordered the bacon cheeseburger, and I had the Maple Butter BLT.  Both meals came with a side of fries which were some of my favorite I have had in Japan.  The burger and sandwich were really good so it’s definitely worth checking out if you looking for more of an American style burger or sandwich.  My husband compared it to a Moose Hills Burger, which is another burger joint near Mt. Fuji we have tried.  At lunch you can get a set that includes a salad.  Burgers and sandwiches are around ¥1000 and they also have kids sets.  If you are craving something sweet, they have waffles (with fruit or fried chicken) on the menu.  The Mall is an easy 15-20 minute drive out the East gate, but you can also access it from the Monorail.   Angela Vaillant – January 2018

Location – Lalaport Tachikawa Shopping Mall – 2nd level (2F on mall map)

Website: http://foodies.journal-standard.jp/
HOURS: Daily 10:00am-9:00pm
PHONE: 042-540-6276

Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway

The views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi from the top of the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway are magnificent!  It’s an easy one hour drive from Yokota (1970Y in tolls each way) to the free parking lot at the base of the ropeway. A 3 minute trip up 600 feet in a 36 passenger gondola car takes you to the observation deck for 360 degree views of Fuji, the lake and the Alps in the distance.  A short ten minute hike leads to the top of Mt. Tenjo and a longer 3 hr trail leads to Mitsutoge-yama.  After enjoying the views, when you get back to the base you probably won’t be able to resist the smell that the comes from the Fujiyama cookie factory.  It’s okay, it’s only 140Y for a Fuji shaped cookie.  Zeke Lyons – January 2018

www.kachikachiyama-ropeway.com/

Summit of Mt. Tenjo

Ropeway

Observation deck

Fujiyama cookies

Related links:  https://yokotatravel.com/famous-traditional-houtou-noodles/

Famous Traditional Houtou Noodles

If you take a day trip to the Mt. Fuji area (especially when it’s cold) make sure you stop for a steaming bowl of local and hand-cut noodles at Hoto Fudo.  There are several of them in town, but the main place on the northeast side of the lake near the Kawaguchiko Music Forest is in a beautiful traditional building with high beams and both seats on the floor and regular tables.  It’s a great place for kids: the waitstaff is fun to watch as the whole place – including the kitchen – erupts in a loud greeting as each customer ducks through the door.  A huge bowl of the miso stew with pumpkin, sweet potato and other vegetables is 1080Y.  Zeke Lyons – January 2018

http://www.houtou-fudou.jp/english.html

Goshuin – Shrine Stamp Collecting

A wonderful souvenir from Japan is your very own book of Shrine Stamps or Goshuin. Called Goshuincho, your stamp book can be stamped at most shrines and temples throughout Japan. Buy a book at any shrine where offered for around 1000-1500 yen. Shine books are available at some souvenir stores as well but if you buy from shrines they will likely feature a design unique to the shrine or local area. Find the Goshuin area of the shrine/temple and the monks will stamp and sign in calligraphy the name of the shrine and date usually for 300 yen (for each stamp in your book).

Goshuin used to be a way for pilgrims to show proof of their visits to shrines but they have gained popularity among young people and tourists. Please be aware that monks see these as religious symbols/objects so extra writing or other souvenir type of stamps included in the book may be seen as insult or defacement.

If you forget your book, you can ask for a loose paper stamp and glue it in your book later. Shrines usually have a stack available for this purpose.

Blog posts to read more about goshuin:

https://www.thewanderingsuitcase.com/collecting-goshuin-as-a-souvenir/

http://www.kyotoursjapan.com/goshuin/

https://www.japanhoppers.com/en/features/temples_shrines/320/

Stamp collecting can become addicting and the shrines feed into it by offering special stamps and colors for different holidays. Instagrams to follow for shrine stamps and special stamp happenings:

cinzano_limetto
chille0229
mikko0718
holakanappe
or search #goshuin

It’s a fun way to track your time in Japan and the places you visit along the way.  Jennifer McCarthy – January 2018

 

 

Sayama Ski Hill

The indoor ski hill at Sayama at the Seibu Dome is a uniquely Japanese place to learn to ski or snowboard before you hit the big time at a real resort.  A short and scenic 20 minute drive from the base gets you to the Seibu Dome. Most of the signage is in Japanese, but I’ve been fine just mumbling and pointing (as usual) to the very friendly and accommodating staff.  The best part is that kids under 13 are free.  When you arrive, purchase a lift-ticket at the counter and enter through the booth.  If you plan to go a few times, the 500 Yen membership card is worth it as Thursdays are “Guys night” for members. The lifts are one-person at a time and easy enough to navigate for kids.  For the first time, you can walk up the hill slightly to let your kids try it out before getting on the lift.  At the bottom of the hill is a nice sitting area with hot food and drinks available (my favorite part). I’m not sure about coming in as a non-skiing observer, but there is at least one bench on the outside. *Note, if you are considering teaching your kids to ski/board, think twice about whether you really need to do it yet. I’ve seen some dads/kids up there looking pretty miserable (including myself). Also, it means a few years of bunny slopes only.  A day at Sayama helps you figure it all out for less.  Good luck!  Zeke Lyons – December 2017

Open from late October until April

Lift tickets starting at 3100 Yen for four hours (Guy’s night on Thursday for 2000 Yen)

