Category Archives: Kid Stuff

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.

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Edo Wonderland in Nikko

edo wonderland odonnellEdo Wonderland in Nikko is sort of like Colonial Willimsburg for the Edo period of Japan. The whole park recreates the Edo period with buildings from the era and actors and actresses all in costume of the day interacting with the crowds. The best part are the ninjas! There are many shows throughout the day to watch the ninjas. They also walk around so there are many free photo opportunities. For an extra fee you can have your kids dress up as ninjas. The ninja costume rental was pricey at 3,900¥ per child, however, they were able to wear it for the entire day and it made for great photos and lots of fun. The costume rental is near the entrance so if you plan on doing it I recommend getting it first thing upon arrival. They will hold your street clothes for you so that you don’t have to carry them around. There were other less expensive costume rentals too, including kimonos for adults.

edo wonderland odonnellBesides the shows there are also concerts, a boat ride around the park, and some huge koi that the kids really enjoyed feeding. While some restaurants are available they are all Japanese. I was happy that I had packed a lunch for my kids as there was nothing there that mine would have eaten. There were some picnic tables available and vending machines are available for drinks.

edo wonderland odonnellDay passes include admission to all the shows. The cost is 4,500¥ for adults and 2,300¥ for children 7-12. Children ages 6 and under are free! Check their website for additional discounts that are often available to print. Also, the Youth Center and ITT often have bus trips from base. This is a great option because you get a discount for group admission and don’t have the pay the 700¥ parking fee or tolls. – Kelly O’Donnell, November 2013.

 

edo wonderland odonnellFor more information check their webpage: www.edowonderland.net/html/en/.

If anyone gets GPS coordinates for this location, please let us know!

For more on Nikko, see our Nikko entry.

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun

Water Slides by Linda Bell HakoneHakone Kowakien Yunessun is a water amusement park and spa resort in Hakone-machi, Hakone. It has over 25 water attractions with fun and kitschy theme pools like the red wine pool, green tea pool, Greek Santorini pool, and Roman baths (see photos below).  There are also different spas, water slides, and kiddie pools. Water temperatures vary between the different pools from ~100F to cold spring water. This park is great because it can entertain a wide range of ages from babies to grandparents.

Red wine spa pool linda bell hakoneTo buy tickets to the park proceed to the second floor of the building.  There are three main tickets you can buy, depending on what zones you want to visit. A ticket to the Yunessun Zone gives you entry to the swimsuit-wearing zone. Admission, here, is ¥2800 for adults and ¥1500 for children over 3 years old. A ticket to The Mori No Yu Spa Resort Zone gives entry to two separate nude areas for men and women, and admission here is adults ¥1800 and children over 3 years old ¥1200. A combo ticket can also be purchased which allows entry into both zones. This costs ¥4000 and ¥2000 for both adults and children respectively. I believe tickets for just the afternoon session can be purchased for 1pm til close, but check. Discounted tickets may be bought by using Google Translate at this web site www.yunessun.com/ticket/. A map of the park, in English, is available on the second floor, but you may need to approach a staff member in order to get one.

Greek Santorini Pool by linda bell hakoneEach ticket holder will be given a plastic bracelet which will act as a key to your locker and also allow you to purchase items at the various restaurants and vending machines. Once you pass the ticketed turnstile and take off your shoes, the locker rooms are basically down the hallway, to your right, on the same floor. The first number on your bracelet does NOT denote a particular floor for your changing room. I don’t believe there are any family changing rooms.

Roman Baths linda bell hakoneThe men’s and women’s locker rooms exit into the same area, the “Clock Square”.  There are a number of restaurant/fast-food places inside the park that range in price and variety. Tattoos are not allowed to be seen at the park. You may need to use sun block/swim tops as part of the park is outdoors. I would not recommend bringing a stroller as the park has many stairs and potentially crowded hallways, and swim diapers need to be accompanied with a swimsuit. In general, the pools aren’t very deep. Our three year old (100cm) was too small for only one of the pools.

When you’ve finished at the park, you leave through the same hallways that you entered, and pay off your bracelet’s amount at the park’s machines. We used cash, but according to the park’s website the reception takes credit cards.  We only visited the Yunessun portion of the park on a Sunday, in summer, and it was relatively crowded so I would suggest trying to go during the week to get the most out of your experience.

The Yunessun Zone opens at 9am, year round, and closes at 7pm from March-October. The rest of the time it closes at 6pm. The Mori No Yu Zone is, however, open from 11am-9pm throughout the year.  For more details about this destination, please visit their website: www.yunessun.com/english/.

Parking at Hakone Kowakien Yunessun park is ¥1000 for the day, but it might be free for the first two hours of your visit (this needs to be confirmed). Parking fees are paid to the automated machine on your way out of the parking lot. Large notes are not accepted e.g. ¥5,000. We arrived at the park after 10am, after we’d stayed the night in Hakone, and we got one of the last parking spots.  – Linda Bell, September 2013.

DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates to the entrance of the Park’s parking lot are 35.23916, 139.04460.

For more on Hakone check this separate entry: Hakone.

 

Thomas Land at Fuji-Q

photo-102bIf you have a little one who is a fan of Thomas the Train then you must visit Thomas Land inside Fuji-q Highland (Fujique) Amusement Park. It is located in the back section of Fuji-q, but feels very separate once you enter the Thomas Land section.There are nine different rides that both kids and adults can ride including a little roller coaster,  a water boat ride, and a ride that lets your kids fly Harold. photo-100You will also find a movie theater, a maze, restaurants, gift shops, and a small man made pond/creek where kids can wade in to cool off. So bring a change of clothes for them just in case.  Click here to read a description of all the attractions. 

