Category Archives: TOKYO

Sumida Aquarium at Tokyo Skytree

sumida2 by kelly oOur plan for the day was to head to the Skytree. I was surprised when we arrived to see an aquarium at its base: Sumida Aquarium.  After our Skytree tour we decided to check it out since we literally had to pass right by it on our way out.  It isn’t super large but it is brand new and very well done. They had a jellyfish laboratory where they are breeding jellyfish and you can see the jellyfish at all different stages, from 5 days old, 1 month old, 3 months old, etc. It was an impressive collection. They also had some interesting fish which I had never seen before. My kids enjoyed this “Rock Fish”. If you look closely you will see it’s mouth and eyes. There was also a large tank of these fish that look like worms sticking up from sumda 5 by kelly othe sand. I can’t remember their name but they were fun to watch. Of course they have all the usual stuff like penguins and seals and a large tank with shark. It is entirely indoors. We were happy just to be out of the summer heat.

I don’t think I would make a separate trip just for the aquarium, however, if you are planning to visit the Skytree it is worth adding an extra hour or two to your plan if you have children with you.

Open 365 days. Hours are 9:00 – 21:00.  Adults – ¥2,000; HS students – ¥1,500; Jr. HS and Elementary ¥1,000; Children 3 and over – ¥600. – Kelly O’Donnell, July 2013

Find more aquariums: Hakkeijima Sea Paradise; Shinagawa Aquarium; Tokyo Tower; Sunshine City.

Tokyo Skytree

skytree by kelly oWhile in Tokyo don’t miss the tallest attraction, the Skytree. It is certified by the Guinness World Records (TM) as “the tallest tower in the world”.  The height of the Skytree is 634m. Besides being a tourist attraction and the best place to view the city, it’s also a broadcasting tower.

The first stop on your visit is the Tempo Deck, on Floor 350. If you are feeling brave then, for an extra ¥1,000 fee, you can go up to the Tempo Galleria on the 450 floor. On a clear day you will be able to see Mount Fuji, as well as a 360 degree view of the entire city.

skytree by kelly o 3When it first opened in early 2012 there were very long lines. When I visited in July of 2013, on a Wednesday, the wait was not long to purchase tickets. Only 10 mins at 9:30am. I suspect it would be significantly longer on the weekend. You can purchase advance tickets online for a fixed time reservation only if you have a credit card issued by a Japanese bank. I hope this will change in the near future. The online form to purchase the advance tickets is also only in Japanese. If you have a Japanese friend they  can make the reservation for you, however, the person making the reservation will have to be present when you go because you must present the Japanese credit card with which you made the reservation.

photoOur favorite part was the glass floor. You can stand on tempered glass and look all the way down to the ground! They also have a photo service here. You can purchase you photo for ¥1,200.

There are several casual cafes available and also one nicer restaurant, the Sky Restaurant 634 on the 345 floor. It serves, “Tokyo Cuisine” and is open for lunch and dinner 11:00 – 20:30 (last order). The views from the dinner tables at night are suppose to be spectacular. We went during the day. I saw no way to make a reservation for the restaurant in advance on the website so I guess you would just have to wait to be seated. After the Skytree be sure to check out the brand new aquarium that is right next door! It’s actually attached to the base of the Skytree. It is called the Sumida Aquarium.

skytree by kelly o 2Open 365 days a year. Hours are 8:00 – 22:00. Day tickets cost ¥2,000 for adults, ¥900 for 6 -11 years and ¥600 for 4-5 years. Children 3 and younger are admitted for free.  Get there by car or train… see Tokyo Skytree access page. – Kelly O’Donnell, July 2013

Also check out Tokyo Tower.

Kappabashi Street – Kitchen Town Tokyo

kappabashi 1 sarah strausKappabashi Street in downtown Tokyo between Ueno Park and Asakusa is a great place to go if you are looking for dishes, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, or even restaurant supplies.  You can find things you might want… amazing pieces of pottery, dish sets, tea sets, cookware, aprons and red lanterns.  You can also find things you may not want… podiums for the front of a restaurant, display cases, full chef apparel, expensive shaved ice machines and neon signs.  Here several storefronts are dedicated to fake food – every kind of food you might eat in Japan.  There is a coffee roasters, selling coffee beans but unfortunately no cups of coffee.  There is also a store that sells a huge variety of coffee making machines.  This is such a fun place to browse.  With its covered sidewalks Kappabashi is a good outing even in the rain.  This would be a hard place to bring small children… the stores are bursting with all thing breakable and most of the stores are not stroller friendly – you have to squeeze through narrow isles to see everything.
kappabashi 2 sarah strausDIRECTIONS:  The start of Kappabashi street is located between subway stations Inaricho (G17) and Tawaramachi(G18) on the Ginza line.  The map below shows the length of Kappabashi.  It is also possible to walk here from either Ueno Park or Asakusa.  GPS coordinates for the south end of Kappabashi Street: 35.710489, 139.788224.   – Sarah Straus, July 2013

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kappabashi 4 sarah straus kappabashi 3 sarah straus

