Author Archives: Yokota

Japanese restaurant on base: Hana no Mai

The exterior is so unassuming you’d hardly know this eatery exists. But once you walk up the stairs you’ll be greeted by a display showing the lunch specials of the day. The menu is entirely in Japanese, but the display shows you all you need to know. Choose from set A, B, or C, then walk into the surprisingly sunny restaurant. It definitely has a lunchroom feel, but the service staff wear a sharp-looking outfit, the place serves beer and it is even open for dinner. Take a seat and a server will come by to take your order. When I went, both servers spoke great English. Prices hover around ¥500 for a lunch set that includes rice, a small salad, a wee plate of pickles and a main dish. There’s also self-service miso soup to ladle out. Payment is in yen only, but a sign says they take American Express. (Perhaps someone can verify.)  The other items on the menu include:
Ginger pork meal ¥580  
Eggs over rice ¥400
Pork Katsu over rice ¥500
Pork Katsu Curry ¥630
Curry ¥430
Chicken Katsu meal ¥580
Soy sauce ramen ¥380
Plain soba or udon ¥280
Soba or Udon with Tempura ¥350 Onigiri (salmon or sour plum) ¥100.
Hours: Lunch 11-2pm. Dinner:5-10pm
Directions: If you’re going south on Airlift Avenue, you’ll pass the gym (Samurai Fitness Center) on your left, and then an open area with outdoor volleyball courts. The next building, still on the left side of the road, is the Contracting Squadron, clearly labeled. Then there’s a parking lot. Turn into the parking lot. At the far end you’ll see a building with an external concrete stairwell. Walk up the stairs. The restaurant is right there on the second floor.

Mount Mitake

DSC_5484For a day hike, nothing beats the area around Mount Mitake (御岳山), if you ask me. The mountain is surrounded by Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, a large area of forested mountains, deep valleys and small settlements. You don’t have to be in peak condition to hike here. It’s only a short train ride away, and is easily accessible by cable car.

IMG_4199In fact, a cable car will take you to the top in 6 minutes for approximately ¥600. On a clear day you’ll be rewarded with stunning views, and even on a lousy day there’s a lot to enjoy. I love that we can take a train to go hiking. No car required. To start out, you might just walk around the top and over to the Mitake Shrine, which takes about half an hour. The paths are mostly paved and well-marked in English, so you shouldn’t have much trouble. For a longer walk, follow the well-marked path from the shrine to the ravine known as the “Rock Garden”.  The walk to Rock Garden is especially lovely in November when the leaves turn red, orange and yellow.  The path takes you down to the river and then proceeds up the river, crossing back and forth to a large waterfall.  (See photos below of Rock Garden in the fall.)

IMG_4203If you do anything more ambitious, you’ll want to get a trail map (i.e. climb nearby Mount Odake at 1267m). These are for sale at the visitor center near Mitake Station, where you get off the train. I imagine they’re also available at the visitors center on top of Mount Mitake. (Perhaps someone could check and comment below.) Bring a water bottle, clothing for all possible conditions, some yen and perhaps a snack. The top of the mountain has a few stores and ramen restaurants, and even a vending machine, so if you forget you won’t probably won’t perish.

IMG_4212It is said that Musahi Mitake Shrine is more than 2,000 years old. Legend has it that a warrior hero was buried here with a stash of weapons. The shrine has a display of ancient treasures including armor from the 12th century, and a warrior’s saddle with mother-of-pearl inlay from the 13th century. Both of which you can see for a small admission fee. The shrine also has some kind of blessing for pets. Or so I was told by a couple of other visitors. I think they’re right, because you can see a cage, apparently for pets, next to the stairs going into the shrine sanctuary. And you can buy a ticket for your dog to ride the cable car. Just go to the ticket machine and push the button with a picture of a dog on it.

fall mitake sarah strausFor a more advanced walk, I suggest Mt. Mitake (御岳山) to Mt. Hinodeyama (日の出山). You can return the way you came, or continue down the other side of Hinodeyama to the Hinatawada train station (日向和田駅) and catch the Ome line home. This route takes you past Yoshino Baigo, a lovely place to see plum blossoms in March.

Three important pieces of advice for advanced hikers, and hiking in general if you don’t read Japanese. First, do not attempt this hike without a map. A bilingual map is best. Second, carry your destination and landmarks written in Kanji. Third, take photos of signs. When you start down a trail, the signs are often in English and Japanese. Take pictures of these signs with your phone or digital camera. As you get further from civilization the signs are often in Japanese only. You may not be able to read a sign, but you can play “match the Kanji” if you have a known sample to compare it to.

Interested in more hikes? Check out White Cloud Mountain or Mount Takao. Happy exploring!  – Liz Ruskin, updated Michelle Nexon, Sarah Straus; 2013; photos Michelle Nexon; fall photos Sarah Straus Nov 2013.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From the Fussa train station, catch an Ome-bound train. If your train terminates at Ome, cross the platform and catch the train to Okutama. Get off at Mitake station. As you leave the station from the sole exit, you’ll see a building to your left, before you descend to the street. You can buy a map here, but hurry because you don’t want to miss the bus. Descend the stairs to street level. Turn left and cross the street. About 50 meters down the road you’ll see a green bus stop sign. The bus is infrequent but seems timed to accommodate the train schedule. The bus actually stops a little further down, on the other side of the vending machine. You may be able to follow the parade of brightly attired hikers from the train to the bus. The bus accepts the Suica Card or coin. It will shuttle you to a bus stop just downhill from the cable car. Flash your Suica again to ride the cable car, or you can buy a ticket from the machine in front of the station. Once you’re on top, go right to admire the view, then walk back to the terminus and go left down along the wooded trail.

mitake sarah strausDRIVING DIRECTIONS: At the Terminal Gate, set your odometer to zero and turn right out of the gate. Stay right to go under the overpass. Turn left onto Ome Kaido aka Route 5 at 2.8km (signposted Hakonegasakinishi Intersection. McDonalds is on far left corner).  Near Higashi-Ome station, 8km, veer right, following the blue highway sign for  “Central Ome.” Just past the Hinatawada train station (13.6km) you’ll see a blue sign for “Mitake” and “Tachikawa” that points left to Route 199. Take that left and cross the river. Drive two lights, to the end of Route 199, and turn right on Route 45. Stay on Route 45 until 20.2km, where you’ll turn left onto Route 201, signposted for Mount Mitake. Drive under the large red torii gate at GPS coordiante: 35.802204, 139.174437. Route 201 ends at the Mount Mitake cable car station. There’s a pay lot behind the station, or there are private lots that charge about ¥1000. There’s one immediately before the bus stop, at GPS: 35.79667, 139.162971.

Rock Garden; November 2013 by Sarah Straus

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The Plum Blossoms of Yoshino Baigo, Ome

sarah straus plum blossomsAs mentioned in the comment below, this place is closed until further notice.
One famous spot for seeing Japan’s plum blossoms is right near Yokota Air Base, in Ome City. About 25,000 trees, spanning a collection of 100 different varieties, blossom in the town of Yoshino Baigo in Ome City, located on the Tama River. The town is famous for a plum tree park, spread out over a small valley that Yoshino Baigo by Sarah Strausbecomes an theater of color when the blooming starts. (“Baigo” means “plum garden.”) Yoshino Baigo has a festival to celebrate this season with a number of booths selling typical Japanese festival foods and regional crafts. This festival runs from late February throughout the month of March. For 2013 the dates are Feb 23 – March 31, Saturdays and Sundays.  There’s a special day of celebration on a mid-March Sunday, with parades and traditional dancing. For 2013 this day is Sunday, March 17, with a postpone date of March 24.   Check here for more information about the festival location and time: http://www.omekanko.gr.jp/ume/matsuri.htm.  Admission to the park: ¥200. Well-behaved dogs are allowed on leash.   Yoshino Baigo (Yoshino Plum Park). GPS: 35.7865, 139.2192. – photos by Sarah Straus, March 2013.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line train from Fussa to Hinatawada. (Most trains terminate at Ome and you have to transfer to go the remaining two stops. ) Turn right out of the station and turn left to cross the bridge over the Tama River. You are in Yoshino as soon as you cross the bridge. This main street is where the festival is held. To get to Plum Park, continue on the street until you reach a T-intersection. Turn left and look across the street for a tiny paved street on the right-hand side of the road. From the station, through town and up to the park is a walk of only about 1km.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Parking is scarce on the main festival day and are also limited at other times. All parking is pay parking in private lots, typically ¥500 to ¥1000. At the Terminal Gate, set your odometer to zero and turn right out of the gate onto Route 16. Stay right to go under the overpass. Turn left onto Ome Kaido (Route 5) at 2.8km. (Signposted Hakonegasakinishi Intersection. McDonalds is on far left corner.) and continue on Ome Kaido until you reach Hinatawada, in about 20 to 30 minutes. (Near Higashi-Ome station, 8km, the road jogs to the left, and at 10km it jogs right. If you find that you end up on Okutama Kaido, continue in the same general direction (WNW) and the road will intersect with Kyu Ome Kaido. Turn left and continue, you are now back on Ome Kaido.) Watch for the Hinatawada train station on your right. It is above the road level and is painted yellow. Turn left across the first bridge over the Tama River after the train station. You are now in Yoshino. (See below map for alternate directions).


View

Alternate directions: Turn right out of the Fussa Gate onto Route 16.  Turn left onto Route 5.  Take Route 5 all the way to the very end where it dead-ends into Route 411.  Turn left onto Route 411.  Turn right onto Route 45.  Route 45 follows along the south side of the river.  You will drive right through Yoshino at 3 kilometers – watch for the hanging lanterns.  Yoshino Baigo is to the left.  If you cut left and follow the narrow roads you’ll find many people selling parking in their own private driveways for ¥500. – Alternate directions by Sarah Straus, March 2013.

Zonavoce, an Italian lunch spot

You know this place is special the moment you walk in. Zonavoce is a beautiful restaurant that has a warm brick and wood interior. With its high ceilings, it feels airier and more tranquil than most places near here. The menu is limited but everything is fresh and wholesome. Lunch sets start from about ¥1,000 for mushroom pasta  or minestrone, with all-you-can-eat tossed salad, plus self-serve tea or coffee. Wood oven-fired pizzas come in a rotating variety of flavors, usually including Basil Margarita for ¥1,100. Add ¥380 for a set with self-service salad, bread and drinks.  The set is great, because the salad bar has nice fresh greens and the bread is delicious. (Did I mention the place is also a bakery?) The restaurant is half a block from Fukushimaya Supermarket, a related store that promotes organic and natural food. Added bonus: It’s near the Hamura Zoo! Store hours: 9am-9pm. Zonavoce: 11:30am-3pm (last order 2pm). www.fukushimaya.net/shopinfo/shop_market.html. If you like this restaurant, you may also like another restaurant by the same owner: Shikisai Buffet.  Tel. 042-570-0744. GPS: 35.7624, 139.3209.
DIRECTIONS:  Turn right out Fussa Gate, or left out the Terminal Gate (0km). Turn at the “T” the intersection signposted  “Shorin Dori Ent.”, 0.6km from either gate. (This is the intersection where George’s used car dealership is, near Ushihama Garage.)  Cross the tracks. Drive through two lights. Turn right onto a four-lane divided road at 1.2km. (Marked 249 on Google Maps. Metal Black Cat shipping depot will be on your right.) Go straight on this major road until the intersection signposted “Hamura Sta.” at 3.3km. (“Eagle Best Car Shop” on your right.) Turn left at this traffic light. The restaurant is ahead, on your left (3.4km), with a small parking lot adjacent to the building, just before it. For the Fukushimaya supermarket, continue down the same street about a block, toward Hamura station. The store, a large pinkish building with a sign in English over the awning, will be on your right. Teresa Negley and Julie Hudson, 2010. Directions updated 2012.

