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Apology Bread

Toddler wakes people up? In the morning leave apology bread

Follow the adventure: The Tokyo Toddler

In addition to dealing with a 16-hour time change, 3 molars are cutting their bloody way through Connor’s gums. This made for a rough night.

We warned our homestay host and fellow couchsurfers, and apologized in advance in case Connor had some middle-of-the-night wakeups. He did better than we expected… if your given definition of “expected” stops at about 4:30 in the morning.

Still, life is about making up for the rough parts. At the end of a really really really really early morning walk with Connor—we’ll get to that—I stopped in a bakery to pick up a loaf of Apology Bread. As we packed up to head out for a day of Tokyo sightseeing, I sliced up the bread and left it with a wee note.

Sorry, everyone. Molars respect no clocks. More raisin bread?

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Dad, Let’s Help Tokyo Wake Up

Maybe I was sleepier than I thought…

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Sunrise in Noborito’s Neighborhoods

“Dad, I want to go exploring,” Connor said.

At least, that’s what Connor would have said if he could speak like that yet. The meaning was clear enough though.

After a good night’s sleep till 4:30 a.m., then an hour of tossing and turning while Jodie and I tried to get him back to sleep, Connor was tired of being in bed. A toddler can be like a puppy in this way: up early to play, he needs outside, he plays hard, then he crashes out later that morning.

Eugene has lots of bicycles, but it’s nothing compared to this small Tokyo suburb. By mid-day, this lot was packed full of scooters and bicycles, ridden in by people catching the train.

As Connor’s frustration grew, so did his noise. We didn’t want to wake up our host or fellow couchsurfers, but there was nothing we could do to get this time zone-befuddled wee guy to go back to sleep. So finally, at about 5:30 in the morning, I shook my head, smiled at Jodie and said, “I’m taking Connor for a walk.” By a little before 6 a.m., a groggy dad pushed a wide-eyed wee boy in a stroller out into the streets of Noborito.

Granted, this was not exactly how I wanted to spend my first morning in Tokyo. I’d hoped we would stay asleep at least a couple more hours to shake off the remnants of jetlag. Thinking only of coffee, I aimed us first toward Noborito Station. Instinct steered me into a 24-hour Family Mart store instead.

Time for my first-ever vending machine coffee. At 120 yen, or about $1.28, it was pretty darn good. And yes, it was hot.

I picked up a carton of grape juice and 2 musubis, triangular snacks of rice pressed around a filling and wrapped in nori, or dried seaweed. At about $1 a pop, musubis fast became one of our favorite snacks—cheap, healthy and filling. Plus, Connor loves them.

Things were slow at Noborito Station. The supermarket and bakery weren’t open yet—no ridiculously good coffee for Anthony at 6 in the morning. Nope. Connor and I hunkered down, had our snacks and watched commuters wander by.

Not only were the food and walking helping me feel more human, they were helping me shift my attitude too. As I sat with my son, Connor looked at me with an excitement in his eyes. Here we were, in another country on the other side of the world. It was just him and me, dad and lad, and he was so excited to be up and about. And that clicked something over for me. As with travel, so too with parenting: your challenge and your responsibility is to find your opportunity in the moment. I realized that Connor being up at this early hour gave us a chance to do something really cool: watch part of Tokyo wake up.

“Son,” I said as I strollered us to the elevator, “let’s take a walk.”

Empty sake barrels outside a bar

“Walk down me,” said the small street near Noborito Station. “I’m narrow.”

Our wander began by walking beneath the station, out into a narrow, windy street packed with small shops, bars and eateries. At this hour they were all shuttered, from the wee noodle shop with a display of plastic food out front, to the Indian restaurant flying the green, white and orange flag. The occasional scooter buzzed by, passing us and the smattering of suited salarymen off to a day at the office.

