Category Archives: Spring

St. Patrick’s Day Parade- Tokyo

Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place in the heart of Tokyo’s Harajuku district. A section of Omotesando Street is closed to traffic for the parade and you will see everything from marching bands to the Tokyo chapter of the U2 fan club. It is a lot of fun! Also, don’t miss the I Love Ireland festival held in neighboring Yoyogi park, for food, entertainment and fun! The date varies every year, but this year (2016) the parade is being held on March 20, and begins at 1:00pm. (A quick google search will tell date and time for subsequent years).- Jamie Cowan March 20162014-03-16 13.37.00

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DIRECTIONS: Take the train to Harajuku station. Yoyogi Park and Omotesando are a quick walk from the station.

Yasukuni Shrine

IMG_4016Yasukuni shrine is a Shinto shrine in central Tokyo, close to the Imperial Palace,
that commemorates Japan’s war dead.  The purpose of this shrine is to enshrine those who have died in war for their country and sacrificed their lives for Japan.

A political controversy IMG_4013surrounds Yasukuni because since 1978, fourteen class A war criminals (including General Hideki Tojo from WWII ) are among the 2.5 million enshrined here.  Several Japanese prime ministers and cabinet members come here to pay their respects, which infuriates some from China and South Korea.  They believe it is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Each time I have been there, there have been Japanese news personnel watching to see if anyone noteworthy was paying their respects.

Next to the shrine stands the Yushukan, a fascinating museum thatIMG_4014 commemorates and documents Japan’s wars from a very pro Japanese point of view.   Let’s just say their take on WWII is VERY interesting.  If you are a history buff, or have a visitor that is, you should definitely check it out.

 

Around the shrine grounds there are hundreds of cherry trees, including Tokyo’s representative cherry tree that is used by the meteorological agency to pronounce the official opening of the season in Tokyo.  It is also widely considered one of Tokyo’s best cherry blossom viewing spots.

This shrine also has several very impressive Torii gates, and two huge stone lanterns ( Japan’s largest) built to honor the Army and Navy respectively.

There is a weekly Sunday flea market on the grounds, except during the blossom viewing in April. Merri Kever, July 2015

Yasukuni Shrine
Hours 6:00 to 18:00 from may to August, to 17:00 from November to February
No closing days
Free

Yushukan Museum
9:00 to 16:30 (admission until 16:00)
A few irregular closure days in late June and late December
Cost:  800 yen

DIRECTIONS:
Yasukuni shrine is a short walk from Kudanshita Station on the Hanzomon, Tozai, and Shinjuku Subway lines.

From Shinjuku station
Take the Shinjuku subway line directly from Shinjuku to Kudanshita Station.  It takes about 8 min

From Tokyo Station
Take the maranouchi subway line to Otemachi, then the Hanzomon Subway line to Kudanshita.  About 5 min total.

Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and SightsIf you are new to Yokota, or been here for years, this comprehensive guide can help you find new and exciting things to do year-round. Created with the seasons in mind, simply click on the link and find out what’s happening. Time to work on that Japan To-Do list!! Click on the links below to be able to zoom in and start your adventure! Created by Linda Bell, May 2015.

PDF: Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

Excel: Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

 

 

Fall Colors Route Near Mt. Fuji and Lakes

DSC01438Here is a good ‘day’ outing if you’re interested in seeing some of the main fall spots near Mt. Fuji. The fall colors peak somewhere between mid-October to mid-November, but check this website for its report on fall colors round Mt. Fuji, Tokyo and Japan so you can plan your visit – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014_where.html.

The trip drives around Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Saiko and is best taken during the week and on clear days, when Fuji is visible. Total driving time (not including stops) is about 3.5 hours in good/light traffic. The tolls, round trip, cost ¥4000 (in 2014). This circuit also works well in the spring, when cherry blossoms bloom at Chureito Pagoda and along Lake Kawaguchi.

