Category Archives: Daytrips

Higashiyamato South Park

Higashiyamato South Park is a place where history meets fun. Only 15-20 minutes from the East gate it is a nice park to picnic in, play sports or cool off in the summer when the water area opens in July/August. The former Hitachi Aircraft Engine Factory and WWII memorial is situated on the park grounds. In 1938 this Factory turned out aircraft engines but was later destroyed during WWII when the area was bombed out. It now serves as a Memorial to those who lost their lives there. There is a nice track to run on, tennis courts and a field where many local schools play sports. On one end of the park is the city swimming pool. On the other side is a man-made creek. Check the park website for details on the dates this creek is open to play in. – Jennifer Secor, August 2018

Park web-site: https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index052.html#googtrans(en)

Hiratsuka Beach/Shonan Beach Park

Only 71 minutes (tollway route) from Yokota is a great sandy family friendly beach to cool off in during the hot summer months. We found this beach on a spur of the moment stop after a road trip we took. There is free parking lot at Shonan Beach Park (a local swimming pool/park) but you need to arrive early to get a spot because the area is well known to the locals and is a popular beach for families and surfers. Walk down the street to the left of the parking entrance and onto the pedestrian bridge over the highway, onto the other side and through the greenery to get to the beach. We liked this beach because unlike many other Japanese beaches, there are showers where you can rinse off (most beaches don’t have a shower area), bathrooms and a beach side kiosk with sandwiches, pizza, ice cream, fries, etc. that is open during summer months. This is a family friendly beach that is sandy with breakers in place to keep the waves smaller in the swimming zone. There are lifeguards posted here during the day too. Keep in mind though that this beach is not tattoo friendly, so cover your tattoos. GPS Coordinates: 35.317392,139.354371. Parking hours vary by the month so check for updates on the park website. In the months of July & August it was posted you can park at Shonan Park from 9am-7pm. – Jennifer Secor, August 2018

Shonan Beach Park website: http://www.s-n-p.jp/english/shonankaigan_park/

Hinode Big Buddha

Hokoji Temple – Shiozawayama Zenkoji Kano Royal Buddha

About a 25 minute drive from base there is a Daibutsu (Big Buddha) which is 18m tall on the side of a mountain at Hokoji Shrine. This Buddha was completed this past year and is larger than the famous Big Buddha of Kamakura. Parking can be found at the shrine. Admission was free but we were advised this may change after Oct. 2018 (so check their website for updated information). There is a beautiful short trail through the forest from the parking lot to the Daibutsu. My children enjoyed the scenery of the forest. At the end of the trail you will reach the Daibutsu on the side of the mountain where there is a view of the town of Hinode.
Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm
Parking Fees:
500 yen for car
1,000 yen for bus
200 yen for motorcycle
Website (You will need to use a web translator): https://entakuzan-houkouji.or.jp/about/
-Jennifer Secor, June 2018

Sankeien Gardens – Yokohama

Memorial Day weekend we headed to Yokosuka and followed up with a trip through Yokohama. There, we went to a beautiful Japanese Garden with a couple temples located on the premises. There is a nice walkway around a pond through a forested area where you can see some old thatched roof structures. Around the end of May through the beginning of July the irises are in full bloom which makes for a beautiful scene. Also, Sankeien does a Firefly Festival at night during that time frame. Check their website for details on current events: http://www.sankeien.or.jp/en-about/index.html

Admission is:

Adult ( 15 years old and above) 700yen
Children ( 14 years old and under) 200yen
City residents 65 years old and above
*Please show the Hamatomo Card issued by Yokohama City
200yen
Parking Fees: 500 yen up to 2 hours; 100 yen for every additional 30 minutes.  Automobiles/Buses 1,000 yen maximum per day
-Jennifer Secor, June 2018

Glico Pia East Factory Tour (Pocky Stick Tour)

We recently took a trip to Saitama and did the Glico Pia East Factory Tour. It was about an hour commute by toll-way. Tolls cost 1370 yen each way. Reservations are required in advance. We had a group of 8, ages 3+. The tour is done entirely in Japanese with no English translators available. The company history explanation does have English subtitles if you ask. The tour is 70 minutes. No strollers or pictures were allowed in most of the factory. We had fun touring the factory and learning how Pocky & Pretz sticks are prepared & packaged. If you have 2nd/3rd graders, they are allowed to decorate their own Pocky stick if you obtain a ticket at the beginning of the tour. (No adults or younger children allowed to participate in the Pocky stick decorating part). The cost of participation is 500 yen. They get to keep the sticks they decorate. You also receive a sample bag for visiting the factory. The tour admission & parking is free. More information can be found on this site: https://travel.gaijinpot.com/pocky-factory/
– Jennifer Secor, June 2018

