Recently, we paid our annual summer visit to the Tokinosumika resort, also known as Gotemba Kogen, in Shizuoka. This visit we split our stay between the Blueberry Lodges and the Hotel Tokinosumika, just two of the accommodation choices available at this activity and attraction packed resort. This year, as always, the night illumination was stunning and the fountain show, which originated in Tokinosumika, was as breathtaking as ever.
This year the central walkway that links the Blueberry Lodges to the village area, have the lights done like the Milky Way. Among the lights are windchimes and tanabata wishes written on prayer plaques.
Tokinosumika was the first place in the world to create a fountain performance using light and projection mapping, set to music. The show is held 3 times a night at weekends, twice on weekdays, beside the Bell of Love at the Big Bang Playground. This year the show started out like fireworks. At one point the water shoots 70 metres into the air.
There are night illumination displays in many other areas of the resort. My favourite view, which unfortunately I didn’t capture very well on my camera with my 1 year old vying for my attention, was the view of the Blueberry Lodges set behind the merry-go-round:
You won’t read much about Tokinosumika in guide books in Japanese or English, as they have such a regular custom from loyal customers they have little need for print advertisement. Most of their custom comes from word of mouth.
I am currently researching places to bring the kids for a short holiday during the summer. During my research I keep coming across places of interest in Shimoda in Minami-Izu. There is a great selection of outdoor seasonal activities in the area, some of which are outlined below. Shimoda is a coastal area in the popular area of Izu, specifically south Izu. Apart from all the seaside activities, some of which are listed below, the area has a lot to offer on shore as well. It takes about 3 hours from Tokyo, which is a bit further than most would travel for a daytrip, but it can be done. There are day tour and bus trips you can take from Tokyo and Saitama. We have travelled to the area ourselves before and I would personally recommend it as a short trip or overnight stay.
Currently, June 2016, hydrangeas are in bloom and there is a hydrangea festival in Shimoda Park until June 30th. More information on Shimoda Park in the Activity section below.
Each place is pin-pointed on a Google My Map, if you click on an icon it will show you more information, including a URL to the official website.
Most of the beaches in Shimoda have been awarded the highest grade of water quality by the Ministry of Environment’s 4 grade water cleanliness ranking system. Like all beaches in Japan, there is an official period that these beaches are “open”. You can use the beach outside of season, but there are no lifeguards or facilities available.
A selection of beaches in the area (this is not the full list):
Shirahama Oohama Beach
800 metres long, about 100 metres wide.
SEASON: July 1st to August 31st.
LIFEGUARDS: 4 lifeguard towers.
FACILITIES: 2 toilets, 2 showers. Beach umbrellas, sun beds, floats and other things are available for rent from the Tourist association shop on the beach. There are some shops and restaurants along the promenade.
PARKING: 400 spaces, prices vary between each parking area.
Very picturesque beach with clear blue sea. Only 50 metres long and 40 metres wide.
SEASON: July 16th to August 21st.
LIFEGUARDS: On duty from 8am to 4pm.
FACILITIES: 3 coin showers. Beach umbrellas, sun beds, floats and others available for rent.
PARKING: 135 spaces, charges apply during beach season. Free from August 31st.
Another picturesque beach, the closest to Shimoda city area. 130 metres long, 50 metres wide.
SEASON: July 16th to August 21st.
LIFEGUARDS: On duty from 9am to 4pm.
FACILITIES: 1 shower and 1 unisex toilet.
PARKING: None. 20 minute walk from Shimoda Station.
Near a lot of pensions. Rarely crowded. 410 metres long, 50 metres wide.
SEASON: July 18th to August 31st.
LIFEGUARDS: On duty from 8.30am to 4pm.
FACILITIES: 2 unisex toilets. No other facilities, but near a park and sand ski school (see below).
PARKING: 120 spaces, charged.
Official address is in the neighbouring town of Minami-Izu. 1.2 kilometre arched beach. Popular water park on the sea in the cove.
SEASON: July 9th to August 31st.
LIFEGUARDS: 1 lifeguard tower.
