Home >> Itineraries,Japan Travel >> Self-drive holiday with kids to Japan (Hakone and Mount Fuji region)

Okay… So one month after I came back from my self-drive holiday to Hokkaido, I was on yet another self-drive holiday in Japan. The previous trip was kind of boring for the kids, so this time round, I went about planning a trip that would be absolutely AWESOME for the kids!

The trip was a pretty impromptu decision, and I completed the planning, booking of air tickets, accomodations and car rental in less than 2 weeks! I didn’t have a very fixed itinerary for this trip, what I did prior to the trip was to find a list of places that are kids-friendly, noted down their phone numbers (since Japan’s GPS system uses phone numbers) and only decided where to go based on the weather and our mood during the trip itself. But this was not the first time I drove in the Hakone / Mount Fuji region (see this post for my first trip), so I was pretty familiar with the places and roads and approximate traveling times, hence not much planning was needed beforehand.

Eventually, this was how the road trip went, starting and ending at Odawara Station, which is the nearest shinkansen stop from Hakone.

Day 1: Odawara -> Hakone Open Air Museum -> Yunessun -> Fujiya Hotel

We left Tokyo in the morning and opted to take a local train to Odawara (rather than the popular Romance Car because hubby and I had done it before).  We could also have opted for the faster shinkansen, but it would cost double.

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Just outside the West exit of Odawara station, you can find Nissan Rent-A-Car and Nippon Rent-A-Car. We opted for Nippon because I wanted to get a Toyota Fielder. We had booked the car earlier via Tocoo website. I loved the fielder for its huge boot.

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The drive from Odawara to Hakone took us past the Odawara Castle.

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Although the distance was pretty short, the drive took much longer than expected because the road from Odawara to Hakone was a one-land road dotted with numerous traffic lights. Plus it was koyo (autumn-foliage) season in Hakone and hence many people were visiting the region.

Once we passed Hakone-Yumoto station, the traffic eased and the scenery became really beautiful with autumn colours at its peak. Our first destination was the Hakone Open Air Museum.

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You may wonder why an art museum was considered a kids-friendly place. The museum encouraged interaction with the art, so there were sculptures that doubled-up as playgrounds. There were 3 play areas there for kids, all of which were awesome fun!

First play area for kids at Hakone Open Air Museum

First play area for kids at Hakone Open Air Museum

Second play area for kids at Hakone Open Air Museum

Second play area for kids at Hakone Open Air Museum

Third play area for kids at Hakone Open Air Museum

Third play area for kids at Hakone Open Air Museum

 

We spent more time than expected here, because MF was having so much fun! We decided to go Yunessun next since it closed later than most other attractions in Hakone. Plus, they had a super discounted ‘Sunset Pass‘ for entry after 3pm.

The kids had fun in the kids pool, which was indoors and heated. There was also a seasonal miso soup bath which was kind of amusing.

Kids pool at Yunessun

Kids pool at Yunessun

Seasonal miso soup bath at Yunessun.

Seasonal miso soup bath at Yunessun.

 

There was a section called ‘Yutopia’ where there were many types of spa: Coffee, red wine, green tea, sake etc just to name a few. It was outdoors, which meant I had to brave the cold (it was about 0 degrees outside) to try them out. But having came all the way here, it would be a waste not to try them out!

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We were there until they closed at 6pm, after which we had dinner at the restaurant in the Yunessun complex before returning to our hotel.

Day 2: Fujiya hotel -> Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise -> Hakone Ropeway -> Fuji Safari Park -> Hotel Fuyokaku (Fujisan Station)

In the morning, we went for a stroll around our hotel, Fujiya Hotel, which was a pretty historic hotel and a destination in itself. The autumn colours in the garden were simply gorgeous!

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For this day, we were trying to decide whether to visit Grinpa Amusement Park, or go for the Hakone sightseeing cruise and ropeway. The weather made the decision for us. Hubby and I had done the latter before, but we did not manage to see Mount Fuji from the cruise and ropeway the last time due to bad weather. The sky was very clear and blue this time round, so we decided we should try it again. Anyway MF super loves taking cable cars.

After our morning stroll and breakfast, we drove to Togendai, which was the station that served both cruise and ropeway. We started with a round trip cruise on the pirate ship. MF was super excited to board a pirate ship!

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We made the correct decision to take the cruise, as we were rewarded with the classic postcard view of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi!

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Next, we went on the Hakone Ropeway. The ride between Togendai and Owakudani provided a spectacular view of Mount Fuji.

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The view of Mount Fuji from Owakudani was just amazing.

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If you are thinking of saving the money on the ropeway and driving up to Owakudani for its view of Mount Fuji instead, my advice is DON’T. Everyone was thinking the same way and the one-lane road up to Owakudani and small carpark at the top simply couldn’t handle the traffic on this clear day. The traffic jam along the road up to Owakudani was just insane. Anyway there was a lot of construction going on up on Owakudani. Not sure what they were building, but I sure hope they build a bigger carpark.

We did not continue the rest of the ropeway ride to Sounzan, although it was included in our one-day cruise + ropeway ticket, because we wanted to spend more time at our next destination, Fuji Safari Park.

Here’s a parting shot of Hakone at Togendai, which was surrounded by beautiful autumn colours:

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After about an hour’s drive, we arrived at Fuji Safari Park.

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First, we went to the Safari Restaurant for lunch, which was a very child-friendly restaurant with cute kids meals and many high chairs and children’s utensils at your disposal.

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After we had filled our stomachs, we started our Jurassic Park-style safari tour with our own rental car. You can choose to drive in with your own vehicle, or take the park’s animal-shaped buses (at additional cost).  I prefer driving: own-time-own-target.

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The animals could come up really close to your vehicle (it’s not called a safari for nothing). A lion brushed right past our car – and MF totally freaked out.

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Only after we entered the herbivorous animals section did MF start to calm down and enjoy the safari tour.

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And since it’s FUJI Safari Park, you can see Mount Fuji from the park on clear days.

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After we completed one round, we decided to go for a second round. MF was more warmed up and enjoyed the second round more. After that, we went to see the kangaroos.

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After we completed our visit of the safari park, there was still time, so we decided to drive up to Snowtown Yeti to see some snow. It was kind of lame, considering that we had no intention to ski or snowboard, but we are Singaporeans and suckers for any opportunity to see snow.

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The visit was a total waste of time and money (yes, you need to pay to enter even if you are not skiing) as the family play area was not open yet! And the kids playroom was so pathetic we did not bother letting the kids play there.

On our drive back to the hotel, we saw signs to the Mount Fuji 5th station and decided to try driving there. However, the road was closed in winter. So it was back to the hotel.

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Our hotel, Hotel Fuyokaku, was located right next to Fujisan station which houses a department store and supermarket. So we did a little shopping and had our dinner there before calling it a day.

Day 3: Hotel Fuyokaku -> Fuji Q Highland -> Sagamiko -> Lake Shoji

In the morning, we woke up bright and early and went to Fuji Q Highland. With 2 kids in tow, it was difficult to go for all the thrill-rides at Fuji Q, so we only bought admission tickets without the free pass. The main aim of coming to Fuji Q was for its Thomas Land, as MF was a big fan of Thomas!

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Thomas Land was kind of at the end of the park, so we walked around the park a bit to see if there were any rides MF and MY could ride. The carousel allowed MY on it and we bought individual ride tickets for it.

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The Hamtaro rides looked awfully cute and fun for kids, but sadly MF did not meet the minimum height requirements. :(

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We just walked around taking photos until we finally reached Thomas Land!

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Thomas Land was an awesome place for toddlers and even babies! MF could ride on everything except Rock n Roll Duncan (which was under maintenance when we were there anyway) because he was not 3 years old yet. Even 10-month old MY (who was able to sit without support) could ride everything except Rock n Roll Duncan and Go! Go! Bulstrode.

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MF went for all the rides, except Rock n Roll Duncan. Me and my hubby took turns to go with him, and we only had to buy one ticket for the adult as all the rides were free for MF who was under 3!

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Other than rides, there were also giant models of Thomas and Percy for kids to take photos with.

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There were also self-drive vehicles that cost only 100 yen per ride! MF didn’t know how to drive one initially and hubby accompanied him. After one round, he was able to manage and went for another 2 rounds on his own.

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The self-drive vehicles dispensed a souvenir card at the start of each ride. Can you believe it? 100 yen for a ride and you still get a souvenir card! It kind of entices you to ride more so that you can collect all the different cards.

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There was a Thomas-themed restaurant called ‘K’s Thomas Cafe’ which was really cool. The seats were made to resemble train cabins and they incorporated train designs into their food and everything was served in Thomas cups and plates. There was also a snack kiosk called ‘Lady Hyatt’s Afternoon Tea’ selling Thomas-shaped mini pancakes.

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The real trap here was the Thomas Station Shop which sold everything Thomas – confectionary, toys, stationary etc.. you name it, they have it. Even Thomas toilet paper.

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They even set up tables with train sets to keep the kids occupied while the parents did their shopping – how considerate. Now you have absolutely no excuse to leave the shop empty-handed. You simply can’t.

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With much self-control, we left the shop with minimal damage.

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With that, we ended our visit of Thomas Land. The kids absolutely LOVED it and we had such a good time!

> CLICK HERE FOR DETAILED POST ON THOMAS LAND AND THOMAS-THEMED HOTEL <

On our way out, we decided to ride the Giant Ferris Wheel. On a clear day, you can get a nice view of Mount Fuji from it.

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Next, we took a one-hour drive to Sagamiko. This part of the tour was totally unplanned for and way off our route. Our original plan was to visit Kawaguchiko next, as they were having their autumn festival. But we saw posters of the Sagamiko Illumillion and were told it was very beautiful, so we decided to check it out. I think the kids had enough of autumn foliage during the Hokkaido trip anyway. And it’s all in the spirit of free and easy travel – to check out something you did not plan for in advance!

The drive via the Chuo expressway was expensive (we paid about 3000 yen for toll), but the illumination was really beautiful. Some of the rides were operating and complemented the illumination.

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Beautiful, isn’t it? The Sagamiko Illumillion surpassed the Kobe Luminarie as my favourite illumination in Japan.

It was a long 1.5 hour drive back to our hotel at Lake Shoji, but we thoroughly enjoyed the side-track.

Day 4: Lake Shoji -> Asagiri Highland -> Odawara

Our last morning in the Mount Fuji region was greeted by a beautiful sunrise, viewed from the comfort of our hotel room. There were many people gathered on the shores of Lake Shoji armed with cameras and tripods, capturing the beautiful sunrise against Mount Fuji.. I felt so lucky to be able to do so from the comfort of my room.

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Lake Shoji was much less touristy and quiet compared to Kawaguchiko, and our room with view of Mount Fuji at Hotel Yamadaya was much cheaper compared to rooms with similar view at the more touristy areas. Hotel Yamadaya also had private open air baths, with view of Mount Fuji, which guests could book at no additional charge. Great for those who want to try a Japanese onsen but are shy to strip naked in front of strangers.

mount fuji lake shoji hotel yamadaya private onsen

After our morning soak in the private bath, we started our drive along the Western side of Mount Fuji.  First stop was the Asagiri Kogen (or Asagiri Plateau) for a beautiful view of Mount Fuji.

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We continued our drive towards Fuji Milk Land, passing by Asagiri Food Park.  We decided not to stop at the food park and go straight to Fuji Milk Land for breakfast – bad decision, because the restaurant at Fuji Milk Land was only open from lunch time onwards. So we bought a big cheesecake and milk from the souvenir shop for breakfast. MF was stuffed and happy!

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After eating, we went to check out the animal park where one could experience milking a cow, riding a tractor, horse-riding etc.

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We went for horse-riding, which costs 700yen for an individual or 1000yen for a parent and child going together.

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On weekends and public holidays, when the weather was good, there was a mini old-school carnival at the open field with games for kids.  MF requested to jump on the trampoline.

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After this, we began our long 2 hour drive back to Odawara to return our rental car.  Self-drive holidays are great fun when travelling with kids, and the Hakone and Mount Fuji region was filled with so much fun stuff for kids! I would definitely recommend visiting this area for a vacation with the kids.


Related Posts:

> Tokyo with Kids (November 2013)

> Self-drive to Hakone and Mount Fuji region (November 2008) – the more scenic version, recommended if you are visiting without kids!


 

This post is archived under my Japan Travel Blog:
japan-travelogue


 

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284Comments

  1. Hi! This looks superbly fun!! My sons are about the same age as yours!! I want to organize a self-drive this coming August and hope to get some advice from you… would it be convenient to contact me at bleues13@hotmail.com?

  2. SK says:

    Hi bumble bee mum, i really like to read your blogs. You posted a lot of good info and this help my trip planning. I’m planning a trip to Tokyo with my mum who is 75 yrs old. I hope can get some info from you especially for the transportation transfer. Can you contact me at seekeow.gmail.com?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, I apologize for only replying now. I just shifted my blog out of wordpress.com to my personal domain and this comment only appeared after I did that!

      I’m not sure if you have already done the trip. If you did, hope you had a great trip and everything went smoothly! If you still need to contact me, my gmail is bumblebeemumsg.

  3. Winnie says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, i love your self drive tour and i am planning to self drive to Hakone as well, can i check the yamadaya hotel that you stay is located at Gora ( address: Gora 1320 -907) Hakone or 401-0336 Yamanashi Fujikawaguchiko Town, Minamitsuru-gunShoji

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, I apologize for only replying now. I just shifted my blog out of wordpress.com to my personal domain and this comment only appeared after I did that!

      The Yamadaya Hotel we stayed at was the one at Shoji (second one).

  4. Cath says:

    Oh wow! I wish I found your blog before I booked the hotel. Then again, I think it’s hard for us cos we probably won’t want to drive.

  5. alan says:

    Hello, nice blog you have here. Can you provide an estimate on the highway toll charges for 1 way ?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1 way from where to where..? You can try the toll simulator on Tocoo’s website:
      http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/highway_sim/main

      • alan says:

        hi thanks for the recommending the tocoo site. I was wondering if there’s any toll charges based on your itinerary (ie round trip Odawara), and as it will determine if i should be also renting a ETC Card.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hi, for most people who rent a car from Odawara to visit Hakone and Kawaguchiko, there is actually no need to use the toll way. For this trip, I used the toll road once to return to Odawara because i was rushing for time, but usually I would use the scenic roads that go around Mount Fuji. Even then, the distance travelled on the toll road was pretty short, so there was really no need to rent an ETC card.

  6. Lynn says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I have learned of you while searching for self drive trip to Grinpa and Thomasland. After reading your sharing about your trip, I would like to ask you the feasibility of my planned itinerary for dec 2015. We do not read nor speak japanese and have never been to tokyo. We will be traveling with a turning 2yr old and 8yr old. Only my husband can drive. My plan as below
    Arrive at Narita 1535hrs
    Pick up rented car
    Drive to Mt Fuji? – how long will this take us? Where can we stay overnight?

    Next day, Thomasland first or Grinpa?
    Drive back to tokyo or stay overnight?

    Return to Tokyo to Disneyland check in hotel then return car.

    Ps: Hakone sight seeing cruise and Fuji safari park looks interesting is it along the way after Grinpa or Thomalsand?

    Thank you in advance for your time and reply.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I do not recommend driving to Mount Fuji from Narita. My recommendation would be to take a train to Odawara and renting a car from there to explore Hakone and Mount Fuji region, spending at least 2 nights in the region.

      The fastest (although not cheap) way to get from Narita Airport to Odawara is the take the Narita Express (N’EX) from Narita Airport to Shinagawa (72 minutes), and catching the shinkansen from Shinagawa to Odawara (30 minutes).

      A cheaper option is to take the N’EX to Shinagawa (72 min) and taking the JR Tokaido Line from Shinagawa to Odawara (74 min).

      Another option is to take the N’EX to Shinjuku (89 min) and taking Odakyu Line from Shinjuku to Odawara (81 min).

      Do look into purchasing the discounted ticket for N’EX.

      Since you are arriving at Narita pretty late, I do not advice you to try to get to Mount Fuji on the first day. Instead, find a place to stay near Shinjuku or Shingawa station and catch a morning train to Odawara.

      Day 1: Pick up rental car from Odawara and drive to Hakone. Spend the day taking the Hakone ropeway and sightseeing cruise, visiting Hakone Open Air Museum and any other attractions in Hakone you are interested in and spend the night at Hakone.

      Day 2: Set off early to visit Fuji Safari Park. (It takes about 1 – 1.5 hours to drive from Hakone to Fuji Safari Park.) After that, visit Grinpa Amusement Park. These two place are very near each other (15 min drive apart). Spend the night near Kawaguchiko.

      Day 3: Visit Fuji-Q Highland (where Thomasland is). After that, drive back to Odawara (1.5 hour drive) to return the rental car and take the train back to Tokyo.

      • Lynn says:

        Thank you for your prompt reply.

        I’m sorry it should be Haneda airport. Is there N’ex from Haneda?

        As I have not been to tokyo before, I am most worried about the logistics issue of stroller and two luggages with two kids. So may I ask how is it like to move around from airport to train to Shinagawa or Shinjuku (which is a better stay for a night rest?)? Will we encounter stairs or will we be able to find elevators?

        May I know the reason for not going to my Fuji on first day? If we were to take the train from airport to Odawara, we probably reach Odawara at 6.30pm? How long to drive from Odawara to Hakone Fujiya hotel for the night?

        Day 2: Hang out Fujiya hotel for a while then to Hakone open air museum, Lake Ashi, sightseeing cruise, Fuji Safari.
        Day 3: Grinpa and Thomalsand. To Odawara to return car and board train to Maihama? Is it too rush?

        Sorry for my many questions. Thanks for your time.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmm.. moving around Tokyo is generally a nightmare with luggages and stroller. If you arrive at Haneda, then yes, maybe you should drive to Hakone on the first day. (Narita is much further.)

          If you decide to drive to Hakone on your first day, please be prepared for the following:
          – If your flight arrives at 3.35pm, by the time you clear customs, pick up your luggage and collect a rental car, I would say it’s 5pm. In December, the sun would already have set by then.
          – Mount Fuji and Hakone are considered rural areas. There will be no street lights along the roads in the region. It would be pitch dark by the time you arrive, and the roads around Hakone are quite curvy. Please drive slowly.
          – Tolls will be very expensive. Try to rent an ETC card to reduce your toll fee.

          For your itinerary, Day 3 is too rushed. You will not be able to fully enjoy both theme parks in one day. Fuji Q Highland (where Thomasland is located) has a lot more to offer than Thomasland. You don’t see much on my blog because my kids were very young and hence they can only take the rides at Thomasland. But your 8 year old should have many things to play at Fuji Q highland. I would advise you to just spend the whole day at Fuji Q Highland. Always remember, the sun sets at 4+pm and attractions have shortened opening hours in winter. Do not try to pack too much stuff in one day, you won’t have enough time.

          My advice is to play by ear depending on weather when you are there. If the sky is cloudy and you cannot see Mount Fuji on Day 2, don’t bother taking the ropeway and Lake Ashi cruise. Spend the day at Fuji Safari Park and Grinpa instead. If the weather is good, then you should take the ropeway and cruise and give up Grinpa (since you will be visiting Fuji Q Highland and later on Disney, that’s quite a lot of theme parks already.)

  7. guiwei says:

    Hi dear,

    Is it possible to stay at just 1 hotel at Hakone? Any centralised place where we can stay? My gals will love to go to open air museum, fuji Q highlands, Fuji Safari Park?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, but for the places you want to visit, you should stay at Kawaguchiko instead of Hakone.

      Day 1: Tokyo -> Fuji Q Highland. Stay at Kawaguchiko for the night.
      Day 2: Fuji Safari Park, then Hakone Open Air Musuem and back to Tokyo.

  8. Elynn says:

    Hi, I’m planning a trip to Tokyo in Nov/Dec 15 with my 2 kids, aged 9 and 7 and it’s their first time to Japan. As such, I’m planning a few must go places (after your very informative blog!) :

    1. Tokyo Disneyland (1 day)
    2. Tokyo DisneySea (1 day)
    3. Mt Fuji
    4. Fuji Safari Park
    5. YUNESSUN (I’ve been to this hot spring before and I really liked it)
    6. HAKONE ROPEWAY
    7. Tsukiji Market
    7. Shopping!

    Looking at what I planned to do, would it still be feasible to drive up to Mt Fuji area for perhaps just 2 nights to cover the places and then the remaining nights near Disneyland area or just central Shinjuku area?

    Thanks so much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Yes, 2 nights is sufficient to visit Fuji Safari Park, Yunessun and Hakone Ropeway. It increases your chances to seeing Mount Fuji too! If you spend 3 days in the area, do the Hakone Ropeway on a day when the weather is good and the sky is clear. If the weather is gloomy, then go to Yunessun instead. KIV Grinpa Amusement Park (which is very near Fuji Safari Park) in case the weather is really gloomy when you are there.

      Whether to stay near Disneyland or in Shinjuku depends on your budget. Disneyland hotels are expensive. And there is nothing much around Disneyland area besides Disneyland and Disneysea. If you do not mind changing hotels, you can consider staying a night or two at Disneyland area then shifting to Shinjuku.

      • Elynn says:

        Hi bumblebeemum, thanks for much for the prompt reply!

        Will keep your tips in mind while I’m planning the trip. You went during which month may I ask?

        I visited the Grinpa Amusement Park and it looks fun with the Snow Ski park! It’s just that the park is only opened till April 2015 and I suppose we will have to wait till further notice on the park opening for the later part of the year?

        Do you read and/or speak Jap btw? :)

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I went in end November.

          The Snow ski park in Grinpa was not open yet in end November. Not sure when they will open again for 2015 winter season. They usually announce the opening quite late because it is weather-dependent. So yah, you’ll probably have to wait until you are there before you know whether the snow park will be ready. But Grinpa looks quite fun even without the snow park.