ASOBono at Tokyo Dome City

asobono by sarah 3A trip to ASOBono may be expensive, but for kids ages 6 and under it can be a really fun day and a chance to do something different in the city.  It is clean, bright and colorful like Bornelund, but larger and with different features.  Like Bornelund, there is a large ball pit area.  However, here it is set up to look like a pirate ship in a blue sea.  There is also a huge train track area with moving trains.  Kids can put the easy to assemble, plastic train tracks together to make complex mazes and run battery operated trains across them.  For my 5 year old son, this was the highlight of the trip.  Great for pretend play, there is a big kitchen, grocery store and restaurant area for kids with plastic food and shopping carts.  A play bakery is filled with play cakes to decorate and a asobono by sarah 4home area has dolls, doll clothes and vacuum cleaners.  There is a doll house zone, magnetic boards, game area and a large play area just for crawlers and new walkers.  Vending machines carry juice and milk boxes in addition to soda and water and there is a nice place to sit and enjoy your beverage.   When it is time for lunch, OsoBono is located next to a food court where you can eat your own food or buy from several vendors serving noodles, rice dishes and even soft serve yogurt.  With an all day pass you can come and go from ASOBono.  The day pass costs: ¥1500 for children ages 6 months to junior high, ¥900 for adults and ¥200 to rent a locker.  There is stroller parking and no strollers are allowed past the entrance area.  Open weekdays 10am-6pm, weekends 9:30am – 7pm.  GPS for parking garage nearest ASOBono: 35.703829, 139.754789.
asobono by sarah 5DIRECTIONS:  The nearest train station is Suidobashi.  However, if you are going with kids, it may be easier to drive.  We went on a weekday from Yokota, leaving at 9:30am and got to the parking area next to ASOBono in just over an hour.  We drove out of the parking garage and were on our way home at 3pm and it took us just one hour to get back to Yokota.  The trick is to avoid rush hour traffic.  Parking costs ¥400 for 30 minutes, but during the week maxes out at ¥1500.  If you get your parking validated at AsoBono and keep your stay under 4 hours, parking will cost ¥1000.   So… for one adult plus two kids driving from Yokota it will cost: ¥4100 entry, ¥1000 parking 4 hours, ¥3000 tollways = ¥8100.  It worked well to team up with a friend and share parking and toll costs or it may be a fun think to do if you are already staying in downtown Tokyo.  – Sarah Straus & Linda Bell, June 2013.  Also see LaQua Spa also at Tokyo Dome City.

Ueno Park

Ueno Lorri ShrewsburyUeno Park is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Tokyo and one of the livelier sites during the annual Cherry Blossom season in early April. Ueno has many things to offer and should be visited at least once during a stay in Japan. Ueno Zoo is one of the largest in the world and attracts “kids” of all ages. The animals’ names are written in English. As a special attraction, the zoo houses pandas from China. A monorail connects the main zoo area with the Africa section on the west side. You can also cross a bridge over historic Shinobazu Lake where thousands of ducks and cormorants swim. The Shinto shrine on an island in the lake makes a striking picture. Rowboats are available for rent. Also, next to the lake is the Ueno Zoo Aquarium with more than 500 species of fish exhibited on four levels.

In the park there are numerous museums that are nice during the winter months when it is too cold to be outside. Tokyo’s National Museum is an imposing structure built in 1936 in modern Oriental style. It displays many of the important national treasures and cultural properties of Japan, including ancient tapestries, screens, samurai armor, swords, scrolls, kimonos, ceramics, and more than 100,000 works of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian art. Ueno has a very good National Science Museum (see separate entry) with special sections on zoology, botany, geology, science and engineering, and astronomy. Children will be awed by dinosaur and whale skeletons, and by the collection of clocks and stuffed animals. Even Mexican mummies and shrunken heads can be found here. (Although very little is in English and adults may not be impressed, the museum can be a good learning tool for children.) The National Museum of Western Art is also located in Ueno Park. It was built in 1959 and exhibits the works of French artists. This exhibit features masterpieces by such famous artists as Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh, as well as several sculptures by Rodin. All of these attractions are open daily 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, and closed Mondays and from December 29 – January 3 during the Japanese New Year. Entrance fees for each of the attractions range from ¥200 to ¥400 for adults; ¥100 for 13 and up; ¥50 for 3-12; those under 3 and over 65 are free.

DSC_0827You may also want to explore the Ameyayokocho shopping district which runs south from Ueno to Okachimachi Station. Famous for hundreds of tiny discount shops, second-hand motorcycle dealers, and open air markets, it offers countless small inexpensive restaurants where you can make a good lunch of noodles, tempura, yakitori, or other specialties. A picnic is a nice alternative because there are numerous places in the Ueno Park area where you can sit, relax and watch all the people go by. So enjoy your visit!

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: To reach Ueno, take the Ome Line to Tachikawa and change to the Chuo Line toward Tokyo. Get off at Kanda, three stops after Shinjuku. Change to the Yamanote Line toward Ikebukuro, and get off at the third stop, Ueno. Check train times on Hyperdia. – Chris Underwood, Mugs Wedemeyer, date; updated Sarah Straus, May 2013, top photo by Lorri Shrewsbury.

Shinagawa Aquarium

shinigawa aqu by linda bellThis Tokyo aquarium is not big, but it is quaint and entertaining.  They have a small dolphin and sea lion show with two dolphins and two sea lions.  There is an extra sea lion show in the morning and on the weekends.  They also have an underwater tunnel with a massive turtle and stingray as well as other fish and eels. In smaller enclosures there are exotic crabs, jellyfish, penguins and two large sharks are located just before the exit.  Strollers can be used, but the place is quite small and on a busy day it may be difficult to move. On the Saturday we went, it was easy to use the ramps and elevators. Strollers can, however, be stored at the front of the Aquarium. There is no ramp to the Splash zone, but kids in strollers can see the dolphins and seals underwater when you take the elevator to the basement.  Bring extra clothing if you want to sit in the Splash zone.  Outside the entrance are lockers for valuables shinigawa aqu by linda bell 3and refreshments. You may enter and exit the Aquarium with your day-pass.  No food is allowed inside, but there are picnic tables right outside the entrance that overlook a small downtown lake -perfect for a stroll on a nice day. Adjacent are “Restaurant Dolphin” and other noodle and ice cream vendors. Drinks can be bought in the vending machines in the basement of the Aquarium.  Admission for adults: ¥1300.  Junior high – Elementary students: ¥600.  Children above age 4: ¥300.  Hours: 10am – 5pm, closed Tuesdays and Jan 1.  For more details check   GPS to parking: 35.588755,139.738924.

