Category Archives: Summer

Enoshima East side Beach (Katase Higashi-hama Beach)


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

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

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


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.


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

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


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)

Kamakura Prince Hotel Parking lot
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
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!


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:
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


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

Art Aquarium:
Coredo Muromachi:
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.

Tokyo Tower, The Milky Way Illumination

IMG_8175If you are planning on visiting Tokyo Tower, I recommend going there during the summer. There are “Tanabata”(Star Festival) themed decorations called the “Milky Way Illumination” which represents “the night sky of summer where the Milky Way is visible”. The interior sky (ceiling) is filled with blue stars (lights) on the main observatory floor. My husband and I reached the main observatory right before the sunset. Since it was a weekday, there was no waiting time to get up to the main observatory floor and the floor was almost empty.

IMG_8163We decided to wait for the sunset at a small cafe on the main observatory floor. The cafe offers light meals and drinks such as sandwiches, fries, ice cream and drinks. The floor got busy as the sun went down. The view of the city turning its color was very pretty and the floor gradually turned blue, thanks to the stars.

IMG_8136After the sunset, the room was completely blue and the atmosphere was very romantic.  There is a DJ booth on the same floor and the performer differs by the day of the week. We missed it, but there is projection mapping on the second floor of the main observatory. The outside staircase to the main observatory is also decorated with blue lights, but we could not climb the stairs due to the weather.

IMG_8205If you are a fan of manga/anime called “ONE PIECE”, there is a themed park on 3rd, 4th and 5th floor of the building below the tower called “Foot Town”. Also, there will be a haunted house on the basement starting July 15 through September 4th (the dates may differ every year). Hours for the haunted house: 12pm to 9pm, Y800 for junior high school students and above and Y500 for 4 years old up to junior high school students). If those brave souls visit there, please let us know how it was. – Mai Takahashi, July 2016

Read more about the Tokyo Tower from previous posts  here.

Tokyo Tower The Milky Way Illumination 2016: June 1st to August 31st
Tokyo Tower Website
Tokyo ONE PIECE Tower:
Hours: 9 am to 11 pm (last entry 10:30 pm)
Admission to the main observatory (150m high): Y900 for high school students and above, Y500 for junior high school and elementary school students, and Y400 for  children between 4 years old and before elementary school age.
Special observatory(250m): Y700 for adults, Y500 for junior high school students to elementary school students, Y400 for children between 4 years old and elementary school age.
Directions: In my opinion, the easiest way to get to Tokyo Tower from Fussa is take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku and transfer to Oedo line(subway) and then get off at Akabanebashi. From the Akabanebashi exit, you’ll see the tower in front of you. It’s about a 5-10 minute walk from the station.

Saitama Museum of rivers

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

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


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

Hiking Mt. Fuji with kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Yomiuri Land Amusement Park

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

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

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

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

For more information about Yomiuri Land, please see the park’s website Their website has PDF files linking you to height and age restrictions for each particular ride as well as a map.

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

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


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

Yumigahama Beach, Izu Peninsula

DSC08531This is a nice beach with a relatively white sandy coastline, shaped in a 1 km arch. It is a 20-30 minute drive from Shimoda City. We went over Independence Day Weekend and the beach was almost empty, although this could have been due to the inclement weather in Tokyo at the time. Fortunately, the Izu Peninsula has a slight microclimate and we had fine weather.  For the most part, the surf is not big at Yumigahama Beach because it’s a sheltered bay. The waves are more suitable to boogie boarders, beginner surfers and kids.

Potentially, it can be a slow drive getting to the southern Izu coastline from Yokota Air Base, especially in peak traffic periods; during the weekends and summer months. It typically takes 3.5 to 4 hours in light traffic. We drove through the middle of the Peninsula on the way to the beach and drove up the East coastline on the way back to Yokota. The East coastline route was much faster and less windy than the other route, but slightly more expensive. The tolls to Shimoda/Yumigahama are quite costly, maybe $30 to $40 one-way.

From Yumigahama, we took a daytrip to Kawazu Seven Waterfalls, and on the way back to Yokota we visited iZoo, Mine Hot Spring and Geyser Park, and the Jogasaki Coastline. You can also visit Shimoda, where monuments (“Black Ships”) and parks commemorate Commodore Perry (U.S) who landed and started diplomatic talks with Japan in 1854. Shirahama Beach is also located near Shimoda and is apparently better for surfing. Jinja Shrine, a beautiful Shinto Shrine borders Shimoda Beach.

