Category Archives: Truth or Dare!

We are forever chasing down stray facts. Directions, phone numbers, ever-changing store names, disappearing landmarks — our work is never finished. The questions in red type below are among the ones we hope to answer. Can you verify any of these details? Or, put another way, we dare you to go forth and update our entries.
Want to be a hero? Jot down a few details as you travel about. Gather brochures. Note kilometer reading to improve our directions. Look up GPS coordinates on Google Maps. Go on: We LOVE a know-it-all. Write your findings as a comment to the corresponding post, or file a Trip Report.

We need write-ups for:

Icebar in Tokyo
Disney Sea
Kebab House (Straight out Fussa Gate, past 7/11, on the left)
Aeon Mall (Diamond City)
Joyful Honda

And many more.

Ozawa Saki Brewery at Sawai

Editor’s note: Some visitors report there ARE tours in English. Regardless, it’s a lovely place to visit, right on the river.

Ozawa Brewery makes Sawanoi Sake. Sawanoi Sake is one of the best selling sakes made in the Kanto Plain. Family owned and operated for over 300 years, the Ozawa Brewery is located at the base of Mount Mitake on Ome Kaido in Ome. The brewery is just steps away from Sawai Station on the Ome line. Tours are provided (only in Japanese) from 11-4pm, Tuesday through Saturday. There is some literature available in English. Three restaurants are within walking distance and have gardens with outstanding views. Two of them serve meals and popular snacks at moderate prices. The third restaurant, Mamagoto-Ya serves an elegant Kyoto style dinner. GPS: 35.8054, 139.1937.  Also check out Ome River Walk and Mt. Mitake, both near here.


View Terminal Gate to Sawai Sake Brewery in a larger map
DIRECTIONS BY TRAIN: Take the Ome line to Okutama. Ome station is 5 stops from Fussa and Sawai station is 6 stops beyond Ome. Train takes about 45 minutes.
DIRECTIONS BY CAR: Turn right out of the Terminal Gate, heading north on Rt. 16. Go under the underpass, travel a few blocks and turn left onto Ome Kaido (McDonald’s and Bikkuri Donkey restaurant on the left) and follow it the whole way, 18km. Near Higashi-Ome station (8km) the road jogs to the left, and at 10km it jogs right. If you find that you end up on Okutama Kaido, continue in the same general direction (WNW) and the road will intersect with Kyu Ome Kaido. Turn left and continue, you are now back on Ome Kaido. The train station will be on your right, Tama River on the left and mountains straight ahead. The trip takes about 45 minutes one way. Phillury Platte. Directions updated 2011.

Tokyo River Cruises

The fast-pace of Tokyo can often saturate the senses. For a gentler sightseeing option, tour Tokyo from the water. It’s a romantic view of this magnificent city, and you have several tours to choose from.

Sumida River Line
This is one of several “water bus” routes operated by  the Tokyo Cruise Ship Company. The boats leave the Azuma Bridge in Asakusa every 30-40 minutes, from 10am to sunset. They arrive at the Hinode Pier about 40 minutes later. Along the way you will pass under 12 bridges. Sights include: the green-roofed Kokugikan, the main sumo arena; Tsukiji’s Central Wholesale Market, a massive fish and vegetable center; and a fire station/boat house for emergency vessels. There is an optional stop at the Hamarikyu Detached Palace Garden, an intriguing patch of green that incorporates tidal flows. One way fare is ¥760 for adults and ¥380 for children. Admission to the gardens is ¥300. This cruise may also be reversed, beginning at Hinode Pier. You can rent a hand-held audio guide for ¥300. It’s the same recording that is played on the ship’s speakers, but you can hear it better.


