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I love to explore various dimensions of Japan. Today, I want to bring you to one of the best locations for vacation in Shizuoka prefecture, Izu Peninsula. If you love natural scenery, fresh seafood, and onsen (hot spring), you will love the trip to Izu Peninsula!

Izu Peninsula: How to get to Izu?

Trip to Izu Peninsula

You can take the Tokyo East Line from Shinjuku, Shinagawa, or Ueno to Izu. However, you need to spend at least 4000 yen (40 USD) for the round trip from Tokyo to one of the Izu stations. This is uneconomical and inefficient. Go to one of the JR ticket offices in Tokyo and buy a JR Wild Pass (10000 yen, or 100 USD). Using this Pass, you can travel without restrictions throughout Izu for three days.

What can You Do at Izu Peninsula? Three Recommended Stations!

Izukyū Shimoda Station

(伊豆急下田)

Trip to Izu Peninsula

Since Shimoda located in the southernmost part of Izu Peninsula, we have to take the train from Shinjuku to Shimoda station for three hours. Shimoda is the cradle of Japan’s modern history. During the Edo period, Tokugawa Shogunate remained self-isolation. In order to break the barrier and develop business partnership with Japan, Western countries decided to take action. Accompanied by black battleships (Black Ships), Matthew Perry, a commodore of US Navy, arrived Shimoda and intimidated the Japanese Government to open their ports for business by signing up the Japan–US Treaty of Peace and Amity, or the convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

Mount Nesugata

Trip to Izu Peninsula

You should take the ropeway to Mt. Nesugata. From the top of the mountain, you can take an aerial view to the Shimoda Bay and the Pacific Ocean. There is a map on the top of the mountain. When you look at it, you can see exactly where the Black Ships were located. On the other side, you can overlook the Shimoda city. This mount is also a national park. The local government spends money to plant seasonal flowers and different vegetation in this park. With the sunshine, you will discover that you have integrated yourselves with the natural beauty.

Trip to Izu Peninsula

You can visit the official website here for the detail. Website (English)

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Izu Cruise

Trip to Izu Peninsula

Ancient Chinese wisdom speaks, “It is better to travel far than to read voluminously.” Instead of reading history, we can relive the history by taking the black ship together. The tour guides will show you the different islands of Izu and tell you the history of the islands. Furthermore, by spending few hundred yen, you can get some chips and feed the seabirds during the cruise.

Trip to Izu Peninsula

You can visit the official website here for the detail. Website (Japanese only)

Hours of Operation: 9:10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Last Departure)

Red Snapper and Other Seafood

It is one of the most luxurious meals in Japan. The Japanese people love to use red snapper to make sushi, sashimi, shabu shabu, and dried fish. Although tourists usually prefer to eat tuna or salmon, you should try this white fish. When you chew it carefully, the sweetness and freshness of the fish will gradually flood into your taste buds. You will also fall in love with the aroma of red snapper.

Furthermore, spiny lobster and abalone are the other famous seafood from this area. Because they are expensive, I can only afford the abalone.

Izu Peninsula: Jogasaki-Kaigan

(城ヶ崎海岸)

Kadowaki Suspension Bridge and Lighthouse

Trip to Izu Peninsula

Kaigan means coast in Japanese. Because of the lava of Amagi Volcano, Jogasaki is a national park and beautiful coast. Two of the tourist sites do not require any entry fee. First, climb up to the lighthouse. You will see seven islands of Izu: Oshima (伊豆大島), Toshima (利島村), Niijima (新島), Kozushima (神津島), Miyake-jima (三宅島), Mikurajima (御蔵島), and Hachijojima (八丈島). Like the islands of Hawaii, there are certain numbers of residents living in those islands of Izu. Although you are not able to travel to all of the islands, at least you know a little more about the geography of Japan.

After you climb down, you will cross the Kadowaki Suspension Bridge. Want to feel like Indiana Jones? When you step on the bridge, you can feel it shake. You can only continue your adventure by crossing the bridge, and then you can walk the natural trail.

Trip to Izu Peninsula

I think that you need to know something first. After you get off the train, you are required to walk 1.3 km before getting to the coast. However, you will pass by a cherry blossom tunnel. You can appreciate sukura each spring, and maple trees each autumn.

Trip to Izu Peninsula

You can visit the website here for the detail. Website (English)

Hours of Operation:

Suspension Bridge: 24 hours

Lighthouse: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Izu Peninsula: Atami City

(熱海市)

Atami literally means, “hot ocean,” which refers to the famous onsen in this area. According to the historical record, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, always came to Atami for hot spring. He thought that Atami is one of the best onsen in Japan because this place contains pure and high quality spring water.

Besides onsen, visitors will also take pictures of Kanichi Omiya no zo. This statue portrays the romantic tragedy from a novel, The Golden Demon.

Trip to Izu Peninsula

Higashikaigancho

Trip to Izu Peninsula

If you like ocean activities, such as canoeing or swimming, you should come here. During weekends, some adolescents will play volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee at the beach. You might be able to meet some new friends here. Along the shore, you can also find some restaurants to fill your belly. If you just want to have a walk, Higashikaigancho is also a good spot for you.

Atami Castle and Trick Art Museum

Trip to Izu Peninsula

This castle was built as a tourist attraction in 1959. You can dress up in costumes and become samurai. You can go to the top of the castle to overlook Atami city. If you want to know more about the history of Edo Period, you can come here. I also recommend that you to go to the Trick Art Museum, which locate next to the castle.

Trip to Izu Peninsula

In the museum, you will enter to an illusory world. Artists utilize certain angles to portray a painting and lead the audience to believe that they are watching a 3D painting. If the staff know that you are a foreign tourist, they will offer you a free-tour and help you take all of the photos. After you go in, you will discover that you have a lot of interaction with animals. Some of them will play with you. Some of them will try to hunt you down. It’s worth the 900 yen entry fee!

Caution: When you go to Atami castle or the Trick Art Museum, you will need to take the ropeway. When you get off of the ropeway, you will pass by the Hihokan – Adult Museum. It is restricted to adults age 18 and over. If you feel uncomfortable about what you see, please don’t go in and run out the entrance as quick as you can. When you go out the entrance and turn right, you will see the castle.

