31 October, 2010

You're blushing then flushing

Japanese toilets. An interesting subject that I could wax eloquent on a number of fronts. But here I want to mention the "sound machine".

A few years ago someone figured out that Japanese women were wasting water. In public facilities they flushed while they did their business to cover up the sounds. Then, of course, they flushed again. 

So, this innovative person created the flushing sound recording that you can play if you're feeling bashful. Now technology has improved so that these units often include movement sensors. So, you might just be hanging your bag on the back of the door or adjusting your clothes and suddenly the sound of flushing emanates from your very own speaker.

It can be disconcerting if you aren't ready for it. And as it is not in every toilet (not even in most), you usually aren't. This one was a Amlux yesterday.

30 October, 2010

Our latest adventure

Today we found yet another adventure that we discovered last time we lived in Tokyo. Today we had no sport or swimming classes to attend so we'd planned to go exploring - preferably in a big park. However the weather has turned horrible. Cold and wet. I'm told there is a typhoon, but the temperatures seem about 10 degrees too cold for a typhoon!

So instead we took the train into Ikebukuro, the hub from which our train-line extends. It is one of the large city-hubs that exist in Tokyo.

Having taken a long time getting moving this morning (can't imagine why!), we arrived in time for an early lunch. Subway is one of our favourite take-away joints. It reminds us of the days when we were a couple. In Australia they are on every street corner and small town, now, it seems. There are very few in the part of Japan we inhabit. So this is a rare treat, though ordering sandwiches for three boys plus ourselves is not quite as easy as doing it for a couple.
Subway is in a large complex called "Sunshine 60". (It is a building with 60 floors, though not all of them are shopping). On a couple of floors below Subway was a fountain and an intriguing string quartet making beautiful music on see-through instruments, even if we only heard their warm-up. No idea how it all worked, but there were heaps of wires around. It can't have been easy to play with the loud fountain behind them.

Then we went to the object of our trip - Amlux. The name is a composite word for Automobile and Luxe combined. The English brochure says, "It represents to have cars looked at comfortably in a luxurious atmosphere."

And indeed it is a luxurious atmosphere. Unlike any car display place I've ever been in. It is like a museum of current auto locomotion. There are more than 70 current model cars in this 5 storey place. You and your kids are free to get in and out of almost all of them. The staff are very relaxed. Not at all trying to sell you anything. If you want to know something, though, they'll gladly tell you. If you don't they leave you alone. Oh, and they have nice toilets (if you're American read "bathrooms") too!
Addition to that is a number of exhibits. Safety displays, driving simulators etc. And in the basement there is a kid-orientated display that changes regularly, like a museum. Today there was a robot with a trumpet (though we didn't see it at work), a golf putting area, Wii-like golf area, a safety-story being told for littlies and some kami-nendo (paper play dough) that the kids could use to make models.

The picture with the driving seats and small screens it is a driving simulator. It is very patient as you drive around a city course, trying not to have lots of crashes! After a crash though, it simply displays a single screen ad and then you are back on the course ready to go again (no dents).

Needless to say the boys love it! They were 'driving' in one of these cars that had a navigation computer (what kind of place lets kids play with these?) when I think I heard them say, as they pointed at the map, "That's where the bad guys are, let's go this way so we can get them."

In another car, one boy was 'driving' another was in the front passenger seat and the eldest was in the back seat. I suggested to them that we had a "mummy, daddy and boy" scenario. Vehement denials all round on that one!

After Amlux we headed home, via a bakery for a snack. I have to say I am slightly bemused at the Halloween fever that seems to have taken over Japan. I'd say most Japanese haven't a clue about what it is, except that various commercial venues display decorations like this one. There also seems to be a pumpkin theme running through it, especially for eateries. At my gym the other day I was surprised to see the trainers wearing comical Halloween headgear - bright orange hats or hair bands. 

I cannot say I've enjoyed the day, however delightful our destinations were. Our boys were terrible. Their behaviour was deplorable at times. Especially on the trains and at home. They just couldn't stop niggling, wrestling, annoying and disobeying, especially our 11 y.o.; which was very disappointing. But at least we didn't lose him like we did last time we went to Amlux! 

David and I finished the day on our own with ice-cream and warm brownies and a hilarious episode of M*A*S*H. That helps repair some of the emotional damage done by ungrateful children, that's for sure.

