Category Archives: Tokyo

The Homeland of Totoro @ Sayama Hills | TOKOROZAWA

Kurosuke's House from the official Totoro no Furusato Fund website
Kurosuke’s House from the official Totoro no Furusato (The Homeland of Totoro) Foundation website

“Sayama Hills” is the most well known name for the area around Lake Sayama, a man-made reserviour on the border of Tokyo and Saitama. However, Ghibli fans may well know it better as the Homeland of Totoro. The area has a number of natural habitats and cultural assets that are under protection to preserve not only the nature of the area, but also real life scenes that were the inspiration for the animated movie “Tonari no Totoro” or My Neighbour Totoro.

There is quite a bit of information on the Totoro Foundations Official English webpage, so this post is to share an adaption of a MAP (below) route we took on our family hike in the area. I adapted it to suit those coming by train, because I would advise, where possible, to avoid coming by car. The starting point on the map (shown below) is Seibu KyuJo Mae Station on the RedArrow Ikebukuro Line, Seibu-Sayama Line and Seibu-Yamaguchi Line. We actually did go by car and had to wait half an hour to get into the small car park and were charged for the privilege. Despite the Totoro woods both literally and figuratively “being on the map” these days, the area is not able to cater to large throngs of tourists. And there is little in the way of markers to help you on your course. I can’t help wonder if it is a ploy in attempt to preserve the tranquility and wilderness of the area. And in turn deter anyone, but the hardcore Totoro fans and avid hikers.


At the time of our hike and exploration my four children were aged between 1 and 7 years old. We had the 1 year old in an Out n About buggy, my preferred choice for any off road trekking and hiking. My 7 year old was well able for the journey. My (then) 5 year old was fine for the most part, but she did find the return a difficult challenge.  We needed to break up the journey a couple of times for my 4 year old, she even spent sometime in the buggy, particularly on the return leg.

I made two lethal mistakes on our hike. 1. I hadn’t printed off the map, and 2. my phone wasn’t fully charged. Both issues combined with the lack of phone coverage in the area resulted in us going right off course and adding at least another half hour to our hike. It is also the reason that I have very few of my own photos to share in this article. Due to the afore mentioned lack of signposts, plus the absence of signs of life, we had to wait a long time before we encountered anyone who could set us back on track. It happened to be another family doing a Totoro hike, they at least had the good sense to bring a map. They actually gave us their map as they were on their way back to the station via the lake, which is easier to navigate. Their map had been handed down by another family and another before that. You could tell; you could barely make out the ink on the sheet and it was missing a lot of landmarks. But it did the job and got us back on course.

Including lunch and breaks we spent about six hours hiking the area at a leisurely pace. We had our lunch at a picnic spot near the Totoro Tree and toilets, right on the side of the lake. The lake is a lot more impressive than I had expected.  I imagine it is particularly beautiful in Spring and during the vibrant colours of Autumn. Although we visited in Autumn it was long before the leaves were changing colour so we missed that particular pleasure. The picnic area had a shelter and table and chairs.  It was in full use by locals and fellow tourists. There is a green area beside it where the kids could kick around a ball. If you walk on the footpath one back from the one beside the lake, parallel to the part of the lakeside course marked on the map, there is a huge amount of insects in the long grass beside the path. My kids caught hundreds of grasshoppers and insects… and then let them all go again.

Totoro Forest #3 from the official Totoro Fund website

It took us about three hours to walk from the station area to Kurosuke’s house including break and play times. It took us longer coming back as we intentionally took our time and mucked around a bit to make it easier on the kids. During the hike we explored three of the Totoro Woods, numbers three, one and eleven and passed the Totoro shaped tree. There are temples and shrines along the route as well as lots of natural beauty. You can see some of the places we chose to stop on the Google MyMap shown above. There were another of couple places, such as a wading river near Mikajima Inari shrine, that we explored, but they don’t show up on Google Maps and it is very hard to pin point them.

Totoro Forest #1 from the official Totoro Fund website

Our goal and turn around point was the Kurosoke House. Much to our disappointment, Kurosuke’s house and the Chakouba, a workshop from around the end of the Meiji period, were closed. They have the area sealed off with a rope and you could in theory still enter the courtyard, but we didn’t want to disrespect the Japanese way of things. At least we have an excuse to go back and do a similar hike again. You can’t see much from the perimeter of the grounds, except for the Totoro bus stop, so if you would like to avoid ending up in the same position as we did I advise you visit on one of the three days the grounds are open:

Kurosuke’s House Details

Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturdays ONLY, from 10 am to 3 pm. When a public holiday falls on one of those days of the weeks it is NOT open to the public. My research had shown that inside the house there are a number of minature models of scenes from the Tonari no Totoro movie. They also sell original Tonari no Totoro goods such as badges, T-shirts and postcards.

