This is our family's first time living outside of the United States. You will find our adventures; some silly, some exciting, some confusing, but all amazing experiences!! We hope you enjoy experiencing this beautiful country as much as we are enjoying it!
The kids and I had to go into Tokyo yesterday for our first modeling adventure and decided to take a few hours to wander around Shinjuku Gyoen.
We started our day rrreeeeaaaaalllyyyy early...0545 wake-up for the kiddos so we could be at the train station by 0630. We made it to Tokyo and our 0815 appointment with ten minutes to spare! After an hour or so of photos we were free to roam the city. First up, though, was something to eat. On our way to find food we discovered a few neat creatures hanging out on a raised walkway.
After the shoot, we were all hungry and thirsty, so for our second breakfast Mackenzie had her first onigiri, fried rice; Garytt had ham and egg salad sandwiches; I had a sakura, shrimp, and pickles onigiri.
I didn't get a picture of it, but the crowd to buy tickets to the park was INSANE! So many, many people crowded around the ticket kiosks and windows that it took almost five minutes for us to figure out where in the world the beginning of the lines were! I'm pretty sure we (accidentally) cut in front of a lot of people, but we got our tickets quickly (200 Yen for me and 50 Yen each for the kids), and we made our way into the park. I walked to the little map stand to get a map where there is a sign that says, "Please see park attendant for maps in English". Well, it would have been nice to know that when I was at the ticket window buying the tickets. :/ Now, I have to go back to that insanity.
Since Mackenzie was slowly melting into over-tired-oblivion, I gave her the map and let her be in charge of getting us through the park. I gave Garytt the little point and shoot camera so he could be in charge of taking extra pictures. (extra pictures that I've now discovered he erased when he was pushing buttons he wasn't supposed to and reformatted the card.)
So, Macki-chan decided we would walk to the right and loop around to the back of the park where there was a cherry tree section and an exit gate close by. Up we go and off we move...
Our first stop on the path around the park was the London Plane...basically an open yard surrounded by trees. We learned a lesson today: When it comes to sakura pictures, you have to push your way to the front of the line to get a picture, otherwise the crazy people won't let you in. Since, even with that knowledge, we aren't naturally pushy people, I just got creative with my camera angles and timing. The only hitch was getting Boy to cooperate.
Then, as if by magic, Kenzie decided she couldn't go one minute without hugging her brother. Maybe it was the feeling of Spring from the surrounding blossoms, or maybe it was a bit of sleep deprivation, but, whatever it was, it worked. He cooperated when she was in the picture.
The park wasn't in full bloom. There were a handful of trees that were beautifully full of the pink and white. But, 80% of the trees in the park were still just pink buds.
I love the dark wood of the branches surrounded by the light pink and white of the petals.
Here's the spot were we stood patiently waiting for two girls to get all their pictures with the blossoms, only to be pushed out of the way as we tried to get into their spot. It doesn't happen often, the pushiness, but the thought of having the perfect shot to post to Instagram much outweighs politeness occasionally, for some people.
So, we had to Google these things. This was the section that had bald cypress trees. These are the trees' knees. :)
After a quick look at the little ponds and trees, we made our way to the Upper Pond (kamino-ike).
This park is quite large. It's a little deceiving when you turn off the road to enter, leaving behind a huge mall, major train station, and large, busy roadways. But, towards the back it opens up into ponds and groves of trees and large grassy areas to picnic with friends and family.
We had to take a bit of a break here. Garytt was ticked off that I made him share the little camera with his sister. He absolutely refused to have any more pictures taken of him, and he was starting to drag his feet in the dirt pathways. Urggg...that early wake-up was certainly catching up to us.
Unfortunately, this is also where the Cherry Area is...so, the biggest reason I wanted to come here was going to be cut short because Boy was losing his mind.
This is the English Landscape Garden. There were so many people spread out on blankets and enjoying lunch. Toward the back-center of the picture you can see the pinks. That's where the Cherry Area is.