Fussa Gate to Zonavoce

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Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City

Photo by Jason Tsay

Sixty stories tall, Sunshine City is a mall, a science center, a museum, a theme park – in short, an amazing indoor world.
When you enter the building on the B1 level, you traverse a long hall with a “people mover” escalator to the main entrance. There is an information desk with computers where you can get directions printed for places in the complex. Or, you can just wander through and follow the color-coded lines on the floors. The red lines lead to the World Import Mart, the aquarium and planetarium. The blue lines lead to the Ancient Orient Museum and Sunshine Theater. The orange lines lead you to Shopping Center Alpa.
You can make a circle tour of the Bl level as there are two main corridors the length of this level. When you are facing the information desk, if you take the entrance to the left, you will come to a beautiful fountain which has a show of dancing water accompanied by organ music at 1pm, 2:30 and 4pm. The first three levels are mostly department stores. In taking the escalators up, you will find some interesting shops and restaurants on the other floors.
*The above post is from 2011, so the information could be outdated. Please let us know if you have updated information.
Sunshine City Website:
https://www.sunshinecity-global.com/en/

The big features:
 Sky Circus, Sunshine 60 Observatory :


Sunshine 60 observatory was closed in May 2015 for a large-scale renovation and re-opened in April 2016 as Sky Circus. At this new “experience-based observatory”, you can enjoy the latest VR rides and games.

Hours: 10am-10pm.
Tel: 03-3989-3457
Website: http://www.skycircus.jp/english/
Admission:
Adults: ¥ 1,200
Students (high school and college *present ID): ¥900
Children (elementary and middle school) ¥ 600
Toddlers (4 and up) ¥ 300
You have to purchase separate tickets for the VR rides. Tickets are available at the ticket counter on the B1 floor or the observatory. -Mai Takahashi, June 2017

•Aquarium: Tenth floor, on top of the World Import Mart. There is a seal show, and exhibits of seals, flamingos, penguins, etc. There are many fish not seen in the States as they are only found in this part of the world. Allow at least one hour for the aquarium. 10am-6pm (-8pm in summer.) Tel: 03-3989-3466
Adults (high school and up) ¥2,000
Children (elementary and middle school) ¥1,000
Child (4 and up) ¥700
65  and up  ¥1,700

•Konica Minolta Planetarium: 10am-6pm with shows on the hour, http://www.konicaminolta.jp/manten/ Tel: 03-3989-3546
Adults (middle school and up) ¥1,500
Children (4  and up) ¥900

•Namco Namjatown: An indoor theme park by Namco, a Japanese company that produces video games. Themed dining, carnival-style games, a creepy haunted house and character mascots in the form of giant kittens. There’s an entire gyoza village and a “dessert republic.” 10am-10pm. http://www.namja.jp/img/pdf/guidemap.pdf/
Admission:
Adults ¥500
Children ¥300
You need to purchase tickets for rides and games separately.

•Tokyu Hands: This store, at the B1 entrance to the Sunshine Building, will delight crafty-minded shoppers. There is something different on every floor and the breadth is astounding, from toys to stationary and leather craft to hardware. Bonus: There’s a “cat cafe” on the top floor. It’s one of those “only in Japan” things.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome line to Tachikawa, and change to the Chuo Line. At Shinjuku, transfer to the green Yamanote Line in the direction of Shin-Okubo and get off at the fourth stop, Ikebukuro. Head for the east exit towards Seibu Department Store. You will see signs for Tokyu Hands also.
Coming out of the station, look for the tallest building (sometimes the top is hidden in the mist) and walk towards it. This will be Sunshine City. It will be in front of you as you come out of the station. You will have to go right a little bit to pick up the tree-lined street to the building.

Our Story: My family and I took the train to Sunshine City during winter break 2011.  Ikebukuou Station is pretty large and we ended up asking someone to help us find the correct exit for Sunshine City.  The mall is down a store lined street which was closed to traffic the day we went.  With small kids we didn’t do much shopping, but headed straight to the 3rd floor devoted to restaurants.  We found a nice Japanese place to eat, but also noticed Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and French restaurants.  We also went to the Aquarium on floor 10.  It was larger than expected.  It was pretty crowded, but I think that was because of the holiday season.  The kids enjoyed all the giant aquariums.    Sarah Straus, 2011

MoriTown Mall

This is a fairly large, American-style mall that’s a fav for Yokota shoppers. The shops are mostly Japanese, including the Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo, which has stylish, cheap clothing akin to the Gap. It also has a Disney Store, a Starbucks and other U.S. chains. There’s an indoor food court and many restaurants around the adjacent plaza, including KFC. It has a large parking garage. Take a card on the way in, then show it every time you buy something. Before you return to your car, feed the card into the machine by the elevator and pay what you owe. If you’ve bought lunch or any trinkets, you probably won’t owe anything. Then drive to the parking garage exit and deposit the card to lift the barrier. Liz Ruskin, 2012.
GPS: 35.7142, 139.3642
DIRECTIONS: Exit the East Gate and turn right. Keep going straight. At 3km you’ll reach the mall, on your right, clearly marked in English. But keep going straight. The parking garage entrance is on the right, at 3.2km. Look for a blue sign with a white “P.” TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From Fussa station, catch a train going toward Tachikawa. Get off at the third stop, Akishima. Exiting the station, you’ll see the Espa department store on your right, which is one of anchors of the mall.


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Hakone

Hakone is a popular vacation getaway about one and a half hours outside of Tokyo. It is a beautiful little area nestled in the crater of a volcano. Just getting there is part of the fun. You take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Odawara, then transfer to a tiny railroad line called the Hakone Yumoto line that winds its way up the lower part of the volcano. As it gets higher, it has to reverse directions several times to switchback up the steeper areas.
Along the way, make sure you stop for a while at the Chokoku-no-mori station to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. It is a beautiful art museum with most of its display dedicated to large sculptures that dot beautiful lawns. They also have a building dedicated to works by Picasso.

All photos by Kevin Green

After getting back on the Hakone Yumoto line, you go all the way to the end and then take a cable car that pulls you straight up a steep section of the slope. From here there is a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. At the end of the cable car, you get on a ropeway that takes you over the crest of the mountain into the gigantic crater. Looking out the ropeway, you pass a section where they are drilling into the side of the mountain to prevent the pressure from building up and causing an explosion. Make sure you get off at the stop in the middle of the ropeway to see the “sulfurous vapor erupting area.” Here you can take a short nature walk and see the sulfur steaming from the ground, and natural hot springs from the volcano. You can eat eggs boiled in the hot water which the Japanese say will help you live longer. Along the nature trail there are signs in Japanese and English that tell you such things as “This area was once covered with tall trees, but now you can find only the species which have been able to survive such things as Volcanic eruption.” The ropeway will then take you the rest of the way into the crater to Lake Ashi, which you cross on large replicas of pirate ships.
Lake Ashi is a crater lake famous for its reflection of Mt. Fuji on clear, calm days. The boat takes you to Hanokemachi which is a historical area from the 1600’s, including the Hakone Checkpoint and a portion of an ancient highway that was lined with cedars to provide shade hundreds of years ago. By the time we get here we are pretty tired, so we catch a bus to the Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita to spend the night. It is a beautiful hotel established in 1878, making it the oldest western-style hotel in Japan. It has been visited by many famous people including Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher, Hellen Keller, and many emperors of Japan. It is nestled among trees, and has a beautiful garden in back which is home to the only California Redwood tree in Japan. Inside the decor is beautiful, including many wood carvings. You can also bathe in the natural hot spring onsens. The next day, be sure to see some of the many other attractions in the area including the Hakone Ashinoyu Flower Center (a gigantic greenhouse with many types of flowers and other plants – indoors, so nice even in case of rain) and the Botanical Garden of the Wetlands.
On our way home the next day, we stopped at the Odawara Castle. The old castle town of Odawara serves as the main gateway to the Hakone district. About a 10-minute walk from Odawara Station is the reconstructed five-story donjon (central structure of the castle). It houses a museum of historical materials, ancient suits of armor and swords, folk arts & crafts, and special exhibits. The view of Sagami Bay from the fourth floor is excellent. Open 9am-4:30pm, admission is Y200 for adults, Y100 for children. The park surrounding the castle includes a playground and small zoo. Brian & Kristen Marriott, 2001.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Driving in these areas, especially on weekends or in the summer, can be very difficult. Traffic is extremely heavy and slow. To maximize your sightseeing time, it is well worth the effort to leave no later than 5am. To enter the Hakone district at Odawara, take Rt. 16 from Yokota south, until it joins Rt. 129. Just north of Atsugi, you will see elevated Rt. 246 and a sign for the Tomei Expressway. Turn right immediately after passing under elevated Rt. 246 – this leads to a ramp that puts you on 246. Go through Atsugi. Look for signs for Odawara/Atsugi toll road (this will be south of Atsugi). When you see the signs, it will be a right turn. You will drive parallel to the toll road for several kilometers before entering. Once you are on the toll road, you will pass through two tollbooths and pay Y350 at each. When the toll road ends, follow the signs to Rt. 1. At Miyanshita (about 7km), the road will divide. The hotel is at the fork on the left. The right fork of the road will lead to Gora. The left fork will lead to Lake Ashi, which you could visit before checking in at the hotel, since check-in is not until 2pm.


TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line and go to Tokyo Station. You can take either the Shinkansen (“Kodama Train”, takes 42 minutes, runs every 20 minutes) or a regular train (Tokaido Line, takes 90 minutes, runs every 15 minutes) to Odawara Station. You can also reach the Hakone area from Shinjuku or Machida stations on the Odakyu Railway. Express trains run regularly to Odawara (takes 90 minutes), while the super-fast “Romance Car” runs only every 30 minutes (seat reservations required). Two different transportation companies, Hakone Tozan Railway and Izu Hakone Railway, offer discount tickets from which you can choose. These passes are convenient for multiple use of various modes of transportation after you reach the Hakone area and are valid for four days. The Hakone Free Pass allows you to use the Hakone Tozan Railway, bus, cable car, ropeway, the Odakyu highway bus (between Togendai and the Tomei Gotemba Expressway interchange) and the Hakone excursion boat on Lake Ashi as many times as you wish. These passes are sold at all Odakyu Railway stations and at the Hakone Tozan Information Center at Odawara Station (“Romance Car” ticket not included). Approximate prices from Odawara are Y3,500 for adults and Y1,750 for children (Y4,600 per adult from Shinjuku). Depending on the attraction, the pass includes 10% discounts for Gora Park, Hakone Museum, Chokoku-no-Mori (Hakone Open Air Museum), Hakone Checkpoint, Narikawa Art Forum, Hakone Arboretum, Owakudani Natural Science Museum, etc. A similar pass known as the Hakone-Wide Free Pass allows use of the Izu Hakone bus, cable car, ropeway, excursion bus, and includes discounts at various attractions. The pass is sold at travel agencies and the Izu Hakone Information Center at Odawara Station (for a little less than the other pass.) Cheryl Raggio, Margaret Summers.Lodging in Hakone Fujiya Hotel near the Miyanoshita

(Fujiya Hotel Garden, Sarah Straus, November 2011)

Station. They have a special foreigner’s rate of about $130 per night. All of their employees study English in the United States and making reservations by phone is easy. You can contact them at FUJIYA HOTEL 359 Miyanoshita, Hakone, Kanagawa Pref., Tel.0460-2-2211, Telex. 3892-718, Fax 0460-2-2215. http://www.fujiyahotel.co.jp. E-mail/ info@fujiyahotel.co.jp Camp Fuji. Other people stay at Camp Fuji, a little further away, but less expensive ($25/day in 2001). They then drive into Hakone. The number for billeting is 265-5502. (Camp Fuji Operator is 265-5011)

For more information, see:

• http://www.odakyu.jp/english/ For information on Odakyu Railroad, information, including Hakone Free Pass.
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/index.html  For the Japan National Tourist Organization’s “Practical Travel Guide” on Hakone. (Click on “Regional Tourist Guides” then “Practical Travel Guide”

Our Hakone Trip

Over Thanksgiving break my husband, 1 year old, 3 year old and I went to Hakone for two nights. It was fun for everyone and there is an amazing hotel there that has a foreigner rate of $133/night plus tax. There is hotel parking. The hotel is: Fujiya Hotel. You have to call to get the special rate, which is offered during the week, not weekends. It is an older hotel with big rooms and a beautiful garden in the back. There is a lot to do in Hakone. We most enjoyed the ropeway ride over the volcano and the Open Air Museum, which houses some fabulous kid friendly sculptures. I thought this webpage was helpful while planning what to do on the trip: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html. It has a nice overview of the various attractions. We didn’t figure out how to buy the Hakone Free Pass, which allows one payment for two days of transport on all the Hakone trains, funicular, ropeway, pirate ship, and buses. Over Thanksgiving the hotel was not too busy and the fall colors were amazing! We’ll definitely go again. –Sarah S., 2012

Hakone Open Air Museum – kids can climb up into this sculpture and run around at the very center.  Sarah Straus, 2011.