You can visit the official websites here for details. Website for Castle (English) and Website for Museum (English)

Hours of Operation for Both: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Nakamise Shopping Street and Heiwadori Shopping Street

You can go to these two streets as your last stop before going back to Tokyo. There are some famous souvenirs and specialty that you can buy here. For example, you can purchase lobster ramen, onsen streamed bun, and miso soup powder. If you are renting an apartment in Japan while traveling, you can buy dried red snapper or frozen red snapper belly. Thus, you can bring a “taste memory” back to your apartment.

Japan is waiting for you to discover her variety. Take a trip to the Izu Peninsula for a weekend getaway and appreciate the natural scenery, delicious cuisine, and miraculous power of onsen!

April 26, 2017 0 comment
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Japanese manga and anime are definitely awesome! Because it is the Big City, many scenes in popular anime are set in Tokyo. Of course, for all anime fans would like to go to places where they can buy figures or key chains in Akihabara and Ikebukuro, or maybe spend an afternoon singing their favorite anime songs. But there are more places for you to go in Tokyo – real places that appeared in anime! And guess what? We can tell you where they are!

 

Real Anime Places in Tokyo: The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し)

The Cat Returns is an animated film of Studio Ghibli, which is a story about a girl named Haru who saved the Prince of the Cat Kingdom Lune from being hit by a car on a road. After that, she was invited to the kingdom, and the King wanted her to marry the Prince. But Haru rejected the offer, and the Baron has to help her escape from the soldiers.

Real Anime Places 1

 

The sweets shop MYNT in Shin-Koenji Station is where Lune bought a gift (fish cookies for his lover) before he was saved by Haru. And the shop really sells fish cookies!

 

Real Anime Places Fish Cookie

MYNT information

Website (via Google translate)

Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Shin-Kōenji Station (Exit 1)

Hours of Operation: Mon, Wed – Sun 10:00 a.m. – 07:00 p.m.

 

Your Lie in April (四月は君の嘘) : Nerima Ward

The second part of our real anime places tour takes us to Nerima Ward. Your Lie in April is a very popular and touching anime in Japan, and has also been produced into a live-action film! The main character Kousei Arima was a child piano prodigy, and his mother was very strict to him because she wants him to become a famous pianist. But after his mother died in an accident, Kousei cannot hear the sound of his own performance, so he stops playing piano. One day, he meets Kaori Miyazono, a girl freely plays violin, who gradually changes his mind. The Nerima Culture Center appeared in the anime several times, where piano contests are held. Kousei often comes here.

Real Anime Places Narima Culture Center

Nerima Culture Center  (練馬文化センター) information

Website (via Google translate)

Nearest Station: 1-minute walk from Nerima Station (Central North Exit)

Hours of Operation: Everyday 09:00 am – 10:00 pm

 

Real Anime Places Park

Outside the Nerima Culture Center is Heisei Tsutsuji Park, where Kousei and Kaori met for the first time. Kaori was playing melodica on the top of a play structure (which does not exist in reality) for a group of children, and Kousei was touched with her performance.

Heisei Tsutsuji Park (平成つつじ公園) information

Website (via Google translate)

Nearest Station: 1-minute walk from Nerima Station (Central North Exit)

Hours of Operation: Everyday 09:00 am – 10:00 pm

 

THE iDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS : Sangen-Jaya Cho

My favorite anime! The story mainly focuses on the growth and changes of the idol project “Cinderella Project” in 346Production, and how they overcame their difficulties on the way to stardom.

Real Anime Places Flower Shop

This flower shop is another one of the real anime places you can visit. It was owned by Rin Shibuya, one of the main characters. In episode 1, another main character, Uzuki Shimamura came here and bought a bouquet for herself to celebrate her debut. It was also the place where Rin and Uzuki met for the first time.

Yayoi Gardening (やよい園芸)  information

Nearest Station: 2-minute walk from Sangen-Jaya Station (North Exit)

Hours of Operation: Everyday 10:00 am – 08:00 pm

Holiday: Wednesday (Irregular), 3 days in the beginning of the year

 

Real Anime Places Park 2

Setagaya Maruyama Park appeared in the anime twice. In episode 1, Rin was attracted by Uzuki’ s smiling face under the cherry blossoms here and decided to join the project.

The second time was in episode 23. Rin and Mio took Uzuki, who had lost confidence in being an idol, here and poured their hearts out, “You said here, right? ‘Being an idol is my dream.’” This is definitely the most touching scene among all the episodes!

The picture of the bench has become the cover of their CD “Story,” too! One of he many real anime places you can go to strike a pose! Great for your Facebook page!

 

Setagaya Maruyama Park  (世田谷丸山公園) information

Website (via Google translate)

Nearest Station: 7-minute walk from Sangen-Jaya Station (North Exit)

 

Love Live! (ラブライブ!) : Akihabara

Love Live! is a super popular anime in Japan, which is abouta  high-school girl named Honoka Kosaka forming a nine-person idol group “μ’s” in order to save their school from being closed down. After they succeeded, the group set the goal of getting the championship in the “Love Live,” a school idol competition for the best groups in Japan.

 

Real Anime Places Kanda Shrine

Kanda Shrine is the place where a member Nozomi Tojo works as a miko (“Shrine maiden”). The main characters often come here.

 

Real Anime Places Otoko

Don’t forget the staircase on the right hand side – Kanda Shrine Otoko Zaka (神田明神男坂)! In the anime, when the members have to do some training, Nico Yazawa suggested that they climb this staircase.

Kanda Shrine (神田明神) information

Website

Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Ochanomizu Station (Exit 3) or 7-minute walk from Akihabara Station

 Real Anime Places Wagashi

And don’t forget Takemura! This old wagashi shop (a place that serves traditional Japanese confections with tea) appears as Honoka’s home in the anime.

