Top 10 Items For Relocation With Kids

Are you relocating? Do you have kiddos? If so… this list might just be for you! We have previously relocated overseas and will be doing so again soon. We have several moves under our belt along with the experience of moving with a very young infant and a school age child. There are many things that make life easier but these are 10 items that are great to have on hand. They make life so much easier!

I also think that most of you  reading this will be far too familiar with the items listed to actually care about seeing them online! So I have added some of our views from our relocation! I think they will be more interesting than moving supplies!

1. Ziploc bags

Yes, seriously this is a must have. It makes life so much easier. You have no idea how many times having an assortment of ziplock bags will save your life when you are moving. We use them for storing left overs when you are forced to eat out because all your belongings are in a truck or on a boat. We use them for packing coloring and drawing items to keep the kids busy in an empty house, on a plane. We use them for holding dirty diapers that you have no trash can for! Sometimes you just run out of bags and you just really have a diaper that you need to contain… if you know what I am saying! We use them for separating dirty clothes from s=clean clothes so that your suitcases won’t smell when you have a little baby who spits up on their outfit and you have no access to water at that moment. There are plenty more uses but this is just an example of how this can really save your day just by having an assortment of different size zip lock bags!

2. Sleeping bag / Japanese style sleeping mat and cover / pack and play

Depending on the age of your child you will either need a pack and play or a sleeping arrangement of some sort. My infant used a pack-and-play the first time that we moved overseas. It helped out tremendously. She did not even notice that she was in a different places multiple nights in a row. It helped her adjust to her new surroundings by having the same sleeping arrangements and it helped us adults sleep by not having to share a bed in a hotel room with a baby/small toddler. We all slept easier! The double room allowed for a bed for our older child, a bed for the parents, and the baby still had her own safe space. I also had the comfort of knowing she was sleeping in her own clean bed with her own clean sheet over the pad. Not a hotel crib covered in germs.

My older child uses a sleeping bag in a knapsack with a drawstring. It was inexpensive and you can find it on amazon for about $20. He got his favorite super hero and he can carry it himself on his back because it is small and not heavy at all. This might not be needed when you are staying in hotel rooms but eventually you might make it to your final destination before your needs and sheets and this will be a real life saver. Plus it turned into a way to save on space in the car. If you are doing a move by car it can be used as a blanket and then put away into the small knapsack instead of piling many blankets and taking up all the available space in the car. If you have a large family it also eliminates the issues of fighting over who gets what blanket and who is taking up all the space in the back!

During our overseas move we beat our household items to the new destination by about 3 months! We had some furniture to borrow and linens as well but they were not the best. My child decided to sleep in the sleeping bag instead of using the linens that we could borrow.

For our next overseas move my daughter will transition from the pack-n-play and instead use a Japanese sleeping mat with a blanket and mini pillow. It is small and fits inside a quilted bag. It buttons closed and has handles to carry. This is basically the same idea as a sleeping bag but for my small child it seems a little safer and comfortable than being zipped in a sleeping bag. She will be using it when our household is packed up and moving on a boat to another country. Then she will use it at our next destination when our furniture will not yet be delivered. She has been using it currently in her own room and it used to it. We live in Japan so these are easy to find. In another country you might find this on Amazon, or just a store that might sell some type of set for napping at a daycare. You could also check somewhere like the Japanese birthday store on line. The price range varies. I found ours on sale for $28.99 but it was originally much more. You can find most of the popular characters and a decent quality sleeping mat set for between $40-$70 USD. This washes in a regular size washer and dryer easily. It also holds up well in the wash but I would recommend hanging to dry rather than using a dryer.

 

3. Powder Detergent

You may not be able to take liquid with you on your flight to your new destination but if you have a long overseas move ahead of you I do recommend taking at least a small amount and putting it in a ziplock box ( I actually will take a small box of tide but you may not have enough space so a small bag will do also). Even if you can easily go to the store and buy some detergent once you arrive, I found it easier to have it on hand. Any messes that happen during the move, or on the flight can be washed out in your hotel sink or bathroom. There are wash services available in most hotels but lets be realistic…. large families with lots of children on a time crunch are probably not going to have the luxury of time and mosey to waste on a wash and fold service! If there is a mess, I put it in a ziplock bag and in a suitcase, when I get to the hotel I was it all in the tube by hand and then hang it on the line in the showers. Yes, people actually use those clothes lines at the top of the showers near the racks for things other than swimsuits! 🙂 This is how I previously survived my flight attendant life! Uniforms were washed every night in hotels by necessity!

 

4. Plastic Shower Caps
Yes, you technically could use shower caps for covering your hair if you do not have enough time to dry it… but that is totally an amateur move! You are going to sue your cheer caps for so much more than that! Have super dirty stroller tires? Cover those bad boys with shower caps when you enter your hotel so you are not walking on dirt or mud, have a sleeping baby in your stroller and don’t want to wake them? Slip your shower caps over the tires while the little baby sleep! Why wake them when you are moving and can use all the extra minutes you can get to unpack a few more boxes!

Have shoes that you would like to put back into your luggage but they are pretty yuck from your neighborhood run this morning? Slip the shower caps on your shoes before you pack.

Keep them on hand and cover food that you have left over from take out. No Saran Wrap needed!

5. Safety information for children

I know, it sounds crazy. You feel like you are never going to take your eyes of your little ones, especially in a busy airport or a train station, or the hotel lobby, but it can happen. Kids can get lost. And even though it is unlikely they they will get lost, what if their parents or family is in involved in an emergency and no one can explain exactly who should be contacted and quickly? If you are traveling in a foreign country or moving in a foreign country this can be stressful and even older kids can freeze in a emergency situation in a new place where they can not speak the language!

For older children, if they carry a wallet or are big enough to wear a necklace or jewelry you can easily attach all the emergency information needed there. Remember to also include the information in the local language.

For younger children you can attach it on the inside or a jacket or even write it on their arm on the inside so as the entire world doesn’t have to see it! I know it sounds silly but many little kids could escape your eyesight and not have the slightest idea who to call when they are on the other side of the world and can not use a phone to make an international call to grandma!

KEEP IN MIND EVEN 911 IS USUALLY A DIFFERENT NUMBER!!!
SO everything they have been trained to do will change!

 

6. First Aid Kit

This might sound like a no brainer but you would be surprised how many people have to ask flight attendants on a flight for band-aids! Traveling with kids you will be in cars, planes, trains, hotels, and a new home that is EMPTY! Even something as simple as a little Neosporin and a few band aids will go a long way.

Also keep in mind that the country that you may be relocating to many not have the same type of over the counter medication readily available. There are some countries even in Asia where it is pretty standard procedure for people to make a trip to a doctor or clinic for even simple over the counter medicine. It is best to just skip this possibility by just packing a few things on hand that you may really need.

Long flights and altered eating habits may also cause havoc on children and infants alike. If possible keep not only some type of fever or pain reliever but also some type of stomach comforting medicine. Being immobile on long flights and long car rides can really wreak havoc on a little ones system so be prepared for all the possibilities!

