Category Archives: TOKYO

Blu Jam Cafe – Daikanyama

Our family recently stayed at the New Sanno for a night to venture out closer to Tokyo.  We tried a great spot in Daikanyama called Blu Jam Café one morning for breakfast.  The area is a short train ride from the hotel, leaving Hioh Station to Daikanyama Station or Naka-Meguro Station.  They offer fresh food from local farmer’s markets and have no freezers on site, so you know everything is fresh!  Many of their ingredients are also organic and made in house.  The menu has many breakfast/brunch options and most were Gluten Free.  We tried the California Omelette, Morning Hash, and our kids loved the Chocolate Chip Pancakes.  My husband also tried their specialty latte called The Dirty Chai.  The prices were reasonable and the staff were easy to communicate with.  This is definitely a spot we will return to! – Angela Vaillant, November 2017

Website: https://www.blujamcafejapan.com/
HOURS: Daily 8:00am-9:00pm – Closed Tuesdays
PHONE: 03-6455-1446

Related links:  https://yokotatravel.com/?s=Daikanyama

Spring Valley Brewery, Daikanyama

Spring Valley Brewery (SVB) is a  great craft brewery in the Daikanyama area near Ebisu/Shibuya. They offer flights of beer to try selecting from a diverse range of beers. They also offer an eclectic menu of burgers, pizzas, seafood, and pastas to accompany your drink.

The first floor is spacious and stroller friendly that provides a great atmosphere. Be sure to check their website because they do have events that limit their menu/selection and may have an entry fee. For example, the beer and sushi festival was held in November. I recommend reservations for the weekends.

We took the train to Ebisu station and it was a 10-15 min walk from there. There are shops and other restaurants in the area and it’s a short stroll to the Daikanyama district with even more to the walk through. – Jennifer McCarthy, January 2017

Spring Valley Brewery:
 http://www.springvalleybrewery.jp/
Hours: Monday – Saturday 8 am – 12 am (Last Order 10:30 pm)
Sunday 8 am – 10 pm (Last Order 9:00 pm)
Phone number: 03-6416-4975 (reservation only 10 am – 10 pm)
03 – 6416 – 4960 (other inquiries)
Directions: To Daikanyama station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote Line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Shibuya, and then transfer again to Tokyu Toyoko Line to Daikanyama. It is also accessible from Ebisu Station. To Ebisu Staion, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Ebisu station.

Wabist, Japanese gift shop

The Ebisu station along the Yamanote line is known as a beautiful illumination spot called Yebisu Garden Place in December. There is also a famous museum for Yebisu beer there. When you visit the place, there is a unique Japanese gift store you should check out.

Wabist is a shop that is a little off the beaten path featuring all items made in Japan at all different prices. As they introduce some products on its website, many items are made by skilled craftsmen.

A lot of fun items you don’t see everywhere. Great for gifts to send home or to friends/family. – Jennifer McCarthy, December 2016 

Gift Shop Wabist : https://wabist.com/ec/specialcontent?id=104
Hours: 1 0am – 7 pm on weekdays, 12 pm-6 pm on Saturday, closed on Sunday and Japanese Holidays
Directions: To Ebisu station, take Ome/Chuo Line to Shinjuku and then take Yamanote Line towards Shibuya, Shinagawa. Ebisu is 4 stops away from Shinjuku. From the east exit, it is around a 5 min walk.

Ao no Doukutsu, Yoyogi Park Illumination

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This beautiful illumination is called “Ao no Doukutsu”, meaning Blue Grotto, was in Nakameguro in 2014. It has relocated to Yoyogi park this year (2016).
The illumination runs from November 22nd through January 9th. I didn’t have a chance to go to the Nakameguro Illumination, but I’ve heard they moved the illumination in favor of the much wider street of Yoyogi park.
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The Illumination starts on Shibuya Koen Dori (Shibuya park street) and those Japanese Zelkova trees were lit up for your 750 m walk. I recommend stopping by there when you are in the downtown Tokyo area. Check out the Illumination website to see the video for directions. – Mai Takahashi, December 2016

