Exploring, Exploring: My 5 Favourite Beaches near Tokyo

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Summer is here in Japan and in true Japanese weather form it arrived on its due date!

BAM! 1 July- the day that the Japanese beaches and the outdoor pools open- the temperature goes up by 2-3 deg C and the humidity by about 15%. Friday the first, the humidity was so thick, it felt like we could cut it with a knife!

So where to when the temperatures are in the high twenties/ early thirties
Well personally I feel there are a few options…

1: Water
2: Mountains
3: Airconditioning

But it’s the beach that’s calling me, beckoning me…

So here are My 5 favourite beaches to visit.

Ohama Beach is my favourite beach along the Izu penninsula. Admittedly it isn’t near to Tokyo, but it is well worth mentioning. It is a stretch of beach about 10 minutes drive from Shimoda station. The sea is a lovely colour as is the sand. Shimoda isn’t close enough to be a day trip, but well worth it for a weekend.

Araihama Beach is our go to beach for a day trip out of Tokyo. It is a lovely cove,with facilities on the shore. The sea is relatively sheltered, so is great for children.
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Enoshima beach isn’t always the prettiest, but I really like it because it is easy to get to from Tokyo by public transport, and the island is a great place to wander and just people watch. There is also a spa on the island, which is another way to relax and unwind.

Zushi Beach is round the corner from Enoshima. It is a large straight beach, with plenty of water sport enthusiasts enjoying the sunny warm days. This is another one that is easy to get to by car or by train.

Onjuku Beach, Chiba is further to reach than the others, but is still possible for a day trip. That said, the shortest way to get there is through the Aqualine, which isn’t always the fastest- especially on a Sunday afternoon.

Apparently there are some beautiful beaches in Chiba, but I have yet to explore them- when I do, I will let you know!

I hope I’ve whet your appetite for beaches around Tokyo. There are some within Tokyo, but you aren’t allowed to swim in the sea, so on a hot summers day they aren’t really worth visiting!

And if you have found any beaches worth visiting around Tokyo, please do let me know as I would love to visit some new ones!

 

Paper plate crafts- Elephant

My children (read J) are enjoying making various animals out of paper plates. We have made various so far and these posts are a basic ‘How To’.

Materials:
2 Paper plates.
Paint
Glue
Scissors
Stapler
Marker pen

Instructions:

Cut the A4 paper into thirds lengthways. (if you’re feeling creative, taper it slightly and at the end shape it into a trunk shape.)
Paint the the underneath side of the paper plates. (elephant colour, unless you’re doing Elmer)
Leave to dry.

Once dry, draw eyes onto one of the paper plates. Take the other paper plate and bend the edging part of the paper plate outwards.
Cut it into thirds.

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Staple two of the thirds onto the other paper plate. (these will make the ears)
If you wish to make it into a puppet, staple the half piece (underneath side facing out) at the same time as the ears.

Take the strip and concertina it to the end.
Glue it onto the face and hey presto..
One paper plate elephant puppet!

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Exploring, exploring: My 5 favourite places in Tokyo on a rainy day.

“Rain, rain go away, Come again another day.
Rain, rain go away, Come again on Mummy’s washing day”

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I often used to chant this rhyme as a child when it rained, but it never seemed to make the rain go away.

So what do we do when it’s raining?
Obviously we can hunker down indoors, watch a movie or even better do a craft activity of some sort. If you want some inspiration, check out this post.

But what if you had to get out for whatever reason. The wet season in Tokyo is generally in the month of June where it can rain continuously for days at a time. (And we are talking about proper, heavy rain!) So after a few days, getting out becomes a necessity. Where to? This list are my personal favourites.

  1. Aquariums- with Tokyo Sea Life Park, and Epson Aqua Stadium being my top two.
  2. Museums- Natural History Museum in Ueno, Fire Museum and Toy Museum win my vote.20140410-140800.jpg
  3. Odaiba- ok, so this is a huge area and if it’s very wet, it can be a challenge to get around, but it has so much to offer. There is the museum of Science and Innovation (Miraikan), Spocha, Legoland, Madame Taussards, shopping galore and plenty of eating places. If all else fails, Toys R Us will allow the children to play with some of the toys and the Aeon pet shop allows the handling of the puppies and kittens. (Under strict observation)
  4. Tokyo Dome City- on a sunny day the rides are great, but on a wet day there’s Asobono (for the littlies), roller skating, Ten Q (a space museum), bowling and that’s just for starters!
  5. imageKidzania- this isn’t a budget friendly outing, but oh boy do the kids love it. Upon arrival, they are given some cash. They then spend the next 3-4 hours going round and trialling various jobs. Firemen, vet, doctor, coca-cola plant, pizza, fashion designer, petrol attendant to name a few. They get paid to do the jobs, but there are also activities that cost money such as having a manicure. Lunch can be bought, but it can also be made at a well know branded restaurant.