 

7.Tooth Brushes and Wet Wipes

Oh yes, of course you knew to bring your tooth brush. But don’t forget those wet wipes. They are not only for baby! They can really be a savior on the 12 hour over night flight. When the kids wake up feeling crabby and really lethargic a wet wipe can really make a world of a difference. Send them into the bathroom or use at their seat. Have them brush their teeth, wash faces, hand, arms and backs of necks with wet wipes. This can make kids feel refreshed and on many airlines, if you are not flying first class they will not bring you hot towels, even on long haul flights. Keep this in mind.

8. Do not forget your towels and linens!

A towel, hand towel and washcloth for everyone in your party can make life much easier! Sure, you will have towels at the hotel, but what happens when you arrive at your new home and nothing is unpacked yet? Al you may have the energy for might be a hot shower. It will not be as great if you do not have a towel with you! If your shower is not cleaned and ready to go st least you could use your wash cloth and hand towel as a make shift shower for the time being! and then you would still have a towel left over to dry off!

I also recommend brining an extra old sheet. This one you will not plan on using for sleeping. This sheet you need to use for the floors or carpets you may encounter that are not suitable for picnics or crawling babies! When we first moved overseas our homes floors were not yet cleaned. I did not have the time or energy the first couple of days to give the floor the type of cleaning it needed. I also found that old sheets were the best idea in an emergency. We have to evacuate our home during a typhoon and our temporary shelter was no place for kids to be playing, sleeping, or hanging around. It was extremely dirty. We put our sheets on the ground so we could sit on them for eating or read books and play with toys. We did not sleep with our sheets. We slept on cots with our blankets or sleeping bags.

 

9.Thumb tacks and maps!

So this might sound really strange but I found that Dumb tacks were really helpful to have in our moves. When we arrived in our new place we had a bunch of important papers, a bunch of delivery dates, a baby who loved to crumple things, and no furniture. Without a desk or table and no where to really put anything I found it especially helpful to have a few thumbtacks. I could just stick really important things to the wall, in the kitchen, near a door, where ever I really needed to see something I put it. We had to set up new phones as ours weren’t compatible in the new country, we had to buy a car, I didn’t speak the language and I was really forgetful! I had a 2 month old and a kiddo entering kindergarten. there were just oo many things happening! My husband was starting work at his new location and sometimes he would be in trainings and just plain busy so I really needed to have a handle on information otherwise I could have really missed some important information!

This may seem kid of funny but we also found it really helpful to hang a couple maps for our older child. He Hung a world map and a U.S. States map. I let him put some stickers on Tokyo and them some stickers on places where our family was. Then he could check out the map and have a better idea of where he was, where grandparents were calling on Skype from, and a better idea of time zones. That helped him understand WHY we couldn’t just call anyone at any time … even though we missed them! I highly recommend this map idea to anyone moving with younger children. it became a fun school lesson instead of just plain old confusion!

10. A pack of Comforts

For some kids this might be just some drawing materials, for others it might be ledges. Whatever is your Childs favorite things that are small be sure to pack it! We packed small backpacks for plane rides, some people pack an entire storage container in the back of a minivan. whatever you have the space for go ahead and do it! Some favorite snacks, favorite toys, and favorite books will really help them adapt. Sometime when you arrive you will not have quick access to internet setup, you may not be able to find movies in your language and your netflix might not be able to be used yet without your internet! Also different countries have different netflix movies and shows available. So if you’d kids have something that will destress them and keep them happy, pack it.

Another important one if a few packs of the favorite snacks. Some countries you won’t find things like ranch dressing. If they are having trouble adjusting, you might want to pack a few. If you need things like this to get you through the first few days, it is totally worth it. Sometimes the first few days will be hard but it does get easier!

My list could go on and on. Many ideas out there are available on Pinterest and through other groups. These are just a few things that I found to be really important and helpful in our specific situation. I hope it can give someone else out there a helpful idea or two!

Books and Educational Toys in Hino

As homeschoolers we are always looking for a great bookstore and educational games and toys. We are also looking for places that are easy to access (especially when it comes to stroller friendly areas and wheelchair accessible areas), have some sort of English Language section, and have decent prices. Sometime in Japan all of these wants can be a difficult to find. However, Last week we found a newly opened book and educational supply store in Hino.

We were visiting one of our favorite Aeon Malls, the Tamadaira No Mori, it is about 30 minutes from our house, so it is not too bad to drive out and see whats new. This specific mall always has different vendors on the first floor. Many sell different kinds of traditional Japanese crafts (which make for great souvenirs and gifts to send back to family), homemade traditional snacks, and sometimes a yakitori vendor or two! My favorite of these has been a small shop that sells chopsticks of all kinds. They even have these expensive sets with glittery landscapes of Mt. Fuji that I am especially fond of! The first floor also has restaurants and a food court.  Even if you are traveling  here with picky eaters, you are sure to find something that everyone will like!

The second floor is where you will find the newly opened Orion Books. It is located on the back side next to a couple of dimly lit thrift stores. The bookstore it self is relatively large. The main aisle way of the 2nd floor goes right through the bookstore so you really can’t miss it! One side of the aisle has shelves of books grouped by section but we did not see any English books there. It is possible that we may have missed some but I will be sure to check back again.

The opposite side of the aisle had a children section. There are tables with popular children’s picture books, chapter books, and educational books. There is also a few aisles of popular character books like Moana, Sophia, and some other popular Disney characters. These books are in Japanese but my kids still found it to be great fun looking through the picture books and exploring their favorite characters anyway.

There is an aisle between the character book section and the educational toy section. This is where the English learning books are located. They had books about general low level English that were hardback, nice quality and durable. These would be great for a preschooler or even an early reader. They contained beginner English lessons and pictures of objects with their names and things like this. There are Japanese early learning books ground right beside them so you should be able to spot this educational section without a problem. 

 

Behind the education books section we found a large section of education toys. There were 3-D maps of the world and Japan that you could build with puzzle like pieces, wooden magnet food cutting sets for motorskill practice, and brain teaser games of all types. These were really high quality toys and games.

Much better than we have seen at the chain toy stores, and typical department store toy sections. Some were a bit pricey but this was to be expected as most of the toys being sold were wooden and “natural” materials vs plastic at the chain stores.  And honestly, they have a lot of things here that would serve as great birthday or Christmas gifts. Especially if you are sending something overseas and want to get something different than what you will find typically!

There were too many types of educational sets and toys to list and I am sure the selection changes frequently but it is worth checking out.

Access to the book store is easy. There are elevators and escalators. Elevators are also specifically marked for those with wheelchairs and strollers so you should not have too many issues fighting the crowd! The aisles are wide enough for strollers or wheel chairs and it is easy to navigate. As with most other Aeon Malls this one also offers the infant carts, and the toddler character carts. So you probably do not have to bring your own stroller or baby carrier as generally they are readily available.

Parking is also really easy. You can simply enter the parking garage connected to the mall and just take the elevator right down to enter the mall.  Most of the times that we have visited the here the parking has been free. I am not sure what the actual policy on parking price is, so be sure to look for signs to be on the safe side!