Parking: 1200 Yen

Lockers: 500 Yen (you can change in the parking lot and skip the lockers – you can also leave a bag at the bottom of the slope)

Rentals available, including clothing. At least one English-speaking instructor is available for lessons. 

http://www.princehotels.com/en/ski/kids/sayama.html

4 day family weekend in the Japanese Alps – Nagano, Matsumoto, Hirayu

We did this trip over Fourth of July weekend with two boys ages 4 and 6; I think it would work nearly year-round as a chance to see a nice circle of sites from Nagano, Matsumoto and up to the Japanese Alps as a 3 or 4 day weekend.  On Friday, we took off for the 3-hour drive to Nagano (approx $25 dollars in tolls or so) where we checked into the no-frills-but-well-located business hotel Chisun Grand Nagano (cheap parking). Nagano itself is not a city of sites but we enjoyed seeing the huge walls of sake barrels lit up at night outside of the Shinshu Nagoya Sakaba.  This izakaya was completely empty when we stopped by for dinner, but it was one of those places that was “sorry, fully reserved.” In the morning, we checked out and headed to see the pretty grounds of the Zenko-Ji temple and it’s pitch-black-slighty-scary underground passage to the “Key to Salvation” (it’s worth the extra 500 yen). After the Zenko, we drove about 30 minutes to the dinosaur statues and a nice walk through Chausuyamakyoryu Park (free or cheap parking and entry). From there it’s another hour drive to Matsumoto’s castle where we went inside and climbed up to the top for a great view.  After Matsumoto’s castle we drove another hour into the mountains up a crazy curvy road to our Japanese Inn at Hirayunomori (English available at www.hirayunomori.co.jp).  We loved this place!  Couples can opt for rooms in the inn but as a family we settled comfortably into one of the large two-story cabins in the forest just a few steps from the rest of the inn and it’s outstanding indoor/outdoor onsen.  The eight different pools on each side ranged from warm to hot and even our 4 year old was happy in a couple of them. This was our first Japanese Inn experience and our only mistake was wrapping our yukata like a dead person (should be left over right, I think).  Most of the time, we had the pools to ourselves . We did not try the restaurant, but we did bring a lot of our own food for cooking in our cabin – plus some beach chairs (American-style!) so we had somewhere to sit in our room.  The next morning, we walked down the street to the bus station to catch a short 25-minute bus to Kamikochi – the Alpine Japan hiking base accessible only by bus.  We did a short circular walk up and across the famous lookout at Kappa-bashi and back.  This would be another great overnight stay and as an afficinado of alpine lodges I had to check out the Kamikochi Imperial Hotel, but it was less impressive than I thought.  A short bus ride back and we were in our pools at Hirayunomori.  If we had more time we would have loved to go to the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway or (gasp) tried mixed bathing at Shin-Hotaka-no-yu. This was our first trip up into the mountains and I highly recommend this weekend trip.  During Fourth of July it was perfect: we were bathing in 50s and 60s degree weather but reading about Yokota really heating up – so we enjoyed the mountain cool. There is also a ski hill right around the corner from Hirayunomori!  Happy travels!   Zeke Lyons – December 2017

Shinshu Nagaya Sakaba

Zenko-Ji Temple

Dinosaur Park

Matsumoto’s Castle

Hirayunomori Cabin

Yukata’s at the Inn

Kamikochi

Honke Bankyu Onsen

Honke Bankyu is a remote, traditional ryokan located approximately 1 hour north of Nikko.  They have fabulous accommodations, unbelievable kaiseki dinners and breakfasts, and amazing onsens. There are multiple private as well as public indoor and outdoor onsens within the ryokan; public onsens have separate spas for men and women. The ryokan has been owned and operated by the same family for 25 generations. All outdoor onsens are situated alongside a crystal emerald-blue river. We received a special treat while there last week,…beautiful snow! I’ve now stayed in 3 ryokan onsens and this by far was my favorite! Even the futon was luxurious and plush!

Note: the onsen has limited options for eating outside of the establishment. The area is a resort area, but primarily consists of ryokans (most of which all serve meals).

The resort provides yukata, tabi socks, and toiletries. Dinner is served nightly across a swing bridge that crosses the river!  Robin Kidder – December 2017

Blu Jam Cafe – Daikanyama

Our family recently stayed at the New Sanno for a night to venture out closer to Tokyo.  We tried a great spot in Daikanyama called Blu Jam Café one morning for breakfast.  The area is a short train ride from the hotel, leaving Hioh Station to Daikanyama Station or Naka-Meguro Station.  They offer fresh food from local farmer’s markets and have no freezers on site, so you know everything is fresh!  Many of their ingredients are also organic and made in house.  The menu has many breakfast/brunch options and most were Gluten Free.  We tried the California Omelette, Morning Hash, and our kids loved the Chocolate Chip Pancakes.  My husband also tried their specialty latte called The Dirty Chai.  The prices were reasonable and the staff were easy to communicate with.  This is definitely a spot we will return to! – Angela Vaillant, November 2017

Website: https://www.blujamcafejapan.com/
HOURS: Daily 8:00am-9:00pm – Closed Tuesdays
PHONE: 03-6455-1446

Related links:  https://yokotatravel.com/?s=Daikanyama