Phone: 04-2947-6047

Address: 〒359-1164 Saitama-ken, Tokorozawa-shi, Mikajima, 3 Chome 1169-1

Cost: officially it is free to enter, but they do welcome donations as this project is not funded by the Government. It was initially made possible by the financial contributions of five key contributers, one of whom was Ghibli co-founder and My Neighbour Totoro creator Hayao Miyazaki himself. (The foundation also welcome volunteers assistance for maintaining the project. )

This is just one of many hiking options for the vast Totoro Foundation area. You can find some on the official Totoro Foundation site and a Google search will pull up many others. The photo below shows a good summation of the routes and attractions in the area. There was a lot we didn’t see on the route we took, but with four young children it was the best option for us. We will go back to check out some of the other woods / forests, there are approximately forty of them in total. We are also determined to get a good look around the Kurosuke House area and maybe even try our hand at some of the Totoro craft workshops they offer from time to time.

From the official Totoro Foundation Website: http://www.totoro.or.jp/

Watching Sumo Practice | TOKYO

I have a number of guests coming to visit over the next couple of months. I usually travel to Tokyo with guests and / or to meet friends visiting from overseas. With next month’s visitors I will do the usual Asakusa trail, but this time I wanted to add on a trip to some Sumo stables, so I have been researching which would be best for our plans. I fixed on one in Oshiage. I wanted to share the information as I know many people are interested in finding some where that they can watch sumo wrestlers in training when there isn’t a tournament on.*

I have not been to this type of sumo stable yet, but when I worked in the Ibaraki Board of Education, I had the pleasure of visiting a Agricultural High School with a sumo club.  I was very blessed to have the pleasure of touring many parts of this high school, but the highlight was watching the students of the sumo club in training and practice.  The school is only one of a handful that have such a club. It is not possible for lay people to visit this club without a connection to the school and so I assumed it was the same for the stables in Tokyo. However, I was wrong and in recent years it has become very popular to watch sumo wrestlers training hard during practice.

For my upcoming tours, I have decided on Azumazeki stable in Oshiage as it fits nicely with a day tour of Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree. The stable is run by former wrestler Ushiomaru.  The sumo wrestlers train everyday there is not a tournament, and in the morning between 7 am and 10.30 am they open up the stables for public viewing. If their is a tournament somewhere outside of Tokyo the stables will not be open to the public on the days of those tournaments.  It is free and no reservation is required, however, if you have a group, they request you ring in advance.

They have three principle conditions and some other guidelines to entering the stable: ① you must wear a face mask, ② you must not talk and ③ no flash photography is allowed. And I should mention as it might not be obvious to visitors from outside of Japan: you are not allowed enter the ring nor stand on the markers of the ring. They also request that you turn off your phone and that you don’t bring food or drink into the stable. They do not discourage children, but as they have a rule of no sound, they request you are respectful of that. Finally, they request that you do not drive to the stables as they do not have a parking lot and as it would cause an inconvenience to neighbours.

 

From greenshinto.com

At the end of practice they plant what is called a “gohei”. A gohei is a small wooden staff with the white shinto paper adorning it. In the sumo stable they plant it in a pile of sand in the middle of the ring. They then sprinkle the ring and gohei with salt. This custom is carried out to purify the ring, but also to pray for the safety of the sumo wrestlers.

Information

Address: 4-6-4 Higashikomagata, Sumida, Ward, Tokyo

Phone: 03-3625-0033

Hours: 7 am to 10.30 am

Fee: FREE

Language: JAPANESE ONLY

Other stables: There are about another 40 or so stables you can visit in the area, but a lot of them require that you ring in advance. Arashio Stable does not require you ring in advance and they have an English webpage. However, they no longer allow people inside to watch; you have to watch through windows from outside.

Access

4 minute walk from Honjo-Azumabashi Station on  the Toei Asakusa Line.

11 minute walk from exit B2 of the Oshiage Station.

*If you are planning a trip to Japan in the hope of seeing a Sumo Tournament,  please note that Sumo Tournaments only happen during odd months, i.e the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11 months of the year. The January, May and September tournaments are in Tokyo. The March tournament is in Osaka, the July tournament is in Aichi and the November tournament is in Fukuoka.

**Featured image is from Azumazeki Beya Stable’s Facebook page**

 

Places to bring children to visit animals in Tokyo | GREATER TOKYO AREA

2017 version.
This is a master list of the zoos, farms, aquariums and other places with animals in the Tokyo area that are suited to children. You will also find a handful of locations that are actually outside Tokyo, but considered part of the Greater Tokyo area and renowned as places worth commuting to from Tokyo. This list is suited as a guide to both families living here and those traveling to Japan for a holiday. Each location is linked to either their official website or a webpage with further information. All locations are mapped on a Google My Map at the bottom of the article.
A special mention to the Otemachi Farm that opened in August 2017 on the 13th floor of the Pasona Headquarters building near JR Tokyo Station! Right in the heart of Tokyo City. You need to make a reservation to visit the 60 goats, cows, pigs and on other animals on site.