 

KC’s Dining

This place, right nearby in Fussa, has good Indian food with an English menu.  The lunch set is ¥1000.  The restaurant is downstairs.  It has two large tables and several small tables. It’s barely half a mile from Fussa gate, so close enough to walk or bike.
DIRECTIONS: Go out the Fussa Gate and turn right onto Rt. 16. Turn left at the next light. Cross the tracks and go straight through two lights (the road bends left at the second.)Pass the yellow-striped pachinko building. KC’s is next to the pink-trimmed Foxy bar, which is on the corner with Bar Row.  There’s pay parking at the corner.  You can also park in the lot across from the pachinko parlor. Tel. 042-553-7708. GPS: 35.74371, 139.3311. Ace Tubbs, 2011


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Taking to the Roads

ORIENTATION

Major Roads Near Yokota
•Route 16 which runs between Yokota and Yokosuka, and near Zama
•Route 7 (Itsukaichi Kaido) along the south fence of Yokota
•Route 20 (Koshu Kaido) along both sides of the Tama River.
•Route 5 (Shin Ome Kaido) to the north.

These roads extend from out past Yokota to Tokyo proper. To orient yourself locally, check on online map, like this one.

The major expressways nearby are the Chuo, which runs from Tokyo to Nagoya, and the Kan Etsu, which travels through the mountains to the other side of Honshu. The Ken-O Do is also useful when heading north to connect the Kan-Etsu to the Tohoku and other expressways.
These English-edition atlases are useful (sometimes available at the BX bookstore, the New Sanno, etc.).

  • Road Atlas Japan
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Atlas
  • Metropolitan Expressway Guide

Free maps, including the Japan Expressway map in English, are sometimes available on request at larger rest areas in the expressway system.

Tokyo Expressways
Simplified, the expressways are laid out like a wheel with spokes. The C1, or Shuto Expressway, is the wheel. Most of the other expressways are the spokes and are numbered consecutively around the wheel. Therefore, when driving into Tokyo on the Chuo, Expressway #4, you will go into the wheel and follow it until your desired expressway takes you away. The numbered expressways (or spokes) run clockwise around the wheel, starting at the southeast section of Tokyo.
Exceptions include Expressway #1, which runs north and south on the east side of Tokyo. Expressways 1-South, 2, and 3 are south of the Chuo and 5, 1-North, 6, 7 and 9 are north of the Chuo. So, if you’re driving to the New Sanno, you will take #4 (Chuo), which will run into C1 (Shuto), and follow the #2 signs which will take you to the New Sanno exit, which is Exit #201. If you’re going to Narita, you will still follow the Chuo and Shuto, but will follow #7 signs directly to Narita. One easy place to get lost is in the Chiyoda Tunnel. This is where you will either take the right fork for Expressways 1-South, 2 and 3, or the left fork for Expressways 5, 1- North, 6, 7 or 9. If you take the wrong fork, you can just continue around on the Shuto and pick up the correct expressway again, although this might take some time.
For specifics and updates, check with the information desks at the Yujo Community Center or New Sanno. Judy Harvey, Sherri Park

Hachioji Bypass & Chuo Expressway
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate, setting your trip meter to zero, and carefully follow the signs for Route 16 until you see the signs for the Hachioji Bypass. At 3.2 km, Route 16 will take a left. At 4.7 km it will take a right. You will pass the big round bathhouse on your left and continue on the bridge over the river. If you are going to the Hachioji bypass, a sign will direct you to take a left at 7.4. Continue straight for a short way further to enter the Chuo Expressway on the left. Brian Marriott 6/02

Shortcut to Route 16 from the East Gate:
Turn right out the East Gate/0K, turn right at the first or second light 0.6K/Family Mart and follow the base perimeter road, turning right again at 2.5K/NishisunaNakasato. Stay on this road (Rt 220) past the South/Golf Course Gate, through 4 lights (over railroad tracks, then through an underpass under another set of tracks until the road ends), turn left at the T (3.7K/Akishima Fire Stn). Turn right at the third light, 5.2K/ShowaKaikan Kita, and stay on this road through another light and over tracks. Bear left at the second light. The next light will intersect at Route 16 before it crosses the Haijimabashi Bridge.

If you live on other sides of Yokota, there are other shortcuts, some via Rt 29/ShinOkutama Kaido parallel to Rt. 16. All these shortcuts may eliminate 20-30 minutes from traffic jams on Rt. 16.

Want to use your GPS navigator in Japan? Read about it HERE.

Japan by Rail

Using GPS to navigate Japan

Maybe you already own a Garmin or TomTom GPS navigator that has served you reliably all over the world. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just download Japan maps for it? Unfortunately, neither Garmin nor TomTom — the two most popular U.S. sat-nav companies — make car navigation maps for Japan.

You can buy a Japanese sat-nav that will speak to you in English. The BX and the Auto Hobby Shop sell them. The most popular ones allow you to search by phone number. Users love that feature. (But they say you have to be careful that the phone number you have is actually linked to the location you’re trying to visit, rather than to a central office or a cell phone.)

You can also buy apps that will turn an iPhone or an iPod Touch into a GPS navigator. I have a friend who swears by Gogo Japan. It’s $49 — steep for an app, but he says it’s better than his stand-alone navigator. (It works without mobile Internet, so this may be a use for your U.S. cell phone that won’t work on a Japanese carrier.) It also allows you to search by phone number.

I opted for a third approach.  An outfit called Up Up Down that sells maps of Japan that will work on an American version of a Garmin navigator. You can download maps from their website. They only work for Garmin navigators, not any other brand. They cost about $250, so they’re not cheap, but they cover all of Japan, they’re in English and they work well most of the time. (Mine, though, has the annoying habit of telling me I have to exit expressways every few miles, even when I expect to be on the same road for hours.) As far as I know, this is the only company that makes Japan maps for an American Garmin. If you know of other third-party maps, please put it in the comment section below and tell us what kind of navigator they work on.
One caveat: You can’t search the Up Up Down map by address the way you would in the States. The Japanese address system is entirely different. (Read about that here.) You can search by pre-programmed Points of Interest or by a creating a Favorite to get back to a spot you’ve already located.

The most versatile search, though, is by GPS coordinates. Plug them into your navigator, your iPhone or Googlemaps on your computer and you can direct yourself to the exact entrance of the parking lot. Just be aware that there are different formats. Here, for example, are three different ways to describe the location of Fussa Gate:

35°N 44′ 32″, 139°E 20′ 17″  (Degrees, minutes, seconds.)

35°N 44.5440, 139°E 20.2859  (Degree, minutes.decimals)

35.7424, 139.3381  (Degrees.decimals)

In this guide, we’re opting for the third format because we think it’s simplest: Degrees and decimals thereof. If you use a navigator, make sure to change to this format in the settings. You can map a spot just entering the coordinates — i.e. “35.7424, 139.3381″ — in Google Maps. (You may not need to use North or East. That’s implied by the positive number. If it was Southern or Western Hemisphere, it’d have a minus sign in front. Also, the exact number of digits after the decimal point is unimportant. Your navigator requires five digits after the decimal but you only have four? Just add zeros at the end. “35.55” is the same as “35.5500”.)
Want to find the coordinates of any spot on Earth? If you can find it on Google Maps, you can get the coordinates. Just right-click on the map (or option-click if using a Mac) and select “What’s here?” The coordinates will automatically pop up in the search box. Need to convert to another format? Here’s a converter.
One last warning: The roads on the base are probably “non-routable” for your navigator. The device may come up with a route for you, but it will likely be a crazy one. Wait until you reach the gate to press “Find Route.” Likewise, do not set your on-base home as “Home” on your navigator. Sure, it’ll show your location on the map just fine, but it will likely build an insane route to it. Liz Ruskin, 2012.

 

 

 

Getting your car fixed

Auto repair shops

  • AAFES garage: On Yokota’s West Side, Bldg. 1293. (Sometimes called the BX Garage or the Auto Care Center.) Does JCI inspections and some repairs. 1-214-261-2114 or DSN 976-2114. Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-5pm, Sat 9-5. Sun Closed
  • Ushihama’s Garage: A number of people recommend Ushihama’s. It is across Rt. 16 from the base, between the Fussa and Terminal gates. It’s at the Shorin Dori intersection, by George’s used car lot. The owner speaks English. Tel. 042-553-0350
  • Auto Skills Center: 30-minute oil changes, minor repair services, parts ordering, do-it-yourself auto repairs, and auto repair classes. Located near the high school. Building 4086. DSN: 225-7623.

Auto Parts Stores

  • Autobacs: Autobacs is a chain of automotive parts stores. The closest can be reached by turning left out the East Gate then turning right at the first light. Go through one light until the road ends at the second light. Turn right. Autobacs will be before the next light on your right.
  • Driver Stand: On Yanagi Dori, two lights past Do-It. Drive straight out the Fussa Gate. Bear to the right at the “Y”. Turn right at the second light past the “Y.” Go straight for about 4.5 km. It will be after Sabaecho 2 Intersection, but before Sabaecho 1 Intersection. A second Driver Stand is on Shin Ome Kaido, just before the Yellow Hat (see below).
  • Yellow Hat: On Shin Ome Kaido, just beyond Outdoor World. Turn left out the East Gate. At the first light turn right. Go through one light until the road ends at the second light. Turn left. Drive straight through three lights until the road ends at the fourth light (Shin Ome Kaido, Mos Burger on the left). Turn right onto Shin Ome Kaido and drive for about 3.5 km. Yellow Hat is on the right with a large English sign, just past Drivers Stand.

Brian Marriott. Updated 2011.

How to buy a car from a private individual
Once you’ve agreed to buy someone’s car, start by getting insurance. Take the car information, including serial number, or the entire packet of documents if the owner will part with them. Two of the most convenient places to buy insurance are the agency in the Yujo Center and George’s Insurance, right next to Blue Seal ice cream shop (go out the Supply Gate, turn right on Route 16 and it’s on the corner at the first light.)
Next, the buyer and seller should go to Pass & Registration, at the Supply Gate. The owner will have to scrape the round sticker off the windshield. The folks behind the desk will give the new owner  a temporary base pass. Now, you bounce like a pingpong ball between Pass & Reg and your insurance agents. It’s easy enough. Just follow their instructions. They’ll tell you where you need to go.
Remember, as you’re withdrawing cash for the purchase, to get a few hundred dollars more than the purchase price to cover insurance, registration and fees. Liz Ruskin, 2012.

