Author Archives: Deena Brunson

Tenraiken

For starters if you are looking for something fancy, this is not the place, but delicious it is. My family recently took a trip into Tokyo to get our kids their passports. We found ourselves in a neighborhood near the Kamiyacho station ( the closest station to the United States Embassy) around lunch time and we were starving. After googling “Ramen near me” we found this place about a block from the station and decided to give it a try.

Upon arrival we were a little bit nervous because the machine outside, on which you order, was all in Japanese. We arrived a few minutes earlier than it opened at 11am. Thankfully we had a few minutes to use google translate and order before a long line formed behind us. Inside there was about 5 tables that seated up to 4 people. We have a very active toddler and we felt comfortable with the seating.

My husband and daughters had the miso ramen. It was good but also very different than miso ramens we have had in the past. It almost has a smoky flavor to it. I ordered the Taiwanese soba dish and it exceeded my expectations. It was truly delicious. I would recommend this place if you find yourself in this area and are hungry. -February 2020, Deena Brunson.

https://goo.gl/maps/xiruJKhawMPvUQZD8

Nerd Nite Tokyo

Can the esteemed world of scientific facts and findings be funny? Is it possible to distill the complex enigmas of the cosmos into a pithy one-liner?

Nerd Nite Tokyo sets out to prove that not only could a gathering of nerds in a bar result in hilarious fun indeed, but you may actually learn a thing or two as a result.

Nerd Nite Global organization fashions itself as the “the Discovery Channel with beer,” that is “held in more than 100 cities across the globe during which several folks give 18-21-minute fun-yet-informative presentations across all disciplines”. Their events are inspired “to explore scientific research in a totally new way”- Global Nerd Nite site: https://nerdnite.com/

Check out their next event on February 7th, featuring three fascinating speakers discussing diverse and interesting science-y things.  All talks are in English and no prior knowledge of any particular field of study is needed.  Come learn something new! Each speaker and topic will be announced beforehand on the Nerd Nite Tokyo’s event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/484696659111402/

Nerd Nite Tokyo has been a successful platform for scientists, historians, storytellers to share their journey and research findings around the Kanto Plains for the last three years. Hopscotching around trendy bars in Tokyo they bring lofty science to a local public audience. For upcoming events check Tokyo Nerd Nite’s Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/nerdnitetokyo/ and website: https://tokyo.nerdnite.com/

Who: You!

What: Nerd Nite Tokyo #41

Where: B1 floor of Nagatacho GRID event space: 〒102-0093 東京都千代田区平河町2丁目5−3 Website: grid.tokyo.jp | Google maps: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Nagatacho+GRID/@35.679827,139.739605,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x60188c797fce90eb:0x28a61b15013fa3e2!8m2!3d35.679827!4d139.739605

When: February 7th, 2020 doors open 7:30 event starts at 8:00pm

Why: It’s downright good clean educational fun, so grab a friend and go explore Tokyo!

How much: 1,000 Yen at the door

Annabelle Moore, January 2020

Lake Sagami Pleasure Forest

In the winter Lake Sagami Pleasure Forest has a Christmas light walk and rides with Paddington bear theme. The illumination runs from November to April.

If you drive tolls are ¥1700 each way. It is 45 min from the Supply gate. If you take the no toll route it is 75 min from the supply gate. We left at 5:30 pm on Friday. It may be faster at a different time,

The gondola ride is ¥700, infants and pets are free. Admission was ¥1800 each adult for the park. Children 2 and younger are free. Bring extra yen for rides and food. Rides vary from ¥100 – ¥800. Lots of food vendors, vending machines and lockers available. Park is wheelchair/stroller friendly. Restaurant, gift shops and tons of clean restrooms (a few with kid-size toilets and urinals) babies changing facilities also.
 The park is also pet-friendly! Time may be better on a different day. Park opens at 4 pm, closes at 9 pm. December 2019, Sylvia.

https://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/events/illumillion.html

Lake Sagami Pleasure Forest address is 1634 Wakayanagi, Midori Ward, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 252-0175, Japan


Delta East

I am from Portland Oregon, the land of food truck villages, and I could not have been more excited when I saw Delta East. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the food was great. My husband and I chose Delta East for a date night as it is very close to the base and we didn’t want to be out too late. We parked at the bank near the Fussa gate on base and walked about half a mile to the area also called The Little Hotel.

