If at First You Don’t Succeed,

…You must have done it wrong.

The kids were surprisingly willing to get back in the car Wednesday. I was pretty cheery, too – we left much earlier than we had on Tuesday, moving quickly along a route that was much more familiar the second time. We made it to the last intersection, I turned confidently to the left…and realized that, once again, the directions failed to match up with reality.

I turned around – no mean feat on the back roads, let me tell you – and did what I should have done (and would have done, had I not gotten horribly, horribly, horribly lost) the day before. I stopped at the Sunkus and asked for directions. (Oh. Right. A Sunkus is a convenience store.) The problem with this is twofold: one, the quality of local English declines sharply the farther you get from base, and two, my Japanese skills are pretty much limited to courtesies, purchases, and menu orders. Ooh! Also numbers. Anyway, my vocabulary is not well suited to getting directions.

Fortunately, I had with me the three things that I’ve always maintained would smooth out an English/Japanese conversation: my pocket dictionary, a pen, and a piece of paper. The expression on the cashier’s face when she realized that I needed directions was pretty funny, and it was even funnier when she ran to the back and returned with two more women. The three of them attempted to give me directions (and I can only assume they were able to guess from my mangled Japanese where I wanted to go because it was so close… ‘Children’s Land and Botanical Gardens’ was not in my dictionary) but we ended up drawing a little map complete with tiny stoplights. As they drew each intersection they told me which way I should go in a chorus – “Raito, raito,” then “Lefuto, lefuto,” (and bless them for knowing that English). I thanked them profusely and left.

Getting there was so easy.

It’s a bit of a low-key place, but it’s free (you only pay for rides and food) and it was nearly deserted. The weather was gorgeous! We saw the monkeys (next to a squirrel exhibit and a pen with two goats in it) before passing what the display claimed was a genuine totem pole, bestowed upon them by their sister city in the Pacific Northwest. So that was odd. We followed the path up and down some serious hills to see a few more animals before heading back up for a snack and some rides.

the three of us having a good ol time

Four carousel rides in two days! My kids are so spoiled. They spent some time splashing around in a trio of cone-shaped fountains with a little Japanese boy while his mother and I chatted a bit in choppy little bursts. I was surprised to discover that I comprehended a lot of what she said to her son – I guess I understand more words than I can just pull out and use, which is pretty cool.

Oh, they got their clothes so wet. :P

After that (and a couple of train rides – I’ve used the word spoiled already, right?) we went over to see something that had caught my eye.


Yeah. That’s something, isn’t it? There was a little sign in English near the statues, but I didn’t find it very illuminating. My best guess from what I read is that the gardens were the site of an ancient Japanese settlement where they excavated clay figures (shaped like that) which they memorialized in representation of the ancient reverence that they have for family. Awww.

While we were there we were overtaken by a squealing mob of Japanese five-year olds on a school trip picnic. Their teacher had a plastic grocery bag crammed full of maple ‘helicopters’ that she was passing out to kids by the handful. She gave some to Max and Charlie, too (although she called them ‘propeller’ …and they probably spell it ‘puropera’) and Max ran around noisily with the kids while Charlie decided he was having none of that foolishness and stuck close by.

Keiko (the teacher) had the best English of anyone I’d talked to that day. I guess she teaches it in her class, since she had all of the kids that came over to stare at me introduce themselves in English. Once they sort of lost interest in me she and I talked in a bumpy mix of English and Japanese that actually worked pretty well.

When the kindergarten left, it was time for us to go as well. I lured my boys back to the car with a box of Koala no March (OH so good. I’ve almost completely quit American candy since moving here. What’s the point? I only buy it when I can’t get the Japanese candy – Japanese candy kicks butt) and made it back home easily with my happy but exhausted children.

There’s something to be said for ‘try, try again.’


  1. Abi says:

    You are so wicked awesome!!! Is that a monkey on your son’s back in the carousel pic? Anywho, sounds like you had a great time!

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