Author Archives: Mai Takahashi

Cairns, Australia

We were looking for a location to travel that wouldn’t be terribly hot and humid this time of year (June). But what ultimately won us over were the $450 round trip direct flight tickets from Tokyo (Narita) to Cairns!! We couldn’t pass this up (JetStar, fare found on google.com/flights).

We were able to rent a car (reserved online beforehand) with a U.S. drivers license. Navigating was easy (google maps works without wifi via gps). We stayed near downtown and would definitely recommend this location for families. We were across the street from a fabulous park (with free fitness classes throughout the week) but more importantly, a free (and awesome!) splash pad.

Since there aren’t any good beaches within Cairns, the city created a free lagoon which is open every day. The city has many great breakfast and coffee joints (which we miss here in Japan) but don’t expect to order a drip coffee, they love their fancy coffee!

Another major draw was a tour to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, which many companies depart out of Cairns. During their summer, some harmful jelly fish inhabit the area, so June was a great time to go. It was a little cool and rainy when we went, but still saw lots of fish. High tide is a much better time, so we’d recommend looking ahead and book a trip during that time.

We drove up the coast to the Daintree Rain forest and along the coast to Port Douglas. There are awesome beaches but be aware of the windy, twisty road, it may lead to a little carsickness. We also drove to Kuranda, a cute little market town in the mountains, near Barron Falls. We also spent time touring the downtown area and the Cairns Botanical Gardens (also free).

Photo: Rex Lookout along Cook Highway, Barron Falls
Photo: Cape Tribulation, Sunrise view from our hotel
Emlyn Mann, June 2017

Spring Valley Brewery, Daikanyama

Spring Valley Brewery (SVB) is a  great craft brewery in the Daikanyama area near Ebisu/Shibuya. They offer flights of beer to try selecting from a diverse range of beers. They also offer an eclectic menu of burgers, pizzas, seafood, and pastas to accompany your drink.

The first floor is spacious and stroller friendly that provides a great atmosphere. Be sure to check their website because they do have events that limit their menu/selection and may have an entry fee. For example, the beer and sushi festival was held in November. I recommend reservations for the weekends.

We took the train to Ebisu station and it was a 10-15 min walk from there. There are shops and other restaurants in the area and it’s a short stroll to the Daikanyama district with even more to the walk through. – Jennifer McCarthy, January 2017

Spring Valley Brewery:
 http://www.springvalleybrewery.jp/
Hours: Monday – Saturday 8 am – 12 am (Last Order 10:30 pm)
Sunday 8 am – 10 pm (Last Order 9:00 pm)
Phone number: 03-6416-4975 (reservation only 10 am – 10 pm)
03 – 6416 – 4960 (other inquiries)
Directions: To Daikanyama station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote Line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Shibuya, and then transfer again to Tokyu Toyoko Line to Daikanyama. It is also accessible from Ebisu Station. To Ebisu Staion, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Ebisu station.

Wabist, Japanese gift shop

The Ebisu station along the Yamanote line is known as a beautiful illumination spot called Yebisu Garden Place in December. There is also a famous museum for Yebisu beer there. When you visit the place, there is a unique Japanese gift store you should check out.

Wabist is a shop that is a little off the beaten path featuring all items made in Japan at all different prices. As they introduce some products on its website, many items are made by skilled craftsmen.

A lot of fun items you don’t see everywhere. Great for gifts to send home or to friends/family. – Jennifer McCarthy, December 2016 

Gift Shop Wabist : https://wabist.com/ec/specialcontent?id=104
Hours: 1 0am – 7 pm on weekdays, 12 pm-6 pm on Saturday, closed on Sunday and Japanese Holidays
Directions: To Ebisu station, take Ome/Chuo Line to Shinjuku and then take Yamanote Line towards Shibuya, Shinagawa. Ebisu is 4 stops away from Shinjuku. From the east exit, it is around a 5 min walk.