Getting Here:

Address: 

2 Chome Tamadaira, Hino-shi, Tōkyō-to 191-0062
Train: Toyoda Station
Hours : Daily 10-10

 

 

Sweet Box Crepes – Harajuku

If you are heading to Harajuku – Takeshita Street to be precise, don’t forget to check out Sweet Box Crepes. We have been to the Harajuku thing with our kids more than once and I do have a separate post on how to make it worth your while with kids this post is just going to address our visit to Sweet Box Crepes for the most part.

Crepes are THE thing on Takeshita street. Santa Monica Crepes seems to be what tourists know about and like to wait in line for. We however always avoid Santa Monica Crepes. Not because it is not good, but just because the line is always a mile long. It is even a mile long on the weekends… when it is rainy. With a squirmy toddler we look for the area with no line no matter what trendy thing we are going to miss out on!

Sweet Box Crepes was about $5 for a Chocolate ice cream with Banana and whipped cream. It was really good. The chocolate ice cream was so good infant that we probably would have just ate that all by itself! It was not overly sweet and the whipped cream was really fluffy and fresh. It was worth our $5 and it was big enough that we got to split the treat between all of us.

They also supplied us with tiny plastic spoons so we could eat it while walking (although eating while walking is a no-no in Japan) and then we all got to share while using our own tiny spoon.

We did not get napkins although they were probably available. We didn’t have too much of a mess considering four of us were sharing – including a toddler- while walking in a crowd. We just peeled the paper down that held it all together to finish eating the actual crepe.

 

Another good point about picking out your crepe from Sweet Box is that you can see all the ordering possibilities in big plastic cases on the sides of the building. Each type of crepe available has a plastic replica made and on display so that you can see what exactly is in every kind. This made it really hard for our kids to decide and in the end I took them to wait on the side of the street so our stroller was not in the way of the line and the Dad did a great job deciding on a great flavor without our extra 3 indecisive minds!

The staff worked quickly and the order was made fresh. So your crepe will come out still hot and delicious… not rubbery! Also – if you have limited Japanese skills or none at all this is no problem. You can pretty much point to what you would like to order if necessary and the staff will help you out. As it is made fresh though be prepared to wait a few minutes for your order to be ready. It doesn’t take long  but you will have a couple minutes of wait time.

You can find Sweet Box on Takeshita Street  just as you enter from the Harajuku station side. You will enter through the main colorful side and walk down the hill. Look for Sweet Box on the right side of the street. If you miss it, it is across the street from Paris Kids hair accessories shop.  If you pass La Pass you have walked too far.  It is easy to spot as it sits on the first corner you will come to on Takeshita street entering from the station side on the right.

 

The above photo is looking down the street from the Sweet Box Crepes Shop. You know if you pass these landmarks you have gone too far!

There is an area in from of the shop that you can sit down on the street and enjoy your treat if you want or you can just keep shopping and walking down the street. We came here on a weekday and found a spot to eat our treat easily, although we choose to keep walking to enjoy our shopping time! Plus we felt that we were in a time crunch as our parking was on the expensive side!

Hours:

Most shops and food stalls on the street are open from 11:00 to 8:00. This can be different form shop to shop but this is the general operating time. I suggest getting there at opening time and enjoying things before the crowd gets really heavy in the late afternoon. The earlier you get there on the week days the most you will actually get to see. On the weekends it can be so crowded that we had to ship many attractions just because we couldn’t even get from one side of the street to the other with kids due to the crowd.

 

Strollers and Baby Wearing:

If you are going to visit Harajuku on the weekend I highly advise you to not bring a stroller. It is very crowded. So crowded in fact that you will literally be bumping into people the entire time. If it was the weekend I would still baby wear my toddler. I would be afraid that she would get lost just holding our hands in the crowded area, SO that is my suggestion.

However if you go on the week days it will still be crowded but you could use a small umbrella stroller. We did use a stroller on our last trip and it seemed to be fine. However this week day was not on a holiday and it was not very warm yet. So be aware of the weather and the time of year that you will be visiting as this will effect the crowd size on the street.

For those traveling with a wheel chair be advised that the street is very steep when coming from Harajuku station side. If you are using a wheelchair or have a handicapped or elderly visitor in your party you may want to enter Takeshita street from the opposite end near forever21 as this area is at the bottom of the hill and not steep. Actually this would be advised with strollers as well. I had to keep a really good hold on my umbrella stroller when walking down from the station side.

How to get there :

To visit Sweet Box Crepes you can drive or use the train.

if you do take the train you will want to take the JR Yamanote route and exit at the Harajuku Station stop. Takeshita Dori street will be right across from the station with a large colorful sign showing its entrance.

.If you drive you can just simply type in “harajuku station” into your google maps. It will easily get you there. We have used this multiple times and had no issues finding this location.

The difficult part you will face is parking. If you are driving just get to the area early so that you do not spend an hour looking for an open parking spot (happened to us!).

We drove and parked at a 7/11 area just down the road. Much of the parking in the area is about 20-30 minutes for between 300 or 400 yen. We stayed for around 2 hours and had to pay 1200 yen to park. ($12.00 for 2 hours of parking).

Bathrooms

Also take note if you are traveling with little ones that bathrooms can be a bit difficult to find here. We had to make a bathroom stop and used the 7/11 down the road. We did not see bathrooms in most of the shopping area or most snack shops. Most snack shops on the street were for take away (take out) orders and there was not inside seating. There are coffee shops and small restaurants if you walk a little further off of the main Takeshita area but I would advise a bathroom stop at the train station or another area before you actually enter Takeshita street itself. If you do locate one you may have too long of a wait for a young child.

We will share more about Takeshita Dori in Harajuku in another post. We wanted to really focus on Sweet Box Crepes so that you and your kiddos could have a plan in place for your visit here. We did try out other crepe venues on previous trips but we found this to be the easiest for families with children. Shorter line, on the corner offering space for a larger group to eat, reasonable price, lots of variety of flavors to pick, and some shades to stand under while in line. It was also English friendly ordering so don’t be intimidated! If you want to check out their full menu just check out www.crepes.jp  however it is in Japanese only. Please leave a message if you want to know more and we will get back to you as soon as possible if you need help with your trip to Takeshita Dori!

Happy Harajuku-ing!

 

Baby and Toddler Carts in Japan

One of the best freebies in Japan are the Baby Carts in the stores. If you are like a lot of families visiting or relocating to Japan then you want to know all the little details about how to make your life easier when navigating a foreign country. A great place to find things to do with little ones is to visit your nearest mall. Aeon Mall in particular is very kid friendly.

When we first arrived in Japan I was overwhelmed by the many differences. Most of the shopping areas had really narrow aisles and my American style stroller seemed monstrous and just did not work well in the tight crowded space. It can also be a struggle if you are living car free in Japan or downsizing to a more Tokyo friendly smaller scale car. One of the best things I found when I first arrived was the great abundant of themed baby carts and toddler carts in the malls.

I realized that many families in the malls, grocery stores, and department stores were pushing along sleeping babies reclined in style while still having a place for the shopping bags. The toddlers were pretending to drive along with their favorite characters and they were being pushed along giving their moms and dads plenty of shipping time since they were throughly entertained.

