I know you’re not supposed to give kids too much screen time, but sometimes it’s the only way to get anything done around the house. We let Tiny Dog use the YouTube Kids app, and he has a few favourite types of videos that he likes to watch: playgrounds, marble runs, and cool toys. One of the coolest toys that he likes to watch is plastic rail sets, known in Japan as purarail.
The Japanese language doesn’t have the same sounds as English. Turning English words into Japanese sounds is similar to a lossy compression on audio files – it can make things sound wrong.
The word “plastic” comes out as “pu-ra-su-ti-ku” and rail is “re-ru”. As if this wasn’t weird enough, this is sometimes written in letters as “Plarail”. Regardless of what you call it, purarail is pretty cool. You build a train track with interlocking plastic track pieces, and then put a battery powered, motorized train on the tracks. Most of the trains look like actual trains that you can find in Japan.
Like any toy / hobby, there are people who take this to the extreme, creating whole model towns with buildings, landscaping, and elaborate multi level track designs.
Since Tiny Dog was having a rough day with all of his mosquito bites, I picked up a starter set at Ito Yokado that had three suggested track layouts and came with a model of Doctor Yellow, the Shinkansen used to test tracks at high speed.
He absolutely loved it.
The rest of our evening was spent building tunnels for the little plastic train as it circled the tracks over and over. Watching my 76 year old father in law on the floor playing trains with my son was definitely a highlight of my vacation so far.