Category Archives: Seasons

 Shokusai Kitchen Mayfly

 Nice little river side restaurant that is very relaxing. It is 15 minutes away from Nippara Limestone Caves. They serve things such as pizza, curry, pasta and salad. You can also go trout fishing for about 600 yen which adds a bit of excitement to the day. All in all a great place to stop for lunch. The restaurant also has some free parking spots. ~Kalina Bojkova, August 2019.

http://ttcmayfly.web.fc2.com/mayfly.html

Nippara Limestone Caves

Great for families with babies and kids 4 and up who can walk and do a lot of stairs. A tad more challenging with a toddler but still a lot of fun especially if you have a strong dad with you who doesn’t mind carrying the toddler up the steep stairs. Has a bunch of spots to stop and look around which is very recharging. There’s a little area right by the entrance of the cave where you can sit by the water and have lunch and also covered benches upstairs by the bathroom.

Bring a jacket with a hood and you should be fine. Cold Water is dripping down hence the hood. Definitely hat or hood for little kids who don’t like cold water on their heads. There is not much space for big hats so a hood is better. You can wear long pants but if you are walking the whole time you will warm up. Kids should probably wear long pants too. My warm blooded husband was happy wearing shorts and a tee as you can see in the picture.

Bring little easy snacks for the kids to keep them happy as it is 45 min adventure and the echo makes it extra loud when they cry compared to the Japanese people who talk to each other in a whisper.

There is free parking not many spots available so go early. They also have toilet, a little restaurant, a shrine and lots of nature. It’s a great day trip. Also go with a small car and a really good driver the way up is one way. Perfect for a motorcycle ride per my husband’s words. ~ Kalina Bojkova, August 2019.

http://www.nippara.com/nippara/syounyuudou/syounyuudou.html

Kabuki Theater

When my mom came to visit we wanted to do something different and authentic to Japan. A friend had told me about the Kabuki Theater which was named Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2005. After doing some research we decided to give in a try. The dramatic Japanese performing art was more than I expected.

We took the train from the Fussa station which took about an hour and a half and involved a few train switches. The theater itself was beautiful with a grand feel outside and quaint feel inside. Tickets can be purchased per show or as a day pass. The line for single shows is located outside in front of the theater and tickets range from 500-3000 yen. It was a special Mother and Daughter day for us so we purchased the day pass which cost about 14000 yen each. The day passes can be purchased in the basement of the theater. You will find an escalator on the right side of the building that will take you down. Walk to the right and you will find the counter to purchase tickets. We had no trouble with communication as they spoke enough English to help us with our requests.

Once we purchased our tickets we wandered thru the many booths that can also be found in the basement. There are wonderful things to be seen and bought at the market such as jewelry, scarves, swords and treats of all kinds. As you head back up to the theater there is a convenient store located at the bottom of the escalator. We popped in there and grabbed a few snacks to enjoy while watching the show.

Outside the main doors is a small counter at which you can rent an English translator screen. It was about 1000 yen to rent. The screen is something you have to read but was very nice to have. We were lucky enough to see two very different shows. The first was musical. The vibrant costume colors and energy of the Wa-Daiko had me on the edge of my seat. The first show only lasted about 20 minutes. We were able to grab a glass of wine in the lobby between shows. The pink champagne was amazing!

The second show was more of a play. I felt it showed more diversity and talent of the all male cast. Kabuki Theater which started with an all female cast in 1603 is now know for its all male cast. The dramatic make up and comical script was a side of the Japanese culture I had not experienced yet. The second show was significantly longer and ran for close to an hour. After the two shows we felt like we had seen all we wanted and headed out to find food. You will have no trouble finding food and shopping in the Ginza area of Tokyo right outside the theater. -Deena Brunson, August 2019.

https://www.kabukiweb.net/theatres/kabukiza/information/index.html

Sayamaike park

This park is 10 min from west gate and 20 min from east gate by car. You can see the parking on the photo of the map of the park. It is about 25 min bike ride from west gate. Quiet neighborhood, really interesting houses, not many cars passing so you actually get to enjoy nature without all the noise. Small enough for a 2 year old to walk all around it and big enough to find many beautiful spots to take photo. Perfect for your D.I.Y family portrait. There a 7/11 close by, so you can grab a lunch and have picnic. The park has a playground with a sandbox to play in. Bathrooms can also be found at this park as well.

Westland Farms

Having heard about the yummy gelato and sweet animals many times, we finally decided to check out Westland Farms on my daughters last day of school. We invited some friends and headed there right after pick up. There were four cars in our group and I (per usual) was a little concerned about parking. I also was hoping the location in general was large enough for all of our high energy children. When we arrived I was pleased to see the parking lot was the perfect size and they had a great outdoor seating area that allowed for the children to wiggle and screech as needed.  

