Tone-river ferry, connecting saitama and gunma
The ferry is completely free and a very convenient hop over the river, especially if you are on a bike. The ferry itself is rather small, but I think you could reasonably fit 3 or 4 bikes on it. We took a family trip, biking to the gunma side and catching a boat across. After passing in the grassy open space for a bit, we then jailed for the boat back. From the saitama side, you must raise a yellow flag until you can see the ferry on its way. Don't forget to put the flag back down before heading to the dock. The ferry only runs during daylight hours, and finishes long before the sun starts to set, so be sure you are on the side of the river you need to before last ride. The boats men don't seem t to speak any English, buy are friendly enough. The winds can be strong and cold even during warmer weather, and children are provided life jackets.
One for the flower lovers
This park is worth a visit if you like flowers and / or enjoy photographing them. They have some really beautiful flower beds and seasonal flora and fauna. There is also a river in this park, with a stone bridge that has a drawbridge. The park is long and there is a nice walkway around it. There are flowers here there and everywhere: except on the long stretch on the right hand side of the entrance. This is where the very popular splash pool is in summer. To the right of that splash pool is a small playground with a sand pit and combination unit. In the sand pit is a broken digger. The combination unit is old and run down. The playground didn't engage my children for longer than an hour. I wouldn't recommend this park to visit with kids out of season. However, in summer the splash pool is a great place to cool down. It isn't one of our favourites, simply because we need shade and it doesn't have any! The park is open from 8 am to 6 pm. There is a car park right by the entrance and splash pool. There is a management building there too and it has a restaurant. We had planned to eat in the restaurant on our last visit as it gets good reviews, but it was closed for renovations. I don't know when it is back open. Actually there were a couple of areas getting some work done. (January 2017) Hopefully they plan to do some work on the playground too. :-)
Hidden park! Sports, BBQ facilities and playgrounds
You would need a car and a satnav (GPS) to get to this rural park in Nishi-ku (Saitama). It is a relatively new park, but the access roads are very old and very rural. It is worth the effort if you have kids and are in the area. There are two areas with playground equipment. As you come in to the main parking, in front of the baseball pitch, there is a combination equipment piece with climbing and slides among other things. There are also spring rides. In the picnic area there is another combination unit with climbing and a slide. There is also a sand pit. There are also some net climbing equipment. Near the main parking there is the "Center House" which manages the park. There are meeting rooms there that you can book to use. There are clean toilets there. The barbecue area is very popular. It costs 700 yen to book a pit / seating area for one day. The barbecue area is open for use from April to November. They have a multi-purpose ground, which is marked out for baseball, and a soccer pitch. You can book either of them. The latter costs money. Parking is free and abundant. It is spread out though. There are a few spots in front of the baseball pitch and front playground, but the main car park is past the pitches. This parking is a bit of a walk to the barbecue area. The car park is open from 9 am to 5.15 pm.
Do you want to eat with the birds?
I really love this restaurant and I think that it is the best in Miyakonojo. It's an Italian themed restaurant, but it has birds and rabbits. In the center of the restaurant there is a big "tank" that full of hundreds of birds. You can watch them as you enjoy your pasta. They also have a rabbit room where you can look at the rabbits (you can't touch them, though). The food here is really good. The have your typical family restaurant food like omurice and hamburg, but they also have a wide variety of pastas, pizzas, desserts and salads. I highly recommend the lunch set. For 1200 yen you get any pasta from the menu, a salad, a dessert, and drink bar. It's quite a bit of food. The food is really good. I haven't eaten anything that I haven't liked. If you are in the area, check it out. You won'd be disappointed.