It is a perfect day trip since it takes less than an hour and half to get there when taking the expressway. Note that it will cost you around ¥2,100 in tolls one way. So be prepared for that. There is a train station near by if you prefer.

photo-104You could easily spend hours in Thomas Land depending on how many times your children want to ride each attraction and how long the lines are. My family just recently went on a Saturday in July and the lines were very short. The longest we waited was ten minutes to ride the train.

Costs: Click here to see the entrance fees There are two options when paying to get in the park. You can pay just the entrance fee and then pay for rides as you go, which is what we did. Entrance fee is ¥1,300 for adults and ¥700 for children 3-11. Children 2 and under get into the amusement park for free. Children 2 and under also ride all the Thomas Land rides for free. So you will not need to buy tickets for them to ride the attractions. photo-101Once you get into Thomas Land you will see ticket machines that sell tickets for the rides in this section. Use these machines to buy tickets for the rides you want to go on. Rides in Thomas Land cost between ¥200-¥300 per person.

The second option is to buy a day pass which covers the entrance fee and then allows you to ride all the rides in both Fuji-q and  Thomas Land without having to buy additional tickets for each ride. See the website for more details on one and two passes. http://www.fujiq.jp/en/

photo-103Important tips
*When you exit the toll road the entrance for one of the parking lots is immediately to your left. It is easy to miss so be prepared. If you do miss it there are additional parking lots but I believe this one is the closet to the main gate.   

*Once you enter the main gate of Fuji-q you will have to go through the gift shop and a little French village called La ville de Gaspard et Lisa to get to the actual ticket counter.   There are two small rides in this village, but continue on to get to Fuji Q.  They accept both yen and credit cards.

*There are park maps available in English for both Fuji-q and Thomas Land. Once you have entered Fuji-q follow the blue line on the ground to get to Thomas Land.

*You will have to pay for parking. I believe it is ¥1000.

* Park hours for Thomas Land are 9:00-17:00 on weekdays and 9:00-18:00 on weekends and holidays  Fuji Q stays open longer.

photo-106The park closes one Tuesday a month, so check the webpage before you try to go on a Tue: http://www.fujiq.jp/en/guestservice/.

*There were only two rides inside Thomas Land that had age/height restrictions. So this amusement park is suitable for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even young elementary school ages.  We took our 3 year old and 22 month old and both enjoyed themselves.

*Fuji-q is also know as Fijikyu Highland. This may be what you find when you search for it on your map app on the Iphone.

GPS Coordinates: 35.486463,138.780627

GPS Coordinates for parking lot described above: 35.486655,138.77625           Renee Booe, July 2013


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Daiei: Grocery Store, Indoor Playground, and More

photo-93A great resource only 1km out the east gate is the Daiei. It is a store very comparable to Walmart in that you can buy groceries as well as clothes, household goods, toys, and more. The first floor houses a few fast food restaurants, a shoe store, the grocery section, and all the household goods such as dishes, towels, sporting goods, makeup, and many other items.

 

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On the second floor you will find a sit down restaurant, a ¥100 section, an arcade that includes games and small rides for little ones, clothes for men/women/children, restrooms, and even a small indoor play land.

 

The play area is called Kid’s Us Land.  It is open from 10am-8pm and is located at the very back of the store. The first time you go you will have to buy a membership card for yourself and any child over the age of two. photo-88The membership card is ¥300.The price to play is ¥105 for each 15 minutes you play and you pay this fee at the end. When you enter they will give you a necklace with a paper inside which shows your arrival time. Just show this to the cashier when you are ready to leave and pay for the amount of time you stayed. The area has tables and vending machines with drinks and ice cream and it seems acceptable to bring in snacks. There are video and arcade games that are all free. Kids can jump on a trampoline or run around in the play area that has tunnels, slides, and a ball pit. photo-91The best part about this place is the free massage chairs for the parents to lounge in while children play. There is a very small gold fish pond where your kids can actually buy bait and go fishing.  There is an additional fee for this activity so be sure to ask the cashier for details.  Visit the stores website if you would like more information. Note that the site is in Japanese.  GPS:35.73557, 139.378889.

DIRECTIONS: Go out the east gate and turn right. Turn left at the first light. At the first stoplight make the far right hand turn, not the immediate right. (See map for clarification)  Continue on this road and the store will be on the left.  Alternative Directions: Go out the east gate and turn right. Turn left at the first light. Continue on this road. Just pass the first stoplight you will see the entrance to the parking lot on the right hand side.  –Renée Booe July 2013

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Sumida Aquarium at Tokyo Skytree

sumida2 by kelly oOur plan for the day was to head to the Skytree. I was surprised when we arrived to see an aquarium at its base: Sumida Aquarium.  After our Skytree tour we decided to check it out since we literally had to pass right by it on our way out.  It isn’t super large but it is brand new and very well done. They had a jellyfish laboratory where they are breeding jellyfish and you can see the jellyfish at all different stages, from 5 days old, 1 month old, 3 months old, etc. It was an impressive collection. They also had some interesting fish which I had never seen before. My kids enjoyed this “Rock Fish”. If you look closely you will see it’s mouth and eyes. There was also a large tank of these fish that look like worms sticking up from sumda 5 by kelly othe sand. I can’t remember their name but they were fun to watch. Of course they have all the usual stuff like penguins and seals and a large tank with shark. It is entirely indoors. We were happy just to be out of the summer heat.

