Author Archives: Nexon

MoriPark Outdoor Village

MoriParkNear Akishima Station, only a 5 minute drive out the East Gate, is a huge “Outdoor Village” where you will find shops, food, and outdoorsy activities. Take a right out the East Gate and head towards MoriTown Mall.

Shops include Jack Wolfskin, Columbia, Mont-Bell, The North Face, Solomon, Coleman, Mountain Hardware and more. Many of the shops have boutique restaurants serving coffee and lunch.

There’s a giant rock climbing wall and a small man-made pond where people were testing out kayaks. And there were tents set up everywhere, for people to crawl around in. When I was there on a Saturday, there was a giant “convention center”-like space that had an open market, with local vendors selling fruits and vegetables. There were children driving around miniature Segways.

MoriPark2The website for the outdoor village is: http://outdoorvillage.tokyo. The hours are 11:00-20:00 on weekdays and 10:00-20:00 on weekends. GPS: 35.716617, 139.361475. It’s right next to the Harley Davidson Shop. There was parking nearby, you may have to pay.

I wasn’t able to do a ton of research, but there was a place called Play (a part of the village), which has an indoor and outdoor climbing gym, and yoga studio. The phone number is 042-541-3223. Please share any information you might have in the comments below. Michelle Nexon, July 2015.

Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and SightsIf you are new to Yokota, or been here for years, this comprehensive guide can help you find new and exciting things to do year-round. Created with the seasons in mind, simply click on the link and find out what’s happening. Time to work on that Japan To-Do list!! Click on the links below to be able to zoom in and start your adventure! Created by Linda Bell, May 2015.

PDF: Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

Excel: Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

 

 

Saipan, Mariana Islands

Saipan, rich in culture and history, is a quick and relatively inexpensive plane ride from Japan. It’s a commonwealth of the U.S. and thrives on tourism.

P1030958My husband and I recently visited this island and were pleased that we did. There are many hotels to stay at on the island, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, because it is within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. It is also within walking distance of the American Memorial Park, which is a great site to visit wile staying in Saipan. The hotel has a lovely beach, with a bar and restaurant that serves beverages and food. The island here is protected by a coral reef, and at low tide you can walk into the ocean forever and only be waist deep. We know of people who stayed at the Pacific Islands club and also had a wonderful time.

P1030876Saipan is a small island, and I’ll be honest, I was nervous that we would run out of things to do. However, we were there for four days and were busy the entire time. We rented a car from our hotel and drove to the various sites. My husband and I discovered many historical sites and museums, and were amazed by the preserved WWII history. We saw the last Japanese Command Post, the Banzai Cliffs, WWII pill boxes, bomb shelters and more. All were easily accessible and many had plaques with the detailed history. My favorite was a WWII tank that is partially submerged in the ocean. At low tide, you can wade out to the tank and climb on top of it, and/or snorkel around it.

P1030806So perhaps all that sounds boring, not to worry, the island has hiking and snorkeling, and is a diving mecca for those with a diving certification. Not certified? Not to worry, many dive sites are open to snorkeling as well, and you will find all kinds of colorful fish and wildlife. Just outside the hotel, while wading and snorkeling, my husband and I witnessed a stingray that came within feet of us. There is also a boat ride to Managaha Island, a popular place to snorkel and sunbathe (my husband and I did not go there, but have heard it’s a great day trip). We also hiked down to Bird Island, just off the eastern coast (shown in picture). The water was crystal clear and there were tons of fish. When hiking, I recommend being prepared and bring plenty of water, food and sunscreen.

P1030910The culture and food is also a great draw for tourism in Saipan. On Tuesdays, the island has a Tuesday Market, where locals come out and sell their wares and food. There is a stage for performances, island dancers and fire throwing. The market is within walking distance from the Hyatt Regency. There are many great restaurants, but my two favorites were the Café at the Park, just across the street from the American Memorial Park; it serves coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is great and much less expensive than at the hotel. It’s run by locals who have a great sense of humor and excellent customer service. The second is La Trattoria, a reasonably priced Italian restaurant, great for a date night, and serving one of a kind wines. La Trattoria requires a car or taxi, the hotel will help you locate it.

P1030974TIPS AND TRICKS: Plane tickets cost $300-$500, and only take about 3.5 hours direct (we used Delta). Let your hotel know that you are active duty, and you will likely receive huge discounts. Bring your own snorkel gear to save money on rentals. Buy food and snacks outside the hotel to save money. If you have any tips and tricks to share, please post them in the comments below.

We would love to hear about your experience in Saipan. Please share any other information and pictures by emailing the editor, or commenting below. Happy travels! Michelle Nexon, May 2015.

 

Blue Little Butterfly, Steakhouse

IMG_4109We went to Blue Little Butterfly for a date night. The atmosphere is really nice. The menu is all in English including the drink menu. We ordered the steak and the lamb chops, you have to order your sides separate. I would recommend ordering three sides and sharing them between two people (they have a huge assortment of potato salads). The steak was amazing, a thick cut, cooked perfectly, and delicious. The prices are very good for steak in Japan. We had a bottle of wine, six sides (you really only need three) and two main dishes for ¥10,000. Everything was very good and perfectly cooked. They also have a variety of seafood dishes on the menu and some delicious sounding pancakes on the dessert menu. I highly recommend this for a date, or if you just feel like a really good steak. Phone: 042-530-0160. Michaela Nelson-Kelley, May 2015.
IMG_1356DIRECTIONS:
Go out the main gate, it will be on your immediate left, just before 7-11.