Takemura (竹むら) information

Nearest Station: 3-minute walk from Awajichō Station (Exit 3) or 7-minute walk from Akihabara Station

Your Name. (君の名は。) : Suga Shrine

It’s the most famous anime in 2016! Your Name took Japan by storm–you can hear its theme song Zenzenzense (“Previous Previous Previous Life”) everywhere. The story is about Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu, two high-school students who switch their bodies intermittently. Their memories fade after each swap, and they cannot even remember each other’s names. One day, Taki realized Mitsuha actually died three years prior and he tried to save her.

 

Real anime places your name

Although the real anime places from Your Name are mostly located in Nagano and Gifu Prefectures, there are some spots in Tokyo! The scene in Suga Shrine is the most recognizable one, because it’s on Your Name’s poster! It is the last scene of the film, where Mitsuha and Taki met on this staircase and asked each other, “I think we have met before. What’s your name?”

Suga Shrine (須賀神社) information

Website (via Google translate)

Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Yotsuya-sanchōme Station (Exit 3) or 12-minute walk from Yotsuya Station

Have fun in taking photos in the real anime places in Tokyo!

April 7, 2017 0 comment
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Parasitological Museum

You know that you’ll find weird and interesting things once you come to Tokyo. Check out our article on Bizarre Museums in Tokyo you might want to visit while you’re here!

 

Bizarre Museums in Tokyo: Meguro Parasitological Museum

Parasitological Museum Bizarre Museums in Tokyo

 

If you like weird stuff, this is the right place for you. This place is known as the number one most bizarre museum in Tokyo. Meguro Parasitological Museum is a private research facility focusing on parasites. A must-see at this museum is definitely the world’s longest tapeworm that is 8.8 meters long. Don’t forget to visit their museum shop where you can buy parasite-related merchandise!

 

Parasitological Museum Bizarre Museums in Tokyo

Hours: 10:00-17:00
Holidays: Monday and Tuesday (when a national holiday falls on Monday or Tuesday, the museum is opened and closed on the following day), New Year Holidays
Admission fee: Free (donations are welcome)
Access: 15 min walk from JR Meguro station

Bank of Japan Currency Museum

This museum was opened in 1985 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Bank of Japan. Here you can find exhibitions of money from ancient Japan up to the present day as well as money from all over the world.

Hours: 9:30-16:30 (No entry after 16:00)
Holidays: Monday (opened when Monday is a holiday) and New Year holidays (Dec 29 – 4 Jan).
Admission: Free
Access:

1 min walk from Subway Mitsukoshimae Station (Hanzomon line Exit B1)
2 min walk from Subway Mitsukoshimae Station (Ginza line Exit B5)
6 min walk from Subway Nihonbashi Station (Tozai line Exit A1)
8 min walk from JR Tokyo station’s Nihonbashi Exit

 

Tokyo Trick Art Museum

Tokyo Trick Art Museum comprises of 3D artworks and optical illusions that will blow up your mind. There are different areas for you to explore, including the “Edo Area,” “Japanese monsters” and the “Trick Art Gallery.”

WARNING: MUST BRING CAMERA!

Hours: 11:00-21:00 (No entry after 20:30)
Holidays: Closing days are not fixed
Admission: Adult (ages 15&over): 900 yen, Child (ages 4-14) 600 yen, free admission for children ages 3 and under.
Access:

2 min walk from Odaiba Kaihinkouen station (Yurikamome line)
5 min walk from Tokyo Teleport station (Rinkai line)

 

Tokyo Kite Museum

Kites are known to have a long history in Japan. At every corner of the museum, you will find a collection of over 250 kites on display from all over Japan and other Asian countries.

 Hours: 11:00-17:00
Holidays: Sunday, National Holidays
Admission: Adult: 200 yen, Child: 100 yen
Access:

10 min walk from JR Tokyo station (Yaesu exit)
1 min walk from subway Nihonbashi station (Exit C5)

 

Showa Retro Packaging Museum

This museum gathers product packages such as tobacco, medicine packages, snacks and confectionery from the Showa period (1929-1989). The building is a refurbishment a former furniture shop, which gives you a nostalgic feel once you step inside.

Hours: 10:00-17:00
Holidays: Monday (closes the following day if Monday is a national holiday) and New Year Holidays
Admission fee: Adult 350 yen, Child 200 yen
Access: 4 min walk from JR Ome station.

 

Postal Museum Japan

Located on the 9th floor of Tokyo Skytree Town, the Postal Museum Japan exhibits collections that are related to postal service and communications.
Hours: 10:00-17:30 (Last entry 17:00)
Admission fee: Adult 300 yen, Child 100 yen
Access: a short walk from Tobu Skytree line (Tobu Skytree station).

 

Philatelic (Stamp) Museum

 

Stamp Museum Bizarre Museums in Tokyo

 

With a collection of 300,000 stamps from Japan and other countries, over 850 stamps are being displayed at special exhibits at the Philatelic Museum. The theme changes every three months. There are also workshops where you can participate and even make your own stamp!

 

Stamp Museum Bizarre Museums in Tokyo

Hours: 10:00-17:00
Holidays: Monday and Tuesday (when a national holiday falls on Monday or Tuesday, the museum is opened and closed on the following day), New Year Holidays
Admission fee: Adult 200 yen, Child 100 yen
Access: 3 min walk from JR Mejiro station

 

Tokyo Museum of Sewage

You can spend a whole day learning about Tokyo’s sewage system. If that’s not enough, here you can even get a chance to go inside the main sewer pipe!

Hours: 10:00-16:00

Holidays: Monday (when a national holiday falls on Monday the museum is opened and closed on the following day), New Year Holidays (Dec 27- Jan 5)
Admission fee: Free
Access: 7 min walk from Takanodai Station (Seibu Kokubunji Line)

 

Tobacco and Salt Museum

 Here you can get to know more about the history and culture surrounding tobacco and salt in Japan. The museum has a collection or resources and researches about tobacco and salt, and besides the normal exhibition, sometimes there are special exhibitions held for a limited time

Hours: 10:00-18:30 (Last entry 17:30)
Holidays: Monday (when a national holiday falls on Monday the museum is opened and closed on the following day), New Year Holidays (Dec 29- Jan 3)
Admission fee: Adult 100 yen, Senior 50 yen, Child 50 yen. (There is an extra charge for special exhibitions).
Access:
12 min walk from Subway Oshiage station (Exit B2)
8 min walk from Subway Tobu Skytree Line Tokyo Skytree Station (Exit 1)
10 mins walk from Honjo Azumabashi Station

 

Tokyo Toy Museum (Toy Communication Museum)         

The building of this museum was once an old elementary school and the goal of this museum is to promote friendship among different generations in the family. Feel free to play with the toys and join the toy workshops they offer!