          Yup, I can read and speak Japanese, but very very little.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      By the way, I’m not sure what you mean when you say you want to visit Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is not accessible in winter. If you just want to see Mount Fuji, then Hakone area and Fuji Safari Park should suffice if weather is good.

  9. Lian says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    We are traveling with our 2 children (2 and 10 years old) to Japan in June. We’re actually thinking of going to Hakone for two nights. Main purpose is to see Mt Fuji and try out an onsen. But because of the volcanic activity, we are having reservations now. Would Atami be a good alternative? And would renting a car make sense?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, if you want to see Mount Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes region would be your best alternative. There are many onsens, with the most popular ones being those at Kawaguchiko. There are many interesting attractions around Kawaguchiko that the kids would enjoy, such as Fuji Q Highland (where Thomas Land is), Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway and Kawaguchiko Music Forest. When the weather is good, the view from Oishi Park along the Northern shore of Kawaguchiko is very beautiful. It is also possible to drive to Fuji Safari Park from Kawaguchiko without going near Hakone.

      You can read more on the following posts:

      > Thomas Land Japan
      > My visit in 2008 (which included the music forest, Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway, Oishi Park and some other scenic points around Fuji Five Lakes region)

      A rental car is good for visiting the Fuji Five Lakes region.

  10. Cherynn Lim says:

    Hi,
    I will be traveling to Tokyo in dec 15. I have a total of 8 adults and 5 kids entourage.
    We will be reaching narita at 8am. Planned itinerary as such:-
    Day 1 – upon reaching we will go straight to Disneyland for 2N.
    Day 2- Disneyland
    Day 3- check out and proceed to shinjuku area. Free and easy
    Day 4 – Yokohama
    Day 5 – hello kitty land and outlet mall
    Day 6 – snow resort
    Day 7 – Hakone. But u mention in dec mt Fuji is not accessible?
    Day 8 – free and easy
    Day 9 – free and easy
    Day 10 – free and easy till arrival at airport

    We intend to self drive in Tokyo area to Disneyland, to Yokohama, and the rest of the POIs. Is it convenient to drive in Tokyo city?

    Or is it better for us to take public transport?

    Since you are an expert in Japan, I would like to seek your input.

    Hope you can provide some inputs.

    Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      No, it is not convenient to drive in Tokyo City. And considering the number of people in your entourage, unless one of you can drive a mini bus, you are looking at 2 cars at least and it is going to be a challenge to coordinate the movement of the two cars. Your itinerary looks easy to cover by public transport. Use Hyperdia to plan your train routes.

      For Day 5, which outlet mall are you looking at? I’m not sure if the Hello Kitty Land you are referring to is Sanrio Puroland? Or the Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise at Odaiba? If it’s Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise, then no problem, you can easily visit it and go outlet shopping at Venus Fort. But if you are planning to visit Sanrio Puroland, that would probably take up a whole day.

      Mount Fuji is not accessible in winter, which means you cannot drive up to the 5th station. But if you just want to see Mount Fuji, it is visible from Hakone on a clear day. It is important to note that Mount Fuji is shrouded by clouds more often than not. Doing Hakone as a one-day trip, there is a high chance that you would not be able to see Mount Fuji (if you do, you are SUPER lucky!). I usually recommend 3 nights stay in Hakone / Fuji Five Lakes region to increase the chances of seeing Mount Fuji.

  11. Jean says:

    Hi BumblebeeMum,

    I m going to Tokyo with total 4 adults and 2 kids in end Nov. we will arrive Narita by 4pm, I understand to stay 1 night at Tokyo and go Odawara the next morning.

    However, do you think I can take a train from Narita to Odawara (I guess arrive there by 7pm), stay 1 night at Odawara, collect car rental the next morning will be another option? By Doing so we can save travelling time and money in Tokyo.

    Thank you for your blogs, full of info and help me lots.

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Accommodation in Odawara is extremely limited. Odawara Terminal Hotel seems to be the only hotel in the vicinity of Odawara station:
      http://www.odawara-th.com/

      And there is really nothing to do around Odawara at night. Compared to Tokyo, where it will be absolutely bustling at night and you will have plenty of dining options, I would opt to stay in Tokyo.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      One more thing to add. You are going in end Nov which is autumn foliage season at Hakone. The train ride from Shinjuku to Hakone via the romance car is extremely scenic as it approaches Hakone. You will miss it if you go straight to Odawara on the first day because it will be pitch dark by the time you arrive. (Sun sets at 4+pm in winter.) Taking the train the next morning will allow you to enjoy the scenery. :)

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi.. wee wee… I will take your advise to stay overnight at shinjuku.
        Free and easy trip.. Should plan in relax way.. Not rushing duckies

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Haha… Yes. Hakone region is a great place to relax, especially when the sky is clear and Mount Fuji appears. And the autumn foliage is really beautiful. It is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo City.

  12. Elynn says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    it’s me again. I have revised my itinerary after more research and as below (with a few questions requiring your advise..hehe)

    9D8N Tokyo (Dec 7 to 16 Dec)

    Arrival at Haneda Airport at 6:30am. Collect car from rental company and drive to Yamadaya Hotel (that you stayed in) for check-in. (lunch and a bit of sightseeing along the way hopefully)

    Relax and hang around the hotel for the day.

    Intend to spend 3 nights in the area and cover (depending on whether conditions.) :
    LAKE ASHI SIGHTSEEING CRUISE
    HAKONE ROPEWAY
    FUJI SAFARI PARK
    Grinpa Amusement Park
    Yunessun

    Would hope you can advise on the following :

    1. I notice that you changed a few hotels during your self-drive for this region, is it because the attractions are far from each other? I would prefer to stick to same hotel for the 3 nights if possible, is it feasible?

    2. Is it safe and easy to drive from Haneda Airport to Hakone especially during winter? I choose to arrive at Haneda Airport as it’s nearer to Hakone and I can save some traveling time. What is the average cost of your car rental per day?

    3. Where did you make the booking for Yamadaya Hotel from and which type of room did you choose for your family? If we are using futon, is it good enough to choose the 2 adults room and house my 2 kids (7 and 9) plus 2 adults?

    After checking out on the 4th day, will drive back to Haneda Airport and return car and then take Shuttle bus to central Tokyo.

    Thanks so much in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. The reason I changed hotel every night was because I usually don’t stay in an onsen hotel for more than 1 night. I like to try different hotels, and I find staying in onsen hotels for 2 nights a tad boring – because I would be eating the same food, looking at the same scenery and using the same onsen. So ‘onsen hopping’ is something I like to do in Japan. Eventually we tried 2 onsen resorts and spent 1 night at a city hotel to save money. I would advise you to change hotel at least once: Spending 1 night at Hakone and 2 nights around Fuji Five Lakes area. The driving time between Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes area is 1.5 hours. While it is doable to spend 3 nights in the same hotel, the day you visit Hakone (for Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise + Hakone Ropeway + Yunessun) will be a bit rushed. And the 1.5 hours drive from Hakone all the way back to Hotel Yamadaya will be pitch dark.

      2. The region generally gets little snow. But it has snowed there before in December, so I can’t guarantee if there will be snow when you are there. THe likelihood is pretty low, but if it does snow, just drive slow and enjoy the rare snowy scenery. As for the price of rental car, for a normal 5-seater sedan, you shouldn’t have to pay more than SGD100 per day.

      3. I booked through Agoda and we just choose the cheapest room. If you require extra bedding for your children, put 2 adult and 2 child in your search option. Onsen hotels are pretty strict about the number of guests in the room. I tried searching on Agoda and it showed that there was a room available at Hotel Yamadaya for 2a 2c.

      • Elynn says:

        Thank you so much for the prompt reply, bumblebeemum!

        Yes, I saw the same room too while doing my research..hehe. Actually, I came across the Hakone Freepass and was also comteplating whether to self-drive or take the Hakone Tozan Train as my kids have not taken a train before. Only thing is we have to take the train from Shinjuku Station right? Have you taken before? Is it good?

        And I suppose if I don’t drive, it’s going to be a challenge to reach Hotel Yamadaya right? (my tour entourage as now increased to 3 more adults and 2 of them are senior)

        Thanks again!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Personally, especially with kids around, I would self-drive around Hakone. I tried using the Hakone Free Pass once and that was without the kids. I found the buses sparse and had long waiting times. We wasted quite a bit of time waiting for buses, and time is precious especially in winter where daylight hours are short and operating hours of attractions are shortened. Another thing is, Hakone Free Pass includes the ropeway, but I’m not sure if the ropeway will be open when you are there. It is currently closed due to the volcanic activities at Owakudani and nobody knows when business will resume.

          And yes, I’m not sure how you can get to Hotel Yamadaya without a rental car. And you also need a car to fully enjoy Fuji Safari Park.

          If you really want to let the kids take the Hakone Tozan train and cable car, just drive to the station and take the train for fun and come back to the car. Or the driver can drop the rest of the group off to take the train and drive the car up to the alighting station to pick them up.

          • Suhaila says:

            Hi bumblemum,
            I am with 2 kids and from shinjuku.
            I intend to drive from shinjuku to kawaguchiko station directly & stay 1 night & move on to hakone & stay 1 night & last drive back to shinjuku.

            What do you think of this especially the toll incurred. Will it be expensive & how about parking? Is it easier to get a car park?

            Thks
            Suhaila

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I think the toll is pretty much the same price as train tickets. I can’t remember exactly how much.. About 3000yen per way maybe? Parking in the Hakone / Kawaguchiko area is not difficult to find. Usually the attractions have their own parking lots. At each attraction, they may have a parking fee of up to 1000yen per day.

              I think with kids, a rental car is the way to go. It is a lot more relaxing and saves a lot of time. It is also a lot more scenic to drive around the Mount Fuji region. You can also go to Fuji Safari Park which is more fun when you drive your own car in. It is definitely worth the extra money spent.

              • Suhaila says:

                Thank you bumbleemum! :) Do you know how much is the petrol cost for about 3 days? And have you been to gala yuzawa? is fujiten snow resort good for kids to play?

                Rgds
                Suhaila

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  I haven’t been to gala yuzawa before. Fujiten looks great for kids, considering they have a Kids Park. But do check carefully when it will open. Most ski resorts’ kids parks start much later than the ski season. i.e. Even if the ski resort is open for skiing, it doesn’t mean the kids park is ready.

  13. Jean says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum….

    I have made my Tokyo trip itinerary for 28 Nov 15 – 5 Dec 15. Would like to show you and get some advise form you.

    Day 1 Narita – Shinjuku
    Day 2 Odawara (collect rental car) – Open air museum – Gotemba premium outlets
    Day 3 Hakone – Fuji Safari – Sagamiko (will double check before I go)
    Day 4 Hakone – Odawara (return rental car)- Tokyo – Asakusa – Himiko Cruise – Odaiba
    Day 5 Disneyland
    Day 6 Tsukiji Market – Akihabara – Sanrio Poruland or Cup Noodle Museum
    Day 7 Free & Easy (pls feel free to suggest me any good places to go)
    Day 8 Hotel – Narita

    Do you have any ideas which area i should stay for day 2 & 3 as i m also a budget oriented person especially after become a mum…

    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Your itinerary looks good.

      For Day 6, it looks a bit rushed. I would probably go to Sanrio Puroland / Cup Noodle Museum after Tsukiji Market, and keep Akihabara optional depending on the time I finish touring Sanrio Puroland / Cup noodle museum.

      For Day 7, it depends on what your interest is. Shopping? Eating? Theme Park? Nature? Zoo / Aquarium? Illumination?

      For accommodation, you should stay at Hakone on Day 2 and Kawaguchiko on Day 3. I usually use hotel booking websites to search for the cheapest option available.

      • Jean says:

        Thank you so much for the prompt reply, bumblebeemum! Replied Mid-night huh?

        For Day 7, probably shopping or Aquarium. I try not to plan many characters theme park for the kids, different type of exposure like Zoo / Aquarium will be better.

        Most of the Tokyo hotels are not family-friendly at all, i may opt for apartment in Tokyo. But for Day 1 as like you, choose the hotel near to Shinjuku or Shinagawa station.

        For Day 2 and 3, will try to get cheaper ryokan at Hakone and better ryokan at Kawaguchiko as we pay lesser for better stay compare to Hakone, right? : )

        Will sort out car rental for next step, may need your help again… thanks so much..

        Cheers..

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Argh, I can only reply in the middle of the night when kids are asleep.

          For Zoo / Aquarium around Tokyo, you can check these out:
          Tokyo Sea Life Park
          Sunshine Aquarium
          Ueno Zoo
          Tama Zoo

          Some other interesting stuff that I have been KIV-ing which you may want to consider are:
          Tokyo Fire Museum
          Tokyo Subway Museum

          I don’t think there’s much difference between the ryokan at Hakone and Kawaguchiko. They are both pretty touristy and around the same price range I feel. You can just short-list a more budget option and a more expensive option in both Hakone and Kawaguchiko. Add up the cost of a cheap ryokan in Hakone + expensive ryokan in Kawaguchiko versus cheap ryokan in Kawaguchiko + expensive ryokan in Hakone. See which ones works out to be a better value.

  14. Siva says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, very interesting and useful guide.
    I plan my family holiday to Tokyo between 17/Nov to 24/Nov. All 6 person, me my wife and my 4 kids between 13 to 21 years old. This is our first overseas holiday. Kindly advise the best place to visit in Tokyo. How do you think to arrange my itineraries? And very confused to choosing between rental car and train. Appreciate you reply.

  15. Lynne says:

    Hello!
    Thanks for sharing your Japan travels. I enjoy reading them!
    I’m planning a trip for 5A1C (5YO) dec 14-23, 2015. Itinerary as follows:

    Nagoya-Osaka-Kobe-Nara-kawaguchiko-Nagoya. (Or we could do Fuji first)

    Do you think the costs of car rental will exceed costs of public tpt in this case (since JR pass doesn’t cover local trains for eg. )? Would actually like to experience the Shinkansen as well :) I’ve tried to do some calculations but am so confused with all the rail passes available!

    Would appreciate your feedback!

    Best regards
    Lynne

    • bumblebeemum says:

      With 5 adults, if you all can travel light and squeeze into a 7 or 8 seater, self-drive would usually be more cost-effective. And a whole lot more convenient. But that would mean you would miss out on a shinkansen experience.

  16. Yvonne C says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    It’s me again! I’m done planning the accommodation in Tokyo (staying near Shinjuku station) and now moving on to plan for our 6 nights in Hakone/Fuji Five Lakes region. The dates are 7 to 13 Dec, after which we will be staying around DIsney area for visiting DIsneysea before heading home.

    I would appreciate your input in the following:

    1. Should we drive to Hakone/Fuji Five Lakes region from Tokyo, or take a train? (if train it would be Shinjuku to Odawara, right?) From your blog and your answers to the queries, I get the feeling that driving out from Tokyo is not as easy as it seems. Am I right? If we take a train to Odawara, we will return from Odawara to the accommodation we hope to stay near Disney which is near Kasai station in Edogawa, is it easy to do that?

    2. For accommodation, we don’t really like to change hotels every night, so we’ll probably stay 3 nights in Hakone and 3 nights in Fuji Five Lakes area, but we would like to experience a ryokan, so maybe one night stay. Is there a reasonably-priced ryokan that you would recommend, one that has onsen that’s not public (can wear swimming costumes!!)?

    By the way we have 2 adults and 2 kids (12 & 14 yo).

    Thanks in advance for your help! :-)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. If you take train from Shinjuku, you can take the Odakyu line that brings you all the way to Hakone Yumoto station. I have never tried driving in Tokyo, but had the same concern as you about driving out of Tokyo, which is why I have been opting to take the train till Odawara / Hakone Yumoto before renting a car there for the region. However, if travelling in large groups, it may be cheaper to skip the train ride because train tickets are not that cheap. But safety wise, I think taking the train out of Tokyo would be safer. Maybe even faster.

      You can check train routes from Odawara to Kasai using Hyperdia. It looks like a minimum of 2 transfers is required:
      http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

      2. Unfortunately all onsen in ryokan throughout Japan do not allow swimming costumes. You got to go in naked. If you want to try onsen while wearing swimming costume, visit Yunessun instead:
      http://www.yunessun.com/english/

      • Yvonne C says:

        Thanks for your input, Bumblebeemum!

        Is there a website that consolidates the different ryokans in Hakone/Fuji area? I have no idea where to start looking and comparing.

        Thanks!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Usually I just use hotel booking websites like Agoda, booking.com, hotels.com etc.

          • Yvonne C says:

            I see. Ok I’ll try. Thanks! 😉

            • Yvonne C says:

              Hi Bumblebeemum,

              I’ve been trying to find info about the Odakyu line and am getting a bit confused regarding the Romance Car and the normal Odakyu express train. May I ask:

              1. What’s the difference between both trains?

              2. For the Limited Express “Romancecar”, we need to get the “limited express ticket” (can be bought online?), and also get a standard “ticket” at station ticket counter, is that correct? So the cost would be around Y890 for limited express ticket and Y880 for standard ticket? The standard ticket cannot be bought in advance online, only at the station, is that right?

              Thanks for your help! :-)

              • bumblebeemum says:

                1. I think it is the type of train used. Romance Cars are more comfortable, and i think they have bigger windows for you to enjoy the scenery. The normal lines are just normal trains, like our MRT trains.

                2. The limited express ticket is on top of the standard ticket price. So if you use the normal train, you pay 880yen. But if you take the romance car, you need to pay 880 + 890 = 1770 yen. You can just buy it on the spot at the station.

                • Yvonne C says:

                  Yes, got it, Thanks for clarifying! :-)

                  • Yvonne C says:

                    Hi Bumblebeemum,

                    I’ve got a question about moving around in Hakone. If we are doing the Hakone loop, ie taking the Tozan train, cable car, cruise, then it seems it’s more economical and convenient if we were to buy the Hakone Free Pass, even without taking the ropeway, instead of renting a car and driving around. Is that right? If we were to use the free pass to travel around for 2-3 days in Hakone and not rent a car, is it easy to get around? Or should we still rent a car? We’ll rent a car after we cover the Hakone sights and drive to Fuji Five Lakes and spend a few more days there.

                    Thanks!

                    :-) Yvonne

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      The first time I visited Hakone, we used the Free Pass and spent a long time waiting for the bus to get to and fro Little Prince Museum. We were there in winter and daylight hours were short and precious. So it seemed dumb to waste precious time waiting around at the bus stop. Next few days, we rented a car and managed to cover so much more. I personally think rental car is very worth the money. I mean, we already paid thousands of dollars to fly there and more on accommodation. Why not pay a bit more for a car so that we can explore more and make full use of our time there, rather than try to save money and end up wasting time waiting for buses. That’s my personal take.

                      But of course, if you aim is to try out the various modes of transports at Hakone, then yes, you can just use the Free Pass for 1 day to do the standard round course, then rent car for the following days to explore the attractions that do not lie along the course.

                    • Yvonne C says:

                      Thanks for your reply! Yah I totally agree with you. That’s what we’ll do. :-)

  17. Mabel says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    My hubby and myself have planned to travel to Hokkaido 19-27 Sep some how we have changed our plan to go Tokyo and visit Mt Fuji, Our travel day is 22-28 Oct’15.

    We are not sure where to visit. Need you advise to guide me. 24-27 Oct (Visit Hakone and Mt Fuji)

    Any place of interest?
    Hotel to recommend?
    onsen hotel?
    Mt Fuji Lake to view the scenery?

    22 Oct – Landed Narita at 2.30pm. Take a train (NEX) to Tokyo station (stay nearby)

    23 Oct – Free and easy. Any place of interest?

    24 Oct – Take a train from Shinjuku to Odawara. Pick rental car.

    25 Oct – Hakone Ropeway

    26 Oct – Fuji Safari

    27 Oct – Return car take train back to Tokyo (Stay near Shinjuku)

    28 Oct – Free and easy (5pm flight back to SG)

    Thanks in advance.

    • mabel says:

      Hi Bumblebeemum,

      My hubby and myself have planned to travel to Hokkaido 19-27 Sep some how we have changed our plan to go Tokyo and visit Mt Fuji, Our travel day is 22-28 Oct’15.

      We are not sure where to visit. Need you advise to guide me. 24-27 Oct (Visit Hakone and Mt Fuji)

      22 Oct – Landed Narita at 2.30pm. Take a train (NEX) to Tokyo station (stay nearby)

      23 Oct – Free and easy. Any place of interest?

      24 Oct – Take a train from Shinjuku to Odawara.

      Romance car don’t stop at Odawara station? Is this better to rent car from Hakone Yumoto station?

      25 Oct – Hakone Ropeway / Fuji Safari / Mt Fuji
      Which hotel to stay for better to view the mt Fuji?

      26 Oct – Return car take train back to Tokyo (Stay near Shinjuku)

      28 Oct – Free and easy (5pm flight back to SG)

      • bumblebeemum says:

        24 Oct: If you are using the Romance Car, then yes, you should rent a car from Hakone Yumoto station instead.

        25 Oct: Please check if Hakone Ropeway has reopened yet. It has been closed for the past few months due to volcanic activities at Owakudani. As for hotels with view of Mount Fuji, I would think any hotel that advertises a view of Mount Fuji should suffice. But the most popular ones are around kawaguchiko.