 

Shimoda Beach and Camping, Izu Peninsula

IMG_4121For an easy weekend get-away, consider  Shimoda, on the Izu Peninsula. Approximately a four hour drive from Yokota Air Base, Shimoda offers great beaches, camping, hiking, and more. It’s a great place to stay while exploring the Izu Peninsula. It’s rich in history and has a fun “beach town” vibe. Check out any one of these nearby attractions while you are visiting: iZoo, Yumigahama Beach, Mine Hot Spring and Geyser, Kawazu Seven Waterfalls, Jogasaki Coastline, and more. There are maps throughout the area that will help you discover new and different adventures.

IMG_4117When my husband and I visited Shimoda, we stayed at the Ernest House, a great little “bed and breakfast” only a two minute walk to the Kisami-Ohama beach and a 10 minute drive from downtown Shimoda. They offer breakfast in a picnic basket (encouraging you to take it to the beach!), and have a restaurant called Café Mellow, providing food and beverages. During the evening, we enjoyed sitting by the hotel’s fire pit, and soaking our feet in the Jacuzzi. They also allow you to use their bikes, boogie boards and beach toys at no additional cost. Check out their website for more info and reservations, the owner speaks great English and is incredibly helpful. The website can be viewed in both English and Japanese. They have pet friendly rooms. http://www.ernest-house.com/index.html. GPS: 34.655598, 138.917184. Parking across the street is free. Book well in advance, as the summer months are the busiest.

IMG_4248If you are looking to have a more rustic experience, there is a camp ground right next to the Ernest House, called Marin Side Camp. They have bathrooms, showers, and you can park your vehicle right next to your camp spot. Open late April through the end of November. The telephone is 0557 54 2353. Call to make reservations. Spots fill up quickly during the summer months. Approximately ¥1000-2000 per tent and ¥500 per person. GPS: 34.655256, 138.918009. Michelle Nexon, March 2014.

 

 

Tokorozawa Aviation Museum

DSC04165For kids eager to learn more about flying and for aviation enthusiasts, this museum is definitely entertaining, especially on inclement weather days. Built on the site of Japan’s first airport, Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is split into a number of indoor sections. In the main multi-level hangar, there are a number of historic planes and helicopters. Some of these exhibits allow walk-throughs and/or a seat in the cockpit. Airplane and helicopter simulators are located on the next level of the museum, and on the third level there’s an ‘antique’ control tower exhibit as well as the history of Japanese aviation and Tokorozawa. Throughout the aging museum, there are also several displays and workshops that revolve around flying and aviation. For young kids, on the main floor they can dress up as commercial airline pilots, and on the third floor they can color pictures of airplanes. There is a large screen movie theater near the entrance, which plays 40-minute films at 10:20am, 12:40pm, 2:20pm and 4:00pm. However, the films are only played in Japanese with no subtitles. Unfortunately, much of the museum is in Japanese, besides the exhibits in the main hall. To the right of the entrance, there’s a little aviation gift shop. It has everything from airplane model kits to various airplane pins. On the other side of the entrance is a restaurant, Ecotoco Farmer’s Café. The prices are reasonable and they serve ramen, curries, salads, sausages and sandwiches, as well as hot and cold drinks. Unfortunately, there were no English menus so you may have to check out what other people are having and discretely point.

Small lockers are available inside the museum’s lobby and opposite the restrooms. They cost ¥100, but this is reimbursed when you remove your items. The Museum is very stroller friendly. There are ramps and an elevator inside the main hall. If you need more information, please refer to the museum’s website http://tam-web.jsf.or.jp/contxe/ or call their office, Phone: 04-2996-2225.

If you’re not interested in seeing the museum, or you’d like to spend more time in the area, you might like to visit the surrounding Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park, which has a Japanese garden, tea-ceremony room, sports facilities, flower gardens, and is a good place for a good ole picnic. Maps of the grounds are located around the park for navigation. If you’re still looking for more things to do in this suburb, please visit this website and look for the section headed “Tokorozawa”, http://yokotatravel.com/welcome-fellow-yokotans/north-of-the-base/.

DSC04180Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30am-5:00pm. CLOSED MONDAYS. However, IF MONDAY is a holiday, then the museum will be open, but the following day it will be closed. The museum is also closed on the third Tuesday in December and over the New Year period, December 29 to January 1. Adults cost ¥510 and elementary to high school-aged students cost ¥200. The movie theater costs ¥610 and ¥260, and a combination ticket that includes entrance to both the museum and the theater, costs ¥820 and ¥260 for each respective age group. Kids under elementary age are free. For groups over 20, discounted tickets are available. Linda Bell, February 2015.

DIRECTIONS

The GPS coordinates for the museum parking lot are 35.798871 139.471403. Depending on traffic, the trip can take 1 hour by car, in good traffic. However, there are a couple of busy railway crossings that can add to your driving time. Parking is free for the first 2 hours and then ¥100 for every hour thereafter. There are four parking areas located around the park with a total of 580 parking spaces so if you have trouble getting parking you may need to get directions to the other parking lots. By train, the closest train station to Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is the Kokukoen Station, on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line. From Fussa Station this takes 45-60 minutes, including two possible train transfers. The museum is an 8-minute walk from the station.

Yomiuri Land Amusement Park

DSC03727Looking for a closer alternative to Disneyland? Yomiuri Land is a compact amusement park with over 25 rides for all ages. Some of the main attractions include a standing roller coaster (MOMOnGA), the Bandit rollercoaster, go carting, laser tag, a haunted house, and a couple of Tour de Chutes; the Crazy Hyuuuu and Crazy Stooon. For younger members of the family, there is a Ferris Wheel, an animal coaster and a train ride.

In summer, the park offers 5 pools and 3 waterslides. They have a large swimming pool, a five meter deep diving pool, a kid pool, and a lazy river. Various shows, including synchronized swimming performances, are also held here during the summer months.