View Sumida River Cruise in a larger map

Asakusa-Odaiba Line
The Tokyo Cruise Ship Company has another cruise from Asakusa. It offers views of wind surfers and other more historical landmarks around Tokyo Bay. The Himiko, a spaceship-like boat designed by a famous Japanese cartoonist, leaves at 10:10am, 1:20pm and 3:15pm. The destination, Odaiba Seaside Park, is described in tourist literature as  “a futuristic spot with cafes, refined restaurants, and amusement halls packed with advanced technologies.” Duration: 50 minutes. Cost: ¥1520 for adults, ¥910 for children.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: to reach the Azuma Bridge, take the Ome Line to Tachikawa and transfer to the orange Chuo Line for Tokyo. Take this train all the way to Tokyo Station. Change to the Marunouchi Subway Line and go one stop to Ginza. There, change to the Ginza Line and go 10 stops, getting off at Asakusa. The Azuma Bridge is a one-minute walk from the Asakusa subway station.

To start at Hinode Pier, board the green Yamanote Line heading for Shimbashi and Shinagawa from Tokyo station. Travel three stops to Hamamatsu-cho Station, then walk 7 minutes to the pier. Access is also possible via a one-minute walk from Hinode Station of the Yurikamome Line out of Shimbashi. Telephone: Tokyo Cruise Ship Company at 0120 977 311. Email: info@suijobus.co.jp

Liz Ruskin updated prices, schedules and routes, August 2011; Photos by Kelly O’Donnell, March 2013 – see comment below.

Here are some other cruises we have listed. We need someone to research and update:

(Harbor Cruise Line)
There’s also a “Harbor Cruise Line,” a 50-minute ride passing underneath the Rainbow Bridge, both starting and ending at Hinode Pier; tickets are ¥800.

(Canal Cruise Line)
The “Canal Cruise Line” runs between Hinode Pier and the Shinagawa Aquarium via the Ohi Seaside Park. A one way ticket costs ¥800. The Shinagawa Aquarium, noted for its dolphin shows, is closed Tuesdays.

To see underwater life, take a boat from Hinode Pier to Kasai Sealife Park on the other side of the bay, near Disneyland and take the train back or vice versa. Running once an hour, the cruisers stop at Tokyo Big Sight (Ariake) on the way. One-way tickets are ¥800. Admission to the Tokyo Sea Life Park is ¥800 per adult, ¥300 per child. If going by train, get off at the Kasai Rinkai Koen Station on the Keiyo Line and head toward the large glass dome.

(Restaurant Boat)
For those looking for an evening cruise, the Tokyo Cruise Ship Company also offers a “Restaurant Boat” on certain nights during the summer. As dates and menu vary, it is wise to call and make reservations according to your desires. The cruise leaves Hinode Pier at 6:30 pm and lasts about 90 minutes; just long enough to see Tokyo Bay at night! The cost is about ¥7,200 for adults (¥4,700 for children under 12). Diane Cressman, Ann Bowers 08/97

Koenji – Second-hand shops and Street fashion

Harajuku is fabulous for the people-watching and accessory shops, but once you’ve been there, tried that, consider Koenji. This neighborhood, between Tachikawa and Shinjuku, is billed as the center of Tokyo’s alternative youth culture. Street fashion, vintage clothes and consignment shops abound here. It was largely untouched by the bombs of World War II, so it’s also great for those who want to stroll through an older neighborhood of Tokyo. Some of the second-hand clothing shops are highly curated. One is devoted to the Little Red Ridinghood look, another to the cutsey-Alice-in-Wonderland look, and a third to the 1950s cowgirl vibe. Some specialize in high-end European clothes, some in embellished t-shirts. Unlike Shibuya and Harajuku, this area seems relaxed and more like a neighborhood than a commercial shopping area.
I explored the area to the south of the train station, specifically Pal Street and Look Street. Vintage stores and little shops line both sides of these streets. As evening falls, strings of red lanterns light up the side streets, luring thirsty shoppers to the many local izakaya (taverns) and specialty restaurants. I went on a weekday afternoon. Some shops were closed but the neighborhood still seemed open for business. I hear the best time to go is after 3pm on the weekend. Some of the trendy stores stay open until 10pm or later.
Next time, I intend to look at the north side of the tracks to find the Kita-Kore building, where pop star Lady Gaga shopped when she came to Japan in 2011. The building has five shops that the New York Times describes as  “equal parts used-clothing outlet and high-end recycling atelier.” Where else are we going to find fashionable body armor, or footwear that combines Nike uppers on traditional Japanese wooden sandals?