DIRECTIONS

Begin at Chureito Pagoda (GPS N35.49969, E138.80025). Please see the map below.

FullSizeRenderFollow the road around Lake Kawaguchi, and you have the choice of two free parking lot areas: one parking lot is at the beginning of ¾ miles of fall trees and the other is at the end of this stretch of road. The first parking lot has the GPS coordinates 35.5205999, 138.7714245, and is located next to the Museum of Art. The one at the end, and further along the lake, is near a maple lined canal and has the GPS coordinates 35.5266438,138.7618775. The maple lined canal is down the hill from this parking lot and is a great highlight if you go when its color is in peak. The canal is less than 100 yards long, but all around this area and further up the mountain lane are some great looking seasonal trees. Between the two parking spots there are maple and gingko trees lining the main street as well as along the same distance on the path’s edge of lake Kawaguchi.

Continuing on your drive along Lake Kawaguchi, be prepared to stop for more amazing maple trees at this free parking spot, GPS 35.5153416,138.7369953. Near the far end of the lake there is a good and relatively well-priced, Italian restaurant on the right hand side.

Following this, you can drive to the thatched village settlement with the GPS coordinates 35.501374, 138.659046. Saiko Iyashi No Sato Nenba. Please see the link for parking and prices.

If you have extra time and energy, further around Lake Saiko there is a 20 to 30 minute hike up to Koyodai summit that has fall colors en route and at the top. You can drive to the top of this, but the road is unpaved and very rough. The GPS coordinates for the parking lot at the BOTTOM of Koyodai summit are 35.481077, 138.6720221. The GPS coordinates for the parking lot at the TOP of the summit are 35.4841543, 138.6795045. Linda Bell, November 2014.

Ashikaga Wisteria Flower Park

DSC07361This park has a wonderful array of flowers throughout the year, but is most famous for its spectacular wisteria displays from Mid-April to Mid-May. It is thought that one of the wisteria trees was planted in 1870. For more information about this park, and its other flowering seasons, please see this website http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/en/index.html.

DSC07399During the wisteria season, English maps of the park are available at the entrance. Restaurants and eating stalls can be found throughout the park. Various food items range from ¥400 to ~¥2000. Restaurant Wisteria has the largest selection, but is probably the most expensive. They have pork cutlets, a sushi-type bowl, club sandwiches and a kids’ curry meal. The park is stroller-friendly and there is a large resting/play field for kids to play in. A few playground items are located near the “Local Delicacies Corner” and tunnel of white wisteria. The gravel pathways around the park can be quite dusty so be prepared to bring extra clothing.

DSC07556Ashikaga Flower Park is open daily except for New Year’s Day. Opening hours vary however, so please check the park’s website. During the wisteria season, the park is open from 7am-9pm. At ~5:30pm the park is illuminated and the wisteria looks amazing. It seemed to be less busy during the afternoon and evening. Admission to the park changes on a daily and seasonal basis. In May 2014, Adults were ¥900- ¥1700, and children over 4 years old were ¥500-¥800 during the wisteria season. There are also evening admission prices (5.30pm-9pm).

DSC07604Because we incorporated this visit with a trip to Hitachi Seaside Park, we rented a base van to offset the cost of the road tolls. We took the Kan-etsu and Kita-Kanto Expressways most of the way to avoid traffic and it took 1½ hours from Yokota Air Base. We stayed at Chisun Inn Sano Fujioka. It was inexpensive and basic, but had everything we needed. Breakfast was an extra ¥500 per person, but free for young children. GPS coordinates for Chisun Inn Sano Fujioka are 36.29690 139.60001. The hotel is about a 20 minute drive from Ashikaga Flower Park. Linda Bell, May 2014.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS:  There are 2 entrances to the Flower Park, the West Gate and Front Gate. Parking is free near both gates. The GPS coordinates to the Front Gate parking are 36.31520 139.52274. It is located in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo’s center.

