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Friday, November 27

What’s A Peanut To Do In Japan?

As it has been noted, I am a bit of a homebody since the peanut arrived. Often I get slack for this, slack that I have learned to completely ignore. Frankly, my child is one of the happiest wee ones I have ever seen, so I must be doing something right.

Despite my propensity for my own quiet domestic quarters, I do like to get the Peanut out and about on a daily basis. We do a daily walk, either to the market or the park or sometimes even aimless wanderings around the narrow neighborhoods in the area. Sometimes we just sit in our tiny yard and play with the sticks, the leaves and whatever bugs we can find. And then there are the days where we venture much further out.

It is harder to find places to go with kids in Japan than you might think. Sure, there is Disneyland, DisneySea, Fujikyu, Sanrio Puroland, and many other big ticket parks filled to the brim with huge mechanical rides and funny characters. These amusement parks are aplenty and very easy to find. But if you are looking for something a little less formal and grand (read: less over-the-top and pricey), it can be a bit trickier. It isn’t like I can Google these smaller places and then expect to be able to read about anything I find. If it is smaller, it is probably in Japanese or lacks a website altogether. But besides all this, I just sometimes want a fun and different place to spend a nice afternoon at with my Peanut baby.

Recently, I kind of fell into a play group. While I despise the whole ‘play group’ idea (we didn’t schedule play when we were kids… we just did it… but don’t get me started…), the people I have met have been lovely. Through this group of about ten, there are always ideas being thrown out about what to do that doesn’t cost a fortune, but the kids’ will all have fun at. Plus, usually the one with the idea also knows how to get there and plays director for the day. Handy when you have your hands full with your own wiggling kid and therefore don’t really have time to consult the map at every turn.

The first place this group introduced me to was a farm in the southern part of the Miura peninsula called the Tsukuihama Tourist Farm. Throughout the different seasons of the year, they grow various fruits and vegetables which you can spend a day picking and then picnicking amongst. The drive to this farm was something else. It’s out there. We convoyed our way there and back or else you might never have seen or heard from me again. After parking the cars, we began a long walk up the mountainside where the grove was located. The seasonal pick while we were there was mikan, similar to a mandarin orange, but even sweeter. The trees were grown in lines, but over the years, they had squeezed themselves together making for narrow walkways. For a tall person like me, with a runt attached to my front side, we warily bumped and bounced our way into the grove until we found a good picnic spot to squeeze ten people and their infants into. Lunch was whatever you brought for yourself, plus as many mikans as you could eat. The Peanut and I ate quite a few! We thought we would be able to pick a few and take them home, as it was when the leader of the group who had been there before had done, but the rules had changed for some unknown reason. This didn’t stop a few of us from popping on or two into our diaper bags.

Now, most of the girls in this group have babies under five months old. Mine was by far the oldest. He had fun trying to crawl around the infants laying on the picnic blanket and trying to steal their rattles. He also tried to sneak off the blanket a few times, but I did have to stop this. While I had thought there might be a grassy knoll somewhere, there was no grass in sight. Just dirt and rocks. And do you know what a one-year-old does with dirt and rocks? He eats them. So letting him crawl his little heart out didn’t really work here, but I did let him pull all the mikans off the trees that he could. That Peanut is a strong one, I tell you!

Once again, my lovely neighbor has also been a wonderful friend to the Peanut and I, and a great source for places to go. She does have two grandsons who are in school now, but not so long ago, she would take them to these many wee-kid friendly places. So we started with the Kanazawa Zoo. It is only recently that Peanut has taken note that there is something at the zoo to look at. Previously, he couldn’t have cared less if a crocodile came up and licked him. Now, he actually is starting to note that what he is seeing is a critter and not just something fun to chew on. We were able to drive to the zoo and park there, making it easier for my older neighbor, than dragging the baby in a stroller with all his gear to and from our destinations and the train stations. At the parking lot, a little bus actually drives you up the winding mountain-side path to the zoo. Peanut sat with our friend in the front seat behind the bus driver with a big grin on his face the whole time. Before pulling away from the garage, the bus driver passed out whistles that he had made from a local nut, so it was a cacophony of shrills as we made our way to the zoo at the top. I whistled for the amusement of my own since he is a bit too wee for it yet.

