26 August, 2015

Our Summer Holidays in Tokyo

We've noticed that our family has mostly moved out of the "little boys" stage onto different types of entertainment. Looking back at my blog during previous Tokyo summers, I can see we spent time going to large parks. These days our guys don't like hiking and it takes a pretty special park to keep them entertained for longer than half an hour these days. Not to mention that mid-summer in this part of Japan, a park isn't very comfortable unless you're a little kid playing in the free-water-play section of a park. Our guys are mostly too big for that too.

So during August we had to come up with a different plan. We made the effort to get out of the house for an outing downtown a couple of times. It was an effort to get the boys out of the house. One of them, especially, seems to have put his roots down deep. You probably can't blame him, after the year we've had.

In any case, our house isn't big and staying at home for days on end gets tired (they've been encouraged to go out and exercise at least every couple of days). So we made a goal of getting out together once a week during the August to do something fun.

Ikebukuro trip
In the second week of the month we went to Ikebukuro, the closest "big city" area to us. It is about 30 minutes by train. We visited a long-time favourite shop Tokyu Hands, it has about seven stories of interesting stuff. Goods that you can't find at just any store. 

We were there for an hour before hunger overtook us and we headed off for lunch, but it is a shop you could spend a long time in (and money). Our eldest found some more dice for his collection and David and I found presents for our family in Australia (we need to post them in October if we're to get the cheap postage rate, so it isn't really too early).
Um, something to hold your pen?
Balloon fingerpuppet.
Hippo crayons
Pizza, two of which are dessert pizzas. An apple-type dessert and a banana
and chocolate dessert.

We found a "new" all-you-can-eat restaurant, an American Pizza restaurant: Shakeys. It had great atmosphere and yummy food!  The linch-time prices were pretty good, especially for a family with hungry big boys. It was a pity I wasn't feeling great that day.

Then in order to walk off some of that pizza we walked to ToysRUs to browse. It's not too far, but it was underground and air-conditioned, which was pretty much a must on a day that was above 35 degrees!

We were very tired by the end of this trip. The heat was a very big factor (but I was ill with a cold, an inflamed throat, and asthma too). But it was a fun excursion, and great to get everyone out of the house for a bit.

Omotesando trip
The next week we went to a place further south, but only a 45 minute train journey. Trains these days are so much easier, with big boys who aren't likely to run away or get lost easily. After living here for eight years I'm also getting more relaxed and less overwhelmed by the trains.

The area is called Omotesando (if you click the link you'll get an impression of the street, I neglected to take a photo).

Our destination was a chocolate cafe: Max Brenners. We discovered in Australia (see here and here) that, while an ordinary cafe might be okay with our guys, a chocolate cafe is really worth searching out. Restaurant eating was not something done just for the fun of it when our kids were younger, but now they're older it can be an enjoyable outing and memory.

Unfortunately a lot of other people thought the same thing. We waited 45 minutes in a line on the footpath to be given the privilege of getting a seat inside. Thankfully this was a slightly cooler day and we had plenty of shade.

The decoration on the wall above our seat reads, "Chocolate is good for you."
The wait wasn't so easy. There were interpersonal niggles. But once we got inside, chocolate "solved" all the problems and made the wait worth it. 

We had chocolate fondue as well as chocolate milk shakes. Oh my. So rich! So yummy! 

So expensive, but as my husband rationalised, it was a much cheaper outing than taking everyone to an amusement or water park.
Chocolate fondue. White and milk chocolate. The middle one
is a toffee. The flame on the right is for cooking your marshmallows
It was very upmarket marshmallow cooking!
This was an interesting area of Tokyo, apparently internationally famous. Very upmarket and expensive and very crowded. Not a place you'd usually find our family at all. Some of the shops we walked past looked so exclusive, I'm sure the suit-dressed employees with gloves on wouldn't have let our rag-tag lot in. The air temperatures coming out of there were something sub-20 (at least it felt that way).

After overfilling ourselves on chocolate we did find one shop more to suited to our budget. It was called the Awesome Store! The boys didn't find it as awesome as they'd hoped, but then shopping is not their favourite thing. It was pretty busy, apparently it's a trendy place in Omotesando just now. The website boasts in English, "The HOTTEST store in Harajuku at the moment." Similar to Tokyu Hands in that it had unusual items for sale, but on a much smaller scale (just two small floors). The prices were reasonable.

But we were on a hurry. We arranged for a friend of our youngest to come over to our house that afternoon and the time we'd organised was approaching quickly. So we didn't linger.

That night the older two boys had a movie "night." Something we did a couple of times a week throughout August. That night they watched Harry Potter number 3. But as a family we watched the entire series of Star Wars. It was another fun way to pass the long summer holidays when you're stuck in a stinking hot summer with teens and pre-teens who'd rather stay home than anything else.

So there's a tiny glimpse of some special things we did to enjoy summer "at home" in Tokyo. Most of the rest of the days were spent hanging out at home with books, Lego, electronic games, and board games. Oh, there was exercise too. The boys were encouraged to go outside and exercise just before dinner. Our eldest got into quite a good habit of going for a run before dinner.

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