I don’t think I would make a separate trip just for the aquarium, however, if you are planning to visit the Skytree it is worth adding an extra hour or two to your plan if you have children with you.

Open 365 days. Hours are 9:00 – 21:00.  Adults – ¥2,000; HS students – ¥1,500; Jr. HS and Elementary ¥1,000; Children 3 and over – ¥600. – Kelly O’Donnell, July 2013

Find more aquariums: Hakkeijima Sea Paradise; Shinagawa Aquarium; Tokyo Tower; Sunshine City.

Outdoor Pools open during Summer

Here is a list of local outdoor pools open during the summer months – culled in 2012 by Shelby Hansen and passed along to Emily Parks who graciously shared it with us!  It would be wonderful to have full posts for each one of these.  If you go to one we haven’t already covered, please consider sending us a trip report.  Thank you!

Fussa Pool (first week July – first of Sept)  Open Daily. 9am-6pm. ¥200 for HS age and up, ¥100 for MS age and younger (2 hrs).  Free parking available.  Features: kid’s splash pool, simple water slides.

Hamura Pool (Mid July- first of Sept) Open Daily. 10am-6pm. ¥300 for HS+, ¥100 for MS – (2 hrs) (double for full day).  Parking available.  Features: kid’s splash pool, water slide, lazy river.  -For more information: Hamura Community Water Park

Rainbow Pool (Showa Park) (Mid July – first of Sept) Open Daily.  9:30am-6:30pm (only ’til 5:30pm weekdays in July, only ’til 6pm daily from 8/20 on). ¥2,200 for HS+, ¥1,200 for ES/MS, ¥300 yen ages 4-5, 3- free (¥500 maternity price) (full day price).  Parking available (¥800/day) (A free Park bus can take you to the pool from the Sunagawa or Tachikawa Park entrances). Features: multiple kid’s splash pools, lazy river, wave pool, water slides (for 120cm+; yellow one is for smaller kids), concessions.  Discounts on admission for paying by SUICA/PASMO (minus ¥400 for HS+), or smaller discount just for showing SUICA/PASMO (minus ¥200 for HS+).  For more information: Showa Kinen Park: Rainbow Pools.

Higashi Yamato Pool (Mid July – August 31). Open Daily 10am-6pm (only 1:30pm-6pm 7/17-20) ¥300 for HS+, ¥100 for MS, ¥50 for ES, free for 5 and under (2 hrs). No parking (though the Ito Yokado store next door has a free parking garage…and a Baskin Robins).  Features: kid’s splash pool, lazy river, water slides.

Driving directions to Higashi Yamato Pool: Go right out the east gate, turn LEFT on the 7 and go 6 km, at Imokubo Hwy turn LEFT (the large blue sign points to Imokubo, the street name is Sunagawa Nana-something), go through the tunnel under the train station and turn RIGHT at the light, come to a T intersection and turn LEFT. The pool will be on your right and they do have free parking!

Fuchuu Miyoshi Mizuasobi Hiroba (Splash Pad near Tama Hills) (late July – August 31) Open for three blocks each day 10am-12pm, 1pm-3pm, 3:30pm-5:30pm (some closures during open season) ¥160 for adults, ¥100 for HS, ¥40 for MS- (they may charge half this if they don’t ask if you’re a city resident). No parking.  Features: splash pool, simple water slides. Swim Diapers OK.

Fuchuu Kyodo no Mori Pool (near Tama Hills) (late July – August 31). Open Daily 10am-5pm. ¥300 for adults, ¥200 for HS, ¥100 for MS- (2 hrs) Parking available.  Features: kid’s splash pool with slides, lazy river, water slide (for older kids).

Inagi Pool (near Tama Hills) (mid July – August 31) Open Daily. 9:30am-5pm. ¥200 for adults, ¥50 yen for kids (2 hrs). No parking. Features: kid’s splash pool, simple water slides, lazy river.

Hakkeijima Sea Paradise

sea park cameron hillAquarium and Amusement Park all in one – there is enough going on at Hakkeijima Sea Paradise to spend an entire day – it is like a smaller version of Sea World. We went on a Monday in June and the park was almost empty. There were no lines for rides! Rides are based on height, with some rides open to all and others limited to 110, 120, and 130 cm and above. The two biggest rides were a nice steel roller coaster and a huge stomach dropping free fall, but there were also plenty of rides for little ones like the teacups. You can either pay for rides individually or purchase an all-in-one pass that includes the aquariums and rides. They advertise three aquariums, but there was really one big building (aqua museum) that has your normal aquarium fish plus a polar bear, walruses, and a sea life show. Then, there are two smaller attractions, an indoor tunnel where dolphins swim around you called Dolphin Paradise, and an outdoor area with pools where you can touch the dolphins, beluga whales, starfish, etc called Fureal Lagoon. Kids can get wet and dirty wading in fabricated tidal pools. In addition, there is a nice boardwalk where you can enjoy watching boats, wake boarders, and even beach goers across the bay. One area of the park has fishing with poles to rent. There are many dining options, from nice sit down restaurants to food courts and take out. There was no problem with bringing in our own food and drink either.