shinigawa aqu by linda bell2DRIVING: In light, Saturday morning, traffic it took 1 hour and 15 minutes from Yokota for me to get there.  Depending on your route, prepare for a few downtown tunnels to interrupt your GPS navigation. I drove because taking the train would take longer and be more difficult with small children.  If you take the train, make your way to Omorikaigan Station.  The aquarium is walking distance from this station.  If you don’t want to drive or take the train, check ITT.  They offer trips here on occasion also.  There is parking, but there are only 96 parking spots. I had no problem getting parking soon after it opened. It cost us ¥1000 for parking, and we were there for three and a half hours. I am not sure if it was a flat fee.  The parking lot is directly behind the main entrance of the Aquarium, and off of Route 316 (NOT Route 15 which is the Aquarium’s train-user’s entrance), near a tiny lake. You need to cross over a bridge just before the parking lot’s entrance which is on the left. Do not use the Aquarium’s physical address for a GPS destination as it will take a lot of time to loop around confusing traffic, and non-designated parking zones, to the ‘back’ side of the Aquarium.

After parking, head towards the booth that you bought your ticket, and away from the road entrance. Then turn left after a hedge/fence. The Aquarium’s entrance signs (the dolphin) are not apparent until you head left, around the tiny lake. You’ll eventually pass an exit ramp on your left, and then ~20 yards later find an entrance ramp with a blue and white awning. It’s about 100 yards from the Parking Lot to the Aquariums entrance.  Road tolls cost ¥3000 round trip. – Linda Bell, June 2013

Interested in Aquariums?  Also see the entry on Sunshine City and Tokyo Tower.

Tsukiji Fish Market

fish market by amanda martinGoing to the Tsukiji fish market, the largest in the world, makes for a fun morning adventure in downtown Tokyo. It is a working market, with vendors cleaning and processing a large variety of seafood and packaging it for shipment. There is everything from giant fish to barrels of squirmy eels. It is probably best for older kids and adults as there were hazards galore – vats of slimy sea-life and knives within reach as well as speeding carts – which made me fearful for my 3-year-old. No strollers are allowed. Expect your shoes to get a bit grimy.  When you enter the market the first section of stalls house vegetables and dry goods for sale. Cross the parking lot and enter the seafood market. The place is huge and wandering the stalls is a lot of fun. You do see some Japanese making dinner purchases. A small number of passes are available to watch the auction each morning at 5:15am and 5:50am. To just see the market the gates open at 9am and the market stays open until 1pm. Closed on holidays.

Note:  Tuna auction registration is on a first-come, first-served basis up to a maximum of 120 people. It was reported that the registration for visitors was between 2:15 am-3:00 am on October 22nd 2016. I found an article mentioning that visitors need to be there by 2:00 am to secure their spots. Tuna auction registration starts at 5 am according to the website; however, registration could start earlier if they have enough people lined up. If you have any information, please let us know! ( Photo by Bryson Spangler, October 2016)

Erin Allen Fish MarketDIRECTIONS: From the New Sanno take the Hibiya line to Tsukiji. Follow the crowds downhill toward the market. Entrance is free and you will be given a small map to guide you. After visiting the market, I suggest you walk up Showa-Dori street to see a Kabuki theater (tickets are available for single act shows), and then another few blocks to Ginza for upscale shopping and great people watching. – Amanda Martin, June 2013, second photo by Erin Allen, May 2014.

Irori no Sato – Train Restaurant

train5 by kelly odonnellFor a unique dining experience consider checking out “Irori no Sato” near Kokubunji. Your food is delivered via a steam locomotive to your private dining room! They have a total of 30 private dining rooms; 15 for hori-kotatsu to enjoy fresh sea foods, beef and vegetables that you grill yourself. They also have 15 more private dining rooms for shabushabu, crab sukiyaki and other nabe cooking. These are the rooms where the food is delivered via the train that pulls right up to your table! Since there are only private rooms and no small tables or shared dining room,  it is best to try Irori no Sato when you have a large group – perhaps a going away party, a culture group, relatives visiting from out of town, etc. Children are welcome. I did see several train4 by kelly odonnellJapanese children enjoying the trains. However, unless they are willing to eat the shabu-shabu or rice there may not be too much they would enjoy eating. It is a fun experience for them though. They are open for lunch and dinner. Please note that there are no chairs, everyone eats sitting Japanese style on tatami mats. Also, the grounds itself are gorgeous with waterfalls, koi ponds and beautiful trees. It feels like you are nestled inside a little park. It was like a little oasis.  Average dinner price: 3000, Lunch: 980.  Call to make reservations – usually booked 10 days out.  GPS:  35.718442,139.470815. – Kelly O’Donnell, May 2013
DIRECTIONS: It only took us 20 minutes to drive from Yokota.  It is located off Route 7, heading east from base toward Koganei Park.   Phone: 048-282-2228.  Webpage:

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Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower by Valerie DeLello