IMG_5928From the beginning of November to mid-February this park has an excellent illumination display that rivals the Sagamiko Pleasure Forest illumination presentation (2014-15). When we visited Yomiuri Land, we saw 6 to 7 light shows that were choreographed to music. Three of these shows were held at the wave pool and they had lights and fountains choreographed to music. The majority of the shows begin at 17:00 and take place every 10 to 15 minutes. See the park’s map guide, located at the entrance, for a list of times. People who are photosensitive might like to note that the “tree tunnel”, in the back left-hand corner of the park, features a strobe lighting effect during its show.

Restaurants and food stalls are located throughout the park and offer everything from ramen and curry bowls to hot dogs, churros and crêpes. While there are quite a few stairs around the park, there are a lot of ramps to make this park stroller friendly. There are coin operated lockers located around the park as well. The mascot and symbol for the park is a white ‘land dog’.

For more information about Yomiuri Land, please see the park’s website http://www.yomiuriland.com/english/#Attractions. Their website has PDF files linking you to height and age restrictions for each particular ride as well as a map.

DSC03673There are a number of admission options and prices. A One Day Pass allows you access to all the attractions and the sea lion show; it costs ¥4000 for adults and ¥3000 for children (3 years old to high school students). For families with kids under elementary age, the park also offers the Hiyoko Pass (chick pass) which allows kids to ride on 16 of the age-appropriate/accompanied rides and access to the sea lion show. For adults and children the Hiyoko Pass costs ¥3000 and ¥2000 respectively. Park entrance without any rides costs ¥1200 for adults and ¥600 for children under the age of 3. Rides can be purchased individually and, in general, cost ¥300-600, with the exception of the Bandit and Bungee Jump attractions which cost ¥900. A Night Pass, with rides (from 16:00), costs ¥1800 for adults and ¥1300 for kids, while entrance alone (includes illumination) costs ¥1000 for adults and ¥500 for kids and teenagers. To purchase a pool pass, beginning of July through mid-September, add ¥700 to the regular One Day Pass for both adults and children. Entrance to the park and aquatic area, without use of the attractions, costs ¥2900 and ¥1900 for adults and children respectively. Please check with the park’s website/staff for admission prices for folks over 60.

The park is generally open from 09:00 or 10:00 and closes anywhere from 17:00 to 20:30 depending on the time of year. Please check this website for the park’s schedule, http://www.yomiuriland.com/information/calendar/Linda Bell, January 2015.

DIRECTIONS

To get to Yomiruri Land, take the Chuo Expressway and use the Chofu Exit. The GPS coordinates to the parking lot are 35.62426, 139.51680. In light traffic, the trip can take just under 1 hour (according to Google Maps) from Yokota, the tolls are ¥1000 each way. Parking for standard vehicles is ¥1000, and they have 1500 spaces. The closest train station to Yomiuri Land is Keioyomiuri Land Station and you can get here via the Keiō Sagamihara Line. From the station, you can either walk 1.2 miles uphill or take the 5 minute Gondola Sky Shuttle for ¥300 (one way) to reach the park entrance.

Fall Colors Route Near Mt. Fuji and Lakes

DSC01438Here is a good ‘day’ outing if you’re interested in seeing some of the main fall spots near Mt. Fuji. The fall colors peak somewhere between mid-October to mid-November, but check this website for its report on fall colors round Mt. Fuji, Tokyo and Japan so you can plan your visit – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014_where.html.

The trip drives around Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Saiko and is best taken during the week and on clear days, when Fuji is visible. Total driving time (not including stops) is about 3.5 hours in good/light traffic. The tolls, round trip, cost ¥4000 (in 2014). This circuit also works well in the spring, when cherry blossoms bloom at Chureito Pagoda and along Lake Kawaguchi.

DIRECTIONS

Begin at Chureito Pagoda (GPS N35.49969, E138.80025). Please see the map below.

FullSizeRenderFollow the road around Lake Kawaguchi, and you have the choice of two free parking lot areas: one parking lot is at the beginning of ¾ miles of fall trees and the other is at the end of this stretch of road. The first parking lot has the GPS coordinates 35.5205999, 138.7714245, and is located next to the Museum of Art. The one at the end, and further along the lake, is near a maple lined canal and has the GPS coordinates 35.5266438,138.7618775. The maple lined canal is down the hill from this parking lot and is a great highlight if you go when its color is in peak. The canal is less than 100 yards long, but all around this area and further up the mountain lane are some great looking seasonal trees. Between the two parking spots there are maple and gingko trees lining the main street as well as along the same distance on the path’s edge of lake Kawaguchi.

Continuing on your drive along Lake Kawaguchi, be prepared to stop for more amazing maple trees at this free parking spot, GPS 35.5153416,138.7369953. Near the far end of the lake there is a good and relatively well-priced, Italian restaurant on the right hand side.

Following this, you can drive to the thatched village settlement with the GPS coordinates 35.501374, 138.659046. Saiko Iyashi No Sato Nenba. Please see the link for parking and prices.

If you have extra time and energy, further around Lake Saiko there is a 20 to 30 minute hike up to Koyodai summit that has fall colors en route and at the top. You can drive to the top of this, but the road is unpaved and very rough. The GPS coordinates for the parking lot at the BOTTOM of Koyodai summit are 35.481077, 138.6720221. The GPS coordinates for the parking lot at the TOP of the summit are 35.4841543, 138.6795045. Linda Bell, November 2014.