The baby carts that are available in many of the stores and malls are high up about waist level and the baby sit can sit up straight or recline fully to allow your child to nap. This also provides those who came to the mall via bicycle or train a way to transport without having to baby wear throughout the entire trip. It is also helpful to many in Japan with mini sized cars that do not have the trunk space to haul a stroller if they are also going to be making purchases on their trip.

 

The baby cart is free for use in the store and you can take it all the way out to your car or bicycle when it is time to pack up your purchases and head home. There are also handles on the cart for shopping bags to hang and a rack underneath to store your basket while you are adding items to your cart.

Some of the baby carts face forward but generally you will see the infant style baby carts facing towards their parent so they will feel at east.

The carts have rubber handle grips and do not have a tight strap or buckle. Instead they have a plastic breathe comes across the lap and between the legs. The plastic Lapland can be tightened or loosened. It will not get loose enough for your child to fall out but it can not get too tight like a small buckle or strap. This design is pretty good, especially if you have a wiggle baby that hates straps. However I find it a bit difficult to put a baby in when I have no assistance. The cart is on wheels and you also have to hold the plastic lap band forward while putting the baby in. It can be done but I think the carts should have some type of brake for this situation. Overall it is a really nice design though.

Most stores have a lot of infant style arts available. I have not come across a time where we couldn’t get one. Even on the dreaded Sunday with heavy crowds!

The toddler carts are available at most locations that have the infant carts. Sometimes if you can not locate a toddler cart inside near the infant seat area then they will be available outside of the store entrances.

These carts are good for children from about 1 1/2 to 4 years of age. There are a variety of character theme and colors. We found most common are Anpanman, Hello Kitty, Thomas the Train, Winnie the Pooh, Miffy, and Mickey Mouse. The carts are equipped with steering wheels, mirrors, and some pretend car controls to entertain your toddler. They all have a strap and buckle. The entrance of the carts are low so toddlers can actually clim in the carts themselves and parents do not have to bend over to life them up. They may just require some help with the buckle.

The carts also have two hooks for shopping bags. You can hang a grocery shopping basket on them as well but then is not really stable and you should use caution. These are more designed for shopping bags, not baskets for use in the grocery area. If you would like to grocery shop with this cart it is possible but not suggested unless you have a second person to help you hold the basket separately.

There is also an area at the top of the cart that you can use for holding small items. We use this area for holding soppy cups or small toys that our toddler might insist on bringing in the mall.

There are many carts available usually. However, we have noticed that there are less toddler carts than infant carts for use. The toddler carts do sometimes run out, especially during peak shopping times during weekends.

Don’t forget the Aeon Malls and large grocery areas generally have a play space for children. The basic play spaces for infants and crawlers are generally free but some of the larger play areas do charge by 5 to 15 minute increments. They can be as little as a few hundred yen to requiring monthly memberships. Either way, when you are using the baby cart you can still participate in the play areas or the arcade spaces.. you can simply park them on the outside of the play area and leave your bag hanging on the cart. This signifies that you are not finished with the cart and no one will use it.

Hope this post helps those venturing out and about the first few times in Japan. Maybe you can accomplish your tasks via bike or car and leave your strollers at home!

Guide to Showa Memorial Park with Kids

One of our favorite family spots to spend time with nature and enjoy the seasons is Showa Memorial Park. This post is an easy guide to make your trip easier, especially when you are traveling with children. We want to help you get the most out of your trip the easy way!

We have visited this park on many occasions as it is near our home and we feel it is one of the best parks in Tokyo. We especially enjoy this park in the Sakura viewing season and have spent three years in a row viewing the Sakura (cherry blossoms) here. In our opinion this is one of the best Cherry Blossoms spots in all of Tokyo and one of the easiest to access with children or a large group.

Lets get right into it!

Getting there:

Showa Kinen Park is located in western Tokyo in the Tachikawa area. It is about an hour from downtown Tokyo. It is a really easy drive to reach the park. There is a two lane entrance complete with parking and as you near the park you will see banners and many park gates announcing that season special attractions at the park.

If driving is not an option you can easily reach Tachikawa by train. The main entrance to the park is close to Tachikawa station. There is about a 10 minute walk between the park and tachikawa station. The walk itself is not generally too difficult. There are some streets to cross but in this area there are wide and new sidewalks so this should not be a problem. The walk from Tachikawa Station will take you to the main entrance of the park.

You will also pass several restaurants, convience stores, and supermarkets between the station and the park. This will allow you to grab snacks or drinks for the park if you do not want to pack much for your train ride. You can bring food and drinks into the park so this is a good option for those that want to enjoy a picnic at the park.

There are also two other close train stops You can exit at the Musashisunagawa Station at the Seibu Haijima line. But this stop will give you around a 20 minute walk to access the park. You will also not enter the park at the main entrance from this stop. You will be looking to enter the park at a gate called Sunagawa Cho. I think this is the lest crowded area for entrance. However this I have never had a wait problem getting into the park even during the peak days and times. I think over all it would be easier to focus on using Tachikawa Station to enter the park unless if you are maybe walking or biking from home and this is your closest gate. I also do not recommend this area for those traveling with small children. I do not think this 20 minute walk is the best route to travel with them. The pathways are not as good for strollers or walking with a baby carrier as the Tachikawa Station route.

The other train option is the JR ome Railway. The exit you should take would be the Nishi Tachikawa station and this route will take you about a 20 minute walk also. I have never done this route and can not comment on how the pathways are for walking with children. When in doubt try a google earth photo! 🙂

Parking:

Parking at Showa Park is so convenient and easy. It does cost to park though. There is one standard fee. We we recently went to the park (Cheery Blossoms spring 2017) the cost was 820 yen. So about $8.20 in dollars. Keep in mind it is a one time charge for the entire day. This is not hourly or even in 20 minute increments like many Tokyo attractions. This parking is A+ in my book!

Caution though –  I do remember that last year we went during a special event and I thought that we actually paid 1000 yen (around $10). I am not sure of the parking fluctuation for sure but, just be aware that there will be a charge… and it may be slightly higher during a special event.

The parking lot area is large and the spaces are decent sized for Japan standards. You can bring your full size vehicles and it will not be a problem. I did not notice that any spots were specifically zoned off for mini cars so you would not have any issues with parking. The parking area is huge… but not so huge that you will have an issue getting into the park. There are no shuttles needed from the lot like Disney or anything! (btw that is not a thing at Tokyo Disney because the parking lot is not huge like Florida or Cali.  Most people take the train to get to Disney here in Tokyo!!)

Cost:

If you are looking for a free adventure with the fam it can be done. There is one side of the park that is actually called the “Green Culture area ” or Green culture zone. This area is not technically inside the park. You do not have to purchase tickets or wait in line to enter. this will be to the left of the Tachkawa gate. You will pass through this area if you are walking from Tachikawa station.

This area does have a small museum, grassy areas to play, a cafe inside the free museum area and an elevator to access the high part of the park entrances or walking paths for strollers or wheelchairs.