RESTAURANTS:

WE COULD USE DESCRIPTIONS HERE OF THE CUTE-LOOKING CAFE NOBLE AND TACOS CAFE. AMONG MANY OTHER PROMISING SPOTS.

Smart Sushi: This is a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, but the better food arrives by special order. You use a touch-screen overhead to order, and the food comes shooting down the track at you, above the conveyor belt, on a wooden “boat.” Take your food and send the boat back by pressing the glowing red button. Food was standard sushi fare. Cheapest sushi order was ¥120. Near the top of the Pal street mall, a five-minute walk from Koenji station.
Planet 3rd: The decor at this Asia fusion eatery is like The Jetsons meets Sex in the City.  It’s cheerful and hip, with 1950s-style furnishings. For such a cool-looking restaurant, I was surprised to find the prices weren’t shocking. Examples: Thai-spiced chicken mince on rice, with lots of veggies, for ¥930.  Or beef stew with omelette for ¥1000. English menu, with pictures. 2-49-18 Koenji-Minami, Suginami-ku, GPS: 35.70192, 139.6496
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From Fussa Station, take a train bound for Tokyo. Change trains in Tachikawa to get on the Chuo Line, heading for Tokyo. On a local service train, Koenji is 12 stops after Tachikawa. If you’re on an express train, change at Mitaka to a local Chuo Line train and go five more stops to Koenji. Alternatively, stay on your express train all the way to Nakano and backtrack one stop to Koenji. Total travel time: 50-60 minutes. It’s a short walk from the station to the shops of Pal and Look streets, Exit Koenji station by the south exit and turn right. Walk parallel to the tracks about 300 feet, toward the roof-covered street with a sign that reads “Pal.” Turn left on Pal and start browsing. If you keep going straight after the roof ends, you’ll be shopping on Look Street.

Liz Ruskin, Sept. 2011


View Koenji in a larger map

Bicycle Culture Center

Bicycle Culture Center (Jitensha bunka center)

※The museum was originally a part of the Science Museum; however, it moved out and now it is located near Meguro station. The entry below was from the place was still in the Science Museum. Website, Hours, Admission and Directions are updated as of January 2017. Please let us know if you visit the place and tell us how it was.

Any serious cyclist should enjoy the Bicycle Culture Center. Displays include early two-wheeled wonders as well as the latest and greatest. The tall narrow building contains an information room on the 3rd floor, a museum in the 2nd floor and an event hall on the 1st floor. A local route map with towns in “English” can be bought in the Display Gallery, in addition to books in Japanese about cycling in Japan. –Teresa Negley. Liz Ruskin updated address, website and hours in 2010.
Mai Takahashi updated directions, website and hours in January 2017.

Bicycle Culture Center: http://www.cycle-info.bpaj.or.jp/
Hours: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm (Last entrance 4:45 pm), Tuesday – Sunday (If Monday is a Japanese Holiday, the following Tuesday will be closed)
Admission: Free

DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome/Chuo Line to Shinjuku, transfer to the Yamanote Line towards Shibuya/Shinagawa. It is a 3 min walk from Meguro Station.

SushiRo

SushiRo1SushiRo5Added to Yokota Travel in 2002, this “conveyor belt” sushi restaurant is still quite popular for its low cost and variety. If you go, you may have to wait in line for a seat. If there is a line, you will need to get a number from the machine next to the host/hostess. It’s in Japanese, but somebody will be happy to help you.

