Who can get JR Linear tickets?!
May 30, 2010 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Tokyo: In-laws are in town, planning a mini-break, and if NOT Hakone, then where....

We have done Hakone before, and it is ideal. You get there by nice train (VSE/Romance car, about 90 mins), lots of nice Ryokans (one had a private gondola, and traditional style. Cooked the dinner in the room etc). Plenty to do, like switch-back train, ropeways, sulphur-eggs, open-air museum for a weekend.
So, with the in-laws, Hakone is a great suggestion, but since we have already done it, what other places can we go to?
Also have 2 kids (6 vs 3) and need something to do. But as they love trains/transportation, and running around the open-air museum, it was great. The in-laws are kiwi, and live off the land, sorta 'economical', so likes cabins, camping, sleeping in the van, but we generally go for motels, or ryokans. Maritime interest, but also nature in general.

Other Ask.Mefi's have brought up, Atami, Izu (beaches, alligator park), Shimoda (aquarium), beyond Hakone there is Fuji safari park/highlands
Takao-san (tamago-something kids challenge park)
Takayama (been there, but not to stay), Nagano (cabins/camping?),
Niigata (Like the idea of Sado island, but not really doable on a fri-sun idea, steam train).
Tsukuba (NASDA)
Nikko (just temples?), Kinugawa?
Karuizawa (been there, toys kingdom).
Sendai (lake)? Chiba - both seems to have little?

Island off the coast of Tokyo?

Did I miss any? Want to second/recommend any of those?
posted by lundman to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just went to Kinugawa last winter. I'd highly recommend the Kinugawa Plaza Hotel, where we stayed. It's built on a rock outcropping where the river bends, has a great onsen/rotenburo, and is a pretty snazzy hotel. Nearby (bus ride) you've got the Tobu World Square for the kids, and you can always stop by Nikko for some sightseeing.

If you like nature, hiking, and such, you might try the Ookutama area, in western Tokyo. Particulary Mitake-san is pretty spectacular. There is a shrine on top of the mountain, and the peak is essentially surrounded by ryokan/minshuku type places. There are a bunch of hiking trails in and around the mountain (as well as several day-long hikes that are fantastic). You can get an English map of the region (including hiking trails) from the visitor center. Spend a day or two around there, then head down to the reservoir itself. There are plenty of camping sites there, as well as some nice places for hiking, walking, birding, or other natury stuff.

Kamakura is a nice place for hiking, but it's more of a day trip. Chiba does have some nice stuff, especially in the southern areas like Tateyama and Kamogawa (Sea World, anyone?). There's also the Mother's Farm in central Boso, which is a petting zoo/children's farm kind of place.

Don't forget Izu. Lots of onsen, right on the ocean, combined with rocky mountainous areas. Beautiful place, good amount of stuff to do, especially the further south and away from Itami you get.

Matsumoto in Nagano is kind of cool, and you can easily use it as a base, then take some trips up the valley to go hiking, cycling, or whathaveyou. Also a bunch of onsens, and a pretty snazzy Japanese castle.

Sado is great, but definitely not doable in the short timespan. The 'fast' ferry, which costs a good deal, still takes about an hour each way. The slow ferry takes four hours (but is quite relaxing). Takao is, evidently, permanently flooded. It got mentioned in the Michelin guide, and has become a massively popular spot, so much so that you don't actually climb it, you just wait in line to get to the top.

Basically, I'd go with Ookutama for a couple nights, then make a pit-stop at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka on the way back. That, or Kinugawa/Tobu World Square.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:20 PM on May 30, 2010

It was probably me who recommended the Atagawa Alligator and Tropical Plant park because it is AWESOME.

Lots of walking, lots to see the Lesser Pandas are hilarious and the tropical garden is beautiful. And sooooo many aliigators. I shot this series there.

