Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tama-gawa (Ome River)


Our travelogue of adventures here in Japan continues!  Yesterday, we drove out to Ome (right by Mt. Mitake) to explore the river.  I know I keep saying it, but Japan is so beautiful!!!  And I love our location--we're nestled perfectly between busy Tokyo and peaceful, beautiful, green mountains, rivers, and lakes.  We spent the day on Friday taking trains and subways around Tokyo, and then Saturday we were wading in a cool mountainside river!


The Tama River in Ome isn't too deep, but it has enough current and rapids to be a popular spot for kayakers and rafters.  And also fishermen, who by the way, fish with the very longest fishing poles I've ever seen!  But anyway, we didn't go to fish or kayak, we just went to explore and throw rocks in the river, and it was a ton of fun.



There is a big pedestrian cable bridge near the area we entered from, so we crossed it to find a cute little outdoor cafe.  We didn't end up eating there because they were closed by the time we were leaving, but next time we'll be sure to try them out!  After crossing the bridge, we followed a path that went along the river until we found some steps leading down to its banks.  The river is very rocky, and very shallow along the edges (don't know how deep the middle was, but I'm assuming not too deep), so it was perfect for little legs to splash around, explore, and throw rocks into the river over and over and over again! 


 

We had a blast, and this river is definitely a spot that we will return to, especially since it's only about a 30 minute drive from base!  And, there's a handy little free parking lot, with restrooms, right by the trail that leads to the cable bridge.  The GPS coordinates for the parking lot are: 35.80278, 139.19489.














Tokyo Tower


The other day we were out in Tokyo, so while we were there we decided to go and see Tokyo Tower.  Going up Tokyo Tower wasn't on the top of our list, but since we were in the area, we decided to go check it out, and I'm so glad we did!  It was a lot cooler than we had expected, and all of us had a really fun time going up so high--250 meters!  And the views of the city were awesome.  











GPS Coordinates:
35.658645, 139.745003




Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hamazushi


Before we ever moved to Japan, Peter and I always loved going out to eat.  Combine that with our love for Japanese food, and now actually being in Japan and exploring our new city, and it's trouble.  We eat out way too often!

One of our favorite family spots that we've discovered since being here is Hamazushi.  It's a conveyer belt sushi restaurant!  AND! It's only ¥100 per plate (which was usually two pieces of sushi).  Some items, like karage, or different types of noodles were ¥200/plate, but still totally cheap.  We ended up getting a ton of food for a great price.

The sushi isn't the best sushi I've ever had, but it's definitely good.  That, plus the entertainment and novelty factors of being able to choose our food as it rolled by, made it an instant winner in our book. The kids ate really well too.  Will likes shrimp sushi, both kids love rice and noodles, and we can usually get them to eat karage or little pieces of beef that were served on different items.  In other words, there were plenty of things that my kids would eat, unlike a lot of sushi restaurants that are limited to only sushi.


I LOVE sushi, however, there are still a few things that even I won't try . . . 


Full squid served on some rice with mayo like it's no big deal?!  And don't worry, I've seen these same type of squid sold at the grocery store and they were about 10 times the size!  

There are several Hamazushi restaurants around, but the closest one to base is really easy to get to.  Just turn right out the east gate and drive until you see it on your left (it's right before the Moritown Mall and close to the Akishima train station).  

GPS Coordinates: 
35.714904, 139.365382

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mt. Mitake


Taking the cable car up and hiking Mt. Mitake was on the top of my list of things to do once we got here and got settled.  So, last week we did it!  And it did not disappoint!  I had no idea Japan was so beautiful until we moved here, and going up Mt. Mitake really proved it even more.  

Mt. Mitake is about a 45 minute drive from the base, and it's a really fun drive.  You get to drive through Ome, which is absolutely beautiful, and the closer you get to Mitakesan, the greener, and more spectacular it is.  Down near the base of the mountain runs a river, which attracts a lot of people as well, and it's also on our list of places to explore!  

Once you arrive at the base of Mitakesan, you can drive up a little ways to the cable car station.  We parked our car nearby for ¥500 and walked up to buy our tickets.  Our children (ages 4, 2, and 5 months) were all free, and it was only ¥1110 round trip for adults.  Not too bad, and it was really fun!  Mt. Mitake is very steep, as you can see in our photos from the cable car, making the ride that much more exciting.  



I love this expression of Bennett's.  Everything he sees is literally him seeing it for the first time.



After about an 8 minute ride, you are near the top of the mountain, and the views were really spectacular.  As you walk from this spot to the top of Mitakesan, you walk through a small village, with homes, souvenir shops, and smalls restaurants and inns.  It was absolutely fascinating to see homes and people living in such a remote location!  Some of the homes were so old that they had actual thatched roofs.  Crazy.  

The view from the top of the cable car ride.  It was so stunning; I could have sat there for hours!


Just checking out the route to the shrine.




Since our household goods have not yet arrived, we ventured out on this hike with only our Ergo carrier for Bennett, thus forcing both Clara and Will to hike the whole thing on their own and not in a hiking backpack . . . which really meant that Peter carried Clara most of the way and that Will occasionally got a lift, but really just complained a lot :)  That being said, they were both troopers considering how steep the climb was!  From the top of the cable car station to the Mitake Shrine is about a half hour walk, but more like an hour if you're making the trek with young children.  And it is REALLY steep!  And there are a TON of stairs.  But it is worth it!  Walking through the village, observing the scenery and incredible view, and reaching the ancient shrine at the top really made it an outing worth the work and sweat.  (And we got REALLY sweaty!)


This energy did not last long.  At all. 

These stairs mark the beginning of the many, many, many stairs to the shrine.  Definite calf workout.


The Mitake Shrine is said to be one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo, and houses some ancient treasures.  It is also one of the most popular places of mountain worship.  We arrived close to closing time and had to make it back down before the last cable car, so we couldn't explore too much, but there are several buildings surrounding the main shrine that were beautiful and would have been fun to check out as well.  In addition, the Okutama region (in which Mitakesan is located) is well known for its hikes, and from the shrine you can head off in different directions to waterfalls and more technical hikes.  But we'll have to save those adventures for a time when we don't have three young kids attached to us!




Mt. Mitake can be reached by train or car.  By train (travel to the Mitake station), from Tokyo it's about an hour and a half, and from the Fussa station, near base, it's about a 30 min train ride.  From the Mitake station you can catch a bus that will take you directly to the cable car station.  Like I mentioned above, we drove and it was a really easy drive.  Once you reach Mt. Mitake, there are a few small parking lots on the side of the road at which you should be able to find a spot.  

GPS Coordinates:
35.783200, 139.149954
*These coordinates are from Google Maps, and they are the coordinates for the actual mountain.  However, this is what we used to get us there, and it worked out great.  Follow the instructions in Google Maps or your GPS and it will lead you to the base of the mountain.  From there, you just start driving up and will come upon the parking lots and the cable car station.