Archive for category Places in Japan
Last night I went to a farewell party with Kim and Kame before crashing on their couch. In the morning we all woke up hungover, and lurched our way out for breakfast like 3 zombies. Fortunately the restaurant we went to sold coffee in one liter pitchers.
After feeding and caffeinating ourselves, we took a nostalgia tour of Noborito so I could take some pictures of Hello House and the new and improved Noborito station. I lived in the area for a year, and the station was under construction almost the entire time. The completed station looked great! Around the station area there were also a lot of changes. Nothing ever stays the same in the Greater Tokyo Area.
Kim and Kame accompanied me to Asakusa for souvenir shopping. The shopping area in front of Sensoji temple is a fantastic place to get souvenirs: I had been there so many times that I already knew which stores I wanted to hit. This was possibly my last chance to do souvenir shopping in Tokyo, so I made it count. I ended up leaving with a fully loaded backpack and several shopping bags, looking like a pale pack mule.
After parting ways with my friends, I decided to take the Tokaido Line home, stopping at Kawasaki station. My first English school was near the station, so I was very familiar with the area. Like Noborito I was shocked at all the changes around the station area that happened over the past 2 years. Hostess bars and pachinko had been replaced by and supplemented with new stores, game centres, and movie theatres. As I enjoyed a delicious burger at Becker’s I realized that Kawasaki would likely be unrecognizable to me when I returned the next time. Kawasaki is usually not near the top of anyone’s Japan sightseeing list, but I’m really going to miss it.
As part of my farewell tour, I went to Kawasaki today to meet up with my old housemate Kim. We went out for okonomiyaki in Noborito before meeting up with her fiancee Kame.
Kim was one of the most fun people I had met during my time at Hello House, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that Kame was a pretty cool guy as well. We all went to Yoyogi park to join up with a Hello House leaving party for someone who had moved in after my time there. Living in a dorm filled with English teachers means lots of people coming and going. You never really get to know everyone well, but you do get to attend a lot of farewell parties. Almost every farewell party I have attended in Japan was at an izakaya, so an outdoor party was a nice change of pace. I’m really going to miss the ability to drink legally in public when I return to Canada!
Eventually, like with every other party, we ended up at karaoke. I introduced Kame and Kim to Sad Cows Song which they instantly loved. We got back to their apartment late and I spent the night on the couch. It was a very fun day but the morning is going to hurt.
Today I went to Tokyo to do some shopping. From Numazu to Tokyo station it’s only about an hour on the shinkansen, or about 2 hours on the Tokaido line.
My first stop was the wonderful Blue Parrot book store near Takadanobaba station, home to used English books, movies, and CDs. I really should have done this last because I ended up carrying heavy books around for the rest of my day.
My next stop was Ginza to look for a long overdue sympathy card for a friend of the family who had passed away recently. Sympathy cards are very different in Japan – I hadn’t had any luck shopping in Numazu. I had heard good things about Ito-Ya, the 100 year old Stationary store in Ginza. It’s located between Tiffany and Co and Bulgari, both stores that I can’t afford to window shop in. Ito-Ya’s selection was HUGE – I never thought I would be entertained looking around a stationary store. After some searching I found something that would work as a sympathy card in Canada.
My final stop was Akihabara, which is always a fun place to explore when you have free time. I was trying to find stores that sold English language video games. It’s very easy to find places to buy games in Japan, but there are only a few places that import English language versions of games. Finding these is not easy, but it’s still easier than learning enough Japanese to play RPGs.
I’m lucky that I live only a few hours away from one of the worlds biggest and most exciting cities. Not everyone can just hop on a train for a shopping trip to Tokyo!
Legoland Japan is amazing!
This morning The Penpal, Tiny Dog, and I checked out of our hotel and set off for Legoland Japan. We boarded Aonami line from near our hotel on a train packed with salarymen. The journey to Legoland took us through some of the extensive port areas in Nagoya, passing by rows and rows of new cars ready to be loaded onto a boat for overseas shipping.
After 25 minutes of ports and industry, we arrived at Kinjofuto station, located on a small island which is home to a conference center, restaurants, railway museum, and most importantly, Legoland.
Legoland is a theme park designed for ages 2-12. I could probably write a few thousand words about how amazing Legoland was, and we didn’t even see all of it. Some of the highlights include:
- Large models of famous Japanese landmarks made from 10.5 million Lego bricks. Even better, there were lots of moving parts that could be activated by pushing buttons
- A live Ninjago puppet show!
- A pirate area where people in boats engage in a water battle with people on shore
- An area where kids could drive Lego cars
- A motherfreaking Lego submarine with views of real and Lego fish
- Three different playgrounds
- So many rides, and none of them too scary for little kids
- A huge indoor Lego construction area
The one thing that Legoland didn’t have was protection from the insane humidity. By the end of our Lego day we were tired and drenched in sweat. TD managed to fall asleep on the train and not even the noise and activity of Nagoya station, one of the busiest stations in the WORLD could wake him up.
I’m already excited about our next trip to Japan and a return to Legoland.
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.