        I’m a bit confused because you left out 27 Oct. Are you returning to Tokyo on 26 or 27th? If 26th, I don’t think you have time to explore that many places. I would recommend staying in Hakone (Hakone Ropeway if it is operating and Lake Ashi cruise) on 25th and exploring Fuji Safari Park and Kawaguchiko (Kachi Kachi Ropeway) on 26th. If you are extending into 27th, you can explore a bit more of the scenic areas around Fuji Five Lakes region, which you can read more on this post:
        http://bumblebeemum.net/2008/11/27/self-drive-holiday-to-hakone-mount-fuji-region-kawaguchiko-fuji-five-lakes-autumn-foliage-season/

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hi Bumbleemum, have you tried driving up mt fuji? is the road very windy? easy to drive up? And for the Fuji safari how long do you think is needed. And if we are driving in, do we need to pay more? quite confusing on how to buy the tixs.

    Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I have never drove up Mount Fuji before because I have been going there in winter and the roads are close in winter.

      For Fuji Safari Park, I would say give it at least 2 hours excluding meal time. I don’t remember there being a charge for driving your own car in. So you just pay the admission based on number of people (currently 2700 yen per adult / 1500 yen per child aged 4 and above) entering:
      http://www.fujisafari.co.jp/english/

      Don’t forget to print out this discount coupon and fill in the number of pax for discount:
      http://www.fujisafari.co.jp/happy/coupon.html
      おとな -> Write down number of adults
      こども -> Write down number of children
      ナイト -> This is for night safari, ignore it if you are visiting during the day
      シニア -> Write down number of seniors (aged 65 and above)

      So you just fill up the above discount form with the number of pax and hand it to the staff at the entrance when you arrive and the will charge you accordingly.

  19. Valen Lee says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    Which part of Japan is not having rainy season in June? I’m planning a trip for next year to Japan with my kids. I understand that only Hokkaido and Okinawa have good weather in June. Can you share some insights please? Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Sigh.. when it comes to weather, there is just a lot of luck involved. When I went Hokkaido in June, it rained every single day. When I went Okinawa in June, it was MEGA bright and sunny every single day. But then again, Okinawa is super prone to typhoons and despite June not being typhoon season, there was a typhoon not long before we were there. Then I went to Mount Fuji twice during the exact same time of the year, one time it was rainy and gloomy throughout; the other time it was bright and sunny throughout. So just don’t think too much about the weather and keep your fingers crossed.

  20. ChingChing says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I am going to TOKYO for a 6D5N trip this coming NOV7-12. My husband and me will be bringing along our 17months son. Initially i am thinking to skip Hakone, because of the volcano news and worry that the 1 day trip will be too tiring for our son.

    But after reading your blog, with the nice photos, perhaps i should change my mind.
    Here i really appreciate if you can give me some ideas.
    Do you think if i depart early morning with train to hakone, and return to shinjuku in the evening is feasible for the following places?
    1) Hakone Ropeway (website mention it only takes 30mins)
    2) Hakone Sightseeing CruiseOpen
    3) Yunessen (mayb 3pm to 6pm)
    Then return to shinjuku.

    my ultimate destination is to visit the yunessen,my son love water so much..and if we are able to see the mt fuji then it is a bonus.

    I understand that probably you will suggest staying at 1 night there, but i have booked 5Nights hotel at shinjuku. and if we book another night at hakone, it is an extra cost.

    Really need some advise. First time traveling with baby.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is possible to do Hakone as a day trip if you set off early, though it is somewhat rushed. Don’t forget that the sun will set at about 5pm in November. And there is a chance Hakone Ropeway will not be open yet by the time you are there. (It is currently suspended due to the volcanic activity.) If I were you, I would just keep my options open. If the Hakone Ropeway resumes operation, weather looks good and I’m not too tired, I would make the trip. If the ropeway remains suspended or I’m too lazy to wake up early, I would just skip it and take it easy in Tokyo.

      During my first trip with my baby, I made lots of grand plans but in the end we went to places totally different from what we planned. Because baby fell sick, the weather was too cold, dressing the baby up in winter wear was a pain, we didn’t want to go out in the rain / snow.. The point is, since it’s your first trip with the baby, what you can do is just to have a list of places you can visit and play by ear when you’re there.

      • Chingching says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply. Ok I will play by ear .. hopefully the ropeway is resume by the time I am there..

        Btw, do u think asakusa and odaiba too rush in one day? Or I shd plan odaiba for 1 whole day.

        If i skip hakone mayb will consider Disneyland. But most of the activity is for above 3 years old right? If I bring my 18months baby I can only walk around outside..? Or any activities suitable for him?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          It depends on what you want to do at Odaiba. If let’s say you want to go to Legoland Discovery Centre, then I would recommend you spend the whole day at Odaiba. But if you just want to see see look look, then it is possible to do Asakusa and Odaiba in one day. In fact, Asakusa + Odaiba is a very popular day trip via the Tokyo Bay cruise. There’s this great post by another blogger that you can refer to for a Asakusa + Odaiba day trip:
          http://www.lifestinymiracles.com/2015/07/asakusa-sumida-and-odaiba-tokyo-japan/

          There are lots of rides in Disneyland that your 18 month old can take. I was there when my kid was 11 months old and I remembered taking quite a few rides with him sitting next to me (just that he was pretty terrified.. haha!)

  21. ka says:

    Hi Bumble Bee mum

    You have a great blog here. You are a expert in japan travel. Can you provide some pointers on our itiernary?

    We are going on a 15 days trip to tokyo with the kids. As they had not been to tokyo yet.

    We will be spending 4 days at disneyland/disneysea, 5 days at tokyo where i hope to go yokohama,odaiba,asakusa/ueno,ghibli museum n the usual shinjuku/shibuya area.

    Have you heard or been to the mother farm at chiba? At first i was planning 2 nites at mother farm and 3 nites at hakone/mt fuji area when i realise there are farms at the west side of mt fuji, but they seems of a smaller scale.

    One advantage would be since its at mt fuji..its less time consuming. Else we have to travel fr maihama to futtsu then to hakone. The original plan is to rent a car after disneyland to go mother farm and hakone then return car when to tokyo.

    Mother farm looks like a combi of cingjing and feiniu in taiwan.
    The fuji milkland that you had went seems more like the feiniu farm. I saw there is makino farm too..but only fuji milkland provides accomodation.

    Do you think the trip to fuji milkland is worthwhile?

    Thank you so much in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      When are you travelling? I am planning to visit Mother’s Farm in the December holidays, I can probably give you better advise on the place after I have visited. I heard from friends that Mother’s Farm is great for kids. But I am planning to visit Mother’s Farm as a day trip from Tokyo with a rental car. If Mother’s Farm is the only place you plan to visit in Chiba, then maybe you shouldn’t bother with the hassle of changing hotels. But if you plan to visit other things in Chiba like the fruit farms, outlet mall, Tokyo German Village or just the seasides, then it may be worth staying in Chiba for a few nights.

      I didn’t think the trip to Fuji Milkland was really worth it frankly. It was mostly for the view of Mount Fuji. :p

  22. KA says:

    We will be visiting in from 21 Nov to 3 Dec. So I might visit the farm ahead of you. :) (if we go). Ya, I was excited when I found out there is farm at mt fuji but it seems not as fun as compared to mother farm. I saw there is makino farm too.

    I will be staying at edogawa near kasai train stn, cos of the proximity to disneyland. The original plan is to do mother farm then hakone/mt fuji. I thought of staying at the farm for 1 night. As it was 6 yrs back when I visited tokyo, and I had never driven previously. So not so sure how safe it is for us to drive back for a day trip, since day turns dark at about 5pm?

    And with 2 older kids, it is sometimes more dragging to move along compared to when they are younger.

    current itiernary:
    Day 1 arrival
    Day 2 asakusa/ueno, maybe tokyo tree
    Day 3 Odaiba
    Day 4 -7 disneyland/disneysea
    Day 8 – 9 Mother farm
    Day 10 – 12 Hakone/Mt Fuji
    Day 13 – Yokohama
    Day14 Shinjuku
    Day 15 Depart

    We are planning to self-drive frrom kasai to mother farm, then to hakone/mt fuji.
    Now I am planning maybe to drive to yokohama and shinjuku n all the way back to narita. Too ambitious huh?

    Too many days at Disneyland, but the kids protested that they wanted so many days…haiz…

    I see from your photos that you are not wearing thick coats, the kids are in sweater? Is it enough? I had not visited Japan in Winter, the nearest is in Spring in March.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm, yeah, you will definitely be at Mother’s Farm before me so can’t help you out much (besides what I can gather from the internet). I don’t think it will be that difficult to drive in the cities since cities tend to have street lamps. Though I suspect the vicinity of Mother’s Farm is probably rural and pretty dark. But without snow, just switch on your high beam and you should still be able to see the roads pretty well. If it really worries you, then maybe you can spend the night at Mother’s Farm. Especially since there is going to be illumination at night, so I do recommend you stay at Mother’s Farm till dark:
      http://www.motherfarm.co.jp/illumination2015-16/

      You should rearrange your route. If you stay at Mother’s Farm, you should drive to Yokohoma from there via the Aqua Line, then from Yokohama drive to Hakone / Mount Fuji. You can see it is pretty ‘along the way’, just that you would need to keep changing hotels:
      > See route on google map

      The kids have another 2 layers below their sweater. They are wearing Uniqlo heat tech inner wear (long sleeve), followed by a wool vest, followed by a sweater. This iss good enough for the day time. At night, they put on one more outer coat.

      • KA says:

        Thank you so much! Yes, as I was revising my itiernary, I had changed to drive to Yokohama then to Hakone.

        Thank goodness! I almost forgot about the Night illumination at mother farm, I found out about Mother Farm, when I was checking out places of Christmas Illuminations in Tokyo! We will be staying overnight, I had thought to go out after the farm close, now can go to the Night Illumination and ice-skating rink, they have! I had not driven in snow before, hb had, but it probably would not be snowing in Tokyo this early. I am just worried about driving long distance at night(worried lost), will probably try to reach destination before 5-6pm.

        So many things on the plate, so little time. I was considering to extend another night in Mt Fuji to soak in the sights and nature!

        I might have to omit Ghibli museum, change to the Fujiko·F·Fujio Museum, in Kawasaki.

        So you are going Tokyo or Japan this December too?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes, I will be in Japan this December. I seem to be there every long school holidays.. Lol!

          There is unlikely to be snow where you are headed, but it’s always good to end drives before dark if you are unfamiliar with the place as it is indeed easier to see road signs and inconspicuous turnings in daylight.

          Personally, I would opt to stay longer at Mount Fuji instead of spending time at Ghilbi / Fujiko.F.Fujio. Which is why up till now, despite being to Tokyo more than 10 times, I still haven’t been to Ghilbi / Fujiko! I guess I am just more into sightseeing and nature than cities. I’m just gonna be in Tokyo for 2 or 3 days to catch the last of autumn foliage in the day and visit illuminations at night. Not even planning to go Disney and will go to Mother’s Farm instead. After that I am driving off to more rural regions.

          • KA says:

            Hi BumbleBeeMum

            Is there substantial savings using the ETC card?
            As we will be returning the car at another office, I can rent the ETC card from Nissan.
            Renting the ETC on its own calls for daily rental fees, which I wonder if it will be worthwhile at all.

            KA

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Depends on how many days and how much distance you will be using the toll roads then. The ETC savings can be quite substantial if you are travelling long distance on weekends.

              • KA says:

                Thanks BumbleBeeMum,
                the discount is only on weekends? 1 sat. I will be travelling from kasai to mother farm, but I might not use toll road cos likely to visit some places enroute. another sat is from kawaguchiko back to narita, this time I will use toll road, even though might stop somehere too…maybe detour to saitama before going down narita.

  23. Ana says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    im amazed how expert you are about Japan. If you could help me, planning to go to Japan for 11 days in January, with few days covering kyoto and osaka then back to tokyo for 5 nights. 5 of us plan to go for a road trip for a day to see mount Fuji. Since January is still in winter, what is the best itinerary to cover great view of Mount Fuji/ Hakone Ropeway? Would it be feasible for a road trip? and how about law driving in Japan? do we have to apply international driving license? and how about the tolls?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      To get the best view of Mount Fuji, I recommend spending at least 3 nights in Hakone or Fuji Five Lakes region. So if you are spending 5 nights in Tokyo and 3 nights near Mount Fuji, there is definitely not enough time to go to Kyoto or Osaka by car. The fastest way to visit Kyoto / Osaka from Tokyo is to use the shinkansen. If you use the shinkasen, what you can do is:

      Day 1: Arrive Tokyo
      Day 2: Tokyo – Kyoto (shinkansen)
      Day 3: Kyoto
      Day 4: Kyoto – Osaka
      Day 5: Osaka
      Day 6: Osaka – Odawara (shinkansen). Rent car from Odawara to go around Hakone / Mount fuji
      Day 7: Hakone / Mount Fuji
      Day 8: Hakone / Mount Fuji
      Day 9: Return car. Odawara – Tokyo
      Day 10: Tokyo
      Day 11: Flight back

      If you are from Singapore, you will need to apply for International driving license to drive in Japan. Then you will need to bring BOTH the international driving license and Singapore driving license with you to Japan in order to rent a car. Japan practices right hand drive, so their traffic laws are very similar to Singapore. There are minimal tolls around the Hakone / Mount Fuji region. You can just pay cash when you encounter one.

      • Ana says:

        Thank you for your reply…

        Yes we will be going to kyoto and osaka by shinkansen.

        But is it possible to have a day trip by car from Tokyo to hakone/mt fuji and back to tokyo again? the issue is about taking and sending back the rental car at odd hours since we need to leave tokyo early in the morning and return the car very late in the evening.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I feel that Hakone and Mount Fuji deserves more time. If you want to do a day trip, you will only be covering Hakone. If you are planning to go Kyoto and Osaka by Shinkansen, you should probably consider getting the Japan Rail Pass. And if you have the pass, you might as well use it to go to Hakone (it will cover the shinkansen ride up to Odawara). From Odawara, if you want the convenience, rent a car from Odawara to go around. That way it won’t be so rushed.

  24. Alexia Ho says:

    Hello!

    I chanced upon your website while researching for my December trip and am mind-boggled from the treasure trove of info! But being that I’m constantly sleep-deprived from herding my 4 kids aged 13 months to 8 years old, it’s tough to plough through all that info! Can I cheat by just asking you for ideas for my trip?

    We are traveling as a family of 6 to Hokkaido & Tokyo. First to ski at Niseko from 14-20 Dec, then to Sapporo from 20-23 Dec & in Tokyo from 23-29 Dec. Baby girl will be at childcare while the boys, my husband & I ski in Niseko.

    For Sapporo, we have a day trip to Otaru but I haven’t yet figured out how to get there. Booked our stay at Royton Hotel near Odori Park. So we have about 1.5 days in Sapporo itself which from your blog I gather we should cover:
    – Odori Park for the illumination
    – German Xmas Market
    – Jyogai Chiba
    – Shiroi Koibito (We’ve been in summer 2010 & not impressed; but worth a visit in winter?)
    – Sapporo Beer Factory
    – Sapporo Factory
    – Mount Moiwa Ropeway
    – Susukino Shopping
    – Mitsui Outlet Park Shopping
    – Chitose Rera Outlet (tho with 4 kids, I’m of 2 minds about shopping!)
    – JR Tower (I guess either this or the Mount Moiwa Ropeway?)
    what’s essential here? Bearing in mind we have 4 kids aged 13mths, 4, 6 & 8 years old?

    For Tokyo, we are staying at Grand Pacific Le Daiba. Was hesitant about this choice of accommodation, but it was the cheapest we could find that could house all 6 of us in 1 room & had a free shuttle to Disneyland!

    Haven’t planned much for Tokyo save for:
    – 27 Dec at Disneyland (just one day….)
    – Day trip to Hakone (is it a long trek to get there by train? Is the open air museum worth a visit in winter time?)
    – Asakusa Kannon Temple
    – Tokyo Sky Tree
    – Shinjuku
    …..haven’t thought of what else for the 5 full days we have there. Any tips?

    I’m sorry for the long entry & hope you can help! =) Thanks a mill!!!!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      No worries. I have only 2 kids and I go crazy trying to find time to plan my trips. :p

      To get to Otaru, there is a direct JR train from Sapporo station. Since your hotel is at Odori Park, you will need to take a subway from Odori Park to Sapporo station, then take the JR train from Sapporo to Otaru. Alternatively, you can walk from Odori Park to Sapporo station via the underground shopping arcade.

      For Sapporo, my personal favourite destinations are Mount Moiwa and Jyogai Ichiba. Sapporo Beer Factory is more for adults, considering that kids can’t drink beer. But the ARIO shopping centre next to Sapporo Beer Factory is nice and warm and pretty kids-friendly.

      I am not being on shopping as well, the only reason I went to the outlet mall was to stock up on winter wear. Otherwise there is nothing particularly interesting for the kids at Mitsui Outlet Park. Chitose Rera Oulet has more kids-friendly amenities like an indoor playroom and outdoor playground – but Chitose Rera Outlet has an open concept which means it is going to be cold. Whereas Mitsui Outlet Park is totally indoors – nice and warm. Either ways, I wouldn’t put outlet malls high up on my priority list. I would just stay at Sapporo station area and go around eating while shopping.

      As for Shiroi Koibito Park, I have been there only once as well. Like you said, not likely a place you would visit a second time. There was a small snow tubing lane when I was there in winter (February), but I doubt it will be up by December – so I say skip it.

      Between Mount Moiwa and JR Tower, my kids enjoyed Mount Moiwa more simply because they love the ropeway ride. I mean, the lift ride up JR Tower is just a lift ride, nothing very interesting. But given that it is winter, it is absolutely frigid up on Mount Moiwa whereas it is nice and warm in JR Tower. I would say play by ear and see how your kids are adapting to the cold. If they are freezing and running a flu already, you may want to stick to JR Tower or Sapporo TV Tower. But if they are loving the cold, go ahead and ride up Mount Moiwa.

      For Hakone, yes I think the Open Air Museum is fun. Winter in Hakone is not as harsh as Hokkaido. By the time they climb up and down the play structures in the open air museum, the kids will probably be working up a sweat and not feel cold at all. Yunessun is also pretty fun for the kids. My kids also loved the pirate-ship Lake Ashi cruise.

      As for places to visit in Tokyo, it really depends on your interest. Here are some suggestions of places I usually recommend for a Tokyo trip with kids:

      Sanrio Puroland
      Legoland Discovery Centre
      Doraemon Museum
      Ghilbi Museum
      Tokyo Sea Life Park
      Sunshine Aquarium
      Ueno Zoo
      Tama Zoo
      Tokyo Fire Museum
      Tokyo Subway Museum

      In addition, because it’s winter, there are some great illuminations going on. I particularly like those at theme parks. You can go for rides among the illumintaion. The ones I know of reachable from Tokyo include:
      Sagamiko Illumillion
      Toshimaen
      Yomiuriland Jewellumination

  25. Yvonne C says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    It’s me again with some questions about car rental in Hakone. After we are done touring the sights in Hakone using the Free Pass, we are planning to rent a car to drive to Fujikawaguchiko-machi where we will stay for 2 nights and drive around Fuji Five Lakes area. That’ll be around 10 to 13 Dec. Do you know if there’s a chance of snow then? Do we need snow tires for the rental car? Cos when I tried to make a booking on Tocoo, they prompt me to add in snow tires.

    And which option should we choose? English GPS + ToCoo! ETC Card Plan? The price listed for our 3 days mid-sized car is Y22,900 but as I proceed to book, it’s showing Y24,732 (I suppose that’s with tax), and then there’s this option “Tocoo! Additional Support” that’s Y810 per day. Need to include this too? Here’s the link if you can see it:

    https://www2.tocoo.jp/en/reservation/entry?departure_office_id=1501&car_class_id=1430&return_office_id=1501&radio382=1&option_data%5B382%5D=1&option_data%5B153%5D=1&radio153=1&radio381=0&radio383=0&radio377=0&radioIndenity=0&article_id=6056&office_id=1501&departure_date%5Bday%5D=Dec%2010,%202015&departure_date%5Btime%5D=09:00&return_date%5Bday%5D=Dec%2013,%202015&return_date%5Btime%5D=12:00&departure_place=station&pref_id=13&area_id=&airport_id=375&station_pref_id=14&railway_id=517&line_id=768&station_id=3519&return_place=shop&drop_pref_id=13&drop_area_id=&drop_airport_id=&drop=0&car_type%5B7032%5D=7032&smoke_type=0&mission_type=0&page_name=contents_search#RsvForm

    So the total price would be Y24,732 + 810*3 = Y27 162. Is that about right? Any other cost involved? First time renting a car in Japan and it’s very different from our experience renting car in Australia and USA. Appreciate your input.

    Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      There is unlikely to be snow if you are staying around Fuji Five Lakes region. But where weather is concerned, you never really know. If the snow tyres don’t cost much, you can always add it in. I remember paying for snow tyres during my November drive – you know, just in case.

      I believe the jump from 22,900 to 24,732 is for taxes. Japan consumption tax is currently at 8%, so 22900 + 8% is just nice 24732. And yes, I think you would need to add in the 810 yen per day on top of that. To be very honest, I stopped renting through Tocoo ever since they started imposing that 810 yen per day thingy so I am not very sure how it works. But from what I read, it sounds like what you said – 810 * number of days. But if you do not speak any Japanese, Tocoo still offers a very competitive rate after factoring the 810 yen per day in.

      If you rent ETC card or WIFI router from Tocoo, there will be additional charges by Tocoo. But if the ETC card and WIFI router is from the car rental company, there should not be anymore additional charges.

      I guess the main difference between booking a car in Japan versus Australia / USA is because of language barrier. In Australia / USA, we can easily book directly with the car rental companies. However in Japan, if you do not know Japanese, it is better to book through Tocoo. But Tocoo has all these funny charges that make it confusing. Oh well…

      • Yvonne C says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,

        Thanks for your reply! I’m emailing Tocoo to ask how much the snow tires will cost. Can’t find the info in the website.

        So you’ve been renting direct from Nissan Car Rental? Or any other company/website you use now that you stop renting from Tocoo?