From the parking lot it is about 250 meters to the bridge, which you then must cross to get to the entrance. Stroller rental was ¥500 and located on the parking lot side of the bridge at the info center. Cross the bridge and go down the steps to find the ticket booths. There are multiple options for buying tickets – the all-inclusive for adults in the summer is ¥4900, ¥3500 for school children, and ¥2000 for kids over age 4. Costs run a few hundred yen per person cheaper in the winter. You can also buy tickets just for the aquariums or just for the rides. You can actually roam the grounds without a ticket, it is a well-kept, spacious island. Sea Paradise coordinates: 35.338129, 139.646484.

DIRECTIONS: Follow 16 as if you are going to Yokosuka. You will pay ¥250 at the Hachioji bypass. Past the Grandberry Mall you will get on the Yokosuka Yokohoma Road. Take Exit 4-1 to the left and pay the ¥800 exit toll. You won’t go far, then exit 4-3 to the left. Follow signs to go right on 357 (there will be a business there called NAPS at the correct turn).  Sea Paradise is directly in front of you, someone will direct you to turn left to parking, which costs ¥1000. In terrible traffic it took us almost 3 hours to get there, but that seemed unusual. It only took 2 hours to get back. – Amanda Martin, June 2013, Photo by Cameron Hill, June 2013.

Fussa Playground

New in 2013, there is a playground that can be seen from Route 16 before leaving Fussa.  It is a bit convoluted to get to, but it is very close to the base and well worth the trip.  There are tall, enclosed climbing structures that have imagination games written all over it. There is a zip line and a great tire swing.  Put kids in clothes that they can get dirty because the ground underneath is just hard packed dirt.  There are bathrooms and a water fountain where kids can clean up if needed.  Playground GPS Coordinates: 35.72393, 139.342065.  Parking lot GPS 35.722589, 139.343171.
Fussa Park Alex WinklerDIRECTIONS: Leaving Fussa Gate, turn left onto Route 16.  At the end of the Yokota fence line, where Route 16 curves right, exit toward Route 7 but don’t turn left onto Route 7.  Instead go straight through the first light toward Haijima Station.  There is a paid parking lot straight ahead.  Park and this metal barrier will raise to trap your car.  Pay at the kiosk to get out.  From this parking lot it is an easy walk under Route 16 to the playground. – Alexandra Winkler & Sarah Straus, June 2013.  Interested in another Fussa Playground?  Try the Fussa Roller Slide Park or the playground on the Tama River Trail.

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Railway Museum in Saitama

saitama railroad sarah strausIf your kids are like mine and are obsessed with the trains in Japan, then you’ve got to check out the Railway Museum in the Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo. We had been to the Ome Railroad Museum several times and always enjoyed it, railway_museum1 kristabut thought it would be nice to see something different. This museum is much newer and nicer than the one in Ome (although I love the charm of the one in Ome) and takes longer to get to, but we thought it was totally worth it. When I was figuring out how to get there, I came across this blog that will definitely give you some great tips and information. http://aroundtokyo.net/blog/2012/10/28/railway-museum/.  One of the best tips is that you can bring your own lunch into the museum. There is a McDonald’s at Omiya Station right before you get on to the “shuttle train” to go to Tetsudohakubutsukan Station, which is where the museum is located. They have a little train that is specifically for eating or you can sit on the 3rd floor and watch the Shinkansens come by. They have a couple of restaurants too inside that have your typical Japanese food. (tonkatsu, curry, etc).
DSC_0227At noon and 3pm, they have a special steam engine “whistle blowing” demonstration that is great. If your kids are sensitive to loud noises though, I recommend going up to the second floor to watch it from above as it can be quite loud and startling for the younger ones.  This is a great day trip and I highly recommend it!  Hours: 10am to 6pm.  Closed every Tuesday and Dec 29-Jan 1.  General admission for adults is ¥1000. Elementary – high school age it is ¥500 and children ages 3 and up ¥200. If you have a Suica train pass, you can use that to purchase your entry tickets at the electric ticket vending machines.  Phone number: 81 48-651-0088, GPS: 35.922238, 139.616874.  -Krista Whipple, June 2013
train musuem kristaDIRECTIONS: Take the train to Omiya Station.  From Omiya station take a shuttle to Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan Station.  From there it is a 1 minute walk to the train museum.  There is limited parking at Tetsudo-Hakubtsukan train station at GPS coordinates: 35.922238, 139.616874.  If you decide to drive, basically you’ll head North on Route 16 for 36 kilometers past Iruma and Kawagoe.  At Route 216 exit left and keep left until you turn around and head under Route 16, traveling on Route 216.  Click on “view larger map” below for more directions.