Today I got my fist sample of solo travel with a 3 year old. By the end of the day I was exhausted.
Whenever we return to Japan, The Penpal makes some time to check in with her church. The main branch is in Shin-Yokohama, conveniently accessible by shinkansen. We discussed and decided that Tiny Dog likely didn’t have the patience to spend a few hours at church, so we would both take separate trips to Yokohama and meet up for dinner with some of The Penpal’s friends.
The Penpal’s father dropped TD and I off at Mishima station around noon. Before boarding the train, we picked up some ekiben (train station lunch boxes) to eat on the ride to Yokohama. The clerk was surprised that TD thanked him in Japanese. It’s still funny the different reactions people have to TD depending on which parent he is traveling with.
TD munched away on sandwiches and rice balls on the shinkansen ride to Yokohama. His face was pressed against the window, jumping back in delight every time we entered a tunnel. This train ride was a lot more fun than the 15 minute subway ride from Shin-Yokohama to Sakuragicho; with nothing to see out the windows TD got bored quickly. I made a mental note to take above ground trains as much as possible in the future.
From Sakuragicho, we started our long walk towards Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building. The entire area around the tower is fantastic to visit: there are stores, restaurants, rides, games, and endless other fun things to do. Even with all of these distractions, TD was most impressed by the walking escalator that took us towards the tower.
We took the elevator to the observation deck on the 69th floor and were greeted by spectacular views of Yokohama, Kawasaki, and Tokyo. TD was impressed with the view for about 5 minutes, and then decided that it would be more fun to run laps around the building. We compromised and got ice cream near one of the windows while I tried to take as many pictures as possible.
On the way down, TD tried to touch the elevator doors as they closed. The elevator attendant said “yubi wo chui kudasai”, which TD translated into English for me as “Daddy be careful your fingers”. Everyone laughed at the sight of a 3 year old wearing Canadian flags translating for his gaijin father.
Instead of taking you back to the entrance, the elevator down from Landmark tower takes you to the 5th floor of a massive shopping center. As we walked through we found possibly the most exciting store ever for a 3 year old kid: The Tomy store. The entire display window was filled with an elaborate display of purarail (plastic train sets) and Tomy car tracks. We pushed our way into the store and TD spent about half an hour looking and playing with the display along with a mob of other children.
I eventually dragged him out of the Tomy Store and we walked to Cosmo World to play games. We wisely avoided the giant ferris wheel and waterslides, and ended up playing medal games (again). Getting him out of Cosmo World involved crying, bargaining, and eventually me having to carry him all the way back to the station. I should note that the humidity was about 6 million percent, and a fussy child is actually a portable space heater. By the time I got him to the station I had sweated through my shirt.
After some very busy Sunday afternoon trains we met up with The Penpal and some of her friends for dinner in a restaurant that was inexplicably not visible on Google Maps. By the time dinner was done, Tiny Dog and I were ready for sleep, but we still had a long trip back to Numazu.
Our adventures in Yokohama were a lot of fun, and my day was a great learning experience. Also, I have nothing but respect for single parents who try to get anything done.
Today the Penpal had lunch plans with one of her friends and the freind’s daughter. Instead of tagging along, I decided to go off and have my own adventure.
It was a rainy day, but I stayed mostly dry thanks to some expert use of my umbrella. I’m only mentioning this because I live in Winnipeg where many people don’t own a single umbrella, and the usual response to rain is to stay inside or run while outside in hopes of not getting too wet. I felt a sense of accomplishment in being able to get to the station mostly dry in the rain.
I took a short ride to Numazu station, and walked towards the Bivi building on the north side. Bivi was built during my last year of teaching in Japan, and houses a movie theatre, internet / comic cafe, Game Center, and a bunch of restaurants. Many of the restaurants had changed since the last time I was in Numazu, but everything looked good. After making a quick loop around I was drawn in by the delicious smells coming from Ohsama No Curry.
A Canadian walks into an Indian restaurant in Japan sounds like the start to a bad joke, but it was actually the story of a good lunch. The lunch special had curry, a choice of nan bread or rice, salad, and a drink for just under 1000 yen. SOOOO GOOOD!
After lunch I made a visit to the Game Center and played whatever the newest version of Guitar Freaks is called before shooting some zombies and checking out the claw games. Most of the machines have cute anime characters as prizes, but one of them had something a bit different for “ladies day”.
I’m assuming by the picture in the background that these were actually hand massagers, which would be very useful after playing too many video games. It is possible that they may have some other uses as well.
No, I didn’t play this machine. If I want a “hand massager” I’ll buy it from a specialty shop instead of trying to win one in front of random strangers in a place frequented by teenagers.
I returned to Numazu station and took the Gotemba line towards Gotemba station at the foot of Mt. Fuji in the hopes of getting some pictures. Unfortunately the rain kept getting worse as the train climbed the mountain. By the time I reached Gotemba it was a total downpour. I managed to snap a few rainy pics from the station, but didn’t trust my prairie boy umbrella skills in rain that the Japanese people were avoiding.