Tokorozawa Lily Garden (Yuri Matsuri)

In mid June thru early July there is a Lily Festival (Yuri Matsuri) across the street from the Seibu Dome at the Tokorozawa Lily Garden (fairly close to base). As June is the rainy season in Japan, we decided to take advantage of a clear day and head to the Lily Festival.  It was like a fairytale. Flowers were in a field surrounded by forest. Admission & hours may fluctuate from year to year so be sure to check the website:
There is no parking lot for this Garden. You will need to park in a paid lot or maybe the nearby shrine parking lot if spots are available. The Seibu Dome Parking was not allowed without a baseball ticket. Try to avoid a baseball game day due to congestion and lack of parking options. This Garden is off a train line as well. – Jennifer Secor, June 2018

 

Canyons – Canyoning at Minakami

If you want a one of a kind of adventure while living in Japan, try canyoning with Canyons Adventure Tours.  My husband talked me into doing a trip to Canyons, Minakami with Yokota Outdoor Recreation for my birthday in July.  It was about a 2 hour bus ride from base.  The first canyoning tours in Japan were started by Canyons in Minakami in 1988 and it has grown into one of the biggest canyoning destinations in the world.  The season typically runs from late April to late October depending on the water flow in the canyons.  The water can be cool but they provide wet suits and all the proper gear you will need.  You can also sign up for a tour using their web-site.  They have many English speaking guides.  We had 3 on our tour and one Japanese guide for the Japanese couple that joined us.  Everything was very well organized, instructions were thorough, and the guides were very attentive to questions and concerns.  We did the Fox Canyon trip which was a half day, approximately 3 hour tour.  From the main Canyons base you take a short bus ride to the start.  One of the guides will take photos the entire trip that you can access after the tour for free.  They also take videos but they were un-savable from their site.  I personally was challenged by parts of the Canyon but my husband thought the entire trip was a blast.  I had a moment of being sucked under a waterfall where they had to pull me out and push me to the other side but I survived to tell about it.  I would definitely recommend this trip for any thrill seekers wanting a challenge.  You cannot be pregnant or have any heart conditions and will sign a waiver before starting.  After the tour was complete they brought us back to the Canyons office for a snack.  You could purchase beer and additional food also at their snack bar.  Canyons also offers White Water rafting tours and you can do a combo trip if you want to make a day of it.  They also offer tours at an Okutama location.  – Angela Vaillant, May 2018

Website: https://canyons.jp/en/
Hours: office is open 8:00am-5:00pm daily

E-mail: info@canyons.jp
PHONE: 0278-72-2811

 

Hakone Venetian Glass Museum

Last August my family of 4 visited the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum. My husband found this place on Google maps and knew I was missing Europe’s charms during a particularly wet August here and wanted to give me a piece of Tuscany!  We escaped the rains of Yokota one Saturday and enjoyed beautiful sunshine in Hakone where we visited several museums and the infamous ropeway.  I am writing just about this museum, lesser known among Americans, though the entire Hakone area is beautiful and definitely deserves much exploring! This complex consists of a garden, Venetian glass museum, modern glass museum, cafe, gallery shop, and glass experience studio.

The beautiful spring through fall blooming garden features paved walks lined with many statues and sculptural elements – both glass and other elements.  When we visited mid August, some late blooming blue hydrangeas were still hanging on to life.  There are also rose features, a Christmas feature, a mountain of glass leaves and Autumn foliage feature as well as a permanent light corridor and outdoor gigantic hanging crystal glass twinkling and glittering in the sunlight. I loved the glass sculptural elements playing off the sun, combined with the natural flowers and water features to create fantastic photos! We spent our time walking through every inch of the gardens looking for hidden surprises in each nook and cranny.

The museum buildings housed Japan’s only collection of Venetian glass – both from ancient times, through the Renaissance period, up until modern times. The exhibition was very nice and somewhat extensive but I felt just a bit underwhelmed having toured Venice, Murano and Burano, Italy glass factories just 4 years ago. In the small rotunda of one of the museum buildings there was an area roped off where, several scheduled times a day, 3-4 talented Italian men would play the filled water glasses in a 30 minute concert – featuring a famous Japanese song, a classical music repertoire, and even a Disney favorite! It’s much more than Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde”! The glass concert alone made the visit to the museum worth the trip!

