Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Yet Another Wrecked Family Outing, pt. II...

(continued from last post)

By the time we finally pried ourselves from the festival and got ourselves into my BLUE RAV4, we were already more than an hour behind schedule...more than three hours later than we'd originally hoped. Still, family outings of any kind tend to be few and far between for us (especially now that my daughter is in a junior high sports club), and this summer is looking to be an unusually busy one, so we pressed ahead anyway.

We basically had two agendas in mind:
  1. Grant my son's request to take him to Toys Я Us, somewhere he hadn't been in a long time.
  2. Visit the giant, new factory outlet mall just completed out in the middle of nowhere.
As it turned out, the factory outlet mall was located in the village of Ami, which till now was known only for its massive Japan Self-Defense Force base and one of the first Toys Я Us stores in Japan. Two birds with one stone! Perfect!

I hadn't been out to Ami for a number of years (since there really hadn't been any reason to go there) but it was still the same old road with more or less the same old sights cutting along the hilly area west of Lake Kasumigaura. However, as we passed the large university hospital that marks the entrance to Ami, I began to worry. I'd heard that the outlet mall was easy to find, but there wasn't a sign to be found. We made it to the center of the village, which had developed a bit since I'd seen it last, but there wasn't a giant outlet mall anywhere to be found. I circled around the downtown area and the military base for the better part of half an hour without the slightest tingle of success.

We finally gave up and decided to go to Toys Я Us first instead. Unfortunately, we'd already passed the place where I thought I'd remembered it being, and it didn't seem to be there. I circled around the area a bit and then asked Mr. Navi for help. Mr. Navi showed it in the address list and then drew the usual pink line to its location. I followed it in, and we did indeed find the Toys Я Us...


As in shut down, terminated, cleared out, signs erased, game over, listen to the crickets, etc..

My son was NOT happy.

Determined not to let the day wind up a total loss, I finally gave in to my wife's urgings and did that thing that real men are NEVER supposed to do: I stopped and asked for directions. (jarring diminished 7th chord) The guy at the gas station looked at us like we were total idiots and said (translated from the Japanese), "Um...turn around and go back the way you came, and you'll see the signs." I did just that...and it turned out that, while there hadn't been ANY signs in the direction we'd come from, there were signs on every block going the opposite direction!

Now why would that be? Had someone horked all the signs facing our way as a joke, or was it intentional discrimination since we live in hicksville and the other direction leads to the cities of Tsuchiura and Tsukuba? I don't know, but coming from the Tsuchiura (i.e. city) direction gave us plenty of signs to follow, and we had no problem getting to the the sun was already setting.

The reports hadn't been exaggerated; the mall is huge. There were lots of really cool name-brand stores, and all of them were CHEAP. Unfortunately, as late as it was, we took pity on my father-in-law and limited ourselves to a quick, twenty-minute run through the place. We did get a few items, but there were still lots of must-visit shops that we had to skip. I asked Mr. Navi for the quickest way back (I think it lied...), grabbed some quick convenience-store dinner fixings along the way, and got back home at a nice, not-decent hour.

As expected, my father-in-law was furious. He hates it when we go out, period (since he doesn't believe in people having a life...except him since he's special), but we caused his dinner to be late! (Even louder diminished 7th chord than last time) Outrage of outrages! My son and I were fortunately able to talk some of the steam out of him, defusing tensions before they could get ugly. We had our dinner, followed our usual evening routine, and went to bed.

Oh, well. Maybe we can try again some other time...hopefully during this lifetime.


  • I remember reading what an ordeal it was when you and your wife tried to have a day away... these outings never seem to go very smoothly for you! But at least you have found the mall and maybe can make it back there without as much difficulty next time.

    By Anonymous nikkipolani, at 12:40 AM  

  • Backward signs, its a gaijin conspiracy. Sorry to hear toys-r-us was closed. I like that store too.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 6:22 AM  

  • Hmmm, I used to love malls when I was a teenager, now I don't really care for them so much. Nice for the a/c in the summer though....

    I guess I prefer shopping online, the whole crowds of people, driving, parking lot hassle-saves me from all of that!

    By Blogger ladybug, at 7:47 AM  

  • Oh.. sorry to hear that! Still can go shopping in the US, ya? ;)

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:12 AM  

  • hmmm...

    yes the shopping day can certainly be better,,

    but dun worry I am sure it would be better next time.. or next next time..

    or at least in this life time.

    May you be well and happy.

    By Blogger Robin, at 3:33 PM  

  • A mall is like running into one of those community mail boxes. Lots of doors, lots of hiding places.

    By Blogger Badger in a Mail Box, at 4:02 PM  

  • Pulse, anyone?

    By Anonymous Dave, at 1:50 PM  

  • Sorry. My next post is probably going to be a bit long, and I haven't had time to work on it. (Too much preparation for the "Shinbon" observance for my mother in law. That and too much Facebook.)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:53 AM  

  • Shopping! Yippee! Your next trip would be fabulous. I just know it.

    So nice of you to be thinking about the 'old darling' at home. I hope he knows he's so lucky.

    By Blogger HappySurfer, at 2:49 PM  

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