Winter Illuminations, Central Tokyo

Here’s a list of some of the top illumination displays in central Tokyo.  These are great places to visit during the dark winter months, and they’re all free.  Be prepared for some illuminations to end on Christmas Day; check Time Out Tokyo ( http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo) for specific illumination dates. I have listed the destinations in order of my preference, however, Sagamiko Pleasure Forest’s winter illumination is my most favorite illumination around Tokyo (2014-15).

Tokyo MidtownMidtown Tokyo:  (Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line – H04, exit 8). This mall has a nice light tour from the Plaza, along Higashi Street and through the Garden. It ends with an amazing finale at the Grass Square. The lights run from 17:00 – 23:00, between the middle of November to Christmas Day.

Nakameguro Canal Nakameguro: (Naka-meguro Station, Hibiya Line – H01, North exit). Cross the road, after you take the North exit, and follow the crowd north. These amazing canal lights give you the impression that the river runs through a beautiful blue cave. The lights are lit 17:00 – 21:00 from the end of November to Christmas Day, EXCEPT WEEKENDS!※The blue illumination relocated to Yoyogi park in 2016. The trees are illuminated in an orange-gold color in 2016 instead.
This illumination differs every year. Please make sure to check the info before you visit there!

-Yoyogi Park, Shibuya
The above blue cave has relocated to Yoyogi park in 2016. Please see the separate entry for more information.
Ao no doukutsu: http://yokotatravel.com/ao-no-doukutsu-yoyogi-park-illumination/

ShidomeShiodome: (Shiodome Station, Oedo Line – E19, or Shinbashi Station, connected to several lines). The Caretta mall runs an illumination show every 20 minutes. The GPS coordinates for the display are 35.6648195,139.7624616. Illumination is from 17:00 – 23:00 and begins mid-November to mid-January.

Roppongi HillsRoppongi Hills/Keyakizaka Street: (Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line – H04, exit 1C). This romantic illumination is located near Mori Tower, and in previous years, they have had a Christmas market that runs until 9 pm. The GPS coordinates for the Roppongi Hill lights are 35.6592006,139.7298473 and the trees are lit 17:00 – 23:00, from early November to Christmas Day.

The 4 locations, above, can be visited relatively ‘easily’ as most of them are on the Hibiya Line, but there is quite a bit of walking involved. I suggest seeing the lights at Nakameguro (H01) first, since these lights turn off the earliest and ending with Tokyo Midtown or Shidome. To get to Shiodome, take the Oedo Line to Shidome (E19) from Roppongi Sation (H04).

Tokyo Dome/La Qua: (Served by several lines and can be reached via Kasuga Station, Korakuen Station, exit 2 or Suidobashi Station, West exit). When we went to this display, it was not vast, like the illumination spots above. However, it was colorful and the frequent light shows were well choreographed to music. You may want to see the ‘fountains to music’ display at La Qua too. La Qua also has over 50 restaurants located on the Ground floor and 5th floor. You can see the lights between 17:00 – 01:00 from early November to mid-February.

Shinjuku: (Shinjuku Station also served by a number of lines including the JR Yamanote Line, South exit). There are displays all around Shinjuku Terrace City with a number of them located on Shinjuku’s Southern Terrace, south of JR Shinjuku Station. The lights are generally lit from 17:00 – 24:00 mid-November to mid-February. You can catch some Valentine’s Day lights here too.

Inside Omotesando stationBetween Meji-jingumae Station and Omotesando Station: (Meji-jingumae Station, Chiyoda Line – C3 or Fukutoshin Line F15, and Omotesando Station, Chiyoda Line – C4, Ginza Line – G2, or Hanzomon Line- Z2).  Meiji-jigumae Station is a 10 minute walk from Harajuku station which is on the JR Yamanote Line. Along this ritzy stretch of road, there are a lot of lighted Gingko trees. On the left as you go from Meiji-jingumae Station to Omotesando Station, you can take a quick look at the illumination displays on the rooftop in Tokyu Plaza, next to Starbucks, and then further down the road inside the Omotesando Hills Shopping Mall; where there is a 26 foot tall fake Christmas tree and a cute miniature German house scene. You can catch the lights between sunset and 21:00 from early December to early January.

Yebisu Garden Place: (Ebisu station, Hibiya Line – H02, and the JR Yamanote Line to name a few lines. exit 1 or East Exit). This is a 10-15 minute uphill walk from Ebisu Station, or if you can find it, the “Yebisu Skywalk” is easier. The GPS coordinates for this illumination display are 35.6426292,139.7137002. When we visited, the plaza had a red carpet lined with lit trees and a gigantic crystal chandelier at the end. This illumination is generally lit between 16:00 – midnight and runs November to mid-January.

Tokyo Tower: (Kamiyacho Station, Hibiya Line, exit 1 or Onarimon Station, Mita Line, exit A1 or Akabanebashi Station, Oedo Line – E21, Akabanebashi exit). Besides the tower itself, there are other lights at the base of the tower that are usually theme based. The year we went the lights ‘worshipped’ some anime creature that we didn’t know. It costs 900 yen to get to the main observation tower. For more information on Tokyo Tower, see this Yokota Travel entry http://yokotatravel.com/welcome-fellow-yokotans/tokyo-tower/. These lights are lit between 16:00-0:00 and run between early November to December 25.

Here are a few more illumination destinations that I have not visited, but are well-known illumination spots in central Tokyo. They are a little further from Yokota, but good spots to check out if you are staying at the New Sanno during the winter months.

Tokyo Station: (Tokyo Station is serviced by a number of lines. Use Yaesu exit and exit 4a/4b for Michi Terasse). Tokyo Station usually has a couple of attractions from 17:00-23:00 early December to early January. Tokyo Station’s, Yaesu, Grand Roof is lit with alternating colors. From 16:30-20:30. December 24-28/29 Tokyo Station’s Michi Terrace (or Tokyo Station’s façade) usually has an annual 3D holographic projection display.

