Tag Archives: Sightseeing

Tama Zoo

tama zoo sarah straus 2013The Tama Zoo has a park-like setting and is serene and quiet on weekdays.  It’s fun and easy with children, making for an inexpensive morning outing. One of my favorite exhibits is the butterfly house. It is in a huge, terraced greenhouse that is perched on the edge of a hill.  A big tree graces the middle, and walkways lead down to a small pond.  The most amazing thing, though, are the thousands and thousands of butterflies.  The place pulsates to the beat of butterfly wings.  My children love to get their faces up close to the butterflies, perched on tropical plants.  Another highlight is the “Lion Bus.” (¥350 per adult, ¥100 per child.) As the glass-sided bus drives through the lion field, lions often jump up on the windows, which makes for great pictures.
tama zoo sarah strausA favorite spot for us is the picnic tables located between the lions and elephants, in the Africa section of the zoo. From this shady spot you can see down into the lions’ den and hear them roar at the lion buses.  This is the perfect place for a packed lunch or an ice cream cone from the nearby vendors.
The chimpanzees are a must-see. There is an indoor viewing area where the chimps hang out.  It is great for getting an up-close look at them and even interact with them through the glass.  But the Koala house can be skipped, in my opinion.  The barren, indoor environment in which they are kept doesn’t match the loveliness of other habitats at this zoo. After traversing this hilly zoo you’ll feel like you got a workout.
DSC_3047On a weekday it took me just 40 minutes drive out, leaving at 9am from the Fussa gate. Returning around 1pm was a bit faster.  Parking costs ¥500 to ¥1000, or you can take the monorail, which you catch in Tachikawa. (The zoo recommends taking the train, especially on weekends when the lots may be full.) Clean bathrooms are everywhere, including family bathrooms with children’s potty seats. Strollers for little ones a must, as they are likely to get tired going up and down the hills.
Hours: 9:30-5pm. Closed Wednesdays (Thursday if Wednesday is a public holiday). Admission for adults is ¥600. Children under 13 are free. Tama Zoological Park, 7-1-1, Hodokubo, Hino-shi, Tokyo 191-0042. Phone: 042-591-1611. www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/tama. Sarah Straus, 2012.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the East Gate, then left at the first light. Take this road for about 1km, until it ends at a “T.” Turn right. Stay on this road, Rt. 59, (under a set of railroad tracks and across another set — about 5km), until you reach the Tamaohashi Kita intersection. (Daihatsu dealer on far left.) Turn left DSC_3057here, onto Rt. 29, Shin Okutama Kaido. Turn right when you reach the the Tappibashi Kita intersection, onto Rt. 149. The monorail track will be overhead now. Stay on 149, following the monorail, until you reach the Tama Dobutsu Koen intersection, which has a large monorail station on the right. You’ll see parking lots ahead on the left.
(Leaving from Fussa Gate? Turn left onto Rt. 16 and follow it until it turns sharply to the right, toward Hachioji and the Chuo Expressway. Instead of taking this right turn, go straight. You are now on Rt. 29, Shin Okutama Kaido. Continue as directed above.)
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Chuo line from Fussa to Tachikawa Station. Exit the station via either the North or the South Exit. Get on the Monorail. Take the monorail to the Tama Dobutsukoen Exit. The zoo is very near the exit. Travel time is about 50 minutes.


View Larger Map

On sunny weekdays you may find the Tama Zoo filled with school children enjoying the park.  – Sarah Straus, Oct 2012

The Plum Blossoms of Yoshino Baigo, Ome

sarah straus plum blossomsAs mentioned in the comment below, this place is closed until further notice.
One famous spot for seeing Japan’s plum blossoms is right near Yokota Air Base, in Ome City. About 25,000 trees, spanning a collection of 100 different varieties, blossom in the town of Yoshino Baigo in Ome City, located on the Tama River. The town is famous for a plum tree park, spread out over a small valley that Yoshino Baigo by Sarah Strausbecomes an theater of color when the blooming starts. (“Baigo” means “plum garden.”) Yoshino Baigo has a festival to celebrate this season with a number of booths selling typical Japanese festival foods and regional crafts. This festival runs from late February throughout the month of March. For 2013 the dates are Feb 23 – March 31, Saturdays and Sundays.  There’s a special day of celebration on a mid-March Sunday, with parades and traditional dancing. For 2013 this day is Sunday, March 17, with a postpone date of March 24.   Check here for more information about the festival location and time: http://www.omekanko.gr.jp/ume/matsuri.htm.  Admission to the park: ¥200. Well-behaved dogs are allowed on leash.   Yoshino Baigo (Yoshino Plum Park). GPS: 35.7865, 139.2192. – photos by Sarah Straus, March 2013.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line train from Fussa to Hinatawada. (Most trains terminate at Ome and you have to transfer to go the remaining two stops. ) Turn right out of the station and turn left to cross the bridge over the Tama River. You are in Yoshino as soon as you cross the bridge. This main street is where the festival is held. To get to Plum Park, continue on the street until you reach a T-intersection. Turn left and look across the street for a tiny paved street on the right-hand side of the road. From the station, through town and up to the park is a walk of only about 1km.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Parking is scarce on the main festival day and are also limited at other times. All parking is pay parking in private lots, typically ¥500 to ¥1000. At the Terminal Gate, set your odometer to zero and turn right out of the gate onto Route 16. Stay right to go under the overpass. Turn left onto Ome Kaido (Route 5) at 2.8km. (Signposted Hakonegasakinishi Intersection. McDonalds is on far left corner.) and continue on Ome Kaido until you reach Hinatawada, in about 20 to 30 minutes. (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.) Watch for the Hinatawada train station on your right. It is above the road level and is painted yellow. Turn left across the first bridge over the Tama River after the train station. You are now in Yoshino. (See below map for alternate directions).


View

Alternate directions: Turn right out of the Fussa Gate onto Route 16.  Turn left onto Route 5.  Take Route 5 all the way to the very end where it dead-ends into Route 411.  Turn left onto Route 411.  Turn right onto Route 45.  Route 45 follows along the south side of the river.  You will drive right through Yoshino at 3 kilometers – watch for the hanging lanterns.  Yoshino Baigo is to the left.  If you cut left and follow the narrow roads you’ll find many people selling parking in their own private driveways for ¥500. – Alternate directions by Sarah Straus, March 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:
https://www.sunshinecity-global.com/en/

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
Website: http://www.skycircus.jp/english/
Admission:
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, http://www.konicaminolta.jp/manten/ 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. http://www.namja.jp/img/pdf/guidemap.pdf/
Admission:
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

Hakone

Hakone is a popular vacation getaway about one and a half hours outside of Tokyo. It is a beautiful little area nestled in the crater of a volcano. Just getting there is part of the fun. You take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Odawara, then transfer to a tiny railroad line called the Hakone Yumoto line that winds its way up the lower part of the volcano. As it gets higher, it has to reverse directions several times to switchback up the steeper areas.
Along the way, make sure you stop for a while at the Chokoku-no-mori station to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. It is a beautiful art museum with most of its display dedicated to large sculptures that dot beautiful lawns. They also have a building dedicated to works by Picasso.

All photos by Kevin Green

After getting back on the Hakone Yumoto line, you go all the way to the end and then take a cable car that pulls you straight up a steep section of the slope. From here there is a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. At the end of the cable car, you get on a ropeway that takes you over the crest of the mountain into the gigantic crater. Looking out the ropeway, you pass a section where they are drilling into the side of the mountain to prevent the pressure from building up and causing an explosion. Make sure you get off at the stop in the middle of the ropeway to see the “sulfurous vapor erupting area.” Here you can take a short nature walk and see the sulfur steaming from the ground, and natural hot springs from the volcano. You can eat eggs boiled in the hot water which the Japanese say will help you live longer. Along the nature trail there are signs in Japanese and English that tell you such things as “This area was once covered with tall trees, but now you can find only the species which have been able to survive such things as Volcanic eruption.” The ropeway will then take you the rest of the way into the crater to Lake Ashi, which you cross on large replicas of pirate ships.
Lake Ashi is a crater lake famous for its reflection of Mt. Fuji on clear, calm days. The boat takes you to Hanokemachi which is a historical area from the 1600’s, including the Hakone Checkpoint and a portion of an ancient highway that was lined with cedars to provide shade hundreds of years ago. By the time we get here we are pretty tired, so we catch a bus to the Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita to spend the night. It is a beautiful hotel established in 1878, making it the oldest western-style hotel in Japan. It has been visited by many famous people including Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher, Hellen Keller, and many emperors of Japan. It is nestled among trees, and has a beautiful garden in back which is home to the only California Redwood tree in Japan. Inside the decor is beautiful, including many wood carvings. You can also bathe in the natural hot spring onsens. The next day, be sure to see some of the many other attractions in the area including the Hakone Ashinoyu Flower Center (a gigantic greenhouse with many types of flowers and other plants – indoors, so nice even in case of rain) and the Botanical Garden of the Wetlands.
On our way home the next day, we stopped at the Odawara Castle. The old castle town of Odawara serves as the main gateway to the Hakone district. About a 10-minute walk from Odawara Station is the reconstructed five-story donjon (central structure of the castle). It houses a museum of historical materials, ancient suits of armor and swords, folk arts & crafts, and special exhibits. The view of Sagami Bay from the fourth floor is excellent. Open 9am-4:30pm, admission is Y200 for adults, Y100 for children. The park surrounding the castle includes a playground and small zoo. Brian & Kristen Marriott, 2001.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Driving in these areas, especially on weekends or in the summer, can be very difficult. Traffic is extremely heavy and slow. To maximize your sightseeing time, it is well worth the effort to leave no later than 5am. To enter the Hakone district at Odawara, take Rt. 16 from Yokota south, until it joins Rt. 129. Just north of Atsugi, you will see elevated Rt. 246 and a sign for the Tomei Expressway. Turn right immediately after passing under elevated Rt. 246 – this leads to a ramp that puts you on 246. Go through Atsugi. Look for signs for Odawara/Atsugi toll road (this will be south of Atsugi). When you see the signs, it will be a right turn. You will drive parallel to the toll road for several kilometers before entering. Once you are on the toll road, you will pass through two tollbooths and pay Y350 at each. When the toll road ends, follow the signs to Rt. 1. At Miyanshita (about 7km), the road will divide. The hotel is at the fork on the left. The right fork of the road will lead to Gora. The left fork will lead to Lake Ashi, which you could visit before checking in at the hotel, since check-in is not until 2pm.


TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line and go to Tokyo Station. You can take either the Shinkansen (“Kodama Train”, takes 42 minutes, runs every 20 minutes) or a regular train (Tokaido Line, takes 90 minutes, runs every 15 minutes) to Odawara Station. You can also reach the Hakone area from Shinjuku or Machida stations on the Odakyu Railway. Express trains run regularly to Odawara (takes 90 minutes), while the super-fast “Romance Car” runs only every 30 minutes (seat reservations required). Two different transportation companies, Hakone Tozan Railway and Izu Hakone Railway, offer discount tickets from which you can choose. These passes are convenient for multiple use of various modes of transportation after you reach the Hakone area and are valid for four days. The Hakone Free Pass allows you to use the Hakone Tozan Railway, bus, cable car, ropeway, the Odakyu highway bus (between Togendai and the Tomei Gotemba Expressway interchange) and the Hakone excursion boat on Lake Ashi as many times as you wish. These passes are sold at all Odakyu Railway stations and at the Hakone Tozan Information Center at Odawara Station (“Romance Car” ticket not included). Approximate prices from Odawara are Y3,500 for adults and Y1,750 for children (Y4,600 per adult from Shinjuku). Depending on the attraction, the pass includes 10% discounts for Gora Park, Hakone Museum, Chokoku-no-Mori (Hakone Open Air Museum), Hakone Checkpoint, Narikawa Art Forum, Hakone Arboretum, Owakudani Natural Science Museum, etc. A similar pass known as the Hakone-Wide Free Pass allows use of the Izu Hakone bus, cable car, ropeway, excursion bus, and includes discounts at various attractions. The pass is sold at travel agencies and the Izu Hakone Information Center at Odawara Station (for a little less than the other pass.) Cheryl Raggio, Margaret Summers.Lodging in Hakone Fujiya Hotel near the Miyanoshita

(Fujiya Hotel Garden, Sarah Straus, November 2011)

Station. They have a special foreigner’s rate of about $130 per night. All of their employees study English in the United States and making reservations by phone is easy. You can contact them at FUJIYA HOTEL 359 Miyanoshita, Hakone, Kanagawa Pref., Tel.0460-2-2211, Telex. 3892-718, Fax 0460-2-2215. http://www.fujiyahotel.co.jp. E-mail/ info@fujiyahotel.co.jp Camp Fuji. Other people stay at Camp Fuji, a little further away, but less expensive ($25/day in 2001). They then drive into Hakone. The number for billeting is 265-5502. (Camp Fuji Operator is 265-5011)

For more information, see:

• http://www.odakyu.jp/english/ For information on Odakyu Railroad, information, including Hakone Free Pass.
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/index.html  For the Japan National Tourist Organization’s “Practical Travel Guide” on Hakone. (Click on “Regional Tourist Guides” then “Practical Travel Guide”

Our Hakone Trip

Over Thanksgiving break my husband, 1 year old, 3 year old and I went to Hakone for two nights. It was fun for everyone and there is an amazing hotel there that has a foreigner rate of $133/night plus tax. There is hotel parking. The hotel is: Fujiya Hotel. You have to call to get the special rate, which is offered during the week, not weekends. It is an older hotel with big rooms and a beautiful garden in the back. There is a lot to do in Hakone. We most enjoyed the ropeway ride over the volcano and the Open Air Museum, which houses some fabulous kid friendly sculptures. I thought this webpage was helpful while planning what to do on the trip: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html. It has a nice overview of the various attractions. We didn’t figure out how to buy the Hakone Free Pass, which allows one payment for two days of transport on all the Hakone trains, funicular, ropeway, pirate ship, and buses. Over Thanksgiving the hotel was not too busy and the fall colors were amazing! We’ll definitely go again. –Sarah S., 2012

Hakone Open Air Museum – kids can climb up into this sculpture and run around at the very center.  Sarah Straus, 2011.

 

North of Base

Shopping

Costco and Mitsui Outlet Park in Iruma Costco
The Costco outlet near here is so similar to the American versions that frequent shoppers will already know their way around the store on their first visit. If you’re a Costco member in the states you’ll be able to shop here but you have to transfer your membership to your Japanese address, so visit the membership counter inside the store on your first visit. (Do you know how to make a Japanese address from your APO box number? See the Japan Post section under General Information.) Costco, for those who haven’t had the pleasure yet, is a worldwide bulk sale store with membership costing ¥4,200 per couple per year. Two guests can accompany members. Depending on the item, prices may be less than on base. Costco does not validate parking tickets for the outlet mall lots, and only American Express credit cards are accepted; Costco.co.jp
The outlet mall right next door to Costco contains name brand stores such as Coach, Columbia, Naturalizer, Reebok, Levis, Adidas, Diesel, and Banana Republic, etc. Forest Kitchen is the second story food court, while Forest Lounge on the ground floor has a Harrods tea and coffee outlet with a green tea counter across the aisle.
Costco members may park free in the top of the Iruma Costco building but entrance to the rooftop parking is only via a left-turn entry from Route 16 if you’re coming from the Kawagoe direction, so it’s awkward when you’re coming from Yokota. Instead, drive through the Outlet Park, out the rear then left toward and onto Route 16 (back toward Yokota and Hachioji). If asked, tell the parking attendants “Costco,” and they will wave you toward the rear exit. Once back on Rt. 16 going in the opposite direction, you will be waved to the entrance on the left. Costco parking hours are 9:30am-9pm while the store hours are 10am-8pm.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the Terminal Gate onto Route 16, drive north toward Kawagoe. Continue past The Mall and Hotel The Rock on the left. On the right will be a turn lane and sign for the Mitsui Outlet Park at 8.6km (depending on traffic, between 15 and 45 minutes). There is parking all around the mall for the Outlet Park; the first three hours are free weekdays while the first two hours are free on weekends. A minimum purchase of ¥3,000- from one store or  the same amount of combined receipts from the food court is  required for an additional two hours of parking validation.  3169-2 Miyadera, Iruma City, Saitama 358-0014, Japan. Tel. 04-2935-2200. GPS: 35.81082,139.37808. Teresa Negley, Ann Bowersox, Judiann Carey

Kojitu Outdoors
There are several places close to base to obtain outdoor and camping equipment, including  Kojitu Outdoors store located on Ome Kaido Road, just north of base.
DIRECTIONS: Set your odometer to zero and turn right out of the Terminal Gate. Go under the underpass and turn right at the fourth light after the underpass onto Ome Kaido Road. (2.8 km. Mc Donalds on left.) Kojitu will be on the right in about 0.3 km. (3.1 km from base.) Hours? Phone? Brian Marriott, 2002

Saizeriya
Saizeriya is a clean family style sort of Italian restaurant with picture menus. It offers pizzas (small ¥380+), pastas (¥450+), risottos (¥480+), large salads (¥380+), and desserts (¥290+). This chain marks its locations with a green sign.
DIRECTIONS: Shin-Ome Kaido Location: You can approach the Saizeriya on Shin-Ome Kaido from either the Terminal Gate or the East Gate. From the Terminal Gate, turn right (north) and go through the tunnel. Turn right at the 4th light after the tunnel (onto Ome-Kaido Road –truck stop on right, McDonalds on left.) Saizeriya will be on your left after the Dennys, before the McDonalds. From the East Gate, turn left out the gate. Bear left at the second light (“Y” intersection.) When the road ends, turn left. Turn right at the third light (just past the baby clothes store with bunny on sign.) Take this road to Shin-Ome Kaido Avenue (Musashimuraya mako Kita intersection, there is a McDonalds on the left side of the road.) and turn right. Saizeriya will be a short way down on the right, before you get to Dennys. Hours? Phone? Jena Flowers, Teresa Negley. Directions updated: Brian Marriott, 2002.

Curry House CoCo
While there are many CoCo Curry Houses in the area (including a small one at the Fussa station), the Mizuho branch out the East Gate may be the closest with parking. At any CoCo, you have several choices to make, starting from a basic curry dish for ¥400, including the spiciness of your curry (mild 1 is ¥20, spicier is more expensive), whether you prefer rice (naan is also available), whether you want meat (chicken cutlet ¥250), if you want a salad, etc. Most of the picture menus also have English too. Once you know what you want, push the bell to order.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the East Gate, veer left at the “Y” inteserction (1.1K). At the second light (1.8K Shiritsu Jusho Minami) next to the Baby Bunny Store (bunny sign), turn right. At the fourth light, you will see McDonalds (2.6K). Turn left onto ShinOme Kaido and past the first light (3.2K), a yellow Coco’s Curry House will be on your right next to Saizeriya Restaurant. Hours: 11am-midnight. Telephone: XX. Website: www.ichibanya.co.jp. Teresa Negley, Debbie Diaz, 2006

Culture

Iruma City Museum
About fifteen minutes away, there is a wonderfully modern museum in a landscaped setting. The museum is divided into several parts. In one gallery, art by local artists is displayed, including fifty-foot long painted murals to smaller oil paintings. Upstairs, a smaller Children’s Science Room is arranged with hands-on models including the effects of visual illusion through mirrors and a gyroscopic experience using bicycle wheels. Next door, a life-size exhibit of local plant and animal life reflects the natural setting of Iruma as it changes from dawn through twilight and night. The history of the area is shown through displays of local archaeological finds, feudal periods, the clothes of local townsmen, silk production models, etc. A ramp leads to exhibits on tea, a most important product of Iruma. Life-size models of family rooms in China and Tibet show the differences in lifestyles and how tea is preserved and used in different cultures. Glass display cases enclose teapots and English teacups ranging from those with large saucers to smaller porcelain items. A full-size replica demonstrates the simple designs of a traditional teahouse with thatched roof (the low doorways and narrow rooms inhibited the drawing of swords in a feudal society of five hundred years of war). Films on tea and other subjects can be viewed in a museum theater. Teacups and local merchandise can be purchased in the museum gift shop and a restaurant is also on the grounds.
Although English-language explanations are not present on all displays, an English brochure includes introductions on the permanent exhibits, building layout, and museum grounds. Cost: ¥200/Adults, ¥100/high school/university students, ¥50/junior high/elementary students.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the Terminal Gate and head north on Route16 via the underpass. Turn left (west) at the first light past route 219 (7.3 kilometers from the Terminal Gate and just prior to a large sign reading “AUTOBACS” on the left. If you get to Crystal Park [on right] you have gone too far). Take a LEFT (south) at the first light (There is a 7-eleven on the corner). The museum is about 0.4 kilometers on the left. It has a large parking lot just past an entry gate. The address for Iruma City Museum Alit is 100 Nihongi, Iruma. Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, closed Monday (and closed on Tuesday if Monday was a holiday. Also closed 4th Tuesday of each month and 12/27-1/5 for New Years’ Celebration. Tel. 0429-34-7711. Teresa Negley, Sumiko Evans, 1997. Directions updated by Brian Marriott, 2002

Tokorozawa
Tokorozawa, a 45-minute drive north of Yokota, is a nice place to spend a day shopping and eating. In addition to the three very nice, large department stores (Daiei, Marui, and Waltz), there are also many small shops. There is a Wendy’s, a Shakey’s Pizza, and many Japanese eateries and bakeries. These are all within a short walking distance of each other. In Daiei you will also find a large variety of restaurants. On the top floor there are many restaurants and on the bottom floor you will find buffet restaurants. If you begin your shopping experiences at Daiei, you can walk across the street to McDonalds and take a left. You will be on a narrow street with no cars, and lots of shops. Here you will find Shakeys and one of two McDonalds. There are CD shops, flower shops, vegetable markets, video stores, electronics, pachinko and more. Then you will come out and go past the station and continue on up the main street to Waltz and many other small shops and accessory stores. Cross the street again and head back to Daiei. The name of the street is “Purope.” One of the best bakeries for fresh bread, called “Sun Merry,” is there. You can park at any of the three department stores as early as 9 am. Parking is free for two hours if you make a purchase of at least ¥2000. After the first two hours, you will be charged ¥100 per thirty minutes.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the East Gate. At the first light turn right. Stay on this road until it dead-ends, and then turn left. Continue on this road until you reach Shin Ome Kaido. (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 on the right. This is your landmark for the return trip. Turn right onto this road. Continue on this road for about 9km. After you go over a long overpass, get into the left lane. Turn left on Fuchu Kaido (the intersection is very large). Stay on Fuchu Kaido for about 2.5km. Keep to the right at the fork in the road, which has a gas station in the center of it. Turn left onto Tokorozawa Kaido. In a few minutes you will see the large department stores and the train station. Continue straight to park in the parking garages.
Lori Belk, Judy Harvey, Viki Paulson-Cody. Directions verified 2001


Ome Museums

Ome Railroad Museum: See separate entry.