        Also, I read about thie Tokyo Subway 1 to 3-Day Tickets:
        http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/travel/index.html

        May I know if this can be used on all the rail lines? We’ll be using mainly JR lines, from Shinjuku to Ueno, Asakusa, Harajuku, Shibuya and Tsukiji. Does it cover the Keisei Line as well? I’m very confused over what is considered Tokyo metro / subway lines. The tickets seem a good deal to move around the tokyo sights.

        Thanks for your help!

        :-) Yvonne

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I have rented direct from Toyota, OTS and Sky Rent-A-Car before. For my upcoming trip, I am renting from Times.

          Regarding the Tokyo Subway tickets, it can only be used for lines run by Tokyo Metro and Toei. You CANNOT use it for JR lines. Neither can you use it for Keisei line. Refer to the official Tokyo subway map:
          http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/pdf/routemap_en.pdf
          Those thick coloured lines are either Tokyo Metro or Toei lines.

          I used to move around with these subway tickets by finding alternative routes to avoid JR lines. Sometimes it means making more transfers or making a detour, but there are almost always alternative routes. Sometimes you need to know the alternative station. Let me just give some examples:

          Eg 1) To go from Shibuya to Shinjuku to Ikebukuro, it looks like JR line is the direct way to go. But if you use the subway card, you can go to Shinjuku-Sanchome station instead of Shinjuku station and Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line joins these 3 stations up.

          Eg 2) To go to Akihabara, I use Suehirocho station because Suehirocho is on the Ginza line which connects directly to Ueno, Asakusa and Shibuya.

          Eg 3) To go from Ikebukuro to Ueno, JR line is the most direct way. But if you are using the subway card, you can take Marunouchi line to Hongo-Sanchome and transfer to Oedo Line to Ueno-Okachimachi.

          The one place I haven’t been able to avoid using JR line is Disneyland – for that you need to use the JR line.

          I have a printed and laminated copy of that subway map in A4 size which I always carry around when I’m in Tokyo.. It’s my lifesaver. :p

          • Yvonne C says:

            Thanks for your detailed reply! :-)

            So in your opinion, are these subway tickets worth to get? And yup, I’ve that subway map printed out big big in colour too! 😉

            As for the car rental companies, I think these companies that you listed are not for rental from Hakone right?

            Thanks!
            :-)

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Yes, I found the subway tickets very useful for sightseeing within Tokyo if you plan to hop around. For e.g. in one day, I may want to hop to Asakusa + Ueno + Akiharaba. Or in one day, I want to hop to Shinjuku + Harajuku + Shibuya. Then it’s useful. But if you are just going one place and back within a day, then it is not worth it.

              Oh yes, for Hakone, if you are renting from Odawara station, I think there are only two rental companies there: Nissan and Nippon.

              • Yvonne C says:

                Thanks for reply, Bumblebeemum!

                I am renting the car from Hakone Yumoto station, and I think only there’s only Nissan and Toyota. Have you heard or rented from this website Japan-experience.com? The price is comparable to Tocoo but it seems clearer than Tocoo.

                Thanks!

  26. Angelina says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    It’ll be my first trip to Japan with 2 kids (6 & 2) coming dec 2015. Really appreciate if you could give advise on the itinenary we would like to cover. Am not sure of the location & transportation so i do not knw how to group these visits :

    Tokyo (any child friendly hotel to recommend?) :
    – Fire Museum
    – Kidzania
    – Sanrio Puroland
    – Disneyland & Disneysea
    – Ueno Zoo
    – Lego Discovery Centre
    – Motherfarm

    Hakone (self drive) :
    – Hakone Open Air Museum
    – Yunnesun
    – Grinpa Amusement Park
    – Lake Ashi
    – Fuji Safari
    (How many nights to stay to cover the above? Any hotel to recommend?)

    Am keen on the dolphin fantasy but it seems to be out of the way? Is it worth going?

    Thanks & appreciate yr advise!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For Tokyo:

      Kidzania and Legoland Discovery Centre are near Odaiba. So I would do these 2 in a day trip to Odaiba.

      Disneyland & Disneysea can be done over 3 days on their own.

      Sanrio Puroland itself should also be a full day trip.

      Mother Farm should also be a full day trip – but it is very difficult to access by public transport from central Tokyo. I recommend renting a car and driving there.

      Ueno Zoo can be visited together with the famous Asakusa Kannon Temple. I do recommend visiting Asakusa even with the kids. It is a bustling place with many interesting souvenir shops leading to the temple.

      Fire Museum is near Shinjuku – so you can visit it if you are planning to visit areas like Shinjuku / Meiji Shrine / Harajuku / Shibuya.

      For Hakone:

      I would say 3 days 2 nights.

      Day 1: Hakone Open Air Museum + Yunessun
      Day 2: Lake Ashi + Fuji Safari Park
      Day 3: Grinpa

      The aquarium (where dolphin fantasy) is a bit way out. If you are interested in visiting an aquarium, there is one at Ikebukuro. I would do that in a day with Fire Museum – Ikebukuro and Shinjuku are just a few stops away.

      • Elynn says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,

        it’s me again and I’ve been following this thread while planning my itinerary for Dec.

        Would like to have your wise advise on Hakone again :

        I have decided to stick to my 3 nights stay in Hakone from 11 Dec to 13 Dec and have booked the accommodation near Hakone-yumoto Station. I would like to visit the Grinpa Amusement park and Yeti Resort as recommended in your post.

        My plan will be –

        Day 1. Purchase 3 day Hakone freepass. Visit Yunessun + Hakone Open Air Museum

        Day 2. Rent a car and drive up to Grinpa and Yeti since it’s not easily accessible even with the freepass. I’ve checked that there is a Nissan car rental collection point at Hakone-yumoto Station. If time permits, visit Gotemba premium outlet.

        Day 3. Do the model sightseeing course (cruise, cable care etc) using the hakone freepass in 1 day. (will this really take 1 full day?)

        Do you think this mini itinerary is feasible? Any idea how long will be the driving time from Hakone-yumoto Station to Grinpa Amusement park?

        Thank so much!

        Regards
        Elynn

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Day 2: I don’t think you can do Grinpa and Yeti in one day. Grinpa would probably take up the whole day. And don’t forget you are spending 3 hours on the road alone. (The drive from Hakone Yumoto station to Grinpa Amusement PArk should take about 1.5 hours.) At most you can go to Gotemba Premium Outlet for dinner after Grinpa – but be prepared you will be driving back to Hakone in the dark.

          Day 3: If you take your time to visit some sightseeing spots like the Cedar Avenue, and you hop on and off at various stops of the cruise / ropeway (though I am not sure if the ropeway will be open yet in December), it can take a day. If you have the whole day, just relax, hop off the various cruise stops to explore.

          • Elynn says:

            Thanks so much again! Sounds good…will do so!

            • Elynn says:

              Hi there, just to check with you on the Hakone freepass usage. If I buy a 3 day pass but I’ll be leaving Hakone only on the 4th day (since I’m staying 3 nights), does that mean that I will have to pay additional for the trip back from Hakone Yumoto to Shinjuku? There’s no other workaround hor? :(

              • bumblebeemum says:

                Yup, you have to return to Shinjuku on Day 3 if you are using the Hakone Free Pass. The way around is to not use the Hakone Free Pass. Especially if the Hakone Ropeway is going to remain suspended.

  27. Angelina says:

    Thanks Bumblebee Mum,

    Is it viable to drive up to Mother Farm stay 1 night then continue our journey to Hakone?

    Thanks again!

  28. Angelina says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    Have tried to call Motherfarm to make reservations for a night’s stay. However, none of the staff seems to be able to speak English. Do you know how else can I do reservations? They do not have email address on their website, only tel number.

    Thanks!

  29. TPH says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,
    I am so lucky to have chance upon your blog and hope you can see this and advise asap.
    We are going to Tokyo from 16th to 24th Nov 2015, it was quite a last minute decision and now I am stuck in my planning. Could you help to suggest an itinerary for us?

    * 4 of us, 2 adults and 2 kids (still 7 and 2 yrs old cos their birthdays are after this trip.)
    * first time in Japan
    * managed to book our first 3 nights stays near Disney resorts.

    16th Nov – landed at Narita Airport at 8:25am
    17th Nov – Disneysea
    18th Nov – Disneyland
    19th Nov – check out from hotel and……. blank for the next 5 nights stay till 24th Nov.
    24th Nov – departure at 6:05pm
    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    Before I found your blog,
    I was looking at the model guide: http://www.odakyu.jp/english/course/fujihakone/

    With that, I am planning 1 night stay each at Kawaguchiko and Hakone before we go back for last 3 nights of stay at Tokyo.

    Wanted to do :
    Mt Fuji 5th Station
    Kawaguchiko Lake
    Gotemba Outlet
    Hakone Ropeway
    Owakadani Valley

    But there are so many doubts in my mind,
    1) Do I need to buy the JR pass, Fuji Hakone Pass and/or Hakone Free Pass in this case?
    – after I used some app to calculate the travelling time and cost, it gives me so many options and I am blurred whether to follow exactly the model or to follow the app and then whether to buy any of those Pass.

    2) How do I managed my two big luggage and a stroller during the move?
    – You mentioned you left your big luggage in Tokyo but where?
    – I will check out from hotel near Disney and I don’t think I want to go back just to collect the luggage.
    – I understand that people courier their luggage around but from their website I cannot tell if they deliver to Hakone and Kawaguchi.
    – Is it really uncommon to see people with luggage taking trains?
    ——————————————————————————————————————–
    After I read your blog, I saw so many interesting things to do along the way!

    Wanted to go Yunessun and Fuji Safari Park too now! How do I squeeze them in?
    And that Mother Farm you will be going, possible for me to go too?

    Another option will be to do self drive, then I don’t have to worry about the luggage and train schedules.
    – Is it going to cost a lot more than taking the trains for us? (2 adults and 2 kids)
    – I see that someone posted here that its about S$300 for car rental for 3 days, how much should I budget for petrol and toll fees and parking?
    – Does the hotels provide free parking?
    – the day will be short and sun set at 5pm? so is it that we should reached our hotel by 5pm in order to be safe on the road?

    If the cost is not a lot more than taking the public transport I think I want to go for it.

    ————————————————————————————————————————
    This is our first time in Tokyo and I do want to spend some days there too. I am ruling out more theme parks or zoo cos already going to Disneyland and Sea.

    Saw and noted some places which I can go (as below).
    Or can you tell me straight which places I have to go in for my first time in Toyko, for shopping, shrine, park? Is there any part I can cover on my first day on 16th Nov but I will be staying near Disney Sea.

    – Tokyo Tower (is it a must?)
    – Harajuku
    – Meiji Jungu
    – Shibuya Pedestrian junction
    – Shinjuku
    – Tokyo Tourist Info Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Govt Bldg (possible for me to go on 16th Nov)
    – Yoyogi Park
    – Yoyogi Shirne
    – Aoyama Farmers Market
    – Ueno Park
    – Ueno
    – Senso-ji temple
    – Hozomon

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. The first day is a tough one. If I were you, I would just get a 3 Day passport and go Disney for the first 3 days. There is nothing particularly interesting near Disney besides Disneyland and Disneysea. The next nearest attraction is Tokyo Sea Life Park – but you are not interested in aquariums? Alternatively try Tokyo Subway Museum – it is near Disney but not directly connected by a straight train line like Tokyo Sea Life Park.

      As for leaving luggage at Tokyo, usually I book the same hotel in Tokyo before and after my side trips so that I can leave my big luggage and bring small bags for side trips. But I don’t think you want to stay in the same hotel near Disney after coming back from Hakone. It is not easy to move around with luggage and kids. Many people bring their luggage on the trains – it is not uncommon, it is just a hassle especially with kids.

      I am not sure if you want to consider your choice of hotel. I would probably opt to stay at Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo at Shinjuku for the first 3 nights, go for Hakone / Mount Fuji side trip, then go back to Keio for the last few nights again. There are two advantages of doing so:
      – I can leave my big luggage at the hotel during the side trip
      – There is free shuttle from Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo to Disney
      – I am free to explore Shinjuku area on my first day
      – I minimise movement around with luggage
      – From Shinjuku Station, I can catch the Odakyu line to Hakone easily

      Personally, I have tried exploring Hakone with both the Hakone Free Pass and self-driving and I very much prefer self-driving. Especially with kids – it is so much easier to move around. And places like Fuji Safari Park are best visited with a car. I don’t remember petrol being expensive – less than 10,000 yen for 3 days. If you drive within the Hakone and Mount Fuji region, toll is minimum. (But if you drive from Tokyo, toll would be expensive.)

      You would have to strike out Fuji 5th station from your itinerary because it is inaccessible in winter. Owakudani and Hakone Ropeway are still inaccessible as well, because of the volcanic activities that has been going on since May – no idea what are the chances it will reopen by end of this month, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Which gives you even less incentive to get the Hakone Free Pass imo.

      With 3 full days, you should have time to visit the remaining places.

      Day 1: Hakone Lake Ashi Cruise + Yunessun (stay Hakone)
      Day 2: Fuji Safari Park + Gotemba Outlet (stay Kawaguchiko)
      Day 3: Kawaguchiko

      Mother Farm needs to be a day trip on its own from Tokyo. So any one of the days while you are in Tokyo, you can go there.

      So roughly your itinerary would go something like this:

      16th Nov – landed at Narita Airport at 8:25am. Go Disney if you are staying near Disney or Shinjuku if you are staying in Shinjuku. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is at Shinjuku.
      17th Nov – Disneysea
      18th Nov – Disneyland
      19th Nov – check out from hotel and head to Hakone.
      20th Nov – Hakone / Mount Fuji
      21st Nov – Hakone / Mount Fuji – back to Tokyo
      22nd Nov – Ueno / Ueno Park / Senso-ji Temple / TOkyo Sky Tree
      23rd Nov – Day trip to Mother Farm
      24th Nov – Harajuku / Shibuya / Yoyogi

      • TPH says:

        I searched and Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is not available for my first 3 nights now. Any other hotels that has such free shuttle bus? I tried to google but nothing comes out.

        On Disney website, from shinjuku, by bus is 50mins and by train is 29mins but when I use app to search, it says by train is also about an hour. So is it half an hour or one hour by train?

        I think most likely I will stick to my original hotel and see where I can go from there.

        Understand that Owakudani is still closed. That is the main thing that attracts me to Hakone so should i skip Hakone this time?

        Go directly to Kawaguchiko on 19th? On the way go yunessun>gotemba outlet
        Where can I stay for a night?

        20th go safari park and kawaguciko, stay one night.

        21st nov – move around kawaguciko before get back to shinjuku?
        Usually what time must we return the car? cos after that we got to make our way via train back to shinjuku right?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          You can find the full list of Tokyo Disney Resort Good Neighbour Hotels here. Good neighbour hotels provide free shuttle service to Tokyo Disney Resort:
          http://www.tokyodisneyresort.jp/en/hotel/lists/

          According to Hyperdia, if you take the JR line from Shinjuku to Maihama with a transfer at Tokyo station, it should take about 45 minutes. Hyperdia gives the exact train timings for all trains in Japan:
          http://www.hyperdia.com/

          Hakone is still quite fun for the kids if you visit Yunessun and Hakone Open Air Museum. My kids really enjoyed the Lake Ashi cruise as well because it was like a pirate ship.

          Depending on which outlet you rent the car from, you need to return the car before the rental shop closes. For eg. Nissan Car Rental at Hakone-Yumoto station closes at 6pm. And yup, after returning the car, you need to catch the Odakyu line back to Shinjuku. You can use hyperdia to check the time of the last train leaving Hakone-Yumoto for Shinjuku for your exact date of travel. But I did a random check for today, the last train leaves Hakone-Yumoto station at 19:46.

          • TPH says:

            Hi! Sorry to bother you again!

            Need to check with you on this lag of our trip :

            19th Nov 2015 :-

            – Check out from hotel and head to Odawara or Hakone to collect car. (Where should I pick up my car for convenient sake if I want to do the Tozan train?)

            1) Hakone Tozan train ride (est. 45 mins from Hakone Yumoto to Gora station, do I do a round trip to get back to Hakone Yomoto since the ropeway is still suspended, but that would mean a two hour ride?)

            2) Hakone Lake Ashi Cruise ( est. 40 mins from Togendai-ko to Moto-Hakone. If I do a round trip, it will mean another 2 hours here?, might give this place up but where else in Hakone can I see Mt Fuji? Can I drive to the lake to see? cos it was forecasted to rain the next day, I am afraid I cannot catch Mt Fuji after 19thNov.)

            3) Hakone Yunessun (how long should I allocate for here? Understand that it closed at 6pm for Nov.)

            – Drive 39mins to hotel near Gotemba outlet (is it ok to drive in the dark?)

            20th Nov 2015 : –

            1) Shopping and lunch at Gotemba outlet
            2) Fuji Safari Park (the weather forecasted that it will be a raining day, you think we still can do this park on a raining day? How many hours should I allocate for here?)
            3) Snow Yeti? (Cos it closed really late at 9pm!)

            – Drive 1 hour to hotel at Kawaguchiko

            21st Nov : –

            1) Maple Tunnel
            2) Maple Corridor
            3) Saiko Iyashi no sato NENBA
            4) Kachi Kachi Ropeway
            5) Oishi Park
            6) Kawakuchiko Lake

            – Drive 2 hours back to return car at Hakone/Odawara before back to Tokyo.

            I know I got no time for all the stuff, but good to have a list of options!

            Thanks!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              19 Nov: If you want to take the Tozan cable car, just take a round trip and go back to Hakone Yumoto to pick up the rental car. The Lake Ashi cruise offers a pretty good view of Mount Fuji. You can hop off the cruise at Moto-Hakone Port, you will be able to see Mount Fuji from there if the sky is clear. Found this photo on google search taken at Moto-Hakone port to give you an idea:
              http://www.pbase.com/doowopper/image/155839288

              If you want to go to Yunessun, I would recommend you choose either the Tozan train or Lake Ashi cruise. I don’t think you have time for both. Maybe you can see the weather that day – if the sky is clear, go for the cruise. If it’s cloudy, go for the Tozan train.

              For Yunessun, you should reach there at 3pm latest. If you are planning to go at 3pm, print out this sunset pass (discount coupon):
              http://www.yunessun.com/ticket/otoku1/02-sunset.html

              The drive will be pitch dark. But the roads in the region are generally easy to drive, so if you drive slowly with your headlights on, it shouldn’t be a problem.

              20 Nov: I would say allocate 2 hours for Fuji Safari Park. You can still do the park if it’s raining since you will be driving around in the car.

              I’m not a big fan of Snow Yeti – really found it a waste of time and money when I was there in Nov. It’s purely for skiing / snowboarding. If you have time on hand after visiting Fuji Safari Park (which you probably do), I recommend you drive to Toki No Sumika to see the illumination instead:
              http://www.tokinosumika.com/

              • TPH says:

                For Toki no Sumika, it says it is free entry but the parking is Yen2500, which is about SGD29? rather ex for parking… have I interpreted wrongly?

                For Snow Yeti, I went to their website that there will be a new snow stadium opening on 27th Dec, looks fun! but too late for my trip. Will skip this place for now.

                The weather forecast now says that its going to be cloudy when I am in Hakone and Gotemba, and its going to be sunny in Kawaguchiko on the day I left! I will have got to make fun use of it.

                Check with you on Oshino Hakkai which you went w/o your kids, I read reviews that its pack with tourists and seems like can give it a miss. Would you say “got time then go” or “have to go”?

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  No.. 2500 is the number of parking lots available.

                  For Oshino Hakkai, I would say ‘got time then go’.

                  • TPH says:

                    haha 2500 parking lots, silly me…

                    Another thing about taking shinkansen from Toyko station to Odawara, can I just go there and buy the tickets on the spot and still get reserved seats?

                    I used Hyperdia and it gives me two option to get to Odawara, its only 35 mins faster than JR train, so I was wondering if I can get to toyko station first and see which train is leaving next, regardless of which type of train.

                    Thanks so much.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Unless it is peak season, you shouldn’t have a problem getting reserved seats on the shinkansen on the spot.

                      Yeah, you can always decide whether to take the normal train or shinkansen on the spot. I opted for normal train to save money, as I didn’t feel the price difference was worth the time saved.

  30. Suanne says:

    we are going to tokyo in dec. we are thinking of driving from narita to mt fuji area to matsumoto to nagano to nikko back to narita. 4 nights 5 days.

    initially we were going to buy hapan east pass but looks like a lot of hrs wasted on the train and we would still be renting a car at Kawafujiko and possibly matsumoto. there are too many sights difficult to get to like the shirawa? falls and green tea plantation.

    we thought about hiring a car from another station but then theres still additional expenses of getting to the station and if we hired from lake kawafujiko we would have to drive back to return there.

    has anyone done it? is it difficult? i know you enter into gps phone numbers of destinations but still worried we will get lost!

    my itinerary atm is

    9/12 arr in tokyo 8pm!

    10/12 tokyo

    11/12 Nikko activate jr east psss

    12/12 kawafujiko hire car 1 day explore mt fuji area jr east

    13/12 train to nagano via matsumoto jr east

    14/12 snow monkey, nozawa onsen

    15/12 back to odaiba jr east

    16/12 odaiba

    17/12 odaiba

    18/12 odaiba flight pm jr east

    i havent booked all hotels yet because im not happy with itinerary. 13/12 is hard with 3 kids and luggage! how to sightsee matsumoto and no time for green tea plantation. Not enough time at Kawafujiko. the other option is to hire car at kawafujiko and return car to kawafujiko. if we hire car then can go to a more kids family friendly ski resort for 1 night. Also looking at reducing 1 day in tokyo so we could have more time.