FACILITIES: 4 toilets, no showers. Between 3 and 5 beach huts. Splash Water park with athletic play equipment on the sea for children over 6 years old, see more details in the Activities section below.
PARKING: 300 spaces, charges apply.
Please see “BEACH YOGA” listed below in “Activities”
Dolphin beach is part of Shimoda’s Sea Aquarium. Please see below for details.
Below is a small sample of some of the many activities available in the Shimoda and greater Shimoda area this summer.
On Tatadohama Beach; a 450 metre long and 70 metre wide beach, with various facilities including 6 showers, beach huts, toilets and rental of beach equipment.
SEASON: 16th of July to the 18th of September, except for rainy days.
PARKING: 10 spaces. Free out of season, charged during summer.
COST: From 1000 yen (Summer 2016 prices).
See map for location.
SEASON: The aquarium is open most of the year, but during December it only opens at weekends and there are other changes to the opening hours for most of winter. DOLPHIN BEACH is only open from June to September.
TIME: 9am to 4.30pm on weekdays, to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and to 5.30pm during summer holidays.
COST: 2000 yen for adults, 1000 yen for children over 4 years old. (Summer 2016 prices). An additional cost is applied for dolphin beach where you can swim/play with dolphins. Children younger than grade 4 elementary school age are required to have an adult accompany them.
See map for location.
Splash Water Park, is a travelling water park of inflated slides, towers, climbing and more. It will be available at Yumigahama Beach again this year. The popular water park started opening seasonally in the area from 2014. It will July 16th this year. Children need to be over 110cms to play in the playground above the sea. You can see more information in English on their website: http://splashwaterpark.jp/home/
There are a selection of parks in Shimoda, some of which are near the seaside. Perhaps the most famous is Shimoda park in the Shirahama area, which is known to many for its 3 million beautiful hydrangeas that are currently in bloom. http://www.shimoda-city.info/eve11.html
There are even more activities you can enjoy in Shimoda including, but not limited to, “Treeing”, Nordic Walking, Scuba Diving, Snorkelling as well as sightseeing spots and local culture and cuisine. You will find more information in English on the official website of Shimoda: http://www.shimoda-city.info/index_e.html
There is a huge selection of accommodation in the Shimoda and neighbouring areas. An Internet search in English will bring up plenty of information, but if you do read Japanese you will find even more information in the Japanese language. I will just mention one that caught my eye as they offer a surfing lesson package.
TURTLE HOUSE, a “pension” (B&B) right on the sea in the Shirahama area of Shimoda city, have a stay package for one night, two days, two meals and a 2 hour surfing session.
By car: 75 kilometres from the Tomei ExpresswayNumazu Interchange using R83, R246, R1, R136, R414.
By train: Between 48 minutes and 1 hour and 3 minutes from Ito Station to Izu-kyuukou Shimoda Station on the Izu-Kyuukou line.
From Tokyo it takes 2 hours and 30 minutes from Shinagawa Station to Izu-kyuko Shimoda Station. You take the shinkansen from Shinagawa to Atami where you catch the Ito line to Izu-kogen and then the Izukyuko line to Izu-kyu Shimoda station. It costs just over 6,000 yen.
For the last 7 years we’ve been going to a resort in Gotemba every Golden Week. The resort has a choice of accommodation ranging from hotel rooms to self catering lodges. This year we stayed in the “slow house villa” area in a yurt or パオ (Pao) as they are called in Japanese. The yurts in the complex are designed on a theme. Our room was one of the Peter Rabbit themed lodgings.
The Peter Rabbit influence may well have gone beyond the interior of the yurts, as the slow house villa area is reminiscent of a rabbit’s burrow. It was great fun for the kids to find their way around the maze like paths. Management makes good use out of the design too, laying out a scavenger hunt challenge of sorts for guests of the slow house villas. The kids followed clues to find letters which, when all were discovered, spelled out a word. On presenting the word to reception they got a prize of Peter Rabbit stickers. Another treat for guests of these particular lodgings is a fluffy bunny rabbit (soft toy) hidden in the room – if you find it, you get to bring it home. (You can also borrow teddy bears and soft toys from reception to keep in your room during your stay).