 Ome Municipal Museum & Ome Art Museum
A pleasant afternoon can be spent in Ome visiting the Ome Art Museum and the Ome Municipal Museum. When we visited, the Ome Art Museum had a small display of pieces in a variety of style from ink to watercolor, mostly from the 1930’s through the present. On the first floor was a room with artwork done by school children in a nearby park. It costs ¥200, and is closed Mondays. After going to the art museum, we walked across the Tama River, through a wooded park beside the river, and visited the Ome Municipal Museum. Everything is in Japanese, but you can look at a variety of artifacts from arrowheads to farming equipment. They have a 250 year old farmhouse that you can go inside and look at the way people lived. This museum is free.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome line from the Fussa Station away from Tokyo and get off at Ome (14 minutes). Walk straight out of the station to the first light (“Ome Sta” intersection) an turn right. Go to the second light (411, Ome Shinimkaika Int) and turn left. At the next light (Ome Civic Hall S. intersection), cross the street and turn left onto Ome Kaido Road. The art museum is a two story white brick building a short way down on the right. The name is in kanji (above) on the wall. After going to the art museum, go back to Ome Civic Hall S. intersection and turn left (away from the station.) The first small street past the next light takes a very sharp turn down a hill. Go down the hill to a parking lot. Cross the pedestrian path over the river. Wander downstream and you will see the Ome Municipal museum short way past the next pedestrian bridge.
DRIVING DIRECTONS: At the Terminal Gate, set your odometer to zero and turn right and go under the overpass. Turn left onto Ome Kaido Ave, (Hakonegasakinishi Intersection, the 4th light after the underpass, appx 2.8 km from Terminal Gate. McDonalds is on far left corner.) You will wind along Ome Kaido all the way to the lake. At 8.3km, take the left fork at the “Y” intersection. Follow the signs for Okutama. Just before 10.6 km you will pass the Ome Art Museum on the left. At 10.6km, the road ends (Ome Civic Hall S. intersection). Turn left. At the first tiny street past the next light take a very sharp (almost u-turn) left, down a hill, there is a free parking lot at the bottom of the hill along the river. From here you can walk to both museums.


Out the East Gate & Left: Parks

Toshimaen this entry is very old. Please verify whether it is still up and running before heading out. Perhaps the info desk at the Yujo can help. Let us know what you find out.
Toshimaen Amusement Park and Water Park is the oldest amusement park in metropolitan Tokyo. Its 50 attractions are so varied there is truly something for everyone. Near the entrance to the park is a gilded, antique carousel, the Eldorado. Upon entering, the tranquil beauty of the Japanese gardens soon gives way to the many rides traditionally expected in an amusement park. There are many of the usual children’s rides, as well as roller coasters with names like “The Corkscrew” and “The Cyclone,” to satisfy serious thrill-seekers. Safaris and several haunted houses invite adventurers. A ride, rightly called “The Flying Pirates,” will swing some 15 stories into the air while you are seated in a replica of an old pirate ship. Seven swimming pools, an ice-skating rink, and a fishing pond are available for the sports minded.

The entrance fees are ¥1500/adult and ¥700/child. You can buy a ticket for ¥3300/adult and ¥2500/child, which combines admission and seven ride tickets. An all day pass, covering admission and all rides, is the best buy at ¥3800/adult and ¥3300/child. Hours: the park is open daily, 9am to 5pm. From mid- November to mid-March, the park is closed on Wednesdays. In the summer months of July and August, the park stays open until 9pm. Telephone: 03-3990-3131. Web: www.toshimaen.co.jp.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome line to Tachikawa. At Tachikawa, switch to the Chuo Line to Shinjuku. Catch the Yamanote line (green train) going towards Shin-Okubo and Ikebukuro. Get off at Ikebukuro and proceed to the Seibu Ikebukuro Line. You will need to exit and then buy a new ticket. Now board the train bound for Toshimaen, it will be the fifth stop on this train. The park entrance is 100 feet from the station. The train cost is about ¥770 one-way, per person.
DRIVING DIRECTONS: The Yujo should have driving maps available.
Maria Witte, Diane Cressman. Location verified 2011.

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.

Yamanashi Grapes

Yamanashi Prefecture is inviting anytime, but autumn is the best time to visit this scenic Japanese countryside. It’s only an hour and a half from the gates of Yokota. Known throughout Japan for its deliciously sweet purple grapes, Yamanashi Prefecture offers a ten mile drive along a stretch of Highway 20, from Katsunuma to Kofu, lined with what seems like endless vineyards. Travelers soon see the numerous stands set up to sell grapes. Select a stand and enjoy a generous taste-testing beneath a grape arbor. Customers are often invited to sit and enjoy some sweet tea. You can by grapes by the kilo or pick your own. Grape-picking equipment is usually provided. In the summer months, peaches are offered for sale along the roadside, but people are not permitted to pick their own peaches.
When you decide you’ve seen one too many grapes, continue along Highway 20, past Kofu to the southwest corner of Chichibu Tama National Park. On a clear day, Mt. Daibosatsu will appear as a beacon. Shosenkyo Gorge runs through forested slopes and dramatic rock formations. It is one of the most scenic river valleys in Japan. See separate entry.
DIRECTIONS: Exit from Fussa Gate and turn left on Route 16 South to Hachioji. At Hachioji, get on the Chuo Expressway.(Do not take the the Hachioji Bypass.) Once on the expressway two signs will appear; one for Shinjuku and the other for Nagoya. Take the road to Nagoya. Stay on the Chuo until Otsuki. (Toll: ¥1300.) Take the Otsuki exit and that will lead to Highway 20. Turn right and stay on Highway 20. The grapes will be straight ahead; no turns, no confusion.  To get to Shosenkyo Gorge, continue along Highway 20 as it passes through the outskirts of Kofu. Soon you’ll see signs for “Shosenkyo.” There are several. All will take you to the right, passing under the Chuo Expressway, to a winding road called Shosenkyo Line. It’ll take you right to the gorge parking lot. Fee: ¥1000. GPS for Shosenkyo Gorge parking: 35.72617,138.54987.  – Pam Watson. Directions verified and modified by Liz Ruskin Sept. 2011

 

Matsumoto Castle & Takayama (Nagano & Gifu)

motsumoto castle kelly odonnell Matsumoto castle in Nagano was built more than 400 years ago and is one of the most unique castles I have ever seen. It was designed to be nearly all black to help keep it safe from enemies at night. It is sometimes referred to as the “Crow Castle.” It is surrounded by a traditional mote and beautiful grounds. It is listed as a National Treasures of Japan. You can tour the inside of the castle. There are six floors and many national treasurers are displayed in cases inside.  Beware however, the “stairs” are very steep and slippery, some are more like ladders. I wouldn’t recommend it for toddlers or older folks who may have difficulty climbing. It certainly is not stroller friendly. You also have to remove your shoes before entering the castle. We visited in November and the floors inside were very cold so make sure you have socks! English brochures and tour guides are available. After touring the castle we walked to some nearby shrines and walked along the river where there were lots of antique and souvenir shops. Admission cost 600¥ per adult, children are 300¥. The only days they are closed are December 29 – January 3rd.   www.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/

motsumoto kelly odonnellDriving time from Yokota was approximately 2 1/2 hours. It is in the city of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture.  GPS coordinates to parking lot for Matsumoto castle, which was a two block walk from the castle. 36.235216, 137.969180 – updated post and photos by Kelly O’Donnell, November 2013

Matsumoto Castle, about 200km west of Yokota, is sure to be a hit with kids. It was built in the 1500s, and still has many tiny windows intended for firing arrows and early firearms. A gun museum is on the second floor. Visitors can climb up into the tower and have a lovely view of the moat and the city. The tourism bureau there is very active. On the castle grounds we found volunteer guides ready to give tours in English. Costumed “samurai” with long guns prowl the grounds, eager to have their picture taken with tourists. The day we were there, in July 2011, it was over 100•F, and there was a booth on the grounds giving out free snow cones! The city’s historic district lies along the river, and there were some intriguing antique/junk shops.
Another fascinating place to visit is a 10-minute walk from the castle: The Old Kaichi School (Kyu Kaichi Gakko 旧開智学校)
We then drove into the mountains, where it was lovely and cool and spent the night. We stayed in our camper, but we noticed several campsites and onsens with rooms and cabins.  Liz Ruskin, 2011

SIDE TRIPS:
Wasabi Farm tour (Daio Wasabi Farm) is one of the biggest distributors of wasabi in Japan.  The grounds are picturesque and touring the farm is free.  We enjoyed a clear bottom boat ride, seeing how wasabi is picked and processed, and tasting all the wasabi treats – including wasabi ice cream and wasabi beer.  Parking was free and easy.  It is located just north of Matsumoto on highway 147.   Anna Quan-Schmoldt, 2012

We went to Takayama, a picturesque city (aka Hida Takayama) where the streets are lined with old wooden houses and shops. A dozen or more have been turned into small history and craft museums. We also visited Hida Folk Village, just outside of Takayama. I thought it was going to be an icky tourist trap. Boy, was I wrong. It’s a nicely landscaped park where about 20 old thatch-roofed farmhouses from the region have been moved for preservation. As you walk through them, you learn not only about the buildings but about the life and history of the area. In some, traditional crafts are on display. Be sure not to miss the silkworm house! Takayama also has two well-regarded morning markets featuring produce from surrounding farms. Liz Ruskin, 2011

Also see the post on Kamicochi – the Yosemite of Japan.

PLACE TO STAY:
Northstar Lodge is a great place to stay in the Matsumoto area, with lots of recreational opportunity and nearby onsen.  – Theresa O, 2011

If you are going to Matsumoto Castle, consider staying at Kurobe View Hotel located 40 kilometers north of Matsumoto in the town Omachi.  Omachi is a mountain town in the Northern Japanese Alps, Nagano Prefecture.  The hotel has wonderful hot springs on site which are divided into his and hers. We enjoyed the Japanese breakfast and dinner that are included in the price.  It is located across from an apple orchard and there are apple festivals in August and September.  With Japanese-style rooms, the place was child-friendly and accommodating for our family of five – with a futon for each of us, all in the same room.  There is a cute downtown, walking distance from the hotel.  In town, we saw an entire troop of snow monkeys come out of the woods, which I understood was a fairly common occurrence.  For more things to do in Omachi, like seeing the highest damn in Japan and taking a ropeway through the mountains, check the Official Travel Guide of Japan entry for Omachi. Leaving Omachi, on 45 toward Hakuba, we found a fabulous place to eat Belgian waffles and ice cream in a log cabin chalet that looked like it came straight from the Swiss Alps.  I was impressed with the French press coffee. Yum.  Anna Quan-Schmoldt, 2012

DIRECTIONS: It’s a straight-forward drive to Matsumoto, taking the Chuo Expressway & Nagano Expressway. Plot a course on Googlemaps or talk to the folks at the Yujo to get their map on finding the Chuo entrance. Alternatively, you could take the train. There’s even an semi-express train from Tachikawa, but it only leaves a few times a day.

