Thursday, December 20, 2012

Yuletide in Yomiuriland

We're one week into Little Tofu Fox's three week, Christmas/O-shogatsu vacation.  When I picked her up last Friday afternoon, I was super excited to have my kid home for three weeks; by Tuesday, she was already begging me to go back to preschool.  Preschool is either that awesome, or I am that lame.  I choose to believe the former.

In the middle of Tuesday morning's epic, breakfast "I want to go back to preschool"whining episode, just as I was realizing that we still had two weeks and six days of vacation to go, Mr. TF reminded me that he would be flying late that night.  Little TF and I looked at each other in horror.  No one to save us from each other?  All day?  I decided upon an early activation of the Christmas Break Emergency Entertainment plan: a trip to Yomiuriland!

In the beginning of December, I asked one of my students which Tokyo Christmas illuminations she most recommended.  She named the Tokyo Midtown lights, and  Jewellumination- the light displays at the Yomiuriland amusement park.  "Yomiuriland's lights have been done by a very famous light designer," my student added, "The park is located off the Odakyu Line."

I take the Odakyu Line all the time, and was surprised to hear of an amusement park nearby.  I've been passing roller coasters for almost three years and never noticed them?  Geez, I really need to stop checking Facebook on my phone and look out the train windows more often!  Since Mr. TF wasn't going to be home till late that evening, I decided it was the perfect time for Little TF and I to have some mother/daughter bonding time while enjoying amusement park rides and Christmas lights.  Our stuck-at-home crisis averted, we waved good-bye to Mr. TF, packed a lunch, and took the train to the Odakyu Line's Yomiurilandmae Station!

Mae, in Yomiurilandmae Station, means, "in front of."  Street corners in front of landmarks- such as  schools- will often have a street sign that says Nameofschoolmae.  In front of such-and-such a school.  So, I didn't even bother looking at Yomiuriland's English website for directions.  This one was going to be easy!

Or not...

After getting off at Yomiurilandmae Station and looking around, I had a realization.  The reason I have never noticed an amusement park as my train shot past Yomiurilandmae Station, is because Yomiuriland is not, in fact, in front of the station.  Not even walking-distance-in-front-of the station.  After matching my limited Japanese reading skills to the Japanese-language-only map outside the station, I realized that we would have to take a bus to Yomiuriland.

As previously discussed in other blog posts, I hate taking buses with Little TF.  The stroller has to be unpacked  (why do I stuff so many empty drink bottles in the basket?!) and folded, and prayers have to be said for an empty bus seat for Little TF. She's still a bit too young to balance on a careening bus, and I'm too busy trying to keep her folded stroller from smacking into an elderly person to safely keep her on her feet.  Also, bus schedules are never in English.  Never, ever, ever.  So unless I already know exactly which bus to get on, and which direction in which to go, we will circle around on buses for hours.  It's just the kind of situation that sets foreigners up to look dumb, confirming any and all Japanese stereotypes, which I generally try not to do.  So, for all of the above reasons, I avoid buses like the plague.

This time, however, I had no choice.  Fortunately, my very limited and very deplorable Japanese reading comprehension has advanced just enough for me to decipher the characters for Yomiuriland on the bus timetables. Much laborious kanji checking and painfully slow katakana reading later, I confirmed the  proper bus number.  We crossed the street (dragging the stroller up and down the stairs-only pedestrian crossing bridge...was nothing about getting to Yomiuriland going to be easy?) and found our bus stop.  Since it was a school day for older Japanese kids, we were apparently the only ones going to Yomiurilandmae at one o'clock in the afternoon.  We boarded a very empty bus and each found a seat.  Finally, an easy part!

Three stops later, we got off at Yomiuriland.  The empty bus was an accurate predictor of the situation at the park...we practically had the place to ourselves!  A few families with young children, and small groups of young people were wandering around, but that was it.  Little TF and I could hardly believe our luck!  We went on ride after ride, sometimes four or five times in a row, and were usually the only people on them.  Little TF also enjoyed the mostly empty sea lion show, twice.  Yomiuriland is a little old and shabby in the daylight, but Little TF didn't care and we had a great time riding the classic amusement park rides that I enjoyed as a kid.

Dusk approached and the crowds began to arrive.  We were in the middle of riding the child-size "roller coaster" when sudddenly all the lights turned on!  Every inch of Yomiuriland lit up. The landscaping was blanketed, the roller coaster tracks were outlined, the cars on the spinning rides were festively decked out, and the ferris wheel was bathed in a spectrum of color.  Little TF had already decided that we were having a much better day than previously expected, so the added bonus of so many beautiful Christmas lights made Mommy a hero.  Ha!  Take that, preschool!

The water park section of Yomiuriland was closed during the day (how did I not know about the water park during this past sweltering summer?) , but opened at night for special waterside illuminations.  It was spectacular, especially the waterfall of lights spilling off the tallest water slide!

What's more fun than getting dizzy on amusement rides during the daytime? Getting dizzy on rides at night, while surrounded by Christmas lights!  Little TF and I went on a few more rides and munched on hot pretzels while watching dance troupes perform Christmas routines, before I judged that rush hour on the trains had probably settled down enough for us to head back home.  Little TF managed to get the last seat on the return bus, and then we scrolled through photos of our fun day as our train zipped us home.  Day two of Christmas break was declared a resounding success by all.  Only two more weeks to go!

Pray for me.

Yomiuriland's Jewellumination is running from now until February 17.  Visit the Yomiuriland website for a link to the English page.  Different types of tickets are available, depending on the ages of any children and how many attractions you want to enjoy.  The English page also has a discount coupon that can be printed out.  If you are going only to see the lights, there is also an admission-only ticket available for purchase.  Since Japanese schools are now on winter break, expect bigger crowds during the daytime.

Directions:  Take a local train on the Odakyu Line to Yomiurilandmae Station.  Exit on the north side of the station to avoid having to take the stupid, stairs-only pedestrian bridge.  Look for the bus stop next to the police box, at the bottom of the pedestrian bridge, and board the #1 bus.  Yomiuriland is only a few stops away!

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!


  1. You are a Superwoman! I've only taken the bus here once and that almost induced a panic attack. I can't imagine figuring it all out in another language with my kid in hand. Mad props.

    (And the lights look so pretty!)

    1. I don't know about Superwoman, but I'll take it. =) Thanks!

  2. Ohh looks pretty! I'll have to keep this in mind since my husband and I love looking at the Christmas lights every year : )