29 October, 2010

Flash-backs to my past

I started my Occupational Therapy career in a sole position in the country. I was almost the only OT within a couple of hundred kilometres. The job entailed seeing people from young children right up to nursing home patients. Seeing them as inpatients as well as in their homes and in my department at the hospital. I even was involved in health promotion and patient education. Very much a GP (General Practitioner).

It was a lonely, yet stimulating job. I had so much freedom to develop the service somewhat as I wished. I wrote the budget (it did have to be approved, of course). I determined what initiatives to take. I also had limited supervision. It spoiled me. No other OT job I had after it seemed as challenging or interesting.

It reminds me a lot of what I'm doing now. I am my own boss. I have no other OTs around. I write the budget (very limited - I'm not spending someone else's money now). I have to take the initiative, make my own decisions. And I'm confronting cases that challenge my experience and knowledge. Just like back then, I'm calling in help from others, seeking advice from people who are less of a GP than me or who are from a different speciality altogether (like Speech Pathology).

So, I'm going to look past the challenges and the uncertainties and self-doubt and enjoy the freedom. I did last time. I can do it again.

28 October, 2010

Christmas is...the smell of kerosene

If you consider that wearing jackets, using the heater and having freezing hands when outside is winter, then it has arrived in Tokyo, only a month after summer left.

We got our heater out yesterday.

Here is a photo of our hard-working kerosene heater (or stove, as they are called here in Japan). When it starts or finishes it emits a small cloud of kerosene. When one of our boys smelt that this morning his response was, "It smells like Christmas!"

Wow, what an association!

In the past we've smelt that smell a lot, possibly more than others who don't have rowdy boys. The heater has an inbuilt earthquake safety feature. This heater stood to the side of the narrow walkway between our dining/kitchen and tiny lounge room for the last four winters. Do you know how to simulate an earthquake? Run into the heater and it will think there is an earthquake and immediately shut the heater off emitting a cloud of kerosene...you get the picture! Then you have to re-start the thing, which produces more fumes. 

And when Christmas here is in the middle of winter and three weeks holidays from school, you can imagine that there was heaps of "earthquakes" in our house around that time. No wonder the kerosene smell reminds our son of Christmas.

27 October, 2010

Shocks to the system

Today the temperature has dropped to 15 degrees maximum. Only a month ago we had the air conditioner on and the temperatures were in the mid 30s! It is a bit of a shock to the system. But at least the weather forecast gave us warning.

Mentally, I'm in a little bit of shock too. Contrary to the weather, things are heating up in my little corner. Last week I did an Occupational Therapy assessment and I am preparing for another one this Friday.

Today I had a meeting with the editor of Japan Harvest (see photo of latest cover), a magazine written by and for the missionaries in Japan. Last year I went to Manila at the invitation of this man and I'm looking forward to working with him and his wife. I am just starting to help him as an associate editor, so we're figuring out where to from here. At the present he is working pretty much on his own, editorially speaking, so it is a change for him to have someone to work with. We'll see how it goes. But I did come away with things to do!
Gary Bauman (editor of Japan Harvest) with me in Manila.

Add to that an up and coming prayer letter, an article for our denominational magazine in Australia and ongoing administrative bits and pieces. A key person in the OMF Japan headquarters office is leaving and I've taken on one of her jobs: responding to enquiries through OMF Japan's website. That is a job that is hard to plan for, I think I hardly got anything last week, but then several have arrived in a couple of days this week.

So I've created a chart next to my computer that has all the threads of work that I'm trying to do and the steps that are mine to do. Like multiple lists. Whenever I find myself getting short-of-breath as I consider all that I need to do, I need to write it all down. Even for this multi-tasking mum I need help occasionally.

Tonight we had guests for dinner. Tomorrow night too. Thankfully I threw a meal into the slow cooker this morning and it cooked away without need for me to do much about it. Someone has asked for my favourite slow cooker recipes. I'll have to write a post about that in the near future. Anyone else got some to add too?

Thankfully too, tomorrow I have all day without an appointment on my calendar (aside from the gym and groceries). I should be able to get some things done tomorrow, don't you think?

26 October, 2010

Eat your veggies, for brekkie!