Ao no Doukutsu, Yoyogi Park Illumination

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This beautiful illumination is called “Ao no Doukutsu”, meaning Blue Grotto, was in Nakameguro in 2014. It has relocated to Yoyogi park this year (2016).
The illumination runs from November 22nd through January 9th. I didn’t have a chance to go to the Nakameguro Illumination, but I’ve heard they moved the illumination in favor of the much wider street of Yoyogi park.
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The Illumination starts on Shibuya Koen Dori (Shibuya park street) and those Japanese Zelkova trees were lit up for your 750 m walk. I recommend stopping by there when you are in the downtown Tokyo area. Check out the Illumination website to see the video for directions. – Mai Takahashi, December 2016

Ao no Doukutsu, Shibuya : http://shibuya-aonodokutsu.jp/
Illumination time in 2016: 5 pm – 11 pm, November 22nd – January 9th  (the illumination starts at 7 pm on November 23rd, December 4th, December 25th, and January 9th)

Direction:
To get to the illumination spot, the closest station is Shibuya. The street is on the opposite side of Meji Shrine in Yoyogi park, so make sure to get off at Shibuya Station, not Harajuku station.
To Shibuya station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, and then transfer to Yamanote line towards Shibuya and Shinagawa.
From Shibuya station, exit from Hachiko exit and then cross the famous crowded intersection. And then take the street that is to the right of the building that is all glass and has a large tv display. You will see a Starbucks and TSUTAYA video store in this building. Keep walking until you see the blue lights on the trees.
img_2421Once you find the blue trees, follow them to Yoyogi park.
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List of English Book stores in Tokyo area

Books Kinokuniya, near Shinjuku South exit 

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If you are looking for a book store with English books, Books Kinokuniya might be your best bet to find what you are looking for. Kinokuniya  is a chain book store in Japan that usually carries a small amount of English books. But this particular store specializes in English books and only has English books. Make sure to check the directions below, there is another Kinokuniya book store out of the east exit. The store near the south exit is the only one that specializes in English books. Their selection was enormous! They had children’s books, magazines, travel books, fiction/non-fiction, etc. The space isn’t as large as a book store in the US, but I felt like I was in a mini Barnes & Noble.
Since all of the books are imported, the price of the books seemed expensive, but still a good place to go if you are in need of books. If you know any other book stores that carries English books, please let us know! – Mai Takahashi, November 2016

Directions: If you have been to Shinjuku, you know how big the station is. From the base, take the Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku station. And then look for the south exit. From that exit, you’ll cross the big intersection and turn left to walk through another part of  Shinjuku station towards Takashimaya.

img_2219There is a walk pass on the 6th floor of Takashimaya to the book store.

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Once you get to Takashimaya 6th floor, follow the signs and you’ll see the book store.

TSUTAYA BOOKS, Daikanyama 

There is a book store in Daikanyama where you can sip your coffee while you look for a book. Tsutaya Books Daikanyama is located in Daikanyama near Ebisu. Tsutaya is a CD/DVD rental chain in Japan that also sells books. The bookstore consists of three interlinked buildings, each having two floors. The first floors have books and there is a Starbucks on the first floor of the third building.


There are seats where you can bring a book to read while you enjoy Starbucks. The store does carry some English books, but not many. If you are looking for a certain title, Books Kinokuniya in Shinjuku might be a better option.

The Interior is so stylish that it is almost worth it to just visit. Don’t forget to check out Spring Valley Brewery while you are in the area. – Mai Takahashi, February 2017

Directions:
To Daikanyama station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote Line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Shibuya, and then transfer again to Tokyu Toyoko Line to Daikanyama. It is also accessible from Ebisu Station. To Ebisu Station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Ebisu station. It’s about a 15 min walk from Ebisu station.

Comments from travelers:

The book store in Daikanyama is amazingly unique and an example of superb architecture by Klein Dytham!! There is also an excellent restaurant next door called the Ivy Place! The food is delicious with a Greek inspired theme. The atmosphere is lovely and it offers three different eating spaces that will accommodate anyone! They have a cafe for more casual dining, a bar area and a formal dining area. I highly recommend it!Amy Gaul, February 2017

BINGOYA, Japanese folk craft shop

img_2165If you are looking for authentic Japanese gifts, BINGOYA, the Japanese folk craft shop is a perfect place to check out. I was looking for a Kokeshi doll and was impressed by their collection.