Small, but a few English kids books
Kawajima Library is one of the Rainbow Cities Libraries. The other six are Kawagoe, Moroyama, Ogose, Sakado, Tsurugashima and Hidaka. If you live in anyone of these cities you are entitled to borrow books from libraries in the other six cities as well as your own city. Also, if you live in any other area of Hiki district, you are able to borrow books here.Although you can borrow from this library if you live in Hiki district or one of the rainbow cities, you can't use a library card for libraries in those cities or towns. You have to make a library card specific to Kawajima Town Library. It is free to make a membership card and they make it there on the spot. There is no English available, but I am sure the staff will help you fill it out. I have visited a lot of the libraries in the area and unfortunately none really stand out. Kawagoe probably has the most English and foreign language books for children. This library, the only library in Kawajima, has only a small selection, but enough for a few sporadic visits over a year. You can borrow up to 10 books for two weeks. There are also other materials you can borrow such as magazines, CDs and DVDs, but these have a shorter borrowing period. The DVDs are also restricted to one per family, not per person. They really don't have a lot of DVDs anyway, but they do have a couple of dual language cartoons, such as Miffy. Opening hours are 9.30 am to 7 pm from Tuesday to Friday and 9.30 am to 5 pm on weekends. The library is closed on Mondays.
Best place to see Alligators and Crocodiles!!
If you have kids or love zoos this is a good place to see in Shizuoka. It's pretty easy to access by car and for the most part it's not too busy. I think it's a good road trip stop because it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. If you like reptiles they have a lot of different alligators and crocodiles to see and if you're lucky they'll have baby ones out to touch. If you enjoy flowers, they also have a huge green house area with lots of different flowers and plants. In these houses, you'll also find birds mixed into the scenery. Finally, if you're more into cut animals they also have quite a few red pandas and turtles!To be honest this place was pretty terrifying considering how close you can get to the alligators and crocodiles... It seems pretty easy to drop your phone into the cages while you're taking pictures so I recommend being careful. While it was scary in that area, it was very interesting to see the animals up close and I got a lot of good shots! I probably enjoyed the Red Pandas the most because they were so cute... but pretty much passed out from the heat (I went in the summer). The garden area was also very beautiful and surprisingly empty enough to get good pictures of the flowers and plants.The cost to get in is 1500 yen for adults and 750 for children with free parking. The garden is separated into 3 areas and 2 are within walking distance. The third is accessible by a bus or car if you prefer to drive yourself. Also, because it's not in a major attraction area the English information is limited but I did see quite a few non-Japanese visitors at the time I went. If you check out their website you can also get a 100yen off coupon! I want to go again...Website: http://www4.i-younet.ne.jp/~wanien/index1.htm
Wonderful Coffee Shop in Shibuya!
If you love coffee shops and want to try something a little high end then I highly recommend this shop in Shibuya. It's very close to the station and will take you into a more old antiqueish classy atmosphere. Way different than the crazy outside! It's a little dark but the wood furniture is definitely relaxing and a great place to catch up with old friends. Of course, if you're a non-smoker and there happen to be a lot of smokers in the shop then it may be a little stuffy and hard to breath.Each cup of coffee is around 800~900 yen so it can be on the expensive side if you're visiting from outside of Japan. It's pretty normal for stand-alone coffee shops. The coffee itself is very high end and made one by one in a very specific way. It's fun to watch and of course if you're a coffee lover you'll easily be able to tell the difference in taste! While I didn't have their dessert menu items I heard their chiffon cake is also amazing!My favorite part of this shop wasn't the coffee or the atmosphere but probably more so the coffee cups that they drinks are served in. They are beautiful and really tempting to steal.... each one is also different so you'll be able to see something new each time!
Beautiful French Restaurant by the Beach
Mikasakaikan is one of the more famous restaurants in the Fujisawa/Tsujido area of Kanagawa. It's a high end French restaurant that pretty much serves meal courses that range from 4000~8000 yen plus depending on the time of day and course. It's very fancy so I don't recommend coming in casual clothes!! But when I went during lunch it was pretty relaxed. Considering it's by the beach the atmosphere is also gorgeous but a bit antiqueish as well. It definitely felt like I wasn't in Japan.As far as the food, it was delicious but had very small portions. If you're looking to get full, this isn't the place for you. It's really a place where you can sit down and talk while eating slowly and drinking. If you don't talk and don't drink you'll be waiting for each course menu and feel pretty bored... It's definitely a higher end restaurant and part of a chain of restaurants that are famous throughout Japan. If you're planning to eat here, I recommend making a reservation in advance and coming by car.Homepage: http://www.mikasakaikan.co.jp/restaurant/french/mikasa-kugenuma/index
Rose Garden in Hiratsuka!