Zoos, Farms & Animal related

Animal Cafe

Aquariums

New Year Countdown Events Japan 2016/7 | Tokyo

New Year’s has become a popular time for overseas visitors to visit Japan and yet there is very little New Year event information available in English online.  I have tried to bridge that gap by sharing information of events I know of in the Greater Tokyo area. However, as I have personally NOT been to most of these events, I do recommend you research further before choosing which event to go to.  (*The Johnny’s countdown party in Tokyo Dome is near impossible to get tickets for, so there is no information for that popular event on this page.)

TOKYO

IKEBUKURO, Nanja Countdown Party 2016/7

A very popular countdown event is in Nanja Town, Sunshine City. The event will take place from opening hours on the 31st and Namja Town will remain open until 5 am on the 1st.  They will have a special New Year’s menu available. Entry is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children 4 years old or over. Access: 8 minute walk from Ikebukuro Station.

URL: http://www.namco.co.jp/tp/ You can also get live updates from their Twitter, if you read Japanese: Namja Town Twitter feed.

IKEBUKURO, Sky Circus Sunshine 60 2017 Countdown Special

This special event in Sky Circus will start at 9 pm and finish around 1 am. The tickets are 2500 yen if purchased on the day, but 200 yen cheaper if you purchase in advance. Children under 4 years old are free. They will have live performances and you can experience some of their Virtual Reality machines for free.

Event URLhttp://www.sunshinecity.co.jp/information/i589.html?_ga=1.191116780.793316131.1465351784

ROPPONGI, 2016 Year-end Funk Party

The Year-end Funk party will be held at Billboard live at Tokyo Midtown Garden Terrace.  It includes 2 performances by the Bar-keys. The 1st performance is from 6.30 pm, the 2nd from 10.30 pm.  Tickets start from 8,000 yen.  Access: 5 minute walk from Roppongi Station.

Event Url: http://www.billboard-live.com/pg/shop/show/index.php?mode=detail1&event=10224&shop=1

SHIBUYA, Womb presents New Year Countdown to 2017

The event at the popular nightclub Womb starts from 9 pm to 4.30 am. Every year there is an Internationally acclaimed DJ running the show. Ticket prices vary, details are on their website.

URL: http://womb.co.jp/

 

ASAKUSA, Countdown event in Hanayashiki Amusement Park.

The park will open for this special event from 9 pm on the 31st to 2 am on the 1st. Last year it cost 1000 yen per person from 2 years old up. This year the cost has increased considerably. It is cheaper to buy in advance. Please see the linked website for more details. Not all of the park will be open, but there will be certain areas open and stage events. The ticket includes unlimited access to 9 rides, which include the merry-go-round, Little Star and Helicopter rides.

URL: Hanayashiki Countdown official webpage (Japanese only)

JOYPOLIS, Countdown Party 2016/7

This lively event runs from 11.15 pm on New Year’s Eve.  They have live music and comedic performances. Entry into Joypolis before the event is 800 yen for adults and 300 yen for children of school going age, but you have to pay extra for the New Year’s eve events. Tickets are already on sale. You can also buy on the day. Each ticket grants different access. Their system is a little convoluted, but basically a ticket costs around 3000 yen.  Access: 5 minute walk from Odaiba station. More details on the official site;

URL: Joypolis Countdown Event (Japanese only)

 

EDOGAWA, Kasai Rinkai Park Ferris Wheel Countdown

KasaiThe event is free, but you have to pay 700 yen to ride the ferris wheel. There will be live entertainment.  It opens from 11 pm to 0.30 am on the 1st.

URL: Kasai Ferris Wheel homepage

 

SUMIDA, 2016/7 Countdown at Higashi Shirahige Park

The riverside area has a long running year-end event and more recently illumination with lanterns, too. It is a free event. It starts 15 minutes before midnight.  Illumination starts at 5 pm and on New Years is on until 6 am on New Year’s day.  Queries to 03-3619-8888.

TOKYO BAY, Countdown Cruising, New Year’s Eve 2016/7

For adults, there are two different cruises you can enjoy on New Year’s eve in Tokyo Bay. Both provide a meal, a glass of champagne plus another free drink and music. The buffet course cruise costs 13,500 yen per person and leaves Tokyo Bay at 22.50 returning to land at 1.20 am. The Classic cruise costs 14,500 yen and leaves at 22.30, returning at 1.10 am New Year’s Day. You can book from 10 am to 7.30 pm on 03-3798-8101.  You can find more information in Japanese on their website. You can also book a cruise to see the first sunrise of 2017. It departs the bay at 5.50 am.