 

Shrine Sales and Flea Markets

Why are they called “shrine sales”? Because they’re held on the grounds of temples and shrines, of course. But they go by many names: Antique market, flea market and “nomi no ichi” (flea market in Japanese). Whatever you call them, they’re always fun and interesting. Dealers sell beautiful old kimono for as little as ¥500, obi, tea boxes, antique ceramics and artwork, among many other treasures. Vendors are usually open to bargaining and may reduce prices 20% or so. Indoor markets tend to have finer goods and higher prices, but of course they take place rain or shine. Outdoor markets are often canceled for heavy rain.

Kumagawa Shrine Sale
One of the most interesting and inexpensive shrine sales around here is at Kumagawa Shrine, a seven minute drive from Yokota, on the second Sunday of the month. Mr. Akira Sunagawa is the coordinator of this shrine sale. Sunagawa-san owns Marii antique shop outside the Supply Gate on Route 16. He speaks fluent English and will be happy to help you with any questions. About 30 vendors set up here. Wooden tubs, baskets, hibachis, toys, dolls, blue and white china, obis, teapots and swords are all for sale here. It’s also called the Shichifukujin Antique Market, for the  Seven Deities of Good Fortune you can see inside the shrine compound.
DIRECTIONS: Go straight out Fussa gate. Cross over two sets of railroad tracks and go through four signal lights. The fourth signal light will be at Shin Okutama Kaido. (The Fussa Post Office is on your right across the street.) Turn left at this traffic light. Drive straight on Shin Okutama Kaido and you will eventually cross another set of train tracks. Continue straight until you see a Big Boy restaurant on your right. Turn right immediately after Big Boy and head down the narrow road. The road will then ‘Y’. Take the right fork and continue straight in with the back of the Big Boy parking lot on your right. You will soon see the shrine’s torii gate. There is limited parking on the left in a gravel parking lot in front of the torii gate. If this parking lot is full, continue along the road to the back of the shrine, turn left and there is another parking lot behind the shrine. Mavis Hara. Directions updated 2011.

Kawagoe Antiques
Kawagoe is filled with treasures. It is held on the 28th of every month from dawn to dusk, rain or shine.  It’s about 1 to 1.5 hours drive from Yokota. Or you can take a train from Higashi Fussa Station.
DIRECTIONS: Set the odometer at “0” as you turn right out the Terminal Gate, turning north via the underpass onto Route 16 where you will stay most of your trip. At 10.9km, the road splits with Rt. 16 to the left. The road also narrows to two lanes temporarily. Follow the blue signs for Kawagoe and stay on Rt. 16 as it bears left again. You will pass the SATY store on your right at 15.2km. Route 16 turns right around a bend at 23.4km with more blue signs to direct you. At 26.6km (round Hotel 10 ahead), bear left onto Rt. 254 toward Higashi Matsuyama. Stay in the left lane, go under the arched pedestrian bridge at 27.1km, then make a left turn immediately afterward (not before the bridge). At the second light, 27.9km, make a left then park in the lot on your right (¥500/three hours) before the Kitain Temple complex. The monthly sale is held at Narita-san Shrine, a couple blocks to the right down the street on the other side of the parking lot. GPS for parking lot: 35.9186,139.4902. About a kilometer away from the shrine sale is “Old Kawagoe,” also known as “Little Edo.” Refer to the Sightseeing section for more detail. Barbara Kirkwood, 2001. Directions and lot details verified 2010.

Takahata Fudo Antique Fair in Hino
This shrine sale near Tachikawa  is on the grounds of a beautiful temple. About 120 dealers show up.  Third Sunday of each month, 7am-4pm. (See Tachikawa Sights for more info about this temple.) GPS for parking lot entrance: 35.66164,139.41131.
DIRECTIONS: Set your odometer to zero and turn right out the East Gate. At the first signal light, turn left. At the next light (0.6km), a five-way intersection, make a hard right turn. At 5.2km turn left at an intersection with a Daihatsu/Onyx car lot on the far left. This is a large four-lane street (Shin-Okutama Kaido, Route 29).  At about 9km, you will see a VW dealership on the left and arrive at Tachikawa Five Corners. Turn right here onto 256 and cross the Tama River. Drive along until you reach the street that has the elevated monorail down the middle. Turn left and follow the monorail line past Takahata Fudo station. Cross under a set of railroad tracks and at the next intersection, signposted “Takahata,” turn right at the light. Takahata Fudo will be on your left, about 3 blocks after the light. Turn left into a small parking lot. Please note this is a popular temple and parking is scarce.
DIRECTIONS BY TRAIN: Take the train from Fussa to Tachikawa. Exit the station and follow the signs for the Tama monorail station. Ride it until the Takahata Fudo stop.  The temple is a two-minute walk from there: Exit the station by the main entrance and look to the right for a red tori gate. Walk through the gate and along the shopping street. It ends at the temple.

Arai Yakushi
One of the very best flea markets is held on the first Sunday of every month, at Arai Yakushi Temple in Nakano. Over 80 vendors offer items ranging from grandfather clocks, musical instruments, porcelain dishes, old kimonos, etc. What- ever you are looking for, you will probably find it at Arai Yakushi. DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line Fussa Station to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line. Get off at Nakano Station and take the north exit next to a large indoor shopping mall. In front of the mall runs the Nakano Dori street. Follow the street for about a 15 minute walk to a five-way intersection. Take the first right after the intersection. The temple will be a short distance to your left.  Alternatively, take the Seibu Line from Seibu Tachikawa Station toward Taka-danobaba – but you will get off at Arai Yakushi Station. Leave the station, turn left and walk three blocks. The shrine will be on your right.

Roppongi
The Roppongi Roi Building (near the Hard Rock Cafe and Spago’s) houses a flea market on the fourth Thursday and Friday of each month. There are over 30 dealers, and the prices are said to be good.
DIRECTIONS: From Fussa station, take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo train to Shinjuku. Transfer to the Yamanote Line to Ebisu. There, change to the Hibiya Line and go two stops to Roppongi. Exit the ticket wicket and turn right. Go upstairs and turn left. On the corner across the street, you will see the Almond Cafe (large pink sign). Cross the street to the cafe, turn right at the corner and go one and one-half blocks. On the next big corner will be the Roi Building. For more information call the Kottoichi Co. at 03-3980- 8228.

Heiwajima
One of the most well-known antique fairs is the Tokyo Antique Fair held in the Tokyo Ryutau Center in Heiwajima. It is a big one, with more than 250 dealers. The three-day event held four times each year. Dealers bring everything imaginable including furniture, lacquer ware, ceramics, and baskets. There are dolls of all kinds including kokeshi, hakata and cloth. There are kimonos, obis and fabric for tablecloths and other sewing projects. You will find jewelry, tea ceremony sets, teapots, and spinning wheels. There are old postcards and pictures, coins, stamps, and collectibles. It is an indoor market, therefore the dealers charge more to recoup their cost of rental space. Bargaining with the dealers is expected and encouraged. One advantage of this large market is that the dealers will deliver large purchases or make arrangements to have them delivered for you, for a fee of course.
The fair is located in the exhibition hall of the Ryutsu Center on the second floor. You will find clean rest rooms and restaurants on the second floor as well. The restaurants are reasonably priced but remain crowded. The fair is open 10am- 6pm Friday and Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sunday. Admission to the fair is free, but parking is costly. The fair is held in March, June, September and December, usually the second weekend. Check on the dates before venturing out. Information can be obtained by calling the English information line in Tokyo, 03-3980-8228. The Yujo Community Center usually has access to this information as well.
DIRECTIONS BY CAR:Take the Chuo towards Tokyo (Shinjuku). It will join the Shuto Expressway. Follow the through-traffic signs and the signs to Route 1. You will go through three tunnels. As you go through the third, the Chiyoda Tunnel, take the right branch at the first split. From there keep to the left until you exit the tunnel. After you pass the Kasu-migaseki exit (Exit 24), the road will split. Follow the signs to Haneda Airport, or Routes 1 and 2. You will be able to see Tokyo Tower ahead on the left. When the road splits again, follow the signs to Haneda, Routes 1, 6 and 7. When the road splits next, follow the signs to Haneda, Route 1, to the right. You will now be heading to- wards Yokohama. Tokyo Bay and the Monorail will be on the left. Continue to follow the through traffic signs on Route 1. After you pass the horse racing track on your left, at about 9 kilometers, you will exit to Heiwajima (Exit 105). You will be on the frontage road; go straight and keep to the left lane. You will need to take the first left after the traffic light. Take the first left, which will bring you past a guard booth and you will be on a wide street. There will be a six- story, open-sided building on both sides of the street. You will need to keep to the left lane. Just ahead of you will be the Ryutsu Exhibition Hall (two-story, white building). When the street ends you must turn left. You will see the entrance to the parking garage on the right. Take a ticket from the machine as you enter and be sure to remember where you parked. From the parking garage you can enter the hall from the ground level and go up to the second floor or you can use the walkway from the garage on floor M34.
DIRECTIONS BY TRAIN: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line to Shinjuku. Change to the Yamanote Line and get off at Hamamatsucho Station. Here switch to the Tokyo Monorail Line heading to Haneda Airport. Get off at Ryutausenta Station, the second stop from Hamamatsucho. The exhibition hall will be ahead of you to the left when you exit the station. An alternate route is to take the Seibu Haijima line from Haijima or Seibu Tachikawa Station. Get off the train at Takadanobaba Station and change to the Yamanote Line to Hamamatsucho Station.

Setagaya’s Boro Ichi
As the new year comes, the Japanese undertake an early “Spring Cleaning” to end the old year and begin anew. It is one of the best times for hitting the markets and junk shops. One well-known open air market is Boro Ichi in Setagaya during December and January. It is named Boro Ichi or rag market, because in past centuries, some stalls sold rags and straw used to make sandals (waraji). You can pick up a pair of waraji to keep as a souvenir. This market, originally called Raku-ichi, began over four hundred years ago.
The selection is large, and includes not only antiques but also new year’s decorations, hagoita (colorful battledores), daruma dolls, and potted plants. Unfortunately, the crowds become overwhelming later in the day. Arriving while the vendors are still setting up around 8am is best. By noon, there are people from all over and it may be impossible to move around. The dates are always the same, December 15 and 16 and January 15 and 16. If you really like antiques, go both months. The selection won’t be the same. Boro Ichi stalls will be set up on Daikan Yashikimae-dori, Kamimachi, Setagaya-ku.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line toward Tokyo. At Tachikawa, change to the Nambu Line on track eight. At Bubaigawara change to the Keio Line for Fuchu/Shinjuku. You can take an express or regular train, but if you take an express, get off at Chofu and transfer to the local (across the platform when the express pulls in) and get off at ShimoTakaido. Transfer to the Setagaya Line (a very small line, only two cars) and take it to Kamimachi Station. At the station, ask for directions to Daikan Yashikimae- dori (the street where Boro Ichi is located) or try walking to the end of the platform, turning right, crossing the tracks and going two blocks.
Another way is to take bus number 21, 24 or 34 from Shibuya Station for Kamimachi or Seijo Gakuen, getting off at Daikan Yashikimae-dori. Vicki Lyn Paulson-Cody, Meg Gilster, Sue Neuhaus, 1997

Honryuji Temple Boro Ichi
A market similar but smaller is the Boro Ichi at Honryuji Temple in Sekimachi, Nerima-ku, Tokyo. This market is held December 9 and 10 from morning until l0pm. Honryuji Temple is near Musashi-Seki Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Seibu Haijima Line from either Haijima or Seibu Tachikawa Stations heading towards Seibu Shinjuku Station. You will stay on this train for quite some time, passing Hagiyama, Kodaira and Tanashi. Get off at Musashi-Seki Station and ask for directions to Honryuji. Vicki Lyn Paulson-Cody, Meg Gilster, Sue Neuhaus, 1997

Antique Markets Near and Far

Tokyo

•OEDO Antique Market
250 vendors. Courtyard of the Tokyo International Forum, 3-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.  9am-4pm.  (Another market, called Best Flea Market, sets up in the same place on the 2nd Sunday of the month. It is on hiatus from November 2011 to February 2012.)
Canceled for heavy rain. Check the organizer’s website: http://www.antique-market.jp
1 min. walk from Yurakucho Station (JR)  or 5 min. from Tokyo Station. Also Yurakucho metro station.