There are currently five carts with hopes for more in the future. The Must Chicken, Delta Brewing Company, Dosukoi Pizza, Sunrise Coffee Forest, and Buy Buy Banh Mi fill the spots now. There is plenty of outdoor seating and a small skate bowl in the center of the carts. We had the chicken, a couple mixed drinks from The Must Chicken and a beer from Delta Brewing Company. It was all very good and reasonably priced. Delta East is a great date spot and family-friendly as well. I look forward to returning with my girls to try the coffee in the near future. ~Deena Brunson, November 2019.

ASOBUILD

The ASOBUILD is a one-stop location for hours of fun. It is six floors of all kinds of experiences and there is something for everyone, at every age. Parking like many places in Japan can be an adventure but there are plenty of garages around there. If driving isn’t your thing, even better, the ASOBUILD is located at the Yokohama train station.

My family stumbled upon the ASOBUILD in search of the ever-popular Unko exhibit or better know as the Poop museum. Once we arrived we were disappointed to learn the exhibit had changed but excited to explore the places we had found. Looking at the map we realized how much the ASOBUILD had to offer. The basement is a lounge called “Pitch Club”. The creatively decorated area holds many events. It is like a grow-ups playground with drinks, food, music, pool tables, darts, and comfy chairs. This area seemed to be popular all hours. We saw people going in and out from the time we arrived until we left.

“Post street” is the name of the first floor and main floor. This is where most entered the building and where you bought your tickets to exhibit and play areas. We bought our “Oceans by Nature” tickets with ease at the counter before taking a stroll around the rest of “Post Street”. It was around Halloween when we visited and to our surprise, they had a large decorated area for people to take their own free pictures. They even had some props available as well. Following our photoshoot, we walked the halls among several adorable food booths that had a very gourmet food truck feel.

The second floor called “Ale Box” holds ever-changing exhibits. We chose to go into the “Oceans by Naked” exhibit which was small by awe-inspiring. Once we exited the exhibit we wandered the halls and found so much more. There was also a drone racing area, an escape room and a gift shop that accompanied the “Oceans by Naked” exhibit.

Scanning the brochure area before paying for our “Oceans by Naked” tickets I noticed signs about the daily craft being offered. The third floor called “Monotory” holds workshops making all kinds of crafts from soap to Christmas wreaths. You can see what crafts are available and also make reservations on their very easy to use the website in English. I look forward to returning and trying their recommended DIY welding and shelf making.

The fourth floor is a kid area called “PuChu”. It cost about 2000 yen for 90 minutes for children between 0-12 years old. Parents also pay a fee of 1000 yen for 90 minutes. Day passes are also available for 2500 yen per child and 1000 per parent. The area is full of bright colors, puzzles, things to swing on and places to jump from. It looked like yet another reason we will need to return.

The last floor is the multi-sports floor. It is located on the roof and has various lessons such as soccer, archery, and boxing. The multiple courts can be rented for large functions or games. They have games of basketball and soccer that can anyone can jump into as well. Its a regular sports haven.

The ASOBUILD has it all! It’s the perfect place for a girl’s day, guys day or family day. If you find yourself in Yokohama or feel up for traveling you are sure to be entertained at the ASOBUILD. – Deena Brunson, October 2019.

Kyodo No Mori Park

One of my favorite things about Japan is the beautiful parks that are tucked all over. This park had been on my list for a while and I was so excited to finally get a chance to check it out. Our mission was to play in the water on a hot September day. Many of the water play areas around Japan seem to close at the end of August. Kyodo No Mori remained open and to our surprise offered more than just water.

The park is a pretty easy drive which took us around 40 minutes on a Sunday. We were unsure of where the water area was, therefore, we parked a bit far. You will find quite a few parking areas and they all seemed to be free. I suggest parking next to the restaurant which is located right next to the park entrance. We parked near the baseball fields which was a bit of a walk. However, since we had to walk we discovered an area across from the main entrance that had a small pond and what appeared to be free fishing. There were both adults and children using poles and nets to catch very tiny fish. I translated the signs around the pond and found no information about the pond. There was no one regulating a fee so I assume it was free. Everyone had their own equipment and it didn’t seem like anyone was taking any fish home. We plan to make another trip out to give it a try. Our girls enjoyed looking at the tiny fish that others had caught.