URL: New Year Cruising 2017

 

AGEHA, Ageha Countdown 2017

**This one is not suited to children**.  Ageha is a famous dance club venue in Shin Kiba. It has a great New Year’s event, from 9 pm to sunrise. You need to buy a ticket in advance. Tickets are already on sale and will be until the 29th of December. It is 4,980 yen per person. There’s lot of little events on during the night, including a Ageha shrine and the traditional food of soba.  The phone number is 03-5534-2525.

URL: Ageha Countdown 2017

GINZA, Hooters Countdown Party

This one is for adults. Every year the Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku branches of Hooters throw Countdown parties. This year the Ginza branch’s theme is dance music from the ’70s to the ’90s. It runs from 11 pm to 3 am. Tickets are 3,500 yen for men, 3,000 yen for women, but if you buy them in advance they are 500 yen cheaper.

URL: http://www.hooters.co.jp/news/3063/

 

CHIBA

MAKUHARI Messe, Countdown Japan 16/17

Makuhari Messe hold a mammoth Countdown event for the 4 days leading up to New Year’s. On New Year’s Eve the event run from 3 pm to 5 am. There are a huge amount of live performances and performance artists. It costs 11,500 yen for one day or you can pay extra for access for 2 days or more. Access: 5 minute walk from Kaihin Makuhari Station.

URL: http://countdownjapan.jp/

IKSPIARI, Countdown Live 2017

The free area beside Tokyo Disney resort will host a live countdown in the Celebration Plaza on the 2nd floor. The live music starts from 6 pm.  A concurrent event is the very popular sale of fukubukuro, lucky bags, from midnight. Restaurants are open until 1 am and shops until 3 am.  On New Year’s day they will have shishimai performances at 12 midday, 2 pm and 4 pm.

URL: Official Ikspiari New Year 2017

KANAGAWA

HAKKEJIMA SEA PARADISE, Happy Island Countdown

Hakkejima Sea Paradise’s New Year celebrations start at 7 pm on New Year’s eve and run all night, usually until around 8 am. You can even witness 2017’s first sunrise over Boso Peninsula at around 6.50 am. There will be live music and comedian performances throughout the New Year celebrations.  Fireworks synchronised to music will see out the old year and welcome in the new one.  This popular countdown event has been running since about 2000 and draws crowds.  You can already purchase tickets online. The prices vary according to packages, more on their website:

URL: Happy Island Countdown 2017
Information about Hakkejima Sea Paradise in English: http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/english/

YOKOHAMA Hard Rock Cafe Count Down

Dance in the New Year with the staff of the Hard Rock Café. Starts from 11.30 pm to 3 am. Entry is free, but you have to pay for food and drink.

Event URL: http://hardrockjapan.com/event/5601/

 

YOKOSUKA Countdown 2017

From 6 pm to 1 am on New Year’s day you can enjoy the holiday atmosphere of Yokosuka as thousands celebrate in Verny Park, close to Yokosuka station.  Two of the highlights of the night are the navy ships covered in lights and the fireworks show at midnight. Queries to the Yokosuka City Tourism Association 046-825-1080. *This event may not take place if there is bad weather.*

URL: https://www.cocoyoko.net/event/countdown.html



 

YAMANASHI

FUJIQ HIGHLAND, Countdown live

You can attend the event if you buy an entry ticket for the amusement park on the 31st. Last year, if you bought the pass after 5 pm, it gives you access until 8 pm on the 1st. They had a decent line up of comedians and TV “talents” for the main stage last year, but this year’s information hasn’t been finalised. There are usually fireworks around midnight. For those attending the FujiQ New Year party you can usually enjoy ice-skating all through the night for free. Hopefully, this year’s information will be released soon.

URL: FujiQ Highland Countdown Live

Information about FujiQ in English: FujiQ Official English website

 

Please note that some of these events will be dependent on weather, so if it is a rainy or stormy day on the 31st please do check the homepages or ring the numbers provided to see if the events will go ahead.

This is just some of the special events on for New Year’s Eve 2016/2017. There are other types of events you can enjoy, too. For example  there is the Japan only event of buying Daruma.  A lot of Japanese people go to a shrine or temple to welcome the New Year. My pick for the Greater Tokyo area is the Yakuouin Temple on Mt Takao. However, it is cold, dark and crowded. So why do people go? Three very big reasons; the first sunrise AND the first glimpse of Mt Fuji for 2017 and age old New Year traditional ceremonies. Mt Takao cable car runs from 8a m on New Years Eve right through to 6 pm on New Year’s Day.

For even more suggestions of great ways/places to spend New Year’s Eve, please see the comprehensive list with details on Timeout.  