•Arai Yakushi Temple Antique Fair
80 dealers, Arai Yakushi Temple
1st Sunday of each month (2nd Sunday of Jan.) 9am-4pm (Note: Temple festival 8th, 18th, 28th day of each month, from late morning to dusk)
5 min. walk from Araiyakushi-mae Station on Seibu-Shinjuku Line or 15 min. walk from JR Nakano Station

•Setagaya Boro-ichi Antique Market
750 dealers
Dec. 15-16 and Jan. 15-1 6
Near Kamimachi Station and Setagaya Station on Tokyu Setagaya Line

•Hanazono Shrine Market
50 dealers, Hanazono Shrine, 5-17-3, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Every Sunday (But spotty in May and November)6am-3pm.
5 min walk from Shinjuku San-chome Station (Marunouchi Line, Exit B3) or Toei Shinjuku Line

•Heiwajima Antique Market
200 dealers, Heiwajima-Tokyo Ryutsu Center Bldg
Three consecutive days, four times a year.
At Ryutsu Center Station on Tokyo Monorail Line
For exact dates, call 03-3950-0871

•Roppongi Antique Fair
30 dealers, Roppongi Roi Bldg. 5-5-1, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Fourth Thursdays and Fridays, 8am-7pm
3 min walk from Roppongi Sta. (Hibiya Line)

•Shinjuku Antique Market
40 dealers, Dai-ichi Seimei Bldg.
Third Fridays and Saturdays
10 min walk from JR Shinjuku Station

Tokyo Suburbs
•Sagami Antique Market
45 dealers, Atsugi Shrine, 3-8 Atsugi-cho, Atsugi-city, Kanagawa. Tel for Shrine: 0462-21-5875
First Saturday of each month, 5am-4pm
5 min walk from Hon-Atsugi Sta. (Odakyu Line)

•Yamato Promenade Antique Market
200 dealers, Yamato City (Near Naval Station Atsugi & Camp Zama)
Third Saturday of each month, 6am-4pm.
At Yamato Sta. on Odakyu Enoshima Line & Sotetsu Line

•Shonan Antique Market
20 dealers, Yugyoji Temple
First Sunday of each month
20 min walk from JR Fujisawa Station

•Urawa Antique Market
180 dealers, Tsukinomiya Shrine, 3-17-25 Kishi machi, Urawa-city, Saitama prefecture
Fourth Saturday of each month
3 min walk from JR Urawa Station

Antiques Further Afield

•Antique Auction
Second and fourth Saturdays
Silk Center, Yokohama

•Kyoto Antique Market
200 dealers, Toji Temple
First Sundays, the 21st of each month
5 min walk from Toji Station (Kintetsu Line)

•Tenjin Antique Market
100 dealers, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, the 25th of each month
30 min by bus from JR Kyoto Station

Koganei Park & The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

koganei park sarah straus 2This park, on Itsukaichi Kaido and just 15.5 km from Yokota, features large grassy fields, deep woods and cherry trees. The best reason to go, though, is the Edo-Tokyo Tatemono-En(Open-Air Architectural Museum). It is a town of relocated buildings from old Tokyo. You can wander inside homes from the samurai period right up to the 20th century. You’ll visit thatched-roof farm Edo tokyo open air Sarah Strauhouses, architects’ homes and sprawling old estate residences, the kind usually only glimpsed by peeking over high walls. There’s a downtown, too, with shops and bars and a bathhouse, all set up as they were in yesteryear. You might want to wear sandals or other slip-on shoes, because you’ll be taking them off every time you poke around one of the old houses. (Admission ¥400 per adult. Children 12 and under are free.). Elsewhere in the park, a 2 km cycling course, with free bikes available for children under 16, is open daily. Some bikes have training wheels and children are welcome to bring their own. There is also a children’s playscape built like a huge pyramid with many ways to go up and down. It is so large, 100 children would easily have room to play. Hours: 9:30-4:30pm; closed Mondays (Tuesdays if Monday is a holiday) and December 28-January 4. Telephone: 042-388-3311
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the East Gate (0km). Turn left at the fourth light, at 1.2km. You are on Itsukaichi Kaido (Route 7). After about 12.5km you will be traveling along a “greenbelt” on your left that appears to have a stream in it. Itsukaichi Kaido takes a jog to the other side of this “greenbelt” in a quick left then right turn (marked in English). At 14.4km, you will cross Koganei Kaido (Rt. 15). Keep driving straight through two more traffic lights, after crossing Koganei Kaido. The park entrance, at the third light, is well-marked and there is a landscaped street on your left. There is ample parking. GPS for park entrance nearest parking lot: 35.7129, 139.5181. The cost to park is about ¥250 an hour.
koganei park sarah strausTRAIN DIRECTIONS: Go to Musashi Konagei station on the Chuo Line toward Tokyo. Take bus #3 and get off at Koganei Koen-Mae (10 minutes by bus, five minutes by taxi).
BIKE DIRECTIONS: A path leads from the Sayama Lake area directly past the north boundary of the park. Nina Carr, 2007. Updated and directions verified in 2011.


View East Gate to Koganei Park (Edo-Tokyo Architectural Museum) in a larger map

Comments and photos by Sarah Straus, March 28, 2013 – This is an amazing place!  We went on March 28th and the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum happened to be free!  There were games and crafts for kids, food vendors and a very colorful parade.  It was also a day the cherry trees were in full bloom and the area of the park just in front of the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum was alive with pink.  It makes for a great place to have a picnic and take photos of your children under the cherry blossoms.  We all enjoyed walking through the old buildings, even my 5 and 3 year olds.  They thought it was especially fun to climb into the baths at the Edo period bathhouse.  What a fun day.  We will definately go back with bikes, kites, and ready to play on the large climbing structures.

koganai sarah strausSarah Straus, December, 2013 – We returned to this park in December to let the kids play at the playground.  We found a fun surprise!  Sledding, but without snow.  There is this AstroTurf hillside where kids can sled.  It is free.  Bring your own sled or buy one at a store in the park for ¥1280.  It was really fun!  On this side of the park there is also a bouncy dome, a dog park, and croquet.  Even in the cold of winter a few people were flying kites.  Also, it is possible to rent small bikes with training wheels for kids to ride around the park.

Japan by Rail

The Yujo Community Center is a great place to start your adventure on the rails. It has English versions of the train and subway maps that are invaluable. The Airman and Family Readiness Center also offers a one-day train-riding class  – more of a field trip, really – for those who want expert coaching.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, you’ll find these two websites invaluable:

www.hyperdia.com/cgi-english
www.jorudan.co.jp/english/norikae

Both have free online route planners to plot your optimal itinerary.

Also, this train system map, showing JR East trains, is helpful.
Yokotans usually catch the train at Fussa Station, on the Ome Line of Japan Railway (JR East). There is a closer station at Higashi Fussa on the Hachiko Line but it is not the quickest way to Tokyo. Many of us park at the Fussa Gate and walk to the station. It takes about 15 minutes. Parking is limited near the station. The closest is the garage at the Seiyu, which charges ¥150 per half hour. (Store purchases of ¥3000 or more gets you a maximum of four hours free parking). Some of the other lots are run by Times Parking which charges up to ¥1000 per 24 hours. (East Side residents sometimes prefer parking at Moritown Shopping Center to catch the train at Akishima, a few stations closer to Tokyo on the Ome Line.) Underground bicycle parking is available for ¥100 per day via the ramp outside the grocery entrance of Seiyu.
DIRECTIONS TO FUSSA STATION: Walk out the Fussa Gate, cross Rt. 16 and continue straight. Cross the tracks and continue walking. Veer right through a “Y” intersection. Go through one traffic light and continue walking until you come to the second traffic light. The cross street at this intersection is called Yanagi Dori. Turn right. Up ahead on the left you will see Seiyu department store. The train station is also on the left, just before Seiyu. To reach it, turn left at the first street intersecting Yanagi Dori, and follow it as it curves around to the right.

Getting Your Ticket
You can still get an old-fashioned ticket, but for a slicker travel experience, you’ll want a Suica. These are rechargeable plastic cards you wave over a sensor at the turnstiles, coming and going. You can use it on trains, subways and some buses in Tokyo. You can buy one from the ticket machines at Fussa station. Press the button for “English” and follow the instructions. The cost, as of late 2010, is ¥2000 for a card that comes with ¥1500 credit already on it. You can recharge the card at the tickets machines, on both sides of the turnstiles, but you have to use cash. For full details: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html – category02.
But let’s say you need to buy an old-fashioned ticket. When you get to the station, go up the stairs and you will see the ticket booth and ticket machines, just past where the attendant sits. Look at the charts to the left of the machines to figure out the fare to where you are going. The map will show the Ome Line leading into Tachikawa, the seventh stop from Fussa. It becomes the Chuo Mainline after Tachikawa and continues into Tokyo. Once you have found your fare, go to the ticket machine and put your money in the coin slot or the bill feed. The buttons will light up, indicating the tickets you can purchase for that amount. Push the button for the fare that you want. A ticket will come out of the machine along with change. Now go to the turnstile to enter the station. Insert your ticket and it will come out the slot at the other end. Keep your ticket because you need it to exit at your destination.

Riding the Train
Walk down the stairs to the train platform. You will find that one side of the platform has trains that go toward Ome or Okutama, into the mountains away from Tokyo. The other side is for trains to Haijima, Tachikawa and Tokyo. A train schedule is posted on the platform and the electronic sign will tell you when the next train arrives. Some trains terminate at Tachikawa. Others continue on to Tokyo, but you probably want to change at Tachikawa to a faster train.
Two types of trains leave Tachikawa station toward Tokyo. One is Rapid (Kaisoku), which stops at almost every station and takes about 50 minutes to reach Shinjuku. The other is the Special Rapid (Tokubetsu Kaisoku), which makes about four stops before Shinjuku. It takes about 35 minutes to reach Shinjuku. On the schedule, the Special Rapid train times are highlighted. Some things to keep in mind: smoking is not permitted on the trains, and it is impolite to eat or drink. Don’t play music without headphones, talk loudly, or disturb the people who are reading, sleeping or meditating. Posted signs request you put cell phones on silent mode and refrain from talking on them.

Getting Back to Fussa Station

Returning from Tokyo isn’t too challenging. It takes about an hour and a half. If you are anywhere near Tokyo Station, consider going there to catch the train. It is the beginning of the line and you can usually get a seat. Go to tracks 1 and 2 to catch any train to Tachikawa, Toyoda, Takao or Ome. Unless you happen to get the Tokubetsu Kaisoku Special Rapid for Ome (about one per hour 10am-5pm), you will need to transfer at Tachikawa. When you arrive at Tachikawa, go to Tracks 2 or 3 and catch a train for Ome, Okutama, or Kabe, all of which stop at Fussa. (Ome trains sometimes arrive and depart from Track 7; when changing trains, look up at the platform guides showing the trains coming in for the next train to Ome.) Remember the last train from Tachikawa to Fussa leaves about 12:40am. You will need to leave Tokyo in time to catch it or be prepared for a long walk, large taxi bill or long wait. The next train for Fussa leaves after 4am!

Higashi-Fussa Station
The Hachiko Line is accessible from the Higashi-Fussa Station and train schedules are available from the Yujo Community Center. You can use this train to get to Hachioji, Kawagoe, Yokohama or Yokosuka. It also connects with the Sagamihara Line to get to the Tama area. DIRECTIONS: Walk out the Fussa Gate and go right. At the first light, turn left. At the first street, Waratsuke Kaido (before the tracks) turn right. The station is half a block ahead on the left. This station is small. There’s no actual turnstile, but there’s a Suica reader you need to flash at the stairs down to the platform. Pay attention: There are separate machines for exiting and entering. Or, if you need to buy a ticket and the ticket machine is often turned off, just get on the train and buy your ticket either from the conductor, or from the fare adjustment window. They will figure your fare for you. When you return home, the conductor usually collects tickets as you leave the platform.