So when it’s next pouring with rain, maybe my three will chant.

Rain, rain here to stay, Come lets go explore today.

Rain, rain here to stay, Lets go find a new place to play.” 

Kameido Tenjin Shrine

I had been told about this shrine by a friend who knew my love for plants and gardening.

  
The shrine is very well kept and despite it being in the middle of the city, it was restful and had a beautiful garden. 

  
It is for the garden that we came up visit it on Mothers Day, hoping that the wisteria were still in bloom. But alas they weren’t.  As the spring has been rather warm, I’m not surprised. Still it was lovely and despite the crowds, so peaceful. Possibly because of the gardens, which I am a sucker for! We were only there for about 20 minutes, but I think that when I’m there when the wisteria are in bloom, I could be there for ages photographing them, the bridges and the pond.  
  I’m definitely returning next spring for their festival: Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival and of course to see the wisteria in bloom!

Mighty to Save


It has been a tough couple of weeks. 

My Plantar Fasciitus is back and again it is causing problems…

The biggest is that I haven’t the emotional, mental or physical energy to cope. Boy have I missed it! As I struggle my way through the laundry, the clutter, another meal, I’m thinking- this is too much.

As I fight back the tears after another fight with with my tween, the power struggle with my son and wonder why I thought parenting was ever easy, a thought crosses my mind….

Maybe I should just quit. Throw in the towel and go…

But motherhood is for life, and so I stay and turn my tears to God. Pouring out my heart, I shared with him the frustrations, asking for wisdom and patience in dealing with the situation. 

This verse is perfect. A reminder to be strong. An encouragement to keep going. A lifeline to rescue me. A promise to bring me peace.

But most importantly, an acceptance of who I am, just the way I am. 

But not just for me, for my tween who is in need of love and acceptance. 

Wisdom on how to deal with my strong willed son. 

A simple message, a simple verse, yet a profound meaning.
 Thank you Lord, you are indeed Mighty to save.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

Mari Mari Cultural Village

As part of our holiday to Borneo (Malaysia), we joined a tour to Mari Mari Cultural Park. The park is in Kionsom, which was about a 40 minute drive from our hotel.

Upon arrival, we were assigned an English speaking guide who guided us through the park. There were 5 houses, each from a different tribe. We were able to walk into each of the houses and we were also given a brief demonstration of something from each village.

Mari Mari cultural village map

The Dusun people lived in a simple hut made up of two generations. They were predominately rice farmers.  We were shown where they stored their rice and how they thrashed their rice.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

The rice thrasher

Here we were shown how the rice wine was brewed and we got to sample it too. It tasted remarkably sweet- Apple cider vinegar would be a good description. The distilled rice wine that we taste afterwards was more like Sake. Much better! We also got to sample a style of cooking where the Dusun people would mix chopped chicken, onion, chilli, salt and bay leaves and stuff it into a bamboo stem. This was then loaded onto the fire and burnt for 15 minutes. It was rather tasty.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

The second house was a long rectangular house. Here the entire village of Rungus lived in one house, with each family member living in one room. They really enjoyed their honey, and cultivated their own in bamboo. They would attract some bees into the bamboo and wait for a few months for them to generate the honey.  They would cut the bamboo in half and squeeze the honey out of the comb. The left over comb was used as glue and used to join various things together, like their musical instruments. The honey had a lovely flavour to it. It was a lot runnier than the honey that I’m used to and had a different taste. While still sweet, I would liken it more to golden syrup in texture and flavour than honey.

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The third house, belonged to Lundayeh people who were head hunters that believed the crocodile was sacred. They would build a mound in the shape of  crocodile and on this crocodile, they would place spikes and on the spikes they would place the heads of their enemies upon their return from war.  Here we learnt how they made the clothes out of bamboo. It was fascinating to learn how the indigenous people made good use of their natural resources. Bamboo was used for so much. From building the houses, making walls and clothes, creating hives for their bees, cooking in them and using them as cups. Definitely good use of a very renewable resource.

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The fourth house belonged to the Bajau tribe. The were a rich tribe, specializing in trade. Their wealth was obvious from their possessions and the bright colours in them. Here we learnt how they made their rice flour and their rice treats. They were delicious and K went back for seconds!

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The last house, required a ceremony first. Upon arrival at the gate a warrior kept out at us and wanted to know what we wanted. Our ‘leader’ (K volunteered for this role) had to greet the leader and say that we had come in peace. Once we were in we learnt about how the blowpipes were made and we got to try shooting them.  I was surprised at how easy it was. I managed to hit the coconut and found that I didn’t need to blow very hard to get the dart to hit the target.  The highlight for J was the ‘trampoline’ in the house. This community lived in one building, and in their communal area was an area with a submerged floor. This floor was set in flexible wood and when a team set about jumping on it, they could spring a person quite high into the air. This was a traditional form of entertainment amongst the warriors. J loved being sprung into the air, not that he went very high!

