Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Family Day Out

Today was the day of our neighborhood kodomokai (子ども会 - "children's association") field trip. This is an annual event in which the parents with children in our neighborhood can get together and go somewhere fun and interesting for the day. Last year we went to Tokyo Disneyland (cute, happy fanfare), which is an understandable favorite (despite those insane crowds). This year they decided to do something different. We went to Tokyo Dome City (somewhat overblown electronic fanfare).



Tokyo Dome, also known as the "Big Egg", is a huge, enclosed sports arena and a famous Tokyo landmark. We didn't go there. Tokyo Dome City is an amusement park located next to it. We did go there. As urban amusement parks go, it's more or less what you'd expect. Ticket prices are almost as steep as its main roller coaster (as much as $5 a pop for the bigger attractions), but there is a varied repertoire that offers (or at least should offer) something for everyone. It's also a lot less crowded than Tokyo Disneyland, so no forty-minute waits to do anything.

The trip there wound up being a strange experience. Our bus stopped at the Makahari Parking Area (rest stop) for a rest room break only to find that the bus on one side of us was a PTA group from Itako High School (in our area) including one of my wife's old friends, and the one on the other side was carrying the rugby team from Ye Olde Academy (Bold, brassy fanfare) on their way to a match! Small world, eh? We had to wonder if our karma was trying to tell us something.

Once at the park, our group opted for the all-day passes, which were a very good idea. Basically, we were given paper bracelets with bar codes, and we had our wrists laser-scanned whenever we went on any of the rides or went into any of the attractions. Only the special shows cost extra. The all-day passes were definitely the cheaper way to go, especially for the die-hards that went on a whole lot of rides.

Once the passes were distributed, our group split up. My daughter immediately headed off with her friends, and there were no worries there. My son, however, we knew would be a problem. Now 7 years old, he likes his friends, but at the same time he's something of a loner and prone to wander off by himself without warning. At first he tried to latch onto a group of older boys, but within ten minutes we spotted him over in one of the giftshop corners dancing around in an imaginary swordfight by himself with no sign of the other boys. We promptly attached him to his sister and told her to stifle her griping.

That left my wife and I to share some long-awaited and much-needed quality time together. That kind of complicated things. You see, my wife is NOT the adventurous type. At least not in the sense of excitement. She'd be perfectly happy to fly out to Paris to see if she could find a good name-brand handbag, but even the suggestion that she ride either a Ferris wheel or a good-sized roller coaster is enough to send her into a fit. As it was, I managed to get her (read "sucker her") into going on a ride called the "Sky Flower". Basically, you stand in a very small cage (more like a basket) and get winched up to the top of a 61m (a little over 200ft.) tower and dropped again...twice. It's quite a view from up there. I admit that, especially during the second climb, vertigo made me feel a bit dizzy. My wife, on the other hand, was crumpled up in the bottom of the cage screaming for the duration of the ride (poor thing!). After that, the only rides she would go on were a very tame roller coaster that you pedaled yourself and a log waterslide ride. (That was fun...if wet.) I would have liked to go on the Dolphin Wave, (big, steely fanfare,) Tokyo Dome City's main attraction, a giant, looping and twisting roller coaster that literally encompasses the park and adjoining shopping mall, but...oh, well. Quality time. We definitely needed the quality time.

We rendezvoused with the kids and went out for lunch, settling on the Italian restaurant there in the park. (I would've liked to go in their English pub, but oh, well. Quality time...) I fully expected it to be a horrible tourist trap, but we were pleasantly surprised. The food was great, the portions were more than adequate, and the prices were quite reasonable, considering where we were and what we got. The only problem was that my salad came with BLEU cheese, which I love, but I had to listen to everyone else complain about the smell. I also made the mistake of choosing a semi-dry, medium-bodied red wine to go with my spaghetti. The wine was good, but it didn't match very well with the flavor of the spaghetti. It seemed like the two were competing with each other. Oh, well. It was still a good lunch.

While we were eating, my daughter kept going on and on about how cool the indoor rides (haunted house, fun house, illusion theater) were, so my wife and I decided to check them out. Well, they were clever and kind of fun, good, clean family entertainment (if you don't mind a few severed limbs or a tad of motion sickness), but we were definitely glad we were using all-day passes instead of forking out for individual tickets. (I will say that I've encountered far, far worse tourist traps...in the U.S., I might add.) After that my wife challenged me to a game of air hockey, and I beat her twice, so she challenged me to a game of Taiko no Tatsujin (a video game based on traditional taiko drumming), and I beat her twice. I guess it just wasn't her day.