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

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

Books Kinokuniya, near Shinjuku South exit 

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If you are looking for a book store with English books, Books Kinokuniya might be your best bet to find what you are looking for. Kinokuniya  is a chain book store in Japan that usually carries a small amount of English books. But this particular store specializes in English books and only has English books. Make sure to check the directions below, there is another Kinokuniya book store out of the east exit. The store near the south exit is the only one that specializes in English books. Their selection was enormous! They had children’s books, magazines, travel books, fiction/non-fiction, etc. The space isn’t as large as a book store in the US, but I felt like I was in a mini Barnes & Noble.
Since all of the books are imported, the price of the books seemed expensive, but still a good place to go if you are in need of books. If you know any other book stores that carries English books, please let us know! – Mai Takahashi, November 2016

Directions: If you have been to Shinjuku, you know how big the station is. From the base, take the Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku station. And then look for the south exit. From that exit, you’ll cross the big intersection and turn left to walk through another part of  Shinjuku station towards Takashimaya.

img_2219There is a walk pass on the 6th floor of Takashimaya to the book store.

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Once you get to Takashimaya 6th floor, follow the signs and you’ll see the book store.

TSUTAYA BOOKS, Daikanyama 

There is a book store in Daikanyama where you can sip your coffee while you look for a book. Tsutaya Books Daikanyama is located in Daikanyama near Ebisu. Tsutaya is a CD/DVD rental chain in Japan that also sells books. The bookstore consists of three interlinked buildings, each having two floors. The first floors have books and there is a Starbucks on the first floor of the third building.


There are seats where you can bring a book to read while you enjoy Starbucks. The store does carry some English books, but not many. If you are looking for a certain title, Books Kinokuniya in Shinjuku might be a better option.

The Interior is so stylish that it is almost worth it to just visit. Don’t forget to check out Spring Valley Brewery while you are in the area. – Mai Takahashi, February 2017

Directions:
To Daikanyama station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote Line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Shibuya, and then transfer again to Tokyu Toyoko Line to Daikanyama. It is also accessible from Ebisu Station. To Ebisu Station, take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa to Ebisu station. It’s about a 15 min walk from Ebisu station.

Comments from travelers:

The book store in Daikanyama is amazingly unique and an example of superb architecture by Klein Dytham!! There is also an excellent restaurant next door called the Ivy Place! The food is delicious with a Greek inspired theme. The atmosphere is lovely and it offers three different eating spaces that will accommodate anyone! They have a cafe for more casual dining, a bar area and a formal dining area. I highly recommend it!Amy Gaul, February 2017

BINGOYA, Japanese folk craft shop

img_2165If you are looking for authentic Japanese gifts, BINGOYA, the Japanese folk craft shop is a perfect place to check out. I was looking for a Kokeshi doll and was impressed by their collection.

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This five-story store offers folk crafts from all over Japan. As it is shown in the picture below, they have a variety of items.
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The staff spoke great English and there were signs in English to explain each item. I wouldn’t say some of the products were affordable, but I think the price was reasonable for its authenticity. Every product was beautiful and I wish I could spend much more money. There were some inexpensive items like tatami mat coasters, paper crafts and small toys. A kokeshi doll that I bought was Y2300 without tax and I was very happy with my purchase. I love every detail of my kokeshi. The store is not too far away from Shinjuku station, so if you are looking for a place to visit while you are in Shinjuku, I think it’s worth a visit especially for authentic Japanese gifts to bring home.  – Mai Takahashi, November 2016

BINGOYA, craft shophttp://bingoya.tokyo/
Hours: 10am-7pm, Tuesday-Sunday, Closed on the 3rd Saturday and the following Sunday (except in May, August, November, December).

Directions: I didn’t see any parking lots near by, so I recommend taking the train to the store. The nearby station is Wakamatsu-Kawada on Oedo-Line Subway. From the base, take Ome/Chuo Line to Shinjuku station. Transfer to Oedo-Line Subway. (Exit from West exit and follow the Oedo-line sign. You’ll be getting on Oedo-line from Shinjuku Nishi station.) Take Oedo line to  Wakamatsu-Kawada.
From Wakamatsu-Kawada station, exit from Wakamatsu-Kawada exit and turn right. Walk straight until you reach the store. The store will be on your right.
Make sure to exit from the correct exit at Shinjuku station. You could exit from the South exit to catch Oedo line, but then you have to transfer again at Tocho-mae station. Getting on Oedo-line from Shinjuku-Nishi exit is the key.