If you live in Kanagawa (or happen to be visiting the area) this Rose Garden is a pretty neat place to visit. If you're a photography lover like me you can easily spend a few hours just taking pictures of the different flowers and exhibitions. If you take a look at their website (in Japanese) they have information on all the flowers you can see during each season. You can also see information about the various activities they have available that often involve harvesting vegetables or flower arrangements.At the time I went, there weren't so many roses but there were a lot of different kinds of seasonal flowers. The ponds inside also make wonderful picture ops for kids or couples! I even saw a professional photographer there taking a little kids picture... Depending on the season, not only do the flowers change but also the entrance fee price. At peak season (pretty much in May) it's 880 yen for adults and less for other ages. That's the highest price you'll pay so it's very affordable and big enough to enjoy for a while. Also be sure to note that if you go by car parking is an additional 500 yen.If you get hungry they also have a restaurant and gift shop to buy various types of food/souvenirs. The food wasn't bad and the restaurant area was surprisingly spacious and relaxing. I also enjoyed the various flower goods and snacks that were available at the gift shop. Not everything is from Japan but you'll find some pretty interesting stuff!As far as English goes... The support in English is limited. Their website is 100% Japanese so knowing a little Japanese will help but in general this garden is a place to look at flowers so without Japanese I think you'll be okay!Website: http://www.kana-garden.com/
The Brazilian Marketplace
Takara of Oizumi is the first of a chain of supermarkets run by a Brazilian distribution team. The owner is a Fantastic man who also speaks English as well as Japanese and Portuguese. There are other markets in other cities in Japan, but I believe this has the most serives. Attached to the supermaket is a restaurant called Rodeio Grill that serves Brazillian bbq as well as a set menu and a selection of sandwiches. Go during lunch for the cheapest prices, but dinner will set you back 3000en for the full all you can eat bbq course. Also attached is a driving school, a small store that sells imported clothing shoes and accersories. The marketplace itself is very nice with a bakery and butchery. The bakery has pao de queso, cheese bread, or small french loaves that are to die for. the butchery also has a selction of meats. We always buy our ground beef here becaue its reasonably priced and is 100 percent beef. The area around also has other brazillian markets and eateries. its a nice little brazillian bubble.
An Otaku's Paradise
Looking for manga, figures, UFO catchers, anime, video games, musical instruments, clothes, shoes, or other random stuff? This is the place you need to go. When you walk through the door, you're immediately greeted with about 30 different UFO catchers and games. It's a great place to win that giant Pikachu you've always wanted. If anime and manga is more your speed, Manga Souko has thousands of used and new titles both old and new. If you, like me, love figures you'll easily find your favorite character here. They have Nendoroids, Figmas, and other popular figurines. I've even seen limited Pullip and Blythe dolls. Since it runs like a recycle shop, you can sell used items there too. I personally have never sold anything so I'm not sure how much they pay. I'm guessing, though, it depends on the quality and rarity of the item you have. It's open 24 hours so if you find that you need the newest Naruto manga at 4am, they have you covered!
One of the best terminals in the world
I think the general consensus for anyone who has flown a lot is that Narita Airport is one of the better ones. I personally like Terminal 1 as it is the one I am most familiar with. I think it is extremely well laid out and they really have thought of everything.There is a great selection of shops and restaurants in Terminal 1 Narita Airport. There is also so many services both landside and airside. On the landside area they have viewing decks, play areas, prayer rooms, family rooms, nurseries, smoking areas, ATMs, workspaces, massage chairs... the list goes on and on. After you've gone through security there are even more convenient services, stores and facilities which really take the edge of the journey and make it a more pleasurable experience. Inside the departures area (past security) they even have shower rooms which you can pay to use. There is a hotel where you can stay for just a couple of hours, which is particularly useful if you are in transit. The only complaint I have about Terminal 1, and it isn't enough to deduct a star, is that the passport control area is often crowded and can move quite slowly. If you give yourself plenty of time to get through security and passport control this does not need to be a problem. In my experience the airport staff I have encountered have been very helpful and patient. The terminal one building itself is very bright, spacious and airy. Everything is very clearly marked out in a selection of languages, generally English, Korean and Chinese. The airport is very well serviced by trains, buses, shuttle buses and taxis.