Hours: 10:00-16:00 (Last entry 15:30)
Holidays: Thursday, New Year Holidays and special holidays in February and September
Admission fee: Adult 800 yen, Child 500 yen, Child and Adult pair ticket 1200 yen
Access:
7 min walk from Yotsuya- sanchome station
8 min walk from Akebonobashi station.

 

March 20, 2017 0 comment
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Tokyo Car Rental 4

Tokyo Car Rental 1

There are many methods of getting around in Tokyo. The city has some of the most convenient public transportation around, with a regular schedule of buses and trains that will get you anywhere you want to go.

Most people forget about their Tokyo car rental options. I mean, who wouldn’t? You don’t have a Japanese driver’s license. One wrong move, and you’re going to have a highway police encounter with a very serious patrolman who is going to cite you for…well, who knows? And if you make a wrong turn, how are you supposed to find your way back? If you don’t speak Japanese, good luck

(Editor’s Note: And if you’re an American, the steering wheel is on the other side of the car! Also, there is no such thing as a “left turn on red” here. And although I tell my relatives the contrary, you cannot fire blue shells out of the hood at the guy on his Sunday Drive in the middle of the week.)

Yes, most people will tell you that using a car within Tokyo is a bad idea. However, it can be a speedy and economical alternative to public transportation if you have to get to several places quickly.  Rental cars are handy especially when you want to travel around the rural areas of Japan, where public transportation may be underdeveloped or inefficient. Using rental cars allows people to access areas that public transport can’t get to.

Actually owning a car in Tokyo is a burden. But when headed out on a road trip beyond the city, a Tokyo car rental is a good option, especially if you’re a large group and have a lot of baggage. Also, driving is Japan is enjoyable–the roads are in good repair, and there are special yellow trucks with lights that keep the highways and byways of Japan clear of debris. Service areas appear every 50 km or so, and they have food courts, restaurants, coffee shops, bathrooms and even souvenir stores. A Tokyo rental car allows you to control your experience and allows you to see the sights and enjoy the beauty that is Japan.

 

Rules of the Road

If you intend to a Tokyo car rental service, you are going to need to know the rules of the road. The Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) has translated the Japanese Rules of the Road into several languages, both in print and digital formats. You can find them at this link.

 

A Couple of Warnings

Tokyo Car Rental 3

WARNING #1: In mountainous areas (such as around Mount Fuji), you’re going to have a problem if you miss something or have to turn back. Service areas in these parts only let you return to the highway going in the same direction–you cannot use them to turn around and go the other way. You may have to drive an hour or so before you can turn around. If your car rental agency offers a navigator in English, get it!

WARNING #2: DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT, GET “GAS” FROM A GREEN PUMP! In Japan there is no central heating in most homes, and kerosene room heaters are common. At service stations, kerosene pumps are green and might be on the same pump “island” as automotive gas, and often has the exact same kind of pump handle. Worse, kerosene is cheaper than automotive gas. I’ve had to rescue people several times after they pulled up to the pump, made an economic decision based on gas station signs they couldn’t read, and filled their car’s gas tank with kerosene. If you do this, your car will not go very far afterwards and you will liable for a very large repair bill with the Tokyo car rental company.

Tokyo Car Rental 4

WARNING #3 (Especially for Americans): The police in Japan sometimes use lights and sirens to pull people over. Other times, they just use lights. Either way, pull off to the side of the road. If they follow behind you, come to a stop.

Also, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, the police will take you from their car and put you in the back of theirs. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO JAIL (that is what this means in America). This is for the safety of both the officer and the person who has been pulled over. If you were Japanese, they would make you write your own ticket. You know, just like when you were in school and had to write apology notes! But here, they’ll write it for you. If you get a ticket, be sure to take it to a post office to pay the fine before you leave. I hear some nasty extra charges could be incurred if you think you’ll just leave the country and not come back. Remember, the Tokyo car rental place has your information and your credit card.

WARNING #4: If you get into an accident or have trouble with your vehicle, light flares and place warning triangles 100 meters and 50 meters behind your car. This helps other motorists see and avoid you. Do your part to prevent further accidents!

 

Tokyo Car Rental Basics

Tokyo Car Rental 2

In order to rent a car, you would need a valid international driver’s permit (IDP). You can obtain one in your home country (in the US, you can get one through AAA) or at any one of Tokyo’s many Drivers’ License Centers. In order to obtain an IDP you must be at least 18 years old and have an existing license from your home country. The permit is only valid for one year.

Here’s an approximate range of rental fees for certain cars:

  • Sub – Compact Cars = 5,000
  • Compact = 7,000
  • Medium Size = 12,500
  • Regular Size = 15,000
  • Vans = 20,000

Here’s a list of reliable Rental Car Agencies you can access in Tokyo…

Toyota Rent-a-Car ||| Nippon Rent-a-Car ||| ORIX Rental Car ||| Time’s Car Rental ||| Nissan Rent-a-Car

…and you can possibly snag cheaper deals through intermediaries…

Japan Experience ||| TooCoo

Have fun and drive safely!

Check out the links below for other options on getting around in Tokyo–

January 12, 2017 0 comment
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Buddha Kamakura

Need to get out of the city for awhile? If you don’t mind an hour on the train, one of the best short trips from Tokyo is to the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture. With several temples and shrines, a beautiful beach, and a shopping district specializing in Japanese sweets, you’re sure to find a relaxing way to spend your day.

Buddha Kamakura shopping

Directly outside of Kamakura train station is the Komachi Street shopping district. Although there are some big names, most of the stores here are of the mom-and-pop variety. Traditional Japanese candy, handmade umbrellas, toys, and Buddhist iconography make for interesting souvenirs or small gifts to send back home.