While Boy grumbled and Kenzie wandered around, I took a few shots of the blossoms. And, by a few, I mean several dozen. :) I'll spare you the time and just show a few.
My lil chickies
She was so willing to pose for every picture I asked her to take while Boy stood behind me and said things like, "This is taking forever", "How much longer?", "Do you really need ANOTHER picture of that tree?", "I don't believe you" (when I said, just a few more minutes).
The last voluntary picture I was able to get of Boy for the day.
The Cherry Area was beautiful! It will probably be magical by Sunday. I think it's supposed to rain this weekend though. Darn.
On the way home both kids fell asleep. For the first part of the trip Boy fell asleep. When I realized I missed our stop at Shinagawa I had to wake him up quickly to get off and switch to another train, well he had such a look of horror on his face at that abrupt waking that it made me want to carry him like he was three and rock him back to sleep. Poor Boy. Once we got back on the correct train he quickly fell back asleep and Mackenzie fell asleep for a few minutes, too.
As soon as we arrived at Yokosuka Chuo, Kenz asked for her new favorite conbini (convenience store) treat: onigiri! Oh, and thank you Lawson's for helping convince one of these kids how delicious egg salad is!
Mackenzie was invited to AnimeJapan 2016 in Tokyo today with her bestie, Emily, and her family. Most of this page will be in Miss Mackenzie's own words. :)
While she was bouncing around the Big Sight in O'Daiba, Garytt and I walked around Yokosuka, ate dinner out, and then hit up the Daiso for some fun stuff ~ a welcome trip off base since I think we've been cooped up in the house for almost three weeks with various stomach and head illnesses.
Coco's for dinner. I was surprised he ate as much as he did since he's been so sick for the last week. But, he finished all but one slice of his chicken cutlet, and about a quarter of his rice. He kept saying, "Please don't tell Mackenzie about all the fun stuff we did today, because I want to tell her all about it." He got a golf game to share with his sister from Daiso. And, he promptly broke the end off the club. Haha...oh well.
Some of the deliciousness he decided Mackenzie would like.
And...the main event....Mackenzie says:
We went to Tokyo.
It was a 40 minute train ride.
Then a ten minute train ride.
Finally, one more stop until we were there.
After we got there we went to eat lunch at Coco's, but it was taking FOREVER! We were #385! Three. Hundred. Eighty. Five. Since it was taking too long we went to FamilyMart instead. Japanese peanut butter sandwiches are soooooo good!
I got to see Miku and Chewbacca!!!
(Mackenzie has been a fan of Miku since we moved here
and she found a mask at the Yokosuka street carnival)
I totally forgot to open my jacket so you could see a picture of me in my Princess Pew Pew shirt with Chewbacca!
I got to see Pikachu!! A giant Pikachu balloon in the air (said with big sweeping arms).
I got to see Optimus Prime!!!! (Me: I know, Mrs. Jaimie sent me a picture! That's so cool!) Mommy, did you think it was weird that Optimus Prime picked me up? I was like, "Oh my gosh! OK, you can pick me up." We saw him with a lot of boxes and we were like, "Ooooohhh.....thats why he wants all those boxes." His suit is made out of boxes!! Boxes!!! He picked Emily up, too. Kayla said "Uh...no thanks!"
My favorite part today was meeting Miku. Well, it was a girl dressed up like Miku. There were a lot of people dressed up like characters and they would just let you take pictures with them. Anybody could take pictures with them!
There was even a guy there that was taller than Mrs. Jaimie! He had these things on his legs that made him really tall. (Me: Stilts?) YES! Stilts! It was so funny!
The M and Ems....Miss Mackenzie and her bestie, Emily.
Oh, Mommy...I didn't miss pizza night after all!!! I had pizza for dinner!