Nezu Shrine, Tsutsuji Matsuri

Schaaf_1192Schaaf_1247We went to the Nezu Shrine in Tokyo on April 23rd for the Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri). The azaleas were beautiful and in full bloom. The festival occurs every year from mid-April though the beginning of June. Nezu Shrine boasts over 3000 azaleas of 100 different species. The festivities include food and a few merchant vendors lined up. The cost to get into the garden is ¥200 for an adult. There is no entry fee for children in elementary school and younger. The shrine is located in downtown Tokyo near Ueno Park. When you get off at the Nezu Subway Station, there are plenty of signs in English that point you in the right direction. It’s about a 5 minute walk from the station. During the festival, you should be able to just follow the crowd. The Shrine is open 9:00am to 5:30pm. The website is located at http://www.nedujinja.or.jp/tutuji/t.html, though you may need to use a translator. Christene Schaaf, April 2014

Spring Flowers near Yokota

Spring is such a magical time in Japan.  Here is a list of some of my favorite places to see spring unfold near Yokota Air Base.  Each location is linked to a full trip report with directions and gps coordinates.  Do you have another favorite place to add?  Great!  Add it in comments or send us an email: yokotatravel@gmail.com.  – Sarah Straus, February, 2014.

sarah straus cherryCherry Blossoms: There are so many great places to see cherry trees in bloom all over greater Tokyo including of course at Yokota.  Typically they bloom late March through early April.  For one prediction of the 2014 Cherry Blossoms see: www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011.html or www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php.

Showa Kinen Park – The cherry orchard is located adjacent to the big center field and the tulip garden.

Tama River walk in Fussa – There is a trail that runs along the Tama River and part of it is lines with Cherry trees.  It is an especially nice place to run or bike.

Koganei Park – There are hundreds of cherry trees here adjacent to the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum.  Time your visit right and you might go on the free museum day.  Photo above taken at Koganie Park on March 28, 2013 – a year the cherry blossoms bloomed very early.

Inokashira Park at Kichijoji – I missed seeing the cherry trees here the last two years but I won’t make that mistake this year!  I’m looking forward to riding a swan boat under the cherry blossoms!

Ueno Park – Ueno park is a popular spot for seeing cherry blossoms in Tokyo.  We don’t have a photo for Ueno park… so if you have one, please share!

Tokyo River Cruise – There are beautiful cherry trees in bloom along the river at Sumida Park in downtown Tokyo.  If you start at Sensoji Temple and head toward the river, you’ll run right into cherry trees, a fabulous playground, and nearby a place to board the boats for a cruise up the river.

sarah straus tulipsTulips at Showa Kinen Park – Don’t miss the amazing tulip garden at Showa Kinen Park in April.  This photo was taken April 10, 2013.

sarah straus poppiesPoppies at Showa Kinen Park – The poppies also bloom in April at Showa Kinen Park and there is a large field of them adjacent to the tulips.  This photo was taken April 10, 2013.

sarah straus azaleasAzalea’s at Shiofune Kannon – The Azaleas at Shiofune bloom late April to early May.  This photo was a bit early in the season, taken on April 22, 2013.

sarah straus irisIrses at Fukiage Iris Park – This Iris park, located near Shiofune Kannon, is a great place to visit in June.  This photo was taken June 15, 2013.

ADDITIONS

Hamura tulips Rebekah Storman2Rebekah Storman, Feb, 2014: Another great spot for viewing the tulips close to Yokota is in Hamura. Half of the year the fields are planted with rice, once the rice is harvested the tulips are planted. This pic was taken with my phone (not the best quality) on April 8, 2013.  The parking fee was ¥500. No entrance fee to walk through the tulip fields. There’s a “tower” like structure in the middle of the fields to get a bird’s eye view of the tulips. Taka at the Yujo gave me a hand drawn map last year. That’s the best place to go for directions.  GPS: 35.759410, 139.303065.