–  Tokyo Skytree: (Oshiage Station is also serviced by a number of lines). The Solamachi Christmas Market and Christmas illuminations around Tokyo Skytree run from 10:00-22:00 early November to Christmas Day. The pathways connecting the tower, Tokyo Skytree and Oshiage Stations are lit from mid-December and you can usually see projection mapping shows as well.

Ginza District: (Ginza Station on the Hibiya, Marunouchi and Ginza Subway Lines and Yurakucho Station on the JR Yamanote Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and Yurakucho Subway Line). The lights in Ginza are generally lit between 11:00-22:00 from mid-November to mid-February.

– Odaiba: (Daiba Station, Yurikamome Line). Odaiba has a large “Daiba Memorial Tree” lit from 17:00-01:00 in mid-November to mid-March. Other illumination points around Odaiba include “Odaiba Kaihin Park, in front of the of Decks shopping center, Venusfort and Diver City”, according to http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2303.html.

Linda Bell, December 2014.

 

Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest

This is an amazing park that can entertain a wide variety of ages and interests. It’s no Disneyland, but it’s only a 40 minute drive from Yokota Air Base and it’s cheaper. The park is divided into four zones; the Amusement Zone, Outdoor Zone, Hobby Zone and the Hot Springs Zone.

DSC02893The Amusement Zone has a Ferris wheel (you may have seen this on top of a mountain on your way to/from Mt. Fuji), a mini rollercoaster, two types of go-carts, a pirate ship, a merry-go-round and a number of obstacle courses for kids, just to name a few. There are 30 attractions in all; some have height restrictions. For the go-carts the height restriction is 140cm/55in. 130cm/51in is the height restriction for the swinging pendulum, and for a couple of the other rides the height restriction is 100cm/39in.

There is an Outdoor Zone that can be used for camping during the day or for overnight use. The Hobby Zone has a mountain bike course, and one of the largest radio-control car courses in the Kanto area.

Finally, there is a Hot Springs area called Sagami Lake Onsen Ururi. Apparently, this has a few pools and open-air hot springs that have views up to the mountains and valley. I am unsure whether this onsen has ‘mixed-gender’ pools. For more information, please check out this link: Sagami Lake Onsen Ururi. Or paste this into your browser http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/ururi. The first link uses Google Translate.

IMG_5156Starting November through the middle of April, Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest hosts an amazing lights display in one portion of the park. The year we went (2014), the park had the biggest light display in the Kanto region with approximately 5 million lights. Classical music was played as we walked along the hillside. There is a chairlift that can take you up through the lights and to a Ferris wheel. The chairlift is an additional cost (cost unknown), as is the Ferris wheel (¥500). Please check the park’s website for illumination hours. They are generally 17:00 to 21:30 with the last admission at 21:00. The section of the park we visited with lights was stroller friendly, aside from the chairlift. INSIDER TIP: The lights are best if you walk around them in a clockwise fashion. And, if you get there before 17:00, you will experience the lights turning on, which includes a full light show coordinated with classical music. To avoid lines, show up early (16:30).

Throughout the park, there are restaurants and BBQ areas. The BBQ areas may need reservations. For more information on Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest Park, please use this link: Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest. Or paste this into your browser: http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/english.

DSC02828Admission to the Amusement Zone costs ¥1700 for adults and ¥1000 for children. Rides can then be purchased for ¥200-¥800. An all day pass for adults costs ¥3700, while the children’s free passes cost ¥3000. Admission for the Hot Spring Zone is ¥950 for adults and ¥500 for children during the week. Admission is ¥1000 and ¥500 for adults and kids respectively over weekends and holidays. Admission for the Light Display is ¥600 for adults and ¥400 per child. The cost for the Hobby Zone or General Entrance to the park, outside of the Amusement Zone, is unknown (please feel free to share if you know). Parking costs ¥1000, but for large cars and vans it’s ¥2000 and ¥500 for motorbikes. Parking is free with a receipt from the hot springs. There are at least 2,500 parking spaces, and there a number of parking lots around the park.

Please check the website for the most current park hours. The park is generally open from 09:30 to 16:30 daily, EXCEPT for Thursdays. The onsen hours are typically from 10:00 to 22:00, but occasionally the onsen may be randomly closed, please check the website for the most current information. Linda Bell, December 2014.

DIRECTIONS

IMG_5139The GPS coordinates for the entrance to the parking lot closest to the Amusement Zone and winter lights display are GPS:35.60120 139.20004. To get to the park you can take the Chuo Expressway west to the Sagamiko Exit. The park is about a 10 minute drive from the exit. Driving takes about 40 minutes one-way, and is just under ¥1400 in tolls, round trip. You can avoid the tolls if you travel via Mt. Takao. This route takes a little over 60 minutes, according to Google Maps.

Ginko Trees in Fall, Tokyo University Hongō Campus

DSC03584Around the end of November to the beginning of December, brilliant, yellow ginkgo trees line the main entrance into Tokyo University’s Hongō Campus. It’s a grand sight, and the leaf-carpeted path leads you through interesting gothic buildings and archways. Most of the campus is open to the public and is stroller friendly, for the most part.

DSC03648From the main gate (Seimon), and part way down the University’s main pathway, a path on the left leads to a huge ginkgo tree. It’s a great place to relax and have a drink, or picnic if the weather’s fine. At the opposite end of the main gate is Yasuda Auditorium, a large, red brick building. Just south of the main gate, towards Hongo Sanchome Station, there is also an interesting red gate (Akamon, shown in the picture above) built in 1827, from the Edo period.

