Tokyo Skytree

We’ve finally made it up Tokyo Skytree! 


We’ve been here for nearly 5 years and we’ve finally made up one of Tokyo’s most iconic views! It only took a visit from a South African cousin to get us up there! 

Tokyo Skytree holds the Guinness Record for the Worlds Tallest Free sanding broadcasting tower. It stands at a height of 634m. It provides digital transmissions for terrestrial broadcasting and needed to be over 600m due to an increase in volume of skyscrapers in Tokyo. It is also reassuring to know that it will assume the role of a disaster prevention function in times of a natural disaster. Something I hope I won’t experience while we are here. 

So we arrived and made our way from the station, through the shops and through  the entertainment, all the while answering “No, we not buying anything now.” “No, we aren’t going on the trampolines or bouncy castle”. Whew, that is a minefield on its own when heading out with the kids. 

It is quite possible to buy your tickets in advance online and to buy a fast pass if you are an international traveller. {So the website says}
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to buy our tickets in advance due to time constraints, and we didn’t want to pay the extra ¥2000/person to get a fast pass ticket. So we queued. For 50 minutes! 
Boy, do I wish I had carved out the 5-10 minutes I would have spent organising the tickets. I will definitely be buying future tickets in advance!

The lift going up was smooth and quiet, reaching a top speed of 600m/minute. In no time at all we were at Level 345. Unfortunately due to haze, the distant view wasn’t that spectacular, but it was amazing to see the various Tokyo sights. 

The brochure had a panoramic map of what could be seen from each window which was very helpful and informative.


Due to time constraints and hungry children, we opted not to go up to the 450m viewing floor, but we didn’t feel like we have missed out. There was lots to see and do. 


Heading down to level 340m, the view seemed less hazy. We wandered round, took a brief look at the glass floor (I wasn’t brave enough to stand on it though!!)and then headed down to find some food…

Lack of food had turned the 3 children into grumpy monsters! 

Access:

 We caught the Hanzommon Line to Oshiage station. 

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.

IMG_3314

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!

IMG_3320

My 5 Favourite places to Hanami in Sakura season.

Sakura Season is upon us!

Blog Image exploring

Each year towards the end of March, the Sakura blossoms come out for a fleeting few days and with it the Japanese people.

When I wrote about the significance of the Sakura season and the history behind it, I also explained what ‘hanami’ was all about:

“‘Hanami’ is directly translated as flower viewing. ‘Hanami’ can be a stroll in the park, admiring the flowers, but traditionally it is a picnic under the trees, with friends and family, food, drink and music. Why not, they are truly beautiful!”

P1060604

So where will you find me this Sakura season?

Showa Kinen Park

Admittedly I’ve yet to visit it during the peak of Sakura season, but it has the most beautiful area which has masses of cherry blossoms, which I can just imagine are beautiful. I have been there towards the end of the season, and the weeping cherry in the Japanese garden was just spectacular!

Shinjuku Goen National Garden

This has been our go to park over the last few years. That said, I doubt whether we will be enjoying our hanami at Shinkuju gone this year, simply because dogs aren’t allowed in…

Yoyogi Park

Chances are very good you will find us here this year. Dogs are allowed in the park, it is our local park and it has a beautiful area for children to play, burn off energy while the adults admire pink cherry blossoms!

Ueno Koen

Ueno is just beautiful in Sakura season. It is also very entertaining. The paths/ roads that go though the park have areas that are cordoned off and have blue tarpaulin laid on the ground. Watching corporate Japanese people enjoying their picnic, shoes beautifully placed next to the tarpaulins oblivious to people around them makes for a very interesting outing.

Aoyama cemetery

I would never have dreamed of enjoying a hanami picnic at a cemetery, but I have done and it was something unique to Japan. The blossoms are magnificent and there were a variety of different shades of pink.

So I’m off, to go and enjoy the blossoms. Hope to see you there!

