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Monday, May 24

Weekend Times, Family Times

Weekends are all about family time.  Which, if you knew me back in the day, is actually quite funny because you would never expect me to be married, let alone start breeding a family.  And now... I wouldn't change it for the world.  Many told me that my younger and crazier self didn't know what she was missing.  I say to them, that you're right.  I probably didn't, but going through those days has only made me appreciate these days even more.  So now when the weekend rolls around, I'm no longer sitting at happy hour and trying to figure out what random fun I can compromise myself in.  I am instead planning random fun for my boys, the loves of my life.

Two recent outings proved noteworthy in their odd, little Japanese way.  Both of them seemed to be accessible by car, which has proved easier than hauling Kimono Peanut and his infinite gear up and down the numerous stairwells we find in the smaller train stations.  Of course, it is never as simple as it seems.

Not knowing what foods and supplies would be available at Aburatsubo Marine Park, we stopped at the neighborhood 7-11 to get pre-cooked meals, pickled radishes and various snacks in preparation for a picnic lunch.  Loaded up, we started off on the route that our handy dandy directions instructed.  According to them, it looked like we basically passed Yokosuka Naval Base, made a total of three easy turns and we would arrive there at the tip of the Miura peninsula, where the park was to be perched on the rocky cliffs above the ocean.  If this was true, the trip should have taken us no more than an hour with traffic.  In all the time I have been here, I do not rely heavily on directions provided by the base because they are usually and sadly quite mistaken.  This would be no exception.

Two hours into the trip, following our own good senses through the last hour and a half, we arrived at the park.  Fortunately, we had left our house early and the park wasn't too full yet on what would surely be a busy day with the gorgeous weather we were having.  After two trips back to the car because I seemed to have left my organizational skills at home for the day, we were finally past the main entrance.

The first thing to be done... play with sea cucumbers!  A rocky pool had been built in front of the entrance to the main aquarium and held starfish and sea cucumbers so young and old hands alike to pick one up and play with it.  And what do sea cucumbers feel like?  Big, squishy boogers.  I wished wholeheartedly that I had not had that experience.  The boys didn't seem to mind.  Boys and gross stuff.  They go hand-in-hand, right?

Inside, the aquarium was quite well done!  Not as large as Sea Paradise in Yokohama, but there was a nice size shark tank, plenty of sting rays, tanks that held fish who swam upside down or straight up and down, and even crabs that could surely rival my own weight with their massiveness.  One of KP's favorite words and favorite things to see is 'fish'.  We tried to expand the words to include the varietal names, but over his repeated 'FISH!' shrieks of joy, I doubt he heard a thing we were saying.

That surely could made his day all on its own, but this was a large park and there was much more to do.  Apparently shows are the big thing in Japan.  Seriously.  Maybe I haven't been to enough parks, but it just feels like there are an awful lots of 'shows' at parks in Japan.

In the middle of the park stood a huge stage.  An announcement when we were in the aquarium had sent most of the inside crowd running outside to the stage area, so we had followed.  After standing there for ten minutes, without a seat in sight available, we decided to bag it and head over to a large circular tank nearby that a few were still peering into.  Dolphins skimmed their way round and round in the tank.  Of course, Kimono Peanut just saw more 'FISH!'.

As we stared in, something finally began to happen on stage!  Lo, the show was starting!  While I am not sure what we expected to see, I don't think it was the anime in life appearing before our eyes.  I know they are hugely popular characters who now stood before us, but I honestly couldn't identify them.  (Perhaps Heather can help me here?)  Whoever they were... KP loved them and their big heads and big eyes topped with bright pink and blue hair.  This is the story I got... the pink-haired is attacked by a man waving a fan at her.  She falls down, goes boom.  Fan man and his friend the Pirate laugh at her crumpled mass.  But, lo, see yonder!  It is the blue-haired girl arriving on the horizon!  Blue and pink flying, they kick the butts of the Fan Man and Mr. Pirate!  The end.

Honestly, it was well choreographed, but honestly not something I would chose to stand idly watching if it weren't for my wee one being so enthralled.  We did drag him away as the numerous bows were beginning to go and get a good seat in the big arena for the marine animal show.

Front row!  And praying we wouldn't get wet.  We pried into KP whatever food he would pause to take in while he waited impatiently for the show to start.  Perhaps the wonderful Sea Paradise show had me a bit spoiled, but this was a bit lacking.  It didn't even get the Japanese audience laughing.

