March 26, 2014

A Japanese St. Patrick's Day Parade!

On St. Patrick's Day, we heard that Harajuku was hosting "Asia's largest St. Patrick's Day Parade", and decided we should check this out. I wasn't really expecting much, given the number of Irish settlers here, but Japan stepped up! This parade was along the Omotesando, a high end shopping district in Harajuku.

This is the Irish Ambassador.

We loved the all-Japanese bagpipe band, kilts and all.

Japanese, Irish dancers. These ladies were beginners, and a lot of them about my age. I absolutely love seeing adults learn new things!

The Irish Setter club was a favorite, but I usually only see small dogs in Tokyo.

Of course, they were dressed to kill!

The US Army Band Japan participated with good 'ol American march music. That definitely put a lump in my throat! I wish I got a better pic, this was them warming up.

The girls loved the leprechaun's!

Eva loved getting this sticker from a parade participant. It was also very funny when someone walking in the parade stopped to take OUR picture. Haha!

The U2 fan club. Is this a stretch?

Twirling is alive and well in Tokyo, even for boys!

This was an actual Irish dancer in Tokyo with a touring show. She was fabulous!

The Where's Waldo gang? I don't think getting approved to walk in the parade was too difficult!

Also, some Japanese flair. This group was from Okinawa.

And every St. Patrick's Day Parade has a dragon, right?! This was the finale.

Next, we walked to the Irish festival at the park. (Also, a return of our favorite bear Duffy!)

There was a great Irish band and dancers performing at the park. It is kind of funny when the singer is speaking to the crowd and finally says "Can anyone out there even understand us.....", and there are only a few claps. Haha! Well, the crowd DID enjoy the music.

What's a festival without face painting?

We ran right in to the Where's Waldo gang. Of course, they would LOVE to get their picture taken!

On the walk back to the train station we passed a nice girl with two big parrot's. She was very happy to let the girls hold them.

The Tokyo St. Patrick's Day celebration was a nice surprise. We will be back again next year!

March 20, 2014

Another awesome public restroom!

Today, my friend Merri and I, went to check out the Aeon Mall,  in the neighboring town of Hinode. We heard that they had a great play area for  kids, so what better activity for a rainy day. The play area was, in fact, awesome (no surprise there), and the kids loved it!

This thing spun around slowly, like a corkscrew.

The real crowd favorite was the balloon room. Just a bunch of balloons and some air blowing made the balloons float. Every so often you would hear one POP! (I am sure that is why the US wouldn't have anything like this- someone would deem it too dangerous!) 

There were ball pits of varying sizes. 

The kids could ride on these, as the entire thing rotated. 

After play time was over we headed to the nearest restroom for a potty break. I couldn't believe my eyes when I walked in. It was amazing! I also loved how it was located just steps from the play area. I can't tell you the number of times, when my girls were toddlers, that we had to leave the play area and walk to the other end of the mall and through a department store for the inevitable diaper change, which would eat up 20 minutes of playtime. This matters to a mom!

There were 3 different sized bathroom stalls for kids. Check out how small the tiniest potty was!

Tiny urinals. And yes, the bathrooms are always incredibly clean here.

And tiny sinks.

Great, right? But things were only getting good at this point. Then there was a sliding door titled "Baby Room".

This baby room was incredible, this was a big couch for resting. (No this isn't the nursing lounge, there are rooms for that!)

These are the nursing rooms. There were several individual rooms, with sliding doors that could be closed for privacy.

Plush, and clean(!) changing tables.

A vending machine with juice, and what looked like formula.

A baby scale and measuring station. Yes, remember we are in a mall!

There was even a fancy, high tech, bottle warmer.

Not to mention a nice sink and clean up area. Amazing!

Next up, was the food court. I thought this was a rather odd name for a children's clothing store. Haha! 

The girls are gaining an appreciation for Japanese food. Eva even opted for the gyoza (fried dumplings) over McDonald's today. 

Food court food is always served on real dishes here, and there is always a 'help yourself' water station, along with rags to wipe your table, if you wish.

Yes, even the food court had an area dedicated to children with small tables and chairs.

Another bottle warmer machine, lots of wipes for spills and also hand wipes. Not to mention the little sink. So many things to help a mother, and it is not like the Japanese have huge families. It seems as though the US designs things to check the box, while here, so much thought is put into what the life of the user might be like and what would be helpful in said life. It has really been eye opening.

So, sorry for another bathroom blog, but I just had to share!

March 17, 2014

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, a day of plum blossoms

Todays' adventure was a trip to Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens to see the plum blossoms. Blossom viewing is very popular here and plum blossoms bloom a little earlier than the popular cherry blossoms. I can hardly wait for those! We loved this beautiful red bridge. 

They actually let you walk on this bridge, most of them are roped off.

Eva, taking a break. 

This was another green paradise, right in the heart of Tokyo. 

The Three Musketeers. 

Here are the plum blossoms. It seems as though every park in Tokyo is very carefully planned to have something in bloom in every season of the year. We want to come back to this park in the summertime, it would be completely different. 

The variety of this tree had the most vibrant pink blossoms. I wish the pictures turned out better!

This is full moon bridge. You can see that the bridge and it's reflection make a circle, which gives the appearance of a full moon. This bridge has survived in its original form for hundreds of years, even through war and earthquakes.

On our way out, we passed a cute school group. We thought it was interesting that the boys were wearing the pink hats, and the girls were wearing the blue. They loved to check out our kids too! 

This alley of shops is right outside of Nakano Station, which was our train connection for this trip. Since we had passed it many times, we decided to take a look today. Lots of restaurants and small shops. (Though the girl's chose to eat at McDonald's!)

This produce was being pickled, I believe.  

It's always so fun to look. I think we could spend every Friday of our three years here, and not even scratch the surface of what there is to see in Tokyo!