*The wax museum in the write up has been closed since September 2013.
For that “high in the sky” look at Tokyo, climb to the observatory levels of Tokyo Tower, located in Roppongi. The main observatory platform is 150 meters high, tokyo tower by kelly odonnelland the special observatory gives you a panoramic view, including the harbor and bay, from a height of 250 meters. Both levels offer a stupendous look at the greater Tokyo area, and on a clear day you will even see Mt. Fuji rising majestically into the sky. At 333 meters, Tokyo Tower is no longer the city’s tallest structure, that honor now goes to Skytree, but it is cheaper to go up and the lines are shorter.  All eight television stations and five radio stations in the Tokyo area beam their signals from antennas installed atop the tower, and the police department has cameras mounted to it to monitor traffic on surrounding expressways and other main arteries. If you are in the tower 15 minutes before sunset you can enjoy the view by day and watch the cities lights turn on as it grows dark.  Construction of Tokyo Tower began in June 1957 and was completed in December 1958. Although it is higher than the Eiffel Tower, it is much lighter with 4,000 tons of steel as compared with 7,000 tons needed to build the French structure. Even so, Tokyo Tower is solid enough to withstand both the strongest earthquake and 90-meter-per-second winds.
view from tokyo towerUnder the tower, the Tokyo Tower Building houses exhibits and offers both entertainment as well as education. An aquarium on the first floor is Japan’s largest, with 8,000 fish representing 700 species from all over the world. Included are examples of Japan’s renowned carp and goldfish. The 3,500 square-meter, two-story tourist area includes souvenir shops, restaurants, coffee shops and a game corner. On the third floor, see the first wax museum built in the Orient. One hundred lifelike figures of famous persons are presented and dramatic scenes enhanced by special lighting and sound effects.If you are interested in learning about modern Japanese life, don’t miss the fourth floor. Numerous showrooms feature exhibits by the government as well as Japan’s leading companies. Advances in technology are displayed in the form of up-to-date examples of cars, computers and kitchens. The showroom of Japan Automobile Federation offers exhibits useful to drivers interested in improving their driving skills. Fees to the main observatory are: Adults, ¥820, middle/primary school age, ¥460; kindergarten, ¥310. Fees to the special observatory cost an additional ¥600 for adults, ¥400/350 for children. Fees to see the wax museum are: Adults; ¥500; children, ¥350. Fees for the aquarium are: Adults, ¥1000; children, ¥500.  No credit cards accepted for tower entrance.
mini tokyo tower by kelly odonnellTRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line and travel to Yotsuya Station. Change to Marunouchi Subway Line bound for Kasumigaseki (3 stops). Change to the Hibiya Line for Kamiyacho Station (1 stop). Get off the subway and exit the station either way. Turn left and walk one block. Turn left again, and the Tokyo Tower is right there! Or, it is only a ¥1300 taxi ride from the New Sanno.  Opening Hours: 9am–10pm.  –Barbara Smith. Liz Ruskin updated hours and fees, 2011, updated with photos Kelly O’Donnell, May 2013, top photo by Valerie DeLello, Dec 2013.

Also check out Tokyo Skytree.

tokyo tower view by sarah strausTokyo Tower sarah strausComments & last two photo by Sarah Straus, December 2013: You can get a reduced price ticket to the Main Observatory plus a free dessert on your birthday.  Also, the day we went in December there was plenty of parking in the parking lot located at the base of the tower.

LaQua Spa at Tokyo Dome City

Spa LaQua is an onsen in the middle of Tokyo Dome City.  They have multiple mineral pools, some with jets. There is a steam room, places to eat, get a massage, have your nails done, watch TV, and sleep. It is a great day spa.  Massage, nails, and food are additional costs. They give you a bracelet that has a chip in it to keep track of your purchases. Tattoos are not allowed, but some of my friends covered themselves up with a small towel and had no issues. I really enjoyed the experience and would go again. In addition, there is plenty of other attractions in the area! There are several train stations around Tokyo Dome City. I arrived at Suidobashi station and it was about a 10 minute walk to the spa. The entrance fee is ¥2565 for adults.  Open year round from 11:00 am to 9:00 am. – Danielle Kirby, February 2013.

For information about enjoying onsens in Japan check here: Onsen: Japanese Hot Spring Baths

A Cut Above

A Cut Above was recommended to me by a British friend of mine. It is located in Tokyo near Hiro-o train station and a 12 minute walk from The New Sanno. It’s an international salon so they were familiar and comfortable with western style hair. They do perms, coloring, facials etc. They speak English really well and have an English website.
DIRECTIONS: To get there you can drive, take the train to Hiro-o station, or take the shuttle for The New Sanno from the Kanto Lodge.  From The New Sanno, walk toward Arisugawa Park and around the left side of the park.  Continue along the street past the end of the park and the salon will be on your left.  The map below shows walking directions from The New Sanno.   GPS: 35.653951, 139.725939.  – Chelsea Metros, February 2013

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National Museum of Science and Nature, Tokyo