A sea lion began the show by playing some tunes on the piano.  Impressive actually.  Then a person dressed as a penguin priest came out, said some things, meandered away for the dolphins to do their thing in the big tank, which is always cool to see.  They did the noses to balls, waving, 'talking', hoop jumping and the typical marine show stuff.  Some real penguins made their appearance, but they really only waddled onto and right off the stage. 

The lights changed behind the stage to show the image of a stained glass window behind what now appeared to be an altar.  The penguin priest returns followed by sea lions and their escorts, who turn out to be their wedding attendants!  The penguin priest marries the sea lions.  They kiss.  The end.  But no!  It's time for the reception!  The sea lion comes back to play the piano and his friend joins him to be the DJ.  He actually squeaks a record or two.  THEN, the end.  No, I am not making this stuff up.

Through most of the show, KP had been clapping and hopping up and down, but the excitement just overcame him.  He was asleep even before the kiss, collapsed in the arms of his daddy.  We took the opportunity to have a nice romantic picnic lunch on the cliff overlooking the ocean and Mount Fuji, without our darling angel fighting us to run off in whatever direction the fun lay in next.

A stand was selling fresh conch and calamari.  So fresh, in fact, it felt like you might be enjoying the taste of a recent exhibit.  Of course, we have eaten these things many times so KH was all for grabbing some to nibble on.  Now, I will eat a lot of things.  But that conch... as tasty as it looked... e-gad, it was horrible.  Even more horrific was when you pulled the entire thing out of the shell, you really didn't know what the black stuff was that you were eating.  I'll admit.  I couldn't do it.  KH tried a few more bites than I did, but in the end, even he could not endure.  When no one was looking, we tossed those bad boys.  I did remind my husband that all I asked for was ice cream and that next time, perhaps, he can listen.  But that taste wouldn't go away, so the ice cream came sooner than anticipated.  Thank the good Lord.

Crowds were bringing the noise level up so it wasn't long before KP was roused.  We had already checked out the petting zoo while he was sleeping only to find a dog, gerbils, rabbits and some mice... all of which you had to pay 300 yen for.  He can pet a dog at the neighbor's house for free.  We passed by it long before he knew he had even missed it.

There were many coin-operated rides there, so we chose a Keikyu train to toss our first 100 yen into.  Sitting behind the wheel, pushing buttons and levers, he loved every moment of his first ride, after he got over the shock of the movement happening underneath him.  We put him on several more rides before we finally dragged him away, with much lighter pockets.  There were also these totally cool large furry animals that you sat on and steered, but KP was more interested in watching others ride them than he was in trying it for himself. 

Strangeness aside, we had a great day together.  KP saw 'FISH'!  So we rock as parents.  That day anyway.

Our second outing didn't turn out so well, but it has only recently come to pass that it wasn't the place as much as KP had been sick and we didn't know it.  A short, but scary hospital stay only days after our trip to Kurihama Flower World explained why he seemed to collapse in tears during every other step at the park.

Fortunately, getting there didn't seem to be as difficult as the trip before, with only a few surprises in the directions.  We again got their earlier than the crowds, but hadn't stopped at the conbini as we had found at the marine park that there were some food stands.  Of course, Kurihama Flower World didn't have as many as we would have thought for its size, but it didn't matter because we didn't stay that long due to the state of the Peanut baby.

One never knows what to expect when you come to these places.  We were more than a little surprised that all that seemed to stretch out in front of us was a poppy garden.  An impressive poppy garden, don't get me wrong.  But a poppy garden.  Now, I love flowers more than most, but even I was expecting... more?  A road on the side of the garden seemed to tell us that there was more to be seen... farther than the eye could see from our vantage and perhaps as farther than our feet would take us up the steep hills beyond the garden.  After a few meanderings around the front part of the poppy garden, a train started making its way down the hill.  A line formed at the front, causing us to gravitate in that direction in the hopes it would get us to the big beyond.

When the train pulled up and we hopped on, this usually would be another experience that the Peanut would love, but no, not on this day.  His screams, twists and kicks had all of the Japanese in front of us turning to view us from the corner of their eyes.  The kids were a bit more obvious as they just turned around and stared at us.  Yes, we were that American family.  Gah.  Thankfully, the train began its ascent.  At the first stop, the train conductor must have asked who wanted to get off here and most with kids raised their hands.  We just wanted to get away from the stares, so we got off too.