One of the greatest things about Komachi is that it is mostly a mom and pop district, with no big chain stores making shopping here superfluous.  whether you are looking for interesting souvenirs or just some small gifts to send back home Komachi has you covered.  Be it traditional Japanese candy, handmade umbrellas, traditional toys for the kids, or perhaps you are looking for a crystal carving of Buddha you are sure to find it there.

Temple Kamakura

After walking through Komachi Street, you can visit the Tsurugaoka Hachimangū Shinto shrine.  Founded in 1063, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū has a long political and religious history, which you can learn about by visiting the museum on the grounds of the main shrine. Visitors can learn the details of the assassination of Minamoto no Sanetomo and the 1868 Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order while viewing a variety of historical artifacts.

Buddha Kamakura

One of the biggest tourist attractions in the city is the Kamakura Daibutsu, the Buddha of Kamakura. Located on the grounds of the Kotoku-In temple, the 13-meter tall bronze statue of the Amida Buddha is the second biggest statue of the Buddha in Japan. For a 200 yen entrance fee, you can be visit the Kamakura Daibutsu from 8:00 to 17:30 any day of the year.

rickshaw-1Kamakurarickshaw-2 Kamakura

If you are really interested in seeing everything Kamakura has to offer, do yourself a favor and use a rickshaw.  Kamakura is rather large, and having to walk from shrine to shrine is a daunting task, so why not let someone else do the walking for you?  Rickshaw are easy to find on Komachi St.–just keep your eye out for a man in a straw hat and bicycle shorts.  A rickshaw can take you anyplace you want to go, and all of the drivers know the best spots to go see.

Kamakura Beach

And finally there is Kamakura Beach, a nice little patch of sand on the coast.  The beach itself is worth the trip, as it is a popular getaway from the cities and is a popular destination for windsurfing. Or you can go for a walk along the beach at sunset to cap off a perfect day’s getaway from the busy city.

Kamakura Day Trip Information

Tourism Website

Nearest Station: Kamakura Station

 

 

Click on one of the links below to explore other day trip and getaway options in Tokyo–

October 3, 2016 0 comment
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Mount Fuji 8

Mount Fuji 1

Climbing Mountain Fuji is a dream for mountain climbers and visitors alike. You can climb all the way up to the summit and watch the sunrise beside the spectacular caldera. What an amazing life experience! Here, I am going to tell you my story about climbing Mt. Fuji and let you in on all of the things you need to know before departure. So get ready with me! Here is all of the essential information to consider before your departure. So when you’re ready, double check your backpacks and head to the 5th station!

Why Should I Go?

Mount Fuji 13

Fuji-san is 3776 meters tall and it is the highest mountain in Japan. On clear days, Mount Fuji can be seen from as far away as Tokyo, Yokohama and Hakone. If you are visiting Tokyo at the right time of the year, there is no reason not to check out this breathtaking natural masterpiece. It does not matter whether you have determined to climb all the up to the summit, or just want to appreciate from a far view, or even chill around the lower levels, these are all amazing stories you can share with your families and friends.

When Is The Best Time to Climb Mount Fuji?

Mount Fuji 4

The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is from early July to mid September. During this period all the facilities and services are open, the weather is suitable for climbing, and the trails free of snow.

Different trails have different opening dates. It is highly recommended to climb during official season for your own safety. Below are the opening times for all trails in 2016:

  • Yoshida Trail: July 1 to September 10 (The descending trail will remain open until September 11 morning)
  • Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya Trails and Ohachi-Meguri Trail (The trail of crater rim): July 10 to September 10

I choose the Yoshida trail because it is the most popular and is accessible to new climbers. Most people start to climb from Subaru line 5th station, easily commute from Kawaguchiko (Fuji Five Lake Region). The ascent from 5th station to the summit will take approximately 5-7 hours, and the descent trail  (a separate trail), is another 3-5 hours.

Many mountain huts line the Yoshida trail around 7th and 8th stations. Here you can get food, water, rest, or even an overnight stay (reservation required; average charges for mountain huts are 5300 yen without meal and 7400 yen with two meals). Prices getting higher as the altitude increases; if you forgot to bring it with you, make sure to buy it early!

I chose to start my journey in early July, when the weather is clear and the trails less crowded. August can get very crowded, as the school term over and the traveling season starts. During these times, you may even need to wait in the line to get through some of the more narrow paths.

Now I Want To Climb! How Do I Get To Mount Fuji?

Mount Fuji 2

Mount Fuji is located to the west of Tokyo on the main island Honshu, between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. There are couple of options to get there and I choose to go with the easiest and cheapest way – highway express bus! I purchased the round trip tickets from this site, which cost 3500 yen from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko (1750yen/way). It runs regularly from 6 am to 11 pm, please check the timetable. Tickets sell out fast during climbing season, so please purchase tickets in advance to ensure yourself a spot! It takes about 1 hour from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko if traffic is in good condition. However it took us more than 3 hours the way back from Kawaguchiko, so be ready to adjust your plan accordingly!

After you arrive at Kawaguchiko, go to the ticket office at the left side of the Kawaguchiko bus terminal station and get a bus ticket to the “Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station” bus. Don’t worry about getting lost; they know exactly why you are there.  The tickets for this leg of the trip go for 1540 yen for one way or 2100 yen for round trip.

Caution: The first “Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station” bus runs from 6:40 am till 7:05 pm. If you plan to catch the first bus, be sure to purchase tickets a day before at the ticket counter (cannot be purchased online) because the ticket office is not open until 6:45am! Unfortunately this happened to us, and we had to wait to get on the second bus!

And while you are waiting for the bus to take you to Mount Fuji, take a few minutes to figure out your schedule. Be sure to check the arrival time of your return bus from Fuji to Kawaguchiko. This way, you can coordinate it with the bus you will need catch from Kawaguchiko back to Shinjuku. The return bus can get really crowded, so do not wait until last bus! You might not be able to squeeze in!

How Should I Prepare to Climb Mount Fuji?