What I love about Asia is its coexistence. Where something can be, something is. Such as an English-style pub sitting above a noodle shop:

Sadly, it was too early in the morning for me to test their claim of “Best English Pub”

Coming out from this wee street, we crossed into a neighborhood. Noborito is a small residential area. This isn’t the neon-and-glass-skyscraper Tokyo. This is the Tokyo of small front patio gardens and wee shops. You can walk down the middle of neighborhood streets. (Though there are still vending machines packed with hot and cold beverages. I am quickly becoming addicted to Japan’s vending machines.) As Connor and I strolled along Noborito’s quiet streets, I began to realize that on our trip I really wanted to try to see things from Connor’s perspective. Which given what a short-arse I am, it could be argued that’s already very easy for me to do.

Want to play in the gravel and the driveway? Cool. You’re happy? Win-win.

We walked by amazing gardens, and we smiled and said “konnichiwa,” or “hello,” to people passing by on bicycles and scooters. Connor laughed and smiled, and pointed at things that fascinated him. Once we’d walked into the neighborhood a wee ways, I let him out of the stroller so he could explore at his own pace. We looked at this part of the world together, just him and his dad, and we were both the happier for the wandering.

Amidst the houses and apartment buildings of Noborito, you can also find the Hickory Pizza House.

What began as a nuisance—a jetlagged toddler waking up at an ungodly hour—quickly became one of my favorite experiences of the trip. Connor and I were just hanging out, father and son. We had no schedule to keep, no goal to achieve. We were just two guys out for a stroll on a pleasant morning in a country that was far from home, but felt like home.

I loved it. It was an amazing morning. But I’m also glad that since then, Connor has been sleeping much, much later.

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Big in Japan: Meiji Temple

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When getting ready for our trip, we put a big call-out to pretty much everyone we knew: any tips or contacts in Japan that you could share with us? Our friend Pam came through big when she introduced us to her friend Kiyomi, who lived just outside Tokyo. They had met and become friends when Pam had come to Japan on an exchange program. Now, as Kiyomi prepared to move to another place in Japan to start a new job, she nonetheless made room in her busy schedule to meet up with us on our first full day in Japan.

After a morning of getting our bearings and overall starting to feel human again, we met Kiyomi at Noborito Station that afternoon.

“What do you want to do?” she asked.

This is a tougher question to answer than you might think. Obviously, we wanted to see and do everything. Yet as we talked, we realized that what we really needed was a little something else. Our bodies were feeling better… but we needed something that was good for the soul.

“I know just where to go,” Kiyomi said.

A few train rides later—including back through the infamous Shinjuku Station—and we got off the train at Harajuku Station. Just across the street, in the midst of hectic, bustling, crowded Tokyo, stood a quiet, forested paradise: Meiji Jingu Shrine. Standing outside the torii, or shrine gate, we all breathed in deeply. Trees covered a broad path. The city’s cacophony faded.

“Is this okay?” Kiyomi asked.

“It’s perfect,” Jodie and I said. “This is exactly what we needed.”

Meiji is a major shrine for Tokyo. It is dedicated to “the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken,” who passed away in 1912 and 1914 respectively. I won’t pretend to know much about Shinto—though I will say I very much want to learn more—but I do dig that Japan’s ancient religion has no founder, no holy book, no need to tell anyone what to believe. It seems to focus on the animate, vital energy in all things living and non-living.

The story goes that the Japanese people wanted to commemorate the virtues and memory of the Emperor and his consort. They donated 100,000 trees, some from Japan, some from all over the world, and created this urban forest themselves. The shrine opened on Nov. 1, 1920 (with dedications including barrels of French wine and Japanese sake).

Now, there was no shortage of people in this park. The collective footsteps of hundreds of people crunched all around us. At first it’s surprising. You’re heading into this reflective place, where people go to pray or just ponder some bit of life. How do you do that with a bunch of damn gravel crunching like a giant eating boulders?

But then you get to the flagstones near the main temple. The noise stops. A silence is restored. And it’s like this sudden absence of sound makes you all the gladder, all the more relieved, to be where you are. Maybe the gravel is there to make you appreciative of the spiritual experience ahead. Maybe gravel is just a cheap way to maintain a big path. Either way, or both ways, it works.

Before going into the main shrine area, there is a wee spot off to the left where you clean off your dirty hands—or rather, purify your spirit so as to be in the presence of the kami, or spirits, of the shrine. Out of respect for the customs of the shrine, we stepped up to the water dippers. Kiyomi was kind enough to help Connor go through the paces of pouring water on his left hand, then his right hand, then drinking some water from his left hand.

