2010 Jan - Chinese New Year in Japan

Mae-Ling took Kyle to Japan for Chinese New Year a few days in advance of Alan, who was still in Singapore for a work meeting.  She first went to Nagano for the hot springs and snow monkeys.  Kyle loved the snow, especially with his snowball maker.  They enjoyed sledding as well.  They made it back to Tokyo and checked into the Asia Center of Japan hotel

Alan flew in the red-eye and met them at the hotel.  We figured out the metro system and found our way to the Pokemon Center, which really was just a Pokemon retail store.  We then went to Roppongi Hills and ate sushi.

1001_jp_100.jpg 1001_jp_101.jpg 1001_jp_102.jpg
1001_jp_103.jpg 1001_jp_104.jpg 1001_jp_105.jpg 1001_jp_106.jpg

On Saturday, we went to Shibuya.  We explored the 4 stories of toys at Kiddy Land, but somehow escaped without buying anything.  Mae-Ling shopped for souvenirs and gifts at the Oriental Center, while Alan took Kyle to find a cafe and realized he was next to PayPal’s Tokyo office.  We then checked out the latest fashions on Takeshita Street and got too hungry to make it to the Ritz for tea as Mae-Ling had planned; we popped into the food court on Takeshita and gorged on gyros and miso noodles.  We then took the metro to the Sony Center, but we didn’t see anything too shocking in its 4 floors of “latest gadgets”.  The 3D TVs were pretty cool.  We met up with Paul and his kids Macey and Jonathan back at the hotel.  All 6 of us then went to Ginza to find another monster toy store.  The coolest part was the large electric race car track.  Famished and exhausted, we ate dinner at a teppanyaki restaurant on the top floor.

1001_jp_107.jpg 1001_jp_109.jpg 1001_jp_110.jpg 1001_jp_111.jpg 1001_jp_108.jpg
1001_jp_112.jpg 1001_jp_113.jpg 1001_jp_114.jpg
1001_jp_115.jpg 1001_jp_116.jpg 1001_jp_117.jpg

On Valentine’s, we went to the New Otani Hotel and tasted 20 different,10jan_146.jpg beautifully-prepared mini-sandwiches in their famous tea brunch.  We briefly toured their gardens before seeing Mae-Ling off to the airport.  Then began the “Daddy Adventures!” 


10jan_001.jpg 10jan_002.jpg 10jan_003.jpg 10jan_004.jpg 10jan_005.jpg 10jan_006.jpg
10jan_007.jpg 10jan_008.jpg 10jan_009.jpg 10jan_010.jpg 10jan_011.jpg 10jan_012.jpg
10jan_013.jpg 10jan_014.jpg 10jan_015.jpg      
We met up with Paul at Kidzania.  Though our tickets were for a 4pm entry, we started lining up at 3.  Paul and Alan were hoping to be able to drop the kids off and relax, but once we were inside, we were amazed at the size and scale.  It was essentially Epcot meets “It’s a Small World,” with each store funded by a corporation.  Kids “worked” for 30-45 minute shifts to earn Kidzania bucks, which they could then spend on some activity or purchase.  The kids first chose a food processing store – go figure – and made fried rice.  It was spicy so Alan ate it – it was surprisingly tasty!  Then the kids split up, and Kyle did the rock / building climbing (see video).  Afterwards, we watched Macy perform in the magic show.  Stopping only briefly for some food, the kids then became firemen.  Their shift began with learning some discipline, like standing straight in a line, and stretching.  Finally, the alarm went off and they filed into a mini-firetruck and managed to drive thru the packed Kidzania streets without running over anyone.  The kids filed out, got in line to count off while the building burned behind them, before finally getting to stand before their hose and spray out actual water.  When they finished putting out the fire, they proudly posed for the paparazzi parents.  Macey cleared the path back to the firestation, announcing in English to make way for their truck.  We calmed the kids down with a bit of drawing at the Epson store.


10jan_016.jpg 10jan_017.jpg 10jan_018.jpg      
10jan_019.jpg 10jan_020.jpg 10jan_021.jpg 10jan_022.jpg 10jan_023.jpg 10jan_024.jpg
10jan_025.jpg 10jan_026.jpg 10jan_027.jpg 10jan_028.jpg 10jan_029.jpg 10jan_030.jpg
10jan_031.jpg 10jan_032.jpg 10jan_033.jpg 10jan_034.jpg 10jan_035.jpg 10jan_036.jpg
10jan_037.jpg 10jan_038.jpg 10jan_039.jpg 10jan_040.jpg 10jan_041.jpg 10jan_042.jpg
10jan_043.jpg 10jan_044.jpg 10jan_045.jpg 10jan_046.jpg 10jan_047.jpg 10jan_048.jpg
10jan_049.jpg 10jan_050.jpg 10jan_051.jpg 10jan_052.jpg 10jan_053.jpg 10jan_054.jpg
10jan_055.jpg 10jan_056.jpg 10jan_057.jpg 10jan_058.jpg 10jan_059.jpg 10jan_060.jpg
10jan_061.jpg 10jan_062.jpg 10jan_063.jpg 10jan_064.jpg 10jan_065.jpg 10jan_066.jpg

On Monday, we tried to find Sega World at the huge Takashimaya department store at Shinjuku.  We were only able to wander around “Tokyo Hands” store before it was time to get on the train to the Ghibli Animation museum.  We ate at the train station before catching the bus over to the museum.  Too bad it was raining so we couldn’t get any good pictures of the interesting Goudy-like architecture.  The inside kind of reminded me of an Alice-in-Wonderland Swiss ski cottage.  We watched a cute short film about mice sumo wrestlers.  The museum did impress me on how difficult it was to make an animated movie by hand – the dedication to detail is amazing.  Back at Shinjuku, we walked around a bit to see the “real Tokyo” with all the neon lights.  We enjoyed some sushi and sake while the kids entertained each other.


