When the World’s Worst Food Blogger goes to a place like Japan, he’s going to do one thing – eat! I now consider myself an expert on all Japanese food, so I’m happy to present to you my comprehensive guide to Japanese cuisine.
We had designated our second day in Japan as a rest day. We had planned to stay local and take it easy. The Gods of Weather reaffirmed our decision by providing conditions that ranged from London-style drizzle to full-blown downpour. Even with the less-than-ideal weather conditions, we were still able to have some fun. The highlights included:
The supermarket and the friendly local lady
We began our morning with a walk down the road to yet another local supermarket. We wanted to find the best (cheapest) places to buy fresh food and pre-packaged meals. At some point I will write a whole post dedicated to Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores, they are fascinating places to visit.
After some time perusing the shelves and trying to figure out exactly what we were buying, a little old Japanese woman appeared. She had a big smile on her face, and her gaze was fixed on Hannah. Emma did her best to exchange pleasantries with the lady and she seemed thrilled by the effort. She said several things to Hannah that we couldn’t quite understand, but the general impression that we were left with was that she thought Hannah was very cute.
Eventually the kind woman carried on with her shopping and we returned to our attempted food gathering. We had assumed that the old lady had gone home, because we had been taking our sweet time as we tried to understand labels.
While we were trying to work out the intricacies of Japanese sweets, a little head popped out from around a corner with a great big smile spread across its face. It was our new friend, back for one last look at Hannah. Hannah, in her usual was of communicating with everyone and everything (birds, cars, cats, buildings) waved. The lady was thrilled, and she walked right up to us. She held out her hand towards Hannah and asked her to shake hands. Hannah obliged by offering her hands and the two new friends had a lovely moment in which they shook hands and smiled at each other.
Satisfied, the little old lady turned and went on her merry way. Hannah waved her new friend off.
Roppongi Hills – raining, cats and dogs
The rain had forced us to seek shelter, so we braved the maze of Roppongi Hills once more in search of some dry-weather fun. We had vaguely seen what looked like a children’s playroom on our day 1 venture into the Roppongi Labyrinth, and we were aiming to find it once again.
I cannot stress how difficult a task that is. Roppongi Hills appears to have been designed to deliberately stop anyone from finding their way from one end to the other. On our first visit, at one point we spent a solid 20 minutes wandering around, only to find ourselves back at the exact point at which we had started.
Nevertheless, we had little option but to venture back in. The rain was pouring down and The Roppongi streets offer little in the way of shelter, which I found slightly surprising for a city which must experience a fair amount of rain.
At least we had some dry space in which Hannah could get out of the stroller and stretch her legs. We wandered along various corridors and took a few rides in lifts, all the while attempting to head in the vague direction of the play area.
It was while we were wandering along one of these corridors that we stumbled upon a place called Joker. Joker called its self a “Dog Hotel”. But it appeared to be a combination of a pet store and a grooming salon. The dog in the window was putting on a brave face as it received the most undignified of blow-dry’s, all of which Hannah found extremely fascinating.
We ventured inside the pet store component of Joker and Hannah watched the tiny puppies play with each other. I think she probably could have happily stood there and watched the boisterous little animals play all day long. However, I decided it was time to go when one of the shopkeepers dropped a terrified-looking dachshund puppy in with the rest of the dogs, who was immediately set upon by the most rowdy puppy. It grabbed the dachshund by the ear and pulled hard.
We walked a little further down the path, only to discover that the next shop along was the cat version. This one had a window full of very active cats. Each one had its own little compartment. It didn’t seem like a lot of space, but the cats seemed fairly content with playing around in their own little space. I guess this is Tokyo – some of the human apartments probably aren’t much bigger!
We eventually found the children’s playroom, but by then it was time to find a place to each lunch, so we made a mental note of its location and decided to return later in the afternoon.
The abundant rain provided Hannah with an opportunity that she had not yet had at home – the opportunity to stomp in puddles.
The first step in a puddle, of course, was an accident. Hannah had simply walked along the path as usual, and happened to step in a pool of water. However, once she had discovered the pure joys of a puddle, there was no stopping her from finding every other puddle on the path.
Hannah now had eyes purely for the little pools of water. It didn’t matter if they were in the direction that we were heading, or off on a completely different tangent. It didn’t matter if there was an army of people marching between her and said puddle. Hannah would reach it with a dogged determination that has to be admired in someone who has been with us for a mere year and a half. Each puddle was met with a gleeful stomp as she ran through it. I was pleased that I had purchased her a pair of high top sneakers in the days before we left. They were much more heavy duty than her previous shoes.
Ramen, the food of Gods
We set off in the direction of a local diner that we had passed while walking through Roppongi the day before. As with most restaurants in Tokyo, big pictures on the windows made it obvious what sort of food we would find inside. This diner specialised in ramen noodles, just the ticket for a cold and rainy day.
Up until this point, we had managed to get away with bringing Hannah’s meals with us from home when going to restaurants. We liked to know exactly what she was eating and control access to things like sugar and salt. In Japan, however, we had realised that we would have to let that practice slide. Hannah was finally going to eat what we ate in restaurants.
Immediately, Hannah’s eyes were opened to a whole new world of flavour. She took to it like a duck to water. Hannah slurped down ramen noodles, she demolished gyoza, and she ate half a bowl of fried rice. Hannah was most definitely a fan of the Japanese flavours, especially the salty, umami goodness. We may try to leave soy sauce for a while yet – I have the feeling she will try to drink it with a straw.
We all felt good after a warming bowl of ramen. It was time to head home for a nap. Again, Hannah took to her sleeping arrangements well and she quickly fell asleep.