Tip: Rent a van from Vehicle Operations for this trip because toll prices are expensive.  Anna Quan-Schmoldt, 2012

Helpful websites

Matsumoto Castle

The Old Kaichi School (Kyu Kaichi Gakko 旧開智学校)

Takayama guide

Takayama museums


View Larger Map

Hamura Museums

Hamura Museum
This small local museum is about 10 minutes away, across the Tama
River. On the grounds is a restored thatched-roof farmhouse full of household implements that the shrine sale enthusiasts enjoy, as well as an old red gate associated with shrines. Admission is free. Unfortunately there are no explanations in English but most exhibits are self-explanatory. Main features include pieced together ancient ceramic pots, rice cultivation, and historic methods of silk production. There’s also an old fire wagon and lots of benches outside on which to sit and eat a sack lunch.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the Fussa Gate and left at the second light. Take this street to the river, crossing two railroad tracks. At the “T” intersection, make a right (under a blue pedestrian bridge), then at the 4th stoplight, make a left over the bridge (HamuraOhashi East Intersection—there’ll be a five-story gray concrete apartment building on the right with stone walls on both sides). On the far side of the river, make the first right into a small road (parallel to the river); take the right fork downward. At the stop sign, turn left into a residential area and follow this road around to its end (at
the river). Park in the left lot just past the large brown museum (the right lot belongs to a very pricey restaurant, ¥5000+ per person).
Hours: 9am-4:30pm, closed Mondays (and Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday). Julie Irwin 2007

Hamura-Shi Planetarium
A real educational treasure exists right out our front door in Hamura. This planetarium is tucked away in a residential neighborhood, sharing space within a small city recreational building. There is no charge to sit and be enthralled with a visual guided tour of the skies over Hamura. Your personal guide will treat you to a 40-minute (20-minute show for young children) audiovisual presentation, depicting the skies from sunset to sunrise. You will see summer and winter constellations, comets, shooting stars, night-time cloud formations, a solar eclipse and a glimpse of our solar system amongst the vastness of space. Though the staff members narrate the program in Japanese only, one can still enjoy the universal language of the stars and space. A working knowledge of astronomy is NOT needed to enjoy the program. But beware! Once you see the show you may gravitate toward the library to learn more about the wonders of space. Just ask the attendant, inside the main entrance, to the right, to see the planetarium (remember, no English is spoken so point upstairs and ask slowly). You must slip off your shoes and use the slippers provided.
DIRECTIONS: Go straight out the Fussa Gate and go right at the “Y” intersection. Continue on to two more lights. Turn right onto the street running in front of Seiyu (Yanagi Dori). Continue on this street through 13 lights or 3.8km until you come to the Hamura Post Office on your left. Turn left at the light just after the post office and continue through one light. Not far from the light, and on your right you will see the dome of the planetarium. Across the street, on your left, is the parking lot. There are about 10 parking slots and one large bus slot. Keep in mind that this is a neighborhood recreation center and there are LOTS of kids involved in all kinds of activities in and around the building, so don’t think you have arrived at the wrong place! Hours: The planetarium is closed on Mondays. Individuals and families are welcome anytime Tuesday-Sunday at 3:30pm (11am and 3pm during Japanese spring, summer, and winter school breaks); school groups and group tours/shows are held at other times. If you have a group larger than 20, you must stop by their office prior to your visit and fill out a special group request form and make an appointment. Marcia St. John

 

Hamura-area restaurants

Roppongi

This district is a favorite among night-clubbers and the younger foreign crowd, and it’s not far from the New Sanno Hotel. Here you will find coffee shops, bars, discos and restaurants for people of all cultural backgrounds and tastes. Trendy people come out to liven up the area on the weekends. Yet Roppongi is not only for the party-goers. It also provides an atmosphere for people interested in culture, theater and museums. Shopping is expensive, but there are some shops that are reasonable in Roppongi. Many of the clothing store prices are based on the latest fashion trends. Most people go to Roppongi for the countless bars and restaurants that line its streets. It’s also home to American favorites such as Hard Rock Café, Tony Roma’s Ribs and Johnny Rockets.
GENERAL DIRECTIONS: It takes about 1-1.5 hours to get to Roppongi from Yokota. Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa or Tokyo. Switch, if necessary, at Tachikawa for the Chuo (orange line) for Tokyo. Get off at Yotsuya, one stop after Shinjuku. Change to the Marunouchi Line and get off at Roppongi. It’s just a 30 minute walk from the New Sanno (less if you use the subway) and 10 minutes from Hardy Barracks.
Or, if you’re leaving in the morning, catch the daily shuttle to the New Sanno Hotel. It leaves the Kanto Lodge at 9:30am and costs $8.

SIGHTSEEING

Tokyo Tower – see separate entry

SHOPPING

Aoyama Bookstore
One of the several book stores with English books is found in the Roppongi area. Aoyama Bookstore is near Almond’s and the main Roppongi intersection under the highway.
Brian Marriott 2002

Jane’s Pearls
The Wally Yonamine Pearl Company, affectionately known as Jane’s Pearls, is located on one corner of Roppongi Crossing outside Roppongi station on the Hibiya (exit 4A) and Oedo Subway Lines or about a 25 minute walk from the New Sanno Hotel (ask for a map). Jane’s carries  a selection of jewelry, with $ prices depending on the yen rate and cost of gold, ranging from inexpensive freshwater pearl bracelets to valuable larger diameter cultured pearl necklaces. If you don’t know much about pearls, Jane’s can give a detailed introduction on the different types and sources.
The popular t-shirt necklace of seed pearls, often given to young women, can be worn all year long and dressed up with a pendant, while the so-called Jodie Foster necklaces in white or yellow gold with red, blue, or green enamel spacers cost three times more due the increase in gold price. Jane’s also has opera length strands of different colored fresh water pearls which can be combined into an elegant twisted necklace.
Open 9:30am-5:30pm Monday-Saturday, closed Sundays and Japanese holidays. Look for the blue and white “pearls” sign in the entrance of the Arts Shop building, and take the small elevator to the 5th floor. Credit cards OK, janespearl.com; Tel. 033-402-4001 or 033-403-4687.

Amit Trading
While Amit has a branch at the New Sanno, their main store is on the 5th Floor of the ISO Building, next to the Softbank shop on the corner of Roppongi Crossing opposite Jane’s Pearls. While Jane’s seems to carry a larger array of designs, Amit’s is known for good prices in custom gem jewelry and traditional cultured pearl strands as well. If you know what you want or have a specific design in mind (whether for a necklace, earrings, bracelet or other accessory), check with Amit.
Open 9:30am-5:30pm weekdays, www.pearls.jp; 033-3404-3853.

Asahi Pearls
Noted in Frommer’s guides, Asahi (Shoten) Jewelry has stores within the Imperial Hotel arcade and 1st Floor of the Yurakucho Building outside Exit A-3 of the Hibiya Subway Station. While not as popular with the base crowd, Asahi also carries a selection of moderately priced pearl and gem jewelry. Open weekdays 10am-7pm, 10am-6:30pm weekends and holidays. 03-3271-6260.

Roppongi Roi Building Flea Market
The Roppongi Roi Building (near the Hard Rock Café and Spago’s) houses a flea market on the fourth Thursday and Friday of each month. It has more than 30 dealers, and the prices are said to be good. Hours?
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From Fussa Station, take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line to Shinjuku. Transfer to the Yamanote Line to Ebisu. There, change to the Hibiya Line and go two stops to Roppongi. Exit the ticket turnstile and turn right. Go upstairs and turn left. On the corner across the street, you will see the Almond Cafe (large pink sign). Cross the street to the cafe, turn right at the corner and go one and one-half block. The next big corner will be the Roi Building. For more information call the Kottoichi Company at 03-3980-8228.

Author, date?

Uchida Is this store still around? It’d be nice to have an update, and an address or GPS coordinates.
For a unique shop/gallery with a wide array of art and artifacts from all over the world, visit Uchida, located in Azabu. They carry Indonesian baskets, Japanese lacquerware, clay figures, textiles from all over the world, and more. Uchida provides a showcase for a collection of art and gallery space for artists to show their work.
DIRECTIONS: Exit the Roppongi Subway Station using the Roppongi Crossing Exit. Turn down the side street to your right. Follow this street past the Swedish Center and Homeworks. Turn right at the gas station, and at the second corner, turn right again. It is only about a block from the Blue and White Store (under the New Sanno section). Hours: open daily until 7pm, except Tuesdays and the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays. Also open on holidays. Melody Hostetler, date?

RESTAURANTS

Gonpachi
This is the restaurant Quentin Tarantino used as inspiration for the Crazy 88s fight scene in the movie “Kill Bill”. It’s located in Roppongi, 1.5km from the New Sanno Hotel. This place has a beautiful modern Japanese atmosphere, good food with a variety of Japanese dishes (tempura, yakitori, soba, etc.) as well as Gonpachi’s specialties, such as house pizza, tuna tartare and Camembert/avocado tempura. Prices are reasonable.  Their website is www.gonpachi.jp/en/nishi_azabu/home/location. Reservations are taken online, via the website. The restaurant has branches in Ginza, Odaiba and Shibuya. Tel. for the Roppongi location: 03-5771-0170. Address: 1-13-11 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031. GPS: 35.6600, 139.7234
DIRECTIONS: Take the train from Fussa Station to Ebisu, then take the Tokyo Metro to the Roppongi Station. Exit the station onto Roppongi Dori (crossing under the street) and turn left. Walk about 850 meters to the intersection of Roppongi Dori and Gaien-Nishi Dori (second major intersection). The restaurant is on the corner to your right. It is across Gaien-Nishi Dori from Zest, and diagonally across Roppongi Dori from a Hobson’s ice cream shop. Kevin Green, 2012.

Pizzakaya Roppongi
This small groovy eatery has California-style pizzas with excellent options for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The name is a contraction of “pizza” and “izikaya,” a casual Japanese pub. The atmosphere is relaxed and retro, and the selection of American craft beers is excellent. You’ll fee like you’re in Santa Cruz again, though the prices (¥2100 for a medium 10-inch pizza) will remind you that this is still Tokyo. The two-person set for ¥4725 seems like a good deal. The menu includes big salads and pasta. It’s convenient to the New Sanno, and they do deliver. English menu and English-speaking staff. Hours: Lunch: Mon-Sat, 11:30am-2:00pm (Except Japanese national holidays). Dinner: 5-10:30pm (-9:30pm Sundays) Address: Dai-ichi Koyama Building 2F, 3-1-19 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031. Tel: 03-3479-8383. GPS: 35.6605, 139.7266.
Directions from Roppongi Station: Take Exit 1C (Hibiya Line, Oedo Line), turn left and walk away from the Roppongi Intersection, towards Roppongi Hills. After Roppongi Hills you will come to the intersection of Roppongi and TV Asahi streets. Cross the street and keep going about 100 meters toward the Nishi Azabu Intersection until you reach a restaurant called “Charleston Cafe Oriental.” Pizzakaya is on the second floor of the next building. There’s a sign out on the street. It is about a seven-minute walk.
Directions from New Sanno Hotel: It’s a 1.8km walk. Turn right out of the hotel and right again at the next major road, which has a pedestrian bridge overhead. Walk up hill, passing the Hiroo Metro stop. Keep going along this road until you get to Roppongi Dori, which has an elevated expressway down the middle. Turn right on Roppongi Dori and go about 300 meters, until you see the blue-trimmed Papasu Pharmacy. Pizzakaya is in the next building, on the second floor. If you get to a dark building with the sign “Charleston Cafe Oriental” you’ve gone a few steps too far. Liz Ruskin, 2012.

New Sanno to Pizzakaya, on foot

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Hard Rock Café

The Hard Rock Café in Tokyo is like any other Hard Rock. Americans and others fill the place, listening to classic rock and viewing paraphernalia donated by some of America’s best music artists. Food selections are also the same. Starters range from homemade soup (¥600) to pizza (¥1400)). Salad and sandwich choices include chef, chicken, and fruit/avocado salads, HRC Sandwich, BLT, and the awesome California Club (¥1,300-1,600). Last, but not least, for the “American palate,” there is the charbroiled burger, cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, and Mt. Fuji Double Burger (¥l,400-2,000). Desserts are plentiful: Apple pie, devil’s food cake, brownies, Key lime pie, N.Y. Cheesecake, etc. The servers speak English, and there is no dress code. Address: 5-4-20 Roppongi MinatoKu, Tokyo 106.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Pay parking is available, but it is easy to go by train. From Fussa Station, take the train toward Tokyo. Change trains at Shinjuku Station and get on the Yamanote line (lime green) to Ebisu (four stops). Exit and to the right will be the subway station. Take the Hibiya line two stops to Roppongi and exit from Exit 3. Turn left out of the station and cross the street to your right. Turn left. Turn right after the Almond Restaurant (pink and white canopy-also on the right). You should see Tokyo Tower straight ahead. Follow this road until you see a McDonalds on your right. Turn right directly past it and Hard Rock Café /Tony Roma’s is ahead of you. If you get lost, ask. Hard Rock is well known. Hours: 11:30 am – 2:00 am (Monday-Thursday), 4:00 am (Friday-Saturday), and 11:30 pm (Sundays and holidays). Tel: 03-3408-7018 Karen Ozment, Delores Street, date?

