Category Archives: Kid Stuff

Makaino Farms

    Makaino Farms is the ultimate Farm experience and perfect place for an outdoor family day. We happened upon the farm while driving to Kyoto. We weren’t able to stop but I took a picture of the sign and made sure to stop on our way home.

      On our way home we parked in the spacious and free parking lot with no problem. It was a Saturday when we went but the farm didn’t feel overly crowded. Entry into the farm was 1000 yen per adult and 600 for children. Make sure to check the sign with all activities and times as you enter. We arrived at 3pm and by the time we discovered the sign it was at the end of our day.

      Makaino Farms has everything you could think of when you think of a farm. There are petting zoos, horse rides, tractor rides and much more. You can walk goats for 20 minutes which cost 300 yen. It was quite a sight watching people walk the goats. There are several vending machines containing animal food to feed the various animal all over the property. Other animals experiences that are free include releasing sheep into a nearby field and milking cows. Again, check the schedule because some things such as milking cows are only done at certain times.

      Animals aren’t all you will find at Makaino Farms. They also offer many craft and food experiences. You can make pottery, candles and bags. There is a wool factory you can spin wool or make a felt craft all with wool from sheep on the farm. Crafts are an additional fee ranging from 200 to 800 yen.

      Personally, I was a bit sad we missed the food experiences. Paying anywhere from 400 to 1600 yen you can partake in sausage, cheese, cookie or butter making. We caught the end of a butter making class and it looked like fun. They also offer kids cooking from ages 5-10 for 1000 yen.

     If you just want a place to let the kids run wild you will find it here as well. They have several play areas that both my girls ages 1.5 and 4 loved. After playing we relaxed in the hammock forest, which is just what it sounds like, a bunch of hammocks hanging in a wooden area. You could easily spend all day exploring this wonderful place. We only spent a couple hours before strolling through the store that contains fresh milk and lots of goodies. Before we hit the road to drive 1.5 hours back to base we filled our bellies at Ousamano Curry. The naan wraps were amazing and my girls loved the curry. We will be going back again before leaving Japan. – Deena Brunson, May 2019

www.makaino.com

Legoland Japan Resort

My family of 4 recently visited Legoland Japan Resort in Nagoya.  It was about a 4 hour drive from base and approximately Y4000 in tolls each way.  We visited to celebrate my son’s 6th birthday and it was perfect for his age.  Our 9 year old son also enjoyed the trip.  We booked a single overnight package to include a themed room, 2 day entry into Legoland park, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, and one single entry into SeaLife Nagoya which is also on site.  The cost was Y72,600 for everything.  Legoland Japan opened in April 2017 and SeaLife Nagoya opened in April 2018 so everything is new and as clean as you would expect from any Japan park.  Legoland has 7 different themed lands to include Factory, Bricktopia, Adventure, Knight’s Kingdom, Pirate Shores, Miniland, and Lego City.  The adults’ favorite was Miniland with Lego displays of iconic places in Japan such as Mt. Fuji, Shibuya Crossing, and Tokyo Station.  The boys favorite was probably Knight’s Kingdom because that is where the largest roller coaster was located.  We all really enjoyed the Submarine Adventure ride as it took you underwater with real fish and sharks.  The majority of rides are designed for younger kids but my 9 year old had fun with most.  There are also multiple Lego building areas throughout the park to take a break from the rides.  The park food was decent and not too pricey.  They have their own popcorn buckets, and you can choose Salt or Caramel flavors.

After our first full day at the park we grabbed our bags and checked out our Ninjago themed room.  Other themes you could choose were Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, and Lego Friends.  The room we chose had a queen bed and a bunk bed for the kids.  The TV on the kids side of the room played all Lego shows and movies, and one station was in English.  The hotel restaurant food was buffet style.  There was a play area for the kids next to the restaurant as well as a bar. Upon check in, we also signed up for the group birthday party held each night.  This was free, and our son received a Lego gift and photo opp with the LegoLand character.  It was all in Japanese, but he was able to play along.