At the shrine itself, we all paid respects to the spirits. I added a wee prayer for our trip to go well, and for us to travel together in healthy and harmony as individuals and as a family.

In the meantime, however, Connor began building his Japanese fan club.

As I write this we’re a few more days into the trip. As Connor’s dad, and as a regular caretaking parent, I thought I’d gotten accustomed to the attention this bright-eyed, bubbly kiddo gets.

I was not at all prepared for how big my son is going to be in Japan.

Mr. Smiley Blue Eyes didn’t have the occasional photo taken. There wasn’t the occasional “kawaī,” pronounced “koh-ay-ee,” which means “cute.” Oh no.

My child had a bloody entourage.

People followed him around the shrine, making him laugh, taking pictures, waving, and talking with him. Like many kids, Connor brings people out of their shells, and he busts the Japanese out of their shells faster than a few beers. The Japanese may be famous around the world for their reserved stature, but that reserve falls like cherry blossoms in a high wind once he starts laughing and smiling.

Most of the rest of our visit to Meiji was spent following and watching this spectacle of people wandering after my child and taking his photo. And no, this didn’t seem weird to me, and it didn’t seem like something to be worried about. A goodness shone through in the people who were around Connor, a joy at seeing this happy wee toddler bopping around their part of the world. He smiled at everyone who passed by, and that brought out many smiles in return. We all shared many laughs, and had a few conversations in halting Japanese and English.

And you know what? It was indeed exactly what was needed. A shrine, after all, isn’t just about quiet reverence. It’s about respecting the fire of life, the spark and spirit that burns in you, me and everything, and that keeps existence rolling along. It’s about enjoying joy when you have it, and learning from sorrow when it comes. Seeing Connor laugh, smile and run freely is something that I know I already draw on when I need to lift my spirits. And if other people drew in that same sense of joy, then I was grateful to share it with them.

As our afternoon at the temple wound down, Jodie and I looked at other and Kiyomi in agreement. We couldn’t have picked a better first day in Tokyo. Listening to the trees rustle in the breeze, looking at the branches, taking in the sunlight as it filtered through the still-bare boughs, Jodie and I realized we felt renewed, recharged. We had a busy three weeks ahead of us—and now we felt all the more ready to face them with joy and gusto.

His entourage now tending to other matters, Connor came back to earth. He finished his Meiji trip in the same place where, eventually, pretty much all toddlers end up: the changing table.

Hey, he may have an entourage, but we still gotta keep the kid down to earth, you know?

As we wondered out of Meiji and back to the rush hour hustle of Tokyo, the city seemed not only new, but welcoming. We thanked Kiyomi and wished her well on her new job. She kindly accompanied us all the way back to our station to make sure we got back okay. Eventually we parted, and left with gratitude at having made a new friend our first day in a new country.

Now it was time to relax and grab some dinner. Meiji had restored us, and just in time. Tomorrow an expat friend of Jodie’s was taking us out for a big day of checking off our Tokyo travel checklist.

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First Morning in Tokyo

Connor stretches his legs at Noborito Station

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Our first morning in Tokyo dawned bright, warm and lovely. Last night’s wind and rain were a memory, a story to tell when we got home. We chatted briefly with our host, a young Japanese man who works both in business consulting and as a musician. We also chatted with our fellow couchsurfer, a Frenchman who’d spent the past few weeks in Japan and was now leaving for Malaysia.

After cleaning up and getting our bearings, it was time to get out in the sunshine and start feeling our way around this slice of Tokyo.

Taste of home? Freshness Burger is a chain of “burger cafes” in Japan. We have it on good authority from a Yank expat that it’s good, “especially if you wants to remember what a hamburger is like.” We haven’t tried it yet, but we shall see…

Only a few hundred yards down the area’s main street, we wandered past various shops. People went by on foot, in cars, on bicycles and on mopeds. This wasn’t a touristy part of town; it was simply a place where people got on with their lives. We enjoy seeing the sights just like any other traveler, but we also like glimpses into people’s day-to-day lives. After all, when you get down to it, most people are more similar than different. They want to get through today better than they got through yesterday. They have dreams and disappointments. They have work to do and homes and families to take care of. No matter where we go, we always like just being in and about different neighborhoods to get that feel of the pace of life.