For parents who love the sciences and want to share them with their children, the National Museum of Science and Nature in Tokyo is a wonderful place to spend the day.  Located in Ueno park across from Ueno Zoo, this museum proved a surprisingly fun outing for my family when we found ourselves in Tokyo on a cold winter day.  The museum is housed in two distinct buildings: the smaller Japan Gallery and larger Global Gallery.  Enter through the Japan Gallery.  Admission is only ¥600 for adults; high-school age and under are free.  Be sure to drop your bulky items off at the lockers and head to the Global Gallery located out the back door of the Japan Gallery, up a short flight of stairs and to the left.  It is certainly worthwhile to visit every floor.  If traveling with younger kids, be sure to find the Science All Around Us room on the 2nd floor.  It is filled with hands on experiments that demonstrate principles of mechanical force, light, motion, electricity and more.  Even our 3-year-old could participate and there are many volunteers here explaining how it all works.  Additional interactive displays suitable for younger kids can be found on the 3rd floor including a unique collection of taxidermy wild animals.  Touch screen monitors around the exhibit allow you to see photos or watch short movie clips of each animal found in the large display case. Heading down to the basement levels be sure to stop at B2 for the impressive Evolution of Life exhibit which includes an extensive bone collection.  For older kids the best floor may prove to be the one at the very bottom, B3.  This floor is filled with hands on experiments that explore the laws of physics and matter.  Stay for lunch.  There is a restaurant that can be seen from the 1st floor exhibits and resides half way between the 1st and 2nd floor.   It is reasonably priced and has spaghetti and pizza on the kids menu… though there is shrimp on the kids pizza.  Open 9am-5pm, closed Mondays and Dec 28-Jan 1.
DIRECTIONS: It is easy to get here from The New Sanno.   Simply get on the train at Hiroo (H3) and get off at Ueno Park (H17).   Check this train map to get directions from Fussa to Ueno:  It predicts about 1 hour and 10 minutes travel time and gives several routes.  From what I could tell there is some paid parking near the Ueno Park train station.  GPS coordinates: 35.715729,139.777341. – Sarah Straus, December 2012.

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea

If you are stationed here with children, and perhaps even if you are here without, you are probably thinking about at least one trip to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.  If you have looked at the Tokyo Disneyland webpage, you’ve likely seen the detailed maps of each land, read descriptions of the rides, and seen the price (Yikes!).  When going on such an expensive outing and when heading to such a huge place, learning a few tips from those who have gone to Disneyland before can help you have a magical experience. We’ve been asking folks at Yokota for their Disneyland tips and here they are.  Have an additional tip for enjoying the park?  PLEASE use the comments section below to add your advice.  It will be greatly appreciated!

Tips from our readers November 2012
*  Obviously Disneyland/DisneySea is more fun when they aren’t packed!   Before you go, check the crowd predictor.  You will need to run this through a translator in order to read it:  Do some research to make sure you aren’t going on a Japanese holiday.  Even Sports Day (a school holiday) can be crowded.

* Go just before your child turns four – kids age three and under are free.

*  Stay the night at a Disneyland hotel and buy a two day pass.  The shuttle/train will take you to the entrance and you can enjoy the whole day without spending time in the car. Or consider staying at The New Sanno.  Driving from base?  Try leaving a bit later in the morning to miss rush hour traffic – or really early.  It’ll take at least 2.5 hours to drive there on a week day during rush hour traffic.

disney sea sarah straus* Bring a stroller for small kids.  There are places to park strollers while you are on each ride and you won’t be stuck carrying all your belongings AND your tired children at the end of the day.  Also, for young kids, have a few toys handy for times when you are standing in long lines.  If you forget, you can rent a stroller at the park.  The park strollers are compact but look comfortable and have a place on the back to store belongings.  The park strollers are only for smaller children.

* The restaurants can be crowded between 11am – 2pm.   Instead of waiting for lunch, eat earlier and later and use lunch time to enjoy the rides.  Better yet, bring your own food (something the kids are guaranteed to like) and buy a popcorn bucket at the beginning and refill along the way.  The bucket is costly at ¥2000 but refills are just ¥500, it comes with a lid for the rides, and there are lots of popcorn flavors to try… soy sauce, curry, honey, chocolate, carmel…

*  Use your Fast Pass.  Fast passes are free and can be obtained one at a time.  Use it to get on your favorite ride at the beginning of the day.

*  Strategy for getting on specific rides when it is crowded can be found here: Run through google translator.

*  Many of the best rides are two-seaters and require an adult ride with a child under age seven.  To be able to ride everything you want be sure to have an adult with you for each child under age seven.

* There can be long lines for taking photos with your favorite Disney character.  Be sure to get to a photo session early and plan to wait in line.

* Bring a tarp and set up for the light parade one hour early.  Or if you are at DisneySea, set out your tarp for the fabulous water show after dark.  Leave one adult on the tarp while everyone else enjoys the park.  Standing room only for the Disney parade and DisneySea water show becomes very crowded and it will be hard for little kids to see unless they are on your shoulders.

*  Is it raining or cold the day you go?  Try heading over to Ariel’s Grotto at DisneySea because much of it is indoors.

DIRECTIONS: GPS coordinates for Disneyland Parking entrance: 35.637558,139.876102.  See the Yujo Community Center for directions on how to get there by train or car, or better yet, take one of the ITT tours and get transportation and a group discount for entry. – photos by Sarah Straus

Disneyland Trip Reports
Megan Miller, November 2012: My family visited Tokyo Disneyland in May. Since we had two young children under the age of four we knew staying overnight was key to a successful trip, so my husband booked rooms at one of the hotels right by Disneyland (the Hilton Tokyo Bay). We saved money by reserving our rooms in advance, then changing our reservation to the lower, nonrefundable price two weeks prior. A shuttle is provided to and from the monorail, which will then take you directly to the park. Overall it takes less than fifteen minutes total to reach the park from your hotel room. We also purchased the two day pass at our hotel the first morning. We chose Disney Sea for the first day, and Disneyland for the second day. Some helpful tips for the park include taking your own food, especially if you have picky eaters. The food at the parks range in price from reasonable to quite expensive, and the variety while wide, catered to a palate different from my children were accustomed to. The hotel also had a convenience store where we could pick up anything else we needed. We used a sit and stand stroller and had no trouble maneuvering around the parks, or using the monorail and shuttles. I would also recommend taking some time in advance to figure out which rides are best for your family, taking advantage of the fast pass rides, and deciding which shows you plan to see (some are only in Japanese and require advance reservations). It is also worth noting patrons are allowed to save seats along parade routes and for shows, however, you cannot leave your space unattended. The good spots are taken quickly so you will need to plan ahead. For more information on that, you can visit the Tokyo Disneyland website. Lastly, we noticed that after the final performance of the evening (at both parks) many people left, which meant virtually no waiting for the rides. Overall we had a great time and are planning to visit the parks once a year while we are stationed at Yokota.

