On a date night for our Anniversary, my husband and I checked out T.Y. Harbor Brewery in Shinagawa before heading to dinner. It was about a 40 minute trip door to door from the New Sanno by train (Hiroo Station to Tennozu Isle Station). We did not have reservations but had no trouble getting a table for two on the main deck when we arrived around 4:00pm. There was another deck area that was closed between lunch and dinner but was re-opening by the time we left. It was a beautiful night on the water and we enjoyed the brews. The menu looked great as well and we hope to go back to try the food! – Angela Vaillant, June 2019
If you are looking for a great spot to grab breakfast or lunch near the New Sanno, Bondi Café is your place. A short 7-10 minute walk from the hotel, it has great atmosphere and food. My family recently stopped in to check it out and decided to sit outside on the deck with couches. The vibe inside is beachy with surfer videos playing on the TV’s. For breakfast my husband and I tried the eggs benedict and vegetable sandwich while the kids shared a French toast plate. Everyone enjoyed their meals and we’ll definitely go back the next time we stay at the New Sanno. We were able to walk in but they do take reservations as well. – Angela Vaillant, June 2019
Makaino Farms is
the ultimate Farm experience and perfect place for an outdoor family day. We
happened upon the farm while driving to Kyoto. We weren’t able to stop but I
took a picture of the sign and made sure to stop on our way home.
On our way home we parked in the spacious
and free parking lot with no problem. It was a Saturday when we went but the
farm didn’t feel overly crowded. Entry into the farm was 1000 yen per adult and
600 for children. Make sure to check the sign with all activities and times as
you enter. We arrived at 3pm and by the time we discovered the sign it was at
the end of our day.
Makaino Farms has everything you could
think of when you think of a farm. There are petting zoos, horse rides, tractor
rides and much more. You can walk goats for 20 minutes which cost 300 yen. It
was quite a sight watching people walk the goats. There are several vending
machines containing animal food to feed the various animal all over the
property. Other animals experiences that are free include releasing sheep into
a nearby field and milking cows. Again, check the schedule because some things
such as milking cows are only done at certain times.
Animals aren’t all you will find at
Makaino Farms. They also offer many craft and food experiences. You can make
pottery, candles and bags. There is a wool factory you can spin wool or make a
felt craft all with wool from sheep on the farm. Crafts are an additional fee
ranging from 200 to 800 yen.
Personally, I was a bit sad we missed the
food experiences. Paying anywhere from 400 to 1600 yen you can partake in
sausage, cheese, cookie or butter making. We caught the end of a butter making
class and it looked like fun. They also offer kids cooking from ages 5-10 for
If you just want a place to let the kids run wild you will find it here as well. They have several play areas that both my girls ages 1.5 and 4 loved. After playing we relaxed in the hammock forest, which is just what it sounds like, a bunch of hammocks hanging in a wooden area. You could easily spend all day exploring this wonderful place. We only spent a couple hours before strolling through the store that contains fresh milk and lots of goodies. Before we hit the road to drive 1.5 hours back to base we filled our bellies at Ousamano Curry. The naan wraps were amazing and my girls loved the curry. We will be going back again before leaving Japan. – Deena Brunson, May 2019
If you’re comfortable with hiking 6-8 miles in a day with moderate elevation gain (1800-1900 feet), this is a pleasant hike that’s easily accessible from base. We initially found out about this hike from the following link, which has more details as well as information on other hikes in the area: https://ridgelineimages.com/hiking/mt-iwatakeishiyama/ As the hike starts and ends at Ome Line train stations (Mitake and Ikusabata), the logistics are fairly easy — no buses involved. To access the start of this hike, take the train from Fussa Station (Ome Line) to Mitake Station (towards Okutama). It may be necessary to transfer in Ome; as not all trains are direct — check Google Maps to confirm.
Once you get off the train in Mitake, stop by the Visitor Information Center (can’t miss it – its directly by the stairs leading down from the station exit) and pick up an “Ohtama” area map. If you ask, they’ll also be able to provide a map of this specific hike, and a paper showing directions to the trailhead. I’ve attached these directions to this post as well, for reference.