I have no idea what these places are, but don’t they look interesting?

In this area, men in suits rode bicycles to a huge parking lot where the sun glinted off thousands of chrome handlebars. Then they would dash off to the train station to head into central Tokyo. Children in school uniforms walked by, carrying bookbags or instrument cases (quite a few of which were violins, Jodie noted with not a little satisfaction).

Coffee and baked yumminess

It turns out that Noborito Station is really easy to find from where we were staying. Not only that, when it’s not raining sideways the station’s top platform makes both for great people-watching and a great place to have a relaxing breakfast. Since so many people use the trains to get around day to day, the train station had a supermarket, a noodle shop and a bakery.

Various friends had told us that the Japanese have amazing bakeries, a claim we of course had to test.

Wee pubs and eateries, like this ground floor place with the brown doors, are all over the place.

The coffee was rich, complex and perfectly roasted. The baked goods were tasty and satisfying, yet light on the palate. And not too sweet, either. There was sweetness, but where many American pastries go over the top on the sugar, these Japanese pastries brought out more flavors along with the sweet. Though these balanced flavors have a downside—they’re so fun to eat, so tasty, that you want to get about five times more than you normally would. But hey, we’re walking everywhere, right?

Noborito Station’s grandmotherly cleaning ladies quickly grew fond of Connor.

We ate in the sun and talked about the craziness of the night before. We also talked about the day to come: later in the afternoon, after lunch, we were meeting a friend of a friend. She was Japanese, and was going to show us around some of Tokyo.

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Cafe Rainier


Follow the adventure: The Tokyo Toddler

We hunted out breakfast this morning in a wee 7-11-type convenience store near where we are staying. (More on that later.) But I just loved that even though we are on the other side of the Pacific, “The Mountain of Seattle” is appreciated in coffee form.

Haven’t tried Caffe Latte Espresso with Milk yet, btw. But will have to, if only on principle.

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Oregon to Japan 3: The Midnight Savior

At long last, Noborito Station.

Follow the adventure: The Tokyo Toddler

As the clock neared midnight, we wandered through Noborito Station, trying to figure out the last, shortest and yet most difficult leg of our journey.

It’s one thing to take the wrong train, but covered platforms still protect you from the elements. Now we would be leaving the safety of the train station. Inside, floors were wet where floors clearly were not usually wet. Outside, strong winds whipped rain all over the streets and walls of Noborito. Most of Noborito Station is covered but open-sided, and we could feel the wet chill in the air. At least Connor was snug asleep on my back, as warm and dry as I could keep him.

But we had only a few hundred meters to go. Though, that would be down dark, unfamiliar streets. From the look of other passengers, the wind was fierce enough to have destroyed quite a few umbrellas. Oh, and Japan uses an address system that, from what I could ascertain, not even many of the Japanese understand. Two fatigued wet foreigners didn’t stand a chance.

Undaunted, we wandered over to a larger map that displayed the area. As we compared that map to our Google Maps printout, a young Japanese man around our age walked up. “Do you need help?” he asked.

The Odakyu Line—what finally got us to Noborito.

Here’s the thing about travel: you try, you do, and sometimes there is still no way in hell that your best effort on your best game would have gotten you what you needed. As I write this now, warm and dry in a house where we’re doing a homestay, I cannot for the life of me think of how we would have managed to find our first homestay in Tokyo that night. Would we have figured it out? Probably. But I have no idea how long it would have taken, or how wet and cold we would have been by the time we finally did.

If I’ve learned anything through travel, it’s that help offered is help received. There is no room for suspicion or fear; usually, people are good and want to help those who need it. So when this young man asked if we needed help, we quickly said yes.

“I have traveled many places,” he said as he looked over our map with us, “and people always help me.” We could fill in what he didn’t say: he knew what it was to receive help when he needed it, and he wanted to return the favor. We explained our situation. Soon we were on the streets of Noborito, following our midnight savior.

