Tokyo Winter Holiday, part 3: Shizuoka - Mt. Fuji and Snow Town Yeti

The closest to snow we ever got to experience was at Star City Snow World several years ago. When the kids tried ice skating, nag-collect sila ng shaved ice, formed into balls and pretended it was snow, hahaha! Since then, they kept asking when we can exerience actual snow. It was only last December that we got the chance to visit a ski resort in Tokyo, saw the snow-capped Mt. Fuji, and witnessed a (light) snow fall on our last day. Swerte! Very memorable talaga especially for the children.

This last installment of my 3-part Tokyo series will feature the hightlights of our trip -- seeing the majestic Mt. Fuji and our first snow encounter at Snow Town Yeti.


Overview of our Tokyo Itinerary
It's not the best, but this worked out for us based on family interests and limited time. I'll include some of the attractions and places that I really wanted to visit but didn't push through (see items in parenthesis from the itinerary below).

Travel date:  December 26 - 31, 2017
Tavel time Manila-Tokyo: approx. 5 hrs. 15 mins. via PAL
Time difference:  Japan is 1 hour advance
Forex:  est. Php 0.46 = 1 Yen
Hotel:  Shinjuku Prince Hotel

Day 1  :  Shibuya, Harajuku and Omotesando areas (Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park are nearby)
Day 2  :  Tsukiji, Akihabara, and Ikebukuro areas  (Ginza, Asakusa - Tokyo Tower, Senso-ji 
               Temple and Ueno Park+Zoo are alternative destinations after Tsukiji)
Day 3  :  Shinjuku - Gyoen National Park and shopping day (Tokyo Metropolitan Government
               Bldg. Observatory and Samurai Museum can be added)
Day 4  :  Shizuoka - Mt. Fuji and Snow Town Yeti (Gotemba Premium Outlet as side trip, Fuji
               Five Lakes, and Chureito Pagoda)
Day 5  :  Narita airport (lunch and last-minute shopping at the airport)



*We could have visited the observatory in Tokyo Metropolitan Bldg. but it slipped my mind.

Our third day in Tokyo was free and easy. We only planned to visit a nearby park and go shopping around Shinjuku, so no need to wake up early. We all met up for lunch at one of the restaurants in Subnade, which is just at basement 2 of our hotel building.

After lunch, we went to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden -- about 15 minutes walk from our hotel. Always use Google Maps for directions =). My boys decided to skip the park coz J wasn't feeling well and he wanted to rest so he'll be better for our "snow day". The boy would rather chill at the hotel than walk or shop. His scoliosis makes him tire easily from prolonged standing or walking.

One of the biggest and most popular parks of Tokyo, Gyoen park is just a few minutes walk from Shinjuku station. The sprawling botanical garden features ponds, pavilions, a greenhouse, and a harmonious blend of English, French, and Japanese style landscape gardens.
Screen capture of Google Images for "Gyoen Park"

The weather was perfect that day and we didn't see a lot of people when we got to the entrance.
Lo and behold, the garden was closed!!! Waaaahhh... sayang ang punta namin, wrong timing, kainis! Of all the days we were in Shinjuku, we picked the date it was closed. December 29. Boohoo!

Kaya, if you are planning to go to the park, remember:
  • Closed : Every Monday and new year holiday, December 29 to January 3.
  • Open : Everyday during special cherry blossom season (late March to late April) and  Chrysanthemum Exhibition (first half of November). Check before you go.
  • Hours : 9am - 4:30pm. Last entry at 4:00pm.
  • Entrance fee : 200Yen.
I bet the gardens look enchanting during spring, with the wide variety of blooms and sakura!

The long and winding road... as seen behind the gates.

Siyempre hindi namin na-research ito in advance coz this was not a priority when we were planning. If we only have free time, then we go. And we did. But too bad it was the wrong day. Anyway, the kids still enjoyed running around freely outside the gates and we took a few souvenir shots before heading to our next destination. 

Tokyu Hands - Takashimaya Times Square
Shopping with kids and teens would mean toys and accessories, novelty, stationery and supplies. Tokyu Hands carry everything -- a one-stop shop for home, gifts, and personal needs.

This branch in Takashimaya covers the 2nd up to 8th floors with merchandise on each floor showcasing a different category such as hardware, houseware, toys, stationery, travel, personal care, etc. etc.  Click here to take a peek.

Screen capture of Google Images for "Tokyu Hands"

Again, sorry wala akong pictures kasi I was not in a shopping mood with all the crowd and seeing rows and rows of shelves with all sorts of items that I don't really need. They did not "spark joy", naks! Mari Kondo will be pleased with me, hehe. Remember, I am in the process of decluttering na, and Tokyu Hands is a wasteland of lots and lots of STUFF that will cause impulse buys.