sarah straus yoshino baigoPlum Trees at Yoshino Baigo:
Unfortunately, they had to cut down all the plum trees due to  a plum pox virus infection in May 2014. According to the website, the park still has other flowers during the spring. (March 2016)
The plum trees bloom first, late February to Mid-March.  One of the best places to see many types of plum trees blooming is Yoshino Baigo, toward Mt. Mitake in Ome.  The photo above was taken March 9th, 2013, which for 2013 was too early to see all of the trees in bloom.  *** I’ve heard there is a problem with the Yoshino Baigo trees and they may need to cut them down and replant***

 

 

 

Hitachi Seaside Park

untitled-5747This Showa Kinen-like Park, adjacent to the ocean, has some stunning garden displays, an amusement park, family golf courses, and a BMX course.  English maps of the park are available at the Ticket Entrance.  For garden enthusiasts, the park has a number of magnificent gardens that bloom at various times Linda Bell Hitachi Seaside Parkthroughout the year. When we visited, in fall (mid-October), the northwestern garden, on Miharashi Hills, was ‘ablaze’ with red Kochia bushes (see pictures). Amazing! This same area is also very popular in spring (late April – mid May) when the hillside is completely blue with 4½ million Nemophila (‘Baby Blue Eyes’). In late March – mid April 1 million daffodils are on display at Suisen Garden, from mid April – late April there is a spectacular display of 270,000 tulips at the Tamago no Mori Garden.  The park’s map has a detailed walking guide around the various garden displays for any time of the year.

At the family amusement park, Pleasure Garden, there are 30+ rides, including a giant Ferris Wheel, rollercoasters, a spinning disc, and a labyrinth. Tickets for the rides are sold separately and cost anywhere between ¥100 – ¥600. There are some height and/or age restrictions for the rides, but these only cover a few of the rides and there are plenty of other rides that should keep under 3 year old and under 120 cm happy.

For golf, the park has two courses; The Family Park Golf Course and the Putter Golf Garden. 9 and 18 holes can be played on either course and these cost ¥500 and ¥800 respectively. No 3 year olds are allowed golfing.

According to the park’s map, the BMX course is “a real course of BMX specialty”. To ride here, I believe long sleeved clothing, pants, and sneakers are required. On every 2nd Sunday, in each month, there is a free “experience Classroom ‘challenge the BMX’” session. Children, under age 16 need a guardian’s signature to participate.

linda bellThere are restaurants, cafes and BBQ areas (reservations required) located throughout the park. Bicycles can be rented at various places too. Strollers can be borrowed, free of charge, at the park entrance gate. There are miles of bike lanes and just like Showa Kinen Park there is a train that can take you around the park. Cost ¥500.  Pets are permitted on a leash.  Roller-skates, rollerblades and skateboards are not permitted.

Admission for adults: ¥400. Junior high – Elementary students: ¥80. Children under 6: free. There are discounts for groups over 13 people. Parking at the park costs ¥500.  HOURS: Hitachi Seaside Park is generally closed every Monday and on Tuesday if Monday is a National Holiday. There are, however, exceptions to this rule during spring (Mar 26 – May 13), summer (Jul 21 – Aug 31) and fall (Oct 1 – 31) breaks.  Most of the time the park opens at 9:30am. From Jul 21 – Aug 3 the park closes at 6pm and from Nov. 1 to the end of Feb it closes at 4:30pm. The rest of the year it closes at 5pm.  If you need more information the park’s phone number is 029-265-9001.

Linda BellDRIVING DIRECTIONS: This park is a 2-3 hour drive Northeast of Yokota and Tokyo. It is near Mito and Hitachinaka Cities in Ibaraki prefecture. We visited it on the way back from Nikko, which was not ideal, but still closer than Yokota. I believe the road tolls from Yokota to the Hitachi Seaside Park (one way) are between ¥3,000-4,000 depending on the route you travel.