This morning I actually looked at the back of one of the cereal boxes on the table. I couldn't believe what I saw. Can you see what this is a picture of? 
They are suggesting you put the flakes in the bowl, add salad (pictured are two types of lettuce, capsicum, tomato and something that looks like bacon or fish). Down the bottom there is one with broccoli, prawns and other miscellaneous joys! Oh, and then you add milk.



25 October, 2010

Not feeling homesick

I realised with a shock today that the contentment I've been feeling recently is not tinged with homesickness. I am not yearning to go back to Australia. In fact, if someone were to force me back there right now (for longer than a visit), I'd grieve for what I'd left behind.

I think this is relatively new. Most of the eight years I've spent in Japan I've had a degree of longing to be back 'home'. 

That doesn't mean that I don't miss my family, that I'd love to be cuddling my new nephew or that my Australian friends are no longer important to me. But it does mean that I'm enjoying the life I have here. I'm content and settled. I'm thriving on the various roles I have rather than enduring them.

This is good. And I'll keep praying that God will provide all the finance we need so that the rug is not pulled out from underneath us.

24 October, 2010

Ditching babyhood bit by bit

Today my youngest son ditched the trainer wheels on his bike. He described it as being more exciting than Thrift Shop!

This is the third Sunday afternoon in a row that we've wandered down to a flat play area adjacent to the waterway near our house. You can see a portion of it on the right of this photo. It is a fairly bleak area with some old playground equipment, but most importantly a flat gravelled area. Perfect for learning to ride your bike:  a touch softer than bitumen and no traffic (only soccer balls and baseballs whizzing around).

He is still randomly wobbly, so a bit too dangerous for riding on narrow roads and pathways, but still, those training wheels will not be going back on.

It was pretty easy, compared to his brothers' progression to a two-wheeled bike. His oldest brother was in Australia during his 5th year. We returned to Japan just after his 6th birthday, so he was a little older. I ran behind him many times. And had many an argument with him too. He lacks confidence in trying new skills and tends to give up before he's had enough of a chance to learn. He also argues like a lawyer. His is the only perspective.

Our middle son, however, was by far the worst. Early on in his training-wheel days I took him on a trip to the shop (with our baby on the back of my bike). I chose a bad route home as I didn't realise how little he understood about stopping. He ran out-of-control down a short slope and narrowly missed a parked car. The consequences of that little adventure was that he wouldn't even touch a bike for months or was it longer? He was well into his 6th year before he would condescend to even ride WITH trainer wheels. You can understand we didn't push him too hard to move onto two wheels. He hates to be out of control. He over-reacts. He is our spirited child who is just "More". More intense, More perceptive, More persistent, has Bigger reactions and is More reluctant to enter into new experiences than most kids. We got More than we bargained for when this one was born!

So, our third son's gentle entry into the world of two-wheeled bicycles has been quite an understated and wonderful experience by comparison. Now he also might have more of a chance to keep up with his speedy cycling brothers!

23 October, 2010

God provides...again

Probably most people who've hung around CAJ for any time have Thrift Shop bargain stories they can tell you. I could tell you the time we got some brand new snow chains for our car for a song...but I won't, I'll tell you about today's bargain.

When we returned from Australia in July we discovered quite a few things that our boys had outgrown. The biggest of which was our 11 y.o.'s bike. Bikes aren't cheap, but they are also a pretty important part of transport here in Japan. So, we added it to our hope-to-find-at-Thrift-shop list. Not many bikes are sold at Thrift Shop, so it wasn't a sure thing by any means. However, yesterday we found this 18 geared bike for sale! New, it cost around $AU250. We bought it for about $AU60. The owners had almost despaired of selling it; it had been displayed for some time on a noticeboard at CAJ. It is like it was just waiting for us! 

This is just another story to add to the multiple financial provisions we've received since David quit his job in 1999 so we could come to Japan as missionaries. Praise God!

22 October, 2010

Thift shop - not just a big garage sale

CAJ's biannual Thrift Shop is much more than a fundraiser. It is a school community get-together. A festival where the wider community of the school gets together.

Here are some snapshots of people I met today and interactions I had as I shopped, snacked and worked at one of the cash registers.

Two home-schooling mums talked to me in passing about doing an OT assessment their children.