Several reasonably priced onsen hotels nearby too. Walking around you can see the steam outlets and lots of bridges. It's just a pretty relaxed neat little place. Easily reachable by train.
posted by gomichild at 7:33 PM on May 30, 2010

Ghidorah: I did not know of Tobu World Square, thanks. The kiwis do love hiking, for multi-days at that, but one of them has a broken shoulder/elbow, and it's our job to try to keep him doing as little as possible (and we are failing).

Amusing to hear about Takao-san, we did this a while back. But yes, similarly, the Iris-garden of Meiji-jingu.. it used to be a nice place to go and 'be alone' in the center of Tokyo. But it was recently on news as 'the water source is a power spot' and now have 2 hour queues to get in. Sigh.

gomichild: not unless you are my coworker?! But looking at the pictures, that does seem kind of fun. The train to Izu would be superview-odoriko, which has a play room at the last carriage. Somehow, having kids, made me a train expert. Don't know how that happened.
posted by lundman at 7:55 PM on May 30, 2010

Oh yeah deffo try to get the train with the super-viewing!

Also it might be worth say stopping off at Atami for lunch or something on the way to break up the train ride for the little ones. Outside the station is a free open air onsen to dip your feet in too.
posted by gomichild at 8:16 PM on May 30, 2010

Regarding the Atagawa Alligator and Tropical Plant Park: I thought that the greenhouse part was really awesome (lots of interesting plants, including some gigantic lily pads), and the lesser pandas did look incredibly cute... but they also looked so bored, the poor guys.

(Maybe you could go cheer them up.)
posted by caaaaaam at 8:51 PM on May 30, 2010

The super view train is gorgeous. The whole east-facing side is a window, looking out over the rocks and bay below. The seats are arranged facing the window. It's easily the nicest train experience I've had in Japan. If you head down to Shimoda and Shirahama, it's not yet beach season, but it's really nice down there. Great seafood, and a lot of nice little shops.

Sorry to hear about the broken body parts. There are a good number of places that are pretty good for picnics/kids playing. The station next to Disneyland, Kasairinkaikoen, is adjacent to, well, Kasairinkaikoen, which is a pretty nice park on Tokyo Bay, complete with a small aquarium and a ferris wheel. Other public parks in Tokyo (Yoyogi, the Hama Rinkyu) are pretty nice for picnics as well.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:24 PM on May 30, 2010

If they like trains, you could easily spend a day at the Railway Museum in Saitama. The Subway Museum near Kasai Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line and the Tobu Museum at Higashi-Mukoujima Station on the Tobu Isezaki Line are both smaller but worth a trip if you've nothing else to do or Omiya is too far of a trek.

The Boso Peninsula (Chiba) has many sights -- there's Kamogawa Sea World, Mother Farm, Nokogiriyama, Inubosaki and the Choshi Railway, etc. There are many hotels and ryokan scattered around the peninsula, and they tend to be much cheaper than Hakone, Nikko, Karuizawa, etc.

Having a car is easiest, but the major sightseeing spots are linked by rail and bus, and access from Tokyo via JR limited express service or from Kanagawa via ferry.
posted by armage at 11:36 PM on May 30, 2010

In the end, for a quick day trip, we went out to Sagamiko Station (相模湖駅) which is one stop after Takao-san. There is a Picasso no Tamago Amusement Park there, with quite a bit of fun and mazes for the kids.

For the weekend break, we rented a car, and drove to chiba, as a way to also get to try out the Tokyo Bay Aqua Line bridge/tunnel road, with an artificial island Umihotaru (海ほたる) in the middle you can stop for food and fun.

After a drive through the country side we came across a nice bridge with stairs to the shrine. No idea where this was though.

In chiba, we stayed in a ryokan (Japanese Inn) called Hana-san-sui (花山水) which we can really recommend. Very nice private cabin with a local river to explore, and fantastic BBQ set. The manager was very friendly and chatted with us throughout the evening. He hopes to get more foreigner visitors and speaks excellent English. Please go stay.

The next day we popped down to the beach to the south. Before returning back we also got tickets for Mother Farm (マザー牧場), which had duck patrol (to mention but one), although the kids wanted more to go on the train.
posted by lundman at 5:31 PM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

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