This week we had the chance to get together with our homeschool friends and make a trip to Kidzania in Tokyo. With three rooms reserved at the New Sanno, 3 moms loaded a dozen bags, a stroller, and 8 (yes, that's 8!) kids into two vans and began our adventure around 1300 Monday afternoon. We were so excited about our plan for the next day!
We don't usually end up on this side of the hotel, so the kids were so happy to see Tokyo Tower.
We were up bright and early Tuesday morning...accidentally earlier than I planned, but it worked out. The kids had plenty of time to eat breakfast and watch part of a movie before we met our friends in the parking lot.
As we pieced together from the Kidzania website, different blogs, and friends' reports, this Day of Fun needed to have a bit of preplanning and an attack plan for us to get the best out of the day. Since we were only allowed to reserve space at one activity at a time and then stand in line at another activity, we needed to have an idea of which way to walk and which jobs to chose. So, we selected ten activities for the day.
Kidzania is basically a 2/3 scale of a city block. Kids sign up for a shift (morning: 0900-1500 or afternoon: 1600-2100) then perform different jobs throughout the city. There are over 60 different jobs or activities in Kidzania.
We signed up for the first shift, so our start time was 0900. Because we knew people lined up early so they could be first into the city and get in line for the most popular jobs, we planned to be at LaLa Port (the mall where Kidzania is located) at 0730. We made it there in time and queued up for our entry. Promptly at 0740 we were allowed in, where we were given our order ticket (right). The order ticket tells us what time and where we are supposed to be in order to get into Kidzania. Once we had our order tickets we went up the escalators and got in line for registration. Then, it was time to just wait for the doors to open. So, we made our way to our meeting spot and took up our space on the floor.
Our group: Caleb, Kaven, Aiden, Garytt, Brenden, and then Mackenzie and her pal, James.
Hanging out in our waiting area. Our Order Ticket said we had to be here between 0810-0820.
At 0830 the doors opened and everyone entered according to the number on their Order Ticket. The first job starts at 0900. The purpose for getting there and lined up so early is so we could get in before the surge of kids and hopefully get in line for the most popular job. This worked out for us, since we got the Fire Department job's second shift.
So, we thought this was the way it worked: We go in and reserve a spot at the Police Station and then get in line to wait for the Fire Department.
How it actually worked: We tried to reserve our spot for police so as soon as the kids finished fire they could run over and do police, but since there was no line at police we were not allowed to make a reservation. Huh? Yeah, it was a bit confusing at first. Thankfully, Padre was there to help us, he spoke pretty good English and was very eager to help us out...until he vanished around 1000. Nooo! It took us almost the whole shift to figure out the whole reserve vs. wait procedure. And, when we thought we had it figured out, the next station would seem to do it different. Maybe it was the language barrier. I'm not sure. Even through the confusion we managed to pack in a full day! The kids completed 7 jobs! We would have had 8 but everyone was exhausted by the end of the 7th job so we packed it in and made our way home.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself...
At the entry each kid gets a job ticket to fill out throughout the day, this is also used to reserve a spot at the busier jobs. Once we pick a job, the kids give their job card to the job Zupervisor, who fills in the job information: Reservation time (if needed), Pavilion name, and whether there will be a professional photo available at the end of the day.
So, after we got our reservation at the Fire Department we had to find something else to do. Well, since our return time for Fire was only 30 minutes away, we didn't have enough time to squeeze in police, which takes 30 minutes to complete and then make it back to Fire on time. Luckily, there was a part time job right there next to the fire department. Mackenzie and the younger boys got in line for this one, Black Cat Courier Service. Meanwhile, the two older boys headed off to do a part time security job.