 

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.

Ninja Akasaka Restaurant

IMG_7154If you are looking for a unique Japanese restaurant to take your family, guests or friends, Ninja Akasaka will not disappoint you! It is a ninja-themed restaurant where you can enjoy delicious food in a ninja’s secret lair. The restaurant is located in the corner of Akasaka Tokyu Plaza where many boutiques and restaurants reside. When we arrived at the restaurant, most of the shops at the plaza were closed since it was past their normal business hours, but it seemed like it was a nicer place than a regular shopping mall. It might be hard to find the restaurant since the outside of the restaurant is all black, but it is perfect for a ninja’s secret base.

IMG_7153Your ninja experience starts from the entrance. I don’t want to ruin your experience by spoiling it too much, because I think you’ll enjoy this place more when you don’t know what will happen next. From the entrance, a ninja (waiter) took us to our hideout (table).  The inside of the hideout was dim and the ceiling was lowered in some-parts, just as I had always imagined a ninja’s place to be. The service from the ninjas was great. The ninja were well trained and they spoke very good English. Since it is more of a  fancy restaurant, the menu price is a little spendy. We went there with a group of ten people, so we had to order from the course menu.IMG_7138

There are several course options you can choose from; course menu price starts at Y4,500 and up. It does not include tax and drinks. I had the Y5,700 course with drinks; I think I spent about Y8,000. If you go with seven people or less, you can order from the regular menu. Although it was expensive dining, I was very satisfied with the food, service, and the “entertainment”.IMG_7149

The restaurant offers a kids menu and family friendly hours. Make sure to make a reservation since this place always seems busy. If you are going there for a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc), don’t forget to let them know because they might celebrate it in the ninja way. For more details and pictures, check out their website. I highly recommend this place especially when you have someone visiting because you can take them somewhere unique. – Mai Takahashi, June 2016

Website: http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/top_main.html
Phone: 03-5157-3936
Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30pm-2am, Sunday and Holidays 5pm-11pm
Directions: It is 3 min walk from Akasakamitsuke station on Ginza and Marunouchi line. To Akasakamitsuke station from Fussa, take Ome/Chuo line to Yotsuya and then transfer to Marunouchi line. It’s one stop away from Yotsuya station.

Pepacafe Forest, Thai and Asian Cuisine

IMG_6548Kichijoji is one of my favorite Tokyo neighborhood’s where you can find many cute cafes, small/big businesses, and casual/fancy bars. The neighborhood is also known as one of the most desired places to live in the Kanto region. I enjoy taking a walk at Inokashira-park, famous for cherry blossoms during the Sakura season. There is a shrine, zoo, and a lake which you can even ride a swan boat. There is an art market during the weekend (usually starts at 9am) and you might encounter some puppet performers, magicians, or simply people playing their musical instruments. It’s a popular spot to get out especially on a sunny day.

There are a few cafes in the park and Pepacafe Forest is a casual Thai restaurant which is perfect for a family, a couple, or a group of friends.IMG_6549

If you like Thai food, this place is a must try! If you are not a fan of Thai food, you can still enjoy their drinks and desserts. I visited with my sister on a weekday for lunch. I had a lunch plate for ¥1100 (without tax).IMG_6551

I also visited on a weekend for a piece of cake and a drink (they have wine, beer, and cocktails.) The restaurant is spacious and I love how it’s surrounded by nature. You’ll have a view of the park if you get a window seat. I saw some families with little ones with high chairs available. The menu is listed in Japanese and English. I recommend going there during the weekdays since it could get very busy during the weekend. If you see people sitting on chairs right outside the restaurant, that means they are waiting in line, so you can sit next in line and wait. If the line is not so bad, I think it’s worth a try. – Mai Takahashi May 2016
Read more about Kichijoji neighborhood from past posts from here: Kichijoji

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pepaforest/
HOURS: Mon-Fri 12:00pm-10:00pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am – 10:00pm
PHONE: 0422-42-7081

GENERAL TRAIN DIRECTIONS to Kichijoji station: Take the Ome Line from Fussa to Tachikawa, then transfer to a Tokyo-bound Chuo line train and get off at Kichijoji. If you catch a rapid train from Fussa, you will not have to transfer at Tachikawa. Just stay on the train. Note that the special rapid doesn’t stop in Kichijoji, so if you’re on one, get off at Mitaka and take the next train.