SushiRo2SushiRo3Once seated, you can grab sushi from the conveyor belt, or you may special order. Each table has its own ordering screen, which the staff will kindly switch to English for you. Special orders arrive via the conveyor belt on an elevated red tray that it color coded for your table. The special order screen will play a brief tune a moment before your order arrives. The price is determined by the plate color. There’s a handy chart at each table. Yellow and white are only ¥105, one is with wasabi and one is without (not sure which one). Black square plates are special and a little more expensive, but usually delicious.

Water is self-serve and located on the entrance side of the restaurant. There are two water stations. Additionally, each table has a hot water spigot and a bowl of matcha (green powder) for making green tea. Other drinks are offered through the special order screen. When you are finished, call a waiter using the button with a bell printed on it; they’ll count your plates and give you a card to take to the register.

SushiRo is open from 11am to 11pm. However, the last opportunity to be seated is at 10:30 pm. GPS: 35.718544, 139.335772. Brian Marriott, August 2002, confirmed Chris Kopp, May 2013, updated Roxanne Ready, July 2013, photos Michelle Nexon, July 2013.


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Niramanju Chinese Restaurant

Niramanju1Extremely close and surprisingly good. While the specialty is shrimp and dumplings, the fried noodle and rice dishes are also popular. They have great lunch and dinner specials. The Combination Plate includes one entrée, white rice or fried rice, chive dumplings and deep-fried dumplings, for ¥1680. Entrees include sweet and sour chicken, chicken and broccoli, beef and broccoli, chili shrimp, shrimp and broccoli, etc. Beverages include beer, Chinese liquor, plum wine, Chinese tea, and soft drinks. Water is self-serve and is located by the kitchen.

Niramanju2My favorite thing about the atmosphere is the music. Very relaxing and hip. Niramanju is kid friendly and provides high chairs for the little ones. Open weekdays 11:30am-2:30pm for lunch and 5:00-10:30pm for dinner with orders taken 45 minutes before closing. Open weekends 11:30 to 10:30, with orders taken 45 minutes before closing. If you don’t feel like dining out, Niramanju offers a take-out menu. Simply call 042-553-0177 to order.

Niramanju3DIRECTIONS: To get there, simply walk out the front gate, cross the street and continue to walk. You will see the restaurant on your right across from the 7/11. My husband and I prefer to park at the bank parking lot and walk out the front gate and across the street. However, there is a parking lot just east of the 7/11 (across from Niramanju) where you can park for free if you are dining at Niramanju. Teresa Negley, 2009, updates & photos Michelle Nexon, October 2013.

Rock & Roll Diner in Shimokitazawa

This one is really old. Can anyone confirm that it still exists?