The cafe was gorgeously situated on the manmade link with outdoor covered seating overlooking a panoramic view of the lovely gardens.  There was also an Italian music show featuring piano and singers.  Unfortunately, this is where the similarities to Italy ended as the small menu only offered one Italian dish!! I have to tell you the quality was bellisimo, though the portion size was rather small! The rest were Japanese curry and beef stew and, I believe hamburger. However, looking at the website as I write this, they seem to have amended their menu and now offer only 1 seasonally changing Italian selection along with a variety of teas, coffee and pastries!

The glass experience studio we walked by and didn’t partake as we have done glass blowing before in Europe and didn’t want to spend the money and wait in line for a turn.  They have a special Venetian mask creation studio right now for those visiting in the winter of 2018!  The price for creating your own work of art is on the webpage as varies based on what you create but is not included in the museum visitation price but an additional charge. – Julie O’Leary, March 2018

Web-site:  http://www.hakone-garasunomori.jp/entrance/english/

Keio-Mogusaen Garden – Plum & Wisteria Blossoms

This lovely, private, flowering tree and floral garden is atop a very steep hill not too far from Takahato Fudo temple in the Tokyo -Hino area.  It is an inexpensive 40 min drive from Yokota and not to be missed if you are a flower lover like me! In late February through early March they have a plum blossom festival which just means the private garden is open to all visitors with a small charge of 300¥ for adults and 100¥ for children, when the trees are blooming in all their pink, white, and yellow glory!  The garden features 500 plum trees in 50 varieties!

We visited on a late Saturday afternoon, Feb 24, 2018 and it was only slightly busy.  Besides the stalwart walkers, there were several groups arriving by taxi up the steep hill coming from nearby Mogusaen station.  It’s 1/4 mile up a 20% grade slope to give you an idea of the steepness for those with elderly or mobility impaired visitors.  The gardens were absolutely gorgeous! There were some flowering plum trees that I’d never seen before! There was one field even featuring small yellow and white daffodils in full bloom as far as the eye could see! I am a flowering bulb enthusiast and seeing daffodils in February made my heart happy!
 
Even my teenage sons agreed it was a beautiful place.  There are many beautiful uneven stone stair steps as well as some gravelly inclines leading up to the top past the restaurant where in nice weather you can barbecue and several 30 minute walking trails leading through the garden. At the summit are nice views of Tokyo! Lots of climbing and exercise for energetic kids as well as a man-made tree lined, koi – filled pond with traditional Japanese building housing an art exhibition.  I’m not sure strollers could visit all the trails and do the steps leading up to the cashier at the entrance without difficulty.  A better bet might be a carrier for babies.  We will definitely visit again during their wisteria festival and I will report on this garden again!  – Julie O’Leary, March 2018

 

Unfortunately I could only find a Japanese language webpage but the photos and map on one of the page links were helpful.

Here is the pinned location (actually of the BBQ garden restaurant 200 or so meters straight up many stone stairs from the cashier booth at the entrance to the gardens) on Google Maps:

There is NO parking at the gardens but if you’re lucky you can find places along the street going up to the gardens or in pay parking lots at the bottom of the hill.  Note: It is about a 5 minute steep walk up a paved hill to the gardens from parking. Below is information from their website’s lavender link and it’s in English!
  • Traffic Get off at Keioi Jusugyoen Station 10 minutes on foot or 10 minutes by taxi from Sacred Sakuragaoka Station · Takahata Fudo Station.
    There is a steep slope partway from Hakusakuen Station to this garden.
  • Address Hinohikusa 560, Hino City, 191-0033
  • Telephone number phone042 (591) 3478
  • Closed holiday Wednesday
    (in the case of a holiday, next day, New
    Year ‘s holiday from 30th December to 3rd January※ It is closed every
    day during the event period
  • Opening Hours 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
    (November and December until 4:30 pm)
    Entrance fee Adult / 300 yen Child / 100 yen

