The Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (Shutoken Gaikaku Hosuiro) is a massive underground facility that protects Tokyo from floods at times of heavy rain and typhoons. It functions as a flood basin and an underground river by letting overflown water from the neigboring rivers out to Edogawa River. The tank, 177 meters long and 78 meters wide, has 59 giant concrete pillars and is often called the “Underground Temple”. Guided tours are available by reservation throughout the year (of course only when it’s empty!), but once a year, the channel is open to the public without prior reservations. Although regular guided tours have strict conditions, such as fair understanding of Japanese language (due to security reasons), this day visitors are welcome with fewer restrictions*.
*Conditions upon entry to the facility
- Children of kindergarten age and under cannot enter.
- Children under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
- Visitors are strongly recommended to wear shoes that are comfortable to walk in and that cover your toes, such as sneakers. Those with heels, pumps, sandals, etc. may be denied entry.
- There are no elevators and visitors are required to go up/down about 100 steps to and from the tank.
- Pets are not allowed to be taken to the tank.
- Please enter the tank at your own responsibility.
Place: Showa Drainage Pump Station…720 Kamikanasaki, Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture [Map]
Time: Saturday, November 12, 2011. 10:00am-3:30pm (last admission 3:00pm)
Access from Tokyo: (A) From Shinjuku Sta. take the JR Saikyo Line to Omiya Sta. and change to Tobu Noda Line, get off at Minami-Sakurai Sta.
(B) From Asakusa Sta. take the Tobu Isesaki Line to Kasukabe Sta. and change to Tobu Noda Line, get off at Minami-Sakurai Sta.
From Minami-Sakurai Sta. north exit, shuttle bus services are available (100 Yen).
Website: Kasukabe City (Japanese) / Edogawa River Office (English)
Famous for its depth and nicknamed “Mole Station”, the most distinctive feature of Doai Station is the long tunnel connecting the underground platform (northbound) and the station entrance above ground. This tunnel, with 486 steps in total, nearly 500m in distance and an elevation of 70.7m, makes a good warm-up before the hike, as well as a great “side adventure”.
After you reach the ground, walk for about 20 minutes to Doaiguchi Station where you can get on the ropeway to
Tenjindaira Staion. Being a ski mountain during the snow season, Tenjindaira is an open hillside where visitors can enjoy an easy walk among the flowers, or just feel the mountain breeze. Trekkers and hikers can go deeper into the mountain paths leading to one of Japan’s most famous and loved mountains, Mt. Tanigawadake. Though the cliffs and rocky parts are known for its dangerous-ness, there are other trails that are more easier to follow.
Place: Minakami Town, Gunma Prefecture [Map]
Ropeway Hours: 8am-5pm (weekends:7am-5pm)…last one going up leaves at 4:30pm, last one coming down leaves at 5pm
Ropeway Fare: 2,000 Yen (round ticket per adult) / 1,000 Yen (round ticket per child)
Access from Tokyo: From Tokyo Sta. take the JR Joetsu Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa Sta. and change to the JR Joetsu Line to reach Doai Sta.
Website: Tanigawadake Ropeway (Japanese)
Late September – November
Whilst Hakone is full of must-see landmarks year-round, Sengokuhara is definitely a place that you don’t want to miss this season. In late September, the meadow of pampas grass (Susuki) gradually starts to change its color from summer to fall, with green stems and golden ears. As the season deepens, the color changes completely and the grass makes gentle golden waves across the hillside. Visitors can enjoy a walk along the path through the grass field, and for those who’d like a view from a higher place, a tiny hike will lead you to a point where you can look down across the area.
From September 23 through November 6, the “Sengokuhara Susuki Bus” linking Gora Station and Sengokuhara stopping by at other major tourist spots on the way, runs on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.
>> Read more on Hakone
Place: Sengokuhara, Hakonemachi, Ashigarashimogun, Kanagawa Prefecture [Map]
Parking: Temporary parking space available until November 30.
Access from Tokyo: From Shinjuku Sta. take the Odakyu Romance Car to Hakone-Yumoto Sta. From Hakone-Yumoto Sta. either take the Hakone Tozan Bus (Togendai Line) to “Sengoku-Kogen” bus stop (about 30 min.), or take the Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora Sta. and then change to bus. There are also direct bus services from Shinjuku Sta. to “Sengoku-Kogen” by Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus.
Website: Hakone Navi (English)
With woods, gardens, fields, a dune, a mini amusement area with rides, and cycling courses sewing through the vast park, one can spend a full day enjoying a variety of activities and seasonal flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park. Among the fields of cosmos, zinnia, spider lilies and pampas grass, the hill filled with kochia – or summer cypress, broom cypress, if not burning bush – is perhaps the most rare and eye-catching to see in Japan. The hill of this fluffy-looking (but actually quite prickly) shrub, more often seen on brooms than on the ground in eastern Asia, creates a peculiar yet attractive view in autumn when the branches and stems turn bright red. Here, visitors are welcome to walk among the bushes and climb to the top of the hill to get a nice view down the red hill and across the large park. Although the most famous is its “autumn foliage”, the hill shows a different charm when the shrubs are still green, before turning ablaze.
Place: Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture [Map]
Holidays: Mondays* *When a Monday is a public holiday, the park will be open on that day and will be closed on the following day instead. *The park will be open everyday from Oct 1-31.
Admission: Adults (15-64 yrs) 400 Yen / Children (6-14 yrs) 80 Yen / Silver (65 yrs+) 200 Yen
Children under 5 years old and people with disabilities (must carry a valid “shogaisha-techo”) are free of admission (and parking fee in some cases). Visitors are welcome to bring their pets with a leash.
Access from Tokyo: From Ueno Sta., take the JR Joban Line super express “Hitachi” to Katsuta Sta. From Katsuta Sta. take the local bus from bus stop #1 and get off at Kaihin-Koen-Nishiguchi.
Website: Hitachi Seaside Park official website (Japanese)
Late September – Early October
Spider lily, commonly known by the name Higanbana in Japanese, reaches full bloom around autumn equinox. Although the species can be seen almost anywhere in the country from Hokkaido to Okinawa, approximately 1 million of them blooming among the thicket and by the river here at Kinchakuda is a rare sight, and the contrast between the red and green creates a truly beautiful view.
This year, due to the large day-night temperature difference and fair amount of rain in August, blooming is expected to be relatively early. Full bloom only lasts for
5-6 days, and Kinchakuda charges a small fee for admission during the blooming season (usually one week before and after full bloom).
Place: Kinchakuda, Hidaka City, Saitama Prefecture [Map]
Dates: To be announced (after the lilies start blooming)
Admission: 200 Yen* *students under 15 years old (junior high school) and people with disabilities (must carry a valid “shogaisha-techo”) are free of charge
Access from Tokyo: From Ikebukuro Sta., take the Seibu Ikebukuro Line to Koma Sta. Kinchakuda is about 15 min. away on foot from Koma Sta.
Website: Kinchakuda official website (Japanese)
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