I surprised myself and walked out without buying anything, except of a few Tombow eraser refills and Totoro stickers for the girl, hehehe! Looking back, I wished I was more patient to browse and buy some unique gift items or home accessories.

By the time we reached the 8th floor with the cousins, she was already starting to get restless and hungry. We went our own way from my brother's family and found a nice cafe a few floors down. We had a sosi meriyenda of (not so good) cakes and coffee. =)

We did some shopping before dinner and our favorite stores were Bicqlo and Donki. We're lucky that these two buildings are within a 10-minute walk from our hotel, kaya ang dali lang to go back whenever we please.

Bicqlo is the marriage of two hugely famous Japanese retailers -- Bic Camera electronics store and Uniqlo fashion house. Shop here if you want to check out electronics and general merchandise, like what you find in huge department stores. Of course we all know what to expect from Uniqlo apparel. Both are housed in one building, located in Shinjuku, and you can spend hours inside. Foreign passport holders can get Tax Rebates upon check out.

Don Quijote, or Donki, is the biggest discount store in Japan that also offers tax rebates.
You can find anything there, from cosmetics to houseware, apparel and timepieces, furniture, even drugstore and grocery items! Be sure to include Donki in your itinerary for some bargain finds... and  Japanese junk food, hehe.

Always bring your passport to claim shopping tax rebates. Stores display signs if they are "tax free", so take advantage. More tips in part 1.
We bought a few items for the kids in Uniqlo, and hoarded some Japanese snacks from Donki.

Back story:
After dinner, we discussed our plans for the next day's trip to Snow Town Yeti. (Dun din nagpunta si Scarlet Snow Belo Kho recently, hehehe!)
Yeti was completely last-minute, kasi originally, we agreed on Gala Yuzawa ski resort. It's a huge resort and more expensive siyempre, but is just one direct shinkansen ride away from Tokyo. Long story short, after several considerations, we ended up going to Snow Town Yeti instead.

Gotemba was also not planned kasi wala naman mag-sho-shopping sa outlet stores. Snow talaga ang priority. And since we haven't seen Mt. Fuji yet, this was the best route to take for a day trip since Mt. Fuji is very visible from Gotemba. Plus, the station has buses or taxis that can take us to Snow Town Yeti. Hitting two birds with one stone na kami.


* Seeing Mt. Fuji via Yamanashi Five Lakes may have been a more spectacular experience (check Shizuoka cloud forecast, ideally < 10% cloud for best visibility). 
Consider Lake Kawaguchiko or Lake Ashi tour depending on the time you are going. 
It's convenient to sign up and book your tours via Klook. I was supposed to book one of the Mt. Fuji tours but naubusan na kami ng tickets coz we decided late.
A side trip to Chureito Pagoda also provides a different view, and another option it to take the ropeway in Hakone for an aerial view of Mt. Fuji.

Early morning of Day 4, my brother and I walked to the Shinjuku bus terminal to buy our tickets for Gotemba, Shizuoka. Children 12 years old and below have discounted rates.

Unfortunately, etong ticketing officer does not speak nor understand English very well. Good thing the lady at the customer service area was very accommodating and assisted in translating for us to change the kids' tickets. Tickets were changed and extra payment was refunded.

From Shinjuku terminal, we took the Odakyu Highway Bus going to Gotemba bus station.
  • Bus fare was around 3000Yen (kids half price) - round trip between Shinjuku and Gotemba stations (sorry, I threw away our bus tickets and forgot exact amounts)
  • Get bus schedule from the terminal. 
  • Take note of departure and arrival times between stations - very important to calculate so you can maximize your stay and not be left behind
  • Travel time by bus was around 90 minutes, with several station stops in between

First time to ride a bus with a toilet, cable outlets, and free wifi! Parang airplane toilet daw sabi ng kids, hehe. It was a very convenient feature especially with a toddler in tow.

On our bus ride to Shizuoka, we expected to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. I checked the weather and cloud forecast that day and it was very good.

(These 2 photos are actually video stills. I used my phone to record a video during our bus ride.) 

We were supposed to transfer to a JR bus from Gotemba station going to Snow Town Yeti.
  • JR Bus to Snow Town Yeti - we picked the ride that leaves Gotemba at 11:15 am
    • Be sure to get the bus schedules ahead of time coz the trips to Yeti are infrequent, maybe 2 departure times only in the morning
  • From Gotemba station, there are FREE Shuttle rides for those going to Gotemba Premium Outlets
Malas namin ang traffic that morning so we missed the 11:15 bus! No other option but to take the more expensive taxi ride -- mostly for 4 pax only per car. Negotiate directly with cab drivers if you are more than 4, but no guarantee. They are strict with passenger head count.
  • Taxi fare was about 7500Yen from Gotemba station to Snow Town Yeti.
  • Ask for a calling card so you can Call for taxi service to pick up from Yeti and back to Gotemba station
  • Travel time by taxi was around 40 minutes.