Hiking from Mt. Mitake to Okutama

The hike from Mt. Mitake to Okutama is a gnarly one made even more adventurous with an overnight at an inn on the mountain.  I had a cousin of mine, a hard core hiker, coming to town so I researched some of the hiking options in the area.  My research led me to spend a night at the Shukobo Komadori-sanso Inn, a lovely little spot in the village near the top of Mt. Mitake.  This seemingly forgotten and a little bit dusty place (not perfect) was our introduction to the Japanese Inn.  My wife and I and my cousin and his girlfriend arrived after a short walk from the top of the cable car and a stop at the Mitake Visitor Center where we picked up a map of the hike (a map with Japanese letters is a must!).  Upon checking in, the innkeeper insisted that we change into our robes and return for dinner.  Dinner in the small dining room was surprisingly good!  Our room was good sized with futons on the floor and a table inside the room and on the shared patio.  A small onsen tub is available in both the women’s and men’s washroom.  The next morning we were served a hearty breakfast before we headed for Okutama.  This hike is no joke.  We summited two different mountains as we trekked up and down (it seemed like the trail was never flat).  A few of the spots had great views of Mt. Fuji.  Bring lots of food and water; there are no vending machines up here, baby. The trail leads down to Okutama where you can get some food and take the train back home. This hike is not for children. Teens may be okay.  This trip sure makes for a pretty simple 24 hour getaway from Yokota for those with only one day to spare.  Happy Travels!  – Zeke Lyons, January 2018

http://www.komadori.com/

Trout Fishing Near Yokota

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese for their ingenuity.  In the winter months, some of the water parks fill their pools with trout.  One example is the Seibu-yen – the amusement park just about 15 minutes from base up by the Seibu Dome.  I’ve fished both here and at Akigawa International Trout Fishing Grounds and both are about the same setup.  It’s not cheap, but its easy.  You can bring your own fishing poles, but it’s probably best just to use their tried and true rigs. Basically, you can show up with nothing and rent everything; but I do recommend bringing a hand rag and a needle nose pliers if you have them.  They’ll rent you poles and bait and even give you a bucket or a bag for the live fish.  At Akigawa, there was an old man walking around and helping the kids catch fish. It doesn’t get any easier than this.  At the end of the day, you walk your fish to the kitchen and have them cleaned for free at Akigawa or  ¥100 at Seibu.  Both places have a restaurant and cafe and Seibu has charcoal grills and picnic tables to throw the fish on and eat right away.  I was at Akigawa on a quiet day and nobody was cooking fish there, but they do have all kinds of cooking options.  You can even rent a party gazebo with friends to cook and hangout all day.  It’s also a comfortable place for non-fishing moms and dads to relax in the sun on a sunny day.

If you are looking to fish, I recommend starting at Akigawa.  It’s a pretty 30 minute drive up the valley to a sunny spot on the river with artificial pools.  Some English was spoken at Akigawa.  The fish were surprisingly tasty for farm-raised fish. Beware: it’s hard to resist the rides at Seibu-yen; you’ll have to walk through the amusement park to get to the fishing pools.  Both places charge for parking and all in all, it adds up.  At Seibu, I paid for myself and my son.  At Akigawa I paid for just my sons.   Zeke Lyons – January 2018

Parking:  ¥500 –  ¥1000

Fishing: about  ¥3000 + rentals + cleaning per person

No tolls on road to Akigawa

Akigawa English website: http://akigawagyokyo.or.jp/akigawa_english.pdf

akigawagyokyo.or.jp

seibu-leisure.co.jp

Seibu-yen fishing

Cooking fish at Seibu-yen

Akigawa

Akigawa Fishing

Fishing success!

Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway

The views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi from the top of the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway are magnificent!  It’s an easy one hour drive from Yokota (1970Y in tolls each way) to the free parking lot at the base of the ropeway. A 3 minute trip up 600 feet in a 36 passenger gondola car takes you to the observation deck for 360 degree views of Fuji, the lake and the Alps in the distance.  A short ten minute hike leads to the top of Mt. Tenjo and a longer 3 hr trail leads to Mitsutoge-yama.  After enjoying the views, when you get back to the base you probably won’t be able to resist the smell that the comes from the Fujiyama cookie factory.  It’s okay, it’s only 140Y for a Fuji shaped cookie.  Zeke Lyons – January 2018