To Pepacafe restaurant from Kichijoji station:

Exit through the Park Exit.
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After going down the stairs/escalators after the exit, you’ll cross a road and keep going straight.
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You’ll see a bigger street (called Inokashira street) and Marui department store in front of you (keep an eye out for “OIOI” (Marui) sign).
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You’ll cross the Inokashira street and walk down the street to the right side of the Marui department store.
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Keep going down the street and you’ll reach Inokashira park.
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After entering the park, keep going straight and cross the bridge. Then you’ll see the boat pier on your left.
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Pass the boat pier and keep going straight and you’ll see the restaurant.

 

“The Dirty Dish”

In talking with friends, one told me of a place in Tokyo called The Dirty Dish.  It was supposedly a large Japanese dishware store.  I googled the name and found a few write ups on some blogs, one of which had a phone number I could use to look the place up on the map.  The google street view of the location matched one of the pictures on the blog entry, so I decided to go check the place out.  The actual Japanese name of the store is not known, but the gaijin name of The Dirty Dish stuck due to the warehouse style set up of the store.  It is located about a 90 minute drive or train ride from Yokota in the town of Kawasaki.  If you drive, there are two pay parking lots around the corner from the store that max out at 900 yen, so parking is reasonable.  If you take the train, google maps estimates about a 15-20 minute (1.2km) walk to th store from Musashi-Nakahara Station.  It definitely looks like a warehouse from the street.
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And inside there are racks and racks of dishes.  Cups, mugs, plates, bowls, tea pots, and etceteras of every shape, size, color, and pattern.  There isn’t just blue and white pattern.
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The day I went everything was 40% off the sticker price, but I’m not sure if this is an everyday discount or something that was happening on that day.  Irregardless of the discount, most items are very reasonably priced.  Cash only.  Katie Campbell, April 2016
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Phone: 044-488-4888
Hours: 0900-1700
Website:  http://www.okuno-co.jp/ (Can switch language to English)
Dierctions: GPS for the store:  35.572669, 139.637653
GPS for the two parking areas (across the street from each other):  35.572210, 139.637007

St. Patrick’s Day Parade- Tokyo

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

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

Kawaii Monster Cafe

My daughter and I were looking for something to do, and of course Japan never disappoints. 03715006-e6c0-457b-9d3a-7c3a490dcb68We went to Kawaii Monster Café in Harajuku, and what a treat it was! It all started with the friendly hostess, she informed us that there’s a Y500  per person table charge, then we got to choose a place to sit. There are four sections to choose from, my daughter choose Mel-Tea Room. Once we were ready to be seated they have you wait by the door and say “you ready”? My daughter said “yes” and they opened up the door and WOW,  all you see is nothing but amazing decorations all over the place. You feel like you stepped into a magical place. My daughter couldn’t stop smiling.icecream
Once we were seated they handed over the menu, which in itself was different. We only had dessert,  but the food looked delicious too. My daughter had the Monster Girl ( Nasty) ice cream.
I’m not 100% sure if this always happens, or we got lucky, but when she ordered her ice cream  a guy dressed in a tutu skirt and mid drift top with pink hair came to our table and started playing with her hair and tickling her.
She got picked on by a kawaii monster! He did speak a little English and tried to talk to her, but my daughter was a little freaked. As for me, I couldn’t stop laughing! After all, we did come here for the kawaii monster experience, so if you don’t feel like getting messed with, you might not want to order the Nasty girl ice cream!
20160112_154909 As we were getting ready to pay, all the lights turned off and they said something in Japanese. I asked the hostess what was going on she said ” the performance was about to start”. I couldn’t believe our luck. In the middle of the Café there was a merry-go-round that actually moved, and two kawaii monster’s where dancing around.
After the performance was finished we got to take a picture with them.502198d2-5b87-4850-912a-47c16815d71f
Once we were ready to leave, a kawaii monster grabbed my daughter’s hand and escorted us to the exit where they have a small gift shop. In total we spent Y2,480 for the entrance and two ice creams.
It can be a little pricy but you have to keep in mind that you are paying for the Kawaii Monster experience.I highly recommend this café as a great family outing, or  just a great night out with friends. Some info that you should know, Lunch time 11:30-4:30 (Last entry 3:30) Dinner time 6:00-10:30-Yasmin Cruz, January 2016
Phone: +81-3-5413-6142 (Reservations accepted)
Directions: From Harajuku Station take the Omotesando Exit once you get to the major intersection make a left go all the way down until you get to the major intersection cross the street and make a left you will keep going straight once you pass American Eagle Outfitters its going to be in the YM building 4F. Take the escalators all the way up.