Once we got inside we were surrounded with a quaint adorably decorated gelato shops. Cows decor was sprinkled in every corner. The flavors of gelato ranged from commonly known choices such as chocolate chip, to down right interesting such as Olive Oil. The gelato itself is made with fresh ingredients from the farm which is one of the things that makes Westland Farms so special. After living in Italy many years ago my favorite flavor is pistachio and that is what I got. The small 300 yen cup was the perfect size. Pistachio was very good but like most Japanese sweets it wasn’t quite as sweet as I am used to. 

After we finished eating our treats we walked over to say hello to the goat and baby cow they have on property. The children thoroughly enjoyed petting the goat and saying “moooo” to the cow. Near the animals they also have a cow statue which offers the perfect photo opportunity. All in all if you are looking for a fun place to get a cool treat, Westland Farms is a wonderful choice. -Deena Brunson, July 2019.

https://www.westlandfarm.tokyo/


Okutama Fishing Center

My husband loves to fish and after being in Japan for almost a year and not fishing, I knew it was time. I had overheard a friend talking about this place and we went the next day. Okutama Fishing Center did not disappoint. The drive is about 45 minutes from base. Once you arrive you will be on the opposite side of the Tama river and it looks as though you cant drive across. Keep going! The road is narrow but there is indeed a road going over the river to the decently sized parking lot.

The area alone is worth the drive. It is absolutely beautiful along the river. We went on a very rainy day and still had a blast. There are different types of fishing available. You can pay for day passes for fishing along the river. You can also pay for half day fishing on certain types of fishing. Prices vary depending on what you choose to do. We arrived around 11am and therefore decided to just fish in the pond. We had 3 children ages 4 and under and we were there to experience fishing with them.

The pond was 400 yen per child. We got the vibe the pond was more for children because it was very easy to catch fish and you could potentially get quite a bit in a short time. We were only charged for the children. We were then given bait and 3 fishing poles and nets. We hung our nets on a hook that hangs into the pond and began fishing. In less than 30 minutes we had caught 7 fish and we decided to call in quits.

When we finished the men working at the center cleaned our fish, put them on sticks and slathered them with salt. We paid an extra 500 yen to rent a small grill. Each fish you catch also costs 350 yen. After we got our grill we were shown an area out of the rain to grill our fish. They showed us how to grill it and when it was done we ate it right off the stick. It was amazing fish and an really fun experience. Near the rest rooms there is also bags of potatoes and onions you can purchase to grill as well.

When our fish was done we took one last walk along the river before heading home. There were fishermen set up everywhere. The kids had a great time playing in the streams leading to the river and throwing rocks. I imagine in nicer weather grilling right on the river is also allowed. Okutama Fish Center was a fun introduction to fishing in Japan and a fun day out. Deena Brunson, July 2019

http://www.okutama-fc.co.jp/okutama_fc_esa.html#fami

Sayama Berryland

Blueberries, strawberries and mushrooms galore can all be found to harvest at Sayama Berryland. The farm is about a forty five minute drive from base and is fairly easy. The location itself does have parking. There are two parking lots, one on each side of the main road, equaling about 50 spots with plenty of room to maneuver around. This is always something I am curious about because I am still mastering the skill of backing into parking spots and being comfortable in small lots.The parking we used was located across the street from the office at which you pay.

It was requested that we all pay together so I recommend bringing the exact amount needed. Cards are not accepted so make sure you have yen. Adults are 1500 yen. Children and seniors are 1000. Children under 3 are free. The farm is opened from 10:00am to 2:00pm for picking. Sadly if it rains they will close and you can find out if they decide to close by checking the website posted below. We visited the farm with a semi large group so we emailed ahead of time and made a noon reservation. When we arrived at noon on a Tuesday afternoon there was only our group roaming around and picking blueberries. The weekends may be a different story

Harvesting is not all Sayama has to offer A cute little store that sells original produces such as drinks and ice cream is also located on the farm. Outside the store you will find seating to enjoy your treats and a perfect spot next to the sign to take a picture. Once you have paid you will be instructed to cross the street and walk to meet your guide. Your guide will start your time as soon as everyone enters the picking area.

You are allowed 30 minutes to fill your container and munch on as may blueberries as you can. Our children were full of life running from bush to bush eating blueberries and enjoying the outside. There is something that makes food taste so much better when it comes straight from the source. We had no trouble filling our containers as the bushes had a plethora of berries. It was a bit hot the day we visited so we found that 30 minutes was the perfect amount of time. We had a wonderful experience and look forward to going back during the mushroom and strawberry seasons. – Deena Brunson, 2019.