Afterwards we were shown a traditional dance and enjoyed a lovely lunch before heading back to our hotel. This for me is one of the highlights of our trip to Borneo. It was very interesting, informative and amazingly hands on. The children were all involved and truly enjoyed themselves.

While clearly ‘artificial’, it was a great outing and helped to provide information about how the indigenous people lived in a very informative and hands on way. It is a trip that was well worth doing and, for outings with kids, it gets a big thumbs up!

It’s Sumo Time!

It is May, so the next round of Sumo Tournaments are here in Tokyo. Starting today, it will run for 15 days, finishing on Sunday 22 May. 

I have blogged about our Sumo trip before, and the full post is below. 

Should you head out to Ryogoku Kokugikan, please do let me know your experience.

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Apologies that the photo quality isn’t that great- it was a bit far for my flash to have much effect.

Sumo Wrestling is something that I’ve grown up thinking of as very Japanese- it is a national sport a national sport! So when we had the opportunity to go to a tournament, it was one of those ‘No Brainer’ Moments.

We didn’t feel that we could attend without doing some research about the sport, and so to help you along here is a little taster….

Sumo wrestling is an official Japanese sport and an important part of Japanese history, originating in a ritualized performance for the Shintu Gods.

The wrestlers (or rikishi) wear a mawashi which consists of a long strip of heavy silk or canvas that is folded several times and wrapped around the body in a specific way. I couldn’t find any guidelines as to how the wrapping is done and I would be intrigued to find out how they do it as there were no ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ despite parts coming lose in some of the bouts.

The sumo ring is approximately 15 feet in diameter that is raised about 2 1/2 feet off the ground on a huge block of clay called a dohyo. Round the edge of the ring is a tawara, which is made of tightly wound straw and it is raised up by about 3 inches. A light sprinkling of sand is applied inside of the ring. At the start of each tournament a new dohyo is created. Five judges (shinpan) sit round the dohyo. A gyoji or referee officiates the bout and announces the winner at the end.

There are no rules about how to wrestle other than the first rikishi to step out of the ring or put any body part other than their feet on the floor loses. As a result most of bouts last between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. In fact we found when we were watching was that the longest part of the bout was the foot stamping ritual at the beginning of the bout. From a spectator point of view it seemed like they were trying to intimidate their opponent.

I had a wonderous ‘Lost in Translation’ moment when I bought our tickets as I bought them from a convenience store with the assistance of the check out assistant. His English was as good as my Japanese! (Something I need to change!) Anyway- I landed up buying the box tickets which take 4 people and cost a small fortune. When I researched the website again and I saw what the box was like and where it was, I knew that we had to do something different… (The box was a tatami mat {ie no chairs}that seated 4 {we were 5} and quite close to the front {with 3 children that could be a problem}) The tickets were non-returnable, but a friend bought them off me and took his parents who were visiting from the UK.

We then bought the cheap tickets at Y1,000 (about £8). Our seats were at the top of the stadium and non reserved so we struggled a bit to find 5 free. The advantages of these seats were that we didn’t feel stressed when the children got noisy, there were no arm rests so the children were more comfortable and there was a large floor area round the seats so J could play with his cars comfortably and the girls could draw. It was also easy to get in and out, so when we needed a loo break or a running-along-the-corridor break, we didn’t disturb anyone. The reserved seats were closer,had a little table (like an aeroplane) and armrests and understandably cost more (Y2,000). Personally we will use the unreserved again as they were the most suitable for the children.

There are stalls that sell food and drink- but like all these type of events they were rather over priced and very Japanese (just a word of warning if you don’t like Japanese style food and drink)

To keep our little ones entertained, we bought snacks for them to nibble on and a variety of activities (drawing, etch boards, cars etc) and it seemed to work. We also didn’t go for the entire day, but for the afternoon. We missed the introduction of the wrestlers, but we saw the champion receive his trophy at the end. I found it rather entertaining that the music played at the award ceremony was an instrumental version of an Easter hymn- Thine Be the Glory!

The Sumo Hall in Tokyo (Ryogoku Kokugikan) is within a 2 minute walk from the Ryogoku Station on the JR Sobu Line.

The next tournament is in Osaka from 10-25 March and the next one in Tokyo is in May. I would highly recommend a trip- even if you have children in tow. If you want to find out more about purchasing tickets and the dates of the various tournament, visit the official Sumo website and if you would like to know more about the tradition and rules then visit Sumo Talk.
We had a lovely afternoon and if you venture to Sumo with kids, I hope you’ll get in touch and share your experince too.