The trailhead starts near a temple a few minutes away from the train station. Go down the stairs at the station exit, and turn left at the street. You’ll pass an ATM on your left (inside its own building), and will see a set of stairs on the left immediately after the ATM. Go up the stairs and cross the train tracks. Turn left, and then turn right into the temple entrance (you’ll see the temple). Once just inside the temple, go to the left, and you’ll see the trailhead marker.
As you go along the hike, you’ll see signposts with kanji, but also English in small labels below. At the start, you’ll want to follow the signs for “Mt. Iwatakeishiyama 岩茸石山”. Once you’ve reached Mt. Iwatakeishiyama, then follow the signs for “Ikusabata Station”, which is the finish point where you’ll catch a train back towards Fussa Station.
The hike starts with a fairly quick ascent; but (mostly) levels off after that point. There are two points where you have the option to either ascend to a peak for a better view, or keep going. Recommend taking the climb up to Mt. Iwatakeishiyama for a view — you’ll likely also see a large number of Japanese hikers taking a snack break here. If you choose to ascend the fork to the peak, there is no backtracking required to get back to the main trail — the fork continues down the other side of the peak and rejoins the main trail.
Continuing on, you’ll come to a temple in the mountains, right along the trail. Its a nice spot to take a break and look around, and there are bathrooms here (did not check them out, but expecting squatting/pit style). Descending from here, you’ll enter a fairly exposed valley, and continue down past a stream. As you continue downward, you’ll come to a large manmade dam, and the trail becomes a stone stairway. Look out for snakes sunning themselves along the steps; they should be easy enough to spot.
As we reached the end of the stairway, we came to a Japanese shop that offers some drinks at picnic tables outdoors (beer, coffee, lemon sour, water) as well as cooked fish. My Japanese wasn’t great, but we were able to understand well enough the owner’s indicating that ‘everything is OK to eat’ on the fish, as its cleaned and cooked whole and ready to eat (skin and all), which might be unfamiliar to some folks. The owner was very friendly, and everything was pretty reasonable – we got two cooked fish and one coffee for under 1000 yen. Be sure to bring cash if you’re planning to stop here, as I don’t imagine this shop takes credit card.
After this shop, the ‘trail’ becomes a road, keep going onward and it will merge into a slightly larger road. Bear right, and continue. Eventually, you’ll come to a point where there is a sign pointing towards Ikusabata Station up a small road on the right – take this road upwards, and you’ll cross train tracks. Turn right, and you’re at the station. Take the train back towards Fussa. This is all shown on the maps as well; and if you download offline maps on your phone before the hike, you can also ‘mark’ the location of the station if you’d like to be able to double-check along the way. – Joshua Milburn, April 2019
Smokehouse in Shibuya claims to be Tokyo’s first authentic BBQ restaurant. My husband and I recently visited on a date night and enjoyed the atmosphere and the food! They also offer a craft beer selection from T.Y. Harbor Brewery. We started with the smoked devil eggs which were delicious. For our main course, I had a hamburger and my husband had the Combo 4 meat platter with corn bread. We both really enjoyed our meals and I’d love to go back and try some of the other offerings on the menu. You can view the full dinner menu, in English, on their web-site. You can also link to their on-line reservations page. The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor above The Roastery, which looked like a great spot to grab a coffee. We walked to Smokehouse from Baird Beer in Harajuku. The restaurant is off of Cat Street which is a hip and pedestrian friendly shopping street. It was a great date night to celebrate my husband’s birthday with brews and meat! – Angela Vaillant, March 2019