We went Sunday-Monday and found that Sunday was much less busy with short wait times for the rides.  Monday was much busier, and we had double to triple the wait time for rides.  We took a break on Monday from waiting and visited the SeaLife Nagoya Aquarium.  It was small but the boys enjoyed seeing sharks and coloring fish on a computer screen that swam out on a big screen at the end.

I highly recommend a visit to this park if you or your kids love Legos.  It was definitely worth the travel time and cost! – Angela Vaillant, January 2019

Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat/Sun 10am-6pm (check their web-site calendar for closures and time changes for peak season/off season/holidays)

Parking:  There is one parking garage for the park and hotel.  Parking fee was not included in overnight stay.  We paid Y2500 for an overnight stay.

Web-sites:  Legoland Park  – https://www.legoland.jp/en/, Legoland Hotel – https://www.legoland.jp/en/legoland-hotel/hotel/

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

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!

Baseball Batting and Pitching Cages – Hamura Dome and Murayama Sportsland

Taking my sons to the batting cages in Japan bring back great memories of going to batting cages with my dad.   I wish I had discovered the batting and pitching cages at the Hamura Dome sooner.  They are only a few minutes from the base and are a great place to blow some yen on a school night (it’s not super cheap). All the cages are operated by a ticket purchased from the machine and everything is really easy to figure out.  You have to buy pitching and batting tickets separately.  The workers at the desk can give you a kids bat, but other bats and helmets are inside the cages.  Choose your speed and hit away.  Though most of the customers are adults, I found it to be OK – the slowest pitch is 70 kph – for about ages seven and up.  My younger son likes the miniature golf hole.  There are lots of great family places to eat down the street when you make this a weeknight boys night out.

Parking: 200 Yen

Batting cages and pitching cages about 300Yen per session or cheaper if you buy a bundled ticket.  

Hamura Dome Batting Cage

Hamura Dome Mini Golf

Hamura Dome Pitching practice

On the East Side, check out the old-school batting cages at Murayama Sports Land just a few blocks east of Aeon Mall.  There are also cages that spit out soccer balls, ping pong balls, tennis balls and basketball.

Free parking. Most of the cages are 200 Yen.  Zeke Lyons – January 2018

Sportsland Soccer Cage

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

Saitama Museum of rivers

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

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

image5image2


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

Aneby Trimpark

The rainy season is almost upon us, and right after that we will be faced with the depths of a humid summer. This to me signals one major thing – ideas for ways to keep children occupied indoors!3568e394-1d60-43e3-a07c-b367b3d816e7
A new play center has opened on the third floor of The Mall on 16. It is part of a chain of indoor play centers – similar to Bornelund at Aeon Mall. The name of the chain is Aneby Trimpark.2f9b12d4-60a0-4397-95b0-94e9f19a0656
The play center has a lot of wide open space for your little ones to run around, as well as engaging activities like a trampoline, indoor slide and playground, climbing wall, musical activities, a water lab, building lab, kitchen area – it’s really quite comprehensive! It was a nice change of scenery for us – and sometimes that’s what the kids need! Kim Bosack- May 20169833a1a0-877f-4078-bac7-f6a604bb5d88

PRICE: It’s 800 yen for an hour of play for kids, with a 600 yen charge for adults – and a 200 yen extension for each 15 minutes after that, or you can get an all day pass for 1600 yen for a child with the 600 yen adult charge.
HOURS: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
DIRECTIONS: To get there, take a right out the terminal gate and simply follow the signs for Route 16. About 6.5km down the road you’ll see “The Mall” on your left. Parking is free, and then just head up to the third floor!
WEBSITE:  www.anebytrimpark-labo-m.com/guide. (It is in Japanese though, but gives you a bit of an idea of the setup of the facility.)

Kidzania!

Kidzania is such a clever concept and an absolute must if you have kids.
Arranged like a city, the basic premise is allowing the kids to try out different “jobs” in the city and get paid for their work.2014-10-08 10.51.10

There are over 50 jobs to choose from ranging from pizza maker, to flight attendant, to fire fighter, and everything in between. 2014-10-08 09.07.35 HDR

Parents are allowed to watch through the window at the different jobs, but are not allowed to participate. They really encourage the kids to be independent.