DSC08539We stayed at Yumigahama Beach Cottage (aka Yumigahama Seaside Garden), recommended by another Yokota family, and we were not disappointed. Mr. Morimoto owns three two-story cottages that can house up to five people each. The small cottages are equipped with almost everything you need, including kitchenware, small air conditioner, microwave and a small outdoor BBQ/grill. You will need to take towels and hand/paper towels. The mattresses are relatively thin, but we were able to use two and it was ok, but not great. The pillows were also small and hard, so you may want to bring your own. Boogie boards are available for free, as is parking. From the cottages, the Yumigahama beach is a 1 to 2 minute walk, approximately 30 yards. Rates for a cottage vary throughout the year, anywhere from ¥9,800 to ¥42,000 per day. Be aware that the price can really spike over the weekend. For more information and reviews, visit this link, Don’t be afraid to call, as Mr. Morimoto speaks great English. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DIRECTIONS: The Yujo has handouts with directions to Shimoda, but I found these to be a little confusing. There are a number of new roads and expressways on the way to the Izu Peninsula, and we found Google Maps (not our relatively new Garmin) gave us the quickest route. We enjoyed traveling via the coast. Yokota —> Route 16 —> Route 29 —> past Atsugi City and Ebina City —> Tomei Expressway —> Odawara- Atsugi Rd./Expressway —> Seisho Bypass —>Route 135. From Route 135 onward, you can choose between several toll expressways along the coastline, or continue on Route 135 which is more windy and has two-lane traffic. The inland route is quite windy, and once you get on the peninsula roads, passing can be difficult. GPS coordinates for Yumigahama Beach Cottage are N34.63572 E138.89020, but if you’re just going to Yumigahama Beach, I believe there are parking lots at both ends of the beach.


Jogasaki Coastline, Izu Peninsula

DSC08671This rugged and volcanic piece of coastline is a great backdrop for the Kadowaki Suspension Bridge, lighthouse, and hikes. The 75ft high and 157ft long bridge, stretching over the ocean, was a big draw for us. It is a 2 to 5 minute walk from the Kadowaki parking lot to the bridge and the lighthouse. Both attractions offer great photo opportunities. We didn’t do the coastal hike due to inclement weather, but according to the maps at the parking lot, the hike can be divided into two parts. The Jogasaki Picnical Course, approximately 3km one-way, and the Jogasaki Nature Study Course, approximately 6km one-way. Please check out the Izu Peninsula Geo Park Map.  If you want to do the Picnical Course, you can also park at Izu Shiki-no-hana parking lot. The Nature Study Course passes through various types of vegetation (including hydrangeas and cherry trees), past temples, through the Izu Oceanic Park, past waterfalls, and at least one other suspension bridge. I believe this hike is the more difficult of the two. Take appropriate shoes if you plan to do the hike or walk on the jagged rocks. There are no guardrails or fences in some places, so be prepared if you have small kids.

DSC08672The Izu Oceanic Park has a number of ‘natural’ rock pools for children and also a 50 meter swimming pool. In 2012, the park was open from 09:00-17:00, Mar.-Oct., and 09:00-16:00 the rest of the year. Admission was ¥500. However, this information may have changed. The hiking and bridges are open 24 hours, but the lighthouse is open from 09:00 to 16:00 most days. Kawadowaki Parking is ¥500, and there are other parking lots along the route that I believe are also fee-based. For more information, call the tourist hotline at 0557-32-17185.

While you are in the area, Omuroyama Volcano, which created this interesting coastline, is another place to consider visiting. Further down the coast is the iZoo and the Shimoda and Yumigahama Beaches. Linda Bell, July 2014.

IMG_2595DIRECTIONS: In good traffic, the Jogasaki Coastline is about a 3-hour drive from Yokota Air Base. During summer, this coastline area is very crowded so I’d suggest doing this trip during the week and/or outside of summer holidays. The GPS coordinates to Kawadowaki Parking parking lot are N34.89076 E139.13733 and the GPS coordinates for the at Izu Shiki-no-hana parking lot are N34.88603 E139.13203.

