The weekend of October 1, we decided to extend our time off base from just having a Japanese dinner to also having a Japanese sleep-over at the New Sanno Hotel in downtown Tokyo. It's a military run hotel, so you are surrounded by English speaking staff, which makes it almost too easy to have a night away. They even have babysitters on staff to stay with your children so you can have a worry-free date night downtown. Here's the link to the hotel if you want to see what it looks like: http://www.thenewsanno.com/ . Our 24-hour trip was much more eventful that we anticipated, and we learned several things about sightseeing with two kids downtown. Thankfully, we had some good laughs along the way, and overall it was a really nice family getaway.
Here's our Top 10 list of lessons learned:
1. Even if you're packed and ready to go the night before, it will still take you at least 2 1/2 hours to get out the door the next morning....and you'll still need everything but the kitchen sink!
2. Don't assume that every Japanese person knows English.
3. Do assume that they will take pictures of your red headed children. And they won't necessarily be discreet about it either.
4. Make a note to check the events calendar for the sight you plan to see to make sure it's not "Free Admission Day" like we found during our outing to the Ueno Zoo. Yep, we were there with every other person in Tokyo who wanted a free day at the zoo. Oops!
5. Don't be surprised to see ladies wearing stilettos at the zoo while pushing strollers full of kids. And I probably looked ridiculous in my tennis shoes!
6. Don't forget to pack the miracle blanket that properly swaddles your sweet baby girl so she sleeps like an angel. If you do forget it, be prepared for her to wake up every few hours, which doesn't make for a good night's sleep in a hotel room.
7. Don't take a stroller on the subway. It's a real pain walking up and down the stairs.
8. Hire the babysitter to arrive at least 30 minutes before your dinner reservation because your children will probably have a full on meltdown just seconds before she arrives and you will need time to get them settled and still have time to brush your teeth. Oh, and make sure your husband isn't still in his towel when the babysitter shows up.
9. Don't ever assume that your 1995 Honda Odyssey van won't break down in the middle of a tunnel in downtown Tokyo, during high traffic, where there isn't a shoulder to pull off onto. Thankfully, we were able to putter our way to the hotel, but breaking down in a major city where you don't speak the language well, isn't a good idea. We put way too much faith in our van that is 16 years old and has probably had at least 5 owners.
10. Do allow your 2 year old to pray in the middle of the tunnel in Tokyo that the van will start and that we can make it through safely. It works. We made it, by the grace of God.
So, it wasn't the most relaxing vacation, but it was time for us to spend as a family, and that's what matters most. Here are some of our favorite pictures that we took along the way
Matthew and Ryan riding the subway
I just thought this was funny - it was animated chopsticks pulling noddles in and out of the bowl.
At the zoo -- can you spot the line behind Ryan to see the Giant Panda. Crazy?!
Matthew and Ryan watching the elephants
A Japanese Tea Ceremony House
Matthew loved the lions!
Going to eat ice cream with the rest of the zoo crowd
Heels at the zoo...? Not unusual in Japan.
Matthew loves ice cream :)
There was a security guard holding this sign at the end of the Giant Panda line. They are serious about this Panda viewing.
Notice the TWO children passed out asleep in the SAME stroller. That can't be comfortable!
Dinner at Wellington's in the New Sanno Hotel
Outside the New Sanno Hotel after our delicious dinner! I had one very handsome date! :)