Archive for category Tiny Dog

July 24, 2019 – Return to Legoland!

Legoland Japan Front Entrance

On our previous trip to Japan in 2017, we went to the newly opened Legoland Japan theme park. Even though we only saw part of the park last time, Tiny Dog enjoyed his visit so much that he wanted to return. It also helped that Ryan from Ryan’s Toy Review had gone to Legoland Japan, and as every parent of a 3-8 year old knows, if Ryan does it, your kid wants to do it too.

On our last visit, the Lego Hotel was still under construction. It was finished in 2018 and we were able to get first anniversary deals on our trip: 1 night in hotel, 2 days of passes to Legoland and the Sea Life aquarium next to the hotel, and free breakfast. It was still expensive, but much less expensive than attempting any of those things separately.

We took the shinkansen from Mishima to Nagoya, then switched to local trains to get to Kinjo Futo station. We arrived just before noon, checked in at the hotel, left our bags, and then had a pizza lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. After lunch, we entered the park and did a few hours of sightseeing and rides. Everything in the park was the same as the previous visit, however our now 5 year old son got a lot more out of the experience than he did on our previous visit when he was 3.

Before dinner we checked out our room. All of the rooms at the Lego Hotel have themes: we chose Pirates over Ninjago, Kingdom, Adventure, and Lego Friends. The room was decorated from floor to ceiling with Lego pirates – even the shower curtain was piratey. Tiny Dog was immediately entertained by the treasure hunt – there was a combination safe in the room, and to unlock the combination you had to answer some questions about the room (how many pirates in the bathroom, etc). The numbers from the answers unlocked the safe to reveal, as you may have already guessed, Lego.

Legoland Hotel - kids room

My favourite part of the room was the layout. Our room was a suite containing a kids area right off the entrance, a long hallway with a bathroom, then the parents area. The kids area had a bunk bed, a TV playing Lego movies, and plenty of Lego blocks for building. The parents area had a large bed, a bigger TV, and most importantly, a hallway to separate it from the kids area. In a country short on privacy, this was the best we were going to get for a while.

Legoland Hotel - parents room

The Legoland Hotel features a buffet style restaurant and a lounge which offered 2 hours of all you can drink for 2000 yen (about $25 CAD). Tiny Dog wanted to eat at the hotel restaurant, but I was craving curry from one of the nearby restaurants. We compromised – I got to choose dinner and we let him play at the giant indoor play area next to the hotel restaurant before dinner. I was very interested in the all you can drink, but after a full day of travel and theme park I would have probably fallen asleep after the first beer!

If you’re going to visit Legoland Japan, I highly recommend staying in the Legoland Hotel, especially if you are coming from out of town. The hotel is perfect for families, and there is literally nothing closer to Legoland or the Sea Life aquarium. If we return, we will be staying at the hotel again!

Next up: a full day of Legoland!

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“Macho Friend” Randy Savage

Most of what I post on this blog happened years ago, but today I’m posting about something from the present. Yesterday was the first time I watched a wrestling match with my son.

One of my favourite things about being a parent is taking my son Tiny Dog (obviously not his real name) to different places and events. We have seen museums, theme parks, playgrounds, the circus, and live music, but I’m really looking forward to the day when I take him to his first wrestling show. I’m planning to take him when he’s a bit older (he’s only 4 now), but thanks to the wonder of Youtube, I decided to give him a bit of a sample of what pro-wrestling is all about.

I was lucky enough to grow up during the Hulkamania era of pro wrestling. The show was cheesy, over the top, and something that the family could watch. At the time I suspected, but didn’t know for sure that I wasn’t watching a legitimate athletic contest. It was a fun time to be a wrestling fan! My parents took my sister and I to see WWF (now WWE) every time they came to Winnipeg.

The good memories from my youth influenced the match choice for my son. I decided on a Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage match from 1985. This is during the second year of Hogan’s title reign; it was so old that he was still using Eye of the Tiger as his entrance music! The match itself is a textbook example of a cowardly, cheating heel vs. a superhero babyface. There were probably about 20 moves in total performed in 20 minutes and the crowd went nuclear for each one of them.