Upon arrival you will be given a schedule card, you take this to the job that you are interested in and make a reservation.
2014-10-19 14.57.34
You can only make one reservation at a time. The groups are very small for each job, so I felt like we were getting almost one on one instruction all day. Each job lasts about 30 minutes. (Smaller groups of kids are easier to handle. If you want to go in a group with friends, prepare to not hang out together. All of the scheduling takes some coordination on the part of the adult, and many jobs only take up to 4 kids per session. Just a heads up).
2014-10-08 12.46.14

After the job, the kids are paid in “kidzos” that they are able to deposit into the bank, or spend for services, food or trinkets at the “mall”. They are also given a trading card at each job, to collect.2014-10-19 14.58.55

Kidzania is one of the best things we’ve done here!
It certainly rivals Disney in every way, in my opinion.  Also, being completely indoors, it makes for a great rainy /snowy day option. I highly recommend it! Jamie Cowan, August 2015

Helpful hints:

  1. Check out the reservations page on their website, it will tell you if there is availability on any given day, or already sold out.
  2. Like anything else, I would avoid weekends and Japanese Holidays whenever possible. Coincidentally, the website actually flags the Japanese holidays for you on the calendar.
  3. Wednesday’s are English days and most of the activities are presented in English. Even on a non-English day I think you would still get the gist of what was going on, though.
  4. There are two shifts; 1st shift is from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, and 2nd shift is from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. You will only be allowed in the building during your shift. No matter your shift, arrive EARLY! The line can be hours long, even with a reservation.
  5. Activities are for children 3-15 years of age. There is a toddler room, for younger siblings, but younger than 3 yrs are not allowed to participate. There are also a few parent lounges.
  6. You cannot bring in your own food, but food is available to purchase. Many of the jobs include food, like the pizza maker.
  7. Kidzania is actually inside a mall, so you won’t see it from the street.
  8. Prices; the average price for a child is Y3450 and adult Y950, however there are several price changes due to holidays and there are also discounts if you buy far enough in advance, so check the website for specifics.
  9. I had a hard time booking tickets online for some reason, but you can also purchase them from the Family Mart on base, this way you also have something tangible to hand the ticket person.
  10. The train will take approximately 80 minutes, including several transfers. Driving will take about the same, depending on traffic. You may want to consider staying at the New Sanno, before or after, which cuts the drive to 20 minutes. (Rumor has it that a Kidzania location will be opening in Tachikawa, but I can’t find any information. Fingers crossed!)

Kidzania has a very good website, in English that will also answer many questions that you may have, I recommend reading up before you go.

http://www.kidzania.jp/tokyo/en/

PHONE: 057 006 4012

TRAIN: Toyosu station is the closest station, then it is about a 10 minute walk to LaLaport Toyosu, the Kidzania location.

GPS 35.6562989 139.791486

PARKING Parking is available at LaLaport Toyosu 24 hours a day. For complete information,
please check the LaLaport Parking Accesspage.

Car height must not exceed 2.1m. The first hour of parking is free.
Guests who visit for the 1st Shift (9:00am – 3:00pm) receive 5 additional hours of free parking.
Guests who visit for the 2nd Shift (4:00pm – 9:00pm) receive 4 additional hours of free parking.
Please present your parking ticket for validation at the entrance of KidZania Tokyo.

Hiking Mt. Fuji with kids

Every year thousands of people make the trek to the top of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s 2014-07-14 15.03.17tallest peak. A hike up Mt. Fuji most popularly begins at the “5th station” and ends at the 10th station, or summit. The Outdoor Recreation group, on base, take many trips to Fuji every summer, but you must be 16 years or older to join their tours. Though quite a challenging hike, it is very possible for children of all ages to make it to the top. My daughters were 6 and 7 when we made our trip up Mt. Fuji, so here are a few tips and suggestions for anyone considering this amazing adventure.