There are several large parking lots, and the GPS coordinates to the West Parking Lot are N36.40863 E140.59016. If you plan on visiting Hitachi Seaside’s amusement park or golf courses, I recommend parking in the South Parking Lot.  It would be great if someone could give a more detailed review of the Amusement Park, Golf and/or BMX Courses as we only visited the northwestern part of the park. – Linda Bell, December 2013; Baby Blue Eyes photos by Linda Bell, May 2014.

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Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

shinjuku gyoen sarah strausshinjuku garden sarah strausShinjuku Gyoen is one of the largest parks in Tokyo, located walking distance from Shinjuku Station.  There are traditional Japanese gardens here, large areas to run and play, a formal French garden filled with roses and a large green house.  A river runs through the garden with graceful bridges that cross back and forth.  The park is especially nice in the spring when the cherry trees bloom and in November when the leaves turn colors.  Bring your own lunch or enjoy noodles/curry at a reasonably priced restaurant in the park.  There are also two traditional tea houses located in the park.  – Sarah Straus, October 2013DSC_2958DIRECTIONS: This is an easy park to access by train.  Starting in Fussa or Akishima, take the Ome train to Tachikawa.  In Tachikawa switch to a train  heading to Tokyo, Shinjuku Station.  There is a metro stop closer to the parks entrance (Shinjukugyoenmae), but don’t bother transferring here.  Exit the station near the Information Booth and turn left.  Just walk straight down this street.  I always get turned around at Shinjuku Station – but the folks in the well marked information booth are very helpful.  Poke your head in there and they will point you in the right direction.sarah straus shinjuku gyoen garden

Big Bear Chalets, Hakuba

Big Bear Chalets, located in Hakuba outside Nagano, is possibly the best cabin that we’ve stayed in.  It has all the amenities of a house plus private in-cabin onsen and it makes for a fun destination in itself.   We had so much fun at the cabin that we found it hard to leave. Our 2 bedroom cabin fit up to 6 adults comfortably and there’s plenty of space to squeeze the kids in.  Bedrooms have American sized full beds. Bring your own food and cook in the full sized kitchen minus an oven.  It is located walking distance to local eats (sweet, savory, or noodles – Mexican too) as well as a 7/11.  Staying here you can enjoy nature hikes, bike trails, and fishing pond.  In winter come for the skiing and walk from the chalet to the ski lifts.  Tip: Owner Darrin suggests that the best time for skiing is late March/early April.  At that time, there are fewer people, much less traffic and the cost of lodging is almost half the December – March price. The snow quality is much better as well.  During peak season (Dec-Mar), the snow is not optimal due to crowds. Hakuba become a popular ski spot after the winter Olympics took place here in 1998.  In winter it fills up with Australians and skiers from all over Asia.  The chalet is expensive, but priced for the unit, not by person.  Split the cost with another family or two to make for a more cost effective vacation.
Directions: GPS 36.705053 ,137.840202.  About a 4 hour drive, located in Hakuba. – Anna S., November 2012

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Summerland

Roughly eight kilometers from Yokota is the land of perpetual summer: Summerland. It is a mix of a theme park, swimming pool, game room and restaurants. You can spend a gloomy, gray day inside and enjoy the wave pool, large and small water slides and numerous rides underneath the heated dome. In the summer months, an outdoor “Adventure Lagoon,” water slides and amusement rides are available.  There are various price ranges.  The cost is cheaper off-season when just the indoor pools are open, March – May and October-November.  The pools close December-February. If you only want to swim you’ll just need to buy the regular pass not the more expensive free pass.  The full price list and opening hours are here.  Parking is ¥1200.  There are restaurants on the premises, but you can bring your own lunch or a cooler.  No tattoos; so if you have them find a swimsuit to cover them.  You can also rent a locker in the changing area. Nearby is Akigawa Nature Park, which charges a modest admission fee.  Summerland phone:  042-558-6511. www.summerland.co.jp/english/. GPS for Summerland parking lot: 35.71826,139.27707. Check here for more information on their tattoo policy.  – Photos by Michelle Nexon 2013, updated Sarah Straus, 2014.