Baird Beer Taproom is a great spot in Harajuku to grab a beer. A short walk from Harajuku Station, it is located off the popular Takeshita Street where you can also find unique shops and giant cotton candy. This Japanese style pub has a a large selection of beers on tap and a food menu as well. We tried a sampler of beers and only had the pickled vegetables since we were heading to dinner at Smokehouse after. You can sample 3 beers for Y1100. They have 12 beers that are available year round and a seasonal beer menu. We enjoyed all the beers we tried. The bar is small with some seating on either side. We arrived around 3:30pm on a Saturday and had no problem getting a spot by the bar. The place was full by 5:00pm when we left so arrive early if you plan to go on the weekend. – Angela Vaillant, March 2019
Need a meeting spot in Tokyo or just a place to grab a drink and a snack? Commune 2nd is an open air “restaurant” surrounded by beer and food trucks. You can walk in and grab a seat at one of the long tables or on a small bench with table for 2. It was a rainy night when my husband and I checked it out so we sat in the tent area under cover. We only tried some Gyoza but there were many other food options including ribbon fries. There were more seating options outside so I’d definitely go back on a nicer night. The night we went they also had a DJ, a wine tasting vendor, and an artist painting foxes on a large canvas. Visit their facebook page to see what is coming up as far as events. If you plan to go, go early, as they close at 10:00 pm. Take the train to Ometesando Station, take the A3 exit and its about a 10 minute walk from there to Commune 2nd. It was only a 15 minute walk to our dinner reservation in Shibuya (Trunk Kitchen) and a similar distance to Harajuku (Baird Beer), so you can easily walk to some other cool spots from here. – Angela Vaillant, January 2019
My family of 4 recently visited Legoland Japan Resort in Nagoya. It was about a 4 hour drive from base and approximately Y4000 in tolls each way. We visited to celebrate my son’s 6th birthday and it was perfect for his age. Our 9 year old son also enjoyed the trip. We booked a single overnight package to include a themed room, 2 day entry into Legoland park, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, and one single entry into SeaLife Nagoya which is also on site. The cost was Y72,600 for everything. Legoland Japan opened in April 2017 and SeaLife Nagoya opened in April 2018 so everything is new and as clean as you would expect from any Japan park. Legoland has 7 different themed lands to include Factory, Bricktopia, Adventure, Knight’s Kingdom, Pirate Shores, Miniland, and Lego City. The adults’ favorite was Miniland with Lego displays of iconic places in Japan such as Mt. Fuji, Shibuya Crossing, and Tokyo Station. The boys favorite was probably Knight’s Kingdom because that is where the largest roller coaster was located. We all really enjoyed the Submarine Adventure ride as it took you underwater with real fish and sharks. The majority of rides are designed for younger kids but my 9 year old had fun with most. There are also multiple Lego building areas throughout the park to take a break from the rides. The park food was decent and not too pricey. They have their own popcorn buckets, and you can choose Salt or Caramel flavors.
After our first full day at the park we grabbed our bags and checked out our Ninjago themed room. Other themes you could choose were Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, and Lego Friends. The room we chose had a queen bed and a bunk bed for the kids. The TV on the kids side of the room played all Lego shows and movies, and one station was in English. The hotel restaurant food was buffet style. There was a play area for the kids next to the restaurant as well as a bar. Upon check in, we also signed up for the group birthday party held each night. This was free, and our son received a Lego gift and photo opp with the LegoLand character. It was all in Japanese, but he was able to play along.
We went Sunday-Monday and found that Sunday was much less busy with short wait times for the rides. Monday was much busier, and we had double to triple the wait time for rides. We took a break on Monday from waiting and visited the SeaLife Nagoya Aquarium. It was small but the boys enjoyed seeing sharks and coloring fish on a computer screen that swam out on a big screen at the end.
I highly recommend a visit to this park if you or your kids love Legos. It was definitely worth the travel time and cost! – Angela Vaillant, January 2019
Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat/Sun 10am-6pm (check their web-site calendar for closures and time changes for peak season/off season/holidays)
Parking: There is one parking garage for the park and hotel. Parking fee was not included in overnight stay. We paid Y2500 for an overnight stay.