In the electrical section I ran into the editor of Japan Harvest magazine, who I'll be working with. He's just returned from home assignment. We quickly caught up and he plans to email me soon for a longer catch-up and to start planning the next edition.

I worked across from another mum from my middle son's class. It was the first time we'd met.

I met a lady whose been a missionary in Japan for many years. She's recently returned after a break of four years. She effused about a trip to far north Queensland that she made nine years ago.

I worked with the mum of a graduate from last year. She laughed as my 5 y.o. came to hang out with me and charmed everyone with his grin.

My husband and I had morning tea with one of the missionaries from our mission (to be our regional director from mid next year).

On a break from the check-out I chatted with a couple with whom we have a multifaceted relationship. They are fellow missionaries with OMF. His wife is acting head of middle school, our eldest got sent to her office this week after misbehaving in class. A couple of years ago she taught with my husband. I invited them over to dinner in a few weeks time.

I served the elementary principal. The headmaster's wife. My son's music teacher. The first grade teacher.

I joked with one of the leaders of the youth group my 11 y.o. attends. And laughed as a friend tried to buy baby clothes for a friend ("They're not for you?").

I massaged the shoulders of a friend. Prayed and grieved with the mother of a friend of my son's.

Phew. What a day. An extrovert's day out!

But now I just want to curl up somewhere and not interact. For tomorrow I'll do it again, but with a difference. Tomorrow the rest of the community comes. Today, only PTA members were allowed to shop (this means that the school has a wider-than-usual PTA membership, as many missionaries who aren't attached to the school are members, just so they can shop at Thrift Shop).

Tomorrow we'll speak a lot more in Japanese. It will be more business-like and less joking around. More concern about security (people love to get away with not paying) and less networking. The joy of tomorrow is that we can serve our local community. And our prayer is that they'll read the tracts they'll receive in their bags. That they'll come back at Christmas and hear why we call ourselves the Christian Academy.

21 October, 2010

To tell the truth...

I have been convinced for a long time that being more transparent in my interactions with others has greater benefits than disadvantages. Time and time again I've had people say that my honesty in my conversation, writing and speaking has both attracted them and encouraged them.

On the weekend I read this in a magazine:
"As I tell the truth about our journey with our son, instead of hiding it like a secret, I've discovered a new kind of freedom. One woman in my Bible study said, "Carol, I used to think you were perfect, but now I think we could be friends." Carol Kent, Just Between Us, Fall 2010.
The context is that Carol, who is a professional Christian speaker in the US, has a son in prison, convicted with killing his wife's former husband. Most of us do not have a 'secret' quite as shocking as this, even so I found her comment to be encouraging. 

By keeping secrets we pretend to be better than we actual are, even if we don't intend to do this - when we don't admit our faults others tend to assume this. And by doing this we build walls around ourselves that prevent others from being our friends or by being encouraged by the struggles in our lives.

So, what can I tell you today that I've been hiding (not to confuse blog readers with a true friends, though of course some of you qualify as both)?  I'm addicted to coffee. How's that?

20 October, 2010

Japanese friendships differ to Western friendship - study finds

This story is fascinating. Friends share personal details to strengthen relationships in United States, but not in Japan, study finds I'd like to read the whole study, this is just a newspaper report on the article.

It helps us to understand why people from individualistic cultures like Australia and the US find it hard to build relationships in Japan. It is what I've suspected for a long time - friendships work differently here. And what we consider a good friend; someone with whom we can share intimate details of our lives with; is not what a good friend is here in Japan. Interesting but also frustrating.

19 October, 2010


This week I'm doing a lot of volunteering. Two very different types of volunteering.

The first was using my professional skills of Occupational Therapy. I did a developmental assessment on Monday morning. Physically and mentally processing that has consumed most of the last two days.

The rest of the week will be consumed with the biannual (twice yearly) premier fundraising event of CAJ. Known as Thrift Shop, it is basically a school-wide garage sale. An incredibly efficient and well organised garage sale. Tonight they are setting up the gym as the venue and tomorrow we will begin transforming it into a huge 'garage'. Friday 10am, the fun begins. Bargain hunting.

My volunteering at Thrift Shop will not be as mentally challenging as my OT work yesterday and today. But I'm suspect it might be more physically exhausting. 