Comments by Sarah Straus, March 2014: I’ve taken my family to Summerland during the spring three years in a row.  We started going when the kids were ages 2 and 4 and our last year they were ages 4 and 6.  These are great ages for the indoor pools at Summerland.  In my opinion the best time to go is early March because the warm humid air under the dome feels so great after a cold, dry winter.  This year we went on Sunday March 2nd.  I thought it would be crowded but it wasn’t!  It was perfect.  Last year we went on a weekday during the first week in March and it was so quiet. We had the place to ourselves and loved it.  I have a few tips: 1: Bring a tarp and arrive when it opens to snag your spot.  Open times vary, so check their webpage.  2: Your towels and food will likely be OK unattended, but take advantage of the coin locker located next to the wave pool for wallets and phones.  You’ll get your ¥100 back.  3. Bring your own food. There are restaurants in Summerland and you can even buy beer, but the food is not great… you’ll be better off feeding your kids PBJ’s and juice boxes in my opinion.  4. Bring your floaties… inner tubes are so fun when the big waves begin on the hour.   5. Don’t miss the grotto rain storm in the basement level which occurs 30 minutes into each hour.  It is so fun and a great place to warm up because there are several large hot tubs.
DIRECTIONS: There’s a map on the Summerland website that includes Yokota Air Base, but it may be hard to follow. See our map below.


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Showa Memorial Park & other Tachikawa parks

showa kinen sarah strausShowa Memorial Park (Showa Kinen Koen)
This is a massive, lovely park with bike and walking paths, a lake for boating, a formal Japanese garden, water parks (See “Rainbow Pool” below) and, in winter, an outdoor skating rink and Christmas light show. You could explore for days and still find treasures. (Not to be confused with the simple “Showa Park” in Tachikawa. See below.) Among the many treats for kids are trampoline nets, roller slides, dragon sculptures and misty maze, but the park is probably most famous for its bouncing dome, a huge, marshmallow-like playground. (Sadly, a sign says adults aren’t allowed.)  On windy days bring a kite to fly in the middle of the park.
Showa Kinen Tulips Sarah StrausThe park is especially lovely in spring, as a multitude of colorful flowers and blooming trees are a feast for the eyes. The cherry trees bloom in March/April and then the tulips come up.  The tulip fields go on and on and are truly amazing – not to be missed.  A wonderful water fountain greets you as you enter the park from the largest parking area at Tachikawa, so don’t forget to bring your camera. Also near several of the entrances are bicycle rental areas, but feel free to ride into the park with your own bike – there are several entrances to the park just for bikes in fact.  Bike rental is just a few hundred yen for 3 hours.  There are kids bikes, bikes with child-seats, and even tandem bikes for rent.  However, if you are very tall, renting a bike may not be a good option.  Bring your own picnic lunch or check out the small, but tasty restaurants and snack bars located near the lake and throughout the park. Dogs are allowed in most areas but must be on leash everywhere except the dog run. I’ve even seen people bring their pet cats and bunnies to the park.  Admission is ¥400 per adult and ¥80 per child. Annual passes for adults are ¥4000. With an annual pass they will give you a plastic card with your photo on it and expiration date.  Also with the annual pass you an get ¥100 off parking, which is normally ¥800.  Hours: Park opens at 9:30am. Closes at 4:30pm in winter, 5pm in summer, and 6pm summer weekends. Open every day but Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and the last Mon. and Tues. of February. Rachael Keyser-McClendon. Liz Ruskin updated directions 2011, Sarah Straus updated 2013, Photos by Sarah Straus 2011.