Tony Roma’s
Located in the bottom half of the Hard Rock Café building, this one is also an international classic. It attracts a more business-like crowd so most people are dressed in work attire (as in no shorts). Specializing in ribs, Tony Roma’s charcoal broils them and adds barbecue sauce to make them as tender as anything Memphis has to offer. Order the onion rings for ¥780. They are absolutely mouthwatering and feed 3-5 people. Other appetizers include fried cheese, shrimp tail fingers, cold fresh asparagus and country pork sausage with dijon mustard, all for ¥980. Salads include seafood, Mesa Verde, garden, Cobb, and Santa Fe, ranging from ¥650-1,450. Tony Roma’s original barbecued baby ribs come in regular (¥2,750) and large (¥3,980) sizes. Combination plates with barbecued chicken, grilled swordfish, steamed lobster, steamed lobster tail, grilled lamb, grilled steak or grilled scallop brochette are also available, ranging from ¥2,080-2,980. Seafood entrees include lobster, Spanish shrimp, swordfish, salmon, rainbow trout, and a combination platter. Meat selections include charbroiled N.Y. cut sirloin steak (¥2,880), barbecued chicken (¥1,780), grilled lamb chops (¥2,080), London broil (¥2,180), and Roma burger (starts at ¥l,380).
DIRECTIONS: follow the directions to Hard Rock Café (above). Tony Roma’s is on the first floor of the same building. Hours: 5-11:00pm, last order at 10:30pm. Telephone: 03-3408-2748 Karen Ozment, date?

Shibuya: Sightseeing, Shopping, Restaurants

Shibuya is shoppers’ heaven. All the big department stores are here, and entire vertical malls are filled with trendy teens. But there’s more to the area. Read on.

Orientation

Shibuya Station can be a little disorienting. I found it difficult to determine where I was coming out of the exits. I came up with the following to try to help. When you come out of the station, look around:
• If you see Tokyu Plaza straight across the street, you came out the west half of the South Entrance. Turn right (north) and follow the street under the Subway tracks to get to Hachiko Plaza. (Hachiko Plaza honors the dog Hachiko who used to wait there every evening for his master, even after the master’s death. The area around the statue is a popular rendezvous spot for dates.)
• If, as you face the street, the elevated subway is to your left, and the elevated highway to your right, and you see the Kenwood sign across the street, and the dome of the planetarium to it’s left, you are on the east side of the station. Turn left (north), go under the subway, and you will be at the corner of Meiji Dori (Ave.) and Miyamasuzaka Street.
• If, as you look out with the station behind you, there is a Triangular ASAHI sign on the building in front of you, and you can see up the street in front of you and see a sign to Nomura and Pola, you are on the North East side of the station, at the corner of Meiji Dori (Ave.) and Miyamasuzaka Street. If you went under the JR tracks to your right, you would be at Hachiko Plaza.
• If, as you look out you see three televisions, and an elevated JR track to the right, you are in Hachiko Plaza. If you went under the JR track to your right, you would be heading East up Miyamasuzaka Street towards its intersection with Meiji Dori (Ave.). Brian Marriott 11/01

Shibuya Sightseeing

NHK Studio Park
This is a fun place to spend an hour or so during a day of shopping and dining in busy Shibuya. And it gives the non-shoppers a break from department-store overload! The tour gives visitors a look at the latest developments in the media, including various program production technologies. The interactive displays are fun for both children and adults. Displays include a 3D Hi-Vision theater, a dubbing studio where you can read the voices for animations and dramas, and a try-it-yourself studio where you can give the weather forecast or be a program presenter. Admission is ¥250 for adults and ¥150 for junior/ senior high school students, elementary school and younger are free.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the JR train to Shibuya Station and go out the Hachiko Plaza Exit. From Hachiko Plaza, walk up the street and you see the Seibu and OIONE signs on (between the 1st & 2nd TV counting from the right). At the second light the road will branch into a “Y” with an OIOI store in the middle of the branch. Bear to the left here. Follow this road straight to the end. The NHK Broadcasting Center is a complex of three buildings across the street straight ahead and to the left. Hours: 10am-6pm (enter before 5:30pm). Closed third Monday of each month (Tuesday, if Monday is a national holiday). Also closed December 25-31. Open every day in August. Telephone? Kristen Marriott 12/01

NHK Broadcast Museum

You know the Newseum in Washington, D.C.? This is the Japanese version. It has three floors of exhibits ranging from the first public radio transmitter used by NHK to the first TV camera they used, as well as old radios and many other historical items. One interesting display is the recording of Emperor Showa’s address to the nation announcing the end of World War II. Another fun room has a number of interactive components where you can pretend to use a teleprompter with a blue screen in the background to put yourself in another scene, and an area to practice sound effects for radio broadcasts.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From Shinjuku take the Yamanote line south to Ebisu. Transfer to the Hibiya subway and go towards Hiroo (New Sanno). Two stops past Hiroo get off at Kamiyacho Station. Go out Exit 3 and turn right. Do not cross the intersection. Take a right at the first light. Immediately before the tunnel take the stairs on the left hand side of the road up to the museum entrance. 9:30am-4:30pm. Closed Mondays and at year-end. 2-1-1, Atago, Minato-ku, Tokyo 〒105-0002
Tel: 035-400-6900. www.nhk.or.jp/museum/english/main.html. Brian Marriott 11/01. Hours and address verified 2010.

Bicycle Museum
This appears to be part of the Science Museum. Anybody know? If so, it may be closer to Takebashi or Kundanshita stations. See map at website below.

Any serious cyclist should enjoy the Bicycle Culture Center in Toranoman, near the American Embassy. 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. Admission is ¥600 for adults, ¥250-400 for children.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome/Chuo Line to Yotsuya, transfer to the Marunouchi subway and take it to one stop to Akasaka-Mitsuke. At Akasaka-Mitsuke, walk across the platform to the Ginza Line and go one stop to Toranomon. Try to get in the last car so that when you reach Toranomon, you can exit through the ticket booth and go up the stairs opposite to the street. Once above ground, walk (right) toward the NCR building past the Alitalia and other airline offices. Cross the street. Just past the NCR building, turn left on the narrow street with the gas station. Turn right on the second street. The building with the Bicycle Culture Center will be on your left. It’s known as Jitensha Kaikan No. 3. Postal address: Kagakugijutukan 2F Room I, 2-1 Kitanomaru koen Chiyodaku, Tokyo. 〒 Hours: 9:30am-4:50pm. Telephone: 03-3217-1231. www.cycle-info.bpaj.or.jp/english/learn/bcc.html. Teresa Negley. Liz Ruskin updated address, website and hours in 2010.

Shopping

We need more write-ups for good shopping in Shibuya. Anybody?


Tokyu Hands

This store started as the craft department of the Tokyu Department Store, but it has since become its own wonderous thing. Of course, the craft materials are top-notch. And it’s not just the girly stuff either. This is also a hardware store, with exotic wood, plexiglass holograms, leather tooling, craft wire of every hue and weight … . But check out the other departments: housewares, stationary & stickers, outdoor goods, bikes, drugs and cosmetics. It also has a gift store that carries yukata and other top-quality Japanese goods. It is similar to The Loft in its breadth of merchandise, but Hands caters more to the whole family, while The Loft seems a bit trendier and younger to me. Tip: You might want to bring you passport. The store website at the moment says “Customers who present a foreign passport can receive Tokyu Hands shopping coupons.” (The English version of the website is very helpful and has a good locater map, but for the hours and holiday closures you have to look on the Japanese site, which you can read through Google Translate.)
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Arrive at Shibuya Station and take the Hachiko Plaza exit. From Hachiko Plaza, cross the street and take the pedestrian lane just to the left of the huge 2nd-story Starbucks. Bear left where the lane splits, at a store called “Gem Kawano”. Keep going straight until you get to an intersection that has an ABC Mart and a McDonald’s. Turn right. Go one block and turn left, then, in a few meters, bear right. Tokyu Hands is straight up this street, one long block past a store called FrancFranc. (Shibuya is a warren of cute shopping streets, so there are many ways to get there. It is less than half a kilometer from the station to the store.)12-18 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Tel.: 03-5489-5111. Open 10-8:30 most days. Liz Ruskin, 2011.

The Loft
Need an awesome Halloween costume? Party favors? Postcards? Furniture? Kitchen items? Whatever it is you need, The Loft most likely has it! Located across the street from The Disney Store in Shibuya, The Loft is a six-story department store that has a lot of everything. The basement has shoes, athletic equipment, swimming devices, and water toys. The first floor consists of Japanese fans, wind chimes, rubber stamps, wrapping paper, stuffed animals, candles in every color, hundreds of postcards and greeting cards, party goods, and Halloween party costumes. These are not your run-of-the-mill costumes though; they’re excellent and some are expensive. They have a sumo wrestler, ski bunny, witch, Robin Hood, nun, maid, etc. They also have a great selection of wigs, noses, glasses and bow ties (for clown costumes). Moving up to the second floor, you will find many kitchen items including dishes, furniture, and pillows. The third floor houses bathroom items, hangers, home supply items, wood and planters. On the fourth floor there are art, office and school supplies. The fifth floor has picture frames, puzzles, pictures, and books. Finally, on the top floor, there are clocks, watches, art deco items, umbrellas and a small restaurant. If you need it, it can be found here!Loft is similar to Tokyu Hands, but mavens say Loft is cooler. Both have several branches in Tokyo but their flagship stores are in Shibuya.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Ride the train to Shibuya Station. From Hachiko Plaza, walk up the street you see the Seibu and OIONE signs on (between the 1st & 2nd TV counting from the right). At the second light the road will branch into a “Y” with an OIOI store in the middle of the branch. Bear to the left, here. Cross to the left hand side of the road. The Disney Store and the Loft are next door to each other on the left hand side of the road across from the McDonalds and the KFC (they are separated by a brick pedestrian-only road). 21-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 〒150-0042. Hours: 10am-9pm. Tel. 03-3462-3807. Karen Ozment. Address, hours and phone number updated 2010.

The Disney Store
On a brick-lined street in Shibuya is a shop where Mickey, Minnie, Jasmine, Simba, Dopey, Winnie-the-Pooh and all of our other favorite Disney characters await our arrival to take them home! This three-story Disney Store carries the same products as it does in the United States: clothes, jewelry, figurines, stationery, stickers, books, videos, placemats, dishes, magnets, and toys for all ages. One interesting item that is found overseas is a small series of bilingual books, such as “ABC,” “Hurry Up,” “Good Morning,” and “Let’s Go.” Each book costs ¥700 and might make a nice gift for your children or for children you know in the States. Prices are similar for most products, except for books and videos, which are more expensive in Japan than in the U.S.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Ride the train to Shibuya Station. From Hachiko Plaza, walk up the street you see the Seibu and OIONE signs on (between the 1st & 2nd TV counting from the right). At the second light the road will branch into a “Y” with an OIOI store in the middle of the branch. Bear to the left, here. Cross to the left-hand side of the road. The Disney Store and the Loft will be next door to each other on the left hand side of the road across from the McDonalds and the KFC (they are separated by a brick pedestrian only road). Hours: 10-9 daily. Telephone: 03-3461-3932. Karen Ozment 10/94, directions updated 11/02