Was there a part of me wondering if we were doing the right thing, and if this guy could be trusted? Of course. I was tired, but even when tired I’m not stupid. I kept aware of what was going on around us, but at the same time my instincts said we were okay. This guy wasn’t leading us to danger. He was leading us to where we needed to go.

Not that we could find it easily, even with a guide. As I said, Japan’s address system isn’t easy to figure out. Even our Japanese guide was having trouble. We were pretty certain we were looking for an apartment building, and he knew of two right away that could be it. Yet when we checked each one, the apartment number we had wasn’t listed.

Standing in a side street under a small building overhang, Jodie and I stayed as least wet as we could while the man went to look at another apartment building nearby. Third time’s the charm, I thought. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Surely this will be it…

He came back, shaking his head. Three down. No go.

The “Milk Box” could be found next to apartment doors in some buildings. No longer used for milk, they still are handy for leaving keys (a cover pulls down over the opening) or having cutesy displays.

“I saw one more building,” he said. “I’ll be back.”

Again Jodie and I stood there. Rain and wind lashed through the street. I squeezed Jodie’s hand. The look in her eyes told me how afraid she was that she had messed everything up, that I was mad, that this whole couchsurfing homestay idea was the biggest mistake ever. What if this wouldn’t work out at all, and we had to try to find a hotel in Tokyo in the middle of the night? What if we had to sort out new accommodation for the rest of the trip?

But I knew that wouldn’t be the case. Call it faith; call it a trust in the goodness that often comes out when people travel, I don’t know. I knew we’d get to our homestay. And there was no way I could be mad at Jodie. “You have no idea how many times I’ve gotten on the wrong train,” I said to Jodie. “Anyone could have made this mistake. Besides, look at this weather. Of course it’s hard to find where we’re going.”

The young man came back. And he was smiling.

“I found it!” he said. “Come on!”

Jodie and I followed as quickly as we could. A few minutes later, we were on the fourth floor of an apartment building just off the main street in Noborito. A few minutes after that, we were getting settled in to our homestay. And a little after that, around 1 in the morning, nearly 30 hours after we’d begun our long, windy, winding way to Tokyo, we were asleep.

As the tank fills, the tap runs. What can I say? The Japanese make it easy to wash your hands after using the toilet.

Was it a rough start to the trip? You bet. But not a bad one. Here’s the thing: I told Jodie later that at no time during all this did I feel upset or angry or even all that scared. I felt… exhilarated.

I felt like I hadn’t felt in ages. After all, how you handle a trip’s initial challenges can have a large bearing on how you handle the trip. When we were on that train, wondering where the hell we were and how we’d find Noborito, I also felt this deep excitement, and couldn’t help but smile. We were still in Japan, after all. We had each other. We were wet, but we were safe. And Connor was already living a memorable trip—even if he wouldn’t necessarily remember any of it.

As we wondered Noborito and stood in that wee alcove behind a building, trying to stay out of the rain, I knew things would work out. And yes, I couldn’t help but think that it was going to make for one hell of a story.

After a few hours sleep, the next morning dawned and our jet-lagged selves woke up earlier than we would have preferred. Nonetheless, I immediately knew that from here things would only get better.

The night’s cold, wet and wind was no more. Warm sun shone in a cloudless sky. It was time to start our first full day in Tokyo.

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Oregon to Japan 2: Wrong Train at Shinjuku

Connor encounters his first Japanese vending machine. Hot coffee in a can please?

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Thirteen and a half hours after taking off from Los Angeles, our plane gently touched down in Tokyo. Jodie and I looked at each other, tired but excited. This trip is our first time in Japan and my first time in Asia since 2004. Not only is it Jodie’s first time in Asia, it’s also her first non English-speaking country. (Though I joke that she should count Scotland. I certainly do.)

These were calm moments before the storm—a handy literal yet accurate use of an otherwise annoying cliche. Landing in Japan is easy, and the airport is easy to navigate. The immigration line was long—at least 30 minutes, but probably closer to an hour—yet having Connor bumped us to a priority line. Within minutes Jodie and I were fingerprinted, photographed and on our way. More importantly, Connor received his very first passport stamp—a proud moment for a traveling papa.