    The other option is to stay at narita first night since we arrive at 8pm. pick up car rental next day and rent car for 5 days to cover all the sights dropping back on mon. anybody know if we can drop off at different location and which would be most suitable near nagano? oyama? cost?

    we have 1 large luggage n several small bags and 3 kids. trying to pack as light as possible. we are going se asia after japan for another 2 weeks!

    left it very last minute and feeling very stressed.

    any hotels to recommend? if we drive will skip nozawa onsen for karuizawa prince ski resort close to tokyo and hopefully drive to nikko too. Kids will miss out on shinkansen experience though.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If I were you, I would just rent a car all the way for Nikko, Nagano, Matsumoto and Kawaguchiko. One-way rentals are not cheap – I would rent the car from Narita Airport and return it to Narita Airport, then take the train from Narita to Odaiba (any reason for choosing to stay at Odaiba??).

      This is how I would do it:

      9/12 arr in tokyo 8pm! – stay at a hotel near Narita Airport.
      10/12 Pick up rental car, drive to Nikko. (Stay Nikko)
      11/12 Drive Nikko to Karuizawa. (Stay Karuizawa)
      12/12 Drive Karuizawa to Matsumoto. Explore Matsumoto. (Stay Matsumoto)
      13/12 Take a day trip from Matsumoto up to Nagano and Jigokudani snow monkey park. (Stay Matsumoto)
      14/12 Drive Matsumoto to Kawaguchiko. (Stay Kawaguchiko)
      15/12 Explore Fuji Five Lakes region (Stay Kawaguchiko)
      16/12 Drive Kawaguchiko – Narita Airport (return car). Train back to central Tokyo.

      • Suanne says:

        Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to reply! We are staying at Odaiba to explore the area i.e Gundam, lego, and disneysea.

        I made a grave mistake of not consulting with the family! I only told hubby the itinerary yesterday and he said we should spend some time in tokyo. My kids don’t want to go to a wasabi farm! They want pokemon town! The holiday is all kids centered. So I will stay with original itinerary. It’s frustrating when kids get older and know what they want lol My kids are twins 6yo b, 6yo g and 10yo b. They love skiing, onset and thrill rides. A bit spoilt! My oldest has one more request and that is to see Mt Fuji. He learns Japanese.

        9/12 tokyo
        10/12 sunshine city, ueno zoo, asakusa, tokyo skytree (can’t believe the restaurant at the top does not allow kids under 10yo!)
        11/12 Meiji, Harajuku, Kiddyland, Shinjuku, ninja restaurant. luggage forward to odaiba
        12/12 snow monkey, nozawa onsen ski. decided on this for better chance of real snow and 2 gondolas
        13/12 more skiing, obuse, possible side trip to matsumoto, stay in nagano
        14/12 train to shinjuku and bus to kawaguchiko. hire a car and explore
        15/12 back to tokyo stay odaiba
        16/12 disneysea
        17/12 explore odaiba
        18/12 flight pm

        the train tips are exxy! will look at option of hiring a car from omiya too.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Haha.. Regarding restaurants / hotels that don’t allow kids, it does happen in Japan.

          10/12: Looks a bit packed. I don’t think there’s enough time for both Sunshine City and Ueno Zoo. If they want to go Pokemon centre, then I suggest you skip Ueno Zoo and go to Asakusa after Ikebukuro.

          12/12: Yup, Nagano is your best hope of seeing real snow near Tokyo. I will be in the region around that time (hoping to let the kids roll in snow too) – if you see me come and say hi. :p

          14/12: It looks like you are going to spend a lot of time on transport. You gonna train from Nagano to Shinjuku and then bus to Kawaguchiko? I don’t think that leaves you much time to explore Kawaguchiko.

          Train tickets are indeed very expensive. If I have 3 kids who need train tickets already, I would just drive. So if I were you, I would just rent a car on 12/12 from Tokyo and drive all the way till 15/12 and return the car back to Tokyo. But please drive slow and safe in Nagano if there is snow.

          • Suanne says:

            My hubby is from UK so no problem driving in the snow but just driving the left side and everything in japanese = disaster. Yes we may rent a car. Being shinkansen it’s only 70 mins to shinjuku and 2hrs on bus to Kawaguchi so we could get there by 10 if we left early! my kids are mor likely to be happy on train with food. But yes it’s much cheaper to rent a car and we might rent a car from Hachioji. they have kanto pass to karuizawa but it still cost 60000 yen pp from karuizawa to snow monkeys on the fast train! and more to nozawa onsen.

            I know that’s a packed day! it’s actually pretty free n easy, we’ll just do whatever the kids want to do. It’s just options. I do love Ueno Zoo coz it’s so cheap and they have pandas. Especially pretty during koyo.

            can you share your itinerary? I am still undecided between nozawa and karuizawa. Karuizawa has snow from late nov because it’s man made. In nagano, there will be snow but we are there the weekend before the official season so not sure if the kids snow park will be open and how many lifts open etc also it’s kind of horrible to ski when it’s actually snowing. Visibility is poor and mountain conditions is poor, too windy but of course the more snow the better. Early season is the worst time to go for skiing. Argh so unpredictable and hoping there will be snow on the ground when we visit snow monkeys otherwise without snow I don’t know if it’s worth going. I was looking for a snowcam for snow monkey to keep us updated but couldn’t find one the web.

            karuizawa is good for kids however, they only have lifts but kids ski lesson do not start until mid dec and i don’t know if my kids can get off the lifts on skis! at least at nqzawa, even if you don’t ski, there are 2 gondolas to the top. But** at karuizawa kids ski for free and lessons only 40000 yen inc all ski equipment. My kids can ski but a refresher would be good for them. The Happo One kids play area looks like a lot of fun too but again, it may not be open until the weekend after. If there was just sledding, tubing and kids skiing on the magic carpet, that’s good enough for us.

            Have you been to australia? i live in brisbane. It’s very kids friendly here. Let me know if you ever come to visit :)

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I don’t have a very fixed itinerary, but that’s how I do my self-drive trips. I just rent a car, book my accommodations and short list some activities. Then I play by ear when I’m there, depending on the weather and how tired or not we are etc. I have booked 1 night at Nagano and 1 night at Shima Onsen. During those days, some of the activities I KIVed are:

              > Zenkoji Temple
              > Jigokudani Monkey Park
              > Yokoteyama (cafe)
              > Gunma Cycle Sports Centre
              > Fruits Farms in Gunma
              > Gunma Safari Park

              We don’t intend to ski. Just want to let our snow-deprived kids roll in the snow, so we will just drive to wherever there is snow at that point in time. And as you have noted, our dates are too early for skiing in Nagano anyway. We will go and see the snow monkeys regardless of whether or not there’s snow, since we are already there. But of course, we are also keeping our fingers crossed that there will be snow!

              I’ve been to Australia LOTS before I had kids. After having kids, we have only been there once. To Brisbane and Gold Coast! That was 3 years back. Very kids friendly indeed. Hope to be back again when the kids are old enough to fully enjoy all the theme parks at Gold Coast. And I would love to visit Sunshine Coast too.

              • Suanne says:

                I found a ski resort near Yunadaka called Ryuoo Ski Park. It has a gondola to the top, and a kids snow park with magic carper, sled, tubes etc for 500 yen entry. Will probably check that out.

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  Cool! I went to their official Japanese website to take a look, think the price increased to 800 yen already?
                  http://www.ryuoo.com/snow/gelande/adventurepark.php

                  But still, if it’s open by the time we are there, I think it should be a worth a visit! Shall add that to my list of places. Thanks!

                  • suanne says:

                    Hello again! I was wondering where you are picking up care hire from?I was thinking Hachioji but it doesn’t come with snow chains. I am not sure if we need snow chains for 12/12. But driving Karuizawa to Nagano through the mountains is a bit of a worry. To the snow park etc I have the image of driving to the remarkables in NZ, windy mountain, poor visibility, icy res and easy to veer off the side of the cliff! and in japan it’s the other side of the rd. My husband would kill me lol

                    we booked Hotel Karuizawa 1130 because it seems family friendly and close to snow park and affordable. Heaps of driving unfortunately.

                    12/12 pick up car 8am hachioji, drive to karuizawa, explore, shiraito falls, afternoon snow play
                    13/12 drive to snow monkeys via kusetsu, ryuoo snow park,
                    14/12 drive to lake kawaguchiko
                    15/12 explore lake kawaguchiko and return car to hachioji

                    i’m not really happy with this itinerary but the tokyo pass ends at karuizawa and its ridiculously expensive to catch a train to snow monkeys and get to the snow parks. quite a lot of hours of driving + probably a few more hrs getting lost. sigh so stressful to plan. every forum i’ve read suggest using trains.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      We are picking our car up from Narita Airport. Yeah, driving to snowy regions is pretty much like what you described. Though I think in Japan they usually have road barriers to prevent cars from falling off the cliff. I haven’t driven in Nagano before, but so far for all my drives in Japan up and down mountains, I have never encountered a cliff without a safety barrier by the side. I think your main concern is the direction, just don’t drive onto coming traffic! Keep left, not right okay? :p.. Anyway when I drove in winter in Hokkaido and did not use snow chains. We used snow tyres and it was sufficient. This time we are only getting snow tyres as well.

                      Yeah, trains are definitely much faster than driving. But with anything more than 2 pax, I find driving usually cheaper.
                      For 12/12, I would visit Gunma Safari Park along the way to break up the drive and make the most out of driving. You know, make myself feel a bit better about driving instead of taking train since Gunma Safari Park is not accessible by train?
                      For 13/12, if you want to save time on the road, you can consider changing hotel and stay at either Nagano or Matsumoto instead. I would choose to stay at Matsumoto, and visit Matsumoto Castle the next morning before heading to Kawaguchiko.

                      Currently what you have is this:

                      12/12 Hachioji – karuizawa (Total driving time: About 2.5 hours)
                      13/12 Karuizawa – Jigokudani Monkey Park – Ryuoo Snow Park – Karuizawa (Total driving time: Almost 4 hours)
                      14/12 Karuizawa – Kawaguchiko (Total driving time: About 3 hours)
                      15/12 Kawaguchiko – Hachioji (Total driving time: About 1 hour)

                      What I would do is:

                      12/12 Hachioji – Gunma Safari Park – Karuizawa (total driving time: About 3 hours)
                      13/12 Karuizawa – Jigokudani Monkey Park – Ryuoo snow park – Matsumoto (total driving time: About 3.5 hours)
                      14/12 Matsumoto Castle – Kawaguchiko (total driving time: About 2 hours)
                      15/12 Kawaguchiko – Hachioji (total driving time: About 1 hour)

                      Okay, that didn’t seem to save much time on the road. But at least you will see more stuff along the way and make more out of the drive.

  31. Summer says:

    Hi bumblebee mum, can I ask if it’s advisable to arrive Hakone and return from kawaguchiko? My planned itinerary is arrive Hakone from Osaka on 13 December, stay a night at Hakone and drive to kawaguchiko on 14 December to stay a night at lake kawaguchiko and return to Tokyo on 15 December. Thanks a lot

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You need to see how much the drop off fee for returning the rental car to a different outlet justifies the time you save from doing this. If the drop off fee is expensive, I would just drive back to Hakone to return the car and train back to Tokyo from Hakone.

  32. Jean says:

    Hi bumblemeemum, thank you for sharing so much info on Japan. I have the similar question as Summer. I have 2 kids aged 6 and 10. I was planning to stay 3 nights during mid dec at a Ryokan in Kawguchiko with intention to go:
    – Fujiten (1 or 2 day?)
    – Kachi Kachi Ropeway, Kawaguchiko Music Forest Kawaguchiko Lake (1 day?)
    – Fuji Safari Park (1 day?)

    If we don’t rent a car, can we do all these from our base in Kawaguchiko?
    Do you recommend staying one night in Hakone and 2 in Kawaguchiko instead?
    If I would also like to go Hakone (not sure if there is anything else other than the Hakone Open Museum which is different from Kawaguchiko?), if it possible to move without self drive?

    Thanks very much for your valuable insight!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For Fujiten, do you know how to ski already? Mid December is pretty early in the season, and usually at the resorts, there is only skiing and snowboarding early on in the season. The snow activities like snow parks, snow tubing etc usually starts later in the season. But it seems they use man made snow, so maybe their snow park will be ready. I have never been there so I really don’t know. But it looks pretty small, I would spend at most 1 day there. And if you are thinking of taking skiing lessons there, I’m not sure how well they cater to non-Japanese speaking travellers when they don’t even have an English website.

      It is very hard to get around the Mount Fuji region without a rental car. I advise you to rent one.

      For Hakone, popular places to visit at Hakone Open Air Museum, Glass Forest, Little Prince Museum (if you are into Little Prince), Yunessun and Lake Ashi Cruise. Usually Hakone Ropeway too but not sure when it will resume. So yes, I generally recommend 1 night Hakone and 2 nights Kawaguchiko. But again, I advise you to rent a car. While there are buses to bring you around the various tourist sights in Hakone, the buses are very infrequent. Coupled with shortened opening hours in winter, you can’t do much if you do not drive.

  33. Jean says:

    Dear bumblebeemum,

    Thanks for replying soon despite being a busy mum to 2 young kids!
    I cannot quite figure out which is the best place to get off to rent a car if we stay 1 night at Hakone and 2 at Kawaguchiko. After some browsing, I have made this plan. Does this make sense? Would it be too boring to stay 2N as well at Hakone?

    Shinjuku to Otsuki, collect rental car, drive to Kawaguchiko. Stay 2 nights
    From Kawaguchiko, drive to Hakone. Stay 1 night
    From Hakone drive to Odawara, return car, take Shinkansen to Tokyo

    I managed to check the one way drop off rate at Japan-experience website and it is quite reasonable. This site only offer Nissan cars. Can you share which site you used for the car rental?

    You also mentioned that the drive from Lake Kawaguchi to Hakone is about 1.5 H. Is the drive windy?

    Thanks for the suggestions at Hakone area. The Lake Ashi cruise looks appealing to kids! Yunessun is outdoor ? so will it be too cold in Winter?

    I searched and found Fujiten and Snow Yeti to be the only 2 ski resorts around the area and Fujiten is the larger of the two. I am hoping I won’t be disappointed like you were with Snow Yeti.

    I noticed there are ropeways both at the Hakone area and the Kawaguchiko area. so since the one at Hakone is closed I guess we have to go to the Kachi Kachi Ropeway.

    What other attractions do you recommend at Kawaguchiko ?

    Sorry for posting so many questions Japan travel can be quite complicated, such as their JR passes! I just can’t figure it out so I guess I won’t benefit from the savings!

    Really grateful for your inputs.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your plan to pick up at Otsuki and drop off at Odawara looks good.

      I used to use Tocoo, but nowadays I book directly with car rental companies. I have not used Japan Experience but heard from a reader that their rates are comparable with Tocoo and much less confusing. So you can give them a try. :)

      The drive between Kawaguchiko and Hakone is very easy. Not really windy.

      Yunessun is partially outdoors. The swimming pool is indoor but the spa (onsen) section is outdoors. Winter is the best time for outdoor onsen!

      The hakone and kawaguchiko ropeways are quite difference. Hakone’s one is like our cable car network, going horizontally between different stations. Kawaguchiko one just brings you up the mountain. But both gives a great view of Mount Fuji. So if Hakone ropeway is closed, I guess you can make do with the kawaguchiko one – provided the sky is clear and you can see Mount Fuji.

      At Kawaguchiko, there’s Fuji Q Highland. We also visited the music forest on a previous trip. And the waterfalls in the area are very beautiful. You can read more here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2008/11/27/self-drive-holiday-to-hakone-mount-fuji-region-kawaguchiko-fuji-five-lakes-autumn-foliage-season/

      If you are just going to Mount Fuji region from Tokyo, you will not need the JR Pass.

  34. Adel says:

    Dear bumblebeemum,

    Our first Japan trip will be this December and was planning for a fujihakone side trip. Lucky to bump into your post. It was so informative. Just to do a quick check whether this itinerary is doable as we are planning to do a 2d/1n stay either in Kawaguchi or Hakone using FujiHakone Pass. Will be travelling with a 8 yo kid.

    Sample itin as below:-

    Shinjuku – Kawaguchiko – Lake Yamanaka – Gotemba – Hakone – Shinjuku

    1) Would it be very rush and which place should i put up a night?
    2) Which are the places that can be omitted or we can cover all?
    3) How long does it takes to moves from one to another?
    4) Or any better suggestion.

    Thanks in advance.
    Adel

  35. Catherine says:

    Hi, is it difficult to drive from Tokyo to hakone (for a Singaporean that does not know Japanese)? thanks

  36. Cal says:

    Dear bumblebeemum,

    we would love to seek your expertise and opinion, was wondering if for a couple to spend their 1st driving experience in tokyo itself, where would you recommend say from narita?

    Thank you !!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I wouldn’t drive in Tokyo if it’s just me and my husband. It’s terribly expensive! I would only consider rental if I am heading to outskirts that are hard to reach by train.

  37. Hi! Chanced upon your blog while searching for Yamadaya Hotel. May I ask if there is private bathroom in every room? Is it only convenient to stay in this hotel if self-drive? Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nope, the private bathroom is not in the room. Ermm.. imo anywhere is convenient if you self-drive. In fact, I think you need to self-drive to get to Yamadaya. However if you are talking about things to do around the hotel, there is really nothing much around the hotel. It is like the lake in the front of the hotel which is like a camping ground for photographers. If you like to be in a more ‘happening’ area, you will have to stay at one of the hotels at Kawaguchiko.

  38. Jean says:

    Hi I’m planning a family trip to Tokyo in May and chanced upon your blog. 4 adults with 1 infant and a toddler will be travelling together and your itinerary around the Hakone region and FujiQ Highland sounds like what I would like to do. Was wondering if I could seek valued advice from you. If you don’t mind, could you please reply me via email? Thank you very much.

  39. Hi,

    Im planning a trip to Tokyo, Yamanashi (Lake Kawaguchiko) and Takayama/Tateyame area with my wife, 2 kids, and in laws. I just want to find out whether self driving is good option compared to travelling via train, and what things should I be looking out for when driving in those areas?

    Thank you so much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I think self-driving is good for the Mount Fuji region. As for Takayama and Tateyama, they are pretty easy and faster to reach by shinkansen since there is the Hokuriku shinkansen now. However with the number of people you have, it may be more economical to drive. If you plan to visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, you will have to look into a vehicle forwarding service. Not sure how much that would cost.

  40. TB says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum! Travelling with my husb and a 5 Year old boy to Tokyo in another 2 weeks and we only have 5 days 4 nights in tokyo, flight days included. which leaves us only 3 full days :( this is not our first time in tokyo but its a first for the kid. we will def wanna visit disneyland and thomas land. do you have any suggestions for an ITN for such a short stay in the city? thank you so much!

  41. Soak Peng says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    We have done a successful 12D Hokkaido self Drive in June last year. We simply LOVE the trip. (All Thanks to your advice).

    We are thinking of doing a 10D trip around Tokyo area this year. Hopefully it will be manageable for us.

    We have 2 adults & 3 children (age 9, 7 & 4). We intend to cover Disneyland & Disneysea & Hakone/Mt Fuji.

    Can you advise me on the following

    1) Is it better to go during the June Holidays or Dec holidays. I am worried driving in winter as we have not done that before.

    2) Most likely we’ll need to allocate 3 days for Disneyland/Disneysea & the 4 places below.
    – Lake Ashi Cruise
    – Hakone Ropeway
    – Yuneesun
    – Fuji Safari Park
    – Mt Fuji
    – Fuji 5 lakes
    I don’t think my gals are interested in Grinpa (Thomas The Train). Other than these places I am not sure what I can include.

    Or maybe I can include Chiba Mother farm & Sanrio Puroland but what are other areas that I can go.

    3) Should I include Tokyo Central Area as well. Usually we prefer the outskirts or countryside area than city area thus we love road trips.

    4) What are the other areas in Japan that we can self drive?

    If there are some interesting places that I can cover we don’t mind stretching to 12 days (but that could only be in June)

    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) Driving around Tokyo / Hakone / Mount Fuji in December is not much difference from June since it does not snow much there. Only thing is that you get much shorter daylight hours in December. But in June you will have to endure the heat. If you are afraid of cold, then June is the time to go. I like the cold, so I prefer going year-end. Furthermore in early December, there is still some autumn foliage and I love autumn foliage. And there is illumination in December.

      2) With 3 days at Hakone / Mount Fuji, you can do
      Day 1: Lake Ashi Cruise + Hakone Ropeway + Yunessun
      Day 2: Fuji Safari Park
      Day 3: Fuji Five Lakes

      Some other places you can KIV are Kawaguchiko Music Forest, Hakone Glass Forest, Hakone Little Prince Museum, Kachi Kachi Ropeway.

      3) If you prefer to get out of the city centre, you can go to Mother Farm. I also enjoyed Zoorasia at Yokohama. You can also consider spending an extra day at Toki No Sumika which is quite family-friendly. You can get more ideas from our recent road trip:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/01/12/japan-self-drive-narita-airport-chiba-tokyo/
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/01/19/japan-self-drive-itinerary-golden-route-tokyo-kyoto-osaka/

  42. Soak Peng says:

    I mean I will allocate 3 days for Disney & the remaining 7 days for the rest.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oh.. Haha.. Okay, this is what I can recommend if you have 10 days:

      Day 1: Not sure what time you’re arriving, maybe just bum around hotel.
      Day 2: Tokyo Disney
      Day 3: Tokyo Disney
      Day 4: Tokyo Disney
      Day 5: Rent a car, go to Mother Farm. If you are going in December, continue from there to Tokyo German Village for illumination. Stay somewhere in Chiba for the night.
      Day 6: Drive from Chiba to Hakone via Yokohama.
      Day 7: Hakone
      Day 8: Fuji Safari Park
      Day 9: Fuji Five Lakes
      Day 10: Drive back to airport.

