SIDE TRIP: Yokosuka
Located on the western coast of Tokyo Bay, 80 minutes by train from Tokyo station, Yokosuka is a hotbed of naval history. It was here that Commodore Matthew C. Perry initiated the opening of the country in the 1850s, and today the city is home to a major naval facility used by the United States and Japan.
The main attraction is Mikasa Naval Park, a 20-minute stroll from Yokosuka station. The Mikasa was Admiral Togo’s flagship in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, but it sank in Sasebo harbor in Kyushu shortly afterwards, taking over 300 crewmen with it. Successfully salvaged after several attempts, the ship was put back into service until 1921, and was later given a permanent home at Yokosuka. In the postwar years, it fell into a ruinous state of decay, but was restored in the late ’50s with generous financial support from the Americans.
Today, it offers a glimpse of what life would have been like for sailors a century ago, and houses a museum containing models and displays about the Japanese Navy. Most of the information is provided in English, and you could easily spend an hour boning up on your naval history, or just taking in the view of Tokyo Bay while admiring the enormous guns on the deck.
Every hour, a boat leaves from Mikasa Pier for Sarushima (literally, Monkey Island), a couple of kilometers offshore. This is the only natural island in Tokyo Bay, and though you won’t find any actual monkeys, it’s home to a wide diversity of plants and wildlife.
Today, Yokosuka City has turned Sarushima into an open-air “eco museum,” which has made it a popular day trip destination for history buffs, beachgoers and fishermen. The island is also frequented by tokusatsu fans, who know it as the location of Shocker’s secret base in Kamen Rider, while during the summer its modest sand beach is packed with swimmers and sunbathers.
If you aren’t tempted back to shore by the Yokosuka specialties of kaigun (navy) curry and US-style Yokosuka burgers, Sarushima is an ideal place for a beach BBQ. Bring your own food and you can rent or buy anything else you need on the island, including grills, chairs, parasols, tableware and drinks?though be warned that the prices are a little steep. Enjoy your meal on the beach or at tables and chairs on the wooden deck overlooking the bay.
After lunch, it’s time to go for a wander. Get a map at the Visitor’s Center or follow the signs dotted around the area. Most information is in Japanese, and you won’t find much English on the explanatory signs at historical sites, but exploring the old fortresses and tunnels is still great fun. The majority of the trails are paved, and the whole island is easily covered in an hour, assuming you don’t dawdle too long admiring the ocean views. Finish the day off with a bottle of the locally produced Sarushima beer, and be sure not to miss the last ferry back to Yokosuka at 5pm.
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FEATURE: Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Popular to foreign visitors and locals alike, one of Jakarta’s main attractions is Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, or Taman Mini for short.
It is quite impossible to see all the sights of Taman Mini in a single day as it spans an area of 250 acres. However, visitors have to option of bringing their own vehicles or renting a bicycle to move around the park. Special trains and boats are also available, however the best way to view the park is by riding the Skylift Indonesia cable car which provides a spectacular aerial view of the miniature Indonesian archipelago in the center lake. As it can get pretty crowded on weekends, prepare for a long queue.
Literally translated as Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park, Taman Mini stays true to its name by offering a miniature representation of the various Indonesian provinces. Houses from each province are built around the park and showcase traditional costumes, weapons and tools unique to each area. Religious buildings such as mosques, churches and temples can also be found as well as gardens and museums. A Reptile Park houses a fully grown komodo dragon which guests can pet and take pictures with for Rp 5,000. The Snow Bay waterpark, which features various water slides, lures most locals during the hot and dry season.
Located in East Jakarta, near Kampung Rambutan, Taman Mini is about 18 km from the city center and takes around an hour and a half assuming moderate traffic conditions. Take any bus to Kampung Rambutan Terminal and then a T15 metro mini to the park entrance. A taxi is much quicker and will cost around Rp 60,000 from central Jakarta, plus the tolls. However the best way to get to and around the park is by private vehicle.
Entrance to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah for persons over 3 years old is priced at Rp 9,000 with extra charge for a car (Rp 10,000), scooter (Rp 6,000) or bicycle (Rp 1,000). Various buildings, transportation and museums charge extra for entrance and services. More information in Indonesian is available on their website http://www.tamanmini.com.
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