Archive for category Return to Japan
The bags are packed, I’m checked in for the flight, and my taxi to the airport has been booked. I’m going to be awake in about 5 hours for a flight to Calgary and then on to Tokyo!
The Penpal, Tiny Dog and I are off for a 2 week escape from Canada. Highlights to include a stay at the Lego Hotel in Nagoya, beer and karaoke with Azeroth, me trying to remember Japanese, and all of us hoping that our 5 year old adjusts to the time change.
More posts to come!
Tonight was our last night in Japan on this visit. I ate dinner with the family, and after Tiny Dog went to sleep I went off to have a beer with my old roommate Azeroth.
Unlike a few days ago, we decided not to hit the town. Instead we had a night in, similar to many we had while we shared an apartment together. We picked up a variety of beer and snacks from the nearby 7-11, and watched episodes of Drawn Together, Rick and Morty, and Archer while laughing our asses off.
One sign of a good friend is when you can go for a few years without seeing each other and then pick exactly where you left off when you get a chance to meet. My life has changed a lot in the 11 years since I moved back to Canada: I got married, started a career, got a professional designation, and became a father. Even with all of those changes, hanging out while drinking beer and eating mysterious snacks still felt like home.
Happy Canada Day! I hope that I’m not going to be hungover tomorrow for my flight home!
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!
Managing supplies of clean clothes can be a challenge on vacation. My mother in law has been trying her best to take care of everyone’s laundry*, but she is having trouble keeping up with 3 additional people’s clothes in the tiny laundry machine they have in the house. My in-laws, like many Japanese people, don’t own a dryer, so clothes can only be dried by hanging them up outside. With yet another rainy day and packing to return home coming soon, we were developing a laundry crisis.
*Yes, I am more than capable of washing my own clothes. But trying to do household chores at my in-laws house would end up causing more problems than it solved. I once got yelled at by my father in law when he found out that I helped wash dishes in Canada, but that’s a different story.
I suggested that instead of waiting for the rain to stop, that I would be happy to take our laundry to a nearby coin laundry, which would also buy me some quiet time outside of the house. My in-laws agreed and dropped me off, promising to pick me up later.
I expected they would take me to a place where I would largely be left alone, similar to the coin laundry I used to use in my teaching days. This one had a very attentive owner who my mother in-law referred to as “mama-san”. I have only ever heard this term before used in reference to the manager of a small bar or hostess pub, so it was interesting for me to hear it in this situation.
Mama-san looked at my pile of clothing, assessed my needs, and directed me to one of the machines. She explained in rapid fire Japanese how to use the machine while my brain tried to translate as fast as possible. I did catch all of the key points like where to put my clothes and money, which was fairly obvious in retrospect. The machine that mama-san recommended provided its own soap and would both wash and dry my clothes, proving once again that Japanese technology is cool.
I sat quietly on my own for most of the time, taking advantage of the free wifi from nearby 7-11. My mother in-law came in later after finishing grocery shopping, and I showed her some of the pictures from our trip to Nagoya while we waited for my laundry. When the clothes were done, my mother in-law started talking to Mama-san about our visit.
As a proud parent and proud Canadian I took this opportunity to show off pictures of Tiny Dog from Japan and Canada while trying to maintain a conversation in Japanese. My mother in-law seemed proud of the attention her daughter and grandson were getting.
Although doing laundry is not likely to be anyone’s vacation highlight, this was a good chance to see some of the differences between Japan and Canada. Experiencing another culture can involve temples and museums, but it can also be as simple as going to the grocery store or trying to get your clothes clean. I love vacation!
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.
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.