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ASOBono at Tokyo Dome City

asobono by sarah 3A trip to ASOBono may be expensive, but for kids ages 6 and under it can be a really fun day and a chance to do something different in the city.  It is clean, bright and colorful like Bornelund, but larger and with different features.  Like Bornelund, there is a large ball pit area.  However, here it is set up to look like a pirate ship in a blue sea.  There is also a huge train track area with moving trains.  Kids can put the easy to assemble, plastic train tracks together to make complex mazes and run battery operated trains across them.  For my 5 year old son, this was the highlight of the trip.  Great for pretend play, there is a big kitchen, grocery store and restaurant area for kids with plastic food and shopping carts.  A play bakery is filled with play cakes to decorate and a asobono by sarah 4home area has dolls, doll clothes and vacuum cleaners.  There is a doll house zone, magnetic boards, game area and a large play area just for crawlers and new walkers.  Vending machines carry juice and milk boxes in addition to soda and water and there is a nice place to sit and enjoy your beverage.   When it is time for lunch, OsoBono is located next to a food court where you can eat your own food or buy from several vendors serving noodles, rice dishes and even soft serve yogurt.  With an all day pass you can come and go from ASOBono.  The day pass costs: ¥1500 for children ages 6 months to junior high, ¥900 for adults and ¥200 to rent a locker.  There is stroller parking and no strollers are allowed past the entrance area.  Open weekdays 10am-6pm, weekends 9:30am – 7pm.  GPS for parking garage nearest ASOBono: 35.703829, 139.754789.
asobono by sarah 5DIRECTIONS:  The nearest train station is Suidobashi.  However, if you are going with kids, it may be easier to drive.  We went on a weekday from Yokota, leaving at 9:30am and got to the parking area next to ASOBono in just over an hour.  We drove out of the parking garage and were on our way home at 3pm and it took us just one hour to get back to Yokota.  The trick is to avoid rush hour traffic.  Parking costs ¥400 for 30 minutes, but during the week maxes out at ¥1500.  If you get your parking validated at AsoBono and keep your stay under 4 hours, parking will cost ¥1000.   So… for one adult plus two kids driving from Yokota it will cost: ¥4100 entry, ¥1000 parking 4 hours, ¥3000 tollways = ¥8100.  It worked well to team up with a friend and share parking and toll costs or it may be a fun think to do if you are already staying in downtown Tokyo.  – Sarah Straus & Linda Bell, June 2013.  Also see LaQua Spa also at Tokyo Dome City.

Ueno Park

Ueno Lorri ShrewsburyUeno Park is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Tokyo and one of the livelier sites during the annual Cherry Blossom season in early April. Ueno has many things to offer and should be visited at least once during a stay in Japan. Ueno Zoo is one of the largest in the world and attracts “kids” of all ages. The animals’ names are written in English. As a special attraction, the zoo houses pandas from China. A monorail connects the main zoo area with the Africa section on the west side. You can also cross a bridge over historic Shinobazu Lake where thousands of ducks and cormorants swim. The Shinto shrine on an island in the lake makes a striking picture. Rowboats are available for rent. Also, next to the lake is the Ueno Zoo Aquarium with more than 500 species of fish exhibited on four levels.

In the park there are numerous museums that are nice during the winter months when it is too cold to be outside. Tokyo’s National Museum is an imposing structure built in 1936 in modern Oriental style. It displays many of the important national treasures and cultural properties of Japan, including ancient tapestries, screens, samurai armor, swords, scrolls, kimonos, ceramics, and more than 100,000 works of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian art. Ueno has a very good National Science Museum (see separate entry) with special sections on zoology, botany, geology, science and engineering, and astronomy. Children will be awed by dinosaur and whale skeletons, and by the collection of clocks and stuffed animals. Even Mexican mummies and shrunken heads can be found here. (Although very little is in English and adults may not be impressed, the museum can be a good learning tool for children.) The National Museum of Western Art is also located in Ueno Park. It was built in 1959 and exhibits the works of French artists. This exhibit features masterpieces by such famous artists as Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh, as well as several sculptures by Rodin. All of these attractions are open daily 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, and closed Mondays and from December 29 – January 3 during the Japanese New Year. Entrance fees for each of the attractions range from ¥200 to ¥400 for adults; ¥100 for 13 and up; ¥50 for 3-12; those under 3 and over 65 are free.

DSC_0827You may also want to explore the Ameyayokocho shopping district which runs south from Ueno to Okachimachi Station. Famous for hundreds of tiny discount shops, second-hand motorcycle dealers, and open air markets, it offers countless small inexpensive restaurants where you can make a good lunch of noodles, tempura, yakitori, or other specialties. A picnic is a nice alternative because there are numerous places in the Ueno Park area where you can sit, relax and watch all the people go by. So enjoy your visit!

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: To reach Ueno, take the Ome Line to Tachikawa and change to the Chuo Line toward Tokyo. Get off at Kanda, three stops after Shinjuku. Change to the Yamanote Line toward Ikebukuro, and get off at the third stop, Ueno. Check train times on Hyperdia. – Chris Underwood, Mugs Wedemeyer, date; updated Sarah Straus, May 2013, top photo by Lorri Shrewsbury.

Shinagawa Aquarium

shinigawa aqu by linda bellThis Tokyo aquarium is not big, but it is quaint and entertaining.  They have a small dolphin and sea lion show with two dolphins and two sea lions.  There is an extra sea lion show in the morning and on the weekends.  They also have an underwater tunnel with a massive turtle and stingray as well as other fish and eels. In smaller enclosures there are exotic crabs, jellyfish, penguins and two large sharks are located just before the exit.  Strollers can be used, but the place is quite small and on a busy day it may be difficult to move. On the Saturday we went, it was easy to use the ramps and elevators. Strollers can, however, be stored at the front of the Aquarium. There is no ramp to the Splash zone, but kids in strollers can see the dolphins and seals underwater when you take the elevator to the basement.  Bring extra clothing if you want to sit in the Splash zone.  Outside the entrance are lockers for valuables shinigawa aqu by linda bell 3and refreshments. You may enter and exit the Aquarium with your day-pass.  No food is allowed inside, but there are picnic tables right outside the entrance that overlook a small downtown lake -perfect for a stroll on a nice day. Adjacent are “Restaurant Dolphin” and other noodle and ice cream vendors. Drinks can be bought in the vending machines in the basement of the Aquarium.  Admission for adults: ¥1300.  Junior high – Elementary students: ¥600.  Children above age 4: ¥300.  Hours: 10am – 5pm, closed Tuesdays and Jan 1.  For more details check www.aquarium.gr.jp/en/.   GPS to parking: 35.588755,139.738924.