Hiratsuka Beach/Shonan Beach Park

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

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

Sankeien Gardens – Yokohama

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

Admission is:

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

Tokorozawa Lily Garden (Yuri Matsuri)

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

 

Canyons – Canyoning at Minakami

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

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

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

 

Keio-Mogusaen Garden – Plum & Wisteria Blossoms

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

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

 

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

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

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

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!

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

3 day weekend in Shimoda and Hakone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ao no Doukutsu, Yoyogi Park Illumination

img_2406

This beautiful illumination is called “Ao no Doukutsu”, meaning Blue Grotto, was in Nakameguro in 2014. It has relocated to Yoyogi park this year (2016).
The illumination runs from November 22nd through January 9th. I didn’t have a chance to go to the Nakameguro Illumination, but I’ve heard they moved the illumination in favor of the much wider street of Yoyogi park.
img_2412

The Illumination starts on Shibuya Koen Dori (Shibuya park street) and those Japanese Zelkova trees were lit up for your 750 m walk. I recommend stopping by there when you are in the downtown Tokyo area. Check out the Illumination website to see the video for directions. – Mai Takahashi, December 2016

Ao no Doukutsu, Shibuya : http://shibuya-aonodokutsu.jp/
Illumination time in 2016: 5 pm – 11 pm, November 22nd – January 9th  (the illumination starts at 7 pm on November 23rd, December 4th, December 25th, and January 9th)

Direction:
To get to the illumination spot, the closest station is Shibuya. The street is on the opposite side of Meji Shrine in Yoyogi park, so make sure to get off at Shibuya Station, not Harajuku station.
To Shibuya station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, and then transfer to Yamanote line towards Shibuya and Shinagawa.
From Shibuya station, exit from Hachiko exit and then cross the famous crowded intersection. And then take the street that is to the right of the building that is all glass and has a large tv display. You will see a Starbucks and TSUTAYA video store in this building. Keep walking until you see the blue lights on the trees.
img_2421Once you find the blue trees, follow them to Yoyogi park.
img_2420

Hakone Sengokuhara & Little Prince Museum

 

img_2008Susuki (pampas grass or silver grass) is known as one of seven autumn flowers in Japan. Sengokuhara is a popular spot to stop by to view and walk through beautiful seasonal field. Susuki season is October to November.

img_2014There are temporary parking lots for visitors to see the field in October to November. It was about 10-15 mins walk from the parking lot to the field.

img_1965There is a path in the middle of the field that you can walk through and it took us about 30-40 mins to walk to the end of the path and back. (We stopped for photos often.)

img_2007-1Only the beginning of the path was paved and it was mostly rocky. We left the base around 7 am and got there a little bit after 9 am. There were two parking lots for the field and the first parking lot was already full when we got there. The second parking lot was empty, but it was filling up by the time we left around 10:30 am.

img_2024
I recommend stopping by the Little Prince Museum if you visit the Susuki field. It’s only a 5 minute drive from the field. According to its website, the museum was built to celebrate the 100 year anniversary since the birth of the author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

img_2036It’s a small museum, but has a European-themed garden and the French-themed scenery  were beautiful. Most of the museum displays were in Japanese, but there were binders that had all the translations for visitors.

img_2044If you are fan of the book, this is a place to check out. You can enjoy illuminations and a projection mapping show in the evening from November to early January. There is a nice restaurant next to the museum as well. The lunch set menu price was around Y 1500 – 3000. ( You don’t need to buy tickets to the museum if you are only dining there.) – Mai Takahashi, November 2016

Read more about Hakone sights here:
Hakonehttp://yokotatravel.com/hakone/
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun: http://yokotatravel.com/hakone-kowakien-yunessun/

Sengokuhara: http://www.hakonenavi.jp/season_special_contents/index/4
Hakone Sengokuhara Temporary Parking lot 1 & 2 Hours: 9 am-4 pm, October through November.
The museum of The Little Prince: http://www.tbs.co.jp/l-prince/
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Last entrance is 5 pm, The restaurant hours: 11 am – 5 pm)
Entrance Fee: Adult Y 1,600, High School and College student Y 1,100, Elementary and Middle School students Y 700.

Directions:
Hakone Sengakuhara (Temporary Parking lot (October to November, 9 am-4 pm. The coordinates: 35.265120,138.999927)
We took the Ken-O Expressway then Tomei Expressway. It costed Y 2,780 one way.

Susuki Field Parking  to the Little Prince Museum

Enoshima East side Beach (Katase Higashi-hama Beach)

14037398_10210484903060163_106182335_o

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

14074977_10210484903140165_1894915318_o - Copy

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

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

14060031_10210484902860158_1954426737_o

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

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

14037684_10210484901820132_1597653161_o

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

14087473_10210484901700129_946454604_o - Copy

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

14037862_10210484903420172_1242807167_o14045324_10210484902820157_466930383_o14037841_10210484903340170_1969745410_o14060109_10210484902980161_1104429856_o

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

Read more about the area here: Kamakura

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

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

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

Tama River Spot in Ome, Mitake & YOSHIZO cafe

13902833_10210319289879937_8650448021880006200_nI found a great Tama River spot in Mitake and a dog-friendly pizza restaurant called YOSHIZO cafe. If you are looking for something to do out of the city with your family and friends, this is a great Sunday Fun-day getaway.