First off, and most importantly, your child needs to have the desire. If they are not 100% on board, I would not attempt it. The going can certainly get rough, so having your child’s buy in is paramount. (**TIP- if you think your child is not “all in” you can still easily make it to the 6th station, take in the views, turn around and have ice cream at the 5th station, and call it a day.)2014-08-09 08.28.04 HDR

The terrain is challenging, but not insurmountable. The 5th to 7th station trail is mostly gravelly rock on a steep incline.2014-08-09 07.00.52 HDR

After the 7th station, it gets more rocky, and boulder-like. My girls almost did better than we did because kids are so agile with low centers of gravity!2014-08-09 08.49.11 HDR

And closer to the top, it is almost straight up, like a stair case.2014-08-09 13.20.57 HDR

The down route consists of switchbacks all the way down the mountain, which I found considerably easier than the up. And it’s much faster, too. (If you don’t make it to the top, there is a path to reach this down route around the 8.5 station. Find it! It will make life easier.)2014-08-09 14.38.43

The Yoshida Trail is the most popular trail and also the most accessible from base. There are several mountain huts with food, and drink along the way, also lots of restrooms along the way, which cost about Y200, for each use. (Keep in mind, you may only go inside  most of the huts if you are staying the night there. There is no other form of shelter on the mountain, as you are way above the tree line. This can get difficult if you run into bad weather.)2014-08-09 11.15.53 HDR

Speaking of weather, the volatility of this mountain is your biggest unknown and can either make or break your trip. Even if you have clear skies at the bottom, you never know what’s going on up top. High winds are common, as is rain and even snow in early July. Trust me, staying dry is HUGE when it comes to reaching the summit, especially with kids. We bought the cheap plastic rain outfits from a convenience store and cut them off to fit. I think this was a difference maker in our success. (On the other hand, I had a friend get third degree burns on her lips from sun exposure, so be prepared for anything and everything!) I like this website for weather at the top. http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Fuji-san/forecasts/37762014-08-09 12.47.55 HDRAltitude sickness can also be a very real problem for people of all ages. Make sure you take lots of breaks and have lots of snacks and drinks on hand. (Find out more about altitude sickness here. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6901.html) I would recommend buying an oxygen can at Outdoor Recreation before you go, if you don’t need it then they will let you return it for a refund. This was a difference maker in my oldest daughter reaching the top. (You remove the lid and it attaches like a face mask, then push the button and breathe.)2014-08-10 07.35.53

Lets talk logistics. The hiking season is very short, officially only July and August, and sometimes the first few weeks of September. During July and August, the toll road that leads to the 5th station is closed to local traffic. You must park and ride the shuttle to the 5th station to begin your hike. The Fuji Hokuroku is a great place to park and the shuttle runs every 30 minutes to the 5th station, and takes approximately 30 minutes. (See the schedule here; http://www.pref.yamanashi.jp/kankou-sgn/documents/jikokuhyou.pdf ) Cost of parking is Y1,000 and cost of the shuttle, round trip, is Y1,860 adult and Y930 child, cash only. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes between 0530-2200 Sunday-Thursday and 0430-2200 on Friday and Saturday. You don’t need reservations for the shuttle, just show up and buy your ticket at a hut at the parking lot.

Be sure to take lots of yen, even more then you think you’ll need. If you are planning to buy food and water, everything gets more expensive the higher you get.  Don’t forget, the restrooms cost Y200 per use and you may want to purchase a souvenir hiking stick, as well. The initial cost was Y1,200 and you can buy stamps from each hut you reach. Each stamp costs about Y200-400, but it is such a one-of-a-kind souvenir, I’m really glad I have it.2014-08-11 15.03.00

When you make it to the top, there is an actual town with a shrine, and a ramen shop, of course! You can circle the crater if you wish, which will add an extra hour to your trip. For us, getting to the top and down before dark was our goal. It took us 8 hours to reach the summit, we spent about 30 minutes at the top, and 3 hours to climb down.    We took the 0500 shuttle and began the hike at 0530, and were back at the car by 1900 and home around 2100. So, plan for a long day. Also, throw some dry clothes in the car, for the return. Just in case! (You might consider spending the night before or after at Camp Fuji, this really cut down our drive time in the morning).2014-08-09 13.30.52 HDR

This is a good website for general information. http://www.fujiyama-navi.jp/fujitozan/en/ And, definitely stop into Outdoor Recreation to pick up a map and a list of packing essentials. They are very knowledgeable about the mountain and you can even rent water gear, and adult hiking boots. We found some very reasonable hiking boots for our daughters at Sports Depo, across from Moritown mall.2014-07-13 04.47.52 HDR