Some Helpful Kanji – Hiragana
TOKYO
____________東京_____とうきょう_________________
SHINJUKU
____________新宿______しんじゅく________________
TACHIKAWA
____________立川______たちかわ____________(aka “shake and fries”)
HACHIOJI
____________八王子____はちおうじ__________________
FUSSA
____________福生_______ふっさ_______________
OME
____________青梅_______おうめ_______________
OKUTAMA
____________奥多摩_____おくたま_________________

One-Day Tickets & Prepaid Cards
If you are going to be traveling all day in Tokyo, you might want to buy a pass for unlimited riding. You can get the pass at Fussa Station and it costs ¥1600 for adults and ¥800 for children. Ask for the Tokunai Free Pass. There are also One Day Free tickets for the subways that cost ¥700 for adults and ¥350 for children. You can get these passes at Shinjuku, other large subway stations, and the New Sanno Travel Desk. You can also check with the Yujo Community Center to get more information about these passes. If you owe some on your last ride, you will be told so by the fare-adjustment machine near the exit.

Seibu-Shinjuku Line

More adventurous souls might try taking the Seibu Shinjuku Line from Seibu Tachikawa or Haijima stations. It costs about half the fare of the Chuo/Ome Line. The station names appear on signs printed in romaji (English) along most of the route. Be warned, however, the trains themselves are usually labeled only in kanji. The train stops at Takadanobaba on the Yamanote Line. When you get off the train, follow the signs for JR Yamanote Line. Go upstairs and walk over, and across, to the next platform. Turn in your ticket at the window at the top of the stairs and tell the clerk your destination on the Yamanote Line to get a transfer ticket. Or you may decide to ride the train to the end of the line at Seibu Shinjuku Station. This station is separated by a short, slightly complicated walk from the west exit of the main JR Shinjuku Station. To get to the JR, use the underground tunnels and follow the signs in English. The Seibu Tachikawa station offers Kyuko rapid service in the morning before 9am, which only takes 45min to Seibu Shinjuku. The regular trip takes about one hour, just a bit faster than the Ome and Chuo Lines. If you get off before Shinjuku at Takadanobaba you can catch the Yamanote easily without transfers at Tachikawa. Takadanobaba also gives access to the Tozai subway.
DIRECTIONS: To get to the Seibu Tachikawa Station, go out the East Gate and turn right. At the first light, turn left. The next light you come to will be a five-way intersection. Take a hard right and continue down this street until you cross the train tracks. Turn right just past the tracks and follow the little lane into the train station parking lot. Warning: There is no parking at this station, so have someone drop you off. Motorcycle, scooter or bicycle parking is available and Seibu Tachikawa Station is a close ride from the East Gate. You can always walk, if you are active. It takes about twenty-five minutes from the gate. If you are biking, there is a free place to park and a shorter walking route by going out the East Gate and turning right. Stay on this route until the road narrows and becomes one lane as you cross the Seibu Shinjuku line tracks (about seven minutes). Just after the tracks, you will see the bicycle parking on the right. Just before the tracks you could park a scooter with no problem. Then, to get to the station, follow the paved path parallel to the tracks on the outside of the fence. If someone is dropping you off, get out just before the tracks and the driver can turn around easily. Returning to Seibu Tachikawa can be tricky. Trains for different destinations depart from the same platform at Seibu Shinjuku or Takadanobaba station. Always get on one of the two front cars because the train sometimes splits at Kodaira or Hagiyama stations. The front part always goes to Haijima, the back part may go elsewhere. As with all trains, if you make a mistake, you can always get off, turn around and come back, so no real damage is done.

Taking the bullet train

Taking to the Roads

Space-A Travel

Japan by Air

Discovering hidden Fussa: Two walking tours

Fussa – 福生

Let’s be frank: Fussa is not what you’d call “quaint.” It appears, like many communities in Tokyo’s orbit, to be a product of necessity, of unromantic economics and rapid development.
But you’ll see it in a new light if you take the time to poke around. First, you’ll find it’s an utterly fantastic asset to have just outside the gate. Fussa is a walkable city and a bike-friendly place. Its train station, a mere 12-minute walk from Fussa Gate, connects you to the national rail system, to Tokyo, and to the whole of Japan. The Tama River, on the city’s western flank, provides a quick nature fix and has endless trails for walking, running and biking. Its stores and restaurants are good training grounds for you to trot out new Japanese phrases as you learn them and get used to commerce in Japan. Don’t be shy. You think you’re the first clueless American they’ve seen in these parts?
Just when you think Fussa is merely utilitarian you’ll start uncovering its secrets: Temples tucked away in neighborhoods. A little pastry shop. A watering hole where you feel you could become a regular. A sudden view of snow-covered Mt. Fuji. A clutch of older homes that, if you squint, gives you a peek at a previous century.
How do you find these hidden places? Read on, my friends. That’s what we’re here for.

Discovering hidden Fussa: Two walking tours

Fussa Restaurants

1. The West Route

This route will show you some of the Fussa gems that are concealed in plain sight. It’s about 3 miles long, if you take every side trail. It can easily be cut short – just make for Fussa Station and back to Fussa Gate. See the route map here. I’ve also posted it below. This makes an excellent bike tour, also.


View Fussa Walking Tour No. 1 in a larger map

Into the center
Start by walking out the Fussa Gate and cross the first set of tracks. Stay left at the “Y.” In 300 feet, pause to window-shop the tiny antique store on the right side of the street, right on the corner. It specializes in old electric sewing machines and post-War “Made in Japan” porcelain. Now continue down the street as you were. Cross the second set of tracks and go two more blocks. You’ve now gone 1km from Fussa gate and you’re at an intersection, with the main Fussa Post Office on your right and the Fussa City offices on your left. (GPS position: 35.739264, 139.326756)

To Shinmeisha Shrine
Turn right, onto Shin Okutama-Kaido and continue past the post office. Half a kilometer (a third of a mile) past the post office – having gone through five intersections, one with a traffic light – you will see a concrete elementary school on the right side of the street. (GPS: 35.74265, 139.32479). There’s a cute coffee shop on the left, with lots of mugs in the window. Stop in for a cuppa and continue down the street. You’ll see Skylark, and a noodle restaurant called Kama-Age, next to a fire station on the right side of the road. On the left is a cemetery. Next to the cemetery is the entrance to Shinmeisha Shrine. Note this location and ask yourself if you’re hungry. If so, grab a bite at the  one of restaurants next to the fire station, or continue down the road, past Sega, to a most inviting sandwich shop, Cheese and Olive. Once you’re done, go back to Shinmeisha Shrine. Walk through the Torii Gate and you will see smaller shrines spaced on the left side.
If you continue through to the Torii Gate on the opposite side and down a set of stairs, you will find a small park on the right side of the stairway. Go down the steps to the street, and turn left to look at the sculptures depicting the Buddhist god Jizo, the patron of travelers and deceased children. They are dressed in red caps and, on one recent visit, fleece Winnie the Pooh jackets.

A leafy respite
Now do a U-turn. Go past the stairs you came down to the end of the block. Make a left at the corner and walk three small blocks to the end of the street. There will be a blue pedestrian overpass. If you look behind the house on the corner, you will see a very old temple, Kannondou Temple, down a small alleyway. Cross the pedestrian overpass and the small bridge. Now, remember this spot because we’re coming back here.
After the bridge, you can turn right and walk along the side of a small canal to Kanizaka Park (toilet and water fountain available). This canal is what remains of the Tamagawa Waterway, built in 1653 to supply water for Edo. The road becomes a path as it follows the canal past a small residential area to a small leafy park. This peaceful area is laced with paths up and around a small embankment dotted with picnic tables and benches. Climb up. There’s a nice view of the Tama River far below. Does the lumpy topography seem out of place? This park was built on the fill dug up 350 years ago to build the canal.

Choutokuji Temple & Tamura Brewery

Now follow your breadcrumbs back to the bridge. If you face away from the bridge and go straight, down the hill, you will see a grandly rebuilt temple, Choutokuji Temple, and across the street the picturesque Tamura sake brewery. Continue past the temple; the road will begin to curve to the left (you’ll see the Tama River). There is a small park with benches and a small shrine just as the road curves. The next intersection will be Fujiami Street. Turn left here. If you continue straight, you will come to Fussa Station.  Walk through the station, down to street level and past McDonald’s to the corner. Turn right, then take the first left. It’s a straight shot from there to the Fussa Gate.

Seiganin Temple, Est. 1394
If you want to see one more cool temple, make the left onto Fujiami Street and walk two blocks to Naka Fussa Street. There’s no sign, but if you get to the bridge over the canal you’ve gone to far. Turn right down this street and go halfway down the block. (GPS: 35.737853, 139.323693) You will see a small alley to the left. Turn here. About 300 yards up this alley is one of the most ornate temples in the area, the Seiganin Temple. This temple, orignally built in 1394, is home to Buddhist monks.
Now you can backtrack to Fujimi Street or you can continue past the temple to the next intersection, take a left, and follow the curve of the road (left), back to Fujimi Street and then a right back to Fussa Station and the Fussa Gate. Michele Kreuziger, Emily Pishnotte, Liz Ruskin, 2010.

2. The Tama River Tour

This route is about 6km. It’s good for walkers or bicyclists. Bring a snack as there are several nice parks to take a break in, or plan on getting lunch at the Ishikawa Brewery.


View

The Tea House
Start at the Supply Gate and walk straight across Route 16. Keep going straight, along Itsukaichi Kaido Avenue, Route 7. The entrance to the first site on our tour, the City Tea House, will appear in 400 meters, after you cross the first set of railroad track, on the left side of the street. You are looking for a small wooded area with a stone path. (The woods are across Itsukaichi Kaido from the Civic Center , a large red brick auditorium. If you reach the blue pedestrian overpass you’ve gone too far.) Follow the stone path to see a bamboo fenced area, where you’ll find the City Tea House. (The Tea House, built for tea ceremonies and other cultured events, is available for rent but you must make reservations months in advance.) Walk around and up the hill past the Tea House, turning right at the top, taking you to the rear of the Fussa Library. The entrance is around the building to the right, directly behind the Tea House. (The library is open 10am -8pm Tuesday-Friday, 10am – 5pm Sat-Sun, closed Mondays, or Tuesdays if Monday is a Japanese holiday. www.city.fussa.tokyo.jp/englishguide/88vtda000000fzsq-att/88vtda000000fzuc.pdf) Next, follow the stone path back to the main street or look next to the Tea House and the library for the cute little bridge and waterfall. Whether you exit through the parking lot or take the stone path, walk back to the main road, Itsukaichi Kaido.

Firefly Park (Hotaru Park)
Turn left on Itsukaichi Kaido, going downhill, away from the base. Your first chance to stop for a snack is past the library at the Jonathan’s Restaurant on the left.
Stay straight and cross a bridge decorated with artwork tiles of fireflies. Continue walking straight. Turn left onto Okutama Kaido, and move to the right side of the road. You should see a sign in Japanese for the steps down to Firefly Park (Hotaru Park). The entrance to this path is across from Gray Shining Hills apartments and a bright yellow building.  Or continue further down Okutama Kaido and take the bike path. This park has bathrooms, a stream, a fountain and a greenhouse where firefly larva are grown. Come here around 8pm in mid-June to see the glow bugs. Fussa holds an annual firefly festival around this time to celebrate the magic.
To continue your walk, pass the greenhouse, exit onto the street and turn left. Go under the the elevated railroad tracks. You’ll see a small playground on the right just beyond the tracks. But ahead on the left is a cuter park with fish ponds that might be make for a nice rest.