P1060591

 

P1010248

To see the Sakura Forecast for 2016, click here

Tamagawa Rafting Fun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Note: I first wrote this post, after we had our outing back in October last year. I didn’t post it, due to the November challenge and felt it was then best to wait for a time that would be more appropriate- ie Spring or Summer!

I lead a Cub and Beaver pack and one of the challenges that my co-leader and I  face is getting the children out for adventures.

My co-leader and I have managed to overcome the language barrier and have found some ‘corker’ adventures. (To quote a Cub after the most recent adventure.)

The rafting adventure, came about by accident. My co-leader, our hubbies and I had headed out on a recent national holiday for a hike to assess the feasibility of taking the Cubs and Beavers on said hike. Unfortunately traffic congestion meant that we wouldn’t have made it back in time for school pick up, so we abandoned that plan. We managed a walk along a river, but it wouldn’t have held any appeal for eighteen 6-10 year olds.

On the drive back, we were chatting about covering the backwoods cooking badge and hold a BBQ along the river. We googled BBQ along the river, and discovered a company that does river rafting and BBQ along the Tama River.

After a bit of research and a lot of correspondence between the company and I, we headed out one glorious autumnal Sunday morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our guide met us at Futamatao station, which is about 1 1/2 hours outside of Tokyo, and bussed us to their base. At their base, the children and the participating parents were all kitted up in wetsuits, life jackets, helmets and boots. (Due to continued back issues, I sat out this adventure.)

They were then bussed to the starting point, where they were taught how to raft and keep safe. 

Tamagawa River Rafting
They proceeded to spend the next 1 1/2 hours  rafting down the river covering a distance of about 5km. It was, by all accounts loads of fun.

They finished off their adventures, by jumping off a rock into the river below, before traipsing up the hill, back to base.
The entire outing was perfectly doable for children, bearing in mind that the youngest beaver is only 6 years old. The experience will be an entirely different matter come spring after the snow melt for the younger children, but in early autumn the water levels were just fine for all the children (6-10 year olds). 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
With the wet suits on all the rafters, there was also no concern of anyone getting cold.

Overall an outing I would highly recommend.

If you fancy a trip down the Tamagawa river then why not check out Tamagawa Rafting Winds website:

http://winds-rafting.jp/en/

Ashikaga Flower Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA






I headed out to Ashikaga Flower park last Thursday, to see the Wisteria as I had heard they were a magnificent sight. Wisteria, called Fuji in Japan, hold a special place in the Japanese hearts after the Sakura. They are an indigenous species to Japan and have featured in a large variety of art, including poetry. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The park lived up to its name, it is filled with flowers. Tulips, azaleas, rhododendrons, cherry blossoms, Dicentra (bleeding hearts), and of course wisteria.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Unfortunately I was too early in the season to view the magnificent purples, some of which are over 150 years old, but I did get to enjoy the pale pink bridge, which was blooming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Walking under the pinks, I was assaulted by the powerful aroma the flowers give off and clearly the insects were loving it too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I can only imagine how magnificent the trellises of purples , or the White Wisteria Falls or tunnel are going to be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
During Golden Week, which is when I think they will be at their best, I can only guess how busy the park will be, as it will inundated with visitors .

There were umbrellas and chairs all round the park, so there was plenty of opportunity to sit add enjoy the sights and scents, while classical music played in the background.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Despite the coconphany of tourists, it was a relaxing visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I might even return in a few weeks when the roses are in bloom…

Pricing varies, as do the opening hours, so for further information, including access, please check out their website: 

http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/index.html

I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been there.

Happy viewing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Spa-kling Party

K turned 10 at the start of the year and to commemorate the occasion of becoming double digits, we held a sparkling sleep over party.

The invitations were written on a piece of card. We were unable to print due to our printer being on the blink, so we just hand wrote the card, thankfully, we got it sorted so I was able to create some amazing display items on Adobe Photoshop, with some handmade papers that were made for me by Anneline Sophia on Etsy.