Oslo Brewing Co. in Shibuya is a Japanese Beer Bar dedicated to Scandinavian culture according to their web-site. About a 10 min walk from Shibuya Station Oslo Brewing Co. is down a small street that will feel like you are walking down an alleyway. I’ve stopped in twice to grab a craft beer but you can also order a few light food options from their menu. On my second visit they had a food truck outside with Mexican food options. They offer 20 different draft beer selections from Japan and Scandinavia. They also have their own beer available in bottles. I tried the Norwegian Blonde and enjoyed it. The beers are a bit pricy with most 12oz pours costing Y900-Y1500. You can also get a smaller pour for less. Inside the bar has a chill vibe, playing eclectic music. You can choose to sit at the bar, a table, or a bench with pillows and small tables. They also have outdoor seating available. Stop in and check it out the next time you are in Shibuya! – Angela Vaillant, November 2018
Hours: Sun-Tue 12pm-12am, Wed/Thurs 12am-1am, Fri 12am-2am, Sat 12pm-2am
I recently organized a lunch for the The Yokota Spouses’ Club Lunch Bunch group. 1/4 Karot in Hamura is a restaurant I had heard about but not yet tried so I thought this was a great chance to check it out. They seemed to have an active Facebook page so I inquired on Facebook Messenger about making a reservation. They responded within a day and we set up a day and time. We weren’t sure how many would attend yet but they told me to just give them a final number by the day before. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and is a short 5-7 minute drive out the Fussa or Terminal gates. They have 3 assigned parking spots just behind the restaurant. The lunch menu included 5 meal set options ranging in price from Y800-Y1200. Everyone raved about the mini vegetable soup and side salad. Between the eight ladies that attended, we tried 4 different meal options. Everyone was surprised how large the lunch portions were! We all really enjoyed our meals and agreed we would come back again. The restaurant is small so I would recommend making a reservation. They also have a small bar with seating. The dinner menu had many more food options so I look forward to going back! – Angela Vaillant, November 2018
Hours: Daily 11:3oam-2:30pm and 6:00pm-12:00am – Closed Wednesdays
If you love cheese, then Shibuya Cheese Stand is a must visit spot for lunch or dinner. I recently stopped in for a solo lunch since a friend had told me how good it was. I trained from Akishima station to Shibuya station (Hachiko exit) and walked about 15 minutes using google maps to the restaurant. I arrived right before opening and stood in a short line. They opened 15 minutes late after the cheese arrived on a refrigerator bike. At least you know it is fresh! I decided to order one of the cheese plates (fresh tomato, Burrata, oregano, and dill) and the mozzarella, tomato, basil and arugula sandwich. It was a little more than I could eat alone but I wanted to try at least two cheeses. The cheese plate was beautiful with a Buratta cheese bow. The majority of the Burrata was super soft but the bow was a little firmer. The tomatoes were really fresh and paired well with the the oil and herbs. I also really enjoyed the sandwich. The cheese plate was a little pricey at ¥1680 but the sandwich was only ¥500. The lunch menu also included pizza and dessert. Bring yen as they did not take credit card. Definitely a spot I will recommend to friends! – Angela Vaillant, October 2018
I have visited Yamachan restaurant in Hachioji three times now. We trained from Fussa, Higashi Fussa, and Akishima and all routes took about 35 minutes to get to Hachioji station once on the train. The restaurant is then a short walk from Hachioji station. I am picky about my chicken so I had low expectations on my first visit. I ordered the edamame and another appetizer and decided I would try just one of the wings. That quickly turned into ordering more for the table. The wings are a little spicy with a hint of sweetness and you cannot eat just one. With each visit I ate a little more and everyone who came agreed they were the best they’ve had in Japan. The wings are sold in servings of 5 for Y450. We easily finished 5 servings (25 wings) split between two people. The menu is large so you can find something for everyone, including kids. We took our 5 and 9 year old on our last visit and they enjoyed wings, french fries, fried rice, and chicken nuggets. We have never made a reservation but we did wait over an hour on a Friday night without one. Reservations on-line must be made at least one week out. On a weeknight we were able to walk in around 6:00pm. The only negative is it is a smoking establishment. The later you stay, the smokier it gets so try to go early if you want to take the kids. There is also a large multi-level Don Q with a Daiso on top nearby if you want to do a little shopping while you are in the area. – Angela Vaillant, October 2018
Hours: Daily 5:00pm-12:15am on-line reservations available if more than one week out
Yamachan is located on the 2nd floor. Stairs located just to the right of the gyoza restaurant.