The bottom line is, you know your kid and their personality. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “fun” activity, but it was a very rewarding one for our family. It was a very good test of will and perseverance, and my  daughters still talk about lessons learned while on the side of Mt. Fuji often. So, be prepared, do your homework, and make some memories! Jamie Cowan, July 2015

DIRECTIONS TO HOKUROKU PARKING LOT: Plan on this drive taking you about 1.5 hours from base. GPS coordinates, 35.4819018, 138.7734145

Tokorozawa Aviation Museum

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

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

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

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

DIRECTIONS

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

Yomiuri Land Amusement Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIRECTIONS

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

Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIRECTIONS

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

Kinchakuda Park, Spider Lilies

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

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

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

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

Tokyo Toy Museum, Shinjuku-Yotsuya

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

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

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

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

iZoo, Izu Peninsula

DSC08589iZoo is a reptilian and amphibian zoo on the Izu Peninsula. We loved this place for the hands-on experiences we had with snakes, tortoises, and a crocodile. It’s a relatively small zoo with a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians, but they also have owls, emus, and a few farm animals. It took us under two hours to see everything. A majority of the animals are indoors, which makes it a good venue to visit on hot/wet days. There are opportunities to touch and hold reptiles with a zookeeper, at no additional cost. We were able to drape a small boa constrictor and bull snake around our necks, and we got to hold a small tortoise and baby crocodile (with an elastic band around its snout). Outside, there is a large pen dedicated to giant tortoises. For ¥1000 you can sit on a giant tortoise and get a Polaroid picture.

The inside floor is covered with loose bark, so you might want to wear closed-toe shoes. We wore flip-flops and didn’t have any issues. The zoo has 2 to 3 stories of exhibits and I don’t believe there was an elevator. At the end of the zoo tour, there is a restaurant and large gift shop with a lot of reptilian and amphibious toys.

DSC08603Junior High School students and older cost ¥1500. Elementary School Students are ¥800, and kids under 6 years old are free. Parking was free when we went over Independence Day weekend in 2014. iZoo is open daily from 09:00 to 17:00 with the last admission at 16:30. For more information call iZoo’s front desk at 0558-34-0003 or translate their website, http://izoo.co.jp/. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DIRECTIONS: iZoo is a three and a half to four hour drive from Yokota Air Base in good traffic. The GPS coordinates for iZoo parking lot are N34.73121 E138.99453. It’s a great place to visit if you are going to spend time on the southern coast of the Izu Peninsula. It is only a 5 minute drive from Kawazu City or approximately 20 to 30 minutes from the Shimoda and Yumigahama beaches.

 

Moomin Park in Saitama

Park-3637Moomin Park is a fun and unique park just 20 minutes from Yokota’s terminal gate! We spent an afternoon at the park in late March and had a wonderful hanami under the sakura trees. The park’s structures were created as replicas of a popular Finnish childrens book & TV series called the “Moomin’s”. The Moomin’s look akin to hippopotamuses and have adventures in Moominvalley. Although I had never heard of the series before we went to the park, I will definitely be checking it out.

Park-3647There were several climbing structures, a large library (all books were in Japanese), a small bridge and babbling brook (perfect for wading) and best of all; a huge adobe three-story treehouse with plenty of places to hide and play. My children spent most of their time in the treehouse exploring the nooks and windows. There were surprises at every turn; perfect for little ones and big kids too. There is plenty of space to run around or have a picnic and bathrooms are located close by, next to a little store that sells Moomin merchandise. Entrance to the park is free, as is parking.

IMG_4491On our way out, we noticed a large playground just across the street from Moomin. We were pleasantly surprised to find several play areas, including a huge climbing structure that looked like a spiders web. The ground was covered in sand, making it a perfect place to bring sand toys. My son joined a sandcastle-making party and had a ball. This playground also had a large Moominparking lot (in case Moomin’s is full), restrooms and nice shady areas.  GPS: 35.830762, 139.344619.  Phone: 042-972-7711.  Address: 893-1 Azu, Hanno, Saitama Prefecture 357-0046, Japan.  Webpage: http://www.city.hanno.saitama.jp/0000002658.html   Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM (closed on Mondays and Public Holidays). Emily Gyimah, June 2014. Photos by Emily Gyimah & Sarah Straus 2014.