Tengu-no-taki Waterfall, Hinohara

photo 2If you find yourself in Hinohara Village, it’s worth checking out the Hossawa-no-taki Waterfall, an easy 15 minute hike. However, if you find that you want something a little more challenging, consider the Tengu-no-taki Waterfall hike. Just a quick drive from the Hossawa-no-taki Waterfall parking, the Tengu-no-taki Waterfall trailhead is easy to get to (if you don’t miss the turn), and there’s plenty of parking. The hike takes about an hour, one-way, and is mostly uphill. The first waterfall is only 5-10 minutes into the hike. This waterfall is really two falls, fairly close together. You can easily turn back, or keep hiking up. If you continue hiking, you will find the second waterfall. There are benches at the second waterfall for sitting and eating.

photo 5If you are still feeling great once you’ve reached the second waterfall, consider climbing higher to Tsuzura Rock. This is a giant rock outcropping that experienced rock climbers climb on. If you hike around the east side of the rock, you can actually climb/scramble to the top of the rock without a rope for some absolutely stunning views of Hinohara Village. (Please be extremely careful if you decide to do this). My husband and I went on a Sunday and found many rock climbers with their harnesses and rope. However, when I went on a Thursday, I was the only person there.

I recommend wearing hiking or running shoes. I’ve hiked the trail in both and was fine. Watch for slippery rocks and roots. There are a few very minor stream crossings, please be careful. And bring plenty of water. Consider getting a trail map of the area at the Hinohara Village Office, GPS: 35.726857, 139.148817. And happy hiking! Michelle Nexon, May 2014.

photo 2DIRECTIONS: To get there from the Hossawa-no-taki Waterfall parking lot, turn left (north) onto 205. Drive a couple of minutes until you see a small convenient store on the right, called Azumaya. Turn right, right after this store, GPS: 35.738151, 139.143497. Be very careful not to miss this turn, it’s a small road and looks almost like a driveway (I missed it the first time). Drive up this road until it dead ends at the trail head, GPS: 35.744315, 139.147239. If there is no room to park, drive back down a few hundred feet and consider parking at various places where the road widens. Please note that this is a VERY narrow road. When we were there on a Sunday, there were many cars parked.

Mt. Hinodeyama Hiking Trail

Hinode 5Hinode 4Located near Hinode Town, and the Shiroiwa-no-taki Waterfall, the Mt Hinode trailhead is easy to get to from Yokota Air Base. Mt Hinode’s altitude is 902 meters, and can be climbed in less than a day. On the way up, expect to see multiple rock formations and tall evergreen trees. Depending on the time of year, various flowers may be blooming. I climbed the mountain in April and saw a variety of Azalea and Japanese Yellow Rose, which bloom in April and May. At the top of the mountain there is a lovely wooden gazebo with amazing views of the Kanto Plains and Chichibu mountains. A great location for a picnic. There are also rugged bathrooms southwest and near the summit.


The climb is rocky and there are tree roots to watch for. I recommend wearing tennis shoes or hiking boots. I also recommend bringing your own water. It takes approximately one hour and thirty minutes to climb.

Hinode 1To get to the trailhead, park at the Tsurutsuru Hot Springs parking lot, there is parking alongside the road.  The parking is located at GPS 35.7784196, 139.1927258 (please refer to the first map below). From here, walk down the road, in the direction you came from, and take the first right down a small road. You will walk past some old rugged log houses, a place that Google Maps calls Wildwood. Walk approximately 11 minutes until you cross a bridge, near GPS 35.7793232, 139.1840214 (please refer to the second map below). On the right, you will see a trailhead. Take this trail and follow the signs to the top of Mt Hinode. I’ve included a picture in this post that shows a sign in Japanese. Pointing left, the sign reads Mt Hinode. Follow these signs to the top of the mountain. Pointing right, the sign reads Tsurutsuru.  On your way down, follow the signs pointing towards Tsurutsuru Hot Springs. When you are finished with your hike, consider relaxing in the popular Tsurutsuru Hot Springs. By Michelle Nexon, April 2014.