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This five-story store offers folk crafts from all over Japan. As it is shown in the picture below, they have a variety of items.
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The staff spoke great English and there were signs in English to explain each item. I wouldn’t say some of the products were affordable, but I think the price was reasonable for its authenticity. Every product was beautiful and I wish I could spend much more money. There were some inexpensive items like tatami mat coasters, paper crafts and small toys. A kokeshi doll that I bought was Y2300 without tax and I was very happy with my purchase. I love every detail of my kokeshi. The store is not too far away from Shinjuku station, so if you are looking for a place to visit while you are in Shinjuku, I think it’s worth a visit especially for authentic Japanese gifts to bring home.  – Mai Takahashi, November 2016

BINGOYA, craft shophttp://bingoya.tokyo/
Hours: 10am-7pm, Tuesday-Sunday, Closed on the 3rd Saturday and the following Sunday (except in May, August, November, December).

Directions: I didn’t see any parking lots near by, so I recommend taking the train to the store. The nearby station is Wakamatsu-Kawada on Oedo-Line Subway. From the base, take Ome/Chuo Line to Shinjuku station. Transfer to Oedo-Line Subway. (Exit from West exit and follow the Oedo-line sign. You’ll be getting on Oedo-line from Shinjuku Nishi station.) Take Oedo line to  Wakamatsu-Kawada.
From Wakamatsu-Kawada station, exit from Wakamatsu-Kawada exit and turn right. Walk straight until you reach the store. The store will be on your right.
Make sure to exit from the correct exit at Shinjuku station. You could exit from the South exit to catch Oedo line, but then you have to transfer again at Tocho-mae station. Getting on Oedo-line from Shinjuku-Nishi exit is the key.

 

Hakone Sengokuhara & Little Prince Museum

 

img_2008Susuki (pampas grass or silver grass) is known as one of seven autumn flowers in Japan. Sengokuhara is a popular spot to stop by to view and walk through beautiful seasonal field. Susuki season is October to November.

img_2014There are temporary parking lots for visitors to see the field in October to November. It was about 10-15 mins walk from the parking lot to the field.

img_1965There is a path in the middle of the field that you can walk through and it took us about 30-40 mins to walk to the end of the path and back. (We stopped for photos often.)

img_2007-1Only the beginning of the path was paved and it was mostly rocky. We left the base around 7 am and got there a little bit after 9 am. There were two parking lots for the field and the first parking lot was already full when we got there. The second parking lot was empty, but it was filling up by the time we left around 10:30 am.

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I recommend stopping by the Little Prince Museum if you visit the Susuki field. It’s only a 5 minute drive from the field. According to its website, the museum was built to celebrate the 100 year anniversary since the birth of the author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

img_2036It’s a small museum, but has a European-themed garden and the French-themed scenery  were beautiful. Most of the museum displays were in Japanese, but there were binders that had all the translations for visitors.

img_2044If you are fan of the book, this is a place to check out. You can enjoy illuminations and a projection mapping show in the evening from November to early January. There is a nice restaurant next to the museum as well. The lunch set menu price was around Y 1500 – 3000. ( You don’t need to buy tickets to the museum if you are only dining there.) – Mai Takahashi, November 2016

Read more about Hakone sights here:
Hakonehttp://yokotatravel.com/hakone/
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun: http://yokotatravel.com/hakone-kowakien-yunessun/

Sengokuhara: http://www.hakonenavi.jp/season_special_contents/index/4
Hakone Sengokuhara Temporary Parking lot 1 & 2 Hours: 9 am-4 pm, October through November.
The museum of The Little Prince: http://www.tbs.co.jp/l-prince/
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Last entrance is 5 pm, The restaurant hours: 11 am – 5 pm)
Entrance Fee: Adult Y 1,600, High School and College student Y 1,100, Elementary and Middle School students Y 700.

Directions:
Hakone Sengakuhara (Temporary Parking lot (October to November, 9 am-4 pm. The coordinates: 35.265120,138.999927)
We took the Ken-O Expressway then Tomei Expressway. It costed Y 2,780 one way.