To the parking lot nearby the spot was about a 40 min drive from the base. There was a group tour heading out on a rafting trip nearby. There is a walking bridge crossing overhead that will take you to the other side, likely into the town of Mitake (I was on the other side of the river from the actual town). There was a family with a tent set up (camping might be allowed). Parking was Y100/hour and there were more than enough spaces in the lot (I was there in the morning). There are public bathrooms adjacent to the parking lot.
I highly recommend aqua-socks, keens or some protective footwear you can wear in the water because the rocks hurt!

13901354_10210319290239946_114710406063887389_n

yoshizoThere is a pizza restaurant called YOSHIZO cafe up the hill advertised dogs OK.
They spoke limited English. I tried to order lunch on the patio but they told me it was reserved, so I ended up ordering pizza to go and sat on the grass overlooking the river instead.

13909035_10210319288959914_6446864013225882158_oI still had a nice lunch while the dog enjoyed the air conditioning in the car. – George, August 2016

YOSHIZO cafe website: http://yoshizo-cafe.tokyo/index.html
Hours: Fri-Wed Lunch time 11:30am-4:00pm (Last Order 3:00pm)
Dinner time 5:00pm-9:00pm (L.O. 8:00pm)
Phone: 0428-78-7887

Mitake Parking spot near Tama River

YOSHIZO Cafe

Art Aquarium, Nihonbashi Tokyo

 

IMG_8436Summer is one of the most exciting times of the year throughout Japan. As the temperature and humidity increase, excitements of the summer increase, and there are many summer events going on in our neighborhoods.
Art Aquarium is a seasonal aquarium that opens during the summer, and it is an art exhibit with living kingyo (goldfish). The theme of this year’s Nihonbashi Art Aquarium is the Edo period of Japan, during which the Kingyo culture spread among townspeople. More information on the exhibit can be found here.

IMG_8265The exhibit takes place in Coredo Muromachi, which is a shopping complex where there is fine dining, food stores and more. There are three Coredo Muromachi buildings and the Art Aquarium is located in Building 1. The entrance is on the 4th floor. There is a summer event called “Eco Edo Nihonbashi 2016” around the neighborhood and the Art Aquarium is part of the seasonal celebration. The streets are decorated by lanterns and if I describe the atmosphere, I would say it’s an elegant Japanese old town. Check their Facebook page for more info.

IMG_8329The aquarium exhibits were very unique. There were many kinds of Kingyo. I was impressed by the wide variety of Kingyo that I had never seen. Each exhibit was very arty, and it was a cultural experience of Ryo of Kingyo, enjoying the refreshing coolness by looking at Kingyo swim. The exhibit room is not so big; I would say 30min to 1 hr is enough time to look around.

IMG_8296Starting from 7pm, the Art Aquarium turns into the “Night Aquarium” during which they start serving alcohol and you can walk around the room with your drink. We arrived there around 6:30pm on Sunday, and I saw several families with small children. After 7pm, there were mostly adults. There are special nights with DJ performances on weekends. Check their website for the event schedule because you may need a special ticket to get in on those nights. When you plan your visit, try to avoid the weekends. They limit number of entrances once it gets crowded. According to their Twitter, Saturday is usually very busy and there might be a 30min wait. I heard it’s less crowded in September. If you are going to Tokyo area during the summer, I recommend stopping by the Art Aquarium to enjoy goldfish, symbolic of Japanese summer. – Mai Takahashi, July 2016

Website
Art Aquarium: http://artaquarium.jp/en/
Coredo Muromachi: https://31urban.jp/lng/eng/muromachi.html
Art Aquarium Hours:  July 18th-September 25th, (the dates may differ every year) 11:00am – 11:30pm (Night Aquarium starts at 7:00pm)
Admission: Y1000 for adults, Y600 for elementary school age and under, and free for 3 years old and under. (Children must be accompanied by adults.)

Directions: Mitsukoshi-mae station on Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line/ Ginza Line is the closest station, but from Fussa, getting off at the Tokyo station is the easiest.  To get to the Tokyo station from Fussa, take Ome/Chuo line all the way to the Tokyo station. I love returning from the Tokyo station. Since the station is the first and the last stop of Chuo line, there is a great chance that you can sit all the way from Tokyo station to Fussa. From Tokyo station, exit from Nihonbashi exit or Yaesu North exit. It’s about a 15 min walk.