After that we spent the rest of the afternoon doing what she likes best: shopping (elevator music fanfare). Actually, the little mall there in the park had some cool shops, and we wound up coming out with more than a few bags. After that it was time for us to link up with the main group to get back on the bus.

Famous last words. My daughter and her friends showed up only three minutes late. There was no sign of my son. Apparently he'd been an enormous drag on his sister and her friends because, hopeless coward that he is, he'd been too scared to do anything. He'd stood by and waited, locked in mortal combat with invisible, swashbuckling pirates, as the others had gone on the rides they'd wanted. Finally he'd disappeared into the crowd, and his sister and his friends had just said, "Oh, well, good riddance," and moved on. Needless to say, we immediately mounted a search of the park to find the little nipper. He was found waiting in line to get on the one ride he'd finally mustered enough courage to try: the log waterslide. Apparently he was on his third go...so at least his all-day pass hadn't been a total loss.

The ride back home was uneventful. The dinner party we all had at the local seafood restaurant was not, but we don't need to discuss all that.

Enjoy your week, everyone!

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9 Comments:

  • I see your pubishing is still the high qualtiy of story telling we all like. Glad to see it.

    Sounds like you had a good time.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 8:09 AM  

  • I like amusement park coz it's fun!!! My favourite is roller coaster :)

    About your son, if he can hang out with 'brave and adventure' children then he will also get the guts to try and play. Maybe need someone to support him :)

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:09 PM  

  • Amusement parks still fail to amuse me. Loved the narrative though. Great stuff, Moody, as Pa've said. Maybe your wife and son should pair off next time. ;)

    I can visualize you at the rest stop between those other buses - slowly sliding down the seat to below-window level...

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 6:51 PM  

  • Glad you had a nice time and your son was OK. Japan is a lot safer when it comes to leaving kids “on their own.” (Or maybe that’s just my perception) My SO is the same when it comes to shopping, but I’m the one that doesn’t like rides. Once you hit a certain height, it’s easy to get sick.

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 11:41 PM  

  • Jealous!!!

    When shall you guide me to there?

    By Anonymous Spirit, at 1:20 PM  

  • Pa've
    Thanks for the compliment! Hopefully the post that follows this one won't wreck everyone's opinion of me...

    Selba
    My son has got to be one of the biggest crybabies in the world. Even as a toddler he'd freak out and start screaming if someone picked him up the wrong way. But again, if he doesn't want to do what the others in his group are doing he just dances (or swordfights) off by himself.

    Pandabonium
    My wife pair up with my son? That might be dangerous. She keeps threatening to snip off his male identity with scissors if he doesn't get over his crybaby ways.

    Swinebread
    Actually, Japan is currently in the middle of a child molestation epidemic. Since a few years ago, every public school and nearly every private school campus nationwide is in a lockdown during school hours because they've had so many cases of weirdos walking into schools and sexually harassing if not assaulting or even abducting and/or killing kids. Even my own school has had some fruitcakes walk right into the building during school hours and grope girls in the recent past, so we now require anyone entering the campus to register and wear an ID badge. The elementary school where my wife used to work once had a foul-mouthed old man walk in and start handing out condoms to the girl students. (He became quite abusive and even threatening when the faculty told him to leave or they'd call the police.)

    These are things that have only been a problem within the last ten years. Before that they'd be almost unimaginable. The same is true of all these "date clubs" whereby middle-aged businessmen can pick up pre-teen girls. Face it; this country is sick.

    Spirit
    That depends on when and if you can come and visit!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 2:48 PM  

  • I can visualize you at the rest stop between those other buses - slowly sliding down the seat to below-window level…
    PandaB.: I visualized THAT TOO! He put a clown MASK on his face at that time.{^_^}

    By Blogger PinkPanther, at 4:40 PM  

  • That seems like a very sudden shift... maybe it has something to do with the boom bust thing

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 10:56 PM  

  • For a 7-year-old, I think your son is a brave little lad to be on his own.

    Here in KL, we too have had many cases of missing children so much so that parents these days pay extra attention on them when they go out shopping - will not let them out of their sight.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 5:18 PM  

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