Santa is coming to Haneda Airport International Terminal Station | TOKYO

A Finnish Santa will visit the Haneda Airport International Terminal Station this Saturday November 26th.  They are giving out 25 tickets to families with young children to meet him inside the styles on the 2nd floor. You must have a valid train ticket for that station.  There are two sessions, one at 4.15 pm and one at 4.50 pm. He will be there for about 20 minutes each time. Tickets will be distributed from 2 pm on the 3rd floor.

Haneda Airport International Terminal Station is a railway station at Tokyo International Airport in Ota, Tokyo, Japan. The station is operated by Keikyu, a private railway operator, and Tokyo Monorail.

This particular event is not on the official train station website:
http://www.haneda-access.com/international/guide.html

 

Access

 

 

 

The Santa Round-up 2016 | TOKYO

Where can I visit Santa in Tokyo?

This list is specifically for places you can visit Santa in TOKYO. Please be aware that Santa meet and greets are not like what you might be used to in your home country. There is generally no grotto and he doesn’t give out a present. A “Finland” Santa generally refers to the real Santa from Lapland.  As of the 27th of November 2016 there are 33 Santa Claus locations on this list, more will be added if new information comes to light.  You can find 18 Santa locations in CHIBA here: The Santa Round-up 2016 | CHIBA. And 23 locations for SAITAMA here: The 2016 Santa Round up for SAITAMA.

Most of the locations that have Santa visiting do state that as Santa is a busy man there maybe changes to the event’s time and location, and even availability of Santa, so please do always ring ahead or check with the official site before heading out the door.

If you wish to have Santa visit your home, Guy Totaro can put you in touch with the real Santa with his “In Home Santa” service:
http://www.supagaijin.com/services/santa-claus/

Please feel free to share this information around.  insaitama.com is a free and not-for-profit blog sharing information for those who don’t read Japanese.

**Sincerest apologies: Coca Cola in Odaiba City was listed in error before I confirmed that Santa was visiting this year, and has been removed from the list. And regrettably it seems Santa is NOT scheduled for the Ritz Carlton this year.**

サンタが東京にやってくる!東京で25所にサンタさんが会えるの紹介です。

DECEMBER MEET AND GREETS

UPDATED LaQua, Tokyo Dome City

Santa will be walking around LaQua in Tokyo Dome City at 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm and 6 pm on December 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th. Each session he will be around for about 30 minutes. This year they don’t have any mention of a photo opportunity with him on their official site, but according to Tokyo Dome City newsletter “say hello and get your photo taken with him”.
Japanese webpage: LaQua’s Christmas Information 2016

Toysrus and Babiesrus

The Toysrus Santa will start visiting stores around the country from December 3rd. This Santa is often Japanese. In Tokyo, the first store to have him visit is the Ikebukuro Sunshine City branch. On the 4th he will be in Odaiba and Machida Tamasaki branches.  On the 10th in Toshimaen and Musashi Murayama (See MORI TOWN below also). On the 11th in the Tama branch. On the 17th in TOYS R US Fuchu. In BABIES R US Fuchu on the 24th. He will visit for 30 minutes five times in each place. The full list by date is here (Japanese): https://www.toysrus-cp.jp/xmas/#

Grandberry Mall

Grandberry Mall is a popular place to visit Santa in Machida, Tokyo. This year the dates have been set for the 23rd, the 24th and the 25th. They have increased the number of Santa Greetings from three to four, at 11 am, 1, 3 and 5 pm. The 1st 100 lined up will get to meet Santa and receive a sweet treat from him.
http://www.grandberrymall.com/event/#424

Ario Nishi Arai

The real Santa (Finnish) will visit Ario in Nishi Arai on December 23rd at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. The location within the store will be revealed at 9 am on that day.
http://www.ario-nishiarai.jp/web/event/3ba0eee3-ce26-4d29-891e-6409949d8407.html

 

UPDATED Gate City Plaza

The official website has now been updated. Santa will be at Gate City on December 23rd.  Santa will visit from 1 pm and participate in an interactive show on stage. You can get photos taken with Santa from 1.30 to 2.30 pm or from 4 to 5 pm.  Each time they will afford 150 families the opportunity to get a photo with Santa. Tickets for this event will be distributed from 9 am. The official website (Japanese) is: http://www.gatecity.jp/plaza/event/  

NEW Lumine Ogikubo

(Added 24/11). Santa is visiting the Ogikubo branch of Lumine on December 23rd. They don’t specify if he is a Finland / Lapland Santa or not. He will meet and greet and give out candy three times during the day at midday, 2 pm and 5 pm.  Official site: http://www.lumine.ne.jp/ogikubo/topics/topics_details.php?article_no=3045

