Category Archives: Summer

ASOBUILD

The ASOBUILD is a one-stop location for hours of fun. It is six floors of all kinds of experiences and there is something for everyone, at every age. Parking like many places in Japan can be an adventure but there are plenty of garages around there. If driving isn’t your thing, even better, the ASOBUILD is located at the Yokohama train station.

My family stumbled upon the ASOBUILD in search of the ever-popular Unko exhibit or better know as the Poop museum. Once we arrived we were disappointed to learn the exhibit had changed but excited to explore the places we had found. Looking at the map we realized how much the ASOBUILD had to offer. The basement is a lounge called “Pitch Club”. The creatively decorated area holds many events. It is like a grow-ups playground with drinks, food, music, pool tables, darts, and comfy chairs. This area seemed to be popular all hours. We saw people going in and out from the time we arrived until we left.

“Post street” is the name of the first floor and main floor. This is where most entered the building and where you bought your tickets to exhibit and play areas. We bought our “Oceans by Nature” tickets with ease at the counter before taking a stroll around the rest of “Post Street”. It was around Halloween when we visited and to our surprise, they had a large decorated area for people to take their own free pictures. They even had some props available as well. Following our photoshoot, we walked the halls among several adorable food booths that had a very gourmet food truck feel.

The second floor called “Ale Box” holds ever-changing exhibits. We chose to go into the “Oceans by Naked” exhibit which was small by awe-inspiring. Once we exited the exhibit we wandered the halls and found so much more. There was also a drone racing area, an escape room and a gift shop that accompanied the “Oceans by Naked” exhibit.

Scanning the brochure area before paying for our “Oceans by Naked” tickets I noticed signs about the daily craft being offered. The third floor called “Monotory” holds workshops making all kinds of crafts from soap to Christmas wreaths. You can see what crafts are available and also make reservations on their very easy to use the website in English. I look forward to returning and trying their recommended DIY welding and shelf making.

The fourth floor is a kid area called “PuChu”. It cost about 2000 yen for 90 minutes for children between 0-12 years old. Parents also pay a fee of 1000 yen for 90 minutes. Day passes are also available for 2500 yen per child and 1000 per parent. The area is full of bright colors, puzzles, things to swing on and places to jump from. It looked like yet another reason we will need to return.

The last floor is the multi-sports floor. It is located on the roof and has various lessons such as soccer, archery, and boxing. The multiple courts can be rented for large functions or games. They have games of basketball and soccer that can anyone can jump into as well. Its a regular sports haven.

The ASOBUILD has it all! It’s the perfect place for a girl’s day, guys day or family day. If you find yourself in Yokohama or feel up for traveling you are sure to be entertained at the ASOBUILD. – Deena Brunson, October 2019.

 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. ~ Kalina Bojkova, August 2019.

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

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

 

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

Enoshima East side Beach (Katase Higashi-hama Beach)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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
: https://www.tokyotower.co.jp/en.html
Tokyo ONE PIECE Tower: http://onepiecetower.tokyo/?lang=en
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

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

Hiking Mt. Fuji with kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 http://www.yomiuriland.com/english/#Attractions. Their website has PDF files linking you to height and age restrictions for each particular ride as well as a map.

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

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

DIRECTIONS

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