There we found ourselves facing a gigantic Godzilla!  If you crawled up into his belly, you could slide down the big slide out of his tail.  This stopped the tears for a bit as KP loves a good slide.  If it had been a bit wider, we would have attempted too, but the last thing we wanted to do was get stuck in a slide and glean ourselves more looks from the locals.

Behind Godzilla was a wonderful creation of ropes, ladders and slides all situated on the perfect gradual hill.  Only one unfortunate thing... it was a wee bit advanced for an 18-month old.  We did a few slides at the foot of it that seemed a bit more his speed, but when KP came down on his face and landed into a mud puddle, tears running down his cheeks, we decided to just steer clear of the rest of it.  So we tried the more age appropriate slides and structures off to one quiet side.  One other toddler crawled in and out, up and down with the Peanut.  But, alas, even this was not enough to stop the tears.  We coaxed him with snacks and toys, but nothing seemed to be working.  We made the choice to catch the next train down.  I'm uncertain what was at the top of the mountain where the train next went.  A short debate about going to see what was over the rising hill was quickly ended when KP just completely lost it.  We didn't even wait for the train, but instead started the long walk back down the hill.

Halfway down, we came upon an ice cream shop that overlooked the poppy garden.  Green tea ice cream quelled his frustrations for a few minutes, but it wasn't long before we again began our escape descent.

At the entrance of the park, a makeshift stage now had several cultural song and dance acts occurring on it.  We watched a Hawaiian and traditional Japanese dance, but not wanting to press our luck much further, we made our way back to the car.

If we had time before our move back, I would love to try this place again.  It had everything you could want for a sun and fun filled afternoon.  As our time in Japan is now drawing quickly to an end, I don't foresee a second trip in our future.  We shall see though!  I remain optimistic about getting everything that I want to do squeezed in during these final days!  If it were up to KP, he would chose an afternoon feeding the koi at the nearby stream and then playtime in the park nearby.  Why are we adults to eager to plan these big elaborate days of fun when kids find the simple things in their everyday world almost more fun than those same big events?

We tried our first big outing since his hospitalization this past weekend.  Close friends joined us for a trip to Yokohama for dinner at Garlic Jo's in Minato Mirai where we all ate delicious balls of broiled garlic called 'Vampire Killers' that surely kept everyone at a distance for the rest of the night.  Then we took a ride on the world's third largest Ferris Wheel, Cosmo Clock 21, where KP has proved that he has no fear of heights.  The girls left the boys behind for a quick spin on the Vanishing Roller Coaster.  And then off to watch the live acts being performed in front of Queens Square over ice cream parfaits and coffee.

Our time here is indeed fading.  Our weekends our dwindling.  We love our family time, but the next weeks simply must be filled with lots of friend time too.  I don't care what we do.  I just want to show those that I love here just how much I will miss them.


Heather Meadows said...

I figured out who the characters are, thanks to the fact that the banner behind them says what show they're from! It's HeartCatch Pretty Cure, a magical girl anime like Sailor Moon. The pink one is "Cure Blossom" and the blue one is "Cure Marine". The bad guys appear to be Kobraj (the guy in white and blue) and a Desertrian (monster of the week).

Your Aburatsubo Marine Park trip sounds like so much fun! Love the pictures :)

So sorry KP was ill :( But it sounds like he's okay now...that's good.

Love the line about the "Vampire Killers" :D

I can definitely sense how bittersweet your last bit of time in Japan is for you, especially in the last paragraph. I'm glad you're getting out there and experiencing as much as you can! Such a move would be really hard for me, too, and I might be apt to just sit at home moping :>

Kimono Karen said...

Thanks for the help, Heather! I know you are the expert on anime! I really want to get myself into a program or two, but I just so rarely sit down in front of the TV lately. It will be one of the things I will fall in love with once I get back and need Japanese reminders. :)

Trust me, there are days I feel like moping! But then I force myself to make plans as I know it will be gone too soon and I won't have the chance anymore. It's going to be so hard to leave this country. You really must come visit some day. With your love of Japanese culture, I know you will enjoy every single minute of your time here!

Heather Meadows said...

I've been twice--for six weeks in 2001 with school, and for ten days in 2003 for our honeymoon--and I have been dying to get back. I'd love to live in Japan, at least for awhile.