In this fun section of Tokyo, full of restaurants, clubs and shops, is the Rock & Roll Diner.
It’s the kind of place you’d be thrilled to run across in Denver or Des Moines, let alone in a place where your chances of finding a good burger are less than your chances of getting a seat on the subway during rush hour. But a good burger is exactly what you’ll find at the Rock & Roll Diner. You’ll also find a fun atmosphere, great music from the ’50s, ’60s and’70s, the best margaritas this side of San Diego, and an efficient staff that speaks English. This spacious, casual restaurant and bar is decorated with neon signs and posters of old American movies and stars such as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. On the ceiling above the main dining area is a huge neon American flag which remains unlit except when it flashes along with the Beatles hit “Today It’s Your Birthday” to serenade those celebrating birthdays. There is also a DJ booth where you’ll find slips of paper on which to submit song requests. Upon being seated, you’ll be served a small (but free) plate of chips and a great, fresh salsa. Other appetizers ranging in price from ¥680 to ¥1,480 include chicken quesadillas served with salsa and guacamole, nachos and super nachos, chicken wings and onion rings. As for main courses, the Rock & Roll Diner offers several salads (spinach, Caesar, taco and grilled chicken) ranging in price from ¥880 to ¥1,180. All are large enough to constitute a meal. Also offered are fajitas (chicken at ¥l,580, beef at ¥l,620 and a combination of both for ¥l,780), BBQ chicken and ribs, chimichangas, meat loaf, pizza and grilled pork chops. Prices range from ¥l,380 for the chimichanga and BBQ chicken to ¥2,080 for the ribs. Portions are huge and depending upon the item, include fries, garden salads with excellent dressings (the best blue cheese I’ve had outside of the U.S.), rice, etc. But the very best thing about this restaurant is the burgers. They are thick, juicy and delicious and range in price from ¥1,380 for a cheeseburger to ¥l,480 for a half-pound Rock & Roll Burger to which, for ¥100 each, you can add cheese, bacon, guacamole or chili. The burgers are all served with fries and a salad. The restaurant also offers a vegetarian menu and a children’s menu. The children’s menu includes chicken fingers, burgers, fajitas and ribs. All are priced at under ¥1000 and portions are large. Drinks and desserts, full-sized, can also be ordered off the children’s menu (for children only!) for half the price of the regular menu. Desserts, which we’ve never been able to save room to sample, include thick shakes, root beer floats and mud pie. The Rock & Roll Diner is part restaurant, part bar and therefore offers a huge variety of alcoholic beverages. The margaritas are great and are priced at ¥700 for a regular-sized one or ¥900 for a large-sized one. Beers are ¥600 for a bottle, ¥500 for a draft and ¥2,000 for a pitcher. For a good deal, plan your visit for a Saturday, Sunday or Japanese holiday when drinks are half priced from 4:00 – 6:00 pm. Regardless of the day, the restaurant is open only for dinner and serves food until very late. Telephone?
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa and transfer to the Chuo Line which you will stay on until Kichijoji. At Kichijoji get on the Inokashira Line which will take you to Shimokitazawa. Follow the exit signs to the South Exit. Once outside, there will be a McDonalds directly in front of you. Take a left turn at the McDonalds. Ahead of you and on your left you will see a sign for the Big Ben building. The Rock & Roll Diner is located in the basement of this building, just past a First Kitchen restaurant.
DIRECTIONS FROM TOKYO: We’ve always visited the Rock & Roll Diner while staying in Tokyo. To access it from Tokyo, make your way to the Chiyoda subway line and ride it to Yoyogi-Uehara. At Yoyogi-Uehara get off the subway (which will now be above ground) and simply walk across the platform and get on the next train that comes along. Depending upon if this is an express train, you will have one or two stops to Shimokitazawa. At Shimokitazawa you will have to insert your subway ticket into a machine near the exit and pay an additional fare for your train ride.
Whether or not you have reached this point from Yokota or Tokyo, follow the exit signs to the South Exit. Once outside, there will be a McDonald’s directly in front of you. Take a left turn at the McDonald’s. Ahead of you and on your left you will see a sign for the Big Ben building. The Rock & Roll Diner is located in the basement of this building, just past a First Kitchen restaurant. Joy Thompson 06/97