DSC_3957Japanese Garden
I think the Japanese Garden, located nearest the Sunagawa entrance, deserves its own section.  This is a gorgeous, formal Japanese garden with a lake in the middle, streams, and waterfalls.  There are three covered observation huts.  Turtles swim in the water and bask on rocks.  Don’t miss the bonsai japanese garden sarah strausdemonstration in the back of the garden – filled with the most amazing bonsai.  There is usually a man there working on one of the bonsai and it is so interesting to how he trims each bonsai with such care.  You can’t bring food into the garden, but you can drink tea there in a small tea house (in the photo above the tea house is the building on the right).  It costs ¥500 for tea and a sweet snack.  Come in November to enjoy the fall colors. – Sarah Straus, Oct 2013.

Sarah Straus Showa Kinen parkKomorebi Villiage
Located nearest the Sunagawa entrance, Komorebi Villiage is made to look like a farm on the Musashino Plain in the 1950’s and 60’s (ref: webpage).  Having passed by this area many times, we finally stopped in.  What a gem!  There are demonstration gardens, a large thatched roof farm house, a beautifully designed thatched roof storage house, and water wheel.  Volunteers place a kettle over a flame in the farm house and they are happy to talk about the village with visitors.  I’m looking forward to seeing this place in the spring!  Opens at 10am and has an earlier closing time than the rest of the park. – Sarah Straus, January, 2014.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From Fussa Station take the train towards Tokyo to Nishi-Tachikawa, about 15 minutes and ¥160 per person. Take the North Exit of the station and the park entrances is steps away.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS: There are three parking lots for Showa Kinen and additionally several bike/pedestrian entrances.  The closest parking lot to the East gate (about 2 miles away) is the Sunagawa parking area.  The next closest is the the Tachikawa parking lot, then the Nishi-Tachikawa parking lot. Parking costs ¥800. For all parking lots, turn right out the East Gate (0km). Turn left at the first light and drive until this road ends at the canal. Turn right, onto Route 59. At 2.2km you’ll pass under a set of railroad tracks.
Sunagawa Parking: .  Keep going straight after you go under the tracks. Drive until 2.8km. Here you’ll see a four-lane boulevard appear on the left. (It’s a “T” intersection, so the boulevard does not continue on the right.  It is at the fourth light after you go under the train tracks.) Turn left here. Drive until 4.2km and turn right into the Sunagawa parking lot for Showa Kinen Park. This lot is closer to the children’s forest and bouncing dome.  You can enter with your own bike and/or rent bikes at this entrance.  During the summer a shuttle will take you from this parking lot to Rainbow Pools.  GPS Coordinates to parking entrance: 35.72047, 139.39909.
showa playground sarah strausTachikawa Parking: Pass the Sunagawa entrance and keep going to the next opportunity to make a hard right hand turn.  Essentially you’ll be driving around the outside edge of the park.  This is a large boulevard with trees.  You will pass a fire station.  Look for the Tachikawa parking entrance on your right.  This the largest parking lot and the entrance near the large fountain.  During winter find the christmas lights show here.  You can rent bikes at this entrance and a shuttle will take you to Rainbow Pools from here during the summer.  GPS: 35.703842, 139.403413.
Nishi-Tachikawa Parking: Pass the Tachikawa entrance and keep going to the next opportunity to make a hard right.  You will just continue to drive around the outside edge of the park.  Go under the pedestrian bridge and turn right into the park area.  This parking lot is at the same entrance as the Nishi-Tachikawa train station.  This parking lot is very close to Rainbow Pools and to the lake where you can rent paddle boats.  No bikes at this entrance.  If you bring your bike, you’ll have to find one of the two bike entrances further down in either direction.  GPS: 35.704731, 139.392319.
sarah straus showa parkBICYCLE DIRECTIONS: Showa Memorial Park is a 25-minute bike ride from the East Gate.  Ride out the East Gate. Take a right, then immediately take the first left—almost straight out the gate. Take this small, quiet road alongside the parks until it dead-ends into the big road. Walk your bicycle across the street at the cross-walk, turn right, then cross the river just beyond the road as soon as you can. You will find a wide, quiet bicycle path that winds its way among trees along the river all the way to an entrance to Showa park exclusively for bicyclists and joggers. Click here for shortest Bike Map. See below for most pleasant bike map.

