I fear the holidays every year, mainly because the boys are out of school for so long, and if I don't stay motivated to get out and do stuff then we end up sucked into the soul-crushing abyss of Cartoon Network, XBox and Facebook. While I sit hunched over my MacBook, rearranging Lexulous tiles and uploading photos from 1991, the boys bust virtual Lego villains from their beanbag chairs, and before I know it five hours have passed since their last meal of Frosties in milk and the bickering turns to bloodsport.
This Christmas we'll be in New York just long enough to empty stockings and see relatives and maybe hit the Bronx Zoo and go disco-bowling at New Roc, so I'll have a long stretch of days to fill when we get back, 13 days, to be precise, to entertain and supervise with grace and good humor (hah!) and if I'm feeling generous maybe even enrich my children's Expat Experience (could it be any richer, really??). It's always good to set the bar high at this early stage, because I'll need room to lower it later.
Unfortunately we have done almost everything there is for kids to do in Tokyo at least once, and so certain novelties have worn off and a bit of been-there, done-that malaise has started to seep into our weekends. So keeping things interesting for an entire school vacation will take some doing. Getting dressed and leaving the apartment-- preferably before noon-- is half the battle.
Also helpful: a to-do (go-to?) list! So here goes. Some of these places we haven't been yet but have been meaning to check out:
-Disaster Prevention center: I'm told that this place in Kita-ku puts you inside an earthquake simulator so you can experience tremors of Kanto proportions. Cool! Apparently there is also a Life Safety Learning Center run by the Tokyo Fire Dept. that offers free courses in what to do in case of emergency (Japanese name: Honjo Bosaikan). Need to research this further. This YouTube video makes me nervous though.
-Trail walk in Kamakura: We have been out to see the Daibutsu but I think the boys are old enough now for the Ten-en hiking course through the woods. If old ladies can do it, so can we. Here's hoping for some clear blue skies-and-sunny January weather Tokyo is known for.
-Lunch at Shabuzen in Ginza: a shabu-shabu place with a NYC-diner vibe that Terry and I recently discovered, where you sit at a counter and have your own personal pot to boil the beef in. We need a break from Korean barbecue.
-Rinshi no mori park, one of this city's best-kept secrets hiding in Meguro-ku between Shimo-Meguro and Koyamadai. We cycled there once but it's definitely worth another trip, mainly for the climbing ropes designed for older boys like mine. It's like the obstacle course at Heiwa no mori koen , without the putrid pond!
-Cycle from home through Ebisu and along the Naka-meguro canal, maybe even plot the best back-streets route to school, so come spring, we can say goodbye to the buses.
-Salt and Tobacco Museum! Admission is cheap, it's close to Shibuya station, and you're in and out in an hour, my friend Katy informs me.
-Visit babies. More than a few friends have given birth recently and aren't traveling. Who doesn't want a couple of grubby grade-schoolers handling their infants? Germs will only make that developing immune system stronger.
-Cinemah at Roppongi Hills. A surefire hit, along with a stop at the TV Asahi HQ (there's an inscrutable Power Ranger arcade game in the lobby that my boys are obsessed with) and a romp under the big Spider. Maybe we'll brave the Mori Art Museum (though the current "Odani Motohiko: Phantom Limb" exhibit sounds only marginally better than this earlier fiasco). We could also skip the art and just take in the City View --a bit old-hat, but we haven't been since summer 2009, and it's always fun to try to find the relatively diminutive Ebisu Prime Square Tower with its distinctive slide projector-carousel top. Because then we can point and shout, that's right next to where we live!
-Ueno park. We've only been a couple of times, and there's so much to do there. Our first visit three years ago was a blast, despite the cold gray day, and there was so much we missed. The boys are probably too big now for the kiddie rides next to the Toshogu shrine, but there's always the science museum and the swan boats. The zoo is too depressing, though I might go if/when the new pandas arrive. The last article I read reported that Japan had agreed to pay $1.9 million a year to borrow a new pair from China, but they're not due to arrive until early 2011.
-Sword Museum in Yoyogi, where "the works of famous swordsmiths from the Heian to Edo Periods (782-1867) are on display." A no-brainer.
-SKIING! Ishiuchi Maruyama, just past the city day-tripper favorite Gala Yuzawa (so a 10 min. taxi ride from Echigo-Yuzawa station, less than 2 hrs, with transfers, from Ebisu, or 1 hr. 20 min from Tokyo station), has a nice variety of trails including a beginner slope that starts at the peak. There's night-skiing too, and lots of slope-side restaurants with space heaters where you can leave your boots and hang up your mittens to dry.
I think that's enough for now. Wish me luck.