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Published: April 7th 2017
Happy Birthday Milla! What a way to celebrate a birthday. She thinks we booked the trip for her birthday and why spoil it? Maybe it's a coincidence that it's school holidays and cherry blossom season. Anyway, it's her day. We are going cherry blossom hunting and then off to kiddy land. I thought they said kitty land - as in Hello Kitty Land. I googled it and it is an hour train ride from Tokyo. We only have one full day in Tokyo before we hit the tracks to Kanazawa and Kyoto - maybe we can go to Hello Kitty World next week?
Our fears of missing the Cherry Blossom bloom were misplaced. They are at almost full bloom. We walk to Shinjuku Gyeon through the "redlight" district and it's even more sterile in the light of day. No polite touts and you can't tell your sushi bar from your kinky fetish bar. I had plotted our route to Shinjuku Gyeon on the subway map before realising it was only a km away. We'll walk! We queue with the hundreds of locals to get a ticket from the vending machine. Other tourist are lining up at the manned window to
buy tickets. Deaks and I hit the machines and there is thankfully an english button. It costs 500 yen for us to enter the park. Don't worry, that's only about $6 and it's well worth it for the beautiful gardens and lakes.
In hindsight, we take a few too many photos at the first Cherry Bloosom tree we come across. It's a fine specimen but not the jewel in the crown. Milla takes over the digital SLR and she seems to have quite an eye for a well framed photo. Must get it from her grandpa. It's so peaceful inside the gyeon gates. The contrast with shinjuku at night is stark and the skyrises can still be seen beyond the elms and sycamores. It's cool but not cold and perfect weather for a meander through the mixture of massive manicured bonsai style trees, elms and cherry blossoms. The "japanese" garden with bridges and lakes is serene and while crowded with hundreds, maybe a thousand people, it doesn't cause any stress. Infact it's the opposite.
Milla and Jules spot a wedding party and get a photo with the bride in traditional dress. We sit under a tree and soak
in the Tokyo sun. it's windy and we get the occassional whirlwind of dry grass. The kids eat their complimentary treats from the hotel and Deaks writes in his journal. He wrote in his journal on the first day in Europe. I wonder if this will be the same.
Somehow Milla gets a blood nose from copping Deaks elbow in the moosh. Luckily I stole/pocketed moist wipes from breakfast and we clean up her bloodied face. A small Japanese boy in a sky blue shirt chases a sky blue balloon swept up in the breeze. He, followed by his mother, chases the balloon across the French garden but to no avail. The balloon is caught in the trees on the park boundary. The units behind resemble the apartments around central park in New York. But more Japanese - barely 4 metres wide and maybe 6 stories high with tiny balconies and a variety of colours on the fascade. They must be tiny apartments but have a spectacular view. The cherry blossom speckle the park. The white ones are my fvourite, the whites striking against the black trunks and branches. It's a special time of year for the
locals and they gather in places like this to celebrate the seasonal change. There are weddings, picnics, people taking photos of princess dolls lounging on rocks beneath the cherry bloosom trees. There are families and old freinds meeting and sharing a meal in the spacious park. I dare say it won't be the last blossom we see on ths trip but it will always be a special moment.
So we've already walked 6kms this morning and it's only lunchtime. We get a little lost in the behemoth that is Shinjuku station looking for a food hall. We settle on a place and the kids and I have smoked hotdogs and fries. Jules bravely selects the local cuisine and is rewarded with a nice chicken curry. I consult the guidebook and proudly announce that I think we should go to KiddyLand! Confused, they all say in chorus, "that's where we wanted to go!" Cool, thats only 10 minutes away - not an hour! 😊
Figuring out the ticket machines at the train station is a challenge, but we get our cards. Can't figure out how to get kids cards and decide to plead ignorance as we slide through the
gates two by two - effectively fare-evading. Kiddyland is in Harijuku. Famed as a hang out for Tokyo's fashion freaks - it is quiet and freak free on a Thursday afternoon. Or is it?
We browse the 5 levels of kiddyland and laugh at the weird and wonderful toy characters. The kids buy Pokemon toys and I get my obligatory pack of playing cards. On the way back to the train station, we cross a pedestrian bridge and see a large crowd assembled outside a convetion centre of some sort. There are rows of 2x2 tarps taped to the bitumen of the carpark. It looks like a fleamarket but they seem to be trading glamour photos of Japanese teenage girls. The photos seem to have numbers on them and the girls are posing like a selfie. Some appear to wearing red and white christmas jackets. These aren't pornographic, well at least not to my western eyes, but the place has a creepy subversive vibe about it. Dodgy blokes at the gate seem to be muttering an offer to us as we walk in but all the patrons seem to be cleancut teens. They just have a fetish for glamour selfies!
Milla's choice for dinner - Ice Cream and Donuts it is! That's not all we had. I grabbed some potato chips and sandwiches from 7-11. These aren't your ordinary 7-11. They have these photocopier/printers in the corner that don't just photocopy and print. These things issue train tickets, disneyland tickets, phone cards and most importantly baseball tickets. On my third attempt and with the hand scribbled note from our hotel concierge - I successfully find a 7-11 attendant willing and able to assist. It's hardly fair to expect that a 7-11 worker be billingual but I am struck by how confusing the Japanese language must be to read and write. The concierge wrote step by step instructions with dates, times and number of seats - but it was as if the words were open for interpretation. It's got me curious about their written language. Maybe the symbols have many meanings and are only clear if you know the context of the sentence. Anyway we got the tickets.
I bought a couple of beers with our 'dinner' and was pleased to get back to the room to see Deaks had found a live baseball game between the Tokyo Giants and the Yokohama Baystars on TV. With the whole family sound asleep, I barely made it to the 8:30 finish. For the record the Baystars upset the Giants, I just finished my first beer and was too sleepy to blog. Hoping to catch up on the blog during our 3 hour shinkansen to Kanazawa tomorrow.
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