Many people in the Green Culture area bring picnics, skateboards, frisbees, soccer balls, and bubbles for their children to play. There is not as much of a shaded area there though so on a hot day my advice is to go ahead and pay for the main park area.

If you are going to see Cherry Blossoms this area will not have them. There may be just a couple but the large area for cherry blossoms viewing would be inside the regular park area.

The main area of the park charges:

Adults 15 – 64 years- 410 yen
Seniors 65 years and over- 210 yen
Children 6 – 14 years-  80 yen
Infants 0 – 5 years-  Free

Food and Entertainment:

There are multiple food vendors in the park. There is a restaurant near the main entrance and it has large floor to ceiling windows so that you may view the park while eating.

There is also a BBQ park area that you may reserve for your group. This is located near the rainbow pool area and you may bring your own food and drinks from outside or order items within the Rainbow pool BBQ area for grilling. However if you want to sue the BBQ garden you must reserve a spot. As this is a really popular spot for social gathers it is recommended that you try and reserve a spot about 2-3 months in advance as it books up really quickly.

The BBQ garden also has activities that you can participate in. You must book these also. There are activities like frisbee and horseshoes available. Check the official website or call Showa Park directly to find out more about the options and booking availability.

Showa Kinen has a wonderful childrens play area. This is called the Childrens Forest. It has numerous large slides, playground equipment, and large round bouncy contraptions. There is also an area that turns misty in the summer months to keep kids cool. Misty water is sprayed out near the play area so they can even enjoy the playground in the hot humid summer months of Tokyo!

There are also bicycles available for rental. There are numerous bike paths through Showa park and bikes are available for adults and children. You should definitely get to the park early to rent a bike as this is a popular activity and they do run out. You can start renting bikes at 9:30 am. It is around 400 yen for adults and around 260 for children. This price may not be accurate as prices can vary so check with the park directly to confirm.

There are various notable garden attractions in the park as well. Such as a large Japanese garden and a historical area. And a large open field area near the Childrens park. This area is surrounded by trees on the edges but gives plenty of space for running and playing sport or having a picnic. There are vendors at one edge of the field with tables and chairs for enjoying snack. You will see families with children using this area the most.

 

Also- do not forget about the area of the park called “The Rainbow Pool”. This is a separate admission price as it is a small waterpark like pool. More about this on the post entitled “Rainbow Pool at Showa Kinen Park”. Creative title right?

Hours of Operation:

March  until October –  9:30 a.m. – 5:00
November until February: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30

Strollers/ Wheelchairs / Infant Feeding:

Showa park is one of the easiest parks to navigate with strollers or a wheelchair. The pathways are wide and mostly flat. There are easy to access ramps at the front entrance with handrails as well. Baby carriers could be used as well but since this park is so large it is best to also bring along your stroller. I think most moms would get really worn out walking through the entire park with only a baby carrier.

Infant and baby feeding is easy here. There are many areas that you could stop and feed an infant. Also, bags containing liquids and food are allowed in all areas of the park.

There are nice baby changing areas in the restrooms and they are spread throughout the entire park.

I had an easy time using the changing areas here since my child was a very young baby. Now that she is potty training we still have no problem accessing a bathroom in a hurry!

 

Overall:

Pack a picnic, bring your stroller, and some water bottles because this will be an all day event! We have visited this park many times and still haven’t seen all there is to see! We also have not rode in any of the boats on the little lake! There is so much to do here and everything is easy for foreigners and kids! I also suggest bringing a mat for your picnic. There are usually seats and tables at the vendors but in case they are full or you are packing your own lunch box you may want to have a mat to lay on the grass to sit on while eating. Also as the weather changes quickly in Tokyo, the mat is very useful if it suddenly starts to rain but you need to rest on a bench for a baby feeding or something like that. This way you can keep your seat dry while stopping for a more comfortable baby feeding.

*Do not forget your camera! This park has great photo spots for the kids. Usually there are couples doing wedding photos here and many families posing for family pictures. Yes, it is that beautiful!

Enjoy your trip to Showa park! Leave a comment and share any tips you have for the park!

 

 

Mt Fuji 5th Station with Kids

mt fuji, fuji sanSo last weekend we planned to visit the 5th station of Mt. Fuji with our kids and friend. If you are not familiar with Mt. Fuji, then I must explain a couple of things so that you understand what I am talking about! The 5th station is actually the highest point on Mt. Fuji that you can reach without hiking. So If you are driving, visiting by tour bus, or just taking a guided tour of the mountain and not an actual “climb” then this will be your summit.

The 5th station is also the “halfway point” on the Subaru line. There are 4 trails that you can take if you are physically climbing the mountain but depending on weather and the age of your children most likely you will be just visiting the 5th station. Older children would have no issues climbing up – although it may take many hours- but our children are younger so I only have advice and tips for those with littles! If it is a clear day you will be able to see the top of Fuji from the 5th station, so I think you can still get the full experience even if you are not climbing the mountain.

Overall I would say this is a family event that everyone should experience while in Japan, even if you have just a short visit. It is one of the most popular and well know destinations and it is really easy to access with children. Compared to many other destinations it does not cost an excessive amount if you are traveling with a large family.

Getting there:

We drove. If you have a car in Tokyo or access to a car you can do it. The route is pretty easy. I must stress that if you are visiting from Tokyo just take the freeway toll route. This is such an easy drive. Yes, you will be paying tolls. I am thinking that we paid about $40 to take a large van but we have also driven to Fujisan “toll free” in a windy road that double our drive time and curved around many edges of mountains and small, small, unsturdy looking old bridges over huge cliffs. I can not even explain to you have terrifying it was to drive toll free to fuji from Tokyo. I literally thought we were probably going to run off the edge of a very narrow road on a very sharp cliff and plunge to our death. So please just go the toll road. You can get there in about 1.5 hours from Tokyo. Easy driving. Not much traffic. When you enter the Subaru line there is a 2000 yen fee. This is close to $20 USD. This is the only toll to get up to the 5th station and back. I thought it was well worth the fee as the road was very well maintained, clean, and there were nice bathrooms at the entrance where you pay the fee.

Subaru Line:

So the road that you will drive up the mounting is called the Subaru line. You will take this to wind all the way to the top. Drive slowly because there will be many tour buses passing you and they will rule the road. They will not watch out for you and you should be prepared to stop or move over at a moments notice. Be aware as there will be lots of bicyclists using this road as well. They will be the most difficult part of the drive in my opinion as when we went there were many of them.

There will be rest areas along this road up. There will be some parking areas with look out aces so you can enjoy the view. Some of these stops even have nice restroom accomodations and they generally have handicapped parking as well.

Parking:

When you reach the 5th station there Weill be traffic officers to help you navigate your way around the buses and through the tourists to the large parking lot. There wil be steps and a ramp from the parking area up to the main tourist area. I had a stroller but found the ramp to be very steep. It was not worth it to take the stroller up from the parking area to me.