Hinode 2








To get to the Tsurutsuru Hot Springs parking lot, alongside the road (driving):

To get to the trailhead from the Tsurutsuru Hot Springs parking lot (walking):

Shiroiwa-no-taki Waterfall and Hiking Trail

Hinode Waterfall 7Hinode Waterfall 1Located near Hinode Town, the Shiroiwa-no-taki waterfall is an easy drive from Yokota Air Base. Claimed to be the greatest waterfall in Hinode, the waterfall consists of three separate falls, one that is 8.5 meters, a second that is 12 meters and the third is 15 meters. The water comes from the Hiraigawa River, who’s source begins near Mt Hinode. The hike to falls is rocky, and sometimes muddy (depending on the time of year), I recommend wearing tennis shoes or hiking boots. It’s an approximately 10 minute hike to the first waterfall, which is an easy to moderate climb for children. Continue along the trail to discover more falls. Hike for another hour and 45 minutes to the top of Mt. Hinode. The climb to the top of the mountain is fairly steep and rugged, it is not recommended for small children. Whether you go to enjoy the falls, or climb the mountain, it’s a great way to get out of town and relax.

Hinode Waterfall 5To get to the waterfall, be sure to follow the map shown below. Please note that the road is not paved the entire way and becomes very bumpy/muddy near the falls. I took my small car and was fine. Once you arrive at the GPS destination, there are a few unmarked spaces for parking, and a restroom. The restroom is quite rugged. Be sure to bring your own water. The trailhead begins where the road ends. When you are finished with your hike, consider relaxing in the popular Tsurutsuru Hot Springs. For more information on Mt Hinode, please click here. GPS 35.769609, 139.194386. By Michelle Nexon, April 2014.

Kanotoiwa Rock

Kanotoiwa Rock 2Near Hinohara Waterfalls is a beautiful rock cliff, with a narrow gorge cut by a clear mountain stream. You can climb on the rocks along the river and through the gorge on a narrow path beside the swift flowing stream while holding onto a chain. Unless you experience it, you will not know how beautiful it is. It is also a nice quiet place to sit by the river and contemplate, away from the crowds of the city. Getting there is a beautiful drive on narrow road through the woods. While it’s not a trip by itself, it’s a highly recommended side trip when visiting the Hinohara Waterfalls. Brian & Kristen Marriott, Dec 2001.

“Our family enjoys visiting Kanotoiwa Rock in the summer because it’s cool, and the water is refreshing, whether you just dip your toes in or go for a swim. If you DON’T navigate your way up the ladder to the canyon, you can drive/walk through the tunnel and that will lead you to some trails with rock pools of various depths. Bring water shoes if you’re interested in negotiating the rocks.” Linda Bell, July 2014.

Kanotoiwa Rock 1DIRECTIONS: Follow the directions to Hinohara Waterfalls. When you come to the “T” intersection at Motoshuku (19.9 km) turn right. Instead of turning left up the hill towards the waterfall, continue straight for another 3 km (24 km from base), until you come to a small sign pointing towards Kitaki-Gawa just before an arched blue bridge. Turn right, and follow the VERY narrow road along the stream. When you come to a parking lot on the right in 2.3 km, across from restrooms, park your car and continue walking up the road towards the cliff for another 100 meters. Before you cross the bridge, you will see the trail to your left. If you go over a bridge and through a dark, narrow, rocky tunnel, you can park your car on the other side of the gorge and approach it from the upstream side (not recommended). GPS: 35.75500, 139.11346. Updates & photos, Michelle Nexon, March 2014.

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 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:

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.


Camping and Cabins at Lake Saiko

campground saiko meg martinAcross from Lake Saiko there is a great little campground.  The campsites are small but surrounded by trees and very quiet.  Lake Saiko is right across the road, making it easily accessible.  Additionally, there is camping right on the beach, but when I went this area was crowded.  The campground was very clean, with clean bathrooms, and a picnic area with charcoal grills, running water and soap/brushes available for cleaning up.  The campground owner was very nice and great with kids.  We were able to get firewood free with purchase of the campsite, though this may have been a special promotion.  We also rented a boat to take out on the lake for just ¥500/day.  There was lots of great fishing.    Camping price: ¥3,450/night.  There are also cabins available.  For more information, to make a reservation or print a coupon, check their webpage:  GPS: 35.492088, 138.68533.  Located on the south side of Saiko Lake, on Route 710.  Address: Saiko 2202 Fujikawaguchiko Yamanashi Japan 401-0334.  – Megan Martin, July 2013 – see more of Megan’s photos below.

boating on the lake saiko meg martinWant to go camping but didn’t bring your camping gear to Yokota?  You can rent camping gear from Yokota’s Outdoor Rec.