10jan_067.jpg 10jan_068.jpg 10jan_069.jpg 10jan_070.jpg 10jan_071.jpg 10jan_072.jpg
10jan_073.jpg 10jan_074.jpg 10jan_075.jpg 10jan_076.jpg 10jan_077.jpg 10jan_078.jpg

10jan_146.jpgOn Tuesday, Paul left so Alan was on his own with Kyle.  We went to the Edo Museum.  I learned that Edo was the old name for Tokyo.  It was a gorgeous museum with many fabulous miniatures of life in the past.  The WWII section was depressing; I learned that Tokyo suffered almost as much damage from the fire bomb raids as Hiroshima and Nagasaki did from the atomic bombs.  As one reviewer noted, it’s pretty amazing to see the Japanese government’s WWII surrender document on display.  We refreshed ourselves with some soba and udon noodles at the museum restaurant, before navigating through the metro maze to get to the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.  We were properly amazed, dumbfounded, and piqued for a few hours.  Then, I dragged Kyle on a very long walk back to our home station – ok, I got lost for a bit, but I do actually enjoy walking the streets.  Japan is so clean and safe, with interesting things to see around every corner.  We ended the day with some soul-warming curry noodles.


10jan_079.jpg 10jan_080.jpg 10jan_081.jpg 10jan_082.jpg 10jan_083.jpg 10jan_084.jpg
10jan_086.jpg 10jan_087.jpg 10jan_088.jpg 10jan_089.jpg 10jan_090.jpg 10jan_091.jpg
10jan_092.jpg 10jan_093.jpg 10jan_094.jpg 10jan_095.jpg 10jan_096.jpg 10jan_097.jpg
10jan_098.jpg 10jan_099.jpg 10jan_100.jpg 10jan_101.jpg    

On Wednesday, we continued our museum trek at the National Museum.  Priceless Japanese art, but not very interesting for an 8 year old boy.  By the time we got to the National Science Museum, Kyle was quite grumpy, even saying, “After this, I’m not going to complain about going to school anymore!”  But he livened up after a quick lunch box at the museum lounge.  We explored all the fossils and stuffed animals.  Kyle liked the Plesiosaurus fossil the best.  We played with the science demonstrations (see video).  Though completely exhausted, I tried to get one more museum in, the National Art Center, but we got there after it closed.  Despite Kyle’s protests, I marched us to Roppongi Hills for dinner (see Diesel store video) before finally relenting to his pleas to go home.


10jan_102.jpg 10jan_103.jpg TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM
126 kB

91 kB

National Museum of Nature and Science
10jan_104.jpg 10jan_105.jpg 10jan_106.jpg 10jan_107.jpg 10jan_108.jpg 10jan_109.jpg
10jan_110.jpg 10jan_111.jpg 10jan_112.jpg 10jan_113.jpg 10jan_114.jpg 10jan_115.jpg
10jan_116.jpg 10jan_117.jpg 10jan_118.jpg 10jan_119.jpg 10jan_120.jpg 10jan_121.jpg
10jan_122.jpg 10jan_123.jpg 10jan_124.jpg 10jan_125.jpg 10jan_126.jpg 10jan_127.jpg
10jan_128.jpg 10jan_129.jpg 10jan_130.jpg 10jan_131.jpg 10jan_132.jpg 10jan_133.jpg
10jan_134.jpg 10jan_135.jpg 10jan_136.jpg 10jan_137.jpg 10jan_138.jpg 10jan_139.jpg
10jan_140.jpg 10jan_141.jpg        

We woke on Thursday to snow.  We went to the gorgeous Ritz Carlton to catch the Narita Express because I wanted to take some pictures of the beautiful Tokyo Midtown blanketed in fresh snow.

10jan_142.jpg 10jan_143.jpg 10jan_144.jpg 10jan_145.jpg    
10jan_146.jpg 10jan_147.jpg 10jan_148.jpg 10jan_149.jpg 10jan_150.jpg 10jan_151.jpg


I was proud of Kyle’s stamina, and inordinately pleased with my ability to (most of the time) figure out the spaghetti-like metro maps.  I loved touring world-class museums almost as if they were my own private collections since so few people were in them.  I often found the structures themselves more impressive than what they housed, but half the fun was finding something intriguing in a corner.  Kyle was so exhausted at the end of every day that he couldn’t remember anything except that we walked a lot.  After all the great Japanese food, what did Kyle like the best?  Bagels.  “Daddy, you travel all the time so you get to eat lots of interesting foods.  But I don’t, so I still find bagels interesting.”

I feel guilty with all my work travel, so I’m happy I was able to spend this quality time with Kyle.  Mae-Ling and I have different parenting styles, and sometimes we clash when we’re traveling together.  I want to push on to pack in as many things as I can; Mae-Ling is happy to do one thing a day, or nothing at all.  So this trip, we compromised with Mae-Ling taking Kyle for the first part, us spending time together as a family for a few days, and then me taking Kyle for the last part.

But sometimes the best part of vacations is the anticipation of going home…