The River Path
When you’re ready to continue, backtrack to the playground and cut through it to reach a small road that parallels the railroad tracks. Walk along this road until it dead-ends at the river.  Now climb up the small embankment and turn left. You’ll see you’re walking on a bike path built on the levee of the Tama River. The path is lined with cherry trees and is stunningly gorgeous when the trees bloom in early April.  In fact, Fussa has a festival for that, too, and the main venue is just ahead on your left, Myojinshita Park (GPS: 35.7236,139.3305, halfway between the railroad tracks behind you and the next bridge.) Walk on, keeping the Tama River on your right, for about a kilometer. Here the path ducks under the Mutsumi Bashi bridge. If you go under the bridge you will be at a large picnic area called Minami Park. If you wish to barbecue or play tennis here, get a permit from the log cabin park office by the entrance.

The Brewery
To continue, turn left at the traffic circle and go uphill to exit the park. Turn right on the main street, Mutsumi-bashi Dori. Stay on the right side of the road, and bear right along the sidewalk, flanking a stone retaining wall. At the top of the small hill is a billboard advertising the Ishikawa Brewery, which is just ahead. Go there now if you’re losing energy and in need of refreshment.
Otherwise, take the scenic route: Make a sharp right and follow the road as it winds its way past beautiful homes and the Senjuin Temple.
At the intersection with Kumagawa Dori (there’s no sign, but trust us on this one), about 80 meters past the temple, there is an old stone monument on the far left corner. (What does it say? Is it a historical marker? An ancient road sign? If you find out, leave a comment below.) Turn left here. On the left, there is a well-tended property with black walls and a series of old white buildings. This is the Sake Brewery Tama-Jiman, also known as the Ishikawa Brewery. It has a little museum and two nice restaurants, which you can read about here. Stop in to check it out

Kumagawa Shrine
Once you leave the brewery, go back to Kumagawa Dori and continue in the same direction you were headed, northeast. Immediately past the bewery you’ll come to a “T” intersection. (Look left and you might be able to see the billboard you were standing at minutes ago, before you opted for the scenic route.)  Turn right at the “T” and then a quick left onto the continuation of Kumagawa Dori, a tiny street, no wider than an alley. This will take you back to the big street, Mutusumi-bashi Dori, which is, like Itsukaichi Doir, labeled Rt. 7 on maps. Cross this road and continue along Kumagawa Dori. Keep going straight until you reach a four-way intersection of streets no bigger than the one you’re on. Turn left, so that you’re walking down the alley that has a metal fence running along the right-hand side.  You will soon reach Kumagawa Shrine, a unique animal temple. The day we were there, they had live raccoons, a goat, cranes, a dog, and a large cage full of parakeets. There are signs that say “Don’t Touch the Animals.” This is also the site of a very nice shrine sale, held on the second Sunday of every month.

Back to Base
Tired? OK, let’s get you home. Exit the temple grounds and continue going north on the road you came in on. When it ends, turn right and cross Shin Okutama Kaido. Keep going along this small residential street until you come to a 4-way intersection with a light. Turn left here. Follow this road as it crosses a set of track, curves to the right and then crosses another set of tracks. Stay on it, across a third set of tracks until you reach Route 16 and the Yokota fence. Turn left to get to the Supply Gate. Michele Kreuziger 2007. Directions updated 2012.

I followed and updated directions in late 2010. No animals at the temple on my visit, perhaps due to the cold. Liz Ruskin

The Legal stuff

Copyright 2010-2011 Yokota Officers’ Spouses Club.  This Website is sponsored by the Yokota Officers’ Spouses’ Club at Yokota, Japan. Material and opinions contained herein are those of the contributors and should not be in any way considered an official expression of the Department of the Air Force. Written permission is necessary to reprint any material herein. Produced and maintained at no cost to the US Government. US Air Force Disclaimer: The U.S. Air Force nor any part of the Federal Government officially endorses any company, sponsor, or their products or services

North of Base

Shopping

Costco and Mitsui Outlet Park in Iruma Costco
The Costco outlet near here is so similar to the American versions that frequent shoppers will already know their way around the store on their first visit. If you’re a Costco member in the states you’ll be able to shop here but you have to transfer your membership to your Japanese address, so visit the membership counter inside the store on your first visit. (Do you know how to make a Japanese address from your APO box number? See the Japan Post section under General Information.) Costco, for those who haven’t had the pleasure yet, is a worldwide bulk sale store with membership costing ¥4,200 per couple per year. Two guests can accompany members. Depending on the item, prices may be less than on base. Costco does not validate parking tickets for the outlet mall lots, and only American Express credit cards are accepted; Costco.co.jp
The outlet mall right next door to Costco contains name brand stores such as Coach, Columbia, Naturalizer, Reebok, Levis, Adidas, Diesel, and Banana Republic, etc. Forest Kitchen is the second story food court, while Forest Lounge on the ground floor has a Harrods tea and coffee outlet with a green tea counter across the aisle.
Costco members may park free in the top of the Iruma Costco building but entrance to the rooftop parking is only via a left-turn entry from Route 16 if you’re coming from the Kawagoe direction, so it’s awkward when you’re coming from Yokota. Instead, drive through the Outlet Park, out the rear then left toward and onto Route 16 (back toward Yokota and Hachioji). If asked, tell the parking attendants “Costco,” and they will wave you toward the rear exit. Once back on Rt. 16 going in the opposite direction, you will be waved to the entrance on the left. Costco parking hours are 9:30am-9pm while the store hours are 10am-8pm.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the Terminal Gate onto Route 16, drive north toward Kawagoe. Continue past The Mall and Hotel The Rock on the left. On the right will be a turn lane and sign for the Mitsui Outlet Park at 8.6km (depending on traffic, between 15 and 45 minutes). There is parking all around the mall for the Outlet Park; the first three hours are free weekdays while the first two hours are free on weekends. A minimum purchase of ¥3,000- from one store or  the same amount of combined receipts from the food court is  required for an additional two hours of parking validation.  3169-2 Miyadera, Iruma City, Saitama 358-0014, Japan. Tel. 04-2935-2200. GPS: 35.81082,139.37808. Teresa Negley, Ann Bowersox, Judiann Carey

Kojitu Outdoors
There are several places close to base to obtain outdoor and camping equipment, including  Kojitu Outdoors store located on Ome Kaido Road, just north of base.
DIRECTIONS: Set your odometer to zero and turn right out of the Terminal Gate. Go under the underpass and turn right at the fourth light after the underpass onto Ome Kaido Road. (2.8 km. Mc Donalds on left.) Kojitu will be on the right in about 0.3 km. (3.1 km from base.) Hours? Phone? Brian Marriott, 2002

Saizeriya
Saizeriya is a clean family style sort of Italian restaurant with picture menus. It offers pizzas (small ¥380+), pastas (¥450+), risottos (¥480+), large salads (¥380+), and desserts (¥290+). This chain marks its locations with a green sign.
DIRECTIONS: Shin-Ome Kaido Location: You can approach the Saizeriya on Shin-Ome Kaido from either the Terminal Gate or the East Gate. From the Terminal Gate, turn right (north) and go through the tunnel. Turn right at the 4th light after the tunnel (onto Ome-Kaido Road –truck stop on right, McDonalds on left.) Saizeriya will be on your left after the Dennys, before the McDonalds. From the East Gate, turn left out the gate. Bear left at the second light (“Y” intersection.) When the road ends, turn left. Turn right at the third light (just past the baby clothes store with bunny on sign.) Take this road to Shin-Ome Kaido Avenue (Musashimuraya mako Kita intersection, there is a McDonalds on the left side of the road.) and turn right. Saizeriya will be a short way down on the right, before you get to Dennys. Hours? Phone? Jena Flowers, Teresa Negley. Directions updated: Brian Marriott, 2002.

Curry House CoCo
While there are many CoCo Curry Houses in the area (including a small one at the Fussa station), the Mizuho branch out the East Gate may be the closest with parking. At any CoCo, you have several choices to make, starting from a basic curry dish for ¥400, including the spiciness of your curry (mild 1 is ¥20, spicier is more expensive), whether you prefer rice (naan is also available), whether you want meat (chicken cutlet ¥250), if you want a salad, etc. Most of the picture menus also have English too. Once you know what you want, push the bell to order.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the East Gate, veer left at the “Y” inteserction (1.1K). At the second light (1.8K Shiritsu Jusho Minami) next to the Baby Bunny Store (bunny sign), turn right. At the fourth light, you will see McDonalds (2.6K). Turn left onto ShinOme Kaido and past the first light (3.2K), a yellow Coco’s Curry House will be on your right next to Saizeriya Restaurant. Hours: 11am-midnight. Telephone: XX. Website: www.ichibanya.co.jp. Teresa Negley, Debbie Diaz, 2006

Culture

Iruma City Museum
About fifteen minutes away, there is a wonderfully modern museum in a landscaped setting. The museum is divided into several parts. In one gallery, art by local artists is displayed, including fifty-foot long painted murals to smaller oil paintings. Upstairs, a smaller Children’s Science Room is arranged with hands-on models including the effects of visual illusion through mirrors and a gyroscopic experience using bicycle wheels. Next door, a life-size exhibit of local plant and animal life reflects the natural setting of Iruma as it changes from dawn through twilight and night. The history of the area is shown through displays of local archaeological finds, feudal periods, the clothes of local townsmen, silk production models, etc. A ramp leads to exhibits on tea, a most important product of Iruma. Life-size models of family rooms in China and Tibet show the differences in lifestyles and how tea is preserved and used in different cultures. Glass display cases enclose teapots and English teacups ranging from those with large saucers to smaller porcelain items. A full-size replica demonstrates the simple designs of a traditional teahouse with thatched roof (the low doorways and narrow rooms inhibited the drawing of swords in a feudal society of five hundred years of war). Films on tea and other subjects can be viewed in a museum theater. Teacups and local merchandise can be purchased in the museum gift shop and a restaurant is also on the grounds.
Although English-language explanations are not present on all displays, an English brochure includes introductions on the permanent exhibits, building layout, and museum grounds. Cost: ¥200/Adults, ¥100/high school/university students, ¥50/junior high/elementary students.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the Terminal Gate and head north on Route16 via the underpass. Turn left (west) at the first light past route 219 (7.3 kilometers from the Terminal Gate and just prior to a large sign reading “AUTOBACS” on the left. If you get to Crystal Park [on right] you have gone too far). Take a LEFT (south) at the first light (There is a 7-eleven on the corner). The museum is about 0.4 kilometers on the left. It has a large parking lot just past an entry gate. The address for Iruma City Museum Alit is 100 Nihongi, Iruma. Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, closed Monday (and closed on Tuesday if Monday was a holiday. Also closed 4th Tuesday of each month and 12/27-1/5 for New Years’ Celebration. Tel. 0429-34-7711. Teresa Negley, Sumiko Evans, 1997. Directions updated by Brian Marriott, 2002