Tokyo University is considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, and the World. The institute’s symbol is the ginkgo leaf, as the trees are “known for their endurance and longevity” (japanvisitor.com). Here is a link to the map for Hongō Campus. It has the locations of restrooms, restaurants, convenience stores and the train stations. Hongo Campus Map. During the fall, we combined this outing with a trip to Koishikawa Korakuen Park. A 1.3-mile walk separates the two locations, or you can take a subway ride between the Iidabashi/Korakuren Stations and Hongo Sanchome Station. Linda Bell, October 2014.

DSC03612DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates to the Tokyo University Hongō Campus main gate (Seimon) on Hongo-dori Avenue, are 35.712926, 139.759457. The closest subway stations to the University’s main gate are Todaimae Station (Nanboku Line, N12) and two separate Hongo Sanchome Stations, one services the Marunouchi Line (M21) and the other the Toei Ōedo Line (E08). Take note of the train line your returning on so you go to the correct station.

If you exit Todaimae Station, turn left to head to the main gate, while at the M21 Station take the Hong-dori Avenue Exit, Exit 3. At the E-08 Station take Exit 4 and turn right for the main gate. All stations are approximately a 10-minute walk to the main entrance of the University. I believe all three stations are stroller friendly, according to the University’s Disability Services Office.

Kinchakuda Park, Spider Lilies

DSC00222Sometime between mid-September and the beginning of October, Kinchakuda Park boasts a world-class Spider Lily (Lycoris Radiata) exhibit. The vast sea of red flowers is a huge attraction for the Kantō Plain, and Saitama prefectures. These flowers are only in full bloom for 5 to 6 days so if you want to see the garden at its peak, visit the park’s web page to see photos of the blooming progress, Kinchakuda Park Website. On the park’s website there is a calendar showing the Spider Lilies previous bloom times. H25 and H26 stand for years 2013 and 2014, according to the Japanese calendar. In spring, one hundred cherry trees and rapeseed fields bloom at Kinchakuda. Again, check the park’s website for blooming details. Note: The bulb of the Spider Lily is poisonous and the juice from the flower stalk may cause dermatitis.

DSC00247Temporary food tents, with Japanese fast food, are located towards the middle of the park, but these may be absent during the low flower season. There are not many picnic tables so perhaps bring a picnic blanket. Picnicking on the dry part of the riverbed is common. At the northwestern corner of the park is Alishan Café, a mainly organic eatery. This place has a balcony and seemed very popular when we walked by. On the northeastern side of the park, there is an interesting wooden truss bridge called Aiai. Some say it is the longest wooden truss bridge in Japan at approximately 91.2 meters. Access to and around the park from Koma Station is very stroller friendly. Perhaps bring extra clothes if your child/children play in the river. Admission is ¥300 during the Spider Lily season. Outside this, I believe the park is free. From April to October, the park is open from 08:30 to 17:15 everyday, except Tuesdays. The park is closed from November through March. Linda Bell, October 2014.

DSC00318DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates for the park’s entrance, closest to Koma Station in Saitama, are N35.88125 E139.30979. Other entrance/exits are situated around the park. During the peak Spider Lily season, I believe the easiest way to get to the park is to take the train from the Higashifussa Station (Hachiko Line) to Koma Station. This route takes just over 30 minutes and there is only one change at Higashihanno Station to the Seibu Chichibu Line. At Higashihanno Station, a Suica card or new ticket is needed to change lines. At the Koma Station, there are maps that give directions to the western entrance of the park. There are elevators at all the aforementioned stations, except Higashifussa which has 2 lots of approximately 50 stairs. For those with strollers, instead of taking the stairs on the right as you come out of Koma Station, go straight so you link up with the sidewalk on your right.

Parking, in and adjacent to the park, is ¥500. Be prepared for traffic congestion during the Spider Lily season.

Fabric and Craft Stores

Craft Heart Tokai

Located near the Fussa Station, it is on the street level, below the Seiyu parking garage. This store offers a small variety of fabrics, beads, sewing notions, lace, ribbon, etc. For ¥540, you can purchase a membership card for one year. They will give you a form to fill out, and are very helpful with translating. This membership recently gave me %10 off my entire purchase, and I get flyers in the mail that highlight their sales. If you park in the Seiyu parking garage, you can validate your parking by taking your Craft Heart Tokai receipt and parking ticket to the bookstore next door and they will validate it for you.

There is another Craft Heart Tokai in The Mall. If you are headed north on Route 16 for any reason, you can easily stop in and check it out. It’s located on the second floor, towards the middle-back for the building. They have a similar selection of sewing and craft goods.

Yuzawaya, Shinjuku

Located near the Tachikawa Station, this craft/fabric store has a large variety of fabrics and sewing notions. The store is in the Bic Camera Building, the fabrics and sewing notions are on the 7th floor. Other crafts, to include beads, felt, craft paper, etc., are located on the 8th floor. You can purchase a membership card for one year and receive discounts on various fabrics cut from the bolt (¥540). Take the North exit from the Tachikawa Station and use the skywalk to cross traffic. The building has all kinds of electronics and phones for sale at street level. Simply enter the building and head left to the escalator. It will take you all the way up to Yuzawaya. Please see the map below.

Daiso

And let’s not forget the Daiso! It doesn’t have a huge selection of fabrics, but has various sewing notions and small craft items. I was able to find large pieces of felt for only ¥100. It also has beads, buttons, elastic, velco, etc. Often times, you can snag these items for much less at the Daiso than at a craft store.

Joyful Honda

I also wanted to mention that Joyful Honda has a HUGE selection of craft items, but is lacking in the fabric department. Looking for canvas, paint, leather working items, beads, scrabooking, etc, you’ll find it here. The prices are a little high, but you are likely to find what you are looking for.