Tiny Dog’s reactions to the match were hilarious. He was upset that Hogan tore off his shirt and threw it at the start of the match. Why would he rip his shirt? He thought Macho Man was the good guy because he had a sparkly cape and a pretty girlfriend. He kept asking me where Hogan’s girlfriend was. There were some kids in Hulkamania gear in the front row – Tiny Dog wanted to invite them to our house for a play date. When I asked him who he thought would win, he picked Macho Man. What a mark – Savage never beats Hogan!!

I loved Tiny Dog’s reactions, but my favourite part was Randy Savage’s changing name. During the match, Tiny Dog referred to him as Macho Man, Macho Guy, and Macho Friend. Macho Friend was pretty cool, but I’m not sure that it would sell a lot of t-shirts.

After our viewing experience, I’m even more excited for the day that I can take my son to his first wrestling show. If we are still in Winnipeg, I expect we will see Canadian Wrestling’s Elite, a modern take on the classic wrestling territory operated by wrestler and booker “Hotshot” Danny Duggan. I’m looking forward to an afternoon of cheering the faces and booing the heels with my kid. Hopefully this will not be followed by any chairshots to daddy at home.

Long Live the Macho Friend!


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July 2, 2017 – A very long day

Today we left Japan to return home after 2 eventful weeks of vacation. Our route was from Tokyo Narita to Calgary, and then on to Winnipeg. We woke up at 7:30am on Sunday in Japan, which was still 5:30pm Saturday evening in Winnipeg. It was a very long day.

We somehow managed to get 4 adults, 1 kid, two large suitcases, and three backpacks into a Toyota Vitz (the Japanese version of the Echo) to get to Mishima station. The Penpal’s parents got platform tickets which allowed them to wait with us on the shinkansen platform. They looked a bit sad as we boarded the train, although I’m sure they will appreciate peace and quiet returning to their house after 2 weeks with an active, jetlagged 3 year old running around. As our train pulled away, Tiny Dog alternated between waving out the window and playing with the tray on the seat in front of us.

We took the shinkansen to Tokyo and then caught the Narita Express to the airport. We all enjoyed watching Tokyo fly by through the window. When we arrived at the airport, I briefly considered buying a cream puff beverage from a vending machine, before reminding myself that I was about to be in flight for a few hours and that might not be the best idea.

We checked our bags and the giant, horrible car seat of doom, then killed time in the airport looking at some of the cool stores. I got a new toy for Tiny Dog and managed to distract him long enough for The Penpal to get some clothes at Uniqlo. She hadn’t had any time for shopping on our entire vacation. We went through security without incident, and then learned that our departure was delayed. TD and I rode the walking escalators and played with his Ipad until we were finally able to board, almost 2 hours late.

The flight to Calgary went reasonably well – we watched Lego Batman about 4 more times, but I only managed about an hour of sleep. Tiny Dog and I both looked down as we flew over the majestic Canadian Rockies. Looks like I’m going to have to fight him for the window seat as he gets older.

When possible I prefer flying home through Calgary instead of Vancouver – its a smaller airport and a shorter trip, although depending on scheduling the layover could be longer. Our layover was supposed to be over 5 hours, but due to our delayed takeoff we “only” had 4 hours on the ground. After an hour The Penpal and I were both struggling to stay awake while TD wanted to run around and explore the entire airport. We took shifts, alternating napping and keeping the kid occupied.

Our flight to Winnipeg was short, uneventful, and totally vomit free, all of which are excellent features of a flight. My parents met us at the airport and returned us home. Before picking us up they had stocked up our fridge, because my parents are pretty great. We all crashed hard after they left.

This was my 4th trip to Japan since my English teaching days, but it was the first time traveling with our son. It was very different than our previous visits, but still a great experience. We are already talking about a return in 2019 to visit again, or waiting until 2020 and trying to catch the Tokyo Olympics. If we do that, I have already warned The Penpal that I will be wearing a Canadian flag as a cape for the entire time. We still have about 3 years to argue about which flag(s) Tiny Dog will be wearing.