Legoland Discovery Center

sarah straus legolandWe took our 6-year-old Lego loving son and 4-year-old daughter to Legoland on a rainy Sunday and had a wonderful time.  While there are plenty of places to just sit and build with Legos or build Lego race cars and race them; there are other things to do as well.  As you enter Legoland, you walk through an amazing lego replica of Tokyo that goes from day to night.  It is so detailed and imaginative.  Inside the main section there is a small ride called Merlin’s Sarah Straus LegolandApprentice, a large play area that invites kids to climb, crawl, and go down slides (for kids only) and a 4-D movie.  The movie plays every 30 minutes and is about 15 minutes long.  They provide 3-D glasses.  The movie is really loud and rather intense with lights that flash, wind that blows and even rain!  There was a long line when we entered for a ride called Kingdom Quest, so we skipped that one but it looked great too.  Stopping for one snack break at the snack bar inside, our kids played here for about 3 hours.  Couple this trip with walking along the beach in front of Decks Mall and enjoy the sand, view of Rainbow Bridge and a replica of the Statue of Liberty.  There are plenty of restaurants on site, some shopping, and nearby there is a large Ferris wheel.

Fred-9727Legoland is located in Decks Mall in Odaiba.  It is open from 10am to 9pm with last admission at 7pm.  Go to their webpage to purchase tickets ahead of time and save money on the entrance fee and avoid standing in a long line.  We had pre-purchased our tickets through their webpage for a day that snowed.  Though we couldn’t go on our appointed time, this wasn’t a problem.  We just took our receipt a few weeks later and for an extra ¥200 each we got right in.  There is a large parking lot for the mall for ¥500 per hour.  We went on a Sunday and got there in just under an hour.  The rail line Odaiba-Kaihin Kouen station on the Yurikamome Line is a 2 minute walk away.  For more information go to their webpage – Sarah Straus, March 2014.

Sarah Straus Legoland

 

Tobuki Sports Park in Hachioji

tobukiTobuki Sports Park is located in Hachioji, an easy 10 km drive from Yokota. We decided to visit the park one Sunday in January, specifically for the skateboard park. The skateboard park touts itself as the largest public skate park in Japan, and it didn’t disappoint. We had to obtain a registration card at the park office (free) and then pay to enter the skating area (¥250-¥500/day, depending on age). We found out that children under junior high school age are required to be with a guardian (who must also skate), but one of the patrons there was kind enough to watch my son. All patrons must wear helmets and protective gear and BMX bikes and roller skates/blades are allowed as well. My son had a blast and we will definitely be going back (as soon as I find a skateboard and helmet for myself).

Tobuki Sports Park also has large baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, and a climbing wall and structure. The skate park is the only area of the park that charges an entry fee. Unfortunately, there is no playground for younger kids, but there are ample grassy areas for playing and picnics. I saw a few vending machines, but no snack vendors.

After playing for a while, we decided to check out the onsen located at the entrance to the park. It was small and clean and had inside and outside bathing areas, as well as a restaurant. We spent most of our time in a bath that was infused with several different types of herbs. Entrance to the onsen was ¥700 for adults and ¥300 for children. Unlike most onsens, this facility does allow babies!  – Emily Gyimah, February 2014.

Tokyo Fire Museum

firemuseumtokyo1The Tokyo Fire Museum, located in Shinjuku, is fun and free.  We took our four-year-old son on a weekday with visiting relatives and practically had the place to ourselves. He really enjoyed trying on the costumes and playing in the firetrucks and rooftop helicopter. I enjoyed the museum itself, as it’s one of the few museums in Japan that I have been to that has information in English.  Stars & Stripes ran an excellent article on the museum titled: Red-hot destination: Tokyo Fire Museum.  Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Mondays.

DIRECTIONS:  Located at Yotsuya -Sanchome Station, Exit #2.   – Emily Gyimah, February 2014.

tokyofiremuseum2