disney sea sarah strausJanine Moghaddam, September 2012:  We went to Tokyo Disney Sea at the end of August 2012 for my daughter’s birthday.  We rented a room at The New Sanno for the night since that was a cheaper option than the Disney hotels (although I understand that in the off season there are some good deals).  We drove and it took us around 2 hours, and we parked at the lot closest to Disney Sea – cost was Y2000 if I remember correctly, and plenty of space when we arrived between 10am-11am.  Driving there and back to The New Sanno was easy with maps and directions from the Yujo, and at the end of a long day, much easier than taking the train with 2 tired kids (ages 8 and 10).  We bought our tickets at the gate and paid with Amex. We waited in line for less than 10 minutes.
Had it not been my daughter’s birthday, we would NEVER have gone to Disney in August, and will not do so again. Even in the middle of the week, it was a bit crowded, and the lines for the popular rides were way too long. We did FastPass where we could, but a couple rides we never got on (Toy Story Mania had a 190 minute wait) and the Fastpasses ran out.  And it was HOT.  On the positive side, we enjoyed the Fantasmic spectacle at the end of the night (claim your sidewalk space by 7pm for an 8pm show).  Decent meals in Cape Cod and at the Italian restaurant called Zambini Brothers.  Both meals we were able to pay with Amex, but some of the snack kiosks may only take cash.
If I were to do Disney Sea again, I would make sure to be there when the gates opened, and head straight for Toy Story Mania for a Fastpass, then to the back of the park for the Indiana Jones rides first.

disneyseaSarah Straus, October 2013: Now I’ve been to both parks with my 5 and under kids.  See my 2012 review of Disneyland in the comments section below.  I have to say, having just gone to DisneySea I think it is my favorite.  I loved Disneyland in part because I have a nostalgic memory of going to the Disneyland in LA as a kid and it was amazing to experience a replica of the park with my own little kids in Tokyo!  DisneySea however is amazing because it is a more modern looking park with a modern layout.  It is like Las Vegas meets Disney times 10.  The various theme areas are each massive.  Coming through the picturesque Mediterranean harbor we entered the Mysterious Island with its huge volcano.  This area sits at the center of the park.  It was really spectacular – intense – huge.  I think you just have to go there, I won’t really be able to explain it.  We spent disneysea sarah strausmost of our time in the Mermaid and Aladdin areas, which all had great rides for my kid.  The day we went the crowd predictor for DisneySea said 22,000 people.  It was the fewest people predicted for the month and so low because the park closed at 6:30pm that day.  It was wonderful!  With this number of people lines for all the rides we wanted to go on were 10 minutes or less.  Even lines for big Fast Pass rides were no more than 30 minutes as far as I could tell… including the Indiana Jones ride.  With so few people we saw the whole park and rode all the rides suitable for my kids by 4pm.  At that point we just went back through the park to hit our favorites.  I was glad we brought food so we didn’t waste any time in restaurants… we just snacked and bought popcorn along the way.  It was really perfect and we were home by 9:30pm.

Sunday Brunch at The New Sanno

On the surface, $74 for a family of four to eat brunch seemed pricey. It was $25 per adult and $12 for the kids. We weren’t sure if it would be worth it. We’re definitely happy we gave it a shot. This wasn’t your basic scrambled egg brunch. They had a full caviar bar with all the fixings! I ate at least $74 worth of caviar alone!  There was shrimp cocktail, a sushi bar, a huge array of both breakfast and lunch items, and a dessert bar that made our children’s eyes grow wide. Champagne was included with the brunch and it just kept flowing! They filled our glasses several times. This brunch was served in the formal ball room and there were so many tables that we didn’t feel rushed to finish and leave. We enjoyed chatting with some people at the next table and lost track of time. We probably stayed close to two hours. My seven-year-old son said “that was the best brunch I ever had in my entire life.”

Burdigala Bakery

burdigalaYou will think you stepped into a patisserie in France. It’s right around the corner from the French Embassy so I am sure they are in that location for the Kelly O'Donnell Burdigala BakeryFrench diplomats but I never saw an American pass up a chocolate croissant. They have a large assortment of French breads, pastries, sandwiches, jams and the like. The best part is that it is within walking distance of The New Sanno hotel.   Hours are 8am – 8pm.
Directions: Exit the The New Sanno and turn left.  Take an immediate left onto the narrow road between the The New Sanno and the French Embassy. The bakery is about a 5 min walk straight ahead. It will be on the right before Arisugawanomiya Memorial Park -Kelly O’Donnell, October 2012

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Burdigala Bakery by Kelly O’Donnell