Restaurants

Alcatraz E.R.
This is a great theme restaurant in Shibuya for adults (children may be scared). The staff is dressed as doctors, nurses, or prison inmates. Upon entering, two people are chosen to be handcuffed and let through the prison bars to your table in another room. The rooms are low-lit with medical curtains separating the tables. Alcoholic beverages range from beer in a bedpan to a strawberry-based “blood transfusion.” For a theme restaurant, we were surprised at how good the food was. The multi-cultural plates vary so much, sharing is a great option (like a tapas bar). We had kielbasa with sauerkraut, penne with mushrooms, pork loins, and beef stirfry.
The staff puts on an exciting show every night in Japanese, fun even if you don’t have an interpreter friend along to narrate details. 6:30pm Inmate/inpatient escapes; 8pm ER Surgery Show 1; 10:30pm ER Surgery Show 2; 2am (Fri & Sat nights only) Mystery Show.
Open 5pm-midnight Sun-Thurs, 5pm-4am Fri & Sat. The entry fee is ¥600 per person while meals range ¥800-1500 with drinks ¥680-880. There is an English menu and western-style restrooms. For more info, call 03-3770-7100 or check the Japanese language website http://alcatraz.hy-system.com/
Directions: From Fussa Station take the JR Ome/Chuo Line to Shinjuku and change to the Yamanote Line, getting off at Shibuya. Exit the station at the 5-way intersection and look for Building 109, it will be on your left at a cross-roads. Cross the street and pass Building 109, staying to the left of it. Turn right onto the small street before the 7-Eleven. Walk a short way and you will see the Harvest Building (2-13-5 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku) on the right. Alcatraz E.R. is on the second floor. Rachel Bliss, 2007

Aegean
There is an excellent Greek restaurant in Shibuya, a wonderful way to wrap up a day of sightseeing and shopping downtown. The Aegean is one of only a handful of Greek restaurants in the Tokyo area. The home-style cooking menu abounds in olive oil, garlic, fresh salad, yogurt, and feta cheese recipes. And don’t forget the wine! Greek retsina wine is a compliment to any dish. However the quality doesn’t come cheap; a dinner for two will cost you about ¥10,000. Try the set menu, which includes an appetizer, salad, main dish, dessert, and coffee. It’s the best way to experience true Greek cooking, short of hopping on a plane to Athens. The interior is small, but comfortable and cozy. Murals line the plaster walls, and the restaurant is full of the owner’s original sculptures.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the JR Yamanote Line to Shibuya Station. Go out the East Exit, and look for the Kenwood sign and dome of the planetarium across the street in front of you. Turn right, and cross the intersection via the walking bridge onto Meiji Dori (Ave.). Aegean will be a short distance ahead on your left. It is on the basement level, so look for the sign on the sidewalk.
B1, Oriental Building, 3-18-3 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku. Hours? Telephone: 03-3407-1783. Kristen Marriott, date?

El Torito
The food can be described in two words: predictable and reasonable. You get free chips and salsa. How about a Tecate with lime (¥650) or maybe a Corona (¥700)? Do shots? There’s a selection of Cuervo (¥500-1000). Taco plates (¥780-1180) have two or three tacos with beans and salsa. Enchiladas and burritos (¥880-1080) are popular, perhaps because of the generous portions. The Outrageously Chimichanga (¥l280) is a beef and rice mixture fried inside a huge flour tortilla, served with a special ranchero sauce, guacamole, and sour cream. Three of us shared this tasty treat and there was still some left over. Fajitas (¥l780-2480) come in chicken, beef, shrimp, and combination varieties. For beef lovers, a must-try are “San Antonio Fajitas” (¥2980) where generous strips of top quality beef are grilled at your table, to your taste, with tomato wedges, onion, and yellow pepper chunks, then combined in soft flour tortillas with the usual accompaniments. Combination plates (¥l480-1880) feature a mix and match of dishes, plus soup and salad. There are also two child plates (tacos or quesadillas for ¥580). Don’t forget dessert! Ice cream (¥380), Kahlua mousse, Mexican cheesecake (¥450), banana chimichanga (¥4810), and fried ice cream (¥480).
DIRECTIONS: There are three locations in Tokyo: Nishi-Kasia (03-3804-0704), Eifuku-cho (03-5376-7611) and Roppongi (03-5466-7917) The last location is close to the New Sanno. It is across the street from Exit A-5 at Omotesando Subway station. From Hiroo, take Hibiya Line four stops to Hibiya, switch to the Chiyado Line (green) and go five stops to Omotesando. The restaurant is on the third floor of the La Mia Building, which also houses boutiques. Hours: 11am-11:30pm daily; bar opens at 5pm.

 

Akiruno, Akigawa and Itsukaichi

These all could be updated… want to take an entry… add photos and turn it into its own post?  Go for it!  Email the updates to: editor@yokotatravel.com.

Ninomiya Shrine
This shrine was established over 800 years ago and was first used by farmers to pray for good weather and to give thanks for a good harvest. Today it is used primarily by resident merchants in the surrounding community. It is also known for its Ginger Festival on September 9 (go to in the festival section for more information).
DIRECTIONS:From Fussa Station, take a train toward Tachikawa but get off at Haijima, a four-minute ride. Transfer to the Itsukaichi Line. Ride another seven minutes and get off at Higashi-Akiru Station. The shrine is a four-minute walk from here. Need walking direction from station.

Ninomiya Shrine Museum

Thirteen thousand years ago people settled the area now known as Akigawa City and this area has been inhabited ever since. The fertile triangle created by the confluence of the Hirai and Aki rivers with the Tama river, a ten minute drive from Yokota, has yielded many archaeological finds from the Paleolithic Era to modern times. A sample of these artifacts is available for viewing at the Ninomiya Shrine Museum. The museum, opened in 1990, is located on the grounds of the Ninomiya Shrine and is open Friday – Sunday from 10am to 4pm. To find the museum, follow the path around the right side of the shrine through an area of smaller monuments including a red torii gate. The museum is divided into three areas. The doors open into a central room where visitors are greeted and literature displayed. Maps on the wall, although annotated in Japanese only, will give you an idea of the areas where artifacts have been excavated. Proceed from this room to the display room on the right. The display room is set up to be viewed from the left where a model of a Jomon period (10,000 BC to 300 BC) hunter-gatherer dwelling is displayed. If you have visited American Indian museums, you may see a similarity to the dwellings and life-styles of prehistoric Eastern American Indians. The third large section of the museum is a working archaeological lab where pot shards and other finds are painstakingly pieced together under the guidance of Masanori Narusako Sensei. This area is not open to visitors. While at the museum, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Exploring Akigawa City. This map is written in English and shows hiking trails, shrines, archaeological digs and other points of interest in the area.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate and then turn right at the first light. You are now on Tamabashi Dori, which changes to Itsukaichi-Kaido after you cross the Tama River Bridge (2km from the Fussa Gate). Just after you cross the river, the road doglegs to the left, then to the right. The second light after the doglegs will be labeled Route 168 to “Ninomiyajinja.” Go straight, but slow WAY down, because you will be turning into the first tiny street past the light. It looks almost like a driveway. Go up the hill and park at the end of the street in the lot in front of the torii gates. The museum is on the left of the torii gates. The shrine is through the torii gates in front of you. This is only about a 15-minute drive. Marja A. Weaver, date?

–Cross-ref Tsuru Tsuru Onsen

Akigawa River
If you like to paddle in a rocky stream, float along in a rented boat or on an inner tube, or just people watch, consider the Akigawa River. It is about 25 minutes from Yokota. The most famous spot in Akigawa is Summerland, but upstream from there you will find access to the river and even some fishing spots.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate onto Highway 16. Set odometer to zero. Go to the first signal light and turn right. This road is marked “Tamabashi Dori.” Go through Fussa, across two sets of tracks. The road will go downhill and cross the Tama River. Keep to the main road as it bends going up a hill. You will come out on level ground on the other side of the river and then the road will be “Itsukaichi Kaido.” Fresh farm produce is sold along this road in the summer. At 5.1km you will come to a light with the sign, “Akigawa Shiyakusho.” Keep going straight. The light at 5.5km is the turn for Summerland (the cross street is Rt. 411, so you would take a left if going to Summerland). Keep straight for Akigawa. You are getting into the country now and can see the mountains. The road will widen at 7.8km and there will be a map of the district on the roadside at 8km. From now on, you can turn left down almost any side road and reach the river. The light at 8.8km marks the left turn that will take you to a private beach. On a near right corner, up high, there is a large pink, red and white sign with a flower on it and an arrow pointing to Ozawa, a nearby store. The name under the light there is Yamada. Turn left here and follow the road downhill and across the Akigawa River. Just across the bridge on the left is a little shop/restaurant through which you have to pass to get to the beach. You can park up the hill to the right for a fee. (¥500). The little shop “Sansuiso” sells drinks and snacks but no western food. The shop is open year round, except rainy days 8am-5pm. There is a small entrance fee. You can also rent a “teppan” (large griddle for outdoor cooking) and buy charcoal. There are old toilets and running water. You can also rent small rowboats. Mosquitoes are bad in this area in the summer season so be sure to bring insect repellent. Claire Scriba, date?

Fishing in Akigawa
Even trout fisherman can find a way to ply their sport while they are in Japan. The nearest fishing hole is the Akigawa River, which is full of rainbow trout. The Japanese government owns all the streams and landowners along the way can open their portion to fisherman. They raise trout and release them into the stream, usually between 9am and 1pm. Fish of different sizes can be caught and some are pretty big. You can fish all day for about ¥3000 and there is a 10 fish limit. The fee does not include equipment but you can rent a bamboo pole for about ¥300. You can buy bait for about ¥400. Outdoor Recreation offers fishing equipment rental and they can provide you with the current laws regarding fishing and other useful information. Sunday is the busiest day because the Japanese are off work, so going on a week day would be best. With the exception of the fly fishing area, the trout camps are open year round.
DIRECTIONS: Go out the Supply Gate and go straight. You will cross over 2 sets of railroad tracks. At 1.4km, turn right onto Denen-Dori. There will be a large, four-corner pedestrian overpass at this intersection. Go 1.3km to the “T” intersection and turn left. Go 2.6km and at the top of the hill, turn right. When you come to a fork in the road, bear right. Go about half km to the light. There is a gas station on your left. Go straight through the intersection. Follow the road about 5km and you will come to another “T” intersection; turn left. After about 2km you will cross railroad tracks. Shortly after that, you will see a big sign, in English, for the “Akigawa Trout Fishing Camp.” Keep to the right. About 2km after the sign, you will come to a light; turn right. You will soon see the big Welcome sign to Akigawa. Sondra Halweg and Rosandra Corea, date?

Shopping/retail

Akiruno Rupia & Tokyu
The Akiruno Rupia is a small mall next to the Tokyu Department Store in Akigawa. It contains gift shops, boutiques, and restaurants, including the sandwich chain Subway. On the second floor is a covered walkway to the four-story Tokyu next door. Tokyu has a supermarket section with a bakery nearby on the ground floor. There are also cosmetics, accessories, handbags, and shoe sections surrounding an open area with benches. Mens’ and Ladies’ wear are on the second floor with children’s clothing, housewares, furniture, and appliances on the third floor.
DIRECTIONS: Go left out the Fussa Gate and turn right at the next light. Cross two railroad tracks, pass a 7-11 store on the left, and cross two bridges. You’ll be on the road to Itsukaichi. As you cross the river, there’s a sign for Honda. Hours: 10am-8pm, closed Wednesdays. Telephone: 042-550-0109/Tokyu

Akigawa Farmers Center

Restaurants

Haijima – Bamboo House
Owners Sue and Tatsuaki Ichikawa have been serving homemade noodles at this location for twenty years. The building is spacious, with four seating areas holding approximately 50 customers. One section has tables and chairs (for 14 customers); the other three raised tatami sections have cushions and low tables. Although English isn’t spoken, Americans are warmly welcomed and the menu is in both Japanese and English. Although udon and soba noodles (served hot or cold) are the specialty of the house, tempura and rice dishes are also available. Meal prices range from ¥650 to ¥1000 for either lunch or dinner. Because there are only two parking spaces at the restaurant and the street is narrow and filled with parked bicycles, driving is not recommended.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Itsukaichi Line from Platform 1 at Haijima Station two stops to Higashiakiru. It’s a four-minute ride and costs ¥l50. As you exit the Higashiakiru Station, turn left over the tracks (past lots of bicycles). It is the second building on your left. Hours: 11am-3pm, Tuesday through Friday, 11am-8pm on Saturday and Sunday, and closed on Monday. Telephone? Sally Mayberry, date?