Part time jobs are different from the regular jobs in that they are only 15-20 minutes instead of 30-45. The kids also don't get uniforms for part time jobs. This is the job board, there is one for each job at the different pavilions. This one is for the Courier Service. The wait time for this was 0 minutes, so the kids went right in. This job had capacity for 8 kids. Most jobs only had room for 5 kids at a time, so with 7 in our group, we had to get creative splitting them all up. This job board is actually for the full time courier job, so it has a 30 minute duration. The part time job was only 15 minutes. The suggested age for this job is 3 years old. And, after completion the kids are paid 8 Kidzos. ~ Most jobs pay the kids for completing the task. A few of the activities required the kids to pay to complete...Wall Climbing cost Kidzos and Ice Cream Maker cost Kidzos. I'm not sure which others cost money.
The kids sitting quietly while being instructed on their job. And, then they were off to deliver their letters. James was given the map so they could find their destinations. The two older boys, now in the middle of their security job, are on the right side of the picture.
The first letter was delivered to the RCP and the second had to be delivered upstairs to the Parents' Lodge. They quickly found the RCP and then ran to the stairs and across the bridge to find the Parents' Lodge (which is a place where parents can hang out as their kids run around downstairs). I guess I forgot to mention that parents were not allowed in any of the activities. We had designated waiting areas where we could watch some of what they were doing, but we couldn't help or enter the work areas.
This is the Kidzania building.
"Get Ready for a Better Future"
Declaration of Independence
"We, the kids of the World's cities, countries and continents proclaim our independence from adults.
We hereby hold the following truths to be obvious, that all kids are created equal, and that we are endowed with certain irrevocable rights to be, know, care and play in the pursuit of our happiness of the world.
We therefore make known our joining together as one force, as one spirit and with one vision in the development of a better world where education and experimentation will lay the foundation for our readiness to inherit the world.
Unified in our purpose we thereby declare ourselves now and forever independent.
Get Ready for a Better World!"
If you ask this watcher-of-80s-cartoons, those look like Snorks without the tubes on the top of their heads.
After successfully completing their first job the kids were paid 3 Kidzos. I shoved those in my purse and we made our way to the Fire Department for the next job. As we were trying to figure out what to do next, another helpful Kidzania employee advised us to use the ten minutes to open bank accounts. That's right...the kids opened their own bank accounts and deposited their hard-earned Kidzos into their accounts!
So. Much. Fun.
Parents weren't even allowed into the bank. So, the kids waited in line and then walked to the counter. They had to put their money in a little basket, then they told the teller their names, ages, and had to write their names on the back of their Kidzo Card. Yes....they got their own debit card! What?! There are ATMs around the city where the kids can withdraw money to pay for a few of the activities. Garytt was so darn amazed that he got his first debit card! On the car ride home that afternoon I heard Aiden say, how many kids our age can say they have their own credit cards?!
We arrived at the Fire Department promptly at 0920 for a 0930 start to this 30 minute activity.
Notice the sky above the building. :)
First, the kids waited for instructions from the firemen. Then, they were called by name, one by one, and they had to jump up at attention (see Boy below) and then they were given their uniform.
After they were properly trained, the alarm rang, they ran to the fire truck and all piled in.
THERE'S A BUILDING FIRE!!!!!!
All the kids jumped out of the fire truck and stood at attention as the chief assigned them certain hoses.
To the hoses! To the hoses! That's G all the way on the right, to his left is James, and to his left is Kaven. Good job, boys! Picture time!
Okay...pictures in this place got a little crazy. As in...they wanted to get the 'perfect' picture and maybe not understanding that these six boys just wanted to get back in that fire truck! Having them stand there for more than a couple minutes was asking a bit much.
Once picture time was done they ran back to the truck so they could get back to the station.
Next up in our plan for the day: Stand in line for Sweets (kids get to make their own candy) and get a reservation for pizza (kids make their own pizza). We walked around to the Sweets shop and found this sign:
This means the job has been filled for the day and we can't wait in line or get a reservation. :( Darn. It was probably that school trip of 60 five-year-olds we saw take off around the corner around 10. Oh well, with our reservation at Pizza at 1040 we didn't have a lot of time to squeeze in any other jobs.
