I wanted to tell you about a terrific day we had yesterday. Most of you know I am crazy about japanese fabrics and craft stores. Before we left California I was super-excited about getting out to “Fabric-town” in Tokyo. I collected the names and neighborhoods of places to visit for crafty-goodness. (Those of you who are less thrilled about wandering through rows of grosgrain ribbons, rickrack trims and stacks of cottons printed with bunnies by the meter– then you can imagine Max’s anticipation about our outing!)
I started my plan for the day with just one idea– get to Yuzawaya, a special craft store in a suburb outside of Tokyo. I did a little research (thank you Google!) and found out the little town is a hip shopping district, popular with families because there was a great park in the town. Here’s a quaint quote: “The vast park abounds with nature. There is a pond in the center of the park and very pleasant to spend a peaceful, lazy time floating around on a boat.” Perfect something for Max! But what to eat? Additional searching revealed a famous yakitori restaurant from 1920 and a soft serve ice cream shop with zillions of flavors. It was a great combo– now how to get there?
I have to say that while I know that I would have been capable to find our way on the subway and train, giving Emma the job of Navigator was a wise choice. She’s a whiz in Japan. At the start of the trip we purchased Simca cards for each of us (kind of like a transportation debit card) and loaded the cards with Yen. Instead of calculating train fair for every journey and waiting in line to purchase tickets, we just zip through the turnstiles flashing our cards. Emma loves the Simca card because she feels like a real local.
So after morning of school time for the kids we headed out little town of Kichijoji . Getting across Tokyo city took about 45 minutes but the express train to Kichijoki was an easy 20 min. We all brought our Kindles and read on the ride. Just a small FYI- no one talks on the trains so it’s good to have a silent activity. It was a holiday weekend so there were lots of families on the train. I caught a couple of kids peeking at Max’s kindle while he read– maybe the thought the English writing was strange?
We hit the final destination Kichijoki station and I checked out time– it took about an hour to get out there and we had to be back early for a 6seconds event. So we would only have 2 hours to check everything out and then another hour back to our hotel. ARG! I made a quick decision to scrap my plans for a leisurely browse at the craft store and instead get us fed and happy at the park. Don’t despair about the shopping! I figured that next time we are in town it will be wintertime and we should take advantage of the outdoor activities now, shop later. Also I am planning on shopping later when we will be able to pack goodies and not haul them around for 8 more weeks.
Great decision to get outside!! Inokashira Park was a beautiful place to visit. We wandered through the park asking the way to the Yakitori restaurant. As our path meandered by the lakeshore, Max was very keen to get out on the lake in a paddle boat shaped like a swan but we were all starving and had to eat first. I had no directions or address for the restaurant, just the name. Every so often Emma would politely ask someone (in Japanese) for directions. She got us there with no trouble!
The Yakitori place was very smokey and Emma ordered at the to-go counter in Japanese. I was a little anxious that we not get chicken liver, chicken breast bone/cartilage or feet, but we had tasty tsukne (meatballs) and negima (grilled green onion).
Max preferred the pancakes from the very pink and kawaii (cute) shop nearby.
With lunch in-hand, we headed back to the lake for our feast. Oishi desu! (very tasty!)
After lunch, the kids hopped in their swan boat and sailed away (peddling with vigor) With Max steering and Emma photographing, the kids spent 20 minutes together without arguing (a record these days!)
I took pictures of happy families at the park and buskers. It was a great time. Then when the kids tired of swanning around in their boat we were all eager for a soft-serve ice cream treat.
I know that my picture can’t show you the flavors very well– but here’s a small sampling: vanilla, chocolate milk, green tea milk, ume (plum blossom) sweet potato, rose, black sesame, apricot stone, kyohou (grape), black honey soybean flour,chocolate covered banana, sakura (cherry blossom), and soda (?).
The crowds watching the performers were as amazing to watch as the shows themselves. I especially loved watching the delighted children in the audience.
Our time in Kichijoji was at an end. We headed back to Tokyo with full bellies, cameras and wishes for a longer visit next time. I am really proud of us for making up a day trip not in any tour guidebook and spending the day with other happy families in a local park. We are doing our best to go beyond our tourist limits and jump onto real life Japan.