See all entries for Fuji and the Five Lakes area.

saiko cabin meg martin firewood at saiko camping meg martin saiko camping meg martin saiko camping office cabins saiko meg martin cabins saiko meg martin 2


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.

Mt. Fuji – Kawaguchiko Fifth Station

Mount Fuji, a nearly perfect volcanic cone rising to an altitude of 3,776 meters (12,388 feet), is Japan’s highest peak and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mountain is famous for being the world’s second highest free-standing mountain, second to Mount Kilimanjaro of Africa. Its northern base is adorned with five lakes making it ideal for year-round recreation. Fuji1

Want to climb Mt. Fuji? Awesome! Get ready for an experience that you will never forget. The official climbing season is from July through August. During the hiking season, mountain huts (stations) are open, offering water, souvenirs, rest, and bathrooms for a small fee throughout the climb. Before climbing Mt Fuji, you can opt to purchase a hiking stick for ¥1000-1200. At each station along the climb, you can get a stamp on your stick for ¥200-500. Keep in mind, the higher you climb, the more expensive things become. Bathrooms cost ¥100-200 per use.

Fuji2The most popular climbing route begins at Lake Kawaguchi. However, climbers often begin their ascent at the Kawaguchiko Fifth Station (2305 meters). Do approach the hike prepared and with caution, as this is an extreme physical and mental challenge. To learn more about climbing this mammoth volcano, don’t hesitate to visit Yokota Outdoor Recreation. There are many experienced guides who have climbed Mt. Fuji more times than they can count and have a wealth of knowledge to share. You can also find an information booklet and a safety slideshow on their website. If you are looking for a pre-planned trip, Outdoor Recreation also offers many Mt. Fuji Mountaineering trips throughout the climbing season starting at $40. Fuji4

Have small children, or don’t want to climb? No problem. The Kawaguchiko Fifth Station offers various souvenir shops, ice cream, restaurants and bathrooms for those who want to visit the mountain, even if they’re not climbing. While at the Fifth Station, be sure to check out the Komitake Shrine, hidden behind the shops and don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the amazing views.

Please note that access is limited to the Mount Fuji 5th Station during peak periods. During these periods, vehicles are required to park at the Fujihokuroku parking area for ¥1000. From here, you can take a 50 minute shuttle bus ride to the 5th Station. Roundtrip bus fare is ¥1800 per adult and ¥900 per child. Contact the Fujikyu Yamanashi Bus for more information. GPS 35.394173, 138.732847. – Michelle Nexon, July 2013.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: To get to the Kawaguchiko Fifth Station, take the JR Chuo/Ome Line from Fussa to Tachikawa. Switch to the JR Chuo Line Rapid Service to Takao. At Takao, switch to the JR Chuo Line. In approximately 45 minutes, you will arrive at Otsuki. At Otsuki, switch to the Fujikyu Railway. After approximately 60 minutes, you will arrive at Kawaguchiko Station. At Kawaguchiko Station, you can purchase a round trip bus ticket to the Kawaguchi Fifth Station for approximately ¥2000. One way on the bus takes approximately 50 minutes.

See all entries for Fuji and the Five Lakes area.