Pizza-La Pizza Makers
Waiting for the job to begin; they were given a hair net, apron and hat.
Then, they chose which pizza they were going to make. 1-Italiana (cheese, tomatoes, and corn) 2-Hawaiian, 3-Sausage. Garytt and Mackenzie chose sausage. We had quite a hard time trying to ask if they could just have the Italiana pizza but leave off the tomato and corn. They said, no what you order is what you get. Hmm...this ought to be interesting.
Once they entered the pizza shop they sat down for instructions and then had to wash their hands.
Next, they were given little balls of dough to smash with their hands and then roll with a pin.
Which one of these is not like the other? G had a bit of an issue keeping his in a pretty circle.
Next, they poked holes in the dough to "let out the air" (according to Mackenzie), and placed them on the baking trays, then moved to the toppings station.
The pizza Zupervisors were pretty insistent that the kids put on EVERY topping that is listed for the pizza they picked. Kaven really didn't want corn or ham on his. He tried so many times to tell the lady, "No, I don't want that on my pizza." But, she just wouldn't let him go without putting it all on. However, he was clever enough to pick up just five kernels of corn and one tiny sliver of ham and put them all in one spot in the middle. Ha! So, it could be easily removed when it came time to eat. So...to those who want to make pizza, but don't want the strange toppings....just pick out one and put it in a spot where it can easily be removed. :)
Garytt got creative with his sausage. Then, the kids waited for the pizza to bake.
Mackenzie with her creation. I thought there would be a huge issue with the corn, but she said it tasted really good. The sausage, however, wasn't as good.
Okay...here's where we had a bit of a language issue...we decided while the kids were eating pizza we would go reserve a spot at the magic show since the sign said there was a 30 minute wait. Plenty of time for everyone to sit and eat. Well, the lady at the magic counter told us it was a 15 minute wait, so I thought. "Practice in 15 minutes." She must have said that three or four times. I said, "Ok, thanks!" then told the boys to sit and eat. As they were sitting back in their chairs she said, "Ok, follow me. Follow me." Wait, what? What's going on here? Well, she said practice, maybe they have to practice something before they go in. ??? So, we send the boys over. Next thing we know they are putting on costumes and walking them behind a curtain. What is happening?? I guess there was a bit of a misunderstanding because they were in the room learning magic tricks. So, while they were in there I ventured out to get lunch for myself and then something else for Mackenzie and Garytt, just in case the pizza wasn't as good as they thought.
Magic Studio: Table Magic
Boy in his magic costume. There was a small tv outside the studio where we could watch.
My spring rolls were delicious!
On my way to get lunch for myself and Mackenzie I took a couple snapshots from above. This is the car area...I think there was auto mechanic, gas station attendant, car rental, and then you could be the one renting the car. To the left of this area is also a subway section: rail engineer, driver, and train engineer. There was also a design studio where you could either design a car on paper or out of clay.
I did too much fooling around up there and almost missed Garytt's magic show. I made it there just in time to watch him shock the audience with a different card than they expected! The look on his face when he turned that card over and the crowd gasped was priceless!!!
Now, we had the kids sit down and finish eating their now-cold-pizza. We were slowly realizing that most of the jobs were filling up for the day. We figured we could get on one more waiting list and then have the kids wait in line for one more job. That would fill our job cards. So, we got on the Ice Cream Shop waiting list, with a return time for 1435, and made our way to: Wall Climber (for the three older kids, Mackenzie included) and Security Center for the four little boys.
ALSOK Security Guard
After everyone was outfitted in their shirts, vests, and hats they were given thorough security instructions: How to stand at attention, how to salute, how to handle an ASP, what to do when one of them notices something strange.
Practicing salute....look at Boy's form! Standing straight, hand at forehead, feet perfect.
He said Sugihara Sensei calls that musubi dachi...thank you karate sensei for the things you have taught our son.