After walking through this area we came to a building that served as a grocery store, restaurant, and information booth. We ordered lunch on a machine which was an adventure since we don’t know Japanese and there were only a few pictures. We managed to order fried chicken with curry and rice and loved it! Once we were done eating we let the girls play on the tiny elephant slide before heading into the park. There is a fee to enter the park which is paid for on a machine. It was 300 yen for adults, 150 yen for our 4-year-old and free for children under 4.

Through the gates, the first thing you will see is a large museum and cafe on the right. There was a list of shows and when we peeked into the window we saw that they had a planetarium. Yet another reason we will need to return to the park. Follow the road to the left to find the water play area which is also marked in English on signs throughout the park. The water area is fairly big and not too deep. Younger children can enjoy it safely. I, however, will bring our life jacket next time simply because the ground is very slippery. Our younger daughter was more comfortable holding our hand or staying close because she kept slipping. In the summer the water area is even more fun because it is filled with plastic balls similar to those found in a ball pit. Children can splash and play with the balls as well.

The area is very beautiful. There are a few small waterfalls in the play area that can be touched. At the top of the water area, there is a small bridge that leads to other trails and a larger waterfall just for your viewing pleasure. Once we were done playing we crossed the bridge and headed back. We noticed several trails we hope to explore another time. We found a small shop that served ice cream, corn dogs and other snacks. There is nothing better to the end of a hot day than ice cream. This park has a bit of everything and is a must-visit in our book.~ Deena Brunson, September 2019.

http://www.fuchu-cpf.or.jp/museum/

 Shokusai Kitchen Mayfly

 Nice little river side restaurant that is very relaxing. It is 15 minutes away from Nippara Limestone Caves. They serve things such as pizza, curry, pasta and salad. You can also go trout fishing for about 600 yen which adds a bit of excitement to the day. All in all a great place to stop for lunch. The restaurant also has some free parking spots. ~Kalina Bojkova, August 2019.

http://ttcmayfly.web.fc2.com/mayfly.html

Nippara Limestone Caves

Great for families with babies and kids 4 and up who can walk and do a lot of stairs. A tad more challenging with a toddler but still a lot of fun especially if you have a strong dad with you who doesn’t mind carrying the toddler up the steep stairs. Has a bunch of spots to stop and look around which is very recharging. There’s a little area right by the entrance of the cave where you can sit by the water and have lunch and also covered benches upstairs by the bathroom.

Bring a jacket with a hood and you should be fine. Cold Water is dripping down hence the hood. Definitely hat or hood for little kids who don’t like cold water on their heads. There is not much space for big hats so a hood is better. You can wear long pants but if you are walking the whole time you will warm up. Kids should probably wear long pants too. My warm blooded husband was happy wearing shorts and a tee as you can see in the picture.

Bring little easy snacks for the kids to keep them happy as it is 45 min adventure and the echo makes it extra loud when they cry compared to the Japanese people who talk to each other in a whisper.

There is free parking not many spots available so go early. They also have toilet, a little restaurant, a shrine and lots of nature. It’s a great day trip. Also go with a small car and a really good driver the way up is one way. Perfect for a motorcycle ride per my husband’s words. ~ Kalina Bojkova, August 2019.

http://www.nippara.com/nippara/syounyuudou/syounyuudou.html

Kabuki Theater

When my mom came to visit we wanted to do something different and authentic to Japan. A friend had told me about the Kabuki Theater which was named Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2005. After doing some research we decided to give in a try. The dramatic Japanese performing art was more than I expected.

We took the train from the Fussa station which took about an hour and a half and involved a few train switches. The theater itself was beautiful with a grand feel outside and quaint feel inside. Tickets can be purchased per show or as a day pass. The line for single shows is located outside in front of the theater and tickets range from 500-3000 yen. It was a special Mother and Daughter day for us so we purchased the day pass which cost about 14000 yen each. The day passes can be purchased in the basement of the theater. You will find an escalator on the right side of the building that will take you down. Walk to the right and you will find the counter to purchase tickets. We had no trouble with communication as they spoke enough English to help us with our requests.

Once we purchased our tickets we wandered thru the many booths that can also be found in the basement. There are wonderful things to be seen and bought at the market such as jewelry, scarves, swords and treats of all kinds. As you head back up to the theater there is a convenient store located at the bottom of the escalator. We popped in there and grabbed a few snacks to enjoy while watching the show.

Outside the main doors is a small counter at which you can rent an English translator screen. It was about 1000 yen to rent. The screen is something you have to read but was very nice to have. We were lucky enough to see two very different shows. The first was musical. The vibrant costume colors and energy of the Wa-Daiko had me on the edge of my seat. The first show only lasted about 20 minutes. We were able to grab a glass of wine in the lobby between shows. The pink champagne was amazing!

