04 May, 2012

Actually, we live in the 'burbs

Today we remembered that we live in an area of the world where lots of people live. Tens of millions, actually. 

This week is called Golden Week, containing several public holidays. It is pretty well known that it is a bad week to be driving on the roads, or doing anything of much. In a country where people take hardly any time off for holidays, this is a week when many people are off work and out doing recreational stuff. Today we met a few of them . . . starting with the busy express train that we took into the second busiest train station in Japan, Ikebukuro. It wasn't total squish (there was air between my body and everyone else's), but it was too crowded for the boys. Just 20 minutes of this was enough to make them very antsy.

But it was easy to see that compared to the part of Tokyo we saw today, we live in the country! The crowds were pretty big, for us Aussies. On a usual day our little part of Tokyo has only 9,000 people living in it per square kilometre. We rarely see crowds in our little corner of the world, maybe at our station or at the department store on a weekend, but generally it is fairly free of crowds. Ikebukuro has 20,000 people per square kilometre just living there. It has double that during the working day. I don't know what it has during Golden Week, but there was an almost constant flow of people through the streets today. I pity anyone trying to drive around, crossing an intersection with no lights was almost impossible in a car.

Amlux, an interactive Tokyo show "building" where
kids are encouraged to enjoy everything they see.
A wonderful place for a family of three boys.
You might be wondering why we went down there. We have a long weekend, three days. With no plans to go away and with rain threatening today, we needed to find something to do with these boys on one of these days. So we took them, ostensibly to see Toyota's Amlux (read about another time we went there here). We ended up there early (they didn't open until 11), so we visited a cool store called Tokyu Hands. I found a couple of mother's day presents and my eldest son found some additions for his dice collection. It just has some fun, quirky stuff and I've loved the store ever since I was told about it in Sapporo. We also had lunch at Subway (a rare treat in Japan), and dropped into ToysRUs (which nearly ended up in tears, but instead resulted in a couple of additions to our toy car collection).

Amlux was good, the boys didn't get lost, in fact they had a fun time. I got a chance to sit down for a bit and read (while the boys tried out various cars as well as did driving simulators). We tried to join as few lines as possible, and believe me, there were some huge lines! We Queenslanders just aren't good at lines.

As we began to head home we realised that it had begun raining. We left without umbrellas this morning as it was fine. Actually the thought of three boys travelling in a crowded train, walking in a crowded street, and negotiating a crowded shopping centre with their own umbrellas was a tad frightening, so we left them home. However, to get back to the train, I stopped back at Tokyu Hands and bought an umbrella (with the other half of Tokyo who had been caught short on today's trip into the big smoke!

So, here ends a big day. We're planning a home-day tomorrow, except for a small shopping excursion for some necessary items like a bike seat and a new backpack. I'm glad that we survived today's trip okay. I think the guys are getting a little better at shops. It still isn't our favourite kind of outing, but sometimes you just have to put up with the less-than-ideal.

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