This week was pretty mellow with the kids. The days consisted of Eleanor and I coloring, working on letters, and completing a train puzzle while Theo took his morning and afternoon naps. When Theo was awake, we played at parks. I was a bit taken back when the first park we went to had no grass. It was surrounded by trees, but all dirt-based. Maybe it’s because it’s just a small neighborhood park? Yet, they’ve installed a soft cushiony material under the dirt at the base each slide, Fireman’s pole, and stairs. After going to two other parks, both significantly bigger than the first one, I’ve come to the conclusion grass must not grow here. Either that, or they don’t want the upkeep/maintenance of it.
Between Eleanor’s clumsiness and Theo’s interest in tasting dirt while being the drooling king, they are both caked with dirt/mud by the time we leave. I’m all for kids playing outside and getting dirty, but this has reached a whole new level of dirty on a daily basis. Prior to now, we’ve had the kids re-wear their clothes a couple of days before sending them off to the laundry service. Here, however, the clothes last for about 3/4 of a day before going into the dirty clothes pile. Good thing we have a washing machine in our house this time!
Over the last week and a half, I’ve noticed Eleanor has been constantly chewing on her fingers (not even biting her nails; literally chewing on her fingers) or licking/biting things (stroller, windows, hand rails, etc.). To (hopefully) nip this in the bud before it becomes a bad habit, I told her she needed to keep her tongue in her mouth and her fingers out of it. Her response? “What if my teeth stick out? Where do they go?” Um… your teeth are nowhere close to sticking out of your mouth, so let’s keep them in. Now, anytime I catch her, I say, “Tongue in!” and she sheepishly replies, “Fingers out”.
The first highlight of my week occurred on Wednesday. I booked a tour/experience with a company called MariCar. For a measly $70, I was able to dress up in a Mario Cart character (Yoshi!!!!) and drive around Tokyo in a go-cart for three hours. Real-life Mario Cart, Tokyo style! Their first rule… No throwing banana peels or leaving oil spills! 🙂 While we weren’t able to go on the highways due to the engine size, we did drive on the regular streets between cars and trucks. I was able to get my go-cart up to 62km/h before the governor kicked in! People came up to wave and take pictures with us at practically every stop light. I feel like a celebrity…and I’m going to soak every ounce of it up! Unique experience number one… check!
My second highlight of the week occurred Friday night. My plan was to grab some drinks in tiny area of town called Golden Gai. There are 288 bars crammed into the space of a soccer field. Each bar can only sit 4-8 people and each floor of the stall is a different bar. When one person wants to leave, it takes coordination on everyone’s part to get them out the door. I had read that Albatross was a good starting point as it welcomed foreigners. Some bars only allow locals and you’ll know right away if you walk into one – the bartender will shake their head and point to the street.
I found Albatross and after chatting with the entire bar (four other foreigners and two bartenders) over a few drinks, I realized I was in Piss Alley, not Golden Gai. Apparently Albatross has two locations and all of us thought we had made it to Golden Gai. Upon this realization, we all decided to make the 500 meter walk to Golden Gai. We rallied another random foreigner on the walk and the six of us had quite the night together. One of the guys enlisted me as his wingwoman. He had his eyes on a girl and I attempted to start a conversation with her. Turned out, she’s local and doesn’t know a lick of English. The only two words I have learned in Japanese are hello and thank you. Well this isn’t going to work out. I got my phone out and started using Google Translate. I typed in English, the app would show the words back in Japanese, and I handed her my phone. She would do the same in Japanese and hand my her phone. Fast forward an hour later, we’re instant friends even though we can’t communicate in a common language. Technology is a fascinating thing!
Saturday was spent battling a hangover (the drinks here are very strong, even the beers) and exploring the Asakusa area with the French guy we randomly picked up on the walk from Piss Alley to Golden Gai. We checked out an onsen which is a public bathhouse, complete with nude hot springs. That was an… interesting experience. Males and females are only separated by a wall so while you can’t see the opposite sex, you’re still able to chat with them. The hot springs felt great and were definitely hot. There was one cold pool. I got in it as far as my ankles before deciding it wasn’t for me. The showers were no more than three feet off the ground and you had to sit on a stool in order to be below the nozzle. This part really grossed me out as the stools were reused without any sanitization… after customers sat on them in the buff. Yuck. Yuck. No thank you.
During our exploration of Asakusa, we stumbled into a shop that allowed you to play with parakeets and look at owls for $8/half hour. We also checked out a game station. Game stations are huge here (both literally and figuratively). The best way to describe a game station is equivalent to sitting in a casino at the slot machines while being at a rock concert. The noise is so loud, it’s deafening. Locals will sit in these multi-level game stations for hours on end, playing video games (think Pac-man as opposed to PlayStation). As I’ve mentioned before, Tokyo is full of unique experiences!