  43. Soak Peng says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for your suggestion.

    It will be good if I can be there for the illumination but I can only take leave in Mid Dec which I believe the illumination is over.

    I am worried if Mid Dec is too cold for the children or is it only cooling.

    I can only see a snow cap Mt Fuji in Winter right but I won’t be able to go up to the 5th station.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Neh, the illuminations will still be going on in Mid Dec. Some illuminations in Japan last all the way till April.

      Different people have different definition for cold. For me, cold is anything below 0. But I know some people who think that anything colder than Singapore is cold. Around Tokyo, you are looking at maybe around 10 degrees in the daytime and hitting close to 0 in the night. It will be colder in the rural region (around Mount Fuji) and slightly warmer in Tokyo itself.

      Yup, you can see a snow-capped Mount Fuji in December but you can’t drive up to the 5th station.

      • Soak Peng says:

        Hi Hi,

        It’s me again. I’ve book my flight & I’ll be there from 5th June to 14th June.

        Below was the Itinerary propose by you but I have several queries which I hope you can help.

        Day 1: We will arrive at about 10pm thus will stay 1 night at the Airport
        Day 2: Tokyo Disney
        Day 3: Tokyo Disney
        Day 4: Tokyo Disney ( move to Shinjuku)
        Day 5: Rent a car, go to Mother Farm.
        Day 6: Drive from Chiba to Hakone via Yokohama. (What can I do along the way or on that day)
        Day 7: Hakone
        Day 8: Fuji Safari Park
        Day 9: Fuji Five Lakes
        Day 10: Drive back to airport. (My flight is at 5.30pm from Haneda Airport)

        Question
        1) On day 4 should I check out from Disney hotel & move to an accommodation in Shinjuku with free shuttle

        2) On day 5 should I forgo the farm & travel from Shinjuku to Odawara via Romance Car & pick up the car from there (Is it difficult to manage with the luggage & the children) or should I drive? The main purpose is to experience the train. We will forget it if it is too troublesome.

        3) I want to cover the following in Hakone. Can it be cover in 1 day or spread 2 days. Most likely we will stay overnight at Hakone
        Tozan Train + Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise + Hakone Ropeway + Yunessun + Open Air Miseum
        (I thought the Tozan Train ride is quite nice thus I intend to do a round trip)

        4) Fuji Safari Park, Kachi Kachi Ropeway & Music Forest
        5) Fuji 5 lakes
        How do I slot in the Mt Fuji 5th station

        Initially I want to go Chiba Mother Farm but looking at the above itinerary I am not sure how to slot in.

        I am not too keen in Fuji Q Highland thus I have left it out. Is the above places enough to cover my 10 days or should I extend it to Kyoto.

        I remember you have 1 post that you drive along the beach which I think is very nice but I forgot which one. Can I slot in.

        Thanks

        • bumblebeemum says:

          1) Staying in Shinjuku if you plan to visit Mother Farm is a bad idea. I suggest you continue staying at Tokyo bay on Day 4, or move to somewhere in Chiba. If you look up the location of Tokyo Bay, Shinjuku and Mother Farm on google map, you will see why.

          2) If I am travelling with kids, I would prefer to go to Mother Farm than spend a day at Shinjuku. Driving is also easier than maneuvering the train stations with kids imo.

          3) You have 1.5 days in Hakone. I would go to Yunessun on the first day, then do the Open Air Museum + cruise + ropeway on the second day. And hopefully the ropeway will resume operation by then. It has been suspended since May last year. I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

          If you want to drive to Fuji 5th station, I would do it on the same day as Fuji Safari Park. Then one the 3rd day, I would visit Kachi Kachi Ropeway & Music Forest as part of the drive around Fuji 5 lakes.

          I don’t think you have time to extend to Kyoto.

          The drive along the beach is at Kanazawa. That is way too far. Save it for another trip. Maybe next year June, you can go Kanazawa together with the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route – That’s one of my KIVed unfulfilled trip for the past decade. 😉
          http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/02/02/japan-self-drive-itinerary-kyoto-kanazawa-nagano/

          • Soak Peng says:

            Hi Bumblebeemum,

            Itinerary base on your recommendation.

            Day 1: We will arrive at about 10pm thus will stay 1 night at the Airport
            Day 2: Tokyo Disney
            Day 3: Tokyo Disney
            Day 4: Tokyo Disney ( move to Shinjuku)
            Day 5: Rent a car, go to Mother Farm.
            Day 6: Drive from Chiba to Hakone via Yokohama.
            Day 7: Hakone
            Day 8: Fuji Safari Park
            Day 9: Fuji Five Lakes
            Day 10: Drive back to airport.

            1) I will spending the day at Disney on Day 4 but thought of moving to another hotel in the late afternoon or early evening. If that’s the case where do you advise me to move to & where do I pick up the rental car the next morning.

            2) On Day 5, Where can we stay or go after going to the Motherfarm?

            3) On Day 6, We will be moving to Hakone via Yokohama. Is there any where I should go or stop along the way. What time will I reach? Do I have time to slot in the Yunnesun on this day. Where should I stay?

            4) On day 7 we’ll be covering Tozan Train + Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise + Hakone Ropeway + Open Air Museum (Do I stay Hakone ?)

            5) On Day 8 : Fuji Safari Park + Mt Fuji 5th station ( Do I stay Hakone or Kawaguchiko ?)

            6) On Day 9 : Kachi Kachi Ropeway, & Music Forest & Fuji 5 lakes.
            Is it still in time to move back to Tokyo or stay another night in Kawaguchiko

            7) On Day 10 : Return Car & Free n Easy in Tokyo. (Flight is at 5.30pm)

            Sorry for so many questions as I’m not too sure how I should go about planning.

            Thank You very Much.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              1) You can try finding an accommodation near Soga station in Chiba. From Disneyland to Soga station is one straight train. There are some car rental outlets around Soga station.

              > Nissan (Soga Ekimae)
              > Times Car Rental (Soga station)
              > Toyota Rent a Car (Soga Ekimae or Soga Station West Exit)

              These bigger car companies will probably have an option for you to pick up in one location (Soga) and drop off at Haneda Airport.

              2) I recommend visiting the illumation at Tokyo German Village after visiting Mother Farm. Hotel wise, I suggest you stay at the same hotel in Soga if you don’t like to keep changing hotel. If you don’t mind changing hotel to cut down a bit on driving time, you can consider finding a hotel at Kisarazu.

              3) If you want to go to Yunessun, I suggest you drive straight straight to Hakone and stop at the rest stations along the expressway if you need any toilet or coffee break. If you have a car, you can stay anywhere within Hakone. Hakone is not that big a town.

              4) Yup, you should stay in Hakone.

              5) I recommend you stay at Kawaguchiko.

              6) Staying in Tokyo or Kawaguchiko depends on whether you want to save money. To save money, go back to Tokyo because you will save one day of car rental. And a budget city hotel is probably cheaper than a ryokan in Kawaguchiko. However, if you want to experience more onsen stay, try another ryokan around Fuji Five Lakes. You don’t have to stick to Kawaguchiko. For onsen ryokan, I always recommend changing hotel to try different ryokan for a vareity of dining and onsen experiences. That is the best part of a Japan trip.

              • Soak Peng says:

                Hi,

                1) Can I ask if I can go straight to Hakone after Mother Farm since there is nothing we can do around that area. I’m thinking of departing Mother Farm at about 3pm.

                We will be there in June thus I don’t think there is any illumination at German Village.

                Any suggestion on where I can stay if this is possible.

                I am trying very hard to combine 2 of your Itineraries in to 1.

                Do you think the below is workable
                Day 6 :
                Open Air Museum & Yunnesan (Is that enough time)
                Stay : Hakone or ??

                Day 7 :
                Lake Ashi Cruise & Hakone Ropeway
                Fuji Safari Park
                Otodome Waterfall
                Shiraito Waterfall
                Stay at Lake Shoji (Yamadaya)

                Day 8:
                Lake Yamanaka
                Fuji 5th Station
                Lake Kawaguchiko
                Music Forest
                Stay : ?? or Kawaguchiko

                Day 9:
                Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway
                Back to Tokyo

                Day 10 :
                Free & Easy in Tokyo

                Hope to hear from you.

                Thanks

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  Yes, if you are leaving Mother Farm at 3pm, you can drive all the way to Hakone.

                  If you drive to Hakone on Day 5, you have a full day at Hakone on Day 6. That is enough to cover both Open Air Museum and Yunessun.

                  For Day 7, I will shift the waterfalls to Day 8.

                  I suggest you put all the driving around Fuji Five Lakes on Day 8 and just stay around Kawaguchiko on Day 9.

                  Day 8:
                  Otodome Waterfall
                  Shiraito Waterfall
                  Lake Yamanaka
                  Fuji 5th Station

                  Day 9:
                  Lake Kawaguchiko
                  Music Forest
                  Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway

                  • Soak Peng says:

                    Hi Hi

                    I need your help again. I am trying to find the address & the map code of the waterfalls & Lake Yamanaka but I’m not able to. Do you have the details.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Otodome and Shiraito Waterfall: 72 821 091 (when you hit this road, look for signs to Otodome waterfall 音止滝 and Shiraito waterfall 白糸滝).

                      Lake Yamanaka: 434 255 435 (Not sure which part of Lake Yamanaka you want to go. This map code is for somewhere along the southern shore of Lake Yamanaka.)

  44. janet EU says:

    Hi there,

    Was enjoying your blog and i need your advise.

    I will be going to Japan in late november for 3 weeks and will arrive and depart from narita.

    I am in a fix as to where i should stay while exploring mount fuji. I am thinking either staying in shizuoka and do a self drive around the area. How many days you reckon i should stay?

    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Typically people stay in either Hakone or any of the Fuji Five Lakes to explore Mount Fuji. You can also try Gotemba. I would say a minimum of 2 nights stay, though personally I would go for 3 nights if time allows.

  45. henry says:

    Hi

    I am going Tokyo Hakone this coming June holidays 5-12 June: 2N disney 3N hakone and 2N tokyo…

    Need your advice.

    1. We are staying 1st 2 nights in disneyland. Should we still go by romance car to Hakone and pick car from there?
    2. Is 4 days/3nights enough to do Hakone / Shiraito Falls / Gotemba…?
    3. Could advise the best route to travel? if you :-) were to do it again?
    4. Drive vs Bus? Is it difficult to drive? Roads busy?

    Thanks in advance. We have been in tokyo many times :-)

    Regards

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. Yup, you can train to Hakone and rent a car from there.
      2. Yes, I think 4 days is enough for the Mount Fuji region.
      3. I would probably do something like this:

      5 June: Tokyo Disney
      6 June: Tokyo Disney
      7 June: Train to Odawara, rent a car, go around Hakone and stay Hakone.
      8 June: Drive around Mount Fuji region
      9 June: Drive around Mount Fuji region
      10 June: Return car, train back to Tokyo
      11 June: Tokyo
      12 June: Flight back

      I am not sure which places you want to visit in Hakone / Mount Fuji region so can’t advise you on a route for those days.

      4. Hakone and Mount Fuji is pretty easy to drive. The roads are one-lane though so there are times you may encounter a bit of congestion but nothing to serious really. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

      • henry says:

        I would amend as follows. Better?

        8 June:
        Lake Ashi Cruise & Hakone Ropeway
        Fuji Safari Park
        Otodome Waterfall
        Shiraito Waterfall

        9 June:
        Lake Yamanaka
        Fuji 5th Station
        Lake Kawaguchiko
        Music Forest
        Q – got time for outlet?

        11 Jun: Tokyo
        Which donki would you recommend?

        Regards

        • bumblebeemum says:

          8 Junes still looks rushed to me. I would think Lake Ashi cruise + Hakone Ropeway and Fuji Safari Park will be all for one day. But then again, if Hakone Ropeway is still suspended and you only drive one round around Fuji Safari Park, you MAY be able to squeeze in the waterfalls in the evening.

          9 June: Just KIV the outlet and see what time you are done with the rest of the items on the itinerary. If you finish the Music Forest by, say, 5pm, then you can go to the outlet.

          Ermm.. what’s donki?

          • henry says:

            Hi
            Hi

            Donki = Don Quijote
            A watson type of megastore = Great shopping :-)
            http://www.donki.com

            I visited the one at Akihabara before. This time, I will visit the newest at Asakusa.

            Regards

            Regards

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Ah.. Okok.. Donki!! I am only familiar with the ones in Sapporo and Naha (Okinawa). It’s great shopping indeed! I shall check out the new one at Asakusa the next time I’m in Tokyo too!

          • henry says:

            Hi

            I will be arriving Hakone Yumoto on June 7th likely after lunch – 1 hr from Disney Maihama to Shinjuku, then romance car to Hakone.

            Is it better for me to pick up car June 8 morning?

            On June 7, I would do some sightseeing by public transport and stay a night in town. Any good hotel to recommend?

            I would have 2 full days with car – June 8/9.
            I would return car on 10th for a late afternoon ride back to Shinjuku.

            Regards
            Henry

            • bumblebeemum says:

              When I used public transport, I stayed at Kappa Tengoku which was just beside Hakone Yumoto station. Pretty convenient, other than having to climb a flight of stairs to reach the hotel.
              http://www.kappa1059.co.jp/

              Yeah, you can visit the places easily accessible by train on the first day and start your self-drive on the second day.

              • henry says:

                Hi

                Planning to leave Hakone early to reach Lake Kawaguchi.

                1st stop – Fuji Safari
                Next – Shiraito Waterfalls
                Next – Makaino Farm
                End – Hotel in Lake Kawaguchi

                https://goo.gl/maps/mn2ovig5N8o

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  Sounds possible since it’s Summer. :)

                  • henry says:

                    Hi

                    Thanks.
                    We wanna stay Lake Kawaguchi for 2 nights.
                    My better half don’t fancy hotel hopping very day :-)

                    Regards

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      I haven’t stayed in any ryokan at Lake Kawaguchiko before. My friend stayed at Konansou and said it was fantastic. But they are having some renovation in June. Hmmm…
                      http://www.konansou.com/

                    • henry says:

                      Hi

                      We had a wonderful 8 full days trip. Many thanks to your wonderful advice.

                      Some observation to share

                      1. Glad to have done the red eye flight. We reached haneda 6am and manage to catch the 730 bus to Hilton Tokyo Bay. We were at Disneysea by 9.

                      2. Do remember to buy your tokyo metro/subway pass at airport… They comes in 24hr/48hr/72hr versions. Very very good value for money.

                      3. Great to pick up and return car from Yumoto… the rental is just 5 min walk from station.

                      4. Best experience Ropeway, Lake Ashi Cruise, Owakudani and Fuji Safari…

                      5. Wonderful, leisure drive … did 3 other lakes other than Lake Ashi..

                      6. Do stop by Makaino Farm for the fresh milk and cheese/cream cake…. super yummy..

                      7. As we stay at Shinjuku… bus to Haneda is a breeze. There’s a brand new bus station opened recently.
                      From now on, no more Narita for me :-)

                      Keep up the good work, Bumblebee mum!
                      We all benefit greatly from your advice.
                      Looking forward to Okinawa next

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Glad you had a great trip! I would love to fly Haneda too. But I always end up flying Delta or United Airlines because their promos can be super cheap and they only fly Narita. But Haneda is definitely better for exploring Tokyo and Hakone!

  46. Daphne says:

    Hi there!

    I had a good time reading your blog especially now, I am immensely planning a trip with kids (5yo and 3yo) to Japan. I have planned to go to Tokyo and Osaka and now, Hakone and Mt Fuji region.

    Do you have any recommendation over the hotels for stay? I tried to tap on Airbnb but to no avail.And I chanced upon the Hotel Yamadaya, it is convenient by public transport instead of driving?

    If we opt to drive around at Hakone and Mt Fuji region, do you think it would be hard as that would be our first time getting around in wheels.

    I plan to visit a few destinations there:
    1) Hakone open air musuem
    2) Snowtown Yeti (the Snow Stadium is to be open in Dec 27)
    3)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      No, I don’t think Hotel Yamadaya is very convenient by public transport. It is pretty remote. In general, I recommend driving around the Mount Fuji area. It is the best way to explore the region. If you are from Singapore, you should have little problems driving there since we drive on the same side of the road.

  47. Sue says:

    Hi,

    I am planning to bring my 5 years old kids to Tokyo early November. Would you suggest to drive from Mt Fuji to Chiba? How long will the journey be? We’re planning to stay overnite in Chiba for the Mother’s Farm and Tokyo and German Village the following day.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. If you drive from Kawaguchiko to Mother Farm, you are looking at about 3 hours drive. From Hakone it should be about 2 hours. Driving is more hassle free but toll fees are expensive. And you also need to check if the car rental company allows you to do a one-way rental if you pick up the car from Mount Fuji area and return it to Chiba. It may not be cost effective, but changing trains around with kids and luggage can be quite a hassle. Hence for our second trip with the kids, we drove all the way. In between we made a stop at Zoorasia which was super fun for the kids:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/01/19/japan-self-drive-itinerary-golden-route-tokyo-kyoto-osaka/

      • Sue says:

        Thank you for your reply. Based on your advice, we might drop Mother Farm off our itinerary. From Hakone, we’re planning to drive to Mt Fuji and visit Thomasland. How far is Thomasland from Kawaguchiko? Would you recommend to stay in Kawaguchiko or Thomasland hotel? Also, how long is the journey from Hakone to Mount Fuji? Thank you!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Thomas Land is very near Kawaguchiko. Depending on which part of Kawaguchiko you are looking at. From the western end of Kawaguchiko, it is just a 10 min drive to Fuji Q Highland where Thomas Land is. So to me, staying at Kawaguchiko or Highland Resort Hotel is fine in terms of distance. If I have the budget, I would stay in the Thomas themed rooms at Highland Resort Hotel of course. Haha.. IF I have the budget.

          The drive from Hakone to Kawaguchiko is about 1.5 hours.

  48. henry says:

    Hi

    I checked Tocool and Nippon-rent-car. It seems both only allow car pickup at Odawara.
    Is there one which allows pickup at Hakone-yumoto?

    Regards

  49. henry says:

    Hi

    Regarding wifi and 3/4G.

    Is there a cheap data SIM which I could purchase for my iPhone?
    Or I should rent the mobile router from Changi Connect?

    Regards

  50. Mrsahmadlutfi says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum!

    As mentioned in my email, I am so glad to have found your website! This is my first time travelling to Japan with my then 18mths baby. We will be driving from HND airport to Kawaguchiko. We will arrive at 0615am and will pick up the car at 8am and then move off to Kawaguchiko.

    Qs: How is the traffic like in the morning? Is it safe to drive? I am trying to convince my husband that it is safe to drive and that we will save a lot on travelling time and cost by renting a car. I thought it will be a lot more easier if we have a car now that he is not physically fit (he just had spine surgery in Feb) and I have an active baby to bring along and 2 big luggages.

    Since its only a 2-hrs ride to Kawaguchiko, We are expect to reach Kawaguchiko at around 10-11am, depending on the traffic. My plan is, while waiting to check in at Fuji View Hote at 3pm, we will visit Hakone Open Air Museum or the the pirate ship at Lake Ashi and Hakone ropeway or maybe both. Qs: Do you this its possible? If yes, which one should we do first? Museum or the latter?

    Day 2 in Kawaguchiko, I plan to bring my baby to Fuji Safari Park and then treat myself at Gotemba Premium Outlet. Qs: Where else should we visit? Any recommendation? Since we have a car, we should make full use of it.

    I read somewhere there it is not difficult to find parking space in Kawaguchiko. I hope we will not get fined for parking illegally :/

    Is it difficult to find a petrol station around mount fuji region?

    I have to convince my husband and be well prepared as this is our first time travelling by car overseas (other than Malaysia).

    I hope you will be able to help me on this!

    Thank you so much :)))

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Driving is definitely easier with a toddler and luggage. There may be some traffic congestion though. But it’s still easier than taking public transport I feel, especially since your husband has spine problems.

      Hakone Open Air Museum and Lake Ashi Cruise / Hakone Ropeway is at Hakone, not Kawaguchiko. I suggest you visit somewhere at Kawaguchiko instead on your first day, like Mount Kachi Kachi Ropeway or Kawaguchiko Music Forest.

      Fuji Safari Park + Gotemba Premium Outlet sounds enough for one day. There is also Grinpa Amusement Park in the region, but it seems a bit too rushed to try to squeeze it in.

      I never had a problem with finding petrol kiosk. Just top up anytime you see a petrol kiosk when your car is near half tank, don’t wait till it is empty.

  51. Jes says:

    Hi Dear, Love the way you write ur blog, is so detail!

    May i know is the above trip traveled in November?

    We have been to Japan several times on F&E but this November (19/11 – 30/11) we decided to self-drive following your itinerary. We will be traveling on 4 adults and 2 kids (age 5 & 6), any car rental company can recommend? Is Yeti Town fun? i noted that the that is man made snow so wonder whats the different as compared to natural snow.

    Thanks

  52. cath says:

    hi bumblebeemum

    i am planning to bring my 2 girls (age 4 and 6) to tokyo and hakone ard mid oct…it will be my first trip to tokyo…

    we will arrive narita in the morning around 8am on a thursday and then depart on the following Friday 11am
    as this is our first time to japan ….i would like my kids to visit

    tokyo disney land
    tokyo disney sea
    sanrio land (worth going?)
    cup noodle museum
    any other place to go visit in tokyo since is our first visit?

