Category Archives: Sports & Outdoors

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.

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

Makaino Farms

    Makaino Farms is the ultimate Farm experience and perfect place for an outdoor family day. We happened upon the farm while driving to Kyoto. We weren’t able to stop but I took a picture of the sign and made sure to stop on our way home.

      On our way home we parked in the spacious and free parking lot with no problem. It was a Saturday when we went but the farm didn’t feel overly crowded. Entry into the farm was 1000 yen per adult and 600 for children. Make sure to check the sign with all activities and times as you enter. We arrived at 3pm and by the time we discovered the sign it was at the end of our day.

      Makaino Farms has everything you could think of when you think of a farm. There are petting zoos, horse rides, tractor rides and much more. You can walk goats for 20 minutes which cost 300 yen. It was quite a sight watching people walk the goats. There are several vending machines containing animal food to feed the various animal all over the property. Other animals experiences that are free include releasing sheep into a nearby field and milking cows. Again, check the schedule because some things such as milking cows are only done at certain times.

      Animals aren’t all you will find at Makaino Farms. They also offer many craft and food experiences. You can make pottery, candles and bags. There is a wool factory you can spin wool or make a felt craft all with wool from sheep on the farm. Crafts are an additional fee ranging from 200 to 800 yen.

      Personally, I was a bit sad we missed the food experiences. Paying anywhere from 400 to 1600 yen you can partake in sausage, cheese, cookie or butter making. We caught the end of a butter making class and it looked like fun. They also offer kids cooking from ages 5-10 for 1000 yen.

     If you just want a place to let the kids run wild you will find it here as well. They have several play areas that both my girls ages 1.5 and 4 loved. After playing we relaxed in the hammock forest, which is just what it sounds like, a bunch of hammocks hanging in a wooden area. You could easily spend all day exploring this wonderful place. We only spent a couple hours before strolling through the store that contains fresh milk and lots of goodies. Before we hit the road to drive 1.5 hours back to base we filled our bellies at Ousamano Curry. The naan wraps were amazing and my girls loved the curry. We will be going back again before leaving Japan. – Deena Brunson, May 2019

www.makaino.com

Family-Friendly Hike from Mitake Station

If you’re comfortable with hiking 6-8 miles in a day with moderate elevation gain (1800-1900 feet), this is a pleasant hike that’s easily accessible from base. We initially found out about this hike from the following link, which has more details as well as information on other hikes in the area: https://ridgelineimages.com/hiking/mt-iwatakeishiyama/
As the hike starts and ends at Ome Line train stations (Mitake and Ikusabata), the logistics are fairly easy — no buses involved. To access the start of this hike, take the train from Fussa Station (Ome Line) to Mitake Station (towards Okutama). It may be necessary to transfer in Ome; as not all trains are direct — check Google Maps to confirm.

Once you get off the train in Mitake, stop by the Visitor Information Center (can’t miss it – its directly by the stairs leading down from the station exit) and pick up an “Ohtama” area map. If you ask, they’ll also be able to provide a map of this specific hike, and a paper showing directions to the trailhead.  I’ve attached these directions to this post as well, for reference.

The trailhead starts near a temple a few minutes away from the train station. Go down the stairs at the station exit, and turn left at the street. You’ll pass an ATM on your left (inside its own building), and will see a set of stairs on the left immediately after the ATM. Go up the stairs and cross the train tracks. Turn left, and then turn right into the temple entrance (you’ll see the temple). Once just inside the temple, go to the left, and you’ll see the trailhead marker.

As you go along the hike, you’ll see signposts with kanji, but also English in small labels below. At the start, you’ll want to follow the signs for “Mt. Iwatakeishiyama 岩茸石山”. Once you’ve reached Mt. Iwatakeishiyama, then follow the signs for “Ikusabata Station”, which is the finish point where you’ll catch a train back towards Fussa Station.

The hike starts with a fairly quick ascent; but (mostly) levels off after that point. There are two points where you have the option to either ascend to a peak for a better view, or keep going.  Recommend taking the climb up to Mt. Iwatakeishiyama for a view — you’ll likely also see a large number of Japanese hikers taking a snack break here. If you choose to ascend the fork to the peak, there is no backtracking required to get back to the main trail — the fork continues down the other side of the peak and rejoins the main trail.

Continuing on, you’ll come to a temple in the mountains, right along the trail. Its a nice spot to take a break and look around, and there are bathrooms here (did not check them out, but expecting squatting/pit style). Descending from here, you’ll enter a fairly exposed valley, and continue down past a stream. As you continue downward, you’ll come to a large manmade dam, and the trail becomes a stone stairway. Look out for snakes sunning themselves along the steps; they should be easy enough to spot.