Japanese Garden near The New Sanno

park by sarah strausArisugawanomiya Memorial Park has a large and beautiful Japanese garden near The New Sanno and Hiroo Sation.  Koi ponds, elegant bridges, pathways and a playground grace this public park which also houses the Tokyo Metropolitan Library. It is a nice stroll from the The New Sanno and you can pick up some pastries at Burdigala along the way.  Great for kids and adults alike.
Directions: Exit The New Sanno on foot and turn left.  Turn left again onto a narrow road between The New Sanno and the French Embassy.  This is a narrow street without much traffic.  The park entrance will be on the right after a 5 minute walk. – Sarah Straus, October 2012

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Near The New Sanno

new sanno sarah strausHello Fellow Travelers!  The New Sanno is a popular place to spend a few nights.  Many of us have our favorite places to eat or things to do an easy walking distance from the hotel.   Please share!  File a trip report.  If you have a photo of the location, send it here:  Be sure to include walking directions from The New Sanno.  Thank you!  New Sanno GPS Coordinates: 35.646778,139.724914. – Sarah Straus, photo of the pool at The New Sanno added Dec 2013.

Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City

Photo by Jason Tsay

Sixty stories tall, Sunshine City is a mall, a science center, a museum, a theme park – in short, an amazing indoor world.
When you enter the building on the B1 level, you traverse a long hall with a “people mover” escalator to the main entrance. There is an information desk with computers where you can get directions printed for places in the complex. Or, you can just wander through and follow the color-coded lines on the floors. The red lines lead to the World Import Mart, the aquarium and planetarium. The blue lines lead to the Ancient Orient Museum and Sunshine Theater. The orange lines lead you to Shopping Center Alpa.
You can make a circle tour of the Bl level as there are two main corridors the length of this level. When you are facing the information desk, if you take the entrance to the left, you will come to a beautiful fountain which has a show of dancing water accompanied by organ music at 1pm, 2:30 and 4pm. The first three levels are mostly department stores. In taking the escalators up, you will find some interesting shops and restaurants on the other floors.
*The above post is from 2011, so the information could be outdated. Please let us know if you have updated information.
Sunshine City Website:

The big features:
 Sky Circus, Sunshine 60 Observatory :

Sunshine 60 observatory was closed in May 2015 for a large-scale renovation and re-opened in April 2016 as Sky Circus. At this new “experience-based observatory”, you can enjoy the latest VR rides and games.

Hours: 10am-10pm.
Tel: 03-3989-3457
Adults: ¥ 1,200
Students (high school and college *present ID): ¥900
Children (elementary and middle school) ¥ 600
Toddlers (4 and up) ¥ 300
You have to purchase separate tickets for the VR rides. Tickets are available at the ticket counter on the B1 floor or the observatory. -Mai Takahashi, June 2017

•Aquarium: Tenth floor, on top of the World Import Mart. There is a seal show, and exhibits of seals, flamingos, penguins, etc. There are many fish not seen in the States as they are only found in this part of the world. Allow at least one hour for the aquarium. 10am-6pm (-8pm in summer.) Tel: 03-3989-3466
Adults (high school and up) ¥2,000
Children (elementary and middle school) ¥1,000
Child (4 and up) ¥700
65  and up  ¥1,700

•Konica Minolta Planetarium: 10am-6pm with shows on the hour, Tel: 03-3989-3546
Adults (middle school and up) ¥1,500
Children (4  and up) ¥900

•Namco Namjatown: An indoor theme park by Namco, a Japanese company that produces video games. Themed dining, carnival-style games, a creepy haunted house and character mascots in the form of giant kittens. There’s an entire gyoza village and a “dessert republic.” 10am-10pm.
Adults ¥500
Children ¥300
You need to purchase tickets for rides and games separately.

•Tokyu Hands: This store, at the B1 entrance to the Sunshine Building, will delight crafty-minded shoppers. There is something different on every floor and the breadth is astounding, from toys to stationary and leather craft to hardware. Bonus: There’s a “cat cafe” on the top floor. It’s one of those “only in Japan” things.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome line to Tachikawa, and change to the Chuo Line. At Shinjuku, transfer to the green Yamanote Line in the direction of Shin-Okubo and get off at the fourth stop, Ikebukuro. Head for the east exit towards Seibu Department Store. You will see signs for Tokyu Hands also.
Coming out of the station, look for the tallest building (sometimes the top is hidden in the mist) and walk towards it. This will be Sunshine City. It will be in front of you as you come out of the station. You will have to go right a little bit to pick up the tree-lined street to the building.

Our Story: My family and I took the train to Sunshine City during winter break 2011.  Ikebukuou Station is pretty large and we ended up asking someone to help us find the correct exit for Sunshine City.  The mall is down a store lined street which was closed to traffic the day we went.  With small kids we didn’t do much shopping, but headed straight to the 3rd floor devoted to restaurants.  We found a nice Japanese place to eat, but also noticed Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and French restaurants.  We also went to the Aquarium on floor 10.  It was larger than expected.  It was pretty crowded, but I think that was because of the holiday season.  The kids enjoyed all the giant aquariums.    Sarah Straus, 2011