The yurt itself was also a great source of excitement for the kids. They aren’t the most practical, but between the Peter Rabbit paraphernalia and the spacious loft, it was a dream come true for the kids to stay there. They are also the lodgings closest to the big playground, which turned out very convenient for us. They have a hot spring in the villa area (one of many in the resort) and it is where the pet hotel is too. This is also the area with the resort’s badminton court, games room (billiards and table tennis), reception for some activities (such as fishing and segways) and where they have the magnificent night time water, illumination and projection mapping show. The breakfast hall is a little bit far away, but it is a nice walk, with some great views of Mt Fuji.
While I enjoyed the novelty, I did think the room was quite dingy, dark and hard to regulate temperature. I did enjoy staying there and the kids certainly did, but once was enough for me. There are other accommodations within the resort that are more practical for big families and people with young children. My top two in the resort are the Blueberry Lodges and the Western/Eastern fusion room in the Tokinosumika hotel. For anyone who is interested in more information about the resort it is linked below the photos from the playground.
The lasting impression I got of Atami was that, while it is slowly being rejuvenated, it’s prime was in a past era. I wasn’t surprised on reading up on it to learn it has been popular as a hot spring resort since the 8th century. I was surprised, though, to read that it is ranked as one of Japan’s Three Great Hot Springs. We may have been unlucky, but the hot springs we visited were old and decadent.
It has a huge amount of potential and maybe one day it will thrive again. For now, it has an interesting mix of old and new, but the beach (and it’s stop on a bullet train route) ensures that it will always be a popular tourist area.
The beach in question is called Sun Beach. It is certainly not the prettiest beach or longest beach in Shizuoka, but it is a nice beach and is ideal for toddlers. In my experience, it never gets particularly crowded, but I have not been there in the height of summer. The promenade seems quite new and it was very well maintained. There was plenty of cleaning staff in the area. You have to pay to park the car in the sea front car parks and while they weren’t cheap they were worth it for the convenience of being close to the beach with two toddlers and a day’s worth of beach essentials to transport. Atami beach has plenty of accessible toilets and areas to wash feet. There are also some showers on the promenade. There are a few restaurants, shops and amusements nearby. One of the highlights for us was the cable car to the top of the cliff, for the view and NOT for the building that is there. Randomly, it is home to an adult museum, which just added to the shadows of despair lurking in this old town.
On balance it was well worth the trip for the beach, the ocean, the views and the holiday feel. The onsens weren’t what they were cracked up to be and the place feels so dilapidated. The cost of the hotel was twice what we would normally pay and the room was substandard. We won’t be rushing back, but we are glad we visited.
BRIEF UPDATE 2016: “Books and cafe” has undergone some changes and it is no longer free in. More details to come in the coming days.
There is a lovely cafe in the Tokinosumika resort, aptly called “Books & Cafe”! It’s one of my favourite spaces actually, due to the ambience and wooden structure. It’s a nice place to relax over a coffee and a book. Now I enjoy it on our annual visits as it is also an interesting space for children. There is a wooden ball pool that babies and toddlers enjoy as well as wooden toys for toddlers and young children. There are books too for people of all ages. The cafe and the book area are slightly separate, so you can hang out in the “books” part without eating. They’ve a great selection of photo books as well as a good selection of kids books. There are seats, benches and cubby holes in the book area. URL: http://www.tokinosumika.com/restaurant/bookscafe.php Opening hours: 10.00-19.00
We went to Tokinosumika in Gotemba, Shizuoka, this past Golden Week. To be honest, I love discovering new places, but with 4 young children it is easier just to go somewhere we are familiar with. Tokinosumika never disappoints and each year they have something new there.
Something that is not new and is somewhat of a symbol of the resort is their “Bell of Love”. This year I thought to get a snap of it in the daylight, as I only had old photos taken in the dark. It was a clear day and you could see Mt Fuji under the bell. Bonus! The bell, at 36,170 kilograms, is the 2nd heaviest in Japan and 5th heaviest bell in the world.
There is a quote beside it in English
“The bell calls the living Mourns the Dead And overpowers the thunder
Mount Fuji echoes the bell on the morning of cherry blossoms”
With all the volcanic activity in nearby Hakone,I hope it’s not a forewarning!!