As we reached the end of the stairway, we came to a Japanese shop that offers some drinks at picnic tables outdoors (beer, coffee, lemon sour, water) as well as cooked fish. My Japanese wasn’t great, but we were able to understand well enough the owner’s indicating that ‘everything is OK to eat’ on the fish, as its cleaned and cooked whole and ready to eat (skin and all), which might be unfamiliar to some folks. The owner was very friendly, and everything was pretty reasonable – we got two cooked fish and one coffee for under 1000 yen. Be sure to bring cash if you’re planning to stop here, as I don’t imagine this shop takes credit card.

After this shop, the ‘trail’ becomes a  road, keep going onward and it will merge into a slightly larger road. Bear right, and continue. Eventually, you’ll come to a point where there is a sign pointing towards Ikusabata Station up a small road on the right – take this road upwards, and you’ll cross train tracks. Turn right, and you’re at the station. Take the train back towards Fussa. This is all shown on the maps as well; and if you download offline maps on your phone before the hike, you can also ‘mark’ the location of the station if you’d like to be able to double-check along the way. – Joshua Milburn, April 2019

Higashiyamato South Park

Higashiyamato South Park is a place where history meets fun. Only 15-20 minutes from the East gate it is a nice park to picnic in, play sports or cool off in the summer when the water area opens in July/August. The former Hitachi Aircraft Engine Factory and WWII memorial is situated on the park grounds. In 1938 this Factory turned out aircraft engines but was later destroyed during WWII when the area was bombed out. It now serves as a Memorial to those who lost their lives there. There is a nice track to run on, tennis courts and a field where many local schools play sports. On one end of the park is the city swimming pool. On the other side is a man-made creek. Check the park website for details on the dates this creek is open to play in. – Jennifer Secor, August 2018

Park web-site: https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index052.html#googtrans(en)

Hinode Big Buddha

Hokoji Temple – Shiozawayama Zenkoji Kano Royal Buddha

About a 25 minute drive from base there is a Daibutsu (Big Buddha) which is 18m tall on the side of a mountain at Hokoji Shrine. This Buddha was completed this past year and is larger than the famous Big Buddha of Kamakura. Parking can be found at the shrine. Admission was free but we were advised this may change after Oct. 2018 (so check their website for updated information). There is a beautiful short trail through the forest from the parking lot to the Daibutsu. My children enjoyed the scenery of the forest. At the end of the trail you will reach the Daibutsu on the side of the mountain where there is a view of the town of Hinode.
Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm
Parking Fees:
500 yen for car
1,000 yen for bus
200 yen for motorcycle
Website (You will need to use a web translator): https://entakuzan-houkouji.or.jp/about/
-Jennifer Secor, June 2018

Sankeien Gardens – Yokohama

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

Admission is:

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

Tokorozawa Lily Garden (Yuri Matsuri)

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

 

Canyons – Canyoning at Minakami

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

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

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

 

Keio-Mogusaen Garden – Plum & Wisteria Blossoms

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

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

 

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

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

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

Hiking from Mt. Mitake to Okutama

The hike from Mt. Mitake to Okutama is a gnarly one made even more adventurous with an overnight at an inn on the mountain.  I had a cousin of mine, a hard core hiker, coming to town so I researched some of the hiking options in the area.  My research led me to spend a night at the Shukobo Komadori-sanso Inn, a lovely little spot in the village near the top of Mt. Mitake.  This seemingly forgotten and a little bit dusty place (not perfect) was our introduction to the Japanese Inn.  My wife and I and my cousin and his girlfriend arrived after a short walk from the top of the cable car and a stop at the Mitake Visitor Center where we picked up a map of the hike (a map with Japanese letters is a must!).  Upon checking in, the innkeeper insisted that we change into our robes and return for dinner.  Dinner in the small dining room was surprisingly good!  Our room was good sized with futons on the floor and a table inside the room and on the shared patio.  A small onsen tub is available in both the women’s and men’s washroom.  The next morning we were served a hearty breakfast before we headed for Okutama.  This hike is no joke.  We summited two different mountains as we trekked up and down (it seemed like the trail was never flat).  A few of the spots had great views of Mt. Fuji.  Bring lots of food and water; there are no vending machines up here, baby. The trail leads down to Okutama where you can get some food and take the train back home. This hike is not for children. Teens may be okay.  This trip sure makes for a pretty simple 24 hour getaway from Yokota for those with only one day to spare.  Happy Travels!  – Zeke Lyons, January 2018