Solution - Japan photo #7

Well there were some excellent guesses as to what this is


It is a bike basket cover. Especially useful in the rain for keeping your handbag and whatever else you want to carry in your basket. It rains one out of every three days (over the year) in Tokyo, so there are many opportunities to use this specialised piece of equipment.

18 October, 2010

I visited America on Saturday

The start of the middle school boys' race.
On Saturday morning we went to America and back. 

Well, at least we went onto the recreational centre of an American base, which meant we needed to give them our passport details and pass through security to get in (no metal detectors or x-ray machines, though).

This retreat area, as it is called, is in the middle of the urban sprawl loosely called Tokyo. We drove about an hour south of here (not too many kms - hundreds of traffic lights though).

Our son is in the middle.
Why? To go to the Kanto Plains International Schools' cross-country finals. Our eldest ran.

He ran well, in fact. Though his place wasn't fantastic, he improved on his personal best by 12 seconds. And he tried his hardest right to the end. Actually he was competing against boys up to two years older than him as the race was a 'middle school' race rather than a specific age group. So, there is heaps of potential for improvement next year.
Running hard for the line
I didn't take many photos, maybe because it took me quite a while to mentally warm-up. Getting up at 5.30 on a Saturday morning is not a common experience for me.

However the site was beautiful. It was very difficult to believe that we were only a short distance from the rest of Tokyo. Lots and lots of trees. There were camping sites, horse trails and even a decrepit building that looked a lot like the sort of place I'd been to for church/youth group weekends away in Australia. 

Another interesting feature was the small on-site shop near the entrance. Complete with American food, the price tags on the products were in American dollars. It did feel like we'd left Japan behind for a moment or two.

That is the end of the cross-country season for this year. He is keen for next year and I am too - if it means I can go and visit this little oasis in the centre of this concrete jungle. If all of America were like this, I might like to go.

17 October, 2010

Japan photo #7

This one was hard to photograph. Can you figure out what this is?

I'll post an answer in a couple of days.

16 October, 2010

Is it all about winning?

Or getting As? Or playing the piece perfectly? 

Or is it bigger than that?

Looking back at school I remember the drive to do my best, to get everything right, to perform my best, to win if at all possible (within the rules, of course). I'm not sure how aware I was of longer-term goals. I was, by most standards, a fairly successful student. Many things I turned my hands to, I succeeded at fairly well. Like most kids my eyes were pretty much on the immediate goals. There was never much hope that I'd become an Olympic champion at running, yet my drive to come first in my age level was tremendous. I'm pretty safe at assuming that I was never in the running to become a concert pianist, yet the hours upon hours, years upon years of practise that I poured into that discipline were very focused. It is unlikely that I'd become a world famous mathematician or historian, yet I laboured over those exams and assignments as if there were nothing else.

Now I'm on the other side. I'm urging my kids (and others' kids) to do their best. To do that assignment, to study for that test, to be organised, to run fast, to win the game. Why? Because I hope that they'll become world class athletes? Or leaders in their field? I'd be pleasantly surprised if any did, yet I urge them onwards. Why?

Now I'm all grown-up I can see the bigger picture much more clearly. That C on your report card, that match-point that you lost, that race you stumbled in, that assignment that you didn't finish to the best of your ability. They aren't the goal. They aren't worth losing a lot of sleep over.

The bigger picture is what you learn about yourself, about life while you are doing them. The bigger picture is how you react when things don't go your way, when you don't perform as well as you like. The bigger picture is bigger than what you can see around you. And you won't see it all for a very long time. So, while it is worth paying attention to the nitty gritty details. It is more important to not get too upset and too weighed down by today's failure or loss. It is also important not to let that A+ or first place go to your head either.

In the end it is who you are as a person that is more important than the result of your efforts.

But how do I teach this to my kids? And how do I keep this in mind as I urge them onwards? That is the lesson I need to learn now.

15 October, 2010

Cooking excitement

Ah, all sorts of cooking satisfaction around here. First I have a large oven. I've inherited some great large trays to use in it. The rectangular one in the photo is one of them. The square-ish one is from my Japanese electric oven/microwave. I discovered last week I can put four large trays in the oven at the same time - more than twice the capacity of my electric oven. Wonderful!