www.kachikachiyama-ropeway.com/

Summit of Mt. Tenjo

Ropeway

Observation deck

Fujiyama cookies

Related links:  https://yokotatravel.com/famous-traditional-houtou-noodles/

Sayama Ski Hill

The indoor ski hill at Sayama at the Seibu Dome is a uniquely Japanese place to learn to ski or snowboard before you hit the big time at a real resort.  A short and scenic 20 minute drive from the base gets you to the Seibu Dome. Most of the signage is in Japanese, but I’ve been fine just mumbling and pointing (as usual) to the very friendly and accommodating staff.  The best part is that kids under 13 are free.  When you arrive, purchase a lift-ticket at the counter and enter through the booth.  If you plan to go a few times, the 500 Yen membership card is worth it as Thursdays are “Guys night” for members. The lifts are one-person at a time and easy enough to navigate for kids.  For the first time, you can walk up the hill slightly to let your kids try it out before getting on the lift.  At the bottom of the hill is a nice sitting area with hot food and drinks available (my favorite part). I’m not sure about coming in as a non-skiing observer, but there is at least one bench on the outside. *Note, if you are considering teaching your kids to ski/board, think twice about whether you really need to do it yet. I’ve seen some dads/kids up there looking pretty miserable (including myself). Also, it means a few years of bunny slopes only.  A day at Sayama helps you figure it all out for less.  Good luck!  Zeke Lyons – December 2017

Open from late October until April

Lift tickets starting at 3100 Yen for four hours (Guy’s night on Thursday for 2000 Yen)

Parking: 1200 Yen

Lockers: 500 Yen (you can change in the parking lot and skip the lockers – you can also leave a bag at the bottom of the slope)

Rentals available, including clothing. At least one English-speaking instructor is available for lessons. 

http://www.princehotels.com/en/ski/kids/sayama.html

Blu Jam Cafe – Daikanyama

Our family recently stayed at the New Sanno for a night to venture out closer to Tokyo.  We tried a great spot in Daikanyama called Blu Jam Café one morning for breakfast.  The area is a short train ride from the hotel, leaving Hioh Station to Daikanyama Station or Naka-Meguro Station.  They offer fresh food from local farmer’s markets and have no freezers on site, so you know everything is fresh!  Many of their ingredients are also organic and made in house.  The menu has many breakfast/brunch options and most were Gluten Free.  We tried the California Omelette, Morning Hash, and our kids loved the Chocolate Chip Pancakes.  My husband also tried their specialty latte called The Dirty Chai.  The prices were reasonable and the staff were easy to communicate with.  This is definitely a spot we will return to! – Angela Vaillant, November 2017

Website: https://www.blujamcafejapan.com/
HOURS: Daily 8:00am-9:00pm – Closed Tuesdays
PHONE: 03-6455-1446

Related links:  https://yokotatravel.com/?s=Daikanyama

Vertere Beer Cafe – Okutama

A 45 minute drive from base, Okutama is an easy day trip with some beautiful views of the Tama River.  While visiting there one weekend we stumbled upon a brewery called Vertere Beer Cafe.  It is tucked back on a small street across from the Okutama Train station.  We were able to parallel park on the street but there are also paid lots in town.  We took our 8 and 4 year old boys with us so it was child friendly during the day.  They had a variety of foods you could order along with a nice beer menu.  We tried the homemade pickles, chips & salsa and french fries but there were many other options on the menu.  We tried 4 out of their 5 beers and liked them all.  They did not have a tasting flight so we both ordered two glasses and sampled each others.  My husband liked the Cream and Red IPA while I enjoyed the Weizen and Golden.  We sat out back in their garden area for about an hour before going out to explore more of the area.  Its definitely a spot we will return to!

– Angela Vaillant, September 2017

 

3 day weekend in Shimoda and Hakone

Our favorite 3 day weekend in Japan was spent in Shimoda and Hakone over the July 4th holiday weekend.  I sent my husband a bunch of google pins I had seen shared on Facebook that I thought looked fun and he came up with an itinerary to visit as many spots as we could.  We have two boys, 8 and 4, so all our locations needed to be family friendly and fun for the kids.

We packed up our car early Saturday morning and started our drive to our first spot, a place called the seven waterfalls on the Izu Peninsula.  It took us about 2 hours to get there from base and we spent about ¥3000 in tolls.

We walked down from the free parking lot and first ventured down to view some waterfalls at the bottom of the hill.  It was just a short walk down some stairs and along the water.  Worth a quick trip down to check out the views.