http://www.komadori.com/

Trout Fishing Near Yokota

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese for their ingenuity.  In the winter months, some of the water parks fill their pools with trout.  One example is the Seibu-yen – the amusement park just about 15 minutes from base up by the Seibu Dome.  I’ve fished both here and at Akigawa International Trout Fishing Grounds and both are about the same setup.  It’s not cheap, but its easy.  You can bring your own fishing poles, but it’s probably best just to use their tried and true rigs. Basically, you can show up with nothing and rent everything; but I do recommend bringing a hand rag and a needle nose pliers if you have them.  They’ll rent you poles and bait and even give you a bucket or a bag for the live fish.  At Akigawa, there was an old man walking around and helping the kids catch fish. It doesn’t get any easier than this.  At the end of the day, you walk your fish to the kitchen and have them cleaned for free at Akigawa or  ¥100 at Seibu.  Both places have a restaurant and cafe and Seibu has charcoal grills and picnic tables to throw the fish on and eat right away.  I was at Akigawa on a quiet day and nobody was cooking fish there, but they do have all kinds of cooking options.  You can even rent a party gazebo with friends to cook and hangout all day.  It’s also a comfortable place for non-fishing moms and dads to relax in the sun on a sunny day.

If you are looking to fish, I recommend starting at Akigawa.  It’s a pretty 30 minute drive up the valley to a sunny spot on the river with artificial pools.  Some English was spoken at Akigawa.  The fish were surprisingly tasty for farm-raised fish. Beware: it’s hard to resist the rides at Seibu-yen; you’ll have to walk through the amusement park to get to the fishing pools.  Both places charge for parking and all in all, it adds up.  At Seibu, I paid for myself and my son.  At Akigawa I paid for just my sons.   Zeke Lyons – January 2018

Parking:  ¥500 –  ¥1000

Fishing: about  ¥3000 + rentals + cleaning per person

No tolls on road to Akigawa

Akigawa English website: http://akigawagyokyo.or.jp/akigawa_english.pdf

akigawagyokyo.or.jp

seibu-leisure.co.jp

Seibu-yen fishing

Cooking fish at Seibu-yen

Akigawa

Akigawa Fishing

Fishing success!

Baseball Batting and Pitching Cages – Hamura Dome and Murayama Sportsland

Taking my sons to the batting cages in Japan bring back great memories of going to batting cages with my dad.   I wish I had discovered the batting and pitching cages at the Hamura Dome sooner.  They are only a few minutes from the base and are a great place to blow some yen on a school night (it’s not super cheap). All the cages are operated by a ticket purchased from the machine and everything is really easy to figure out.  You have to buy pitching and batting tickets separately.  The workers at the desk can give you a kids bat, but other bats and helmets are inside the cages.  Choose your speed and hit away.  Though most of the customers are adults, I found it to be OK – the slowest pitch is 70 kph – for about ages seven and up.  My younger son likes the miniature golf hole.  There are lots of great family places to eat down the street when you make this a weeknight boys night out.

Parking: 200 Yen

Batting cages and pitching cages about 300Yen per session or cheaper if you buy a bundled ticket.  

Hamura Dome Batting Cage

Hamura Dome Mini Golf

Hamura Dome Pitching practice

On the East Side, check out the old-school batting cages at Murayama Sports Land just a few blocks east of Aeon Mall.  There are also cages that spit out soccer balls, ping pong balls, tennis balls and basketball.

Free parking. Most of the cages are 200 Yen.  Zeke Lyons – January 2018

Sportsland Soccer Cage

Sayama Ski Hill

The indoor ski hill at Sayama at the Seibu Dome is a uniquely Japanese place to learn to ski or snowboard before you hit the big time at a real resort.  A short and scenic 20 minute drive from the base gets you to the Seibu Dome. Most of the signage is in Japanese, but I’ve been fine just mumbling and pointing (as usual) to the very friendly and accommodating staff.  The best part is that kids under 13 are free.  When you arrive, purchase a lift-ticket at the counter and enter through the booth.  If you plan to go a few times, the 500 Yen membership card is worth it as Thursdays are “Guys night” for members. The lifts are one-person at a time and easy enough to navigate for kids.  For the first time, you can walk up the hill slightly to let your kids try it out before getting on the lift.  At the bottom of the hill is a nice sitting area with hot food and drinks available (my favorite part). I’m not sure about coming in as a non-skiing observer, but there is at least one bench on the outside. *Note, if you are considering teaching your kids to ski/board, think twice about whether you really need to do it yet. I’ve seen some dads/kids up there looking pretty miserable (including myself). Also, it means a few years of bunny slopes only.  A day at Sayama helps you figure it all out for less.  Good luck!  Zeke Lyons – December 2017

