Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween I

It's been a full week of Halloween fun here in Tokyo.  We started things off with a parade on Saturday the 25th.  I was amazed at the turn-out at the arena in Roppongi Hills.  Mobs of people were there.  And from what I understand, Halloween is a relatively newly adopted holiday in Japan.  

I had been working for a while on putting together a Mickey costume for Max as he loves Mickey and Donald and the gang.  His favorite TV show is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse which we get on the Disney Channel.  He wakes up every morning and says "watch mickey!"

So I put together a costume and Max actually wore it at the parade.  Our good friend Fumie joined us with her daughter Tamano who I decided was a pumpkin princess. 

Here are some pics of the day.  More to come, hopefully from Max's school parade on Halloween Day.

Johnny D. waves hello

Very tall Japanese man

The band

Very odd onlooker

Post-parade meltdown: No, it's MY TRAIN!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lining up the cars

It's already October 20th and Tokyo is in pre-Halloween gear.  This Saturday we'll go to a parade near our house and Max will also have a parade at school. Life has settled into a predictable rhythm with school, swimming and play dates for Max and me transporting Max to and fro, taking Japanese lessons, going to the gym (very occasionally), thinking about how I really need to expand my cooking repertoire, doing the daily and weekly shopping, wasting time on the internet, reading,  and sitting around waiting for Rich to get home at night.  Yes, I feel I've adjusted to the insane work schedule Rich has had for the past (going on 4) weeks. It's a massively detailed project with a short timeline so working till 11:00 PM and on weekends has become a norm.
So Max and I continue to do our thing.  We play blocks, cars and trains; we chase each other around the house; we practice sitting on the potty; we read a lot; we watch a lot of Curious George on DVD.  Here's a couple of shots of Max lining up his cars.  He took great care and precision with this.  And just a mention for those of you concerned with this behavior, he zooms his cars around quite normally as well.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recycling rocks

New rules for recycling were posted earlier this month.  The best thing is that a ton of stuff can now be recycled.  The only downside is that it will require a hell of a lot more rinsing moving forward. (Bring on the peanut butter jars!) But maybe that will provide more of an incentive for me to scout out products with less packaging.  

Irony of ironies.  While Japan is pretty good about recycling, they are package and wrapping crazy.  So when you buy a pack of rice crackers - each one is individually wrapped.  Doesn't this kind of defeat the purpose?

So far I am trying to reduce packaging in Max's lunch by not buying juice and milk boxes and using reusable containers instead of baggies.  My next step is to really work at carrying around my own coffee cup to avoid generating Starbucks waste.  

I also need to practice saying "issho de ii desu" (literallly "all together is ok") to the cashiers at the grocery store to tell them not to put dairy items and fruits and veggies in their own little baggies.  And to refuse other extraneous bags --- "fukuro wa kekko desu" (literally "bag no thank you").

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Two Sundays in Kichijoji

One of our favorite new places to hang out is Kichijoji. Special thanks to Tazuko and Keiichi for inviting us out to lunch with them in this happening neighborhood. Here we all our outside the Village Vanguard Diner.  Tazuko and Keiichi were craving burgers so they chose the place.  You would think from the signage visible in the photo that we were in the States.  

Elsewhere in Kichijoji this is not the case.  While we saw a couple of expats here and there, it is primarily Japanese and has a youngish, mellow, everyday sort of vibe.  There is a nice big park with a small lake and swan boats and row boats to rent.  There are also random entertainers along the path doing magic tricks, playing instruments or doing any sort of amateur acts.  There is also a zoo attached that we explored during our second visit to the area.  As far as zoos go, it was pretty basic and on the old side but we had a good time just the same. Although the elephant didn't look too healthy.

For our second visit, we explored the zoo and stumbled upon a great place for brunch.  Here is a photo of Rich and Max enjoying their pancakes and french toast (respectively) with blueberry sauce.  And of Max drinking milk and water at the same time.  Notice the yellow mini car below his arm.  This is a new favorite.  

Unfortunately a lot of blueberry sauce ended up on Max's shirt and then on my shoulder in a blueberry embrace.  But I can attest to the power of the Spray 'n Wash stain stick.  It works.

After brunch, Rich took Max home and I got to wander and shop. There are lots of interesting side streets with funky shops as well as larger established department stores. I also found a maze of dark, narrow alleys with tiny shops and miniscule restaurants - just a couple of seats - with mysterious odors emanating from them.

I bought a few random items.  Cute socks, a funky shirt for Max, some houseware stuff.  But by 3:00 I was experiencing sensory overload from the masses of people and shop after shop after shop.  So I headed back to the station to begin the long trek home. That's the main downside. It's about an hour door to door from our house to Kichijoji. And the worst part of that hour is the time spent transferring and navigating through Shinjuku Station and the triathalon of stairs, escalators and tunnels you need to conquer just to get to the right subway.

Still, I'm sure we'll be back.

Friday, October 3, 2008


What can one really say about a mass of sand and silt poured into Tokyo Bay to form a new community of high rises and shopping malls.  That's Odaiba. We went a couple weekends ago. The train ride takes you over the Rainbow Bridge and it was a spectacular warm day.  

Max and I explored the beach (man-made).  (We found a dead crab.) We passed by the rent-a-dog place that had a line out the door and the adjacent Doggy Restaurant. Does this kind of service exist anywhere else?  Someone please say that Tokyoites are not the only people who will line up to rent a dog for the afternoon to take it for a walk and buy it lunch.

Then we headed into one of the handful of large malls on the island to check out Toys R Us. I planned on getting Max a tricycle but he displayed no interest. This was so frustrating as he loves to play with/on the tricycles in our basement bike storage area.  

I bought a couple Thomas trains to keep on hand for future surprise gifts and we headed out to lunch in the food court. Then Rich checked out Eddie Bauer which somehow was kind of stylish as only the Japanese can make outfits look good. More on the style gene later...

Max fell asleep after lunch so as he snoozed in the stroller Rich and I got coffee and enjoyed the view.

For the love of cows and other phrases

Friday, October 3, 2008
"Milk come hole over there."  Does this qualify as a sentence?  Or is it just a sign of Max's intense love affair with cow milk.  This series of words was uttered with excitement on Friday. He leaped up from his 8th cup of milk of the day and ran to his table of farm animals, grabbed the cow, darted back to me and pointed to the udder and uttered his pronouncement.  I am so proud.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008
"Taiga come over play bedroom".  Taiga is his little friend who came over to play.  Max said this before he went to bed, as we sat together and reviewed the day.  

Another thing that is really cute is that when we read the "hedgehog book" (incidentally given to me by my Nannu in 1977) and the book ends where 10 hedgehogs are tucked into their little beds, he jumps up from my lap or the potty seat (where he likes to sit while we read books), runs to his bed and grabs his bed in an excited embrace and says "Mac wooden bed".  Yes, I assure him, you have a wooden bed.  This kind of thing is happening a lot.  It's like that scene from the Miracle Worker when Helen Keller finally understands sign language.