Hinohara – Black Tea House
The Black Tea House, or Kurochaya, about a 40 minute (13km) drive from Yokota on Itsukaichi Kaido, is a wonderful restaurant of traditional construction next to a river among bamboo groves. It’s where you may want to take visitors from abroad if they cannot visit Kyoto or Nikko (there’s lots of tatami, wood, and sliding doors). Although the meals are expensive, they seem worth it and you get plenty of food (some of it just for the brave). Multi-course meals of barbecue-it-yourself beef or chicken plus in-season vegetables were offered for ¥4,500 to ¥7,500 at lunch time. Plum brandy is included in the meal along with fruit and a sweet. Arrive early enough to roam the grounds and enjoy the gazebo, waterwheel, river and trees. Once inside, each party has a private room with a deck-like balcony, overlooking the beautiful surroundings. Reservations in English are accepted.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate, then right at the first light. Go over the river and past Route 411 (Akikawa Kaido) toward Hinohara. About 2km after the Itsukaichi Station sign, past the police station on the right, turn left at the Ko-Nakano intersection (gas station on right). The restaurant is down the “block” on the left (the main parking lot is down through a steep and narrow ramp. You may also park back in the corner lot, on the right). Hours: 11am-8pm except Tuesdays and Japanese holidays. Telephone: format?96-0129. Karen Ozment, Teresa K. Negley, date?

Kawagoe

sarah straus kawagoeTake a glimpse of old Japan just a short journey from the base. Here you can see a street of Edo-era storehouses and merchant houses, the Kitain Temple, and a castle converted into a museum.  For a small entrance fee at the Temple you can Girl at Kitain Temple Kawagoe by Sarah Straussee some remains from Edo Castle that were moved here, a beautiful garden, and 540 statues of Rakan with no two Buddhas alike. Download a tourist map of the area here and walk to the castle and to the historic commercial street. We enjoyed seeing the many kimono clad Japanese ladies out for a stroll and the interesting buildings.

The history of “Little Edo”
Kawagoe was a castle town, protecting the northern flank of Edo Castle, which is now the Imperial Palace in downtown Tokyo. The Matsudaira family ruled Kawagoe for 100 years, boosting rice production to sell downriver in Edo. Much of Tokugawa-era Kawagoe (1700-1800s) remains for you to rediscover.

Gardens behind the remains of Edo Castle, by Katheryn Wolfe

Be sure to make at least one trip to Kawagoe timed so that you can browse the shrine sale held on the 28th of each month at Naritasan Temple. The shrine sale antiques reflect the old buildings of Little Edo, remainders of an older community that was not bombed during World War II. After shopping, visit Kitain Temple around the corner from the shrine sale. Kitain became the main temple of a three-temple complex that prospered due to a friendship in the 1600s beween the head monk and the first shogun. The Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, had the place rebuilt in 1638 and arranged for part of Edo Castle to be relocated in Kitain. One ornate room with a floral ceiling is thought to be the room where he was born. Diagonal to Kitain is the place of Gohyaku Rakan or Five Hundred Buddhas (with its entrance next to a small shop). Made from 1781 to 1825, each two- or three-feet tall Buddha is different.

After looking around Kitain, head toward the streets of old town where the kurazukuri buildings are located. The kurazukuri are icons of old Kawagoe. These combination store/residence buildings are fireproof, having been constructed from a wood frame packed with clay and plaster. The 30 or so remaining buildings were mostly built after the Great Fire of 1893.
The Osawa family owns Kawagoe’s oldest kurazukuri, built in 1793. This building is now an “Important Cultural Property” and shop specializing in folk art. It is located in Saiwai-cho, along with the city-run Kurazukuri Museum and other kurazukuri protected by the city. Two tourist information office in the old warehouse district can supply you with maps, but the town has lots of tourist-oriented maps posted and directional signs in English. Be sure to visit the quaint Penny Candy Lane.
Teresa Negley & Catherine L. Sadler.  Updates & lead photo by Sarah Straus, 2012.

DIRECTIONS: Drive or take the train from Higashi-Fussa station, per the directions below. The parking for the shrine sale (GPS: 35.9186,139.4902) is right by the Kitain Temple.

Shopping

Kawagoe shrine sale by kelly cash 2Kawagoe Shrine Sale
Kawagoe is filled with treasures. We’ve found rice buckets, pottery, wooden items, brocade obi, shoji screens, baskets and lacquerware, among other booty. Held on the 28th of every month from dawn to dusk, rain or shrine, Kawagoe flea market is on a circuit of many flea market vendors.
DIRECTIONS: Set the odometer to zero as you turn right out the Terminal Gate. Go north via the underpass onto Route 16 where you will stay most of your trip. At 10.9km, the road splits with Route 16 to the left. The road also narrows to two lanes temporarily. Follow the blue signs for Kawagoe and stay on Route 16 as it bears left again. You will pass the SATY store on your right at 15.2km. Route 16 turns right around a bend at 23.4km with more blue signs to direct you . At 26.6km kawagoe shrine sale by kelly cash(with the round “Hotel 10” ahead), bear left onto Route 254 toward Higashi Matsuyama. Stay in the left lane, go under the arched pedestrian bridge at 27km, then make a left turn immediately afterward (not before the bridge). At the second light, 27.9km, make a left and then park in the lot on your right (¥500/three hours) before the Kitain Temple complex. (The parking lot entrance is slightly tricky. They’ve set it up so that you first come across the exit. Drive a bit further to find the entrance.) The monthly sale is held at Narita-san Shrine, a couple blocks to the right down the street on the other side of the parking lot. GPS for parking lot: 35.9186,139.4902. – Shrine Sale photos by Kelly Cash, July 2013

View Kawagoe in a larger map
DIRECTIONS HOME: Backtrack to Routes 254 and 16, turning into the first right two lanes, and head towards Hachioji (not up the ramp). Then, move over to the far left lane before Route 16 curves left. Barbara Kirkwood 2001. Liz Ruskin verified directions and parking lot info in 2011.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS:You can get to Kawagoe in less than an hour from the Higashi-Fussa station. This station is even closer to the base than the main Fussa station. You don’t even have to transfer if you chose the right train, so check Hyperdia before you go. Take the JR Hachiko line toward Kawagoe (not toward Hachioji). On trains bound for Kawagoe, the name of the line changes at Komagawa, but the same train continues on to Kawagoe station. When you get out of the train station you’ll be on an elevated plaza. Go just to the left of the Atre store and descend on the stairs that will put you behind the Atre and across the streets. You’ll be on a pedestrian street called Crea Mall. (Look for the “Crea Mall” banner over the walkway. There’s a red “New Crown” sign on the corner.) Stay on the Crea Mall for a kilometer, past where it becomes a real street. Continue on it until you reach a 4-way intersection with a big road, labeled 15 on maps. Beyond this road, the pavement color changes to grey as it goes into the historic district. Instead, turn right on 15 and walk until you see a blue pedestrian overpass. The entrance to the shrine sale is right there, on your right. Total distance from Kawagoe train station: 1.7km. Liz Ruskin, 2011.

Kawagoe RISM Outlet Mall
This is a collection of shops in a modern setting, southeast of Kawagoe and about 30km northeast of Yokota. On the second level there is an Eddie Bauer outlet and an outdoor/sports shop with goods by Patagonia, Columbia, and Coleman in addition to an Italian diner, and a carpet shop at the opposite end. There is also a shoe store with Cole Haan, Dr. Maartens and other famous brands; a large drugstore; a shop selling kitchen goods alongside lingerie; and several clothing shops. Kids will like the arcade of snack shops and game machines on the first level. www.rism-city.com.
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the Terminal Gate onto Route 16, heading for Kawagoe via the underpass. Route 16 will narrow from four lanes to two lanes and widen again. As you enter Kawagoe, the Route 16 signs will change to show Kasukabe and Omiya (at about 20km, stay on Route 16 in the right lane). You’ll pass a blue sign for The Old Spaghetti Factory on the right. Stay in the right lane as Route 16 takes a sharp right turn (at 23.4 km). As the road curves to the left, you’ll see 3 large blue signs (Kawagoe Station, Higashi-Matsuyama, and Tokyo). Stay in the right lane and turn right onto Route 254 for Tokyo, and later Ikebukuro. The road will cross Route 56 with a Royal Host on the right. Stay on Route 254, going straight. At about 30km, there will be an Esso station on the right and a Toyota auto dealer on the left. Turn left at the light where Jonathan’s Restaurant and Men’s Plaza Aoki are on the far left corner. You’ll pass a park on the right. Turn right at the second light (there’s a fire station on the left, and a Mos Burger opposite it on the far left – look for the “M” sign). Follow the “P” (for parking) signs around the mall to the left into an underground garage. Push the green button on the machine to get a parking ticket. The first two hours are free, then it’s ¥100/half hour. For the return, back track via Routes 254 and 16 toward Hachioji. Stay in the left lane as you approach Route 16. The drive is 1-1.5 hours, 32km away. Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm; closed on the third Wednesday of the month. Telephone: 0492-69-3939. Address: Ureshino 2-10-87, Fujimino-shi, Saitama-Ken. GPS: 35.8580, 139.5253. Chieko Brumley, Wendy Matheny, Teresa Negley, 1996. Opening hours and GPS added 2011.


Showa Memorial Park & other Tachikawa parks

showa kinen sarah strausShowa Memorial Park (Showa Kinen Koen)
This is a massive, lovely park with bike and walking paths, a lake for boating, a formal Japanese garden, water parks (See “Rainbow Pool” below) and, in winter, an outdoor skating rink and Christmas light show. You could explore for days and still find treasures. (Not to be confused with the simple “Showa Park” in Tachikawa. See below.) Among the many treats for kids are trampoline nets, roller slides, dragon sculptures and misty maze, but the park is probably most famous for its bouncing dome, a huge, marshmallow-like playground. (Sadly, a sign says adults aren’t allowed.)  On windy days bring a kite to fly in the middle of the park.
Showa Kinen Tulips Sarah StrausThe park is especially lovely in spring, as a multitude of colorful flowers and blooming trees are a feast for the eyes. The cherry trees bloom in March/April and then the tulips come up.  The tulip fields go on and on and are truly amazing – not to be missed.  A wonderful water fountain greets you as you enter the park from the largest parking area at Tachikawa, so don’t forget to bring your camera. Also near several of the entrances are bicycle rental areas, but feel free to ride into the park with your own bike – there are several entrances to the park just for bikes in fact.  Bike rental is just a few hundred yen for 3 hours.  There are kids bikes, bikes with child-seats, and even tandem bikes for rent.  However, if you are very tall, renting a bike may not be a good option.  Bring your own picnic lunch or check out the small, but tasty restaurants and snack bars located near the lake and throughout the park. Dogs are allowed in most areas but must be on leash everywhere except the dog run. I’ve even seen people bring their pet cats and bunnies to the park.  Admission is ¥400 per adult and ¥80 per child. Annual passes for adults are ¥4000. With an annual pass they will give you a plastic card with your photo on it and expiration date.  Also with the annual pass you an get ¥100 off parking, which is normally ¥800.  Hours: Park opens at 9:30am. Closes at 4:30pm in winter, 5pm in summer, and 6pm summer weekends. Open every day but Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and the last Mon. and Tues. of February. Rachael Keyser-McClendon. Liz Ruskin updated directions 2011, Sarah Straus updated 2013, Photos by Sarah Straus 2011.