Then my new slow cooker arrived this week too. During our year in Australia I grew to love the slow cooker someone gave us. And I've been having withdrawal symptoms. Therefore I ordered one from a foreign import company last month. On Wednesday I cooked 1.4kg of mince (ground beef) in it with room to spare. I'm very happy with this new purchase. 

Then today, as I waited for our youngest to finish his piano lesson after school, my husband waltzes up to me with a box under his arm. It contained a sandwich toast/waffle maker. One that a missionary who is moving overseas doesn't need any more! I love the missionary lifestyle - giving and receiving freely is a wonderful way to live.

I am extra happy. All the appliances I could want (except a dishwasher but there's no room for that). Now I'll have to get down to using them all.

14 October, 2010

Broken finger...again

I briefly mentioned in January that our eldest had a broken finger. Well, he's gone and done it again. Same finger, different bone. This time, unlike the last time, we knew exactly what happened. He fell over on the amazing bouncy mountains. So, having made it through 10 years of life with no broken bones (or stitches), he has two minor breaks inside 12 months.

What blew me away was the doctor's visit. I come from the perspective of an Australian Occupational Therapist. A background that gave me the experience of actually treating hand injuries. In Australia this could have been the scenario (if we went the private route):

Make an appointment at GP.
Go to GP who'd send us away for an x-ray somewhere else.
Go for x-ray.
Return to GP who would refer to an Orthopaedic Surgeon or possibly to an OT or hand therapist.
Make an appointment with surgeon.
Go to surgeon get referral to OT. Pay lots of money.
Make an appontment with OT.
Go to OT for a splint. Pay lots of money.
Return to OT a couple of times. Eventually return to the surgeon or the GP.

Phew!! Makes me feel tired just thinking about it. In contrast, this is what happened yesterday:

After two days of pain and swelling we decided to go to the doctor. No referral system, so we went straight to our local Orthopaedic Surgeon (five minute bike ride away). No appointment needed. We got in line and were seen an hour later. The doctor took the x-ray himself in an adjacent room. Looked at it almost straight away, made the diagnosis and then splinted it himself. The he charged us 200 yen (AU$2.40) and told us to come back in a week.

I came home flabbergasted at the speed of it all, plus the fact that I'd just seen a doctor do the job of at least two Australian specialists. Never mind that it cost me less than a cup of coffee.

We've experienced both sides of the Japanese medical system - the side that seems to over-prescribe, be over-cautious and take ages to get things done. Then you unexpectedly see this side of incredible efficiency. Amazing!

The other funny thing that happened was that we'd only just been to this doctor a couple of weeks ago when our middle child had a sore hand after a soccer incident. In that case my husband took him. When the doctor saw two different foreigners coming in the door he got that deja vu look about him. I quickly explained that yes, he'd recently seen another child of the same family.

In contrast to another doctor I saw recently, this guy was great. Even told us about the nicknames that Japanese children give fingers (dad, mum, big brother, big sister, baby).

13 October, 2010

Handing down the treasures

I'm am thrilled to bits at my 11 y.o.'s latest reading fetish. 

This child breathes-in books. His reading speed is tremendous, perhaps he doesn't stop and smell the details on the miniature roses, but he sure does love to read. Reading is one of my passions too and it is so exciting to see that passed on to my children. 

Our eldest was a terror from the time he could move about. He drove us crazy with needing to move and the older he got the more it took to satisfy that craving to move. I still remember how satisfying it was to watch him exhaust himself sledding on snow in our second winter in Japan. Just the sheer act of tiring himself out without me needing to do it by his side. He still doesn't sit still for long unless you rub his back. And now he's running two mile cross-country races, with not much sign of diminishing energy!

However, our lives significantly slowed down once our son learned to read. Then there were periods in the day when we could stop too! And now, after eleven years of little kids around, we can say after lunch, let's all have some quiet time. Most of us read and the two younger ones generally play quietly, though books do feature at times. Phew!

But back to what my eldest is reading now. He's picked up the Billabong Series by Mary Grant Bruce (written between 1910 and 1942). It is a series that was given to me by my grandparents during my tween and teenager years (usually one for my birthday and one for Christmas). I brought all 15 books with me to Japan. They probably hold the status of being the books I've read the most number of times. Every time I received a new one, I'd re-read all the books I'd previously received. It is good writing. I re-read it again last year before we went back to Australia. It had me in tears a number of times!