Mount Fuji 3

Okay, finally we are heading to Mountain Fuji and start to get more serious! Keep in mind that Fuji-san is not a difficult climb, but it’s not a cakewalk, either. Do not even think about going all the way to summit without the following gear and enough energy–

  • Good Climbing Boots. The most essential thing for this climb is a sturdy set of climbing boots. Some rocky and steep areas are hard to climb. Good hiking boots are necessary to support you and protect your ankles.
  • Waterproof Jacket. Temperature and weather changes are unpredictable on the mountain. It can be cold, even in summer, and a strong wind will make it worse. A rain squall can also blow through, and you will want protection from the variances of the weather.
  • Protective Accessories. Sunglasses, hats, gloves, and sunscreen. The ultraviolet rays is very strong above the cloud cover. You do not want to get sunburned, so be sure to bring all these protections.
  • Hiking Stick. Due to lots of rocky and steep sections, you may need hiking sticks to aid you climb up all these tricky rocks. At Mount Fuji’s 5th station, you can get a wooden climbing stick that doubles as a souvenir of your trip! Some of them are decorated with colorful wraps, small bells and flags, and cost anywhere from 1300 to 2000 yen (depending on your decorations). Even better, you can get stamps burned into your stick at the huts along the trail. Each stamp  cost around 300 yen, and turns it into your unique souvenir! Get all the way to the top for that special summit stamp and show it off to your friends back home!

Mount Fuji 11 Mount Fuji 12

  • Flashlight. A flashlight is necessary for those of who are determined to climb overnight to see the sunrise. Even though the trail is illuminated during the peak season, for your own safety it is still highly recommended.
  • Snacks and Water. You’ll need some snacks to support you and help you get your energy back. Especially closer to the top, when there are fewer huts and things get more expensive. Water and meals can be purchased with a correspondingly higher charge at higher altitudes. Water is definitely a must. I recommend at least four liters, more if you can carry it.
  • Cash. Huts do not accept credit cards, and you need coins to use their toilets.
  • Trashbag. Please do not litter on the mountain. If you take it up, bring it back down. Also, there are pretty heavy fines if you get caught.

Before you start your climb, visit the Tourist Information Center to get maps, ask questions, and get the emergency phone number. Please call 0555-72-1477 if you run into any trouble while climbing.

What A Climb! Now What Can I Do Around Kawaguchiko?

If you are not in the rush, there are so many things you can do around Kawaguchiko. You can explore it before your climb starts, or before you go home! The beautiful Kawaguchiko Lakes are a 20-minute walk from station and are definitely worth visiting. You can get some snacks, sit beside the lake, and enjoy a relaxing moment.

There are also several museums located in this small town. Kubota Itchiku Museum, The Museum of Art, The Music Forest, The Gem Museum and Herb Hall. They’re bound to have something you like! You can even go to Fuji-Q Highland, a popular amusement park with exciting roller coaster and haunted house. Fuji-Q Highland is only two train stops away, and is a good way to get a warm up before a second day of climbing!

As for dinner, you don’t want to miss out the traditional dish especially from Yamanashi prefecture – Houtou. There are several good restaurants in town, so be sure to check opening hours and get in before its last order! You deserve a good meal after a long day.

Mount Fuji 7

If you have enough time, there is another spot you do not want to miss. The Chureito Pagoda is a five-story pagoda on the mountainside, which you can climb in about 15 minutes. The breathtaking view overlooks the whole of Fujiyoshida city and Mountain Fuji, and the view from here (as well as a picture) at the right time is going to be a cherished memory of your trip. During the cherry blossom season, this is a fantastic photography spot for that classic Mountain Fuji photo shot. To get there, take the train from Kawaguchiko station to Shimo-Yoshida Station (3 stations away). Follow the signs after leaving the station and you can easily reach the Pagoda. I was lucky enough to arrive there at sunset, and the view of Mountain Fuji surrounded by a sunset glow and cotton candy clouds, with the whole city slowly lighting up, was an amazingly beautiful sight!

Mount Fuji 8

We hope you have enjoyed our guide to climbing Mount Fuji and what to do afterwards. Remember, hydrate, wear sunscreen, get a stick, and have fun!

To explore other experiences in Japan, click on the articles below–

July 22, 2016 0 comment
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Kasai Rinkai Park Tokyo Japan

Kasai Rinkai Park

Kasai Rinkai Park Tokyo Japan

Need to get the family away from the city for a while? Kasai Rinkai Park in Edogawa might be just the place to visit! This enormous park has plenty of green space and benches to host your picnic. Or you can make a getaway to one of its two man-made beaches to relax and take in the view of beautiful Tokyo Bay.

Kasai Rinkai Park Tokyo Japan

Kasai Rinkai Park Tokyo Japan

After a nice picnic or a stroll on the beach, head on over to the Tokyo Sea Life Park Aquarium. Host to a variety of exotic fish and sea-life from all over the world, the aquarium features a penguin viewing area where you can watch the birds swim and play. (Tokyo Sea Life Park Aquarium – Adults 700 yen, Middle Schoolers 250 yen, younger children free. Open 9:30 am – 5:30 pm, closed Wednesdays and December 29th – January 1st).

Are you interested in birds? The eastern end of the park hosts a walk-through bird sanctuary. Paved paths guide visitors through the sanctuary, and tall walls protect our feathered friends. Be sure to stop at one of the many observation points to catch a glimpse of the sanctuary’s residents, and stop at the Sea Bird Center to learn more about the sanctuary’s inhabitants.

Kasai Rinkai Park Tokyo Japan

Top off your visit to Kasai Rinkai Park with a ride on the Diamond and Flower Ferris wheel, the second-largest of its kind in all of Japan. From this lofty vantage point you can see Disneyland, Tokyo Bay, and on clear days even all the way to Mount Fuji! At night, the Ferris wheel’s bright neon lights display elaborate patterns for viewers to enjoy. (Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel – open Weekdays 10:00 am – 8:00 pm, Weekends 10:00 am – 9:00 pm. 700 yen per rider).

Kasai Rinkai Park is a perfect place for anyone wanting to escape the noise and crowds of central Tokyo on a gorgeous day off!