And no, the toddler is not the one who drank the soda. Relax, hippies.

From immigration we breezed through customs, though I confess to a pulse-quickening moment where I couldn’t find our bag at the baggage claim. But when you’ve been awake for over 24 hours, it’s understandable to miss a bright yellow and red luggage tag the first time around. Luckily, I found it on the second go.

Japan is known for its formal culture, but there is a warmth to it that we took to right away. You see it in the cartoon characters, or the cuteness in the little warning signs reminding you not to get your fingers pinched in the elevator. It’s even at the currency exchange kiosk. As I changed our dollars to yen, I saw a little basket full of origami paper cranes and turtles. A note on the basket said, “Please take one.” Our first souvenirs in Japan became a purple crane and a blue turtle.

From there, it was time to get to Tokyo.

Exploring the train platform

Maybe it was the Narita Express where I should have begun to suspect. See, the airport is a long way away from central Tokyo. About an hour and a half away by a fairly speedy train, in fact. By the time we had changed money, navigated our first Japanese ticket vending machine and gotten to the platform, it was past 9 p.m. Connor had run around the platform getting out his energy. Once on the train and sitting on Jodie’s lap, within minutes he was out cold. Jodie dozed; I think I did too. It was quiet. We could relax. It was all so… easy.

And then there was Tokyo.

We flew out on St. Patrick’s Day (lost a day crossing the International Date Line). At LAX, one of the airline staff let Connor wear her most fetching hat.

After an hour and a half to recharge, it was time to suit up for the last stretch: getting to our homestay. The sleeping Connor went on my back in his carrier, and my daypack went on my front while I wheeled our small rolling suitcase. Jodie wore her small daypack on her back, and she carried our red umbrella stroller and a bag that holds the traveling crutches she uses when she isn’t wearing her prosthetic leg.

By the time we rolled into Shinjuku Station, one of the world’s largest train stations in the middle of one of the world’s major cities, it was past 10:30 p.m. We had only to make our way via local train to the western part of the city, to a wee suburb called Noborito. Once we arrived, we had but to walk a few hundred meters, and we would be settling in to our first ever couchsurfing experience.

Jodie had written down our host’s information earlier. We stood in front of a massive map that puts the London Underground’s to shame—of course, this one being in another language earns it extra points.

Checking out the in-flight entertainment, which as luck would have it entertained Connor right to sleep. Win.

We discussed and pointed, trying to suss out exactly which train to take. Jodie began to suspect she had written something down wrong, but in the end we picked a train line that seemed right and made our way to the ticket machine.

The wind that had delayed our flight had somewhat died down, but it clearly was not done with Tokyo. Rain lashed the train windows. High winds whipped over the cars. Whenever the doors opened at a stop, some bluster would rush through and give us a shakedown. Despite the city’s bright lights and bustling populace, Tokyo looked like it was on the losing end of a bar brawl. Wind-bedraggled train riders young and old, students and salarymen, boarded the train to make their way wherever on a blustery Monday night. Everyone looked tired. Everyone looked like the wind had come down on them like bad news in the middle of the night. Or maybe I was just dog-tired with a 28-pound toddler weighing down back and 28 hours of awakeness weighing down my head.

After three stops, Jodie and I began to look at each other with worried glances. Something didn’t seem right. Maybe we had picked the wrong train. But what to do? We didn’t want to stay on too long to find out how wrong we were, especially since the night was only getting later and later.

In halting Japanese we tried to ask people, “Noborito?” Eventually we each had someone helping us with connections and directions. The gentleman I was speaking with explained the trouble was one of train lines. The station map we had used only showed routes for Japan Rail, or JR. However, Japan also has many other train companies—and it was one of those that we ultimately needed. No wonder we didn’t find Noborito on the map we’d looked at!

As he wrote down directions, Jodie conferred with another passenger and the train came to a stop. Moments later, Jodie looked at me and said, “We have to go.” Then she got off the train.

Learning the local language

I grabbed the rolling bag and moved forward. The man helping me was repeating, “another stop, another stop!” But I could only nod toward my wife and lumber toward the doors. Train doors don’t stay open long, after all, not even for travel-weary dads wearing toddlers on their backs.