I don't think it means too much to my son that he is reading books that his great-grandparents gave to me, but it does to me. Add to that how precious these books are to me and how Australian they are, and I am stoked (translation - elated).

12 October, 2010

Awesome day at a massive park

Yesterday we went to a really cool park. It is our third or fourth visit. It is about 45km north of here. It took us a bit over an hour to get there using the express-way and nearly two hours to get home (bad traffic at the end of a long weekend).

We've thought and thought, but cannot come up with an equivalent park in Australia. Australia has large parks but none that we know of have so many facilities.

We're thinking we'd like to go back in six weeks or so and see the autumn colours. For the whole family it cost (sans petrol and food, which we took ourselves) 5 500 yen, about $AU67. Not too bad for a day of family fun in Japan.

It is about 4 km x 1 km in size and has magnificent facilities. Of particular interest to young families is the obstacle course (with 23 separate obstacles), a large play equipment area and a 1000 square metre hilly trampoline. I took heaps of photos to show you because words don't easily do justice to this park.

This is one of the obstacles. Our 5 and 8 year olds loved them. Our 11 year old is nearly too old, though his main problem was that he couldn't rush through at 100 mph because there were literally thousands of people there. We chose not only a gorgeous day, but a public holiday too!

This is the best. I'm in the green shirt. It is hard to stay off these hills. They are bouncy, though with so many people on them they were less bouncy than we've experienced on a lower attendance day.

Probably by design, the trampoline hills are a long walk from any car park. The alternative transport is, you guessed it, bikes (that you hire if you don't bring your own). Also you can go on a bus (that you pay for).

The park has an impressive bike way system. Pretty much like roads. With all the signage and road markings.
Love the sign! The "Slow Down" signs had snails on them.

Here's a map. You'll probably need to click on it to see it larger. We parked at the West Gate and the trampoline hills are a bit south of the central gate. We've never been to the north or south of the park. We're always too exhausted just doing these two localities. There are castle ruins at down in the south, so we might venture down there next time.
In summer there is a large water play area too. A few years ago we came on one of the hottest days in summer and nearly died because of the heat. The hills were almost too hot to stand on, the water in the water-play area was very warm (it is shallow). We were very grateful for the many drink vending machines all over the park.

This has to be one of our family's favourite outings in Tokyo. There is also a very satisfying feeling that "we've gotten out of the city" that is always helpful for country kids like us.

I need votes to win

I entered Simone's Venn Diagram competition. My entry is un-named but I'll bet you can guess which one it is. The trick is I need votes to win! Don't feel obliged, but do go on over and have a look at what people have thought up! I'll never know whether you voted or not, but come and join in the fun.

11 October, 2010

My favourite chip flavour arrives

Now that is a thoroughly Australian title. The American translation: My favorite crisp flavor

There are some things about 'home' that you miss a little, some things you miss a lot. I'd basically resigned myself to not finding my favourite chip flavour here in Japan. But someone found it in a local store. Who knows how long it's been there...
Can you guess what the flavour is? Again, hold back if you can read Japanese.

Today is Japan's National Health and Sports Day

According to Wikipedia:
Today's Japanese national holiday was established in 1966 as a day on which to enjoy sports and cultivate a healthy mind and body. Originally held on October 10 to commemorate the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, in 2000 it was changed to the second Monday of October in accordance with the Happy Monday System.
(The Happy Monday System (ハッピーマンデー制度 Happī Mandē Seido) was a decision by the government of Japan (in the late 90s) to move a number of national holidays to Mondays, creating a three-day weekend for those who normally have a five-day work-week.)
I thought it was amusing that my gym is closed today! 

So instead we're taking some more 'natural' exercise. A very large park north of Tokyo, Shinrin park. I'll take some photos and show you tomorrow. This is what it looked like last time we went there.

10 October, 2010

To-die-for origami

On the way to Hong Kong in August I had a short while to wander around the Number 2 terminal of Tokyo International Airport. I found an origami museum. It was only tiny, but enough to take your breath away!  Here are some photos:


Traditional religious festival in Japan.

Cat and some shells

Can you guess?

This is a Japanese island. Sorry, not sure which one.


Japanese Doll Festival

I included my hand to give you scale. These are incredibly tiny!