Kidzania!

Kidzania is such a clever concept and an absolute must if you have kids.
Arranged like a city, the basic premise is allowing the kids to try out different “jobs” in the city and get paid for their work.2014-10-08 10.51.10

There are over 50 jobs to choose from ranging from pizza maker, to flight attendant, to fire fighter, and everything in between. 2014-10-08 09.07.35 HDR

Parents are allowed to watch through the window at the different jobs, but are not allowed to participate. They really encourage the kids to be independent.

Upon arrival you will be given a schedule card, you take this to the job that you are interested in and make a reservation.
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You can only make one reservation at a time. The groups are very small for each job, so I felt like we were getting almost one on one instruction all day. Each job lasts about 30 minutes. (Smaller groups of kids are easier to handle. If you want to go in a group with friends, prepare to not hang out together. All of the scheduling takes some coordination on the part of the adult, and many jobs only take up to 4 kids per session. Just a heads up).
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After the job, the kids are paid in “kidzos” that they are able to deposit into the bank, or spend for services, food or trinkets at the “mall”. They are also given a trading card at each job, to collect.2014-10-19 14.58.55

Kidzania is one of the best things we’ve done here!
It certainly rivals Disney in every way, in my opinion.  Also, being completely indoors, it makes for a great rainy /snowy day option. I highly recommend it! Jamie Cowan, August 2015

Helpful hints:

  1. Check out the reservations page on their website, it will tell you if there is availability on any given day, or already sold out.
  2. Like anything else, I would avoid weekends and Japanese Holidays whenever possible. Coincidentally, the website actually flags the Japanese holidays for you on the calendar.
  3. Wednesday’s are English days and most of the activities are presented in English. Even on a non-English day I think you would still get the gist of what was going on, though.
  4. There are two shifts; 1st shift is from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, and 2nd shift is from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. You will only be allowed in the building during your shift. No matter your shift, arrive EARLY! The line can be hours long, even with a reservation.
  5. Activities are for children 3-15 years of age. There is a toddler room, for younger siblings, but younger than 3 yrs are not allowed to participate. There are also a few parent lounges.
  6. You cannot bring in your own food, but food is available to purchase. Many of the jobs include food, like the pizza maker.
  7. Kidzania is actually inside a mall, so you won’t see it from the street.
  8. Prices; the average price for a child is Y3450 and adult Y950, however there are several price changes due to holidays and there are also discounts if you buy far enough in advance, so check the website for specifics.
  9. I had a hard time booking tickets online for some reason, but you can also purchase them from the Family Mart on base, this way you also have something tangible to hand the ticket person.
  10. The train will take approximately 80 minutes, including several transfers. Driving will take about the same, depending on traffic. You may want to consider staying at the New Sanno, before or after, which cuts the drive to 20 minutes. (Rumor has it that a Kidzania location will be opening in Tachikawa, but I can’t find any information. Fingers crossed!)

Kidzania has a very good website, in English that will also answer many questions that you may have, I recommend reading up before you go.

http://www.kidzania.jp/tokyo/en/

PHONE: 057 006 4012

TRAIN: Toyosu station is the closest station, then it is about a 10 minute walk to LaLaport Toyosu, the Kidzania location.

GPS 35.6562989 139.791486

PARKING Parking is available at LaLaport Toyosu 24 hours a day. For complete information,
please check the LaLaport Parking Accesspage.

Car height must not exceed 2.1m. The first hour of parking is free.
Guests who visit for the 1st Shift (9:00am – 3:00pm) receive 5 additional hours of free parking.
Guests who visit for the 2nd Shift (4:00pm – 9:00pm) receive 4 additional hours of free parking.
Please present your parking ticket for validation at the entrance of KidZania Tokyo.