Things To Do on FujiSan:

The 5th station is where you will find all the action. There are horse rides and they are around 300 yen (US $3.00). They supply helmets and kids or adults can ride. There will be a guide to lead your horse around a little trail that goes around the gift shop areas and then back to the stable area. We chose not to ride the horses because we felt they were in very poor condition. I felt that they were probably not well cared for or rested. Some were constantly  twitching and keeping certain hooves up or chained to the side of the mounting standing as if they were injured. You may encounter different horses or a better situation than we did.

There is a row of gift shops. They sell a large array of Japan tourist gifts. Typical things like fans, t-shirts, candies, and lots of “Mt Fuji” memorabilia of all kinds. We bought a Mt Fuji snow globe for the sake of having something Mt Fuji that we could keep. Things are pretty expensive but there are plenty of cheap things like candies that could make the trip “excellent” according to a young child!

Eating:

There is a large cafeteria style restaurant at the 5th Station. It was pretty crowded when we went. I think it is about $30 per person for the Japanese buffet style food. I do not know if this price changes seasonally but when we were considering booking a tour for our family visiting from out of town is was $28 per person and that was with a very small discount for booking the tour.  The cafeteria is child/ baby/ elderly and wheel chair friendly but we opted out.

There is a large area lower than the cafeteria next to an information center. This area has picnic tables and some benches. There is space in this area to enjoy a packed lunch or a bento. We took many photos and videos in this area as it has the perfect view to the summit – especially for taking pictures of your children for future holiday cards and such!

This is also an acceptable distance to the gift shops and a vendor or two selling ice cream. You can send some of your group to buy the snacks or supplies and then wait it out with the kids at the picnic table area. This area is also the closet to the parking area. So if you have some really tired kiddos or grandparents this would be a good spot to let some sit down for a break.

Attractions:

Besides the summit of Fuji, there is also a really pretty little shrine area located behind the gift shops. This area can get pretty crowded but if you are at the 5th station it is worth visiting. It is also a great place to seek some shade if you travel here on a sunny or hot day (however keep in mind that Fuji is generally windy and cooler than down below!)

There are look out points around the 5th station area for photography and admiring the scenery. There are so many trees around the edge of the mountain and it is so massive you almost forget how high up you actually are! You can also check out entrances to the other trails for those continuing to climb up. But remember the the 5th station is the final stop for any cars.

Letting your kids see an active volcano up close and personal is amazing. It also looks very different than we expected! It was amazing that even at the 5th station which is 7,874 feet high there is still a long way to go to reach the top! The entire mountain is a little over 12,388 feet high. If you want your older children to do some math have them convert the signs in meters to feet!

Strollers:

I advise not bringing a stroller. This also may depend on the day and season though. However Mt Fuji is generally always somewhat crowded. Even when we recently tried to visit in the snow, and the Subaru line was closed, there were still many cars trying to enter the road to the 5th station in just the few minutes we were there and made to turn around!

It is easier to use a baby carrier. Get out your most comfy baby wearing harness or wrap and walk freely around. There are far to many tourists, especially many taking selfies and will not watch out for your stroller. Plus you can easily take many selfies of your family and baby hands free. Also there are steep areas and it is just easier to not worry about your stroller rolling down a mountain. I also think it is probably easier to go without a stroller as the ramp up from the parking lot was a pretty steep incline. This mixed with the high altitude could make breathing pretty difficult. You may end up panting the entire way up to the sites! You will still get your exercise in baby wearing and it will be a better experience!

Wheelchairs:

I know that there were many visitors in wheelchairs and many elderly visitors as well. I would suggest letting them out of the car before you park. There is a street to turn down to the parking lot and an area where you could stop to do this. Otherwise be prepared to have someone else them up the ramp, it is pretty steep.

Cost:

Besides your cost of tolls you will be paying around 2000 yen to enter the Subaru line to get to the 5th station. This is your only cost. There is no fee to “visit” Mt Fuji. If you pack a lunch and just enjoy the scenery and take photos that is all you will pay. This was more than enough enjoyment for us. We packed snacks and drinks for the car. You can bring your own drinks and food and there is no restrictions on this.

There is nothing that you are obligated to pay for other than the toll entrance to enter the mountain. The parking itself is free. The lookout points are free as well. You can park there instead and picnic if you like for no charge.

We wondered around the mountain and bought 1 family souvenir. We had a great time and had lots of photos to remember this by.  Not a lot of cost compared to many things we have tried as a family in Tokyo but it was still great fun.  It is worth the trip.

Overall:

Our 8 year old still talks about it and we have returned to the fuji area several times. This is a great family outing even with small children and is easy to navigate. This is one of my favorite things in Japan. It is so pretty and wish we could visit during every season to enjoy how the trees change!

EXTRA TIP:

Don’t forget to be quiet as you enter the forest area of your drive. You will pass the Fuji World Heritage museum. (This is also free and you should stop and check it out, another post on this later). As you leave the museum area you will notice down the road that there are music notes. You will drive over bumps and a song will play. You tires will bump along to the Mt Fuji Song! Kids love this! You can hear it on the way home too!

 

 

 

 

Guide to Kamakura with Kids – Cheap Day Trip

Great Buddha -Kamakura

As you may already know, we are all about free of cheap travel while in Japan! There are tons of inexpensive and fun things to do with kids near Tokyo; and Kamakura (Great Buddha) Statue has been one of my favorite family day trips while living here.

Technically this is a buddhist temple called Kotoko-in and it is located in the city of Kamakura, but many people will just say “have you seen the great Buddha Kamakura?” or “Kamakura Daibutsu /鎌倉大仏” in Japanese. This is the place they are referring to! The statue has actually been rebuilt a few times as it has previously been damaged by weather and wash away to sea. It is really amazing. Over 43 feet tall, bronze, and surrounded by really amazing temple grounds.

Even if you are traveling with children who aren’t thrilled with checking out shrines, this one can be made into an enjoyable trip as visiting the beach is just a short trek away from the main entrance.

I wanted to share some information about how easy this trip really is so that other families will feel comfortable getting out of Tokyo and day tripping it … in an inexpensive way of course!

There are 65 temples and around 19 shrines in the area. Many people actually hike through all of the shrines and temples and do not go just to visit the great Buddha only. Be prepared for large crowds and many bikers and hikers.

There are also tons of shops, restaurants, and even some street food to enjoy along the way. We drove through the main shopping and tourist street but we did not visit this area. We went straight to the main area that hosts the big Buddha statue and parked as close to this as possible.

When you enter the main area of the Kamakura statue there is a beautiful garden atmosphere and concrete walkways. It is near the ocean so expect lots of wind. There are also lots of gravel areas if you leave the main path. It is crowded most of the time and we went in the late afternoon so we only had about an hour to stay. I would also recommend visiting this in spring or fall as this is much more enjoyable when it is not humid and hot. I think this is why our children really enjoyed this outing and lasted without complaining!

Cost:

You can enter the shrine area for 200 yen (that is around $2 usd) and you can actually enter the Buddha itself for 20 yen more. You must pay and buy a ticket for this part and the line can get rather long but it moves very quickly. You can not do anything other than just look and walk up the buddha. So even if the line is long it is worth waiting as it will move rather fast. In our opinion it was worth doing this and our children really enjoyed it. Even our one year old at the time had no problems being carried through. You can not take a stroller through the Buddha. The path and stairs are cramped and narrow. A baby carrier would work great though. I did not use a carrier at all and it moved so quickly that it worked out fine and was not tiring.