shinigawa aqu by linda bell2DRIVING: In light, Saturday morning, traffic it took 1 hour and 15 minutes from Yokota for me to get there.  Depending on your route, prepare for a few downtown tunnels to interrupt your GPS navigation. I drove because taking the train would take longer and be more difficult with small children.  If you take the train, make your way to Omorikaigan Station.  The aquarium is walking distance from this station.  If you don’t want to drive or take the train, check ITT.  They offer trips here on occasion also.  There is parking, but there are only 96 parking spots. I had no problem getting parking soon after it opened. It cost us ¥1000 for parking, and we were there for three and a half hours. I am not sure if it was a flat fee.  The parking lot is directly behind the main entrance of the Aquarium, and off of Route 316 (NOT Route 15 which is the Aquarium’s train-user’s entrance), near a tiny lake. You need to cross over a bridge just before the parking lot’s entrance which is on the left. Do not use the Aquarium’s physical address for a GPS destination as it will take a lot of time to loop around confusing traffic, and non-designated parking zones, to the ‘back’ side of the Aquarium.

After parking, head towards the booth that you bought your ticket, and away from the road entrance. Then turn left after a hedge/fence. The Aquarium’s entrance signs (the dolphin) are not apparent until you head left, around the tiny lake. You’ll eventually pass an exit ramp on your left, and then ~20 yards later find an entrance ramp with a blue and white awning. It’s about 100 yards from the Parking Lot to the Aquariums entrance.  Road tolls cost ¥3000 round trip. – Linda Bell, June 2013

Interested in Aquariums?  Also see the entry on Sunshine City and Tokyo Tower.

Gumna Safari Park

gunma by amanda martinVisiting Gumna Safari Park is a fun way to spend the day, particularly with kids.  We went to celebrate our 3-year-old’s birthday and she loved it. Upon arrival pay ¥300 to park in the ample lot. The main attraction is a ride through the safari park. Adults are ¥2600 and kids ages 3 and up are ¥1300.  Additionally, it costs ¥500 per person to ride on the zebra bus (no feeding the animals) and ¥1300 per person to ride on the lion or tiger buses. The lion and tiger buses include grass for the grazing animals and meat to feed the lions and tigers. The ride takes about 80 minutes, including a 30 minute stop at a petting zoo. At that stop there are also great opportunities to see big cats, including a glass ceiling walk through with tigers above. The highlight for our family was feeding the lions with tongs gunma by kelly othat extend out the wire covered windows of the bus just inches from the lions mouth. We also fed antelope and zebras, and saw giraffes, bears, monkeys, rhinos and more. It is also possible to drive your own car through the park. It opens at 9:30am and we spent about 3 hours total.  We went on a Saturday and the park was not too crowded.  In addition to the Safari Park, there is a very well done gift shop, a restaurant with decent quality Japanese food at about ¥1000 per person, and a small amusement park. Older but fun, there is a carousel, Ferris wheel, swings, teacups, small roller coaster, and a few other rides – good for kids age 8 and under. Each ride cost ¥200.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out of the terminal gate onto Route 16. Immediately past Costco (9 kms) take the ramp on left labled KEN-O expressway 45 to Iruma. Go about 1 KM, then take a ticket from the toll booth and keep right to merge gunma by kelly odonnellonto the KEN-O northbound.  Go 14 KM and there is a major grouping of exits – exit on the left onto the Kan-etsu expressway in the direction of Niigata. Continue on the Kan-etsu for 50 KM, then merge left onto Joshin-etsu expressway toward Nagano. Stay on that for 20 KM. Take Exit 3 (Tomoka), pass through the tolls (2650yen) and continue north for 1.7km. Turn left toward route 198 for 1.2 km, then turn left onto 198 for another 2.3 km. You will go under the highway, and be following signs with zoo animals on them. Turn left on route 193, go 800 meters, and take a right into the park. We encountered almost no traffic, and the drive was 90 minutes each way. – Amanda Martin, May 2013, Photos by Amanda Martin & Kelly O’Donnell, 2013.

Comments – Linda Bell, May 2013: When we went (May 24 2013), a half price discount was offered from their www.safari.co.jp web page, so an adult entrance fee was ¥1300, junior high school was ¥650. We used google translate to locate the discount.

Our GPS (Garmin)  led us astray a little when used the park’s address as the destination, and it did appear they had recently upgraded the roads close to the park.  We also didn’t recollect any Safari signs from the expressway. The directions in the outline above would be more accurate.

We’d suggest sitting on the left-hand side of the feeding bus as the majority of the animals were on this side. Once you get on the bus, you first drive past some herbivores, then you get off at a mini-zoo with caged and  petting animals. You can buy more feed here for ¥100. After 30mins (the bus driver will hopefully tell/show you a time before you disembark), you re-board the same feeding bus and you pass more herbivores before you enter the enclosure with lions and tigers. Then you exit the safari park through the same herbivore enclosure as you began. Our entire trip took 90mins. The day we went, the feeding bus basically left every hour, on the hour.  Strollers are not permitted on the feeding bus, but the park personnel showed us a  rather unsecured place designated for their storage.