Kasai Rinkai Park Location Information

Website | Facebook (visitor reviews)

Nearest Station: directly off of Kasairinkaikoen Station ( JR Keiyō Line or Musashino Line)

Hours of Operation: Park – 24/7; Aquarium – Open 9:30 am – 5:30 pm (Closed Wednesdays); Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel – Weekdays 10:00 am – 8:00 pm, Weekends 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

“Why Go?”: Amazing views on a beautiful Ferris wheel, fun aquarium for families and beautiful scenery away from Central Tokyo craziness!

Click on one of the tags below to explore other relaxation options in Tokyo–

July 8, 2016 0 comment
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Kiso Valley Nagano Japan

Kiso Valley Nagano Japan

Not all Japan travelers want to stay in cities like Tokyo and Osaka, and that’s okay. If you are an outdoorsy type, consider heading up to Nagano Prefecture for a few days to hike the Kiso Valley Nagano Trail and staying in a tradition ryokan.

The Kiso Valley Nagano Trail runs between the towns of Magome and Tsumago. During the Edo Period, the trail was used as a part of the road between Tokyo and Kyoto.  The trail winds through the rice paddy fields, villages, and beautiful forests along the Kiso River. The entire trail is clearly marked in both Japanese and English. It is a two to three hour hike, if walked at a moderate sightseeing pace.

If you want a downhill walk, head from Magome to Tsumago. If you are looking for a challenge, do just the opposite. Both towns have Tourist Information Centers who can help with your luggage, should you have any–one center will deliver your luggage to the other if dropped off between 8:30-11:30am.  and picked up after 1:00pm. This service only operates from late-March through November, and they charge ¥500 per item.

During the summer, Kiso Valley has many opportunities for outdoor activities such as rock climbing, bicycle touring, canoeing, and kayaking. Not coming until winter? Well, that’s the perfect time to enjoy one of Kiso Valley’s many ski resorts.

But you’re not just going to walk the trail and leave, are you? Both Tsumago and Magome’s architecture are reflective of the Edo Period and are gorgeous in their own right. Once you arrive in one of the towns for the night, go the traditional route and stay in a Minshuku-style ryokan.

Kiso Valley Nagano Tourism Information Offices

Tumago Tourism Association Tourist Office

Website

 Hours of Operation: 8:30am- 5:00pm (17:00)

Address: 2159-2 Azauma, Nagiso-chou, Kiso-gun, Nagano

Phone: 0264-57-3123

E-Mail: info@tumago.jp

Ryokan in Tsumago:

Yamamizuki URARA Tsutaya

  • Address: 2012-4, Fukushima, Kiso-machi,  Kiso-gun, Nagano
  • Phone: 0264-22-2145
  • Booking: http://travel.rakuten.com
  • Expected Price: Around ¥15,000 per night

Minshuku Murachiya

  • Address: 5373-1 Yasawa Fukushima, Kiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano
  • Phone: 0264-22-3186
  • Booking: https://www.tripadvisor.com
  • Expected Price: Around ¥6,200 per night

Tsutaya Tokinoyado Kazari

  • Address: 5623-2 Kaida Kogen Suekawa, Kiso-cho, Kiso-gun, Nagano
  • Phone: 0264-42-1188
  • Website: http://www.kiso-kazari.com/lg_en/
  • Expected Price: Around ¥22,500 per night

Ryokan in Magome:

Tajimaya

  • Address: 4266 Magome Nakatsugawa-shi, Gifu-ken
  • Phone: 0796-32-2626
  • Website: JapaneseGuestHouses.com
  • Expected Price: Around ¥7,000-¥10,000 per night

Magomechaya

  • Address: 4296 Nakatsugawa-shi, Gifu-ken
  • Phone: 0573-69-2038
  • Website: JapaneseGuestHouses.com
  • Expected Price: Around ¥7,000-¥10,000 per night

Iwatake

  • Address: 4254 Magome, Nakatsugawa-shi, Gifu-ken
  • Phone: 0573-69-2201
  • Website: JapaneseGuestHouses.com
  • Expected Price: Around ¥7,000-¥10,000 per night

Nearest Station: Kiso Fukushima station

“Why Go?”: It’s a great opportunity to explore the Tokyo-Kyoto road as it was in the Edo Period, and stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan!

Click on one of the tags below to explore other cultural options in Tokyo and beyond–

July 1, 2016 0 comment
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Mount Asama

Karuizawa nature

Introduction

Karuizawa is a resort town located in the mountainous Nagano prefecture, well-known for its nature and relaxing ambience. Just one hour from Tokyo Station by the Hokuriku Shinkansen, Karuizawa is the perfect place for an excursion from the hectic megalopolis that is Tokyo. Karuizawa has become increasingly popular among Tokyoites, especially in summer, but the town has always had a history of accommodating foreigners as well. Karuizawa began its development in 1886 when Alexander Croft Shaw, a missionary and diplomat, introduced the town to his colleagues as the perfect place to escape the summer heat, where many British expats compared it to Scotland. This legacy has been maintained, with Karuizawa becoming the holiday location of choice for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as well as hosting the world in 1964 and 1998, for the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Nagano Winter Olympics respectively (the only place in the world to host both Summer and Winter events). With the town also hosting the G7 Transport Ministers meeting in September 2016, Karuizawa continues to be a town that punches above its weight. From staying in a traditional ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), to staying in upscale luxury hotels such as the popular Hoshino resort, there are many places to stay in this slice of woodland paradise. Come and visit this town, and you will discover what the fuss is all about.

The next station is Karuizawa, please mind the closing doors…

Shinkansen Karuizawa

Since the launch of the Nagano Shinkansen (bullet train) in 1997 , there has been a convenient high-speed rail link to Karuizawa, ensuring a transport time of just over one hour. Within that time, you’ll be teleported from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo Station to green nature, with birds chirping and a much cooler and clearer air. Just recently, the service was rebranded into the Hokuriku Shinkansen, with a more spacious train and services departing every 30 minutes, making this hour journey relaxing, enjoyable, and highly efficient. I’m sure the G7 transport ministers will be highly impressed when they take this high-speed service to their summit in Karuizawa come September.
One-way fares to Karuizawa from Tokyo via the Hokuriku Shinkansen start from ¥5,500.

