The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Keeping cool with toddler in Tokyo's summer

Tokyo may be the most expensive city in the world for expats, but I think it is one of the best places to bring up children. That is definitely not the first impression that most - if not all - expats would have of this big urban city, especially if one were to live outside of the gaijin (foreigner) parts of Tokyo (Minato Ward is very popular with foreigners). I think that Tokyo is also the safest big city where young school children can walk safely to and from school without adult company, and where I have never felt fear when I used to walk home in the dark after work. (As an amusing aside, I recall Rob telling me that one of his colleagues from New York were advised by Japanese real estate agents that it is "dangerous" for foreigners to live outside of Minato. Sure, there aren't as many English-signages around, and it may be more difficult to find foreign restaurants, but it certainly is not dangerous. In fact, we think that the foreigner presence in Minato makes it less safe, and Roppongi (in Minato) is the only place in Japan that we can see spray-painted graffiti and litter on the ground - coincidence? We think not.)

Anyway, back to the topic. I can't speak for the other wards of Tokyo, but Chuo City certainly tries its best to make life easier for mothers by providing a range of facilities for children. We are now well and truly into the summer season, and the most popular free public facility for children is the jyabu-jyabu ike (splash/paddle pools). There is a small one set up only 5 minutes' walk from our apartment, where there are always two staff standing by, and every hour the pool water is cleaned and chemical-tested to maintain quality. A great way to keep cool in the heat and wear out the energetic little ones.

I've also made plenty of use of the various outdoor and indoor playgrounds around this area, and I recently discovered a special indoor play area called Kirara Chuo, designated only for babies and toddlers up to 3 years old. This facility is free, but only available for the Chuo City residents. The best thing about Kirara is that unlike the other city-provided indoor facilities, there are always a couple of minders on the floor to give the extra hands when needed, and it's open 7 days a week (shut only on some public holidays). It even provides cheap daycare services for parents who need their kids off their hands for a couple of hours. The indoor play centers are essentially air-conditioned playgrounds, where we can also meet other mums while the kids are having fun.

Zak learning young on how to help out in the kitchen (at Kirara Chuo play centre); and the English-speaking playgroup comprising of mostly Japanese mums and their toddlers in our area (at another indoor play area):

Tokyo is quite a toddlers' playground, and I hope that Zak will find Hong Kong just as fun.


  1. My Japanese housemate said something similar to me today about being young and growing up in Tokyo.
    The availability and convenience of services is something that is amazing about some of the big cities of the world. Must be a great way to meet other people as well :)
    Ellen x

  2. You said it Ellen :) I wonder if we'll be happy to settle down in Perth after all we've experienced in the big cities..