The wording on the invite was as follows:

“Manicures and Pedicures and sparkles galore
These are the things that we most adore”,
plus the details.

We then attached a bow and popped the invite into a pair of slipper socks for the guests.

IMG_6736

Upon arrival, the girls were taken through to the dressing room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The dressing room was K’s bedroom which had been transformed. Each girl had a box for her belongings and a plastic trug containing an appointment reminder card, hairbrush, tissues, hand cream, bath salts, a small towel and a head band.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While enjoying a glass of ‘pink bubbles’

Spa Party drink(Raspberry and Rose Petal Cordial, sparkling water and raspberries with sugar crystals around the rim), the girls filled in the booking sheets for the treatments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once they were ready they were taken through to the Spa.

Our living area has a lounge area and dining room area. Our lounge area became the ‘waiting room’ and the dining area the spa.
Our dining room table was placed in the corner of the waiting room, so the girls could enjoy the food between treatments.
The food on offer was:

Spa Party Food
Flip flop Sandwiches
Carrot, cucumber, pepper sticks in a glass.
Guacamole facial and biscuits

Spa Party Food
BBQ Chicken drumsticks
Pizza
Sausage on a stick

Spa Party Food

The waiting room had soft spa like music playing, candles and scent to create ambience. The sofas were covered cushions and soft blankets and there are girly magazines to read. (A friend had kindly posted over some English tween magazines for me.)
The girls all relaxed in the waiting room while they awaited for their appointments.
The spa offered the following treatments:
Manicure
Foot massage
Pedicure
Facial

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The dining area had been transformed into a spa. I used the cushions from our garden furniture and created two beds for the facials.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Using our coffee table, we had our manicure station and the foot massage and pedicure was on a reflexology chair. One of my close friends is a reflexologist, and she kindly came round and did the foot treatments offered at the spa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The total spa experience took about 2 1/2 hours for the 8 girls.

Once it was all finished, the girls got to keep the toe separators, nail file and the nail polish that they used in the pedicure.

The evening was rounded off with present opening, birthday cake and a sleep over in the lounge.

Spa party birthday cake

We left the food out as the girls were keen on having a midnight feast. I don’t believe they ate any over night, but they did raid it in the morning!

Overall the party was a huge success. I’ve already had a request for another one for her 11th birthday.
We will see….

My 5 Favourite Activities to develop Handwriting Skills

In our digital age, handwritten things are becoming more and more uncommon. Despite this, our children still have to learn this basic skill and to do it they need a variety of basic underlying skills. Fifteen according to Scribble2script

Fine motor skills are one of the most vital in handwriting as it is the coordination of the small muscles with each other and our eyes. Notably they are the muscles in our hands, fingers, eyes, feet and toes.

As I mentioned Somedays I just Wonder– J has some fine motor issues. I’ve known that. He only learnt to use a pair of scissors after he was four. His nursery that he attended was more academically focussed than creative or play focussed and so his fine (and gross) motor skills aren’t wonderful.

So here are 5 activities that I am using with him to develop the skills that he needs to write.

Play Dough
Playdough fun

I love play dough. I make my own which lasts about a month. The children love creating things, making ‘biscuits’ or as in the most recent session- dinosaur clothes. I have a bag of cutters etc and they all have a ball.Surprisingly I suspect that K loves it the most despite being 10!

If you don’t fancy making your own- you can buy some quite cheaply from Amazon and they have an amazing range of play dough toys and sets.

Handwriting Skills Developed:
Fine motor coordination
Tactile perception
Spatial awareness
Crossing the midline
Motor planning
Organised physical movements.

Cutting

This one seems so obvious.
To start the cutting can be simple cuts on a page.
Leading onto cutting a page in half.
To cutting out large shapes.
To following a line.
To cutting out small shapes.