Jindai Botanical Garden

The Jindai Botanical Garden is worth a visit year-round because it always has flowers in bloom, but the best time to visit is between spring and summer. You can enjoy colorful plum blossoms in late February and early March. In late March and early April, the cherry trees along the parks path make a sakura tunnel of pink blossoms with millions of tiny leaves. At the beginning of April you might find a cherry blossom festival. Pink, red and white roses dominate the garden from late April to May. The park also has a large greenhouse bursting with tropical flowers, including orchids and begonias. Jindai has 100,000 plants with 3500 species. There are many places within the garden for picnics, but there are no food shops. You can find snack concession stands offering ice cream and cold drinks. The Jindai Botanical Garden was established in 1961 and encompasses an area of 356,683 square meters. Entrance fees are ¥500/adult, ¥200 junior high age, and children 12 and under are free. Hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm, closed Mondays and New Year’s Day. Telephone: 042-483-2300.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: leave from Fussa Station for Tachikawa. At Tachikawa, change to the Nambu line on track for Bubaigawara (this train only goes in 1 direction from Tachikawa). At Bubaigawara, change to the Keio line for Fuchu/Shinjuku (the signs are in English). You can take an express or regular train and get off in Chofu. At Chofu, exit to the North side. You will see the Parco store and bus stops. To exit north, go up the stairs and through the ticket booths— the ticket booths at the bottom of the stairs lead to the South exit. The train fare to Chofu was about ¥420 from Fussa. You will need to take a bus, which will be located in front of the Baskin Robbins on the 1st floor of the Parco building. The bus stop number is 14, the bus number is 34. This bus will be to Jindai-ji, ask before getting on. The bus runs every 20 minutes during the week and more frequently on the weekends. Bus fare is about ¥200. The train takes about 1 hour and the bus ride about 20 minutes.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Take Route 16 to the Chuo expressway. The toll is ¥600 each way. When you get to the Chuo, take the entrance to Shinjuku. Chofu is exit No. 3 and you will see it just after passing the Fuchu racetrack on the left. When you come off exit 3, you will see tollbooths on the right and the road will split. You will need to get into the left lane as you pass the tollbooths. Watch for traffic on the left. You will be taking the split to the left, Chofu/Shinjuku. You will take this ramp and merge with traffic, but stay in the left lane. At the second light, turn left. You will now be on a smaller street, which will go back under the expressway and over a canal. After you cross the canal, you will turn right on the first non-residential street (it will be easy to see). Turn right at the first light. This road will take you past several restaurants and you’ll see many private parking lots to the left. You can park in any of the lots that are not full for about ¥1000. If you want to save a little money, you can use the garden’s parking lot. Instead of turning at the first light, you should turn right at the next light, which will lead you to the garden’s parking lot. It will be on the left hand side a short way down. Driving time takes at least 1 hour, except on the weekends. If you want to go on the weekend, you should leave home before 10:30am. The trip should never take more than 2 hours (unless it is a holiday). You will be able to find the Jindai Garden easily by following the crowds, or asking directions. You will go up a hill where you will pass many street vendors and lots of soba shops. You will also pass Jindai-ji, a very beautiful Buddhist Temple, which is also worth a visit. It only takes about 5 minutes from the parking lot to the gardens. Viki Lyn Paulson-Cody. Driving directions confirmed 2012.

Tokyo Gas Museum

This museum is about 30 minutes from Yokota and is perfect for an outing on a cold or rainy day. The museum traces the use of gas as a source of power, heat and light from the 1870’s to present day. The information is shown through videos, interactive displays and exhibits of actual items. Although nearly all in Japanese, there are enough English subtitles to describe what you are seeing. To tour the museum, plan for one hour, as it is two separate buildings. The second floor of one of the museum has a collection of wood block prints. You’ll see such things as gas street lamps, early consumer uses of toasters, irons, rice cookers, water heaters, the gas range used at the Imperial Palace during the Meiji period and a gas driven church organ. There is a small outdoor area to enjoy a picnic. Admission is free.

DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the East Gate. At the first light, go right. Turn left when the road dead ends (second traffic signal). Stay on this road until it dead ends into Shin Ome Kaido at Honmachi 1 Intersection (you will go through two traffic lights and pass the big Yamada discount store on the left). At Shin Ome Kaido there will be a Mos Burger on the left and a used car dealer, turn right onto Shin Ome Kaido. About 6.5 km down Shin Ome Kaido you will go over an overpass, keep going and cross Fuchu Kaido Road. About 8 km down Shin Ome Kaido Road, you will go over a second overpass. Start watching closely at this point. At about 11km you will come to the museum. The sign is fairly easy to read and is in English. The museum complex is a group of red brick buildings surrounded by a red brick and cast-iron fence. You may park in the gravel lot surrounded by the brick and cast iron wall. (Note: You will cross Yanagi Kubo Intersection 0.9 km before the museum. Onumacho 2 Intersection is 0.4 Km from the museum. The TakiyamaMinumi Intersection is the first light PAST the museum—if you get this far, turn around and go back.) Hours: 10am-5pm. Closed Wednesdays. Delores Street, Directions updated Brian Marriott 11/01