NEW Lumine Kitasenju

(Added 27/11) Santa Claus will visit the 10th floor of Lumine in Kitasenju three times on December 23rd, at 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm. Each time he will be there for 30 minutes.  The official website does not have the details online yet, but Tokyo event websites are reporting his planned visit. Lumine Kitasenju website: http://www.lumine.ne.jp/kitasenju/

Royal Park Hotel

The hotel offers 2 ways to meet Santa for patrons of their coffee shop Symphony. You can book online already to participate in a Santa dessert in the late afternoon or a Santa buffet in the early evening on December 21st and 22nd.  More information in Japanese: http://www.rph.co.jp/restaurants/plan/ds15us000000hsmu.html

NEW Lalaport Toyosu

(Added 25/11) There are news articles in Japanese that Santa is visiting Lalaport in Toyasu, but the official site does not support that information yet. It is reported that he will visit on December 24th at 11.30 am, 1 pm, 2.30 pm and 4 pm for 30 minutes each time. 50 families will get the chance to meet him each session and you can take a photo with him (with your own camera). This is a free event.
Lalaport Toyosu URL: http://toyosu.lalaport.jp/

UPDATED Mori Town

Rumour has it that Santa will visit Mori Town between December 23rd and 25th, three times a day, for a find Santa event.  Santa will be hiding somewhere in Mori Town, find him to get a sweet from him and a photo taken with him. The times are 11.30 am, 1.30 pm and 3 pm. It is a free event. The information has not yet been updated on their website, which is:
http://www.moritown.com/event/detail/?id=304
He is visiting the Toysrus in Mori Town on the 10th of December, although its not yet known if it is a Finland Santa or not.

UPDATED Nihonbashiya Takashimaya

The real Santa from the North Pole is set to visit Takashimaya in Nihonbashi four times on Christmas Eve for a meet and greet. The times are 11 am, 1, 3 and 5 pm. Information has not yet been added to their website.
https://www.takashimaya.co.jp/tokyo/christmas/index.html

There is also an event on December 10th and 11th at 2 and 4 pm on the 5th floor where Santa will make balloon animals.

 Picture

 

NEW Kidzania

Green Santa is visiting Kidzania in December. They have released the information on their website where you can get details on how to participate in this event.
Official site: Kidzania Christmas Information 2016

UPDATED Haneda Airport

Again the information for 2016 is not yet available, but The real Santa from Finland (formerly Lapland) has been confirmed on Haneda Airport ‘s website. He will visit 4 times a day between December 23rd and December 25th at 10.30 am, 12.30, 3 and 5 pm.

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN SEE SANTA

Hotel New Otani

You can see Santa in his Grotto everyday at the Hotel New Otani. However, he is not necessarily available for photos and the times are not provided. If you are lucky you can spot him at work or even better get a photo opportunity.  Official website (Japanese only):  http://www.newotani.co.jp/tokyo/xmas/events/02_house.html
On this blog in English:
http://insaitama.com/santa-claus-house-hotel-new-otani/

Sunshine Aquarium

This year, Sunshine Aquarium ‘s theme is “Colourful Christmas”. They have their famous Santa dive where Santa is in the aquarium in full Santa attire. The penguins don Santa hats and they have a number of events running during the period.
http://www.sunshinecity.co.jp/event/e1325.html?from=aqua


There is a Shibuya Santa Festival from December 1st to 25th, but no details are provided on whether you can meet Santa Claus or not. Also, times and dates are not provided for when he is on site.

 There may still be some Santa Claus locations to unearth in Tokyo, but I know that a lot of people are waiting for this list. I thank you for your patience and support. Santa information in English is still sorely lacking, I couldn’t find anywhere else with more than 5 places listed so I’ve worked hard to bring you as many as possible. PLEASE if you do know of somewhere else I can add, do let me know so we can help everyone find a Santa near them. 🙂 


FINISHED EVENTS

OVER Hibarigaoka Parco Santa

Said to be the first Santa visit of the year in Tokyo, Santa Claus visited Parco in Hibarigaoka on November 11th.
https://twitter.com/maedadayo0426/status/797349263130755072?lang=ja

OVER  Haneda Airport International Terminal STATION

(Added 24/11). A Finnish Santa will visit the Haneda Airport International Terminal train station on November 26th. Only 25 families will receive tickets to meet him, which will be distributed on the 3rd floor from 2 pm that day. The Santa visits are scheduled for 4.15 pm and 4.50 pm. There are 2 conditions; you must have a preschooler or younger in your party AND you must have a valid ticket for the train station. They don’t have the information on their offical website. Information in English on this blog:
Santa is coming to Haneda Airport International Terminal Station | TOKYO

OVER Saint Clair

Santa will visit at Ochanomizu for the 10th year in a row, from 11 am on December 3rd. This event is limited to the first 120 families.
Official Poster:
http://saint-clair.jp/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/57c43e02d7d100450b19a122cb0deffe.pdf
On this blog in English:
http://insaitama.com/santa-claus-in-tokyo-ochanomizu-2016/