Seating area – tables
Seating area – large booths (seat up to 6) – be prepared to take your shoes off before sitting
The wings! 2 servings = 10 wings
Update: There is another Yamachan located in Tachikawa, about a 5-7 minute walk from Tachikawa station. We visited on a Sunday night at 5:00 pm and it was much less busy than the Hachioji location. The wings were just as good! – Angela Vaillant, March 2019
If you are looking for conveyor belt sushi close to base, Uobei Genki Sushi is a great family friendly spot to check out. About a 10 minute drive out the East Gate, it is located right next to Joyful Honda. Upon entry there is a computer stand where you enter the amount in your party (English option available) and receive a number to wait for your table. We went at 6:00pm on a weeknight and had no wait. Our number showed up on the television and directed us to a table number. Once seated you can review the menu next to the table or on the ipad provided at the table. When ready to order you make your selections on the pad. A short time later dishes will be delivered via bullet train or race car which the kids loved. My husband enjoyed a variety of sushi, while the kids and I stuck with the chicken and french fries. I did try some shrimp tempura rolls which were my favorite so far of any sushi spots we have checked out. The kids finished dinner off with blue icecream on top of corn flakes. Once you are done with dinner you make a selection on the pad then take your table marker to the front to check out. All sushi dishes are ¥100. We are a family of 4 and spent about ¥3500 for dinner. Uobei Genki Sushi is a chain but of all the conveyor belt sushi locations we have tried I found I liked the atmosphere of this one the best. This would also be a great spot to take visiting friends and family for a sushi experience. – Angela Vaillant, September 2018
You can access the sushi and autumn fair menu on their web-site.
Higashiyamato South Park is a place where history meets fun. Only 15-20 minutes from the East gate it is a nice park to picnic in, play sports or cool off in the summer when the water area opens in July/August. The former Hitachi Aircraft Engine Factory and WWII memorial is situated on the park grounds. In 1938 this Factory turned out aircraft engines but was later destroyed during WWII when the area was bombed out. It now serves as a Memorial to those who lost their lives there. There is a nice track to run on, tennis courts and a field where many local schools play sports. On one end of the park is the city swimming pool. On the other side is a man-made creek. Check the park website for details on the dates this creek is open to play in. – Jennifer Secor, August 2018
Only 71 minutes (tollway route) from Yokota is a great sandy family friendly beach to cool off in during the hot summer months. We found this beach on a spur of the moment stop after a road trip we took. There is free parking lot at Shonan Beach Park (a local swimming pool/park) but you need to arrive early to get a spot because the area is well known to the locals and is a popular beach for families and surfers. Walk down the street to the left of the parking entrance and onto the pedestrian bridge over the highway, onto the other side and through the greenery to get to the beach. We liked this beach because unlike many other Japanese beaches, there are showers where you can rinse off (most beaches don’t have a shower area), bathrooms and a beach side kiosk with sandwiches, pizza, ice cream, fries, etc. that is open during summer months. This is a family friendly beach that is sandy with breakers in place to keep the waves smaller in the swimming zone. There are lifeguards posted here during the day too. Keep in mind though that this beach is not tattoo friendly, so cover your tattoos. GPS Coordinates: 35.317392,139.354371. Parking hours vary by the month so check for updates on the park website. In the months of July & August it was posted you can park at Shonan Park from 9am-7pm. – Jennifer Secor, August 2018
I recently visited 3.14 Italian Restaurant in Fussa for lunch and dinner. The restaurant is a short walk from the Seiyu Department Store if you have shopping to do and can get your parking validated. There are also paid parking lots nearby. My first visit was for lunch with a friend. We did not have a reservation but after some google translating we were sat inside the smaller area of the restaurant with just a few small tables near the kitchen. The menu was in Japanese so we went with the safe lunch set of margherita pizza. It was only 1100 yen and came with a small salad and a drink. This was probably my favorite margherita pizza I have had locally, and I’ve tried a lot. Later in the week we had a last minute couples date night to say goodbye to friends. We called just 30 minutes ahead for a table for 6 on a Saturday night and were able to get in. We were seated in the larger dining room this visit. The dinner menu was much more extensive and many of the options were more family style so we were able to share and sample each others dishes. The waiter spoke some English and informed us the food would come out at different time intervals which was fine since we were able to share most dishes. We started with a caprese salad, bruschetta (we never figured out what it was called on the menu but pointed to the table next to us) and a very large salad. We sampled entree’s of spaghetti and linguine with crab, parmesan risotto and a few other Italian dishes. We finished the night off with a giant slice of chocolate cake and tiramisu. All of the food was delicious and reasonably priced and we would definitely go back again! – Angela Vaillant, July 2018
Phone number – 047-530-0815
Hours – Lunch 11:00am-3:00pm, last order at 2:30pm, Dinner 6:00pm-10:30pm, last order at 10:00pm.
