There’s too much other stuff going on in the world at the moment anyway!!
Today is our last day in Japan. We have some family coming to visit in the afternoon, but I wanted to get Tiny Dog out for some fun during the day. The Penpal’s father dropped off TD and I at a nearby playground.
The playground was near a large park, and had a big fun play structure that was full of kids. TD had been here before, and quickly started climbing and playing among the other kids. He kept trying to talk to the other kids in English, so I had to keep reminding him to speak Japanese.
At the playground there was one little girl who kept staring at me every time she walked by. Eventually her curiosity got the better of her, and she asked her father loudly in Japanese “Daddy, why is there a foreigner at the playground?”. Her father, embarrassed, tried to shush the little girl as I tried not to laugh. A few minutes later after I said something in Japanese to TD, she went back to her father and excitedly told him “Daddy! The foreigner is speaking Japanese!”, again followed by her father trying to get her to be quiet.
I find that in Japan, TD does a pretty good job of blending in with Japanese people. He has some Asian features to his face, although his hair is brown instead of black. When he speaks Japanese he sounds like almost any other 3 year old speaking Japanese. He doesn’t look completely Japanese, but he looks much more Japanese than I do. I have wavy blond hair, a large nose, a goatee (not common in Japan), and am usually wearing at least one item of clothing with Canadian flags on it. I am easy to notice in a crowd of Japanese people.
In my 3 years of teaching English in Japan, I got used to people staring at me because I was different. Adults would try to sneak a look, but kids, having no filters at all, would be happy to stare or say something to friends or family. This happens much more often the further you get away from major cities and into the smaller towns where it’s less common to see gaijins.
The whole experience was a funny reminder of my previous time in Japan. I’m curious to see how people react to TD and I as he grows up!
The Penpal and I love traveling together! Our destination highlights include numerous places in Japan, Korea (the nice one, not the crazy one), Jamaica, Banff, Niagara Falls, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, San Francisco, and even Fargo, North Dakota.
There is something about being away from work and home that really makes a person feel, how can I put this delicately, energetic? Our previous vacations have always allowed us freedom to spend some “quality spouse time” together. (Yes, even in Fargo)
This trip to Japan is the first out of town vacation that The Penpal and I have taken since we became parents. We found that while the spirit was willing, the opportunities were severely limited due to the presence of our wonderful child.
On previous trips to Japan, a visit to another city would have been a golden opportunity to really enjoy our vacation. This time we had a tiny person sleeping in our room. Making the problem worse is the fact that Japanese hotels have very small bathrooms which are not at all friendly for extracurricular activities.
Vacation just isn’t the same as it used to be.
As you may guess from the title, this story contains poop. Don’t worry – there is not a single picture to be found.
When traveling, it’s not unusual to have some issues with your digestive system. Diarrhea is the most common illness for travelers, however our 3 year old son Tiny Dog just had to be different and had the exact opposite problem. The poor kid was just not regular.
Tired kids are fussy and irratable. Adding constipation into the mix magnifies the problem and has the potential to create one miserable child. For the past few days my in laws have been giving TD some probiotics which they claimed would help, but we hadn’t had any success in the past few days.
After a full day of travel and exploring Nagoya Aquarium, we returned to Nagoya station to find some dinner and then check into our hotel. TD loves Japanese curry, which is not something he got to eat much at the in-laws house. The Penpal and I promised him curry on our Nagoya visit, so we stopped in at a nearby Coco Ichibanya, a national chain restaurant that has a great kids meal and multilingual menus.
TD demolished his kids meal of curry rice, sausage, chicken nuggets, corn, and jello. We were finishing our dinner when suddenly he got quiet. And then he got the look on his face.
The poopoo look.
All parents are able to recognize that look in their kids. It’s the look that tells you that you are too late, things are happening, and there’s going to be some cleanup required.
The Penpal took TD out of the restaurant while I settled up the bill. According to the good people at Google Maps, we had about an 850 meter walk to our hotel. We put our increasingly stinky child into his stroller, and set out through the busy streets of central Nagoya.
Most big hotels in Japan have staff that handle the check-in process in English. However, we knew that we were in a hurry so I let The Penpal handle things in Japanese. As TD sat in the lobby, I started to smell something nasty. I started pushing the stroller around to spread out the smell, hoping that it would be harder for other people to notice.
The Japanese service industry is famous for speed and efficiency. Usually a hotel check-in with a prior reservation should only take a few minutes. However, The Penpal was dealing with an employee in training who was having trouble processing the check in, foreign credit card payment, Legoland one day passes, and breakfast vouchers that were part of our reservation.
As we approached the 15 minute mark of our check-in, I noticed that the smell coming from TD was getting worse. I discovered the reason when he leaned forward slightly: his diaper was not able to contain the several day buildup, and thanks to the stroller the poop had escaped in the easiest direction:
Straight. Up. His. Back.
This wasn’t just a little bit – it was a full on level 5 poo-splosion. Doing laps around the lobby was not going to help much longer, we needed to get him cleaned up ASAP.
Just as I was starting to panic internally, The Penpal finally got our room keys. We raced to the elevator and down the hall to our room, where we spent the next 20 minutes washing clothes carefully.