OVER NEW LOWP Kitchen

(Added 27/11) For children aged between 7 and 15 years old Santa’s Craftech Workshop is on December 4th from 1 to 5pm.   The 3000 yen fee for one adult and one child includes; “Visit and Photo Time with Santa, Crafts, Cookies and Drinks (hot chocolate or juice for kids coffee or hot chocolate for adults). Photos and video will shot during Craftech Kids to be used on the Lowp website and social media.” This event **requires booking**.  LOWP webpage: http://lowp.jp/event/008.html For more about Santa: http://www.supagaijin.com/services/santa-claus/

OVER NishiKasai Center

(Added 27/11) Santa visit (10 am or 1 pm) AND Christmas Dinner Party (4 pm) with Santa, with activities, games and photo with Santa on December 10th. The 3rd session from 4 pm is for children 4 and up. This one **requires booking** soon and costs money.  It costs 6,500 yen for one adult and one child for non-members and 5,500 yen for Kids International members. An additional adult is 1,200 yen, an additional child is 3,700 yen. You can get a list of prices and full details in English on the event’s official webpage:
http://www.kids-int.co.jp/special/xmas16/nk.html 

OVER Tokyu Hyakkaten Honten

(Added 27/11) Santa Claus from Finland will visit between 2 and 3 pm on the 17th of December. The first 50 families will be able to meet and greet Santa. The event is restricted to families with children under 7 years old. Tickets for the event will be distributed at 9.40 am on the 17th.
URL: http://www.tokyu-dept.co.jp/honten/news/detail.html/?id=746
In English on this blog: http://insaitama.com/santa-in-tokyu-hyakkaten-honten-shibuya/

OVER Ito Yokado

(Added 24/11) A Lapland Santa will visit the Kasai Branch of Ito Yokado on December 18th at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. Event webpage: http://blog.itoyokado.co.jp/shop/195/event.html More information in English on this blog: Lapland Santa at Ito-Yokado | TOKYO

For Other Christmas information for Tokyo, please see Best Living Japan’s 2016 Holiday Guide. It includes information on:

  • Where you can buy a Christmas Tree,
  • Top Tokyo Christmas Decoration Stores,
  • Tokyo Area 2016 Illuminations
  • Tokyo English Christmas Church Services

 

Santa in Tokyu Hyakkaten Honten | SHIBUYA

サンタクロース握手&撮影会

The real Santa Claus will visit Tokyu’s flagship store in Shibuya on December 17th between 2 and 3 pm. This is a small event and they will only accommodate the first fifty families to receive a ticket to see Santa. One family receives one ticket.

This event is also restricted to families who have a child that is in preschool or younger.  Don’t be caught out – the tickets will actually be distributed from 9.40 am at the 1st floor entrance.  When you receive the ticket you will receive information of where  you can visit Santa, shake his hand and get your photo taken (with your own camera).  If you don’t get a ticket you can still enjoy a mini Christmas concert the same day from 3.30 to 4 pm on the 1st floor.

Event URL: http://www.tokyu-dept.co.jp/honten/news/detail.html/?id=746

TOKYU INFORMATION

Facilites available for babies such as diaper changing areas and a nursing room.

TEL: 03-3477-311

Address: 2-2-41 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0002

URL: tokyu-dept.co.jp

The basement and 1st floor are open from 10 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.

Parking for 258 cars, free for 3 hours if you spend over 30,000 in Tokyu. Otherwise it is charged at 250 yen for 30 minutes.

Access

7 minute walk from JR Yamanote Line’s Shibuya station.

By car it is approximately 1 kilometre form the Shuto Expressway Shibuya Line Shibuya Exit.

Santa Claus in Tokyo |OCHANOMIZU 2016

This year Saint Clair in Ochanomizu are celebrating 10 years of Santa visits. It is not only one of the longest running Finland Santa’s in Tokyo, but also one of the most popular. People queue for hours for the chance to meet the real Santa.

This year Santa is visiting between 11 am and 3 pm on the 3rd of December. He will do an open address before that. It is a free event, but restricted to the first 120 families. You can meet Santa, shake his hand and get a photo with him. They start giving out the tickets around 11 am and they give a candy with the ticket.  People start to queue from early morning. You can’t meet him without a ticket.

Each year they hold a number of different events in conjunction with Santa’s visit such as live music and workshops. In line with the special anniversary they have a few additional events happening such as a commemorative coaster to the first 2000 customers.

URL: http://saint-clair.jp/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/57c43e02d7d100450b19a122cb0deffe.pdf

Access

Close to JR Chuo Sobu Line Ochanomizu station.

Close to Exit B1 of Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line Shin Ochanomizu station.

4 minute walk from Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line Ochanomizu station.

