Located in the middle of the country, Ichikawa Prefecture has some of Japan's most beautiful mountain scenery and seaside resorts, making it an ideal vacation spot for overworked Tokyoites.
We took a 6-hour fast train to the Noto Peninsula to check out some of the region’s famous hot springs. There are a number of terrific inns, or onsens in the area with hot springs bathing facilities. Traditionally located outdoors and used communally – often in the nude - we opted for the Kagaya ryokan in Wakura Onsen with a private indoor bath.
As relaxing the tranquil as the whole ryokon experience was, our boys wanted some action. So we took a 30-minute bus ride to the local Notojima Aquarium.
Being there in the off-season, it felt like we had the place to ourselves. Given the sparse attendance at the sea lion and dolphin show, my son was picked to assist in feeding the animals after performing a trick. OK, maybe it was because we were the only westerners in the audience, but so what.
The aquarium, open from 9-4:30/5pm almost every day of the year has some pretty impressive exhibits that rival many of the ones I’ve seen in the U.S. The jelly fish tank is particularly awe-inspiring, while the interactive touch tank allowed the kids to pet sting rays, sea urchins, and star fish. The underwater tunnel is the largest in Japan and features a wide variety of marine life swimming overhead, including dolphins. There’s even a tank where you can watch resident whale sharks swimming by.