We also paid around 1000 to park at a lot right down the street from the buddha. We had to tell the parking attendants how long we planned to stay in order to figure out the pricing. If you are staying for the day you would want to park farther away or just take a train to avoid this.

 

 

Location/ Info:

Kamakura is located in Kanagawa Prefecture which does not take too long to reach by car or train.

(We drove from the west side of Tokyo and it took about 1 1/2 hours. I do not think that we did this trip toll free.. although that is an easy option. Just set your GPS to the toll free option and you can get there for free! )

 

Address:

4 Chome-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0016

Train:

Hase Station – Enoden railway

The Buddha is about 7 minutes walking from the station exit.

  • This attraction is open even day of the year.
  • you can access the great Buddha from 8-5 (5:30 in the summer months)

Stroller / Wheelchair access:

I suggest baby carriers rather than strollers but if you have a toddler a stroller can be done. I used an umbrella stroller. We had to cross multiple streets and navigate high curbs but it is possible. At the great Buddha itself there is a lot of gravel with a concrete path in the middle. I parked the stroller to the side and left it while we explored. There were large crowds so it would not have been enjoyable to do this with a small baby in a large stroller if you had no baby carrier available.

Wheel chairs can be done on the path as it is level. However some road crossing along the way to the Buddha would be difficult as there were large curbs. If you have a couple of handy friends that can help out this wouldn’t be a problem.

You can not bring a wheelchair or stroller in the great buddha. It is narrow and has stairs. Use a baby carrier or prepare to carry small toddlers. Not for the claustrophobic either!

Infant Feeding / Toddler Melt Down Areas:

Overall for a crowd of people it is pretty quiet. There are many areas that you can sit down and be out of the way if you should need to feed an infant. If you have a toddler melt down situation you should have plenty of space to sit down for an out of the way snack. As eating and drinking at the temple would be frowned upon there are plenty of areas near that you could take a walk and eat snacks away from the crowd. There is also the option of driving/ walking near the coastal road and stopping in the parking lots or entering the walk ways to the beach areas.

We saw ice cream shops, snacks to buy, and even places to rent wind surfing equipment. Our kids had a great time watching the wind surfers just down the road from the great Buddha. This took there mind of of the long day and allowed them some time to regroup after walking through the tourist attractions.

Suggestion:

Bring sunglasses or hats for kiddos. It is on the coast and pretty windy here. We had some difficulties with sand blowing in our eyes so it would have been much better for our toddler to have had her sunglasses with her… even on a cloudy day!

official Website in English:

Kamakura Great Buddha

 

Also,If you need a carrier I love the Japanese Combi brand. It is pricey but oh so worth it. especially because it has clips so you can easily take it off and on while switching positions on the trains and subways.

 

(I am not a paid for this suggestion by combi. I just simply see this as a good product that I would suggest if you are coming to Japan and do not have a carrier. I earn a small commission through the amazon affiliate link. and I mean SMALL! The earnings from affiliate links are put back into paying for the cost to run this site so that I can continue to share our tips on Japan with everyone!)

 

 

 

Hello Kitty Japan – DiverCity Tokyo Plaza

Hello Kitty mochi

Hello Kitty JapanIf you are near the Odaiba area a great place to stop with the kiddos is The DiverCity Plaza. It was rainy and a little colder than we realized so while we were checking out some of the attractions in Odabia we decided to stop in the DiverCity Plaza. The favorite spot in this mall for our children was the Hello Kitty Japan store. Although there are many Hello Kitty stores around this one also has a few amenities that are sure to keep your kids entertained.

Hello Kitty, Odaiba,

The store is a decent size and has a section for most of the Sanrio characters. We found pretty much everything here. From Twinkle Star Twin  packs of tissues to Pompomourin makeup bags, this store has it covered. I was tempted to try out some of the face masks which were all around 300 Yen. Kids will really enjoy checking out the merchandise but most of the toys and stuffed animals are a bit pricey. Everything was really cute but so much Hello Kitty character merchandise is available in other stores in Tokyo that I was not willing to shell out money for  Hello Kitty toys today! My two year old was just happy to walk around and check out all the colorful decorations and My eight year old chose a different souvenir from the Gundam Cafe located on the first floor outside (find out more about that here). This store is a great place for a high quality memorabilia  to take back for a friend who loves Hello Kitty though.

Activities for the Kiddos:

For younger kids, and older selfie takers, the entrance to the store has a fun photo op set up. There is a Hello Kitty statue in the form of a Gundam like robot costume. The statue says Odaiba under and there is a basket of photo accessories. There were things like Hello Kitty bows and large glasses with eyelashes. All were pretty cute to make a free and memorable photo op on your phone.

Hello Kitty, My Melody, MochiFood and Beverages:

On the left entrance of the store you can grab a quick bite to eat at the Hello Kitty cafe. There were some small curry and rice meals, green tea ice creams, and a variety of tasty mochi flavors to try. The Mochi were around 210 yen each and they were really good. We tried a chocolate flavored mochi and a chestnut flavor. We thought that they were both tasty but liked the chestnut the best. The chocolate flavor is for the true chocolate lover and can be on the strong side if you are expecting a lighter typical mochi flavor.

Hello Kitty mochi

The green tea and vanilla swirl ice cream in a cup was 300yen. This seemed to be a really reasonable price to us. Generally Ice cream and treats in Tokyo are very pricy and these were all larger than expected for what we paid.

green tea, ice cream

Access for Strollers and Wheelchairs:

This store is easy to access with young children and there is plenty of room for strollers or wheelchairs. There are many elevators to the parking garages so transportation with a stroller is really easy here. The aisles in this mall are wide which makes navigating with kids and a crowd much easier. The tables and Chairs in the Hello Kitty store were fine for toddlers to site and thee would be room for a wheel chair.

If you are in the Odabia area DiverCity Plaza is worth checking out. This mall is one of the more baby and kid friendly places in our opinion due to the large aisles in this mall and easy access food courts and kids eating areas, as well as the abundance of baby changing rooms located near all restrooms. Enjoy!

Location:

Hello Kitty Japan, 〒135-0064 Tokyo, Koto, Aomi, 1 Chome−1−10, ダイバーシティ東京プラザ 2F DiverCity Tokyo Plaza

If you are taking the train the closest station to the DiverCity mall is the “Daiba Station” located on the Yurikamome line.

Station Address:

2 Chome-6 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 135-0091

Ume Hanami at Mt. Fuji / Plum Blossom Viewing at Mt. Fuji

Ume Matsuri at Soga Bairin Orchard:

This weekend we ventured to the Ume Hanami at Mt. Fuji. Ume Hanami is just a fancy way to say Plum blossom viewing in Japanese! Since you can view Plum Blossoms for most of February into just the first couple of days of March our family decided to sneak in one last look before they are gone until next year. We decided to visit the Soga Bairin Orchard for the Odawara Ume Matsuri.