We then went looking for the onsen we had heard about called Amagisou.  This was just a little farther down the road.  It was inside a hotel so we went to the front desk to pay.  They had a QR code you could scan with your smart phone for a discount as well.  After paying (¥2000/adult, ¥1000/child) we headed downstairs to the men’s and women’s changing rooms where we could change into our bathing suits before walking down to the hot springs.  Connected to the changing rooms were very nice gender specific no clothes indoor onsens. It was a short walk down some stairs to a beautiful waterfall with hot springs surrounding it.  One of the hot baths was too warm for the kids but most were just fine to sit in for a good time period.  There was also a pool that the boys enjoyed jumping and playing in.  We stayed for about two hours, most of which we had the whole place to ourselves.  The best part of the onsen was the beautiful scenery.  It was truly relaxing hearing the sound of the waterfall behind you as you soaked in the warm water.

From here we drove to our hotel, Pension Surf Rider, about a 45 minute drive from Amagiso.  Our room had one full bed and two single beds, a bathroom and shower.  The room was very small but we really just needed a place to sleep.   The people working there did not speak much English but they gave us plenty of handouts about the nearby area.   They had a wonderful breakfast in the morning but we realized we were probably supposed to book at the time you make the reservation.  We were also able to book a family bath time in their outdoor bath.  This was a new experience for us but we all enjoyed it!

Five minutes from the hotel we drove to Dogashima which is known for its stone formations, cliffs and caves formed by the lava flow of past volcanic eruptions and shoreline erosion.  There was a parking lot right at the park and a family mart across the street if you wanted to grab a snack.  The boys enjoyed climbing on the rocks and walking the trails.  The views were amazing and it was a great place to take photos.

The next day we planned for a beach day in Shimoda.  Before hitting the beach we visited Ryugu Sea Cave (about a 50 minute drive from our hotel).  The kids played in the water a bit and it was another great photo opp spot.

We passed 3 nice beaches within 1 mile of the cave but settled on Kisami Beach.  There was a free parking lot right across the road.  We spent most of our day here enjoying the sand, sun and water.  The waves were perfect for our 8 year old to boogie board.

We packed up the car late afternoon and started our drive to Hakone.  An estimated 2 hour drive turned into a 3 hour drive because of traffic.  We spent ¥2000 in tolls along the way.  We checked into our next hotel, Hakone Hotel Kowakien, where we stayed the next two nights.  We really enjoyed this Japanese style hotel.  The grounds were beautiful and the hotel was in close proximity to more of the locations we planned to visit.  There was also a Family Mart right next to it where we purchased easy dinners and drinks.  The hotel offered breakfast and dinner buffets but we chose to save money eating Yakitori and sandwiches from the Family Mart.  Our family room had 4 single beds, two vanities and a shower/tub room.

Our first full day in Hakone we walked across the street from the hotel to the Yunessen Resort and Spa.  The kids were able to enjoy a large pool and outdoor water slides while the adults enjoyed the wine, coffee, green tea, and pearl baths.  We also experienced the feet eating fish called Dr. Fish.  There was an eatery on site so we were able to grab lunch there.  You could also leave the resort and come back later if you wanted to take a break at the hotel.

Yunessun entry fee – Adults ¥3000, Child ¥1800 (hotel did offer a discount coupon with stay)

We took a break from the resort to visit the large Tori Gate on Lake Ashi (Shinto Shrine).  It was a short drive from the hotel and it was another great spot to take photos.

We checked out of our hotel on Monday and made one last stop before heading home.  We had heard great things about the Open Air Museum in Hakone and it did not disappoint.  The grounds were absolutely stunning and the art was unique and beautiful.  There were many structures the kids could play in or climb on.  We also enjoyed a family foot bath.

Museum entry fees – ¥1600/adult, ¥800/child

On our way out of Hakone we stopped in town for coffee and a bite to eat for our drive home.  We found a cute little bakery called “Bakery & Table” which had a wide variety of pastries and coffees.

It was an awesome 3 day weekend and we felt we got to experience a lot of great places in a short amount of time!  Our drive back to base from Hakone was only about an hour and 45 minutes and another ¥3000 in tolls.  Definitely close enough to also be done as a day trip!  – Angela Vaillant, August 2017

Spring Valley Brewery, Daikanyama

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

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

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

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

Wabist, Japanese gift shop

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

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

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

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

Suntory Hakushu Distillery

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

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

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

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

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

Suntory Hakushu Distillery (coordinates: 35.826441, 138.302564)

Enoshima East side Beach (Katase Higashi-hama Beach)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the area here: Kamakura

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

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

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