We spent a bit of time at the mini-amusement park. Good fun for young kids. There is a ~2min pony ride which costs ¥300 at the back of the amusement park. Soft serve ice cream can be purchased down by the pony ride – ¥300 too.
A stroller/carrier would be helpful for infants visiting the mini-amusement park.

There are picnic tables available in a picnic hall. This is located just outside the mini-amusement park and shops. We took our own food.

—-Interested in Safari Parks?  Also check out the trip report on Fuji Safari Park.

Ome Railroad Museum

Jenn B Ome RailroadA tour of Ome Railroad Museum (Nagayama), nestled in the hills above Ome, is a treat for kids and the young at heart. Old engines and passenger cars invite fans to climb aboard. A 1969 Shinkansen (bullet train) begs a would-be engineer to take the throttle. The highlight is to see the indoor model trains. They run every hour, on the hour.  Listen for the announcement 5 minutes before the model trains start.  It is ok for kids to stand on the bench to watch the trains as long as they take off their shoes.  The museum houses many exhibits – just head up the stairs. Outdoor toy train and car rides cost ¥100 each. The museum is open 10am-5pm, closed Mondays and December 29th to January 3rd.  Entry for adults ¥200, kids free.
Jenn B Ome RailroadNagayama is close to Yokota and is a pleasant drive.  It takes about 35 minutes from the Terminal Gate and is easy. The area has a lot of pretty plum trees and is quite beautiful in March. And in the fall, the leaves of the trees change color to make a beautiful sight!  The park near the museum is great for a leisurely stroll or a place to eat lunch. It has several playgrounds where children can romp. With only a small snack bar available, I would recommend bringing a picnic lunch. There are several places to sit and take in the scenery of Ome.  GPS coordinates for parking next to museum: N35.79264, E139.26292.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Catch the Ome line from Fussa bound for Ome or Okutama. Get off in Ome. From the station, turn left up the first street. Follow that street until you come to the first street that crosses the tracks on the left. Turn left and go across the railroad tracks. Follow the winding street up the hill. It is kind of steep and the walk up takes about 15 minutes. The railroad museum is at the top of the hill. There are several signs along the way. They are in Japanese but they do have pictures of trains on them. The railroad museum is on the right; the park is on the left at the top of the hill. It is a bit hard for smaller children, so you may want a stroller. The walkways in the park near the museum are fairly smooth and some are paved. You can get back to Ome through the park. Walk along a path that parallels the tracks, back to the road that crosses the tracks.
Jenn B Ome Railroad DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Exit Terminal Gate and turn right onto Route 16. Go under first overpass. Stay in Left lane to turn Left onto Route 5.  Go 5.6 kilometers on Route 5 and make a 45-degree right turn (not the hard right) to continue onto Ome kaido. Follow the blue signs to central Ome. As you turn there will be a tire store on your left. The road becomes Kyu Ome Kaido. Turn right onto Nariki Kaido Iriguichi. This turn will have a store called Yaoki Gift Fruits on the corner. Go to the first light (by the school) and turn left onto a very small street. Follow that street and bear left at one fork going up the hill. The Railroad Museum (Nagayama) will be on yoru left at the top of the hill. There is a parking lot on the right as well as a few spots directly across from the entrance..  – Sondra Halweg, Christine Thomas; updates and photos by Jennifer Bobrowski, May 2013  – Enjoy railroad museums?  Check out the Railway Museum in Saitama.

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Tama River Trail

If you are looking for a place to bike or run, consider the paved trail that follows the Tama River.  It starts in Hamura and continues 48 kilometers.  It runs close enough to Tama Hills Recreation area that it can be used as a path to run or bike there, though you’ll need to navigate some city streets to reach this destination.  During the spring, the cherry trees bloom over the trail in Fussa, as seen in the photos above and below.  Also in Fussa, the trail passes a baseball field, tennis courts, a playground and an obstacle course park.  The trail goes under each of the bridges that cross the river, allowing for continuous riding/running.  There is a free parking lot near the ball field and playground at GPS coordinates:35.719771, 139.331241.   In the spring use this parking lot for the Fussa Cherry Blossom Festival which takes place along the trail just north of the parking lot.  – Sarah Straus; top photo by Alex Sparks, March 2013
Running/Biking DIRECTIONS: Head straight out of the Fussa Gate toward the Fussa Train Station on Route 165.  You’ll take Route 165 all the way to the river and trail.  Be sure to stay right at the fork in the road, pass over the train tracks and continue down Route 165 after the Fussa Train Station.  The trail picks up in both directions just before you cross the river.  Turn right on the trail towards Hamura for the short section of the trail (just a few kilometers).  Turn left on the trail for the longer section.

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DIRECTIONS to parking lot:  Turn left out of the Fussa Gate onto Route 16.  Continue on Route 16 as it curves right.  Turn Right onto Route 7.  (Note: I’m not sure how clear this right hand turn onto Route 7 is… if anyone finds a clear marker for this turn, let us know).  Turn left into the parking lot area just before Route 7 crosses Tama River.

