Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
Our children both celebrated their birthdays in the past 2 weeks and we felt a bit guilty for dragging them around Malaysia and Indonesia without much children focused activity so we swallowed our ethics and took them to Tokyo Disney. Gone are the heady days of no merchandise in our home but this was something else altogether. We managed with a few words of Japanese, some gesticulating and the magic keyword Disney to navigate our way there for free on the JR network, which as an aside is delightfully efficient and a marvelous asset for Tokyo.
Our eyes popped at the attention to detail as we walked in rather a bewildered fashion through the throngs of (mostly) young Japanese adults, decked out in Disney merchandise. We soon realised that we needed to queue for rides and the queues were remarkably long (sometimes over 2 hours). Thankfully dutiful staff marked the time for each queue so we were able to select our few rides to minimize queuing time. The entire place had a strong fragrance of sugar and we watched amazed as the multitudes indulged in expensive and nutritionally irresponsible ‘treats’.
We thought that the grand Easter parade would give our children the chance to see up close the Disney characters they know but instead they found it boring and our daughter was pretty disappointed not to see a single Disney Princess.
That night we had another great meal in our neighborhood. It cost more than double the night before and we had to pay with cash (already dwindling!) but it was a fun place where the staff wore traditional outfits and were full of beans. Once again we were the only foreigners in the place and we used signs, a few words and guess work to figure out what we were ordering and eating.
We noticed in Tokyo a reluctance to look at us or acknowledge us. Most people actively looked away rather than interact with us. This surprised us because our kids drew a lot of attention in Europe and Malaysia and Indonesia. I had read that the population density of Tokyo makes people unlikely to look at each other particularly on the trains and that’s certainly what we found. That made each of the few interactions we had more precious and authentic, including the friendly family on the train who saved us from catching the wrong line, the railway station security guard with the most expressive eyebrows you’ll ever see, and the retirement aged gentleman who stopped to share a few words with me as we contravened etiquette by eating our breakfast in a park this morning rather than eat standing up in our cupboard.