    Will follow your method to do a self driving… hopefully driving is not difficult in hakaone as i dont read and speak japanese..
    one day cruise and ropeway to see mt fuji
    fuji safari park (was it dangerous to drive our own car into the park, those tiger and lion will not attack the car?)
    Sagamiko Illumillion (is this no longer available? is a pity if is really over..bcos it look so pretty on your pics..)
    Asagiri Food Park (was this worth going?)
    Fuji Milk Land

    Not sure if the above places possible to finish within 8 days?

    http://www.fujiyahotel.jp/en/index.html
    As we have 2 kids, i didnt see 4 person room… i only see max is 3 pax…which room type did you book at fujiya hotel?

    http://www.shoujiko.com/index.htm
    which room type did you took so that we can see the mt fuji view?

    appreciate your advice..
    thxa

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Regarding driving in Fuji Safari Park, just make sure your doors and windows are locked at all times and your windows are scrolled up properly. There are park rangers around.

      Sagamiko Illumillion is an annual event. The dates for this year are not out yet, but last year it started on 31 Oct 2015. Think you’ll miss it in Mid OCt.

      Whether to go to Sanrio Puroland depends on how big a fan of Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters you or your children are. If you are not particularly big fans, you can probably skip it.

      I have never been to Asagiri Food Park, but I didn’t see any other place for breakfast in the area besides there.

      8 days is okay if you skip Sanrio Puroland. This is how I would do it if I want to visit the cup noodle museum:

      Thursday: Narita – Yokohama (using N’EX). Visit cup noodle museum.
      Friday: Yokohama – Hakone
      Saturday: Hakone
      Sunday: Fuji Five Lakes
      Monday: Fuji Five Lakes – Tokyo
      Tuesday: Tokyo Disney
      Wednesday: Tokyo Disney
      Thursday: Tokyo Disney
      Friday: Flight back

      When we stayed at Fujiya Hotel, our children were still very young and they could stay for free using existing bedding. Our room was for 2 adults.

      As for Hotel Yamadaya, we booked through Agoda and it stated that the room had a mountain view.

      • cath says:

        thanks for replying…

        how long does it takes if i wan to drive from Narita to Hakone? If that possible?

        • cath says:

          hi
          i jus notice i can fly to haneda airport then return narita..
          would that be a better choice ?
          appreciate your advice

          • bumblebeemum says:

            If you want to head to Hakone once you arrive, definitely arriving at Haneda Airport would be a better choice. It will shave at least an hour off your driving time. If you have the choice, you can even choose to return from Haneda as well. Haneda is nearer to central Tokyo than Narita.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Narita to Hakone is about a 2.5 hours drive. Can be done, but it will be very tiring, especially after a red eye flight. I generally do not recommend making long drives immediately after an overnight flight.

      • Cath says:

        Hi bumble bee mum, it’s me again..

        i had finally booked my air ticket and changed my dates to 1 – 9 Nov.

        Tuesday: Hanada Airport to Disney Tokyo (arriving Tokyo around 340pm)
        Wednesday: Disney Tokyo
        Thursday: Disney Tokyo
        Friday: Disneysea Tokyo
        Saturday: Tokyo City
        Sunday: Tokyo City
        Monday: Tokyo to Hakone, Yunessun, Sagamiko Illumillion
        Tuesday: HAKONE ROPEWAY , FUJI SAFARI PARK
        Wednesday: Fiji Milk Land, drive back to tokyo, Flight back at haneda airport at 445pm

        Do you think i have enough time in Hakone? Fuji Five Lake means seeing mt fuji?
        And which hotel would you recommend to stay in Tokyo City?

        Otherwise, do you think is feasible to stay at one of these apartment?
        http://www2.citadines.com/en/japan/tokyo/citadines_central_shinjuku_tokyo.html#_ga=1.176859365.1107711887.1466857256
        http://www2.citadines.com/en/japan/tokyo/shinjuku.html#_ga=1.176859365.1107711887.1466857256
        http://www.somerset.com/en/japan/tokyo/somerset_azabu_east.html#_ga=1.176859365.1107711887.1466857256
        http://www.somerset.com/en/japan/tokyo/somerset_shinagawa_tokyo.html#_ga=1.239790147.1107711887.1466857256

        I need somewhere near to get to Okadawa? or should i just rent a car at tokyo and drive to Hakone?

        • Cath says:

          hi bumble bee, i am thinking i should switch the itneary to hakone first then tokyo city.
          just in case, traffic jam or what so ever and i miss my flight..

          Tuesday: Hanada Airport to Disney Tokyo (arriving Tokyo around 340pm)
          Wednesday: Disney Tokyo
          Thursday: Disney Tokyo
          Friday: Disneysea Tokyo
          Saturday: Disney land drive to Hakone, Yunessun, Sagamiko Illumillion
          Sunday: HAKONE ROPEWAY , FUJI SAFARI PARK
          Monday: Fiji Milk Land, drive back to tokyo
          Tuesday: Tokyo City
          Wednesday: Tokyo city last min shopping & Flight back at haneda airport at 445pm

          • bumblebeemum says:

            Yup, that makes sense too – to move Tokyo city to the end. It also saves you the trouble of looking for one-way car rental if you are able to return the car to the same branch that you picked it up from.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          When the weather is good, you can see Mount Fuji from Hakone, Fuji Safari Park, Fuji Milk Land etc. But when weather is bad, you can be standing right next to Mount Fuji and can’t see it.

          Are you planning to stay in one hotel in Tokyo the whole time? Or you plan to change hotels when you are in Disney and after you are done with Disney? If you want to stay in one hotel throughout, I suggest staying in one of Tokyo Disney’s Good Partner Hotel that can offer you free shuttle service to Tokyo Disney:
          http://www.tokyodisneyresort.jp/en/hotel/lists/

          Something like Keio Plaza Tokyo which is near Shinjuku station and also has free shuttle service to Tokyo Disney looks good.

          The most convenient way is to rent a car in Tokyo to drive to Hakone and return the car to Haneda airport at the end of the trip.

          • Cath says:

            Hi Bumblebee Mum

            Thank you for your reply once again..

            I am going to stay at Hilton Tokyo Bay which is very near to Disneyland.
            Then probably go Hakone first then back to Tokyo City.

            You mentioned before to go Hakone a few night so that have a higher chance to see the Mt Fuji. That was why I am planning to stay there for 2 nights based on your recommendation.

            But do you recommend that I continue with my rental car till my last day to airport or I can just return the Rental car when i arrived at Tokyo City?
            Do i still need the rental car when I am in Tokyo City.
            I havent decided where to go in Tokyo City but my hub definitely want to visit Shibuya (time square) as he wanted to see that many lighted signboard atmosphere

            Appreciate your advice.

  53. Sky mummy says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Like most people here, I am so happy to chance upon your blog! After reading your blog I stopped reading other travel websites for Japan, haha. The way you write your travel experiences, and your relentless responses to the questions here — is like us having an old friend in Japan who we can consult with for all sort of questions :-)

    I am planning a trip to Japan for 3 adults (including my mom) and a 5 year old boy, for approximately 2 weeks from end Nov to mid Dec. It is the first trip to Japan for everyone. I am hoping to have a balanced trip that make a 5 year old and 60 year old happy, ambitious huh!

    I have read all the posts here in this tread and of course your self drive in Hakone with your two lovely boys. So Hanoke is definitely in our itinerary. Since it is the first trip, Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are must haves right?

    What do you think about Disneyland, I am not a big fan myself and will definitely be boring for my mom I guess. Is it okay if we skip it (it is like a must go place for every family with kids in Japan?) Or maybe the dad can bring my son while me and my mom go somewhere else?

    Where is my best chance to see snow in this trip? Shirakawa-go has been like a dream place for me and do you think it is possible to include it in this itinerary?

    I would really appreciate any inputs for my itinerary planning. I have not bought the air tickets or done the booking for accommodation for now so it is very flexible. I can fly to either Narita, Haneda or Kansai with Airsia from KL. Options are opened depending on the itinerary/ ticket price.

    Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Haha.. My friends always ask me whether I live in Singapore or Japan.. Oh well.. I say to me, Japan is like Orchard Road. But there is still a lot I do not know about Japan because it’s so big! So I still refer to tons of Japan travel sites myself.

      It’s not easy to keep both a 5 year old and 60 year old happy. Trust me, I just came back from Japan with my kids and in laws. It was madness.

      Usually for first trips, people go to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. But I wouldn’t say anything is a must have. Japan is huge! Most people who have gone to Japan will go again, so you can always leave places for future trips.

      If you are not a big fan of Disneyland but your son is, you can do what you suggest: Get your husband to bring your son to Disneyland while you go somewhere else with your mom.

      I don’t think you have much chance of seeing snow in end Nov / early Dec unless you take a ropeway up the mountains. We saw snow when we took the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway near Takayama in December. Not sure about November:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2007/12/15/7-days-illuminations-travel-with-japan-rail-pass-december-2007/
      The only place with guaranteed snow at that time of the year is Hokkaido.. Hah.

      Shirakawa-Go will be too rushed. I know what you mean about it being a dream place. I have had it on my bucket list since the first time I read up on Japan travel and after visiting Japan more than 10 times, I still haven’t gone there. Oh well… But you can do what we did! Stay in the Shirakawago-style farmhouse near Kyoto:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/02/16/travel-tuesday-29-japan-traditional-farmhouse-stay-gassho-zukuri-minshuku/

      It was very cold staying in the farmhouse but still, it was the best part of that particular trip.

      But then again, if you are going to take the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway, it is not that far from Shirakawa-Go. One possibility is to scrap Kyoto and Osaka and go to Takayama and Shirakawa-Go instead.

      I would fly via Haneda airport if it costs the same as Narita.

      If you really want to visit Takayama and Shirkawa-Go, you can do a loop as follows:

      Tokyo (Haneda) – Hakone – Nagoya – Kyoto – Shirakawa-Go – Takayama – Matsumoto – Mount Fuji – Tokyo (Haneda)

      But if you want to do the classic Tokyo / Kyoto / Osaka route, you can consider flying in Tokyo (Haneda) and out from Kansai Airport if that option is available.

      • Sky mummy says:

        U are just back from Japan again? 😉 Which part of Japan did u go this round?

        Thank you so much for your advice. I just read your Kyoto stay in the farm house, very unique! I will do more planning with the trip :-)

        • Sky mummy says:

          Hi Bumblebeemum,

          I must admit that I am somewhat greedy – that I hope to see both the autumn foliage and snow in one trip. I read that the first snow falls in Shirakawa-go as early as mid November in the past years. I was thinking if I plan my trip end of Nov to mid Dec, I could then possibly see some autumn foliage at places like Hakone (during first few days of my trip) and then could possibly see snow at Shirakawa-go or the Shin-Hotaka ropeway – around mid of Dec. If Shirakawa-go is my last visit point (to increase the chance of seeing snow), should we depart from Haneda airport?

          Do u think such schedule is viable? Want best of both world… muahaha…

          • Sky mummy says:

            Hello mummy,

            I have finally booked the air ticket (1-14 Dec) and have the first rough itinerary. And, gasp! Still everyone wants to have everything in despite I told them the expert (i.e. you) said it is too rush :-(

            1 Dec (Thu) – Arrive Tokyo (Haneda) late night
            2 Dec (Fri) – Tokyo day tour
            3 Dec (Sat) – Tokyo to Odawara (train) – self drive from Odawara onwards
            Hakone (Open Air Museum > ??)
            4 Dec (Sun) – Hakone (Lake Ashi > Hakone Ropeway > Fuji Safari Park) – self drive
            5 Dec (Mon) – Hakone (Fuji Q Highland/ Thomas Land > Lake Kawaguchi > Lake Shoji) – self drive
            6 Dec (Tue) – Hakone (Lake Shoji > Asagiri Kogen/ Asagiri Highland > Odawara)
            7 Dec (Wed) – Odawara to Kyoto – by train
            8 Dec (Thu) – Kyoto
            9 Dec (Fri) – Kyoto/ Osaka
            10 Dec (Sat) – Osaka
            11 Dec (Sun) – Osaka to Takayama
            12 Dec (Mon) – Takayama to Shirakawago
            13 Dec (Tue) – Shirakawago to Takayama to Tokyo (Haneda)
            14 Dec (Wed) – Tokyo day tour
            Depart Tokyo (Haneda) late night

            Do you think the itinerary is doable? Or too tight?

            I am considering whether to drop Osaka (reason being we are willing to sacrifice seeing the big city – if that is correct) so we could have an extra day, possibly squeeze in Disney in the beginning or at the end of the trip when we are in Tokyo. Do you think it is a good idea?

            Apart from Hakone, based on the current itinerary, do u think there is other part of the trip we should do self drive?

            If we don’t do self drive apart from Hakone, is the trip arrangement optimum for the use of the transport passes? For eg if we use the new pass Takayama Hokuriku?

            Sorry I have so many questions… And really appreciate any inputs from you :-)

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Regarding Osaka, I think you can leave it open. Osaka and Kyoto are very close to each other. You do not have to stay at Osaka, you can just stay at Kyoto throughout from 7 to 11 Dec and visit Osaka from there. If need be, you all can split up and those who want to visit Osaka can go to Osaka, those who prefer to spend more time at Kyoto or maybe visit Nara or Kobe can also do so.

              How do you plan on getting to Shirakawago? You may want to consider driving around Takayama. Once out of the big cities, a rental car is always good to have. And are you planning to spend a night a Shirakawago? I heard the farmhouses there are very hard to book. I may just do a day trip to Shirakawago from Takayama to save the trouble of changing hotel.

              Hmmm… The Takayama Hokuriku Pass does not cover the shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya (from which you transfer to Takayama), neither does it cover the shinkansen from Nagoya to Tokyo. You may want to look into using the Japan Rail Pass instead. The 7-day Japan Rail pass, if used from 7 Dec to 13 Dec will actually cover your shinkansen rides on the following sectors:

              – Odawara to Kyoto (normal fare 12080 yen per pax by shinkansen)
              – Kyoto to Takayama (normal fare 9960 yen per pax by shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya and Ltd Exp from Nagoya to Takayama)
              – Takayama to Tokyo (normal fare 14710 yen per pax by Ltd Exp from Takayama to Nagoya and shinkansen from Nagoya to Tokyo)

              The Japan Rail Pass will also cover side trips from Kyoto to neighbouring cities by JR train.

              • Sky mummy says:

                Dear mummy,

                Thank u so much for your suggestion to buy the JR Pass instead! U even went to the extra miles to do the costing here to share, reaaaallly appreciate it!:-)

                Yes we will be staying in the farm house! Not in Shirakawago itself though but in its neighboring village called Ainokura. When I enquired, they replied that one last room available, the next dsy it was already booked by someone else, haha. But I dont mind at all. I read that Ainokura today is the Shirakawago 20 years ago – keeping its original rustic charm :-)

                Based on your suggestion, I think we will rent a car at Takayama and Shirakawago and Ainokura so we can tour Shirakawago and then back to Ainokura.

                I read that the JR Pass can also be used for Osaka’s Loop Line, but not in Kyoto. For the few days in Osaka/ Kyoto, I assume we have to buy those day pass for the local subway right?

                Thank you again!

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  Ah yes.. My friend also went to Ainokura instead of Shirakawago because Shirakawago was too touristy. I think it will be a great experience!

                  Yes, having a rental car would be a good idea. It will definitely save you time and allow you to visit more places compared to using the bus.

                  The JR Pass can only be used for lines operated by JR. So if you refer to the Kyoto subway map:
                  http://www.jrpass.com/images/map/map_kyoto_metro.pdf

                  The JR Pass can be used on the JR line (grey-white line), but not the rest of the subway lines. So for e.g. if you want to go to Arashiyama, you can use the JR line from Kyoto to Sago-Arashiyama station and this will be covered by your JR Pass.

                  So same thing for Osaka, if you look at their subway map:
                  http://www.osaka-info.jp/en/plan/images/rosen.pdf

                  The JR line (grey-white line), including the loop line, will be covered by the Japan Rail Pass. But all the coloured lines are not covered.

                  • Sky mummy says:

                    Thanks Bumblebeemum! Yes I read about the touristy comment to. Did ur fren enjoyed Ainokura? Did he/she visited Shirakawago on the way to Ainokura?

                    Thank you for your tips on the use of JR Pass for Kyoto and Osaka, very helpful!

                    I have 3 finalists for our 1st 2 night stays in Tokyo but can’t quite decide:

                    1) An airbnb apartment 7 mins from Shinagawa station, 3rd floor no elevator. SGD410 for 2 nights. Spacious and very beautiful interior.

                    2) Airbnb apartment 4 mins from Shinagawa station, elevator on 2nd floor so need to walk up 1 floor. SGD400 for 2 nights. Decent space and beautiful interior too.

                    3) Airbnb apartment near 4 mins Togoshi station, room on ground floor so no need to climb stairs. SGD400 for 2 nights. Normal, basic, decent space. One thing good is the owner offers to pick up (she drives) from Shinagawa station and send us to that station again when we check out to take the Shinkasen to Odawara, for free!

                    4) Agoda apartment directly at the exit of Higashi-Nihombashi station (in Tokyo Station area). There is elevator in the building. SGD505 for 2 nights. Modern apartment, decent space with balcony. The plus point is it is in the city center.

                    My concern would be since we are arriving late (10pm) on the first day at Haneda, so Shinagawa is my first choice since it is a direct ride from airport in 10 mins. It matters too that we are taking the Shinkasen to Odawara 2 days later. However I am kind of tempted to stay near Tokyo station since that looks like the center of everything a tourist is looking for? And it also has direct subway from airport.

                    What do you think?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      She said Ainokura was a bit small but interesting. She did not go Shirakawago because not enough time (she used public transport).

                      Where are you planning to visit on your second day in Tokyo? If you planning to use the JR line, then go for the 4 min walk from Shinagawa station. If you are planning to use the Toei lines, then go for the Togoshi station.

                      Higashi-Nihombashi is also a Toei line station. Personally, I won’t pay the extra $100 to stay there versus staying at Togoshi station. I will just spend the extra 20min on the train.

                    • Sky mummy says:

                      Thanks for responding so quickly! I havent planned the itinerary for Tokyo day tour yet. Which line has more interesting things to see, in general? Like Shibuya or Shinjuku?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Most of the major sights are located along the JR Yamanote line. Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Akihabara, Tokyo station are all along the Yamanote line.

                    • Sky mummy says:

                      Thanks for replying once again Bumblebeemum! I have booked the airbnb apartment near SHinagawa station so we can do sightseeing along JR Yamanote line as you recommended. Thank u so much!

                      For Hakone, we will most likely “copycat” your entire itinerary. I want to ask do you think it is okay if we stay at only one place for all the 3 nights? I found a 2 bedroom apartment within our budget near the Gora station. The rate is great and we are too lazy to change hotels.

                      Arigato…

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Sure, you can stay at one hotel in the region for 3 nights if you don’t like to change hotels. I’m the kind of traveller who actually enjoys changing hotels because I like to try out different hotels, and I don’t like back and forth driving, so I tend to change hotels a lot. But the Hakone / Mount Fuji region isn’t THAT big so it is definitely possible to just stay at one place for travellers who do not like to change hotels.

  54. ELYN KOH says:

    Hi mummy,
    Me n my hubby and a 10mth old will be staying in hakone for a night only.
    Do u recommend us to drive or get a free pass? We want to visit yunessun & safari park. Another concern is we dont understand japan language so will the road signs be in english?

  55. Cat says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    We plan to rent a car (it’s gonna be our first time driving overseas) from Gotemba station and head off to Fuji Safari Park then stay in a hotel that will be along the way to Fujiten Snow Resort (the next day itinerary).

    Any recommendation on the hotel? Also, I tried using Google map to locate Fujiten Snow Resort but no result found.

    Any advice on the driving around that area? We plan to go during early Dec.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Here is the location of Fujiten Snow Resort on Google Map:
      https://goo.gl/maps/1own2oaaVAu

      I suggest you find a hotel around Kawaguchiko. There are many nice ryokans in the area, it really depends on your budget.

      Driving around the area in early Dec should be pretty easy. The traffic is not very heavy. Roads are generally one-lane so if you get stuck behind slow vehicles, just got to be patient. Otherwise Japan roads are very well-maintained and there are usually barricades by the side of mountainous roads to prevent falling off, so the driving should be pretty smooth and safe.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oh yes.. when you say early December, please check to make sure that Fujiten is open before you go there. Coz if you go there like first few days of December, they may not be open for the season yet.

  56. Lee Foong Kuan says:

    Hi, we (2 adult with 2 girl – 2 & 4 years old) have plan to travel to Japan from 13 Nov to 21 Nov. This is 2nd trip for both my girl to Japan. 1st trip was last year self drive trip to Hokkaido. This year we plan to focus on Shirakawa-go area / region and short stay in Tokyo mainly look for Disneyland for my kids. Can you recommend itinerary for my coming trip?

  57. JESS WAY says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    I am so happy to have a chance in reading upon your blog related to travel websites for Japan. The way you write your travel experiences is much better then my Japanese friends, and your responses to the questions here is like a consultant in a tour agency.

    I am planning a trip to Japan with 3 adults and 2 child (9 & 11), for approximately 10 days from 7 to 18 Dec. My son and the other 2 child would like to visit a ski resort near Mount Fuji.

    We will arrive at Haneda airport on the 7 Dec in the night and there after we will be staying in Yokohama.

    What is your best advice if we would like to visit;

    1) Hakone
    2) Nagono Ski Resort
    3) Mount Fuji (Fuji 5 Lakes)
    4) Oshino Hakai

    FYI, I will prefer to take a train and maybe rent a car only to move around the small city or town in short distance only.

    What is your best suggestion once we reach Haneda airport. I would like to purchase the train pass and sim card to contact my Japaneses friends if need help.

    should I booked the hotel or apartment from airbnb.

    Thank you and really appreciate your help and advice.

    Jess

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You need to check the opening date for the ski resort you are planning to visit carefully. Some ski resorts do not operate till end Dec.