Things to do

Trekking
Hoshino trail The nature is the primary reason why you should visit Karuizawa. There are a number of woodland trails available for trekking, where you will constantly hear the chatter of birds. There are some great trails available near Hoshino resort.
Karuizawa Trail You can easily spend a few hours of your day on these trails or even spend an entire day, just be wary of wild animals such as monkeys, boars or bears. You can trek up mountains as well, such as Hanare-yama, a relatively small mountain that takes around one hour to ascend, or trek up Mount Asama, the tallest mountain in the area and the most volcanic mountain in Honshu, which dominates the landscape of Karuizawa.

Mount Asama

View of Mt. Asama from the Hanare-yama summit (taken during winter)

With the cooler temperature and the vibrant nature, trekking through the forests of the area feels a world away from the sometimes choking crowdedness and noise of Tokyo.

Ginza-dori/Kyu Karuizawa
Kyu Karuizawa
The foreign history of the town is most evident in Ginza-dori, a lively but relaxing shopping street in the historic part of the town (Kyu-Karuizawa). Here you can find several unique boutique shops, restaurants, cafes, as well as great bakeries that serve quality bread and coffee. Specifically check out the “French Bakery”, which is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono frequented to buy their daily baguettes when they holidayed in the town.
French Bakery Kyu Karuizawa
If you’re into John Lennon, also check out the Mampei Hotel nearby, a historic Western-style hotel where Lennon stayed regularly, as well as countless prime ministers and foreign dignitaries. There is a piano here in the bar where Lennon played from time to time.
Mampei Hotel Karuizawa

Onsen
A visit to Karuizawa is never complete without a visit to an onsen, a perfect afternoon activity which washes away all the stress of city-life. There are plenty of nice hot springs in the town, particularly the Sengataki Onsen, Hoshino Onsen, and the Shiotsubo Onsen. Entry to these hot springs range from ¥1,000-¥1,500, and are certainly worth it.

The Hoshino Onsen is especially recommended,as it is known for its skincare benefits,making it highly popular among female visitors. The hot spring was founded in 1915 by Kunitsugu Hoshino (the current Hoshino Resorts president is the fourth generation of the family) and a hotel empire grew out of this enormously popular onsen, where today Hoshino has luxury resorts throughout Japan, as well as in Bali and Tahiti. The Hoshino Resort in Karuizawa was one of the first in Japan to become classed as a Small Luxury Hotel, a rare club, considering only 11 are in Japan. The hot spring is the most upscale in the town, with its modern but traditional design. The main hot spring (Tombo-no-yu 8:30AM-11:00PM) is open to non-Hoshino guests, and offers both indoor and outdoor baths, with the excellent low-alkaline mountain waters that made Hoshino so popular. There is another hot spring, with a more contemporary design called the “Meditation Bath“, exclusively for Hoshino guests and open all day. This onsen is indoors, where guests dip into a combination of carefully managed well-lit and dark rooms (Bath of Light and Bath of Shadow) to “release tensions and stimulate the tenses.” You won’t have to worry about energy consumption while spending time in Hoshino. The resort and its onsens are eco-friendly, with the entire complex being zero-emissions, powered by a combination of geothermal heat from the nearby volcanos and hydroelectric power from mountain streams.

Hoshino Onsen

Hoshino Onsen

Food
The food in Karuizawa is worth mentioning. There has been a boom in restaurants opening up in the town to accommodate the rise in tourism, and include Italian, French, Scandinavian, Chinese cuisine, and much more. The local jams and honey are well-known in Japan and go great with the fresh bread from the local bakeries. Soba noodles from Nagano prefecture are famous for their taste, and you can visit a number of soba establishments in Karuizawa. Moreover, the vegetables in this mountainous part of the country are terrific too. Check out the newly created vegetable market (Hotchi Ichiba) where you can purchase fresh vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and konnyaku from local farmers.
Karuizawa vegetables

Outlet Shopping
If you are craving for a retail shopping experience, akin to what they offer in Tokyo, then definitely check out the Prince Outlet Shopping Plaza, which is located right next to the JR Shinkansen station.
Karuizawa outlet shopping This is the perfect place to spend your final few hours in the town before hopping on the train back to Tokyo. There are a wide range of upscale brands available, with particularly large Burberry and Gucci outlets, and the pricing is reasonable compared to Tokyo.
Karuizawa Outlet shopping

There is much more to do in Karuizawa, such as golfing, horse-riding and birdwatching, and it is a place for all seasons. For example, in winter, there are opportunities for skiing and snowboarding if that is your thing. Regardless of which activity you want to do, this serene town nestled near the Japanese alps is the perfect place for a Tokyo excursion and will most certainly make you relaxed.

June 15, 2016 0 comment
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IMG_1230editBaji Koen is a beautiful, horse-centric park in Setagaya-ku that spans 45 acres that is great for children and families. The park was originally built in 1940 by the Japan Racing Association to become the first comprehensive horse facility in all of Japan. A few decades later it even held events for the 1964 Summer Olympics that were held in Tokyo! Although the park is located relatively far from central Tokyo, it has a variety of facilities , indoor and out, related to equestrian events where you can see over 100 horses grazing or training for competitions. On weekdays you can go to the horse-petting areas to hangout with these amazing animals or even enjoy free pony-riding for the kids. The real fun happens on the weekends however, when you get to see the equestrian matches live or see one of the horse  shows where the horses perform their best tricks!

IMG_1222 copy

Even if horses are not your thing, the park also includes beautiful Japanese gardens with plenty of seasonal flower arrangements that make it easy to stroll and relax on a nice day.  Baji Koen is the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon, and best of all, its free!

TIP: Make sure to check the Baji Koen website and calendar beforehand to make sure they have the events you want to see.

Baji Koen Location Information:

〒158-8523  2-1-1 Kamiyoga, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

Website | Twitter 

Nearest Station: 15 minute walk for Yõga Station (Tokyu-Den-entoshi Line) (click on the google Map for directions)

Hours of Operation: March-October: 9AM-5PM, (November-February: 9AM-4PM)

Estimated Price: Free

“Why Go?”: Beautiful parks and equestrian events all for free!

 

June 10, 2016 0 comment
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