(Read the full post and see more photographs at brown.exposure.co)
It was a very much a spur of the moment thing. I had some frequent flyer miles, my son had just completed his Primary School Leaving Examinations, and I had a window from work to for a week. The idea had been percolating in my mind for quite a long time though: to go on a trip with my kids, just Father and Child.
We as parents spend much of our waking hours working, making a living, running the home and just generally being busy, while our kids are tied up in school, faced with an endless stream of homework and exams. Some days, we work late, and by the time we are home, the kids are asleep. And when the kids wake up for school at 5am (because the school bus comes at 5.45am), some of us are still a sleep. Which leaves the weekend, or late in the day, to know each other.
So I redeemed my son and I a pair of tickets to Tokyo, bought two Japan Rail 7-day Passes, and off we went on our first Father-Son trip. No plans, no fixed itinerary, and no luggage.
Yes, we had no luggage. Just our Tom Bihn backpacks, a 26-litre Western Flyer for him, and a 30-litre Aeronaut 30 for me, packed with a 12-inch MacBook and with clothes that could deal with the Japanese autumn in October, and even winter temperatures (just in case we decided to go up a mountain). I carried my Fuji X100T camera in my Co-Pilot satchel.
DAY 1: TOUCH DOWN
We made it. We got a little lost traveling from the airport to our Airbnb place in Shinagawa, but we finally got there, a little tired and hungry.
Our host kindly met us at the station and it was just short walk to his place.
It‘s pretty basic but clean and cozy. We plonked our things down and went straight for dinner nearby. It is Isaac‘s first meal in Japan and he was fascinated with ordering and paying for our meal through a machine. I‘ll say this, the boy can eat.
We also went to the nearby convenience store to stock up on some drinks and snacks because we have a little fridge in our room. I introduced him to the wonders of Kirin iced lemon tea.
I‘m waiting for the washing machine to finish the cycle while the boy is playing with my iPod Touch. He has 30 minutes of screen time.
DAY 2: ELECTRIC TOWN
It is our first day out and about and we grabbed a train to Akihabara. Where else would two boys go to first in Tokyo?
Isaac was determined to get something for his younger sister, who is into Vocaloids (she likes Rin and Len). I told him that Vocaloids isn‘t real music, he agreed.
We grabbed a quick meal at the corner shop just in front of the station and went straight for the toy and hobby stores.
Floors and floors of toys, figures and card games. There is no way to see it all. We climbed narrow stairs, scoured the wares and stopped for an arcade game or three.
He made one of my ¥100 coins last for quite a while at the Gundam game.
Then we stumbled upon a very cool Prime 1 Studio exhibition of Batman and Transformers on the top floor of a toy store. Very very cool.
We also checked out the huge Star Wars displays, some with limited edition Japan versions of Star Wars figures.
As we passed another arcade, the boy exclaims, “Pa! Star Wars Battle Pod arcade game!“
“Ok, you play one round. Then my turn.”
DAY 2: OLD TOWN
10 hours. We were out for ten hours. Walking. Taking the train. Walking. More walking. After Akihabara, which Isaac called Anime Town, I took us to Asakusa.
Asakusa was packed. Everyone came to shop and to seek blessings. Everything was about touching something for luck.
A huge crowd gathered near Senso-jī Temple because of a dragon dance. The golden dragon snaked through the crowd with an accompanying carriage of lady musicians. People reached out to touch its body for luck and to take photos of it.
As we checked out the shops in the alleys, the boy complained about his boots. He had outgrown them since the France trip a year ago and didn‘t tell me they were too tight. And the walking was taking a toll on his toes. So we went to a shoe shop and I got him a pair of Kenneth sneakers. What is a Kenneth sneaker? It‘s a fake Converse sneaker costing only 1600 Yen. The relief was obvious on his face as he walked in his new shoes.
Then we found a ramen shop in Asakusa that had a queue. And you know what that means to a Singaporean. It has to be good. And it was. The son ate his char siew ramen and I had a wanton ramen. Yes. Wanton. In Japan. Made of chicken fillings. It was surprisingly good.
It was getting late and the sun was setting. One last place to take him. I said come, we take the Ginza line to the end.
We fell asleep on the train ride. The conductor had to wake the two of us up at Shibuya station. He looked a little annoyed at us but it was a good nap.
“This is Shibuya,“ I announced with aplomb, “Look at that crossing.”
We did the tourist thing and crossed one of the busiest traffic junctions in the world. Then I took him to Starbucks Tsutaya, where one can buy a drink and enjoy the view of Shibuya Crossing from the second floor.
It took a while find a seat at the window but eventually we got our spot. And we spent a good 30 minutes just watching people cross a road.
“I‘m hungry now,“ he said.
“What do you want for dinner?“
“Ramen. Let‘s have ramen again.”
I smiled at the boy after my own heart and we took a train back to our place where we had another awesome bowl of ramen in Seiya, a shop near Togoshi Station.
(Read the full post and see more photographs at brown.exposure.co or view the embedded version below.)