      With the number of people you have, it may be more economical to just rent a car from Haneda Airport. But if you prefer to cover the long distances by train, then you only need to rent a car while at the Hakone / Mount Fuji area. And you can consider getting the JR East Pass (Nagano, Niigata Area):
      http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass_n/index.html

      You should be able to purchase SIM card pretty easily during normal opening hours:
      http://www.haneda-tokyo-access.com/en/wingairport/service.html

      With a group of your size, BnB should work out to be more economical and comfortable. But they are not so easy to find outside of central Tokyo. While in Hakone / Mount Fuji area, you are probably looking at staying at ryokans.

  58. E says:

    Hi Bumblemum,

    I am planning a trip to Tokyo this mid-Nov and my planned itnenary is as such: tokyo (4 nights) > Chiba farm (1 night) > Hakone and mount Fuji area (3 nights)>tokyo (airport). will be grateful if you can help me on this.

    where can i pick up my rented car if i want to drive to Chiba Mother farm? i will be staying in Shinjuku area. i am planning to follow ur earlier suggestion to other readers i.e. drive from Chiba to Hakone via Yokohama. also, i would like to return my rented car directly at/near the airport to minimize travelling on trains with luggages. thank you in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yup, you can pick up a car at Shinjuku and return it to the airport. I would do that too! There will probably be a drop-off fee. You can try Nissan or Toyota, they have branches at Shinjuku:
      https://nissan-rentacar.com/english/
      https://rent.toyota.co.jp/eng/

      • E says:

        Thanks for you reply! Can you advise if the following itinerary and route is feasible and not too rush?
        Day 1: Shinjuku to Chiba farm + German village (stay over at Chiba)
        Day 2: Yokohama Zoorasia + Nissin Cup Noodle Museum (stay over at Little Snow villa)
        Day 3: Gotemba Premium Outlet + Kawaguchiko music forest
        Day 4: Lake Shoji + Fuji Q highland (Stay over Yamadaya hotel)
        Day 5: Lake Ashi + Fuji Safari park (stay over Fuyokaku hotel)
        Day 6: Hakone open air museum then Narita airport (4pm flight)

        my itinerary seems to have too many animals zoo/parks/farms. which would you recommend me to go? also, i wish to stay at 1 place for at least 2 nights to minimise the shifting of luggages. are any of the accomodations stated above central enough to do so? thank you so much for your time!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          You can actually stay in one hotel at Kawaguchiko for Days 3 and 4.

          For Day 5, I suggest staying at Hakone. So for Day 5, from Kawaguchiko, visit Fuji Safari Park first then drive back to Hakone and stay at Hakone. It will be less rushed for your last day. Give yourself ample time to get back to the airport.

          • E says:

            Thank you for your suggestion on the location of the hotels. how will you suggest i tweak my itinerary, if i would like to:
            – stay 2 nights in Little Slow House Villa. possible to drove there the same day after Mother Farm?
            – skip Zoorasia (since already visiting Mother Farm and Fuji Safari Park). what other places can i go to?
            – wish to drive along Ashinoko Skyline. is it more along the way for Day 5 or Day 6?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              This is what you can do:

              Day 1: Shinjuku to Chiba farm + German village (stay over at Chiba)
              Day 2: Chiba – Yokohama Cup Noodle Factory – Ashinoko Skyline – Slow House Villa (stay Slow House Villa)
              Day 3: Lake Ashi + Fuji Safari Park (stay Slow House Villa)
              Day 4: Lake Shoji + sights around Fuji Five Lakes _ Kawaguchiko Music Forest (stay Kawaguchiko)
              Day 5: Fuji Q Highland – Gotemba Premium Outlet (stay Hakone)
              Day 6: Hakone open air museum then Narita airport (4pm flight)

              • E says:

                Many thanks for your suggestion. decided to switch the order of my itinerary by making mother farm the last stop as i realised that it is nearer to drive to Narita from Mother farm since they are both in Chiba. intending to stay over night at the cottages in mother farm. have you heard any review on the farm stay? quite limited search on the internet and information is only on the japanese website.

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  I haven’t heard of reviews for the farmstay at Mother Farm itself. They only have the Japanese website, which I guess is the reason why few foreigners end up staying there because it’s such an inconvenience to book. Especially when there are so many cheap hotels in Chiba to stay in that can easily be booked through hotel booking sites.

  59. Desmond says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum ,

    Very happy to read your post and very informative !
    Need some suggestion and recommendation for our this coming November trip as this is our first time to Japan and travelling with 3 children age 11 , 9 & 5 .

    22/11 – Haneda 6:30pm pick up rental car to Hakone .

    23/11 – Lake Ashi Cruise , Hakone Ropeway and Safari Park . Can add anymore attraction ?

    24/11 – Fuji five lakes area . Worth to go to 5th Station ?

    25/11 – Return to Tokyo stop at Yokohama Cup Noodle Museum . Will return the rental car at Shinagawa Station by 8pm . What else can we explore along the way from Hakone to Tokyo ?

    26/11- Tokyo

    27/11- Tokyo

    28/11- Disneyland . Is it true going on weekday will be less crowded ?

    29/11-Tokyo

    30/11- Haneda 10:30am flight

    Self drive require International driving permit ?
    Is it sufficient 3 nights in Hakone and 5 nights in Tokyo ? Or 4/4 ?
    Many thanks in advance if you could provide kind advice for our trip !

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, you need international driving permit to drive in Japan. You need to bring BOTH the IDP and local driving licence with you to rent a car in Japan.

      3 nights Hakone and 5 nights Tokyo looks good.

      22/11 – The sun would have set by the time you pick up your car and you’ll be navigating in the dark as you arrive at Hakone (depending on which part – some roads in the region can be pitch dark with no street lamps). If that concerns you, you may want to spend a night at a hotel near Haneda airport and pick up the car to drive to Hakone the next morning where you can see the road and road signs better.

      23/11 – Neh, I don’t think you can add anymore stuff. The sun sets pretty early and opening hours of attractions are very short in winter.

      24/11 – You can’t drive up to the 5th station in winter.

      25/11 – We went to Zoorasia at Yokohama which was very fun for the kids. But between cup noodle museum and the zoo, you probably only have time for one. If you go to cup noodle museum, you can also explore the rest of the Minato Mirai 21 area:
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3200.html

      28/11 – Yes, I would definitely go to Disneyland on a weekday if I can help it. It’ll still be crowded though (Tokyo Disneyland is always crowded) so just be prepared to queue and make good use of the fast passes.

  60. KK says:

    Hi there,
    I am planning to do a self-drive from Tokyo to Nagoya in mid Dec for about 6-7 days.
    As it is the first time we are doing self-drive, and we are travelling with children, we intend not to go too far.
    Do you have any recommendations of where to visit and to stay during the trip?
    Do we need to book for accommodations in advance? or can we just walk in into any? We are not looking at living in posh hotels, but rather to live in those 民宿kind of places.

  61. Debbie says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Your blog is amazing! I am planning on bringing my 20-month-old toddler to Tokyo and Hakone, and your blog has been a great resource.

    May I quickly ask for your advice? I am going in end-Dec. I hope to rent a car for touring Hakone and to FujiQ Highland. However, the car rental company is advising snow tires, which makes the rental cost per day more than SGD200 per day. Is this considered reasonable? Will I really need snow tires? I do not intend to travel up to Mount Fuji, just around the usual Hakone sights and then to FujiQ Highland.

    And if I choose not to rent a car, will it be easy to do the trip on public transport with a toddler and an umbrella stroller?

    Thanks for your advice!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Ermm, no.. SGD200 per day is exorbitant for car rental in Japan. While it is advisable to get snow tyres (we did ask for snow tyres the last two times we drove in mainland Japan in December), they usually do not add that much to the rental cost.

      Hakone and Mount Fuji area is really not very convenient to get around by public transport, especially with a toddler in tow. I do recommend renting a car. Maybe you can try searching on Tabirai for more car rental options?
      http://en.tabirai.net/car/index.aspx

  62. Lynn says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    First and foremost, thank you for your wonderful sharing on your Japan travels. Reading through your blog posts and the comments had helped cleared up quite abit on planning a holiday to Japan. I am therefore planing to do a self drive trip to Tokyo with my family of two kids aged 3 and 9. We had not been to Tokyo before and although I read through this blog post and comments. I am still quite confused in the sequence of the activities I have in mind. I will be most grateful if you could enlighten me. I have the following places of interests I would like to go but do not know how to sequence them.

    Self drive to Hakone Yumoto by evening, check in hotel
    I would like to let the kids ride on the tozan railway.
    Visit Hakone open air museum.
    Take the pirate cruise ship. I understand that the rope way is / may not be available.
    Visit Little Prince.
    Fuji Safari park/ Grinpa
    Sagamiko illumination – is this better than the one at Mother farm & Tokyo German village?
    Fuji five lakes – how should I drive around the five lakes?
    Fuji milk land
    Gotemba outlets
    How many days and where should I stay during my exploration of the above mentioned places of interests?
    If I rent the car from Nrt, where is a good place to return the car if I will be sightseeing city of Tokyo after Hakone and Fuji five lakes?
    Thank you very much for your reply.

    • Lynn says:

      Hi Bumblebeemum,

      I missed out the dates which is between 12 – 14Dec. Before that we will be coming from Chiba and then after Hakone/Fuji will be hitting Tokyo city and Disney last.

      TIA for your time taken to reply.
      Lynn

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The Hakone Ropeway has resumed operations already, though they do close for some dates for maintenance. Do check their website for closure dates:
      http://www.hakoneropeway.co.jp/foreign/en/index.cgi

      I do think the illumination at Sagamiko is nicer than the illuminations at Mother Farm / Tokyo German Village.

      For Fuji Five Lakes, you can just drive along the main road (route 138 and 139) and go in an anti-clockwise (or clockwise – up to you) direction: Lake Yamanakako, Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Saiko, Lake Shoji and Lake Motosu. There are road signs along the main roads pointing to the various attractions in the regions, including the lakes. To play safe, you should have the map codes of your destinations with you:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/03/31/japan-map-code-search/

      If you are flying into Narita, I do not advise you to drive all the way to Hakone on the day you arrive because it’s a very long drive to do immediately after getting of the plane. You may want to spend time in Tokyo both before and after the side trip to Hakone / Mount Fuji. This way, you can pick up and return the car to the same location in central Tokyo.

      To visit all the places you mentioned at a comfortable pace, you would need 5 days.

      Day 1:
      (Pick up rental car and drive to Hakone)
      – Ride Tozan Railway
      – Little Prince Museum

      Day 2:
      – Hakone Ropeway + Pirate ship cruise
      – Hakone Open Air Museum

      Day 3:
      Fuji Safari park
      Sagamiko illumination

      Day 4:
      Grinpa
      Gotemba outlets

      Day 5:
      Fuji five lakes / Fuji milk land
      (Drive back to Tokyo after that)

  63. Nam says:

    Hi thanks for the amazing info on your blog. My family of 6 (3 adults 3kids aged 3, 5 and 10) is planning a 10 day trip to japan and I would appreciate some inputs from you. I have been to tokyo a few times but it will be the first time I am bringing the kids

    Itinerary
    5 dec arrive haneda airport at 7am. Stay at tokyo bay for 3 nights to cover 3 days of disneyland n Disney sea
    6 dec Disney
    7 dec disney
    8 dec Drive to Izu peninsula explore the coast and stay in Hirono
    9 dec drive to gotemba and explore the area. Stay gotemba
    10 dec drive to matsumoto for snow monkeys, castle and Wasabi farm. Stay matsumoto
    11 dec drive to karuizawa for the mountain view, hiking, town area and outlet. Stay at karuizawa prince resort for kids to play snow and maybe learn skiing
    12 dec karuizawa
    13 dec drive to tokyo. Return rental car. Do tokyo
    14 dec leAve tokyo on 4.55PM flight

    My questions:
    1.Which rental car location is nearest to hilton tokyo bay to drive out?
    2.I understand that gotemba lodging is cheaper than hakone, so if I want to go hakone open air museum, Grinpa park or Thomas land is it OK to stay at gotemba? My initial plan was to catch view of Mt Fuji and lakes but after reading your blog I realized there are many kid activities there. If I want to cover hakone open air museum, Grinpa park and Thomas land how many days are needed?
    3. After 3 days in Disney do you think Grinpa park might be overkill? I would lobe to cover every thing but given limited time I have to take something out to accommodate more days in hakone, likely Izu peninsula or karuizawa
    4. For car rental, is the gps an add on option or it comes with the car?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      10 Dec: Are there snow monkeys in Matsumoto? If you are referring to the snow monkeys at Jigokudani, that is much further and you won’t have enough time for it. I would say just do Matsumoto Castle and Wasabi Farm for the day.

      1. I searched Times, Nissan, Nippon Rent a Car and Toyota but none of them have a car rental outlet near Disneyland. The nearest car rental offices seem to be at Kasai. Usually what I do in such instances is to go and collect the car on my own and drive back to the hotel to pick everyone up.

      2. Yup, you can visit Hakone, Grinpa and Thomas Land from Gotemba. You probably need a day for each of them because they are located at different areas.

      3. Yeah, I do think Grinpa / Thomas Land may be an overkill. If you stick to your itinerary with only one day in Gotemba, I would recommend doing the Hakone Ropeway + Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise and open air museum.

      4. For most car rental companies, the GPS comes as a default. But if there is an option to tick it during the booking process, just tick it.

      • Ng Keng nam says:

        Hi. tocoo has an etc plan that includes complementary etc card rental and also a Eexpressway plan for unlimited tolls that will cost me 15992 yen for 8 days. My itinerary is to drive out of Tokyo, go to Ito in izu peninsula, then hakone, Matsumoto, karuizawa and lastly back to Tokyo. Which plan do you think makes more sense, I am not sure if the tolls will exceed 15992 yen or if the etc card discounts apply if I travel mostly on weekdays (only 1 weekend covered). I also note the large credit card deposit incurred and exchange rate conversion fee you mentioned when deposit is returned.

        For hakone, how do I get back to where i boarded (to pick up the rental car) assuming i do the ropeway and lake ashi cruise as you suggested but have no time for roundtrip on the cruise and get off only at the first stop?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Ooo… Unlimited tolls sounds like an excellent plan! I would go for unlimited tolls. Toll fees in Japan are SCARY! Lol..

          I don’t know the exact toll fees, but by looking at the average they are charging, which is about 2000yen per day, it sounds good if you are going to be using the tollways everyday. Every time I enter and exit a tollway in mainland Japan, it easily hits 3-4k yen. You can refer to this website for a very rough gauge of what toll fees in Japan is like:
          http://global.c-nexco.co.jp/en/toll/toll_tokyo.html

          Hmmm… For the Lake Ashi cruise, if you have a car, I suggest you plan your itinerary to do a roundtrip back to Togendai to get your car. The cruise doesn’t take that long?

  64. Annisa says:

    Hi mom,
    Your blog would be one of the best travel blog because you still answering the comments 😍
    A question about yamadaya hotel, i know that they dont have private bathroom in each room, but they have private toilet and washlet in the room right?

  65. catherine says:

    Hi, i would like to go to Nagoya from Hakone.
    What will be the fastest way? Drive to Hakone Odawara to drop off the rental car and take on a bullet train?

  66. catherine says:

    alternatively, if my last stop is milk land co. how to get to nagoya fastest? which will be the nearest train/bullet train station to drop the rental car and take train.

  67. mao says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,
    we are planning a self drive at Hakone and Mt Fuji region, hopefully to 5th station if weather allows.
    May i know if it is safe to drive around Mt Fuji ?
    People telling me that there are sharp bends and turns (and very near to side cliff) .

    is it true ?

    thank you

    • Cath says:

      Ya really sharp bends.. we were there 2 days ago
      The road we took.. the mountain was so dark .. no street light.. n no idea what route is that ..
      We were freaking out when driving.. if u missed any turns.. u can’t uturn cos is too narrow.. we drove at Melbourne and Brisbane n Sydney road trip to mountains too but Hakano is pretty scary..
      But nevertheless is a good experience for us..

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is a rural region so definitely the roads are windy. But there are usually barriers at the side of the roads to prevent you from going off the roads in Japan. And yes, roads are pitch dark with no street lamps at night. The good thing is that it doesn’t really snow around the region, so that’s one less challenge to deal with. If it concerns you, I suggest you keep your itinerary loose to avoid driving in the dark. Meaning you should get to your accommodation by 4pm each day if it’s winter because the sun sets pretty early in winter.

      Travelling with young and old, the more I would opt to drive because public transport can be a real hassle with young and old.

      • Debbie says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,

        Just wondering. If I were to do the Hakone Round Course with the Hakone Tozan Railway, Cablecar, then cruise, what do I do with my rental car? Did you just park it at the hotel, and take public transport the whole way?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you plan to spend a day doing the round course, you can rent a car only after that. So for e.g. if you do the round course on your first day in Hakone, you can start your car rental on the second day onwards to the rest of the region.

          • Cath says:

            Sorry
            Don’t mean to scare u off on the hakone driving..
            I agreed with bumblebee mum who say drive back before 4pm as it get dark around 5pm..

            Driving depends on the driver confidence level.
            I have a Friend who is a sales man and he drives Everyday with a saloon car.
            When we went to Aussie to drive up a mountain, diving a hyundai IMAX car, he drives very slow.
            So I Guess is ok to drive at hakone, jus drive slower and go back earlier before sky get dark.
            With you having young and old Travelling together, car is a better choice. We were in Disney for 3 days and walk until legs are breaking. The last 2 days when we were in Tokyo city is another torture when kids don’t wish to walk.. everywhere in Tokyo is waking..
            It was such a luxury to have car when we were in Hakone.. jus tat we got very tense up and is pitch dark on the mountain area.
            Asking direction in Hakone is pretty useless cos the locals don’t really speak English..
            Only the tourist information or hotel reception can speak a bit better English..
            Jus be prepare to use lots of sign language or get Google translate to help

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I felt the exact same way as you! Tokyo can be really tiring to visit with kids. All the endless walking and trying to keep up to speed with everyone else and trying to make sure our kids don’t get in the way of all those people rushing for time. The second time I was in Tokyo, I decided to just drive. It was much less tiring but OMG, the parking and toll fees were a nightmare! Up to now I still can’t decide which is the lesser of two evils: The walking and crowded metro, or their exorbitant parking and toll fees.

              In comparison, driving around Hakone & Mount Fuji felt like such a reprieve!

              I tried using public transport at Hakone once and spent so much time waiting for the buses, I gave up. Rented a car on the second day and never looked back.

              • cath says:

                thanks to you – bumblebee mum for sharing all these itinerary..
                my kids love the slow house villa.. bear theme..

                we didn’t go to sagamiko in the end because is another 1.5 hr driving from gotemba..therefore we just stay around the slow house villa area where they also have some illumination festival with the 70m tall water fountain..

      • Mao says:

        Hi Bumblebee Mum
        thanks for your advice!

  68. Mike Sim says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    I am planning to bring my family for a Tokyo trip (16th to 26th dEcember)- and planned Mt Fuji Trip excursion from touch down to 16th to 19th using rental car from airport to kawaguchiko, gotemba and Snow Town Yeti.

    Based on your experience of self-driving in that region, do i need the snow tyres options?

    Thanks in advance for your recommendations and tips.

    Cheers,

    Mike

    • Mike Sim says:

      Hi Bumblebee Mum,

      My more precise itinerary and questions are as follow:

      We will touch down Haneda on early 17th morning, which is Saturday and will proceed to Kawaguchiko area for 3 days including having some skiing at Snow Town before coming back on 19th to Shinjuku area for the rest of the holiday. I have seen your self-driving posting and took your advice on car rental websites and now almost confirming my reservation for a suv car with snow tyres.

      But now i am hearing things from all over the internet about like expressway could be very expensive and driving out from tokyo and then back into it when returning the car is stressful affair for non-Japanese driver.

      Hence, would like to seek your advice:

      1) how long is the drive from Haneda airport to Kawaguchiko on Saturday morning? how much is the expressway toll charges? If i minimise toll by taking non-toll roads, would it be much longer to travel in the car?

      2) If alternatively i do not drive and take the bus/public transport to go to kawaguchiko, do you think it will be easy to move around? Or will it be easy to rent a car there to move around Kawaguchiko for 2days 1 night and return it before taking the train back to Shinjuku for a stress free travel?

      I haven’t been there at all so all i have known so far are hearsay. I dont mind paying a little bit of premium for convenience as we have 3 adults and 2 kids with 4 luggages to lug around. But do hope to save as much as possible if alternatives such as public transport into Mt Fuji area and then renting there for the outskirt moving around actually make sense too.

      Look forward to your advice and recommendation.

      Thanks and regards,

      Mike

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I usually request for snow tyres when I drive at the end of the year to be safe. Not that I’ve actually had a use for them because I’ve never actually encountered snow in the region before. But the snow tyres didn’t cost much and it’s more for a peace of mind than anything.

      • Mike Sim says:

        Hi Bumblebee Mum,

        Thanks for the tip. I think driving makes sense…..especially considering i may need to wait for the coach at 10am to depart vs taking the car and departing by 830am and take a slow drive with convenience to stop at the rest stops along the way to enjoy the offerings.

        Cheers,

        Mike

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah, that’s the thing about buses. You need to stick to their (usually not very frequent) timings. Just that you get to sleep on the bus but you can’t sleep when you’re driving.. lol!

  69. Yvonne says:

    Hotel Yamadaya is in Japanese only. How do I make a reservation with them?
    I am also travelling to Tokyo and the places you visited with a 1 year old boy. Any suggestions on the places to visit for a 3 days drive in these area?
    Should we rent a car from Narita airport and drive straight to this area on the first day?
    Do drop me an email. Thank you in advance.

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