Susuki Field Parking  to the Little Prince Museum

Suntory Hakushu Distillery

img_2100-2My dad is a big Scotch fan so when my parents came for a visit, we drove them to the Suntory Hakushu Distillery for a tour and whiskey tasting.
The distillery is nestled in the southern Japanese Alps, surrounded by trees and running water. The tour was in Japanese but they provided English audio guides which worked fine. The whiskey tasting that was included in the tour cost (¥1,000/person) was interesting and I found it to be better than the one at their Yamazaki location near Kyoto.

p1030167fThey gave us samples of the white oak cask malt and the lightly peated malt whiskeys they blend to create their Hakushu Single Malt Scotch, which they gave a sample of as well. I didn’t see a tasting room that allowed you to try their other scotches. If you want that, your best bet is their Yamazaki Distillery.

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They had a whiskey museum but it was not in English, a lookout at the top of the museum with a 360 degree view, and a restaurant which had English menus. You do have to call them to make reservations for the tour. The website said we would need reservations for the restaurant but we were able to just walk in after the tour.

p1030132fThey spoke English on the phone and many staff members on site spoke at least some English. The distillery wasn’t hard to find using GPS and is approximately 2 hours by car from Fussa heading west. We took the Ken-O then the Chuo Expressway west and it costed ¥6,140 round trip for tolls on a Tuesday from Hamura. The drive to it was quite scenic as were the grounds of the distillery. The coordinates are: 35.826441, 138.302564. – Laura Nelson, October 2016

Suntory Hakushu Distillery: http://www.suntory.co.jp/factory/hakushu/?fromid=hakushubrandsite_banner
Hours: 9:30am-4:30pm (except New Year’s holiday) ※ Check their website to see the plant shutdown days. (November 11th and 29th are currently scheduled shutdown days, last operating day of 2016 is December 25th)
Phone: 0551-35-2211
Suntory Yamazaki Distillery(in Osaka) : http://www.suntory.co.jp/factory/yamazaki/

Suntory Hakushu Distillery (coordinates: 35.826441, 138.302564)

Enoshima East side Beach (Katase Higashi-hama Beach)

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We visited Enoshima Beach, which is a beautiful area with shorelines, surfers, tourist shops, and an island with fantastic views (didn’t visit the island this time because it is Obon Season, a summer holiday for the Japanese, and traffic to get on the island was backed up considerably).

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It should have taken us 1 hour and 20 min and ¥3000 ($30) in tolls to get there, but we got on the expressway heading in the wrong direction and it costed us about 40 minutes and ¥1960 ($19.60) in tolls.

We left early in the morning for the beach to avoid traffic (heading home around 12:30 pm was not the same case). It was a beautiful drive through some scenic areas before we got on the highway.

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The beach was fabulous! Instead of plunking down at the more touristy beach adjacent to the island causeway, we went eastbound along the shoreline for a bit and found a quiet section of beach used by the surfers. Could not have picked a better spot! The beach was soft and had black sand. Water was a great temp, and the air temp was much cooler than at home.

The surfers and other beach-goers were all so friendly. Dogs are welcome on the beach, as are tattoos . We met some new dog friends while walking the beach-line. The beach was super safe…no one stole our chair/towel/book when we left to go for a walk.

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The parking area overlooking the beach we used was actually quite expensive (It was Kamakura Prince Hotel’s parking lot), at ¥600/hour. In hindsight, we might choose an offsite lot next time. But at least we didn’t have to walk far.

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Adjacent to the parking lot and overlooking the water is a cabana cafe called Pacific Cafe with breakfast/lunch/drinks/shaved ice. Super convenient to the beach and your car.

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All in all, we had a great time at Enoshima Beach and we can’t wait to go back! – George, August 2016

Read more about the area here: Kamakura

Katase Higashi-hama Beach (Enoshima East side Beach)
Website: http://www.enoshima-beach.com/index.html

Kamakura Prince Hotel Parking lot
Website: http://www.princehotels.co.jp/kamakura/access/contents/parking.html
Price: Y400 per hour, Y200 per 30min after the first hour
7/1~8/31, Y600 per hour, Y300 per 30min after the first hour

Pacific DRIVE-IN
Website: http://pacificdrivein.com/
Hours: 8am-8pm *Hours may differ by season

Tama River Spot in Ome, Mitake & YOSHIZO cafe

13902833_10210319289879937_8650448021880006200_nI found a great Tama River spot in Mitake and a dog-friendly pizza restaurant called YOSHIZO cafe. If you are looking for something to do out of the city with your family and friends, this is a great Sunday Fun-day getaway.