Sometimes, it might be helpful to buy the “scissors that bounce back”. This will enable a child whose fine motor skills aren’t very strong to use the stronger set while the weaker ones are still developing.

When the child is ready, then purchase a pair of child scissors. Please be careful on your choice. It is incredibly frustrating for a child to try and cut with a pair of scissors that are so child safe they don’t cut!Or for that matter aren’t correct. If your child is a ‘lefty’ please try and buy him a pair of ‘lefty’ scissors. It will make his life SO much easier.

It is also a wonderful opportunity to teach a child of the importance of walking and holding a pair of scissors safely.

Handwriting Skills Developed:
Fine motor coordination
Spatial awareness
Crossing the midline
Motor planning
Organised physical movements.
Hand eye coordination
Visual focussing
Mental attention
Tactile input

Paper Manipulation
Paper activities

I don’t mean origami here- though that would fall into this category.
I’m thinking paper tearing, paper folding and attaching it together through sticky tape, glue or stickers.

Like cutting the tears start simple and progresses-
Simple tears on a page or tearing bits off a paper ribbon or streamer.
Leading onto tearing a page in half.
To tearing out large shapes.
To tearing strips.
To tearing out small shapes.

Paper folding again has various levels starting with basic folds- fold, in half, corner to corner etc, moving up to origami at its highest level. There are even some lovely simple origami that the children can do- like the Origami Santa

Handwriting Skills Developed:

Fine motor coordination
Spatial awareness
Crossing the midline
Motor planning
Organised physical movements.
Hand eye coordination
Visual focussing
Mental attention
Tactile input

Cooking

J loves cooking so I’m using this one a lot as it’s easier to engage him this way.
I love the program on CBeebies entitled “I can cook” and the choice of words that Katie uses to help the children to mix their foods. The ‘tickle’ the flour and butter together. Isn’t that just a great way to get the children to visualise how their fingers should be moving and doesn’t that just explain beautifully how the fine motor skills are being used.
Cooking also introduces a variety of textures. From handling meat, to dough to bread to fruit and veggies.
Hopefully too, the reluctant eater will be more keen to try something that they’ve made. (I say hopefully as J loves cooking and giving his food for us to try!)

The ‘Children’s Step by Step Cookbook’ by Angela Wilkes is is our favourite children’s cook book. It has a variety of recipes fom snacks and treats to easy meals.

Handwriting Skills Developed:

Fine motor coordination
Gross motor skills.
Spatial awareness
Crossing the midline
Motor planning
Organised physical movements.
Hand eye coordination
Visual focussing
Mental attention
Tactile input
Measuring skills.
Number recognition.
Introduction to reading (by reading recipes)
Cooking skills- cutting, sautéeing, folding etc.

Lego

Lego is an amazing ‘toy’ that can be used to develop all sorts of skills.
Building from a set of instructions requires (and so develops) visual focussing, concentration, number recognition, matching, motor planning, organised physical movements and hand eye coordination.
Building a creation of ones own design requires most of the above as well as creativity, planning, and problem solving.
Playing with the creations develops role play, imagination, crossing the mid line, fine and gross motor skills, hand eye coordination
And so, I’m sure, I could go on.
It is also not just limited to the younger children. I made this labyrinth, so J could manipulate it and get the marble through. (Another great activity for various skills).

Labyrinth

It definitely challenged my creative problem solving skills as I worked out a route for the marble to take and make it challenging for J.
I got the idea for this (and lots more great Lego ideas) from Frugal Fun 4 Boys.

Handwriting Skills Developed:
Fine motor coordination
Spatial awareness
Crossing the midline
Motor planning
Organised physical movements.
Hand eye coordination
Visual focussing
Mental attention
Tactile input
Gross Motor Coordination
Problem solving
Number recognition
Following instructions
Imagination
Creativity

So those are My 5 favourite activities to develop my sons handwriting skills.

What are yours?