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Shosenkyo Gorge

Shosenkyo by sarah straus Shosenkyo Gorge runs through forested slopes and dramatic rock formations. It is one of the most scenic river valleys in Japan. You can walk along the gorge, on a narrow road that is closed to traffic on Saturdays and Sundays from May 1 to November 30.  Enter this scenic walk from the parking lot located at gps coordinates: 35.72617,138.54987. The paved road is shady and runs at a slight incline along the river.  There are bathrooms about two kilometers in and three pedestrian bridges over the river.  At about four kilometers there are bathrooms again, a great little open air restaurant where you can enjoy the view of waterfalls while you have a snack, and three picnic tables just off the road.  shosenkyo gorge sarah strausFrom the picnic tables climb over the rocks to get a close up view of the falls.  There is a horse drawn carriage ride back to the parking lot that starts here during the weekend every hour from 10am until 5pm.  But don’t stop here!  Continue up the path along the river for the most dramatic rock formations and largest waterfalls, including one huge fall at the top.  This section of the river reminds me of Yosemite!  Climb the long stairway to the top of the largest waterfall and find more places to eat or get ice cream.  Go through the few businesses there and you’ll find yourself in a little town.  From this town there is a ropeway up another portion of the mountain.  I believe that there is parking available in this town if you wanted to do a shorter version of this adventure – parking closer to the largest waterfalls.  The entire path is stroller friendly until the stairs at the end.  Carriage rides cost ¥1500 for adults, ¥500 for children.  Bring you camera!  If you are coming in the fall, see the Yaminashi Grapes entry.  The signs directing visitors to the gorge are all in English.
Shosenkyo gorge sarah strausDIRECTIONS: Exit from Fussa Gate and turn left on Route 16 South to Hachioji. At Hachioji, get on the Chuo Expressway.(Do not take the the Hachioji Bypass.) Once on the expressway two signs will appear; one for Shinjuku and the other for Nagoya. Take the road to Nagoya. Stay on the Chuo until Otsuki. (Toll: ¥1300.) Take the Otsuki exit and that will lead to Highway 20. Turn right and stay on Highway 20. The Yaminashi grapes will be straight ahead; no turns, no confusion.  To get to the gorge, continue along Highway 20 as it passes through the outskirts of Kofu. Soon you’ll see signs for “Shosenkyo.” There are several. All will take you to the right, passing under the Chuo Expressway, to a winding road called Shosenkyo Line. It’ll take you right to the gorge parking lot. Fee: ¥1000. GPS for Shosenkyo Gorge parking:  35.72617,138.54987.
Shosenkyo gorge by Joel straus-001DIRECTIONS UPDATE: When I went to see the gorge, I followed the directions above which are really meant to take you by the Yaminashi Grapes first.  If you are not going to see the grapes, then I suggest you stay on the Chuo much further, getting off in the large city of Kofu.  We followed the directions above to get there (they worked great, just long) and followed the Chuo tollway route suggested by our GPS to get home.  Taking the Chuo most of the way instead of following Highway 20 took approximately 30 minutes off our total drive time, but cost us an extra ¥1100 in tolls.  It took us 2 1/2 hours to get to the Shosenkyo – and it was worth it.  I’d do it again! – Sarah Straus, May 2013. Photos by Sarah Straus and Linda Bell.


Hamura Community Water Park

The Hamura Community Water Park is a good summer outing for families. This sujo koen (that’s Japanese for “waterpark”) has a lazy river, a big slide and shallow pools for kids.  The price is ¥600 for the day or ¥300 for 2 hours for adults age 15 years or older.  It costs ¥300 for the day or ¥100 for 2 hours for kids.   You cannot apply sunscreen there, so do it ahead of time.  No jewelry, sunglasses or hats in the water. You’ll need to store away your ereaders and wallets in the lockers – the ¥100 locker fee will be returned to you when you put the key in the lock.  They will provide a bag for your shoes before entering the locker rooms.  There are vending machines and an eating area outside the swimming pool.   I would recommend swim shirts for your kids on hot, clear days – there isn’t a lot of shade and it is easy to burn.  It is very clean and we had a great day there. Hours 10am – 6pm, open during summer.  Summer 2013: Open July 13-Sept 1, 10am-6pm. — Jodi Wall, 2012; updated Sarah Straus, July 2013.
DIRECTIONS: Drive straight out of Fussa gate, keep right at Y intersection toward Fussa train station.  Head around Fussa train station and continue toward the river.  At the Shell gas station turn Right onto Route 29.  Take Route 29 along the river into Hamura.  I’m not sure how to describe the left hand turn you’ll need to take to get down to the river where the water park is, but it is past a damn in the river.  At a narrow left hand turn, you end up winding down to the river near rice fields.  I recommend taking a GPS for this one or studying the map.  Parking attendant: 35.757971, 139.303356.  Parking is a little walk from the water park – just follow the others in bathing suits.   – Sarah Straus, July 2013

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