Tokorozawa
Tokorozawa, a 45-minute drive north of Yokota, is a nice place to spend a day shopping and eating. In addition to the three very nice, large department stores (Daiei, Marui, and Waltz), there are also many small shops. There is a Wendy’s, a Shakey’s Pizza, and many Japanese eateries and bakeries. These are all within a short walking distance of each other. In Daiei you will also find a large variety of restaurants. On the top floor there are many restaurants and on the bottom floor you will find buffet restaurants. If you begin your shopping experiences at Daiei, you can walk across the street to McDonalds and take a left. You will be on a narrow street with no cars, and lots of shops. Here you will find Shakeys and one of two McDonalds. There are CD shops, flower shops, vegetable markets, video stores, electronics, pachinko and more. Then you will come out and go past the station and continue on up the main street to Waltz and many other small shops and accessory stores. Cross the street again and head back to Daiei. The name of the street is “Purope.” One of the best bakeries for fresh bread, called “Sun Merry,” is there. You can park at any of the three department stores as early as 9 am. Parking is free for two hours if you make a purchase of at least ¥2000. After the first two hours, you will be charged ¥100 per thirty minutes.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the East Gate. At the first light turn right. Stay on this road until it dead-ends, and then turn left. Continue on this road until you reach Shin Ome Kaido. (You will go through two traffic lights and pass the big Yamada discount store on the left.) At Shin Ome Kaido there will be a Mos Burger on the left and a used car dealer on the right. This is your landmark for the return trip. Turn right onto this road. Continue on this road for about 9km. After you go over a long overpass, get into the left lane. Turn left on Fuchu Kaido (the intersection is very large). Stay on Fuchu Kaido for about 2.5km. Keep to the right at the fork in the road, which has a gas station in the center of it. Turn left onto Tokorozawa Kaido. In a few minutes you will see the large department stores and the train station. Continue straight to park in the parking garages.
Lori Belk, Judy Harvey, Viki Paulson-Cody. Directions verified 2001


Space-A Travel

There’s a thrill to Space-A travel. A nice camaraderie often breaks out among the travelers, and who doesn’t like a free ride? Just make sure you’ve got enough flexibility to roll with the flight schedule and the funds to either wait it out if you miss a flight or to buy yourself a ticket home Space-A is a benefit that allows active duty , Department of Defense civilians, military retirees  and command sponsored family members (“dependents”) the chance to fly at virtually no charge. This article is written from the perspective of family members traveling without their sponsors. (The process is similar for active duty members, but they can’t register at the AMC until the day their leave begins and you only need leave orders.) If you travel without your sponsor, you will be in a lower priority category. You can, though, move up a category if you take the trip as Environmental Morale Leave . Don’t be too pessimistic. Many planes leave here with seats to spare,  and some of us have enjoyed multiple trips courtesy of Space-A.

Where can you go? The Patriot Express flies to Seattle and Korea. There are also flights to Okinawa and Misawa within Japan, Guam, Honolulu, Anchorage, Travis (near Oakland/Sacramento) and Singapore (not an EML location). Yokota-based families are allowed to fly Space-A to the U.S. and anywhere in the Pacific Theater.

To start off, ask at the Yokota Passenger Terminal for the list of scheduled flights for that month, and for the phone numbers and email addresses of the other terminals you hope to fly to. You can also check out the Yokota terminal’s Facebook page.

How to fly Space-A
The rules can get complicated, but it boils down to three steps.
Step 1: Get permission. This will be either in the form of a letter from your spouse’s commander saying that you’re “command-sponsored” for Space-A travel, or a form saying you’re on unfunded Environmental Morale Leave. Your documents  remain valid for three months. You can find an example letter here.
Alternatively, you can get an EML form. EML travel is higher priority and you can do it twice a year. Inquire about either at your sponsor’s administrative section.
Step 2: Register yourself at AMC by signing up as early as 60 days before travel. The basic method is to go to the service counter at the Yokota passenger terminal. Bring your letter or approved EML form and your passport. You’ll get a stamp on your letter indicating the date and time you registered. This determines your priority within your category.
You can also email your form to 730ams.space.available@yokota.af.mil or fax it to 225-9768. You should get a confirmation message. Print it and keep it with your letter. (I met one woman who found out on the day of travel that her emailed registration wasn’t in the system. She was able to get on the roster by showing the confirmation message.) Either way, keep your original signed letter with you at all times when you travel.
Step 3: Show up ready to fly. Actually, you should call first (225-5660 or 225-7111), a day or two before, to make sure the flight is still on as scheduled. Ask what time the Space-A roll call is. Then, schlepping your luggage and travel documents, go to the terminal about half an hour before roll call. Tell the folks behind the service desk you’re present and want to get on that flight. This is known in AMC-speak as “being marked present.” Ten minutes before roll call they will put up a roster showing all Space-A candidates and their priority. Make sure you’re on that roster. Then cross your fingers and wait to find out if you made the flight.

Tips
–If you’re selected for a flight, get your boarding pass right away. Anything can happen. You don’t want it snatched away from by some late-arriving passenger with a higher priority.
–When you register for your outbound flight, register for your return trip, too. Contact the terminal you’ll be flying from to get back to Yokota. The Yokota Terminal can give you the email addresses and fax numbers. Why wait?
–You can also register with www.takeahop.org. This is a private organization that will send your request to the terminals you specify. Takeahop will send you a message confirming your request. Trouble is, you may or may not get a response from the terminal to confirm that you are indeed registered, so you may have to call or email anyway.
–Unless you know you’re going on an airliner, wear full-on shoes. Sandals aren’t allowed on military aircraft.
–Bring warm layers if you’re flying on a cargo plane. Some people bring camping mats and sleeping bags. Dress for comfort. It may be cold and loud on board.
–Find a bathroom before you board. All planes have a “latrine” but this could be rather basic.
–Be prepared to pay about $28 in head tax if you’re flying on the Patriot Express to Seattle.
–The Patriot Express was rerouted in 2010 so that Seattle-bound flights now fill up in Korea before they land in Yokota. That has lowered the number of Space-A seats to a mere handful, even when school is in session.
–A very good forum for the latest on Space-A travel is Dirk Pepper’d Space-A Message Board. (Thanks to Nancy F. for the tip.) This SpaceA.net is also a fantastic resource that is updated constantly.
–See www.amc.af.mil/amctravel for general information about Space-A, including luggage restrictions. Liz Ruskin, 2010

SHORT-NOTICE FLIGHTS
Short-notice flights (or unscheduled flights) are sometimes your best bet if you are in a low category. Many people leave the terminal and only return for missions that are listed on the daily schedule. With a short flight, you can endure any type of plane, even cargo planes where you have to wear earplugs. If there are no flights or few probable seats, you can try another base. Use the DSN phone in the terminal to call other bases. For example, if you are trying to get to Guam through Kadena, call Kadena and first ask what time the flight from Yokota to Kadena is scheduled to land, then ask if there are any flights scheduled to Guam after that landing. Also get the phone number for billeting there, in case you get stuck for a day. Ask how many people are signed up for Guam to get an idea of your chances. Most of the people you speak with will be frank and they will tell you if people are having trouble getting out to that destination. Sometimes “hopping” can be just as adventurous and beats sitting in the terminal for days.
But if you do get stranded, note some terminals have USO facilities where you can hang out. Fortunately, Yokota is a great place to catch flights.
Olney M. Meadows, 2002

Read a Trip Report of one family’s hop to Singapore

Find tips and recommendations when traveling to Singapore and beyond.

Japan by Rail

Getting to the Airport

Taking to the Roads

Bintan Island, Indonesia: Beach paradise a hop-skip from Yokota

Trip Report:

By Heather Mitchell.

Two scheduled flights leave Yokota nearly every week for Singapore, so it’s a really easy Space-A destination. But where do you go from there if you’ve made no plans and you don’t want to spend a million dollars? Our family faced that dilemma when the five of us landed in Singapore on a spontaneous trip in August 2011. Luckily we found our paradise island just a boat ride away.
We had hopped to Singapore on the DC 8, arriving early in the morning. We spent a night at the Navy Lodge before we figured out where to go next. (For van service, we called Jeffrey Koh of CJK Express when we landed. He picked us up at the terminal and took us to the Lodge for $40.00. His cell: 9683 8839.) The Lodge was a bit out of the way but spacious and clean, and we found a few pretty good restaurants within walking distance from base.
I did a little Internet trolling and hit on Bintan Island, in Indonesia. We’d never heard of it, but it sounded great. So the next day we took a 55-minute ferry ride from Singapore to Bintan. On the ferry we were able to obtain visas for $10.00.
All the Bintan hotels have complimentary shuttles to take you to your hotel. We stayed at the Mayang Sari Beach Resort. We got two beautful “chalets” that were right on the beach for about $180 each. We had never stayed right on a beach before so it was a real treat to hear the waves crashing at night. Our rooms included a daily breakfast buffet. There were plenty of activities for our kids. They jet skied and zip-lined . We also saw an Elephant show and rode the elephants. We took a boat tour through the Mangrove Forest, which was also fun. The island also has several golf courses.
We had wonderful dinners every night at nearby restaurants. The hotel shuttle would drop us off at them. The staff at the hotel were so kind and welcoming. My only regret is that I didn’t get a massage, which I later learned are super inexpensive. I felt so relaxed while I was there that I never thought about it.
Ferry information: www.brf.com.sg
Bintan hotel options: www.bintan-resorts.com
Heather Mitchell, 2011

Confused about how to fly Space Available? Check out our Space-A primer: http://yokotatravel.com/2010/12/07/space-a/

Hinohara Waterfall (Hossawa-no-taki Waterfall)

Our favorite Sunday drive is into the hills west of the base. In 45 minutes, we are parked and ready to hike up a gradual path to view the Hinohara Waterfalls. We’ve visited the falls in all seasons, and it is spectacular, plunging maybe 80 feet over a wooded cliff into a shallow pool. The waterfall is worth visiting for several reasons. We have taken dozens of photos; the most striking is when it is mostly frozen over in the coldest part of winter. We have also carried a lunch along to eat and watched visitors as they climb. The various levels of dress and skill are entertaining: men in unnecessary hiking gear, young ladies in high heels and miniskirts, mama-sans in their 80’s, and little kids just skipping along. We recommend you wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes. We found the path negotiable but muddy in the fall and slippery because of ice in the winter. As it is a shaded, rocky area, it tends to be cooler than the surrounding countryside, so dress warmly, too. We recommend you time a Sunday drive for the late morning so the sun is high for photographs and the traffic is not jammed up as you come back toward base (usually 3:00 to 5:30 pm). In the summertime, go in late afternoon and take a picnic supper to eat as you take in the view. During your hike back, keep an eye out for the face on the coffee shop’s wall. When you see the face, you will know that you are near the car park. In the fall and winter, reward yourself with a warm drink at the coffee shop, or maybe a cup of soup. The coffee shop also offers a variety of pottery, so you may end up taking home a unique gift.  GPS Coordinates for the parking lot are 35.73004,  139.14119.

While visiting Hinohara Waterfalls, be sure to check out the Kanotoiwa Rock, a side trip worth taking.

Hinohara Falls 1DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate (0 km) and right at the first light. You are now on Tamabashi Dori, which changes to Itsukaichi-Kaido after you cross the Tama River Bridge (2 km). The road goes in a pretty straight line out to Itsukaichi, the first town in the hills (although it curves left after the bridge and merges right at 7 km). In the middle of Itsukaichi, you come to a “T” intersection in front of the train station (11.2 km). Turn left and continue on through the town. You will see signs showing Hinohara ahead. At the “Y” intersection (15 km), stay to the left. When you come to another “T” intersection at Motoshuku (19.9 km), turn right. In about a 1/2 km, just past a school crossing and opposite a bus turnaround (20.5 km), turn left up a hill just before crossing the first bridge. After going over a narrow bridge, you may park in a small parking area near a rustic coffee shop or continue further up the road to a larger parking area. (Note: the Okutama Nature Map calls this the Hossawanotaki waterfall.) From the lower car park, you will find the path to the waterfall after you walk back across the little bridge and go right. From the higher car park, follow the path that starts by the restrooms and meets the main path up to the waterfall. Once you pass the bathrooms and start heading down the hill you turn right on the very first little bridge path. Make sure you pass by the little ice cream store and you will know you are going the correct way. The easy hike will take maybe 15 minutes. Hinohara Falls 3If you want to hike more, a big map near the restroom shows many other options, or simply start walking up the road from the parking lot. There are forest trails on both sides. Rod & Cheryl Mees. Liz Ruskin updated 2010; photos Sandy Sax, Kelly O’Donnell & Michelle Nexon.