A few seconds after I stepped onto the platform, the train doors closed. “It’s another line,” we said to each other, then laughed despite the tense exhaustion. After all, when you really get down to it, we were in one of the world’s largest cities, it was after 11 p.m., and we ultimately had no idea where the hell we were going.

But we had each other, we had our money, we had our passports, we had our son, and really, we were set. Part of it, too, is Tokyo. It is an amazingly safe city. There was no point where I felt concerned for our safety, or worried that someone was a threat. And that certainly helps.

We walked to the other side of the platform, and boarded a train back to Shinjuku station. Once there, we found the Odakyu Line, one of the non-JR companies whose routes we hadn’t seen earlier. Aboard another train, I took to studying the map above the doors. Noborito on the route? Check. But… will the train stop there? There were lots of different trains, such as a Rapid Express that didn’t stop there. Finally I figured out that we were on an Express Train that did skip a lot of stops, but thankfully it would drop us safe and sound at Noborito.

Safe and sound, however, does not guarantee anything about dry.

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Oregon to Japan 1: Delays

Waiting and waiting for Tokyo

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When the wind on the other side of the ocean is strong enough to delay your flight thousands of miles away, you know your trip is off to an interesting start. Yet even as we made our way from Portland to Los Angeles, little did we know what twists and turns our travels were about to take.

When we landed at Los Angeles, we discovered that high winds in Japan had delayed our flight to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport by 2 hours. Instead of arriving at 4 p.m., we’d now arrive around 6 p.m. Undaunted, we bravely spent the time as best we could eating, relaxing, and following Connor around while he introduced himself to everyone at our gate. Or, if not the actual person, then their shoes or luggage certainly knew who he was by the time we boarded.

Hmmm, I bet Mom and Dad think they’re going to get to eat that food.

As for our Tokyo flight itself, a long spell sitting on the tarmac turned our twelve-hour flight into thirteen and a half hours, and changed our projected arrived time to about 7 p.m.

You’d think that being in a pressurized metal tube with a toddler for over half a day would lead to lots of interesting anecdotes, some touching and some that make you question the wisdom of having children. Sorry to disappoint. Frankly, our flight was pretty uneventful. Though I suppose I could point out that air sickness bags make great impromptu hand puppets. In fact, I don’t know why we bother packing toys and books for Connor. Anytime we’ve flown, he’s been kept contentedly occupied by barf bags, Sky Mall catalogs, in-flight magazines and any paper cup that previously contained his mother’s coffee.

Barf bag hand puppet

Flying with a toddler is not for the unprepared or faint of heart, however. The occasional slip and knock on the head did make for some crying moments, but if I’d whacked my head against the metal part of an airplane seat, I probably would have cried too. Overall though, Connor is a content wee guy who spent the flight alternating between sitting with us, nursing, playing on the floor, eating, playing with the in-seat TV/game controllers and sleeping.

Our flight attendant took a particular shine to Connor. Not only did she regularly check on us, she also snuck business class pillows and blankets back to our humble bulkhead seats in coach. She even turned a blind eye during a long run of turbulence. Connor was deep asleep on my back—the best sleep he’d had in days due to three molars coming through—and when he’s sleeping on me I can’t sit down. The plane’s sit-down-and-buckle-up light was on for ages, but she never said a word. All the better, as I used the time to proof my soon-to-launch short story e-book, worked on rules for a main character’s Irish/Himalayan speech patterns, and read some e-books on book marketing and e-book production.

Over 3 hours to go

Three hours later, my legs were tired, but Connor was rested and happy, and Jodie had gotten some shut-eye too. I snagged a sit and a wee nap as well—much-needed rejuvenation for when we landed in Tokyo, which was finally close.

But all of this is nothing compared to what was to come.

More Tokyo Toddler


Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter

Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

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Anthony's third book, FOREVER THE ROAD, is a Best Books 2015 Fantasy pick from Library Journal's SELF-e, and a 2015 Oregon Book Award nominee.

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Rucksack Universe

Travel fantasy tales
of wit, adventure & beer

Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novel - learn more and buy now

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The Martini of Destiny by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

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