The great thing about the Soga Bairin Orchard located in Odawara was not only the fact that we were going to some more amazing plum blossoms, but that you can actually view around 35,000 plum trees! It is a complete working orchard that opens up during the blossom season to hold a festival but then closes to guests after the first weekend of March. This area is one of the largest in all of Japan for blossom viewing.

We were really excited because this Orchard also has a close up view of Mount Fuji right behind the plum orchard. I was really looking forward to all the great photos I was going to have of my kiddos in the plum orchard with Mt Fuji behind them but- it did not happen. We thought that the day was looking clear and that we were going to have perfect viewing. It was warm (for the first week of March), sunny, and only a few clouds were in the sky. Unfortunately, by the time we reached our destination clouds moved in over Fuji and disguised the entire mountain. So no Mt. Fuji viewing for us that day! If you decide to try out this orchard defiantly double check the weather and try to make it on a clear and sunny day to catch a great view of Fuji. It seems to also help if you go earlier in the day. We can see Fuji from our home and although it is small as we are a pretty far distance away we notice that in the early mornings it is usually most visible.

Getting There:

Getting to the Sago Bairin Orchard was not too problematic. We drove our car from Tokyo and arrived in a little over two hours and drove the toll free route with our GPS. So not only did we not pay for the drive in (a rare occurrence on a road trip in Japan!) but we also parked right in the orchard for free and the entry was free as well. A free day of activities is always a good day in my book!

**** If you want to take the train this is about a 10-15 minute walk from Shimosoga Station****

ume, plum blossoms
Ume Hanami, Odawara, Japan

Parking:

The parking was really easy. When you start to get about 5-10 minutes away from the orchard there are large pink banners that say UME MATSURI to encourage you from giving up and Turing around! 🙂 You will drive through a winding road up a mountain and the have an great view of the entire town below including the ocean meeting the mountains to the side. This part of the drive ended up being one of the highlights of the entire trip.

After curving down the mountain lookout road we ended up turning right onto a Main Street near the orchard. Then we turned into a small street with just a few houses. We initially thought that we were lost as we were literally squeezing down this small road and invading on the families there. We saw a few trees blooming but it just looked like a very small farm. We happened to see a couple orange cones and made a turn towards them. Then there was an enormous orchard tucked right behind the houses. We drove right up to the start of the trees and parked. There was plenty of parking and it was easy to get in and out.

 

 

 

Bathrooms:

There were bathrooms at the parking area. They were Port-a-potty style buuuuuut without seats. So port-a-john Japan style squatters. If you had to go you could stand on a step, face the back wall (hope you locked the door behind you well) and hold onto a handle on the wall to aid with your squatting balance. Then I advise you pray that you squatted down far enough otherwise you will have some wet Uggs when you leave… and Uggs show all water spots. FYI.

I am not sure if there were bathrooms anywhere else at the festival area as we were too preoccupied with checking out all the trees. However if you walk straight down the path from the parking lot all the way through to the other side of the orchard you will see the train station at the other end. You could find a bathroom there if you were really in need of something other than a porta potty. I would have down that had I know this was an option in the beginning.

Food, Drinks and Entertainment:

When you leave the parking lot you can just walk straight down a path to food vendors, a cafe, and a stage. This is where they have many of the festival performances and tea ceremonies. There is also a mini market type of area where the vendors are selling oranges and other vegetables and fruits. There were tables and chairs in this area to enjoy your snacks.

We also noticed that there was a separate large cafe with its own tables and chairs behind the stage area. I do not have information about what they had available because when we arrived this cafe was already closed (we arrived around 1pm). As our visit was the second to last day of the festival many things were already closed or packing up as we entered.

If you are looking for a more picnic type of atmosphere- which is popular for Hanami, I recommend turning right after walking down the main paling and the food stalls. There are raised picnic benches located in the middle of the trees. There were many families sitting with their picnic mats on the raised platforms and enjoying the blossoms. This area has some room for kids to wander about while you picnic as well in case they get bored of sitting before you get to finish your lunch. Is seems as if most families with younger children were in the Orchard area eating instead of seated at the tables. Mostly elderly patrons were in the main area with tables. This is not to say that you would not be welcome but just advice if you are with a large group or have young children who will not want to be seated for long periods.

Information During Your Visit:

There is a large map with information and trails marked in the main entrance of the trails. It has all information labeled in English as well as Japanese. You can view directions of  multiple shrines located on the orchard grounds, however we did not get to visit these so I can not give any advice. We made it a quicker trip as we wanted to head to the beach after and did not want to run out of time.

Accessibility for Strollers and Wheelchairs:

We did take a stroller. I think taking a stroller is ok as the areas are wide enough. Just be aware that you will probably be leaving the main path and walking through the grass and all through the trees if you like so its a little more difficult to get through there but overall I think it is fine. We took an umbrella stroller so I would not recommend that. Take a full size stroller that is easy to get through rougher terrain. We actually saw several wheelchairs in use at the time we were there and they had no problems getting around the orchard and through the crowds. This is a really useful point as I find many places in Japan are just not very easily accessed in this type of situation.

A wheelchair would work on the path. It is wide and fairly well cared for. No major cracks or rough terrain. Just a few small hills. The path all the way to the parking would be ok for a wheel chair as well. The grassy area within the Orchard could be wheel chair friendly although some spots the ground was soft and probably would need extra assistance in pushing through these areas by a companion if there was a manual wheelchair and nothing motorized. The parking area would be adequate for parking a van with a lift on the back as it is pull in forward and there is single parking and no cars will park behind you. getting in and out of the side doors or a car could be problematic as the sides are tight. However this is nothing worse than normal Japanese spots. I think it is actually better as no one is parked behind you in any spot that we saw.

Infant Feeding:

The orchard is big enough that if you do wish for privacy for feeding infants or need a quiet spot to settle a little one down you can probably find one. Just set out your picnic mat out under the trees and you probably won’t be bothered, as long as you are away from the main path. I did not see any type of private room or bathrooms located here.

Warning for Small Children:

Also I think it is worth mentioning there is an area of the orchard that is dangerous for kids. It is somewhat like a large area for water run off but it is deep and there are cement pillars over it with large gaps in between. This is large enough for a toddler to easily fall in. When we were near this area we had my toddler in the stroller so that we could walk father away from this and not have to worry about her wondering in due to curiosity. We simply redirected to another area of the orchard so she could play freely again. The orchard is huge so this should not deter you from visiting, just advice to steer clear of the drains.

Overall:

I think that this Ume viewing spot is a must on a clear day. I would also advise going in late February. While we saw tons of great blossoms, I think the peak week was probably the previous week. We went the first weekend of March. Realistically we should have been there the previous week. We still saw all colors of blooms and all types, but most of the red blooms were already gone. It was really enjoyable as this was far less crowded than other areas we have visited for Hanami. Let’s not forget this is not only free but special needs accessible as well as family friendly  that makes this a great plum viewing spot!

*Click here to visit the Odawara Ume Matsuri official site. You should visit the site before you go as the details can change yearly. The site is in Japanese but you can still view the dates and times.