On our most recent visit to Tokinosumika we tried the self catering (with breakfast buffet included) option, for the first time, in the Blueberry Lodges. The Blueberry Lodges are one floor houses essentially. There are four to a block. Each lodge has a Western bedroom, a Japanese bedroom, a toilet, bathroom, vanity unit, dining room with kitchen that has a fridge, kettle and microwave. I was very reassured by the friendly feel of the lodge area at the back of Tokinosumika resort. Probably augmented by the “Welcome Friends” sign in English as we approached reception!
The reception area is for both the Blueberry Lodges and the Slow House Villas. It is also the reception area for the Ringo no Yu onsen (hot spring) and for renting bikes. There is a small shop in the reception that sells some drinks and snacks. There are 2 computers there, connected to the Internet, for patron’s use.
Like so many places in Japan, the Blueberry Lodges have something small, but special to offer. You can ask at reception to borrow life-size stuffed toys of the characters Bitzer and Shaun, from the British stop motion animation “Shaun the Sheep“! Shaun the Sheep is aired on Japan’s national educational channel “E-TV” on Saturday mornings, so my children are familiar with the characters and were delighted to find them in reception.
The lodges are quite big. They have a kitchen/dining area, a living room / bedroom in the form of a tatami room (futons are stored during the day and taken out at night), and a Western style bedroom with 2 semi-double beds. There is also a toilet, a bath/shower room and a vanity area with sink and storage. Each lodge has either a balcony or a patio. The kitchen area has a hob, a sink, a microwave, a kettle and a fridge. YOU NEED TO BRING YOUR OWN UTENSILS AND COOKING IMPLEMENTS.
The are 4 lodges to a unit. My one complaint is that the walls and floors are quite thin so you can hear your neighbours. However, I also think we were unfortunate on our first night, that the people in the lodge above us were particularly noisy. On subsequent nights we had different neighbours and we rarely heard a thing. The lodges are so named due to the blueberries that grow on the trellis in the courtyard. Within the central courtyard there is a rest area and some vending machines that sell drinks and ice-cream.
More photos at bottom of post.
For more information on the resort of Tokinosumika please see the blog post
2015 – 2016 THE TEEPEES ARE NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE HIRE
Are you looking for unique accommodation in Japan? Ever thought of staying in a teepee (tipi / tepee / wigwam)? If you like the outdoors and want to try something different, the tepee site in Gotemba is a cheap, fun and alternative place to rest your head, in beautiful natural surroundings. The teepees even come with a view of Mt. Fuji.
You can rent a tipi (teepee) from (2014 figures) 1,000 yen per person per night at the Tokinosumika resort, also known as Gotemba Kogen, in Shizuoka. The tent costs (2014 figures) 6,000 to rent, but it sleeps upto 6 people. The teepees are very basic. There are no toilets or baths in them, but you can use the toilets and the “ringo no yu” onsen (hot spring) on site for free. You can avail of the other onsens on site for a price. Sleeping mats are provided in the teepee and you get sheets and one face towel at check in. You can buy towels or rent other necessities, including a lamp and insect repellant, from reception. There is parking right beside the tent / teepee area, but only one carspot is dedicated to each tent. The tepees are located beside a free playground and air trampoline. There is a “pet hotel” beside the onsen with facilities for dogs. There are plenty of other activities and services available within the Tominosumika resort. Most of them are listed in the post http://daysofourlivesjapan.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/shizuoka-gotemba-tokinosumika-family-resort/
Check in is from 3pm and check out is 11am. The address is 719 Koyama, Gotemba, Shizuoka. The telephone number for teepee reservations is 0550-87-3700. For more information you can visit the official website of Tokinosumika (Japanese only).
Do you know of any other different / unique type of accommodation in Japan? Please share in comments so I can add to my wishlist of places to go! Thank you.
Updated in summer 2015: The playground at Tokinosumika has undergone some changes and is no longer free for everyone, but they have added lots of attractions including bouncing castles and other equipment.