Yasukuni Shrine

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shimokitazawa

IMG_4002Be prepared to get pleasantly surprised if you get a chance to visit this small
hipster neighborhood called Shimokitazawa.  This bustling area is full of cheap eateries, gadget shops, vintage clothing, retro furniture and a ton of performance venues.

IMG_4003

This area is a lot of small alleyways waiting to be explored, so take your time and enjoy.  It focuses on second hand stores with a lot of character.  I got 2 great skirts for 800 yen!

The train station divides the area in a northern and southern part, with the north having an edgy, but sophisticated urban touch to it.
Vintage stores, and coffee houses are  found in abundance.  If you see the Canadian flag hanging in an alleyway here, you may have some amazing poutine if that is something you like.

The southern exit  is where the going out scene takes place.  Live music venues, IMG_4004restaurants and bars, tattoo shops, as well as some gaming and arcade centers.

Shimokitazawa is only four minutes from Shibuya station on the Inokashira lines.  Or 7 minutes from shinjuku on the Odakyu line.  Merri Kever, July 2015

Burger Mania

If you find yourself at the New Sanno and you have a craving for a great burger, then this place is a must.  Without question one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

IMG_4005Burger Mania is a little cafe with eccentric choices, which include; the cherry cream cheese topped burger, blue cheese burger topped with Roquefort and Gorgonzola, or a seasonal peach topped burger, to name a few.  They are perhaps most known for the Avocado burger and the BBQ cheeseburger.  It should win extra points for having a vegetarian option, substituting grilled veggies and cheese for the meat. The average price of the burgers were between 900-1300 yen.  Includes a small salad, and either onion rings or fries.

There is also a location in Shirokane if you are interested in going there as well.

Hours: 11:30-2300 daily.
Closed on the third Monday each month

Location:  Burger Mania is located about exactly half way between exit 1 and exit 3 of Hiroo station.  If you are walking from the New Sanno, go past exit 1 of Hiroo station, and start looking for signs for Burger Mania.  It’s on the second floor of a brick building.  Citibank is just past it.  Enjoy! Merri Kever, July 2015

Winter Illuminations, Central Tokyo

Here’s a list of some of the top illumination displays in central Tokyo.  These are great places to visit during the dark winter months, and they’re all free.  Be prepared for some illuminations to end on Christmas Day; check Time Out Tokyo ( http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo) for specific illumination dates. I have listed the destinations in order of my preference, however, Sagamiko Pleasure Forest’s winter illumination is my most favorite illumination around Tokyo (2014-15).

Tokyo MidtownMidtown Tokyo:  (Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line – H04, exit 8). This mall has a nice light tour from the Plaza, along Higashi Street and through the Garden. It ends with an amazing finale at the Grass Square. The lights run from 17:00 – 23:00, between the middle of November to Christmas Day.

Nakameguro Canal Nakameguro: (Naka-meguro Station, Hibiya Line – H01, North exit). Cross the road, after you take the North exit, and follow the crowd north. These amazing canal lights give you the impression that the river runs through a beautiful blue cave. The lights are lit 17:00 – 21:00 from the end of November to Christmas Day, EXCEPT WEEKENDS!※The blue illumination relocated to Yoyogi park in 2016. The trees are illuminated in an orange-gold color in 2016 instead.
This illumination differs every year. Please make sure to check the info before you visit there!

-Yoyogi Park, Shibuya
The above blue cave has relocated to Yoyogi park in 2016. Please see the separate entry for more information.
Ao no doukutsu: http://yokotatravel.com/ao-no-doukutsu-yoyogi-park-illumination/

ShidomeShiodome: (Shiodome Station, Oedo Line – E19, or Shinbashi Station, connected to several lines). The Caretta mall runs an illumination show every 20 minutes. The GPS coordinates for the display are 35.6648195,139.7624616. Illumination is from 17:00 – 23:00 and begins mid-November to mid-January.

Roppongi HillsRoppongi Hills/Keyakizaka Street: (Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line – H04, exit 1C). This romantic illumination is located near Mori Tower, and in previous years, they have had a Christmas market that runs until 9 pm. The GPS coordinates for the Roppongi Hill lights are 35.6592006,139.7298473 and the trees are lit 17:00 – 23:00, from early November to Christmas Day.