DSC_3957Japanese Garden
I think the Japanese Garden, located nearest the Sunagawa entrance, deserves its own section.  This is a gorgeous, formal Japanese garden with a lake in the middle, streams, and waterfalls.  There are three covered observation huts.  Turtles swim in the water and bask on rocks.  Don’t miss the bonsai japanese garden sarah strausdemonstration in the back of the garden – filled with the most amazing bonsai.  There is usually a man there working on one of the bonsai and it is so interesting to how he trims each bonsai with such care.  You can’t bring food into the garden, but you can drink tea there in a small tea house (in the photo above the tea house is the building on the right).  It costs ¥500 for tea and a sweet snack.  Come in November to enjoy the fall colors. – Sarah Straus, Oct 2013.

Sarah Straus Showa Kinen parkKomorebi Villiage
Located nearest the Sunagawa entrance, Komorebi Villiage is made to look like a farm on the Musashino Plain in the 1950’s and 60’s (ref: webpage).  Having passed by this area many times, we finally stopped in.  What a gem!  There are demonstration gardens, a large thatched roof farm house, a beautifully designed thatched roof storage house, and water wheel.  Volunteers place a kettle over a flame in the farm house and they are happy to talk about the village with visitors.  I’m looking forward to seeing this place in the spring!  Opens at 10am and has an earlier closing time than the rest of the park. – Sarah Straus, January, 2014.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From Fussa Station take the train towards Tokyo to Nishi-Tachikawa, about 15 minutes and ¥160 per person. Take the North Exit of the station and the park entrances is steps away.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS: There are three parking lots for Showa Kinen and additionally several bike/pedestrian entrances.  The closest parking lot to the East gate (about 2 miles away) is the Sunagawa parking area.  The next closest is the the Tachikawa parking lot, then the Nishi-Tachikawa parking lot. Parking costs ¥800. For all parking lots, turn right out the East Gate (0km). Turn left at the first light and drive until this road ends at the canal. Turn right, onto Route 59. At 2.2km you’ll pass under a set of railroad tracks.
Sunagawa Parking: .  Keep going straight after you go under the tracks. Drive until 2.8km. Here you’ll see a four-lane boulevard appear on the left. (It’s a “T” intersection, so the boulevard does not continue on the right.  It is at the fourth light after you go under the train tracks.) Turn left here. Drive until 4.2km and turn right into the Sunagawa parking lot for Showa Kinen Park. This lot is closer to the children’s forest and bouncing dome.  You can enter with your own bike and/or rent bikes at this entrance.  During the summer a shuttle will take you from this parking lot to Rainbow Pools.  GPS Coordinates to parking entrance: 35.72047, 139.39909.
showa playground sarah strausTachikawa Parking: Pass the Sunagawa entrance and keep going to the next opportunity to make a hard right hand turn.  Essentially you’ll be driving around the outside edge of the park.  This is a large boulevard with trees.  You will pass a fire station.  Look for the Tachikawa parking entrance on your right.  This the largest parking lot and the entrance near the large fountain.  During winter find the christmas lights show here.  You can rent bikes at this entrance and a shuttle will take you to Rainbow Pools from here during the summer.  GPS: 35.703842, 139.403413.
Nishi-Tachikawa Parking: Pass the Tachikawa entrance and keep going to the next opportunity to make a hard right.  You will just continue to drive around the outside edge of the park.  Go under the pedestrian bridge and turn right into the park area.  This parking lot is at the same entrance as the Nishi-Tachikawa train station.  This parking lot is very close to Rainbow Pools and to the lake where you can rent paddle boats.  No bikes at this entrance.  If you bring your bike, you’ll have to find one of the two bike entrances further down in either direction.  GPS: 35.704731, 139.392319.
sarah straus showa parkBICYCLE DIRECTIONS: Showa Memorial Park is a 25-minute bike ride from the East Gate.  Ride out the East Gate. Take a right, then immediately take the first left—almost straight out the gate. Take this small, quiet road alongside the parks until it dead-ends into the big road. Walk your bicycle across the street at the cross-walk, turn right, then cross the river just beyond the road as soon as you can. You will find a wide, quiet bicycle path that winds its way among trees along the river all the way to an entrance to Showa park exclusively for bicyclists and joggers. Click here for shortest Bike Map. See below for most pleasant bike map.

DSC_3231Driving Map to Sunagawa Parking

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Bike Map, low traffic road + bike path

View Showa Park by bike in a larger map

Winter Illuminationsshowa kinen winter sarah strausShowa Kinen Park has a nice lights show during December.  It is located at the Tachikawa entrance.  When I went with my kids we walked the area, ate a snack and did the little lights maze in one hour.  There are about 12 food booths scattered throughout the area.  For us it was a good destination on a school night, close and early enough to get home by the kids bedtime.  Park at the Tachikawa parking lot and pay just ¥200 to park starting at 4pm.  The lights come on a 5pm and end at 9pm.  The entrance fee is the same as during the day or you can get in free if you have a season pass.  In 2013 the show runs from Nov 30th through Dec 25th.  – Sarah Straus, Dec 2013.

Rainbow Pool & Water Park in Showa Memorial ParkSarah Straus, July 2012This place is a treat on a hot day. It’s fun, fabulous and close to Yokota.  We recommend parking at the Sunagawa Parking Lot, approximately four kilometers from the East Gate. (See “Showa Memorial Park” above for driving directions.) Once inside, take the free park shuttle bus from the gate to the water park.  The stroller-friendly bus picks you up behind the bike rental.

showa kinen by sarah strausThe standard price is ¥2200 for teens and adults; kids ages 6 and up ¥1200, ages 4 and 5 is ¥300. Age 3 and under are free. However, if you pay with your suica prices drop to: ¥2000, ¥1000, and ¥200.  Little kids will like the gradual entry wave pool (photo above). The pool is HUGE and the waves are mild. There is even a shady section of the wave pool. Older kids will be plenty entertained, too.  There are large water sides, a small water slide for little kids who can sit on a parents lap, a lazy river, a pool with waterfalls, two large pools and a spray park.

You might want to bring a tarp and anchor it down with all your floaties and pool toys to claim your space. (There’s a compressed air pump just outside the dressing rooms so save your breath for screaming down the water slides.) You can also bring a cooler and a shade tent.

Here are some tips for enjoying the park:
•Summer 2013 dates: July 13 – September 8.  You’ll need to translate this webpage – but here is more information for 2015: http://www.showakinenpark.go.jp/2015poolopen/index.html
•Save that stub! You’ll pay ¥400 to enter the park. Save your receipt to have this amount deducted from your pool entry price – or just pay for the Rainbow Pools at the park entrance.  However, you can also just buy the water park tickets at each gate.
•The magic of Suica: Show your Suica or pay with it and the price drops to ¥2000 adults, ¥1000 kids, ¥200 for ages 4 and 5.
•Come late! After 2pm, entry price drops to ¥1100 adults, ¥600 kids, ¥150 ages 4 and 5.
•Come often! If you think you might be a regular, go for the ¥6000 season pass, good until early September, kids season pass ¥3000.  Ages 4 and 5 season pass ¥700.
•Come pregnant! Expectant moms pay only ¥500!
DIRECTIONS: Same as “Showa Kinen Park” entry above.  Sarah Straus & others, 2012

Showa Park
Showa Park is an old-fashioned city park. There are a few small shrines, a five-tiered pagoda and assorted playground equipment. There are open areas for playing ball or soccer, a jogging track and a small animal zoo. It is shaded by trees and is a pleasant place for a picnic lunch. Vending machines for drinks are available. This park is free and easy to reach by car; free parking is available. Note: Showa Park is not the same as Showa Memorial Park (Showa Kinen Koen), at Nishi-Tachikawa station. Showa Park is a block south of the tracks and closer to Higashi-Nakagami station. Open daily from 8:40 am until 4:50 pm.
DIRECTIONS:Diane Cressman, Melody Messer, Patricia Caldwell date?

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.

Kichijoji- Inokashira Park

sarah straus inokashira parkInokashira Park is famous for its cherry blossoms and I can see why!  The cherry trees arch high over walk ways around a long, narrow lake and reach out over the water.  However, this is a great place to go any time of year, no need to wait for spring!  Plenty to do here with or without kids.  If you are with older children or with no kids you’ll likely enjoy the shopping and restaurants found near Kichijoji station or in the park.  Couple that with a stroll through the park grounds, to see the shrine and take a row boat out into the lake for a lovely day.  This place is great for young children too!  With our young ones we especially enjoyed taking the swan boat out into the lake and seeing the koi up close (¥700).  They are huge – like little sea monsters and they come begging for crumbs.  They will come right up to you in the boats.  They have signs though about not feeding birds.  There is also a two part zoo – with a smaller part that starts adjacent to the swan boats and a larger part across a pedestrian bridge.   One price pays for both zoos and they are both fun.  The smaller section next to the lake houses birds and a small aquarium.  Inside the aquarium kids are invited to feed and pet some fish in a low, open top fish tank.  Quite the thrill!  The larger zoo has lovely grounds with large trees and places to eat under kiosks and at picnic tables.  In addition to the animals there is a small amusement park designed for little kids in the back, an intriguing sculpture garden and museum with work by Seibo Kitamura, and two playgrounds.  Don’t miss the chance to walk into the squirrel enclosure near the monkeys towards the back of the zoo.  It looks like an aviary, but walk in and see it is filled with active squirrels who run back and forth across the path, play and eat all around.  The park grounds are free while the zoo costs ¥400/adults and ¥150/ages 13-15, kids free.  Zoo hours 9:30am-5pm, closed Mondays and Dec 29-Jan 1.  Phone: 0422-46-1100.  GPS to closest parking lot: 35.699521, 139.570772.  Click here for more on Kichijoji.

sarah straus inokashira parkTRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome line to Tachikawa. Transfer to a Tokyo bound train (track 4 or 5) and get off at Kichijoji. Exit through the Park Exit and walk past the Pachinko Shops. In less than a minute, you will come upon Inokashira-Dori, dominated by the department store Marui (OIOI). Take the road to the right of the store into the park.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: While it is a straight shot roughly 20 kilometers down Route 7 to get to Kichijoji it is stoplight traffic the whole way.  On a busy Saturday morning it took us over 1.5 hours to reach the park.  In this case, the train may be faster.  To drive, however, exit the East Gate, turning right.  Take an immediate left at the light and go straight to the T intersection.  Turn right at the T and continue straight to the train tracks.  Go under the tracks and turn left onto Route 7.   Follow this road for a long time until it becomes a one-way street and you cannot proceed. At this point, turn left; cross the canal and make an immediate right. You will still be on Route 7 aka Itsukaichi Kaido. After six lights, you will pass the entrance to Koganei Park on the left. As you continue, you will pass a CASA restaurant, a McDonalds and a Royal Host. Route 7 will take one more turn at a large intersection.  Keep to the left as you go through. Get into the right lane immediately after the intersection. Go to the second light and turn right. (basically stay on Route 7).  After you pass a golf driving range on the left (it has a big green net around it), go to the 14th light and turn right. Go through two lights and under a train bridge. At the next light, turn left. At the very next light you will come to a “T” intersection. The parking lot for the park is located here—to enter turn left and then right into the lot (35.699521, 139.570772). The fee for parking is ¥400 an hour, which can add up quickly. The zoo, rides, and picnic area are located down this same street to the left. The lake, shrine, aviary and aquarium are to the right. Hours: The park is always open to the public; the zoo and aquarium are open Tuesday through Sunday 9:30am-5pm.  Note: I’d recommend taking your GPS and don’t miss the right hand turn off of Route 7 towards the park.  I missed it and got stuck driving in the downtown shopping area around Kitchijoji station and it is a traffic mess down there.  There is no way to drive to the park from that area and you’ll have to back track out of the shopping area until you can turn toward the park.   See two maps below: one of just the park grounds with the park lot marked to give you a sense of where the train station is compared to parking, the lake and even the Ghibli Museum is marked if you click “view larger map”.  The second gives directions to the park from Yokota.  Donna Anson, Cheryl McNabb, 1997, updated and photos Sarah Straus, June 2013.


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