The playground remains free for children under 7. It costs 800 yen for adults and 500 yen for children 7 and over, but guests of the resort get a half price discount. You can come and go as you please all day for that price. At night part of the playground is used for the water, illumination and projection mapping show to music. Guests of the hotel also receive a half price discount for this show. Children under 7 are free for this attraction too.
There is something for everyone in the “Big Bang” playground. They have an area for smaller children which is on sand. It has slides and climbing and some spring rides. There is a choice of bouncy castles for older children, which have slides in them as well as other features. There is a giant inflated slide for over fives and it is quite steep and fast making it one of the most popular attractions. My favourite is the merry-go-round, pictured with Mt Fuji above. The featured photo at the top of this article is of the obstacle course, which is also inflated like the bouncy castles. There are see saws and wooden equipment too, including stepping stones, and in the summer there is a splash pool. There is an inflated jumping mountain for over threes. They also have events in the area some weekends and over Golden Week. A bonus is there is an amazing view of Mt Fuji (on a clear day) from all of the playground. (A lot of the equipment is pictured in the gallery at the bottom of post).
View from Hotel Tokinosumika of the Tokinosumika Resort
Our first visit to Hotel Tokinosumika with kids was May 2012. (We had stayed in other accommodation in the Tokinosumika resort before and after that). At the time my son was 2 and my daughter 15 months old. The room was ideal for them. It was a 10 tatami room with built in bunk beds, AND a Western type area of the room with two semi double beds, toilet, bathroom and sink. Futons are provided, which you take out at night to sleep on. It had a beautiful view of Mount Fuji from a bay window with two seats built in. The room was air conditioned.
The rooms are very reasonable (please see the link to the hotel below for up-to-date rates) and are charged per person. You can opt to have dinner included or not. They have long cushions you can borrow for free in the reception area. You can use the Kirakubo hot spring in the hotel for free (see paragraph below) and for a reduced rate you can gain access to any of the other hot springs on the resort. You also get a reduced price for a lot of the attractions in the Tokinosumika resort, for example the impressive Big Bang Playgroundand Art Museum.
The two down sides to the accommodation; there was a very faint smell of smoke in the room, but my sense of smell was heightened with pregnancy and DH couldn’t actually smell it all. The room wasn’t particularly sound proof and until about midnight we could hear a group of young lads having a great time. We were awake ourselves and that sort of sound doesn’t disturb our children when they are asleep so it didn’t particularly bother us.
Added in 2016: On our last visit in summer 2016 we noted how much the hotel has aged and suffered from wear and tear in the last 4 years. The bathroom and toilet had some mold and dust. The bathroom is a unit bathroom. The bath is quite low and not suited to someone with lower mobility. The place is in need of a lick of paint.
If you choose to have breakfast included it is buffet style in a large breakfast hall. Its not the best buffet I’ve ever been to, but its not the worst either. They also have dinner available, but with the choice of restaurants available within the resort you might prefer to venture out. The restaurants in the hotel have high chairs for babies and toddlers. Accommodation and breakfast is free for toddlers and they will provide you with toddler plates and cutlery to use. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE TOKINOSUMIKA RESORT IN ENGLISH CLICK HERE.
Kirakubo Hot Spring
The hot springs, as well as the whole resort of Tokinosumika, are very family friendly. They have rest and eating areas as well as a small play area for children in one of the rest areas, where there is also a huge selection of manga for older children to read in comforable bean bags. The restaurant has a huge bay window which looks onto the resort and the glorious Mt Fuji. On a clear day it is a spectacular view.
In the ladies there are a number of different baths inside including a salt bath and a jet bath. They have a tub bath which Moms and babies can enjoy together. They also have plastic tub baths for washing babies in before soaking. They have lots of useful facilities for babies in general. Outside there is a large rotemburo, plus smaller ones including one in a cave. They have sun loungers on a mezzanine beside which there are out house saunas. There is a water fountain for drinking from for free, plus they have vending machines, where you can purchase drinks. The changing area has hair dryers and products for cleansing your face. There are coin lockers for storing your valuables. Guests of the hotel don’t need a key, but guests who are just there for using the hot spring need to get a key for the lockers at reception.