The 4 locations, above, can be visited relatively ‘easily’ as most of them are on the Hibiya Line, but there is quite a bit of walking involved. I suggest seeing the lights at Nakameguro (H01) first, since these lights turn off the earliest and ending with Tokyo Midtown or Shidome. To get to Shiodome, take the Oedo Line to Shidome (E19) from Roppongi Sation (H04).

Tokyo Dome/La Qua: (Served by several lines and can be reached via Kasuga Station, Korakuen Station, exit 2 or Suidobashi Station, West exit). When we went to this display, it was not vast, like the illumination spots above. However, it was colorful and the frequent light shows were well choreographed to music. You may want to see the ‘fountains to music’ display at La Qua too. La Qua also has over 50 restaurants located on the Ground floor and 5th floor. You can see the lights between 17:00 – 01:00 from early November to mid-February.

Shinjuku: (Shinjuku Station also served by a number of lines including the JR Yamanote Line, South exit). There are displays all around Shinjuku Terrace City with a number of them located on Shinjuku’s Southern Terrace, south of JR Shinjuku Station. The lights are generally lit from 17:00 – 24:00 mid-November to mid-February. You can catch some Valentine’s Day lights here too.

Inside Omotesando stationBetween Meji-jingumae Station and Omotesando Station: (Meji-jingumae Station, Chiyoda Line – C3 or Fukutoshin Line F15, and Omotesando Station, Chiyoda Line – C4, Ginza Line – G2, or Hanzomon Line- Z2).  Meiji-jigumae Station is a 10 minute walk from Harajuku station which is on the JR Yamanote Line. Along this ritzy stretch of road, there are a lot of lighted Gingko trees. On the left as you go from Meiji-jingumae Station to Omotesando Station, you can take a quick look at the illumination displays on the rooftop in Tokyu Plaza, next to Starbucks, and then further down the road inside the Omotesando Hills Shopping Mall; where there is a 26 foot tall fake Christmas tree and a cute miniature German house scene. You can catch the lights between sunset and 21:00 from early December to early January.

Yebisu Garden Place: (Ebisu station, Hibiya Line – H02, and the JR Yamanote Line to name a few lines. exit 1 or East Exit). This is a 10-15 minute uphill walk from Ebisu Station, or if you can find it, the “Yebisu Skywalk” is easier. The GPS coordinates for this illumination display are 35.6426292,139.7137002. When we visited, the plaza had a red carpet lined with lit trees and a gigantic crystal chandelier at the end. This illumination is generally lit between 16:00 – midnight and runs November to mid-January.

Tokyo Tower: (Kamiyacho Station, Hibiya Line, exit 1 or Onarimon Station, Mita Line, exit A1 or Akabanebashi Station, Oedo Line – E21, Akabanebashi exit). Besides the tower itself, there are other lights at the base of the tower that are usually theme based. The year we went the lights ‘worshipped’ some anime creature that we didn’t know. It costs 900 yen to get to the main observation tower. For more information on Tokyo Tower, see this Yokota Travel entry http://yokotatravel.com/welcome-fellow-yokotans/tokyo-tower/. These lights are lit between 16:00-0:00 and run between early November to December 25.

Here are a few more illumination destinations that I have not visited, but are well-known illumination spots in central Tokyo. They are a little further from Yokota, but good spots to check out if you are staying at the New Sanno during the winter months.

Tokyo Station: (Tokyo Station is serviced by a number of lines. Use Yaesu exit and exit 4a/4b for Michi Terasse). Tokyo Station usually has a couple of attractions from 17:00-23:00 early December to early January. Tokyo Station’s, Yaesu, Grand Roof is lit with alternating colors. From 16:30-20:30. December 24-28/29 Tokyo Station’s Michi Terrace (or Tokyo Station’s façade) usually has an annual 3D holographic projection display.

–  Tokyo Skytree: (Oshiage Station is also serviced by a number of lines). The Solamachi Christmas Market and Christmas illuminations around Tokyo Skytree run from 10:00-22:00 early November to Christmas Day. The pathways connecting the tower, Tokyo Skytree and Oshiage Stations are lit from mid-December and you can usually see projection mapping shows as well.

Ginza District: (Ginza Station on the Hibiya, Marunouchi and Ginza Subway Lines and Yurakucho Station on the JR Yamanote Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and Yurakucho Subway Line). The lights in Ginza are generally lit between 11:00-22:00 from mid-November to mid-February.