The second show was more of a play. I felt it showed more diversity and talent of the all male cast. Kabuki Theater which started with an all female cast in 1603 is now know for its all male cast. The dramatic make up and comical script was a side of the Japanese culture I had not experienced yet. The second show was significantly longer and ran for close to an hour. After the two shows we felt like we had seen all we wanted and headed out to find food. You will have no trouble finding food and shopping in the Ginza area of Tokyo right outside the theater. -Deena Brunson, August 2019.

https://www.kabukiweb.net/theatres/kabukiza/information/index.html

Sayamaike park

This park is 10 min from west gate and 20 min from east gate by car. You can see the parking on the photo of the map of the park. It is about 25 min bike ride from west gate. Quiet neighborhood, really interesting houses, not many cars passing so you actually get to enjoy nature without all the noise. Small enough for a 2 year old to walk all around it and big enough to find many beautiful spots to take photo. Perfect for your D.I.Y family portrait. There a 7/11 close by, so you can grab a lunch and have picnic. The park has a playground with a sandbox to play in. Bathrooms can also be found at this park as well. ~ Kalina Bojkova, August 2019.

Westland Farms

Having heard about the yummy gelato and sweet animals many times, we finally decided to check out Westland Farms on my daughters last day of school. We invited some friends and headed there right after pick up. There were four cars in our group and I (per usual) was a little concerned about parking. I also was hoping the location in general was large enough for all of our high energy children. When we arrived I was pleased to see the parking lot was the perfect size and they had a great outdoor seating area that allowed for the children to wiggle and screech as needed.  

Once we got inside we were surrounded with a quaint adorably decorated gelato shops. Cows decor was sprinkled in every corner. The flavors of gelato ranged from commonly known choices such as chocolate chip, to down right interesting such as Olive Oil. The gelato itself is made with fresh ingredients from the farm which is one of the things that makes Westland Farms so special. After living in Italy many years ago my favorite flavor is pistachio and that is what I got. The small 300 yen cup was the perfect size. Pistachio was very good but like most Japanese sweets it wasn’t quite as sweet as I am used to. 

After we finished eating our treats we walked over to say hello to the goat and baby cow they have on property. The children thoroughly enjoyed petting the goat and saying “moooo” to the cow. Near the animals they also have a cow statue which offers the perfect photo opportunity. All in all if you are looking for a fun place to get a cool treat, Westland Farms is a wonderful choice. -Deena Brunson, July 2019.

https://www.westlandfarm.tokyo/


Okutama Fishing Center

My husband loves to fish and after being in Japan for almost a year and not fishing, I knew it was time. I had overheard a friend talking about this place and we went the next day. Okutama Fishing Center did not disappoint. The drive is about 45 minutes from base. Once you arrive you will be on the opposite side of the Tama river and it looks as though you cant drive across. Keep going! The road is narrow but there is indeed a road going over the river to the decently sized parking lot.

The area alone is worth the drive. It is absolutely beautiful along the river. We went on a very rainy day and still had a blast. There are different types of fishing available. You can pay for day passes for fishing along the river. You can also pay for half day fishing on certain types of fishing. Prices vary depending on what you choose to do. We arrived around 11am and therefore decided to just fish in the pond. We had 3 children ages 4 and under and we were there to experience fishing with them.

The pond was 400 yen per child. We got the vibe the pond was more for children because it was very easy to catch fish and you could potentially get quite a bit in a short time. We were only charged for the children. We were then given bait and 3 fishing poles and nets. We hung our nets on a hook that hangs into the pond and began fishing. In less than 30 minutes we had caught 7 fish and we decided to call in quits.

When we finished the men working at the center cleaned our fish, put them on sticks and slathered them with salt. We paid an extra 500 yen to rent a small grill. Each fish you catch also costs 350 yen. After we got our grill we were shown an area out of the rain to grill our fish. They showed us how to grill it and when it was done we ate it right off the stick. It was amazing fish and an really fun experience. Near the rest rooms there is also bags of potatoes and onions you can purchase to grill as well.