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Fujiten

Sara Curry Photo Fujiten 2013Fujiten is a ski resort at the bottom of Mt. Fuji about 90 minutes from Yokota Air Base.  It is an easy day trip and a great place to learn how to ski. Fujiten also offers a separate sledding area with two hills and a snow playground consisting of snow tunnels, a man-made igloo and snow “mountains” to climb.  It is perfect for children 0-10 years of age who want to enjoy a day in the snow.   A central movable walkway helps little ones and their parents climb the hills so there is more time for sledding.  The entrance fee for sledding is ¥600 per person for the day.  Kids can purchase a lunch set and sled pass for ¥1100 a day.  Plastic sled rentals are available for ¥500.  The large ski lodge offers a variety of Japanese and Chinese lunches as well as chicken nuggets, french fries and corn dogs.  Our family has gone sledding here for the last three years and our kids have a blast in the snow.  It is also a great place to take pictures of Mt. Fuji on a clear day.  I recommend going during the week or on an American holiday like Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Superbowl Monday or Presidents’ Day to avoid the crowds. – Sara Curry, January 2013
DIRECTIONS: The Yujo has maps and directions available from the base.  Also, check the webpage: http://www.fujiten.net/pc/.  GPS Coordinates: 35.441862, 138.687444.

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Round 1 Iruma

Round One in Iruma is a great place for kids to be active on a rainy day.  Located near Costco, just off Route 16, it is an easy drive and offers a variety of indoor fun for all ages.  For younger kids there is a large, shoes-off play area with a two-story twisty slide, ball shooters, tricycle track, balloon area and it is flanked by free massage chairs.  In the same large space there is also a skating rink, ping pong, billiards, mini bowling, darts and video games.  While the entrance fee is a bit pricey, it is all inclusive – no extra tokens to buy for video games and roller skates are free.  The only extra money you may spend is on food.  There is a small restaurant with American style cuisine including pizza.  Open 10am M-F, 9am Sat, 8am Sundays and holidays.  Prices: I went with two pre-school aged kids on a holiday and paid a total of ¥3500 for 3 hours.  Prices are cheaper during the week.  There is a weekday family rate that comes to ¥600 per person (adults and kids alike) for 3 hours of play.  To get to the play area, enter the building, go up one escalator and then take the elevator to the 5th floor.  This is where you’ll check in and pay at the end.  GPS: 35.828026, 139.375817.
DIRECTIONS: Exit the passenger terminal gate and turn right onto Route 16.  Drive 10 km along Route 16, passing Costco.  About 1 km past Costco turn left onto Route 299.  Round 1 is located 1/2 kilometer down Route 299 on the right.  It is easy to spot from the road once you turn onto Route 299.  Once you pass Round 1 on your right you’ll need to turn around to head back to the parking lot entrance.  No u-turn at the light, but the Mini Stop parking lot can make a good place to turn around.   – Sarah Straus, Kelly O’Donnell,  January 2013.

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Seibuen Amusement Park

seibuen sarah strausLocated about 30 minutes from Yokota is an amusement park to delight any fancy. Seibuen is a spacious, beautifully landscaped park, filled with over 20 attractions. A giant ferris wheel dominates the skyline, while rocket rides, a carousel, a pirate ship, teacups and much more are tucked into the hillsides of the park. The center has a cute Hello Kitty Land.  They even have a heart stopping roller coaster that loops and twists over water.   A unique rotating observation deck provides spectacular views of Sayama Dam.  While modest, seibuen sarah strausSeibuen is a lovely place to spend the afternoon without venturing too far from base. There are several water attractions, including a “wave” pool. These are open only in the summer months.  Parking is readily available and costs ¥1000. For ¥3200/adult and ¥2700/child you can buy a one-day pass with full access to the park, no additional charge for rides. General admission is ¥1000/adult and ¥500/child 3-12. This allows admission to the park, but you will have to purchase tickets for the attractions. The ticket machines are located near the entrance of each ride. Depending on the ride, tickets range from ¥200 and up. In December the Christmas lights are spectacular.   There is also ice skating from mid December to mid March.  During the Christmas lights display arrive at 4pm and purchase an all inclusive ticket for ¥1300/person (unless you are planning to ride, then it will cost Y2300).  Lights turn on at 5:15pm and it is fun to enjoy all the rides in a sea of Christmas lights. Food stalls and drinks are readily available, but kind of pricey. You can bring your own lunch.  GPS coordinates to parking lot: 35.770426, 139.440549.
seibuen sarah strausDIRECTIONS:  Exit the East gate and turn left.  Turn right at the 7/11 and go straight for 1 kilometer.  Turn left onto Route 59 (also Route 55) as if you are going to Aeon Mall.  Pass the Aeon Mall and continue on this road as it winds past Noyama Kita Obstacle Course Park and into the mountains.  This road parallels the running/biking path on the right and also Tama Lake.  Before you reach Seibu Dome the road dead-ends into a T intersection.  Turn right here and then an immediate left (do not go over the bridge that crosses Tama Lake).  Continue along this road past Seibu Dome and to the amusement park.  This road dead-ends at another T intersection at the amusement park.  Turn left and look for road down to the Seibuen parking lot on the right.  –  Donna Alexander, updated Sarah Straus, December 2012

sarah straus seibuenComments & Photos: Sarah Straus, December 2013: We went to Seibuen again this year for the Christmas lights display.  At ages 4 and 6 our kids were just the right age to really appreciate almost all of the rides in the park, though I think they would be fun for older kids too.  Last year we went on a night that was really crowded.  This year we went on a Saturday night in the middle of December and it was quiet – which made the whole experience even more enjoyable for us.  We were able to ride everything multiple times and get right on the Ferris Wheel.  The rotating observation deck has a really lovely view – don’t miss it.