Once arriving at the top, the ups and downs were only just beginning. The entire zoo consists of these walking paths that would challenge even those most fit. With every upward slope, I would take over the stroller pushing. Out of breath at the top of every hill, it was a very good workout. The zoo has all the usual sorts… elephants, birds, giraffes, koalas and even some American deer. It’s always funny to see stuff like that behind bars in a zoo, when I can see them standing in my parent’s backyard every time we are in Pennsylvania. The Peanut was enjoying himself, pointing to this and that, and listening to mama make all the different animal sounds in the hopes of a reaction. We paused for lunch at a picnic area and dined on seaweed-wrapped rice balls, broccoli with mayonnaise, boiled eggs, mikans, and cookies that our neighbor had prepared for the day. When we were full, we set off for the last half of the zoo.

Now, I do like spending time with my neighbor, but sometimes the language barrier is difficult and does limit the conversation at times. But humor translates into any language. As we paused to look at an Indian Rhinoceros, it immediately came to our attention that underneath this weather and gray animal was something long, thick and bright pink. We were at a bit of a distance, so we weren’t sure we were seeing this correctly. Not wanting to seem inappropriate, we both avoided one another’s eyes for a few seconds. But when we looked at one another, the laughter burst out. You see, the enormity of what was hanging down from this creature and seemed to be sniffing left and right then up and down was just too much. I have never seen anything like that in my many years. And I pray I never do again. God pity the poor female that has to endure that.

Speaking of her… as we rounded the corner of the same cage, we see her bathing in a large pool. Two little Japanese kids that were also gazing in couldn’t help but excitedly share with us that there was a baby in the corner too. Well, her man certainly had gotten to use what the good Lord gave him. We laughed all the way down and up the next hills.

As we were coming around one corner, we heard what we all thought to be kids screaming. It was a strange sound, starting off short and low and crescendo-ing into loud screeches. To all of our surprise, we came to discover a White-Handed Gibbon sitting at the front of his cage, giving the crowd in front of him this uproarious song. While my neighbor and I started yet another fit of hysterical laughter, the Peanut could only sit there with a very shocked, and slightly freaked out, look on his face. His face made us laugh even harder. Sides splitting, we had to call it a day before anything else could happen to make me possible pee in my pants from laughter.

And there is still more that a peanut can do here in Japan! Last week, again with our neighbor, the Peanut hoped into the car and headed off to the seaside in Yokosuka. All we knew as I drove was that we were going to a park. Sometimes trying to get a description is too difficult, so it is better to just be surprised when you get there. The place ended up being a French-themed kids land called Le Soleil. The place is really for both big kids and little kids. As you enter, you pass through the gardens where golden sunflowers were blooming beautifully on this sunny day. There is no entrance fee here, and each ride or activity has its own small cost. To start, there was a huge playground with perfectly sized slides for the Peanut. He happens to love them. My neighbor was shocked when I would put him at the top, give him a little shove and let him reach the bottom to her arms all on his own. He is a big boy in comparison to Japanese at the same age. Plus, I think Americans tend to let their littlest kids grow up a little faster than the Japanese do.

Next stop at the park was to pet and feed the many goats. Peanut didn’t help much with the feeding, even though I tried, but he did let the goats lick his legs and hands. Don’t worry, I cleaned him very well afterwards. And as far as I know, there is no such thing as goat flu… yet. There also was a little wooden structure that happened to be filled with school children, all with a guinea pig sitting in their lap to pet and hug for a spell. We continued our walk around the large, open park, passing several rides and things to do that are just a little too big for the Peanut yet. There was a fake grass hill that several kids would slide down on using sleds. There seemed to be no control of the sled, much to their delight, causing the kids to come down in every which direction. There are all sorts of bikes and go karts, motorized and some not to ride. A large pond to canoe in using these huge swan-shaped boats. An amphitheater overlooking the pond where huge groups of school kids with their brightly colored hats had taken up residence to have their packed lunches. A train made a loop around the entire park. The peanut almost passed out on us here and would have missed the rest of the excitement if it didn’t stop just before he was fully out. A restaurant in the middle of the park provided us with delicious curry for our lunch, after which we strolled in and out of several bakeries, grocers and toy shops located there. For things to do, especially for the toddler crowd, this place was one of the best we have been to yet. I think I can even drive us back there on my own!

So these are some of the things that a Peanut can do in Japan! I am always so appreciative when someone tells us about or shows us a new place to try. Thanks to friends and word-of-mouth, I do believe my kiddo isn’t missing out on a thing! So keep those suggestions coming! And we’ll keep a day free each week to check them out!

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