Open from late October until April

Lift tickets starting at 3100 Yen for four hours (Guy’s night on Thursday for 2000 Yen)

Parking: 1200 Yen

Lockers: 500 Yen (you can change in the parking lot and skip the lockers – you can also leave a bag at the bottom of the slope)

Rentals available, including clothing. At least one English-speaking instructor is available for lessons. 

http://www.princehotels.com/en/ski/kids/sayama.html

Hakone Sengokuhara & Little Prince Museum

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Susuki Field Parking  to the Little Prince Museum

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

image5image2


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

Fall Colors Route Near Mt. Fuji and Lakes

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

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

DIRECTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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, http://www.beachside-log.com/english.html. 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.

 

Mine Hot Spring and Geyser, Izu Peninsula

DSC08642This attraction is no Yellowstone Park or Hakone Hot Spring, but if you need a break from your drive along the peninsula, this place is relatively interesting and free! This attraction is composed of a single geyser, a footbath and an egg-selling gift shop. The geyser shoots approximately 200°F water  nearly 100 feet in the air. The geyser erupts at 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30. While you’re waiting for the geyser to jet up, you can purchase and cook your own eggs in the Mine’s spring water; the staff will give you a timer and instructions for this process. Or, consider a footbath. It’s covered and warm at approximately 100°F.

DSC08632There are rest rooms at this stop, but no restaurant. It’s open from 09:00 to 16:00. It’s closed Tuesdays and Fridays. Parking is free. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DIRECTIONS: This attraction is situated in Mine-Onsen Daifunto Park, in Kawazu township. It’s a 5 minute drive inland from the south-western Izu Peninsula coastline, or 15 minutes from Kawazu Seven Waterfalls. It’s also a short drive from iZoo, and a 30 to 40 minute drive north of the Shimoda and Yumigahama Beaches. The GPS coordinates for Mine-Onsen Daifunto Park are N34.75695, E138.98222.

Kawazu Seven Waterfalls, Izu Peninsula

DSC08470If you’re looking to escape the heat from the Izu Peninsula beach or take in a bit of nature, then Kawazu Seven Waterfalls hike is a good place to go. Mostly shaded, this gentle 1 km hike on the Izu Peninsula follows a river with seven waterfalls ranging from 2 meters to 30 meters in height. The 1 km hike begins at Mizutare Parking Lot (top) and ends at Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot (bottom). There are several ways you can do the hike.  You can park at the top or bottom of the trail and hike out and back, approximately 2 km total. Alternatively, you can park at the bottom of the trail, take the bus to the top of the trail, and walk back down the course to your car. Lastly, park at the Mizutare parking lot, hike down the trail, and then take the bus back from Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot. The third option worked well for our small kids. Busses run frequently between stops and when we did the hike, over Independence Day weekend, they ran every 10 minutes.

DSC08447There are detailed English maps about the hike located at Mizutare Parking Lot and Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot.  The hike is not very stroller friendly. Only three to four of the waterfalls can be accessed with a stroller. I’d recommend a baby carrier or kid’s carrying backpack. Alongside each waterfall, there are cute little stone Buddhas and stamps to collect, and along the trail there are also a few larger statues that depict the two characters in the short love story “Izu no Odoriko” (The Izu Dancer), by Kawabata Yasunari. The story and author are well-known in Japan. Towards the bottom of the hike, there are a couple of shops selling food, ice cream and woven items. You can also see the Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge. This is an interesting two story spiral bridge located high above the valley floor on Route 414. Unfortunately, the last and most impressive waterfall, O-daru Fall, was closed when we did the hike. However, there is a lovely outdoor onsen, Izu Oodaru Onsen Hotel Amagisou, that offers a great view of the falls. Kawazu Seven Waterfalls hike is a small part of the Odoriko Trail so if you’re looking to go further, please refer to the picture provided. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DSC08399DIRECTIONS: We drove to this hike from Yumigahama Beach, near Shimoda City. It took approximately 1 hour from the beach. I recommend driving via the costal town of Kawazu, before heading inland to the hike. The more direct, inland route is very windy and slow. The GPS coordinates to Mizutare Parking Lot (top) are N34.80078 E138.93329.  The GPS coordinates for Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot (bottom) are N34.79475 E138.93536.