To the parking lot nearby the spot was about a 40 min drive from the base. There was a group tour heading out on a rafting trip nearby. There is a walking bridge crossing overhead that will take you to the other side, likely into the town of Mitake (I was on the other side of the river from the actual town). There was a family with a tent set up (camping might be allowed). Parking was Y100/hour and there were more than enough spaces in the lot (I was there in the morning). There are public bathrooms adjacent to the parking lot.
I highly recommend aqua-socks, keens or some protective footwear you can wear in the water because the rocks hurt!

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yoshizoThere is a pizza restaurant called YOSHIZO cafe up the hill advertised dogs OK.
They spoke limited English. I tried to order lunch on the patio but they told me it was reserved, so I ended up ordering pizza to go and sat on the grass overlooking the river instead.

13909035_10210319288959914_6446864013225882158_oI still had a nice lunch while the dog enjoyed the air conditioning in the car. – George, August 2016

YOSHIZO cafe website: http://yoshizo-cafe.tokyo/index.html
Hours: Fri-Wed Lunch time 11:30am-4:00pm (Last Order 3:00pm)
Dinner time 5:00pm-9:00pm (L.O. 8:00pm)
Phone: 0428-78-7887

Mitake Parking spot near Tama River

YOSHIZO Cafe

Art Aquarium, Nihonbashi Tokyo

 

IMG_8436Summer is one of the most exciting times of the year throughout Japan. As the temperature and humidity increase, excitements of the summer increase, and there are many summer events going on in our neighborhoods.
Art Aquarium is a seasonal aquarium that opens during the summer, and it is an art exhibit with living kingyo (goldfish). The theme of this year’s Nihonbashi Art Aquarium is the Edo period of Japan, during which the Kingyo culture spread among townspeople. More information on the exhibit can be found here.

IMG_8265The exhibit takes place in Coredo Muromachi, which is a shopping complex where there is fine dining, food stores and more. There are three Coredo Muromachi buildings and the Art Aquarium is located in Building 1. The entrance is on the 4th floor. There is a summer event called “Eco Edo Nihonbashi 2016” around the neighborhood and the Art Aquarium is part of the seasonal celebration. The streets are decorated by lanterns and if I describe the atmosphere, I would say it’s an elegant Japanese old town. Check their Facebook page for more info.

IMG_8329The aquarium exhibits were very unique. There were many kinds of Kingyo. I was impressed by the wide variety of Kingyo that I had never seen. Each exhibit was very arty, and it was a cultural experience of Ryo of Kingyo, enjoying the refreshing coolness by looking at Kingyo swim. The exhibit room is not so big; I would say 30min to 1 hr is enough time to look around.

IMG_8296Starting from 7pm, the Art Aquarium turns into the “Night Aquarium” during which they start serving alcohol and you can walk around the room with your drink. We arrived there around 6:30pm on Sunday, and I saw several families with small children. After 7pm, there were mostly adults. There are special nights with DJ performances on weekends. Check their website for the event schedule because you may need a special ticket to get in on those nights. When you plan your visit, try to avoid the weekends. They limit number of entrances once it gets crowded. According to their Twitter, Saturday is usually very busy and there might be a 30min wait. I heard it’s less crowded in September. If you are going to Tokyo area during the summer, I recommend stopping by the Art Aquarium to enjoy goldfish, symbolic of Japanese summer. – Mai Takahashi, July 2016

Website
Art Aquarium: http://artaquarium.jp/en/
Coredo Muromachi: https://31urban.jp/lng/eng/muromachi.html
Art Aquarium Hours:  July 18th-September 25th, (the dates may differ every year) 11:00am – 11:30pm (Night Aquarium starts at 7:00pm)
Admission: Y1000 for adults, Y600 for elementary school age and under, and free for 3 years old and under. (Children must be accompanied by adults.)