My husband and I recently tried out a Spanish Tapas restaurant in Tachikawa called Tempranillo Tapas & Wines. We called for a reservation about 5 days out and had no problem booking a table for two. They did let us know it was a special night with Flamenco dancers and a set menu. The restaurant has recently re-located to a red brick building a short walk from Tachikawa station, in the basement (level B1 off the elevator.) We were the first to arrive and the owner greeted us and again let us know that is was Flamenco night and the set up of seats was different from a normal night. They started us with 2 glasses of champagne, prosciutto, and a Spanish tapas platter. Little did I know the pig leg was sitting nearby on the bar being shaved for the dish. We were also served mussels before the main dish of Paella came out. The performance started at 7:30 and food service seemed to stop for about 45 minutes. We were at a distance from the show but Jose asked us if we wanted to move closer at the end of the bar for the second set. We moved and shared a bottle of wine finished off with a dessert of churros covered in chocolate sauce. We really enjoyed the food and Flamenco performance! The second set finished by 9:30 and we were full and happy. We asked Jose how often they do Flamenco night and he said it happens once a month. The set menu price was 5500-6000 yen per person. The regular tapas menu has a lot of variety and we look forward to going back to try more dishes. You can check their website for upcoming events. If you are looking to escape your typical Japanese experience, this is the place! Jose gave us his card which includes his restaurant philosophy….”We are real people, we make mistakes, we say sorry, we give second chances, we have funny moments, we give hugs, we ask forgiveness, we make noise, we are patient and grateful, and especially we love each other and we love you a lot.” – Angela Vaillant, July 2018
Hokoji Temple – Shiozawayama Zenkoji Kano Royal Buddha
About a 25 minute drive from base there is a Daibutsu (Big Buddha) which is 18m tall on the side of a mountain at Hokoji Shrine. This Buddha was completed this past year and is larger than the famous Big Buddha of Kamakura. Parking can be found at the shrine. Admission was free but we were advised this may change after Oct. 2018 (so check their website for updated information). There is a beautiful short trail through the forest from the parking lot to the Daibutsu. My children enjoyed the scenery of the forest. At the end of the trail you will reach the Daibutsu on the side of the mountain where there is a view of the town of Hinode.
Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm
Parking Fees: 500 yen for car
1,000 yen for bus
200 yen for motorcycle
Memorial Day weekend we headed to Yokosuka and followed up with a trip through Yokohama. There, we went to a beautiful Japanese Garden with a couple temples located on the premises. There is a nice walkway around a pond through a forested area where you can see some old thatched roof structures. Around the end of May through the beginning of July the irises are in full bloom which makes for a beautiful scene. Also, Sankeien does a Firefly Festival at night during that time frame. Check their website for details on current events: http://www.sankeien.or.jp/en-about/index.html
Adult （ 15 years old and above)
Children ( 14 years old and under)
City residents 65 years old and above
*Please show the Hamatomo Card issued by Yokohama City
Parking Fees: 500 yen up to 2 hours; 100 yen for every additional 30 minutes. Automobiles/Buses 1,000 yen maximum per day
We recently took a trip to Saitama and did the Glico Pia East Factory Tour. It was about an hour commute by toll-way. Tolls cost 1370 yen each way. Reservations are required in advance. We had a group of 8, ages 3+. The tour is done entirely in Japanese with no English translators available. The company history explanation does have English subtitles if you ask. The tour is 70 minutes. No strollers or pictures were allowed in most of the factory. We had fun touring the factory and learning how Pocky & Pretz sticks are prepared & packaged. If you have 2nd/3rd graders, they are allowed to decorate their own Pocky stick if you obtain a ticket at the beginning of the tour. (No adults or younger children allowed to participate in the Pocky stick decorating part). The cost of participation is 500 yen. They get to keep the sticks they decorate. You also receive a sample bag for visiting the factory. The tour admission & parking is free. More information can be found on this site: https://travel.gaijinpot.com/pocky-factory/