JULY Festivals and Fireworks 2016 | KANTO (TOKYO)

Kanto is the area around Tokyo, comprising Saitama, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma.  This is a calendar displaying festivals and fireworks in this area for the month of July. Click on the event for more information including time and place, and a link to either the official website or to a webpage with more information in English. I recommend you view as AGENDA.

GOOGLE VERSION

Experience Asakusa

Information Share

“Where can I try some unique Japanese cultural experiences in Tokyo?”

We often get asked a variation of “where can I enjoy some real Japanese experiences in Tokyo?” on the Facebook Japan Travel, Friendly Discussion Group. Unfortunately, the search field and files section of Facebook Groups is still somewhat limited and the information cannot be easily found.  I’m sharing suggestions here, that I have given, in the hope that it is more easily accessible for future queries of a similar nature. These places advertise that they have English speaking staff.

This is for the Asakusa area only. If you would like to share other places for the benefit of others,  that would be greatly appreciated. 🙂  Please scroll down to the bottom of the article to see each place mapped on Google with address and other information.

Disclaimer: I have NO affiliation to any of these establishments, nor do I get anything for promoting them! All images are taken from the official websites for each shop or service.

Taiko Drums

Image taken from the official website: http://www.taiko-center.co.jp/english/class/images/tokyo/tokyo-class_03.jpg

The traditional drum in Japan is called a Taiko.  For many the sound of a taiko drum is synonmous with summer festivals.  The Taiko Lab in Asakusa offers a rare chance to experience Taiko drums without signing up for months of classes.  You need to book in advance and they will try to cater to the date and time that suits you best. The application for this is handled by the Taiko Centre (English information): http://www.taiko-center.co.jp/english/class/tokyo-class.html

Information about Taiko Labhttp://www.taiko-center.com/taiko-lab%E3%81%AE%E3%81%94%E6%A1%88%E5%86%85/ Choose the English option from the drop-down box on the right.

Kanji

Kanji is the Japanese writing using Chinese characters.  At Kanji House in Asakusa you can get your name written for you, or join a class, or even take a guided tour. The tour involves a local guide and a kanji calligraphy writing of your name to take home! They have staff and guides who speak English  and most of their clients are foreigners.

Image taken from the official website: http://kanji-house.com/assets/images/top3.png

If you want to try your hand at writing a kanji of your choice you can do a calligraphy class for 30 minutes.  They do require that you make  a reservation at least 24 hours in advance. They have full information in English on their website: http://kanji-house.com/service_price.html  and the reservation form is here: http://kanji-house.com/contact.html

Origami

The age old and majestic paper folding craft is a fun (and therapeutic) activity, offering a glimpse into the Japanese custom of precision and detail.  The afore mentioned Kanji House also offers an origami class for just 500 yen (summer 2016 price) for 30 minutes. Information available in English on their website: http://kanji-house.com/service_price.html . Reservation form: http://kanji-house.com/contact.html

Dressing up in Kimono

Dressing up in a kimono is something unique to Japanese culture. Kosode near to Asakusa subway station offer kimono rental, dressing and hair styling for both men and women. They have yukata (summer kimono) in the hot months too. They have information and a booking form in English on their website: http://paull.jp/asakusa/english/index.php

Moku Hanga Print

Moku Hanga is a technique used in ukiyo-e, a genre of art. Mokuhankan is a relatively new shop offering woodblock prints. The owner is a England born Canadian. You can experience his tutelage in an hour long workshop. You can book from a calendar on their English content website: http://mokuhankan.com/parties/index.php

Replica Food Production Workshop

Showroom of Replica Food made from wax

Replica Food are wax samples of what a restaurant’s (/shop’s) food looks like, displayed in the restaurants window. Ganso Shokuhin Sample Shop Kappabashi Showroom displays a great selection of replica food. Even better: you can book to try your hand at making your own replica food samples. Information in English on their website: http://www.ganso-sample.com/en/shop/kappabashi/

However, you need to book for the workshop by phone at 0120-17-1839.  The workshops are held at 11am, 2pm and 4pm and take between 60 and 75 minutes. It costs 2,160 yen per person (summer 2016 price).

Jidaiya

Jidaiya is a fantastic service offering a range of typical and age old Japanese experiences. Here is a list of some of them;

Rickshaw Ride

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Kago (basket palanquin) Ride

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Tea Ceremony

Paper Lantern making

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Fan Throwing Game

Photo taken from the official website: http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono0

Japanese Traditional Entertainment and Performances

Information for all of these can be found on their English webpage:

http://www.jidaiya.biz/taikenmono_e.html#taikenmono2

 

All of the places listed above are perfect, if you want to try some real hands-on experiences during your stay in Japan.  Most of these places advise booking in advance.  Below you can see the locations of each place marked on a google map.

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