I generally try to be a “silver lining” kid of person and realize that as bad as things are, they could always be worse. TD could have unleashed his intestinal fury on the 20 minute train ride from the aquarium to Nagoya station, although I am pretty sure that the curry had something to do with the situation.
Kids are disgusting.
This morning we left Numazu bound for a two day trip to Nagoya. The main items on our agenda were a visit to Nagoya Aquarium and a day at Legoland Japan.
Getting to Nagoya was easy – The Penpal’s father dropped us off at Mishima station where we boarded the Shinkansen to Nagoya. While traveling I downloaded a GPS speedometer app for my phone. Our train topped out at 268km per hour (173 mph for my American friends). Very cool!
Unlike getting to Nagoya, getting around Nagoya was not so easy. Nagoya has several private railway companies that service most of the city, requiring multiple tickets and transfers. Navigating between lines is a bit confusing for Nagoya newbies like ourselves. We eventually got pointed in the right direction and made it to the Nagoya port area.
The first thing I noticed at the port was a giant boat – the retired antarctic survey ship. The second thing I noticed, before even the interesting design of the aquarium building, was that Nagoya port had a Red Lobster. In all my time in Japan, I had never seen a Red Lobster before – there are tens of thousands of options for seafood, so I never expected that an American seafood chain would have even a single location (in fact they have 24).
The Aquarium itself is huge, with exhibits spread out between two buildings and a large outdoor area for shows. There is a huge selection of marine life from around the world. Highlights include an big room full of penguins, colourful coral reefs, and more jellyfish than I have ever seen in one place before.
In addition to exploring the marine life displays, we also watched a dolphin show. Tiny Dog absolutely loved the show, but he kept looking in the wrong place when the dolphins went underwater. The large screen in the background helped. I like dolphin shows, but I was more excited by the fact that I could get a cold beer at the concession stand. Drinking a beer in the middle of the afternoon is totally okay if you are on vacation or watching any kind of performance.
I never thought I would ever find an aquarium better than the stunning Osaka Aquarium, but I think I might have to give Nagoya Aquarium the win due to penguins. Totally recommended for guests of all ages, make sure you leave a few hours to see everything.
Due to a last minute change in our trip to Nagoya, I ended up with no plans today. I decided to hop on a bicycle to go pick up some souvenirs.
Getting around in “small town” Japan can be challenging; nearly all of the streets are unnamed and filled with buildings that have difficult to read signs. Back in my teaching days I got around using an atlas of local street maps. Today I had the benefit of technology, and got around thanks to the good people at Google Maps. Google had me expertly weaving around streets that were barely wide enough for a car. Without my phone I would have stayed on major routes or gotten completely lost.
My first stop was a toy store, where “Santa” picked up a cool Christmas present for Tiny Dog. I also got some Japanese exclusive Lightning McQueen stuff for my friend’s daughter, a huge fan of Cars. Next I went to Daiso and loaded up on mystery snacks to unleash on my friends at home. I don’t know what “salt tomato” candies are, but I’m going to find out.
Before leaving the shopping center, I stopped in at Mister Donut for a snack. Back in my teaching days I was not a fan of Mister Donut; being a patriotic Canadian, I like my donuts Tim Horton’s style. MD’s recipe must be more suited to Japanese tastes, explaining why The Penpal prefers their donuts to Tim Hortons. We are able to work past our donut differences by agreeing on cheesecake. Mmmm cheesecake!
Since Mister Donut was right next to where I parked my bike, I decided to give them another chance. I went in and chose from a huge assortment of very nice looking donuts, which I supplemented with an ice coffee. The coffee was delicious, the donut did not taste as good as it looked.
After my donut I took a scenic bike ride back home, driving by my old apartment building and stopping in at the 7-11 across the street. This particular 7-11 will always have a warm place in my heard, having provided about 50% of my meals and almost all of the beer I drank at home for the entire time I lived in Numazu. The clerk at the register was the same, and she may have even given me a look of recognition as I entered the store.
Overall I had a fun, easygoing day exploring and shopping. It was one of the most relaxing vacation days I’ve had so far.
Author’s note: Do NOT eat salt tomato candies.
Other than coming to Japan, the most exciting part about our trip is an upcoming visit to Legoland Japan, the newly opened Lego theme park in Nagoya. Tiny Dog has spent a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of Legoland in Florida. When we found out that a Legoland had opened in Japan, we knew that we had to go (sorry Universal Studios Japan).
There are several hotels in Nagoya that offer a package that includes hotel room, breakfast, and adult tickets to Legoland. Our plan was to take a two day trip to Nagoya, with travel to Nagoya and a visit to the aquarium on the first day, followed by Legoland and returning home on the second day. I booked a hotel package online that had us checking in on Tuesday, June 27 and going to Legoland on Wednesday, June 28. There was no indication on the hotel’s website that these dates might present a problem.
While I was looking up details about getting around in Nagoya, I happened to discover that Legoland is closed every Tuesday and Wednesday. I can’t imagine how miserable it would be to show up at a fun theme park with an excited kid, only to find it was closed; I think it would be on par with finding Santa’s corpse stuck in the chimney on Christmas morning.
The Penpal called the hotel and changed our reservation so we would check in on Wednesday and go to Legoland on Thursday. Thankfully we dodged a huge bullet that would have sucked the fun out of our trip to Nagoya.
Always check the hours of operations before you make plans. ALWAYS.