– Odaiba: (Daiba Station, Yurikamome Line). Odaiba has a large “Daiba Memorial Tree” lit from 17:00-01:00 in mid-November to mid-March. Other illumination points around Odaiba include “Odaiba Kaihin Park, in front of the of Decks shopping center, Venusfort and Diver City”, according to http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2303.html.

Linda Bell, December 2014.

 

Ginko Trees in Fall, Tokyo University Hongō Campus

DSC03584Around the end of November to the beginning of December, brilliant, yellow ginkgo trees line the main entrance into Tokyo University’s Hongō Campus. It’s a grand sight, and the leaf-carpeted path leads you through interesting gothic buildings and archways. Most of the campus is open to the public and is stroller friendly, for the most part.

DSC03648From the main gate (Seimon), and part way down the University’s main pathway, a path on the left leads to a huge ginkgo tree. It’s a great place to relax and have a drink, or picnic if the weather’s fine. At the opposite end of the main gate is Yasuda Auditorium, a large, red brick building. Just south of the main gate, towards Hongo Sanchome Station, there is also an interesting red gate (Akamon, shown in the picture above) built in 1827, from the Edo period.

Tokyo University is considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, and the World. The institute’s symbol is the ginkgo leaf, as the trees are “known for their endurance and longevity” (japanvisitor.com). Here is a link to the map for Hongō Campus. It has the locations of restrooms, restaurants, convenience stores and the train stations. Hongo Campus Map. During the fall, we combined this outing with a trip to Koishikawa Korakuen Park. A 1.3-mile walk separates the two locations, or you can take a subway ride between the Iidabashi/Korakuren Stations and Hongo Sanchome Station. Linda Bell, October 2014.

DSC03612DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates to the Tokyo University Hongō Campus main gate (Seimon) on Hongo-dori Avenue, are 35.712926, 139.759457. The closest subway stations to the University’s main gate are Todaimae Station (Nanboku Line, N12) and two separate Hongo Sanchome Stations, one services the Marunouchi Line (M21) and the other the Toei Ōedo Line (E08). Take note of the train line your returning on so you go to the correct station.

If you exit Todaimae Station, turn left to head to the main gate, while at the M21 Station take the Hong-dori Avenue Exit, Exit 3. At the E-08 Station take Exit 4 and turn right for the main gate. All stations are approximately a 10-minute walk to the main entrance of the University. I believe all three stations are stroller friendly, according to the University’s Disability Services Office.

Tokyo Toy Museum, Shinjuku-Yotsuya

DSC09030This is a good outing for all ages, but particularly good for kids under 9 years of age. It’s also great for those days you find yourself in Downtown Tokyo, you’re staying at the New Sanno, or you need something to do on a rainy cold day. The museum is located inside an old elementary school and consists of three floors. Each room within the building is dedicated to a different type of play and learning. Some of the attractions include a toy workshop in which you can make your own toy/craft, a wooden toy room, and a room dedicated to the all-time classic toys.

DSC09025Strollers aren’t ideal within the museum, but can be left outside the gymnasium. There is also a small playground outside for nice weather. Take footwear that is easy to slip on and off, if possible, as a couple rooms do not allow shoes. There are no restaurants within the museum. We took snacks and ate outside. However, there are a variety of restaurants back towards Yotsuya-3-chrome station.

IMG_3012The Museum is open from 10:00 – 16:00 all days (last entry is 15:30), but closed on Thursdays. Admission is ¥700 for adults, ¥500 for kids over 2, and free for kids under 2. A parent and child combo ticket is ¥1000 (for a child over 2 years old). For more information, please go to http://www.goodtoy.org/ttm/ (you made need to use a translator). If you finish early at the Tokyo Toy Museum, the Tokyo Fire Museum is another attraction that can be visited near Yotsuya Sanchrome Station, and it’s free! Linda Bell, October 2014.

DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates for the toy museum are N35.68951, E139.71805. By train, take Exit 2 at Yotsuya Sanchrome Station, on the Maronuchi Line. The Museum is a 5 minute walk from the station. It’s quite difficult to find as it’s down a mainly residential street. Look for the red flags with yellow writing, TTM (Tokyo Toy Museum) on the right hand side. Parking is not advised, according to the website.