Directions: Mitsukoshi-mae station on Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line/ Ginza Line is the closest station, but from Fussa, getting off at the Tokyo station is the easiest.  To get to the Tokyo station from Fussa, take Ome/Chuo line all the way to the Tokyo station. I love returning from the Tokyo station. Since the station is the first and the last stop of Chuo line, there is a great chance that you can sit all the way from Tokyo station to Fussa. From Tokyo station, exit from Nihonbashi exit or Yaesu North exit. It’s about a 15 min walk.

Tokyo Tower, The Milky Way Illumination

IMG_8175If you are planning on visiting Tokyo Tower, I recommend going there during the summer. There are “Tanabata”(Star Festival) themed decorations called the “Milky Way Illumination” which represents “the night sky of summer where the Milky Way is visible”. The interior sky (ceiling) is filled with blue stars (lights) on the main observatory floor. My husband and I reached the main observatory right before the sunset. Since it was a weekday, there was no waiting time to get up to the main observatory floor and the floor was almost empty.

IMG_8163We decided to wait for the sunset at a small cafe on the main observatory floor. The cafe offers light meals and drinks such as sandwiches, fries, ice cream and drinks. The floor got busy as the sun went down. The view of the city turning its color was very pretty and the floor gradually turned blue, thanks to the stars.

IMG_8136After the sunset, the room was completely blue and the atmosphere was very romantic.  There is a DJ booth on the same floor and the performer differs by the day of the week. We missed it, but there is projection mapping on the second floor of the main observatory. The outside staircase to the main observatory is also decorated with blue lights, but we could not climb the stairs due to the weather.

IMG_8205If you are a fan of manga/anime called “ONE PIECE”, there is a themed park on 3rd, 4th and 5th floor of the building below the tower called “Foot Town”. Also, there will be a haunted house on the basement starting July 15 through September 4th (the dates may differ every year). Hours for the haunted house: 12pm to 9pm, Y800 for junior high school students and above and Y500 for 4 years old up to junior high school students). If those brave souls visit there, please let us know how it was. – Mai Takahashi, July 2016

Read more about the Tokyo Tower from previous posts  here.

Tokyo Tower The Milky Way Illumination 2016: June 1st to August 31st
Tokyo Tower Website
: https://www.tokyotower.co.jp/en.html
Tokyo ONE PIECE Tower: http://onepiecetower.tokyo/?lang=en
Hours: 9 am to 11 pm (last entry 10:30 pm)
Admission to the main observatory (150m high): Y900 for high school students and above, Y500 for junior high school and elementary school students, and Y400 for  children between 4 years old and before elementary school age.
Special observatory(250m): Y700 for adults, Y500 for junior high school students to elementary school students, Y400 for children between 4 years old and elementary school age.
Directions: In my opinion, the easiest way to get to Tokyo Tower from Fussa is take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku and transfer to Oedo line(subway) and then get off at Akabanebashi. From the Akabanebashi exit, you’ll see the tower in front of you. It’s about a 5-10 minute walk from the station.

Lavender Fields on Lake Kawaguchi

20160629_132108 The Kawaguchiko Herb Festival takes place in mid-June through early July. You get to see a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi and lavender fields especially on a sunny day. Be prepared for mud since it blooms during the rainy season. The lavender fields are located on Kawaguchi Lake. There are small flower parks, Yagizaki Park and Oishi Park. Admission to the parks is free. It was a nice walk along the lake with a few small restaurants.

20160629_131914 There is parking right in front of the shopping area in Yagizaki Park and it’s free to park. There were a lot of shops and fresh produce in Kawaguchi Natural Living Center in Oishi Park. If you would like to make the trip a full day, there are several other things to do around the area. For example, in Music Box Forest there is a music box from the Titanic on display. We didn’t go there, but the admission is Y1500 for adults. The drive was about 90 minutes. – Kathryn Flint, June 2016

Kawaguchiko Herb Festival 2016: June 17th to July 10th (Oishi Park is until July 18th) 9am to 6pm at Yagizaki Park and Oishi Park
Website: http://www.fujisan.ne.jp/special_2014/sp_201606e.php
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center: http://www.yamanashi-kankou.jp/foreign/english/spot/p2_2830.html
Yagizaki park festival map: http://www.fujisan.ne.jp/up_img/info/672/if_ex_f_00000004.pdf
Kawaguchiko Music Box Forest:
English: http://www.yamanashi-kankou.jp/foreign/english/spot/p2_2837.html
Japanese: https://kawaguchikomusicforest.jp/
Directions:
Yagizaki Park