The IKEA in Tachikawa also has fabric on the bolt, for some trendy home décor prints. Have a different fabric or craft store to share? Please share in the comments below! Michelle Nexon, October 2014.

Tokyo Toy Museum, Shinjuku-Yotsuya

DSC09030This is a good outing for all ages, but particularly good for kids under 9 years of age. It’s also great for those days you find yourself in Downtown Tokyo, you’re staying at the New Sanno, or you need something to do on a rainy cold day. The museum is located inside an old elementary school and consists of three floors. Each room within the building is dedicated to a different type of play and learning. Some of the attractions include a toy workshop in which you can make your own toy/craft, a wooden toy room, and a room dedicated to the all-time classic toys.

DSC09025Strollers aren’t ideal within the museum, but can be left outside the gymnasium. There is also a small playground outside for nice weather. Take footwear that is easy to slip on and off, if possible, as a couple rooms do not allow shoes. There are no restaurants within the museum. We took snacks and ate outside. However, there are a variety of restaurants back towards Yotsuya-3-chrome station.

IMG_3012The Museum is open from 10:00 – 16:00 all days (last entry is 15:30), but closed on Thursdays. Admission is ¥700 for adults, ¥500 for kids over 2, and free for kids under 2. A parent and child combo ticket is ¥1000 (for a child over 2 years old). For more information, please go to http://www.goodtoy.org/ttm/ (you made need to use a translator). If you finish early at the Tokyo Toy Museum, the Tokyo Fire Museum is another attraction that can be visited near Yotsuya Sanchrome Station, and it’s free! Linda Bell, October 2014.

DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates for the toy museum are N35.68951, E139.71805. By train, take Exit 2 at Yotsuya Sanchrome Station, on the Maronuchi Line. The Museum is a 5 minute walk from the station. It’s quite difficult to find as it’s down a mainly residential street. Look for the red flags with yellow writing, TTM (Tokyo Toy Museum) on the right hand side. Parking is not advised, according to the website.

Toraneko, Asian Jamaican Restaurant

ChickenToraneko Asian-Jamaican Fusion Restaurant in Fussa is located adjacent to Mike’s Tex-Mex, across from the Fussa Hospital, on the “Seiyu Road.” It has friendly staff, marvelous food and excellent prices, especially during lunchtime. Some of my favorites are the spring rolls, cilantro pickle, and the Jamaican jerk dishes, particularly the chicken with rice and beans. It is open Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday. Lunch is from 11:30 to 15:00 (last order is 14:30); Dinner is 18:00 to 23:00 (last order is 22:30). Parking is free, but there are only three spaces, located just around the corner. The restaurant is small, seating 18 people. Smoking is allowed, but rarely seen.

SoupThere is a party menu and all you can drink for 120 minutes. It’s only available during dinner and requires a minimum of two people. The party menu includes a seven+ course meal and is ¥3,600 per person.

 

An interesting tidbit: the restaurant name is listed in Gurunavi, a Japanese language travel/restaurant guide, as “TABETABI TORANEKO” ( 無国籍料理店食旅トラネコ ), which is a clever play on the Japanese words Tabe (to eat) and Tabi (i.e., tabby cat). Toraneko is the Japanese word for tabby cat. Pamela Tubbs, October 2014.

Don Quijote

photo 1Looking for a unique gift? Or something you can’t find anywhere else? You may find it at a Don Quijote. They have all kinds of goods; cell phone accessories, beauty products, clothing, liquor, car accessories, electronics, etc. They also offer inexpensive seasonal goods, such as Christmas decorations during the winter, and water toys during the summer. The closest location is right across from base on Route 16. Parking is free. The hours are from 9:00 am-5:00 am, and the phone number is 042-539-7611.  For more information, check out their website at: http://www.donki.com/en/. Just take a right out of the terminal gate and you will see it on the left.  Michelle Nexon, July 2014.

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Yumigahama Beach, Izu Peninsula

DSC08531This is a nice beach with a relatively white sandy coastline, shaped in a 1 km arch. It is a 20-30 minute drive from Shimoda City. We went over Independence Day Weekend and the beach was almost empty, although this could have been due to the inclement weather in Tokyo at the time. Fortunately, the Izu Peninsula has a slight microclimate and we had fine weather.  For the most part, the surf is not big at Yumigahama Beach because it’s a sheltered bay. The waves are more suitable to boogie boarders, beginner surfers and kids.

Potentially, it can be a slow drive getting to the southern Izu coastline from Yokota Air Base, especially in peak traffic periods; during the weekends and summer months. It typically takes 3.5 to 4 hours in light traffic. We drove through the middle of the Peninsula on the way to the beach and drove up the East coastline on the way back to Yokota. The East coastline route was much faster and less windy than the other route, but slightly more expensive. The tolls to Shimoda/Yumigahama are quite costly, maybe $30 to $40 one-way.

From Yumigahama, we took a daytrip to Kawazu Seven Waterfalls, and on the way back to Yokota we visited iZoo, Mine Hot Spring and Geyser Park, and the Jogasaki Coastline. You can also visit Shimoda, where monuments (“Black Ships”) and parks commemorate Commodore Perry (U.S) who landed and started diplomatic talks with Japan in 1854. Shirahama Beach is also located near Shimoda and is apparently better for surfing. Jinja Shrine, a beautiful Shinto Shrine borders Shimoda Beach.