Gotenba town proper

One awesome taxi ride with an excellent view of Fuji-san.

On the road from Gotemba to Yeti, we never expect to have THIS glorious view! 100% visibility, woohoo! Clear blue skies that day. The clouds were cooperative! #blessed  =)

Thank you, Fuji-san, you are majestic!

(These 2 photos are video stills, recorded during our taxi ride to Yeti.) 

We have arrived. Finally, we saw snow! Haha... not as much as expected but the overall experience was really cool --  literally and figuratively.

Area Map of Snow Town Yeti

Admission Ticket = 1000Yen / 500Yen for kids & seniors
One Day Ticket = 4000Yen / 3000Yen for kids & seniors

Walang may gusto mag-ski, puro sledding and playing lang so we only paid for admission.
They require One-Day ticket if you plan to ski or snowboard. 

I forgot about this rental ticket with the red stamp. 
Not sure if it was for the helmet or the sled that was "ordered" from the ticket vending machine, and claimed inside the reception desk. 
Can anyone read the Japanese text on the ticket and translate for me? =)

Rental fees are separate.

What we liked about Snow Town Yeti:
  • Family-friendly facilities
  • Safe play areas and good-sized kid zones for small children
  • Reasonable rates
  • Very accessible from Tokyo
  • Rentals and store merchandise are complete for all activities offered
Browse through their facilities here.

It was past lunch time when we got there (see time stamp at the bottom of the yellow ticket above) so everyone was famished. Since we missed the bus, we arrived late, and we just wanted to eat quickly so we can all go play in the snow.

We ate at their in-house restaurant as soon as we arrived. Our noodles and rice bowl orders took too long to arrive, parang more than 30 minutes ata, considering it was via numbered electronic ordering system. Ang tagal ng open kitchen process nila, sayang yung waiting time naminHindi pa masarap. We only enjoyed the Cremia ice cream.

So what's the game plan, kids? =)

Weeeee... down she goes! My teen-aged niece trying out the kiddie sled, hahaha!

Perfect weather to be at the resort that day - cold but sunny, with clear blue skies and Mt. Fuji peeking behind the main building from our spot on the sled slope.

Sayang we were not able to go to the ski slopes and ride the lift kasi it's just for those who will ski or snowboard.

The happy boy building his angular snowman. :P
The happy girl pulling her sled filled with snow. :D

Even grown-ups can't get enough sledding.

Can you spot our girls getting ready to slide?

Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow... 

I suggest you buy water-resistant/waterproof gloves for the kids who will play in the snow. 
M was wearing knitted gloves that day so the whole palm side was too wet and frosting for her to continue using it. Good thing they also sell accessories and gear so we bought her a new one (worn in photo above).  

What to wear and bring:
  • Hooded winter jackets, pants, non-skid boots, gloves, bonnets 
    • Extra change of clothes, especially bottoms for kids
  • Hand towel to dry off after play time
  • Sunglasses, lip balm
  • Plastic bag / wet bags to store wet items
  • Handy snacks and water that can fit in your bag
Rent other sports gear as needed.

Mt. Fuji sighting, check.
Snow experience, check.

Mission accomplished!
Here's our Day 4 in Shizuoka

Us, during our last dinner of the trip. The teen boy and toddler boy did not join us anymore, while M was hiding behind my phonecam here. It was the best day despite the hiccups in the between. Everybody happy... and tired at the end of the day, kasi traffic din pabalik ng Shinjuku from Gotemba.

Departure: December 31, Narita Airport

We checked out of the hotel at 9:30 am coz travel time to Narita is approx. 70 minutes and our flight was at 1:00pm. Our uber ride arrived at 9:45am.

Last day of the year and it snowed in Shinjuku just minutes before we left the hotel! M was literally jumping for joy under the falling snowflakes. Watch this short clip.

The light snow fall did not last long though. Still, how lucky can we get?! Perfect ending to a wonderful family holiday.

We love you, Tokyo! We wanna go back to explore other cities, with better planning next time and maybe an extended stay. Only good memories made here. Arigato and see you again, Japan!

Snapshots and video clips of #jmltokyo on Instagram Stories and Highlights.

PART 1 - Shinjuku - Shibuya

Where and what we ate in Tokyo:

Other reference sites I used:

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