Oishi Park

Kawaguchiko Music Forest

Ninja Akasaka Restaurant

IMG_7154If you are looking for a unique Japanese restaurant to take your family, guests or friends, Ninja Akasaka will not disappoint you! It is a ninja-themed restaurant where you can enjoy delicious food in a ninja’s secret lair. The restaurant is located in the corner of Akasaka Tokyu Plaza where many boutiques and restaurants reside. When we arrived at the restaurant, most of the shops at the plaza were closed since it was past their normal business hours, but it seemed like it was a nicer place than a regular shopping mall. It might be hard to find the restaurant since the outside of the restaurant is all black, but it is perfect for a ninja’s secret base.

IMG_7153Your ninja experience starts from the entrance. I don’t want to ruin your experience by spoiling it too much, because I think you’ll enjoy this place more when you don’t know what will happen next. From the entrance, a ninja (waiter) took us to our hideout (table).  The inside of the hideout was dim and the ceiling was lowered in some-parts, just as I had always imagined a ninja’s place to be. The service from the ninjas was great. The ninja were well trained and they spoke very good English. Since it is more of a  fancy restaurant, the menu price is a little spendy. We went there with a group of ten people, so we had to order from the course menu.IMG_7138

There are several course options you can choose from; course menu price starts at Y4,500 and up. It does not include tax and drinks. I had the Y5,700 course with drinks; I think I spent about Y8,000. If you go with seven people or less, you can order from the regular menu. Although it was expensive dining, I was very satisfied with the food, service, and the “entertainment”.IMG_7149

The restaurant offers a kids menu and family friendly hours. Make sure to make a reservation since this place always seems busy. If you are going there for a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc), don’t forget to let them know because they might celebrate it in the ninja way. For more details and pictures, check out their website. I highly recommend this place especially when you have someone visiting because you can take them somewhere unique. – Mai Takahashi, June 2016

Website: http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/top_main.html
Phone: 03-5157-3936
Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30pm-2am, Sunday and Holidays 5pm-11pm
Directions: It is 3 min walk from Akasakamitsuke station on Ginza and Marunouchi line. To Akasakamitsuke station from Fussa, take Ome/Chuo line to Yotsuya and then transfer to Marunouchi line. It’s one stop away from Yotsuya station.

Saitama Museum of rivers

Saitama Museum of Rivers is an inexpensive and fun way to enjoy the hot summer. Since the exhibitions of the museum are only in Japanese, I would recommend  just paying  for the Waku Waku land, which is a water obstacle park.image4

It is not a pool, so you don’t have to wear swimsuits, (most people just got wet  in their clothes), but it might be easier for your little ones to have swimsuits and water shoes on. Shoes must be worn at all times and no food is allowed in the area, but there is a Japanese restaurant on site. If you walk down a little ways the river is right there for you to play in. We didn’t have time to go down there but definitely will come back to do that.image3Taking the toll road makes it only 1 hour away, and costs Y1610 each way. –Amanda Lynn, June 2016

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PRICE
Parking:
 Y300
Admission to the museum: Y410  for adult, Y200 for high school and above, free for middle school and under
Waku Waku Land: Y 200 for high school and above, Y100 for 4 years old to junior high school
Adventure Theater: High school and above Y430 , Y210  for 4 years old to junior high school
Hours: Tue-Sun  9-5 PM (Mondays are open during the summer time, closed on Golden week ) 
Summer time hours  (July 21-August 31 2016): Weekdays 9-5:30pm, Weekends and Holidays, August 11th-August 15th 9-6pm
Website: http://river-museum.jp/english/index.html
http://river-museum.jp/index.html (Japanese)
Address: 39 Kozono, Yorii, Osato District, Saitama Prefecture 369-1217
Phone: 048-581-7333

Hanno Ganno Kiln

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A short 30 minute drive north of Yokota is the Hanno Ganno Kiln in the town of Hanno.  They make traditional Japanese pottery. Don’t think typical blue and white…think green and white and turquoise and tan with patterns and textures.