After their training session, they went inside the security building to get their equipment. This is the moment when Garytt found out he was going to be the one in charge of the walkie talkie...I think he's a bit excited!
Okay, one has a walkie talkie, one has a map (Kaven) and one has the metal briefcase.
Off they go to transfer money from the vault to the airport.
They walked all the way around to the Airport. Here, Garytt had to speak into the walkie talkie. I asked what he had to say, since it was too loud for me to hear him, and he said he didn't know. It was in Japanese. I asked him what the Japanese words were and he said they were too hard to repeat. They all made their way into the airport. Garytt said they went in and checked bags, then walked around the airport to make sure it was safe, then they left. According to the money tracking sheet he got from this job, they also counted money. That's probably what was in the briefcase.
When security was done we went to the Subway. Mackenzie had decided not to climb the wall because it cost her 10 Kidzos and she thought she only had five ~ she had five actual Kidzos in her wallet, but 53 on her debit card, so she could have done it. She was a bit overwhelmed with everything going on today. Garytt was able to complete seven jobs to Mackenzie's two jobs. She was afraid to do some of them (she doesn't handle new situations well) and some of them were just too 'boy' for her tastes (which is what happens when there are six boys to one girl). When I offered to leave Garytt with the others and walk her around to find something she would like (fashion designer, interior design, pen shop, flower shop, stamp shop, makeup store, art supply store) she refused because she didn't want to go alone. Poor girl. We will have to go back with girls so she can try those things. Garytt even said that was a good idea, however, when I asked if he would do them with her, he said NO! He would go by himself and do other jobs.
So, at the subway the boys put on their uniforms and made their way to wait for training to become Subway Track Maintenance Engineers.
They waited in an area where we couldn't really see them. Just bits and pieces. Turns out, asking four boys age 7 and under to sit for 20 minutes with hard hats is asking a bit much. They discovered how hilarious it was to bang the hard hats together. Funny at first, until someone took it a bit too far. Next thing we know, they are on the floor wrestling and getting yelled at by the Zupervisor. Good thing they can't be fired!
Okay, time for action! They are walked around to the back of the Subway car where the track needs replacing. They take out their clipboards and write a few things down ~which track is bad, what the measurements are~ and then get to work.
They removed the old track and laid down a new track. They got to use power tools to unscrew big bolts. They got to use that yellow thing on the table to lift the tracks in and out. This was such a great activity for them. The youngest, Brenden was SO into it!! He took out every bolt and then put them all back in on the new track.
Tightening the new track in place.
Boy got to turn the handle on this gadget to lower the track into place. He was quite proud of that.
Garytt and James had a lot of fun posing for these pictures.
At the end of this job we realized the kids were not going to make it through another job. There was only room for 4 kids to do the Ice Cream Shop, so I could just see the others losing it because they didn't get ice cream. So, we went back to ice cream and took the kids off the wait list and decided to find somewhere in the mall to get a snack or ice cream for everyone. Good choice! And, lucky us, there was an ice cream shop right outside Kidzania! Once ice cream was eaten and everyone made a visit to the restroom, we headed on home. Our parking was validated for the trip...well, all but 1200 yen.
All in all, it was an amazing trip! The kids are already planning their job schedule for the next time we go, and the time after that, and the time after that. :) We didn't end up spending any Kidzos on this trip, mainly because they wouldn't have had enough to get anything they actually wanted. I guess that's a good ploy to get us to come back again and again. :) I'm onto you Kidzania!
When we got home the kids were so excited to tell Daddy all about their jobs and show him their very own wallets with MONEY and a debit card!!!
Their completed job cards
Garytt's pay for the day. He made 90 Kidzos, received one coin, and seven job cards - already lost two. Then, at the bottom is his debit card.
Because Mackenzie only did a couple jobs, she didn't walk out with as much, only 58 Kidzos. But, she was still very proud of what she did earn. And, for the most part (excluding the several times she was in tears) it was nice hanging out with my girl all day. :)