My ride back down the mountain was delayed by 15 minutes due to weather. Delaying a train in Japan is NOT something taken lightly, so the weather must have been really bad. Instead of being lined up on the windy, rainy platform, everyone was politely lined up in the enclosed stairway leading to the platform. For the record, politely is the default way to line up anywhere in Japan.
I ended up getting home about the same time as The Penpal. We both went out for lunch, but had very different experiences. I may be biased, but I think mine was better. When you are on vacation, even a quick bite to eat and a train ride can be an adventure.
Japan is a fascinating country to visit, with simply too many things to see and do. Most people who come to Japan for a short period of time will see the most popular sites – the bustling urban jungle of Tokyo and the wonderful temples and shrines of Kyoto. While those are both well worth the visit they don’t accurately represent much of the rest of the country.
The drive along the Numazu coast towards Izu Mito Sea Paradise is a good example of something that exists for the people who live there, not for the benefit of visitors. Numazu is famous for it’s fishing industry. The narrow road along the coast is lined with marinas, fishing supply shops, and warehouses. Trucks speed by taking the day’s catch towards local markets or even to the big cities. Fishing boats are docked along the shoreline next to fishermen with dark tans who are casting into the nearby waters.
There are no skyscrapers. There are no salarymen. There are no temples. There are just hardworking people whose lives are based around the ocean.
As we drove back towards our house, my father in law pointed out some spots where he and his older brothers went fishing for their dinner in the hard years after World War II had ended. These were likely the same spots where people had been fishing for hundreds of years before.
I really enjoyed the drive today – it was cool to get a little taste of non-tourist Japan.
This morning we drove to Izu Mito Sea Paradise, an aquarium in the south part of Numazu on Uchiura Bay. The first time I ever went to Sea Paradise was in 2014 with The Penpal on my first ever trip to Numazu, and I have been to a few times since. Tiny Dog (TD) has never seen the ocean or been to an aquarium before, so we were excited to show him something fun and new.
When we arrived, I noticed artwork for some kind of animated idol pop group all over the building. Since I hadn’t seen this on my previous visits, I assumed (correctly) that “School Idol Project” is probably one of those things in Japan that is massively popular for a while but then disappears suddenly. We must still be in the massively popular stage.
Sea Paradise has an impressive collection of aquatic life from near and far. Usually I take the time to read all of the signs and learn a bit about the animals on display, but this time I had an excited 3 year old dragging me to see the next thing. “So cool” he assured me as he spent about 10 seconds looking at the octopus before moving on to the jellyfish.
After a whirlwind tour through the main building, we went outside to kill some time before the dolphin show. TD fed some fish and then got into the kids wading pool where children can walk in knee deep water with small fish swimming around while their parents alternate between taking pictures and hoping the kids don’t fall because they didn’t bring a change of clothes. TD loved the dolphin show; he was excited and clapping every time they jumped out of the water.
The real highlight for TD was not the fish, the amazing dolphin show, the wading pool, or even the idols plastered all over the place. It was the kids play area in the gift shop that featured a ball pit and indoor sandbox. We could have come to the play area without even buying a ticket!! He was having so much fun that we let him play for almost an hour while I shopped for souvenirs.
Sea Paradise is a great place to visit in the Numazu / Mishima / Izu area. It’s a lot of fun for kids of all ages, but I would recommend that if you’re traveling with small children that you avoid the gift shop until end unless you want to hear “ball pit! ball pit!” for the duration of your visit.
For fans of the animated group Aquors, there are a bunch of cardboard models in the gift shop. I didn’t know anything about the group before I arrived, but I knew that I had to do what any mature adult would do on vacation:
This morning I took my 3 year old son Tiny Dog (TD) out for an adventure by myself. Our destination was Rakujuen park in nearby Mishima.
Rakujuen is a large park in Mishima which was built in 1890 by Crown Prince Akihito. As you can imagine, the park is beautifully landscaped with impressive thick forests and a beautiful lake. More importantly for the under 5 year old demographic there is a petting zoo, miniature train, merry go round, and coin operated rides and games.
Remember all of those coin operated rides for young children that you used to be able to find in front of malls and supermarkets? Rakujuen is the place where classics go to retire alongside some high tech Pikachu games.
TD was totally overwhelmed with his options and didn’t know where to start. We rode the train and merry go round and rode a few of the coin operated rides before he found the most exciting game in the entire park: Pirate Blasta.
The object of Pirate Blasta is to aim a water cannon towards different pirate themed targets to make them move. Up to 4 people can play at the same time, and there are step stools provided for the young children.
To say that TD loved this game would be a complete understatement. He ended up playing it 5 times in a row before I got him to check out some other games with the promise of snacks. I even got him to go to the petting zoo for about 3 minutes, but not even the opportunity to pet some adorable guinea pigs could keep him from dragging me back to “water game”. I reminded myself that we were on vacation, and paid for a few more plays. Thankfully it started raining which I used as an excuse to head back to the station.
I’m sure that Crown Prince Akihito never intended for his park in Mishima to become home to a bunch of children’s games, but I’m hoping that he would be happy that it has become a fun place for families to visit and leave with slightly lighter wallets. Highly recommended if you have kids under 5.