DSC08539We stayed at Yumigahama Beach Cottage (aka Yumigahama Seaside Garden), recommended by another Yokota family, and we were not disappointed. Mr. Morimoto owns three two-story cottages that can house up to five people each. The small cottages are equipped with almost everything you need, including kitchenware, small air conditioner, microwave and a small outdoor BBQ/grill. You will need to take towels and hand/paper towels. The mattresses are relatively thin, but we were able to use two and it was ok, but not great. The pillows were also small and hard, so you may want to bring your own. Boogie boards are available for free, as is parking. From the cottages, the Yumigahama beach is a 1 to 2 minute walk, approximately 30 yards. Rates for a cottage vary throughout the year, anywhere from ¥9,800 to ¥42,000 per day. Be aware that the price can really spike over the weekend. For more information and reviews, visit this link, http://www.beachside-log.com/english.html. Don’t be afraid to call, as Mr. Morimoto speaks great English. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DIRECTIONS: The Yujo has handouts with directions to Shimoda, but I found these to be a little confusing. There are a number of new roads and expressways on the way to the Izu Peninsula, and we found Google Maps (not our relatively new Garmin) gave us the quickest route. We enjoyed traveling via the coast. Yokota —> Route 16 —> Route 29 —> past Atsugi City and Ebina City —> Tomei Expressway —> Odawara- Atsugi Rd./Expressway —> Seisho Bypass —>Route 135. From Route 135 onward, you can choose between several toll expressways along the coastline, or continue on Route 135 which is more windy and has two-lane traffic. The inland route is quite windy, and once you get on the peninsula roads, passing can be difficult. GPS coordinates for Yumigahama Beach Cottage are N34.63572 E138.89020, but if you’re just going to Yumigahama Beach, I believe there are parking lots at both ends of the beach.

 

Ramen Square, Tachikawa

Ramen Square is a collection of seven ramen shops, combined on the third floor of a building in Tachikawa. When you step into the square, you feel like you are entering the streets of Manhattan. Each shop has a specialty ramen dish. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥1200. It’s open 11:00 to 24:00, last order is 23:30. Phone: 042-521-7111. Website: http://ramen-square.com/.

The Square is located south of the Tachikawa Station, near the Tachikawaminami Station. It’s on the third floor of the Arearea 2 building. It will be marked with green NYC style road signs. GPS: 35.6961514, 139.4128046. Michelle Nexon, July 2014.

Mine Hot Spring and Geyser, Izu Peninsula

DSC08642This attraction is no Yellowstone Park or Hakone Hot Spring, but if you need a break from your drive along the peninsula, this place is relatively interesting and free! This attraction is composed of a single geyser, a footbath and an egg-selling gift shop. The geyser shoots approximately 200°F water  nearly 100 feet in the air. The geyser erupts at 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30. While you’re waiting for the geyser to jet up, you can purchase and cook your own eggs in the Mine’s spring water; the staff will give you a timer and instructions for this process. Or, consider a footbath. It’s covered and warm at approximately 100°F.

DSC08632There are rest rooms at this stop, but no restaurant. It’s open from 09:00 to 16:00. It’s closed Tuesdays and Fridays. Parking is free. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DIRECTIONS: This attraction is situated in Mine-Onsen Daifunto Park, in Kawazu township. It’s a 5 minute drive inland from the south-western Izu Peninsula coastline, or 15 minutes from Kawazu Seven Waterfalls. It’s also a short drive from iZoo, and a 30 to 40 minute drive north of the Shimoda and Yumigahama Beaches. The GPS coordinates for Mine-Onsen Daifunto Park are N34.75695, E138.98222.

Kawazu Seven Waterfalls, Izu Peninsula

DSC08470If you’re looking to escape the heat from the Izu Peninsula beach or take in a bit of nature, then Kawazu Seven Waterfalls hike is a good place to go. Mostly shaded, this gentle 1 km hike on the Izu Peninsula follows a river with seven waterfalls ranging from 2 meters to 30 meters in height. The 1 km hike begins at Mizutare Parking Lot (top) and ends at Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot (bottom). There are several ways you can do the hike.  You can park at the top or bottom of the trail and hike out and back, approximately 2 km total. Alternatively, you can park at the bottom of the trail, take the bus to the top of the trail, and walk back down the course to your car. Lastly, park at the Mizutare parking lot, hike down the trail, and then take the bus back from Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot. The third option worked well for our small kids. Busses run frequently between stops and when we did the hike, over Independence Day weekend, they ran every 10 minutes.

DSC08447There are detailed English maps about the hike located at Mizutare Parking Lot and Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot.  The hike is not very stroller friendly. Only three to four of the waterfalls can be accessed with a stroller. I’d recommend a baby carrier or kid’s carrying backpack. Alongside each waterfall, there are cute little stone Buddhas and stamps to collect, and along the trail there are also a few larger statues that depict the two characters in the short love story “Izu no Odoriko” (The Izu Dancer), by Kawabata Yasunari. The story and author are well-known in Japan. Towards the bottom of the hike, there are a couple of shops selling food, ice cream and woven items. You can also see the Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge. This is an interesting two story spiral bridge located high above the valley floor on Route 414. Unfortunately, the last and most impressive waterfall, O-daru Fall, was closed when we did the hike. However, there is a lovely outdoor onsen, Izu Oodaru Onsen Hotel Amagisou, that offers a great view of the falls. Kawazu Seven Waterfalls hike is a small part of the Odoriko Trail so if you’re looking to go further, please refer to the picture provided. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DSC08399DIRECTIONS: We drove to this hike from Yumigahama Beach, near Shimoda City. It took approximately 1 hour from the beach. I recommend driving via the costal town of Kawazu, before heading inland to the hike. The more direct, inland route is very windy and slow. The GPS coordinates to Mizutare Parking Lot (top) are N34.80078 E138.93329.  The GPS coordinates for Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot (bottom) are N34.79475 E138.93536.