DSC_3231Driving Map to Sunagawa Parking

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Bike Map, low traffic road + bike path

View Showa Park by bike in a larger map

Winter Illuminationsshowa kinen winter sarah strausShowa Kinen Park has a nice lights show during December.  It is located at the Tachikawa entrance.  When I went with my kids we walked the area, ate a snack and did the little lights maze in one hour.  There are about 12 food booths scattered throughout the area.  For us it was a good destination on a school night, close and early enough to get home by the kids bedtime.  Park at the Tachikawa parking lot and pay just ¥200 to park starting at 4pm.  The lights come on a 5pm and end at 9pm.  The entrance fee is the same as during the day or you can get in free if you have a season pass.  In 2013 the show runs from Nov 30th through Dec 25th.  – Sarah Straus, Dec 2013.

Rainbow Pool & Water Park in Showa Memorial ParkSarah Straus, July 2012This place is a treat on a hot day. It’s fun, fabulous and close to Yokota.  We recommend parking at the Sunagawa Parking Lot, approximately four kilometers from the East Gate. (See “Showa Memorial Park” above for driving directions.) Once inside, take the free park shuttle bus from the gate to the water park.  The stroller-friendly bus picks you up behind the bike rental.

showa kinen by sarah strausThe standard price is ¥2200 for teens and adults; kids ages 6 and up ¥1200, ages 4 and 5 is ¥300. Age 3 and under are free. However, if you pay with your suica prices drop to: ¥2000, ¥1000, and ¥200.  Little kids will like the gradual entry wave pool (photo above). The pool is HUGE and the waves are mild. There is even a shady section of the wave pool. Older kids will be plenty entertained, too.  There are large water sides, a small water slide for little kids who can sit on a parents lap, a lazy river, a pool with waterfalls, two large pools and a spray park.

You might want to bring a tarp and anchor it down with all your floaties and pool toys to claim your space. (There’s a compressed air pump just outside the dressing rooms so save your breath for screaming down the water slides.) You can also bring a cooler and a shade tent.

Here are some tips for enjoying the park:
•Summer 2013 dates: July 13 – September 8.  You’ll need to translate this webpage – but here is more information for 2015: http://www.showakinenpark.go.jp/2015poolopen/index.html
•Save that stub! You’ll pay ¥400 to enter the park. Save your receipt to have this amount deducted from your pool entry price – or just pay for the Rainbow Pools at the park entrance.  However, you can also just buy the water park tickets at each gate.
•The magic of Suica: Show your Suica or pay with it and the price drops to ¥2000 adults, ¥1000 kids, ¥200 for ages 4 and 5.
•Come late! After 2pm, entry price drops to ¥1100 adults, ¥600 kids, ¥150 ages 4 and 5.
•Come often! If you think you might be a regular, go for the ¥6000 season pass, good until early September, kids season pass ¥3000.  Ages 4 and 5 season pass ¥700.
•Come pregnant! Expectant moms pay only ¥500!
DIRECTIONS: Same as “Showa Kinen Park” entry above.  Sarah Straus & others, 2012

Showa Park
Showa Park is an old-fashioned city park. There are a few small shrines, a five-tiered pagoda and assorted playground equipment. There are open areas for playing ball or soccer, a jogging track and a small animal zoo. It is shaded by trees and is a pleasant place for a picnic lunch. Vending machines for drinks are available. This park is free and easy to reach by car; free parking is available. Note: Showa Park is not the same as Showa Memorial Park (Showa Kinen Koen), at Nishi-Tachikawa station. Showa Park is a block south of the tracks and closer to Higashi-Nakagami station. Open daily from 8:40 am until 4:50 pm.
DIRECTIONS:Diane Cressman, Melody Messer, Patricia Caldwell date?