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There are two showrooms.  The main showroom is directly in front of you when you park in their small parking lot.  It has two rooms with decorative and everyday use pieces. The pieces are food safe but in most cases not dishwasher safe (bases or undersides of pieces aren’t completely sealed with glaze).  Prices range from 300-3000 yen per piece, depending in size and intricacy.

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The second showroom is slightly to the right and down the hill from the main showroom building. Here the potter displays his expensive and exhibition pieces. Many pieces are for sale in this room, but prices usually start at 7500 yen and go up quickly from there.

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On my last visit, there were some pieces for sale under 3000 yen in this room though.  Even if you don’t want to spend that much, it is worth looking in the second showroom since the exhibit pieces there are beautiful. Be sure to take off your shoes before you go in this showroom; slippers are provided if you want them. Sometimes the potter is there too, so if he is, the ladies who work at the kiln will be happy to introduce you. Everyone’s English is limited, but we’ve always been able to have good simple conversation. Also, be sure to enjoy the view off the deck on the back of the first showroom building.  This is one of my favorite things about this location.  You would never guess that you are only 30 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Fussa!

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Small parking lot is available, so carpooling is recommended. If your items are a gift, they will gift wrap them for you at no charge. Cash only.  Katie Campbell June 2016

 

Phone: 042-973-9099
Hours: Sun-Thu 9:00am-5:00pm
GPS to parking area: 35.844044,139.279154

Pepacafe Forest, Thai and Asian Cuisine

IMG_6548Kichijoji is one of my favorite Tokyo neighborhood’s where you can find many cute cafes, small/big businesses, and casual/fancy bars. The neighborhood is also known as one of the most desired places to live in the Kanto region. I enjoy taking a walk at Inokashira-park, famous for cherry blossoms during the Sakura season. There is a shrine, zoo, and a lake which you can even ride a swan boat. There is an art market during the weekend (usually starts at 9am) and you might encounter some puppet performers, magicians, or simply people playing their musical instruments. It’s a popular spot to get out especially on a sunny day.

There are a few cafes in the park and Pepacafe Forest is a casual Thai restaurant which is perfect for a family, a couple, or a group of friends.IMG_6549

If you like Thai food, this place is a must try! If you are not a fan of Thai food, you can still enjoy their drinks and desserts. I visited with my sister on a weekday for lunch. I had a lunch plate for ¥1100 (without tax).IMG_6551

I also visited on a weekend for a piece of cake and a drink (they have wine, beer, and cocktails.) The restaurant is spacious and I love how it’s surrounded by nature. You’ll have a view of the park if you get a window seat. I saw some families with little ones with high chairs available. The menu is listed in Japanese and English. I recommend going there during the weekdays since it could get very busy during the weekend. If you see people sitting on chairs right outside the restaurant, that means they are waiting in line, so you can sit next in line and wait. If the line is not so bad, I think it’s worth a try. – Mai Takahashi May 2016
Read more about Kichijoji neighborhood from past posts from here: Kichijoji

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pepaforest/
HOURS: Mon-Fri 12:00pm-10:00pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am – 10:00pm
PHONE: 0422-42-7081

GENERAL TRAIN DIRECTIONS to Kichijoji station: Take the Ome Line from Fussa to Tachikawa, then transfer to a Tokyo-bound Chuo line train and get off at Kichijoji. If you catch a rapid train from Fussa, you will not have to transfer at Tachikawa. Just stay on the train. Note that the special rapid doesn’t stop in Kichijoji, so if you’re on one, get off at Mitaka and take the next train.

To Pepacafe restaurant from Kichijoji station:

Exit through the Park Exit.
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After going down the stairs/escalators after the exit, you’ll cross a road and keep going straight.
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You’ll see a bigger street (called Inokashira street) and Marui department store in front of you (keep an eye out for “OIOI” (Marui) sign).
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You’ll cross the Inokashira street and walk down the street to the right side of the Marui department store.
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Keep going down the street and you’ll reach Inokashira park.
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After entering the park, keep going straight and cross the bridge. Then you’ll see the boat pier on your left.
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Pass the boat pier and keep going straight and you’ll see the restaurant.