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June 29, 2017 – Legoland Japan!!

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.

Asleep in Nagoya station

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June 28, 2017 part 1 – Nagoya Aquarium

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.

And these adorable sea worm things

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.

Mmmm beer

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.


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June 26, 2017 – My kid is addicted to medal games

I have written about medal games before and 10 years later I still don’t understand the appeal. One person who does understand is my son, Tiny Dog. He is absolutely addicted to medal games.

The idea of the game is to buy a bunch of small metallic discs (medals) and feed them into a machine, aiming at a moving tray covered in more medals. The goal is to have your medal push some of the other medals to the lower level. This in turn (hopefully) pushes even more medals off the lower level and out of the machine. The medals you win can then be fed back into the machine in hopes of winning even more. Some machines offer fancy bonuses which will randomly dump more medals into the playing area while lights blink and music plays. It’s total sensory overload.

It’s worth noting that you can’t actually do anything with the medals you win other than play medal games.

TD saw his first medal machine a few days ago in Yokohama. Today we played the game above at Ito Yokado, and also got some time on the medal games in Bivi near the station. In total he probably logged about an hour on the games and I likely spent about $50. If I had kept buying more medals he would have kept playing.

Originally I thought that our medal game experience was a waste of time and money. Looking back I’m happy that TD had fun doing something uniquely Japanese that he couldn’t do in Canada. Also, any quality time I can spend with my kid is a good thing.

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June 25, 2017 – Adventures in Yokohama

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.

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June 22, 2017 part 2 – Visiting family in central Izu

Today we went to beautiful Izu Peninsula to visit family. Both sides of the Penpal’s family have roots in Izu, and there are still numerous uncles, aunts, and cousins who live in the area.

Izu is one of my favourite parts of Japan. The entire Peninsula is filled with small towns, mountains, and natural hot springs. The few flat areas are home to rice paddies and strawberry farms. It’s about as close to “rural” as you can get near Numazu.

The Penpal’s father has a large family, and most of his siblings are in the 70-90 year old demographic. An energetic 3 year old looks even more energetic in a room where the average age is 80. While the family visited, I did my best to entertain TD with Lego, an ancient electric organ, and the small, friendly dog who was happy to go for endless walks around the house.

There were two interesting things I noticed during our visit:

  1. The Penpal’s father is the youngest of 12 children. At home he is absolutely the king of the castle. When he is around his siblings, some of which are almost 20 year older than him, he almost fades into the background. It’s an interesting things to see, and I’m not sure if this is unique to his family, all traditional Japanese families, or just large families in general.
  2. In Canada everyone says that Tiny Dog looks like his mother, pointing out some of his more Asian features. In Japan everyone says he looks like me, pointing out his many non-Asian features. It’s interesting how different things stand out to different people.

I’m happy we got a chance to visit so much of the family while on our vacation. It was a cool experience to introduce them to the overseas branch of their family.

Izu is beautiful despite it’s many mudslide monsters


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June 22, 2017 part 1 – Kaiten Sushi with a kid

Today before embarking on a trip to Izu, we stopped for lunch at the Mishima branch of Kappa Sushi, a kaiten sushi restaurant.

Kaiten sushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi, is a fun way to eat. The restaurant will have some form of conveyor belt or train where plates of sushi come by. If something looks good, you simply take it from the belt and eat it. Depending on the restaurant, each plate will have the same price or the plates will be colour coded indicating how much each costs.

Kappa Sushi has a long snaking conveyor belt which winds its way up and down rows of tables. To ensure that people at the end of the belt can still get what they want to eat, there is also a bilingual computer ordering system at each table. You can use a touch screen to place an order which will then be delivered directly to your table on a special train.

The Penpal and I have been to kaiten sushi many times, but today was the first time for Tiny Dog. Little plates of sushi coming by on a belt or by train is very exciting for a 3 year old! He was a big fan of maguro (tuna) and cucumber rolls. I ate way too much, which is exactly the right amount to eat when on vacation.

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