When our fish was done we took one last walk along the river before heading home. There were fishermen set up everywhere. The kids had a great time playing in the streams leading to the river and throwing rocks. I imagine in nicer weather grilling right on the river is also allowed. Okutama Fish Center was a fun introduction to fishing in Japan and a fun day out. Deena Brunson, July 2019

http://www.okutama-fc.co.jp/okutama_fc_esa.html#fami

Sayama Berryland

Blueberries, strawberries and mushrooms galore can all be found to harvest at Sayama Berryland. The farm is about a forty five minute drive from base and is fairly easy. The location itself does have parking. There are two parking lots, one on each side of the main road, equaling about 50 spots with plenty of room to maneuver around. This is always something I am curious about because I am still mastering the skill of backing into parking spots and being comfortable in small lots.The parking we used was located across the street from the office at which you pay.

It was requested that we all pay together so I recommend bringing the exact amount needed. Cards are not accepted so make sure you have yen. Adults are 1500 yen. Children and seniors are 1000. Children under 3 are free. The farm is opened from 10:00am to 2:00pm for picking. Sadly if it rains they will close and you can find out if they decide to close by checking the website posted below. We visited the farm with a semi large group so we emailed ahead of time and made a noon reservation. When we arrived at noon on a Tuesday afternoon there was only our group roaming around and picking blueberries. The weekends may be a different story

Harvesting is not all Sayama has to offer A cute little store that sells original produces such as drinks and ice cream is also located on the farm. Outside the store you will find seating to enjoy your treats and a perfect spot next to the sign to take a picture. Once you have paid you will be instructed to cross the street and walk to meet your guide. Your guide will start your time as soon as everyone enters the picking area.

You are allowed 30 minutes to fill your container and munch on as may blueberries as you can. Our children were full of life running from bush to bush eating blueberries and enjoying the outside. There is something that makes food taste so much better when it comes straight from the source. We had no trouble filling our containers as the bushes had a plethora of berries. It was a bit hot the day we visited so we found that 30 minutes was the perfect amount of time. We had a wonderful experience and look forward to going back during the mushroom and strawberry seasons. – Deena Brunson, 2019.

Dohton Bori

Dohton Bori is not far from base and a great lunch or dinner spot. It’s open from 11am to midnight and offers a fun cooking experience. My husband and I went for lunch on a rainy afternoon. When we arrived we removed our shoes and placed them in a small locker. We then took the wooden key with us and waited to be seated.

Okonomiyaki is what they are known for but there are other things on the menu. I ordered a small okonomiyaki bowl and mushrooms on the side. My husband said the large bowl could feed two people. There are instructional sheets at the table that explain how to cook the okonomiyaki. The center of the table is a flat grill where you cook your food. You will also find many sauces at the table to make it your own. 

Grilling was very easy and didn’t take long at all. We brought our young daughter but thankfully she stayed asleep. I think our 4 year old could handle it and would know not to touch the grill but my 1.5 year old may not have done so well. 

The tables are Japanese style seating. There are two rooms with seats. One to the left of the shoes lockers and one to the right. Tables on the left are horigotatsu style with the hole under them for your legs, so if you have bad knees or don’t want to sit cross legged you may prefer that side. Tables to the right are tatami mat style. – Deena Brunson, 2019


Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway

Mt. Fuji panoramic ropeway. Visited today it’s about  1.5 hours away out main gate. We left base around 11:30am and traffic wasn’t bad. You will take toll roads and it’s 20$ each way (40$) total. The toll road does have multiple tunnels you will drive through. Coming back to base we left around 3pm and it took us 2.5 hours due to 2 car accidents along the toll road that had traffic moving slow. It really wasn’t bad,we got to take in more of the scenery at a slower speed.

The ropeway has free parking across the street right next to the lake but can be limited. There is a kiosk to buy tickets once you reach the ropeway building or you can buy from a person. Cheap tickets and kids that aren’t in school are free. One way/ round trip/ bundle tickets are available. We got the round trip ropeway tickets with boat ride.

Once tickets are bought the car that takes you up the mountain gives you amazing views of surrounding mountains and the lake. On top of the mountain plenty of places for souvenirs that are cheap and picture opportunities in front of mt Fuji along with a cafe.

The boat ride has an upper/lower deck depending on the experience you want. The ride is really smooth, you can see locals fishing and tourists in swan paddle boats, rented boats etc. not sure on the cost of private boats but the people that rent them out drive you around the lake. 
There are many hotels, restaurants , and shops in the area. It’s a great day trip. – Katie Kolka, June 2019

https://www.mtfujiropeway.jp/en/about/