Koganei Park & The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

koganei park sarah straus 2This park, on Itsukaichi Kaido and just 15.5 km from Yokota, features large grassy fields, deep woods and cherry trees. The best reason to go, though, is the Edo-Tokyo Tatemono-En(Open-Air Architectural Museum). It is a town of relocated buildings from old Tokyo. You can wander inside homes from the samurai period right up to the 20th century. You’ll visit thatched-roof farm Edo tokyo open air Sarah Strauhouses, architects’ homes and sprawling old estate residences, the kind usually only glimpsed by peeking over high walls. There’s a downtown, too, with shops and bars and a bathhouse, all set up as they were in yesteryear. You might want to wear sandals or other slip-on shoes, because you’ll be taking them off every time you poke around one of the old houses. (Admission ¥400 per adult. Children 12 and under are free.). Elsewhere in the park, a 2 km cycling course, with free bikes available for children under 16, is open daily. Some bikes have training wheels and children are welcome to bring their own. There is also a children’s playscape built like a huge pyramid with many ways to go up and down. It is so large, 100 children would easily have room to play. Hours: 9:30-4:30pm; closed Mondays (Tuesdays if Monday is a holiday) and December 28-January 4. Telephone: 042-388-3311
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the East Gate (0km). Turn left at the fourth light, at 1.2km. You are on Itsukaichi Kaido (Route 7). After about 12.5km you will be traveling along a “greenbelt” on your left that appears to have a stream in it. Itsukaichi Kaido takes a jog to the other side of this “greenbelt” in a quick left then right turn (marked in English). At 14.4km, you will cross Koganei Kaido (Rt. 15). Keep driving straight through two more traffic lights, after crossing Koganei Kaido. The park entrance, at the third light, is well-marked and there is a landscaped street on your left. There is ample parking. GPS for park entrance nearest parking lot: 35.7129, 139.5181. The cost to park is about ¥250 an hour.
koganei park sarah strausTRAIN DIRECTIONS: Go to Musashi Konagei station on the Chuo Line toward Tokyo. Take bus #3 and get off at Koganei Koen-Mae (10 minutes by bus, five minutes by taxi).
BIKE DIRECTIONS: A path leads from the Sayama Lake area directly past the north boundary of the park. Nina Carr, 2007. Updated and directions verified in 2011.

View East Gate to Koganei Park (Edo-Tokyo Architectural Museum) in a larger map

Comments and photos by Sarah Straus, March 28, 2013 – This is an amazing place!  We went on March 28th and the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum happened to be free!  There were games and crafts for kids, food vendors and a very colorful parade.  It was also a day the cherry trees were in full bloom and the area of the park just in front of the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum was alive with pink.  It makes for a great place to have a picnic and take photos of your children under the cherry blossoms.  We all enjoyed walking through the old buildings, even my 5 and 3 year olds.  They thought it was especially fun to climb into the baths at the Edo period bathhouse.  What a fun day.  We will definately go back with bikes, kites, and ready to play on the large climbing structures.

koganai sarah strausSarah Straus, December, 2013 – We returned to this park in December to let the kids play at the playground.  We found a fun surprise!  Sledding, but without snow.  There is this AstroTurf hillside where kids can sled.  It is free.  Bring your own sled or buy one at a store in the park for ¥1280.  It was really fun!  On this side of the park there is also a bouncy dome, a dog park, and croquet.  Even in the cold of winter a few people were flying kites.  Also, it is possible to rent small bikes with training wheels for kids to ride around the park.


Kichijoji Shopping
Inokashira Park
Restaurants near Kichijoji train station

Kichijoji by Sarah StrausThis area, 40 minutes by train from Fussa, is one of my favorite Tokyo neighborhoods. The atmosphere reminds me a little of New York’s Greenwich Village. I love poking around the maze of tiny lanes that shoot off from the main shopping streets. There are oodles of boutiques, cafes and jazz bars to discover. Kichijoji is no slouch when it comes to major retailers, either. It has Tokyu, Marui, Parco and Atre department stores, plus craft giant Yuzawaya and a most wonderful chain store that defies easy description: LOFT. There is even a Williams-Sonoma on Tokyu’s 7th floor. Another notable is Miuraya, a supermarket specializing in imported food. Kichijoji is also home to Inokashira Park, which has a lake, a zoo and an aviary but is most famous for its cherry blossoms.
A quick orientation to Kichijoji
In the station, follow the signs for the Central Exit. Go through the fare gates and Kichijoji Sarah Strausturn left to exit the building. Now look across the plaza/traffic circle and you will see Sun Road, a long covered street street full of shops. Head for it. At the start of Sun Road, on the right, look carefully to find a tourist information booth. Ask for the Kichijoji Area Map in English to help you get your bearings. Sun Road has a blue-green metal framework overhead. From its entrance you can see another covered shopping street — Daiya Gai — shooting off to the left. In my opinion, it has more interesting shops than Sun Road, and the warren of tiny streets adjacent to it is not to be missed. Tokyu is at the end of Daiya Gai. Behind Tokyu it gets more neighborhood-y. The shops are fewer but more rewarding.
And then there’s the Park Exit of the train station. To be honest, I haven’t made it there yet, but I want to go, if only for the Yuzawaya craft store at Marui. This is from a previous edition of Yokota Travelog:

From the station, exit the Park Exit and walk past the glittering pachinko shops. In less than a minute you will come upon Inokashira- Dori, dominated by the department store Marui. The sign for Marui looks like 0101 (The word maru means circle). There’s also a Body Shop, Subway Sandwiches, and L.L. Bean. Continuing on, you will come upon the Inokashira Park—a great place to take your lunch (see entry in sightseeing section).

Among other features, Kichijoji has an intriguing animation-inspired museum I hope we can review some day:  Ghibli Museum 10am-6pm. Closed Tuesdays. Note: Advance Tickets Only! ¥1000 for adults. 15 minutes walk or 5 minutes by bus from the South Exit of JR Mitaka Station. The West Park of Inokashira Park, 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181-0013 Phone: 057-005-5777

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 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. Strangely enough, this turns out to be the fastest way: 32 minutes.  – Liz Ruskin 2010, photos by Sarah Straus, September 2013.