Making friends with the locals
In the afternoon we headed back to the indoor children’s playroom in Roppongi Hills. We found it without any problems, I was beginning to feel like I had the Roppongi Hills maze pretty well mapped.
We parked the stroller in the stroller parking bay (yes, it was clearly marked with white lines in the area outside the playroom) and entered. Hannah walked straight past the 0-2 room and headed in to play with the older kids. There she explored some movable cogs for a while, before quickly making friends with a local girl.
Together they played in a little wooden car, the local girl drove and Hannah sat in the passenger seat. They made an adorable little pair as they sat and babbled away to each other, each in their toddler versions of their home languages. Yet, somehow they seemed to understand each other perfectly. They had a great time together.
After a thorough play we returned home for a simple meal of smoked salmon, French bread and picked vegetables. Delicious!
Chicken on a stick
We followed the usual bed time routine for Hannah, then Emma and I settled onto the couch for an evening of reading. After a little while, Emma declared that she was feeling a bit hungry. I agreed, so I decided to embark on a mission to the local 7/11, to find tasty treats.
As is the way in Tokyo, a convenience store is never more than two minutes away. I managed to communicate my desires by pointing and profusely apologising for my complete lack of basic communication skills. The kind man behind the counter was more than accommodating and he made sure they I got exactly what I wanted.
What I wanted was two sticks of delicious chicken. One was a little spicy, both were excellent. I was home within five minutes flat, which is both impressive and terribly dangerous for my arterial health.
How to Not Ruin Sleep on an International Adventure
One of my first thoughts when we began to organise our Japan adventure was how is Hannah going to sleep? At home she is a great sleeper, and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure that she brought her sleeping A-game with her to The Land of The Rising Sun. Fortunately, two of my favourite companies were quick to throw their hand up and offer a solution – BabyBjorn with their excellent travel cot, and the wonderful Gro Company.
I have written about the value of sleep bags before. For us at least they have been a key factor in a good night’s sleep since shortly after Hannah’s birth. Obviously a Grobag was going to be high on my list of things to take with us. I’d probably forgo clean underpants over a couple of Grobags if it really came down to it (don’t worry, I’m taking clean undies. There’s plenty of room in the suitcase).
The Land of The (Bloody Hot) Rising Sun
During our time in Japan, we are expecting to face fairly consistent daytime temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. A quick check of the night-time temperatures shows that we can also expect that it won’t drop below about 22 C.
On top of that, the standard of our accommodation is the great unknown. We have decided to take the plunge and go with Airbnb for the first time ever. While the places look nice in the photos and they claim to have air conditioning, we can’t be too sure about how hot they will be inside.
Of course, those kinds of temperatures are pretty standard for us Australians, so this trip to Japan offered the perfect opportunity to test out the new range of Summer Grobags, before things really heat up Down Under.
To make life comfortable for Hannah during those hot days and nights, The Gro Company sent me a 1.0 tog and a 0.5 tog Grobag. Between these two bags (and by adding or taking away clothes), we should have all of the temperature conditions that we expect to face covered. Emma and I may have to sweat our way through the night under whatever covers our hosts provide, but at least we can be sure Hannah will be comfortable!
Bright Summer Colours and Other Features
I was sent a 1.0 tog Party Animals, and a 0.5 tog Action Stacks Grobag. Both of these sleep bags are designed to be used while travelling, and can accommodate a 5-point harness. This is great for use in car seats, and even in the stroller. As our intention is for Hannah to have some of her daytime naps in her stroller on this trip, it is a feature that we may find very handy to have.
I was immediately drawn to the bright colours of these new Grobags. They are vibrant and I instantly feel happy when I look at them. They are non-gender specific, which is exactly the way that I like such things to be. These two great Grobags are just a small sample of the wide variety of styles on offer at the Gro Store, so if these particular ones don’t suit your style, there plenty more to choose from.
I particularly like the Party Animals Grobag, because of the whimsical embroidered pictures. These always make me smile and I’m pretty sure Hannah likes them too. They add a great tactile element to the Grobag as well, and Hannah sometimes likes to feel those features of her Grobags as she is winding down before sleep, or first thing when she wakes up.
The Usual High Quality From Gro
Regular readers of Blog of Dad will know that I have featured Gro products several times now. To be honest, I always jump at the chance to work with The Gro Company, because I can be pretty sure that the products they send me will be made to a high standard.
They are a company that appears to be absolutely dedicated to helping babies and toddlers sleep well. As a person who absolutely loves his sleep, I greatly appreciate that! A good night’s sleep for bub means a good night’s sleep for all.
Never will that have been more important to us than on our holiday to Japan. I have read too many horror stories about overseas adventures being ruined by a toddler who refuses to sleep, to risk putting Hannah in anything that I don’t absolutely trust.
These two Summer Grobags live up to the high standard that I have come to expect from The Gro Company. They are cotton, they feel durable and crucially their zippers feel made to last. I am yet to find a Grobag that has worn out before it has been outgrown.
The Gro Company also provide a great amount of information on their website about how to use the Grobag properly, in order to ensure that your child is most appropriately dressed for the conditions. Again, to me this is an indicator of how seriously they value a good night’s sleep.
The Impossible Task
The first real test for these Grobags will be the flight to Japan. We have chosen to fly overnight, with the belief that because Hannah is an excellent sleeper at home, she will just sleep the whole way to Japan… while strapped to my lap… in a strange environment… While surrounded by strangers…
Now, I’m not saying that Grobags are magical, BUT, they may just provide that extra element of familiarity that helps Hannah to get some sleep on the plane (thereby allowing me to get some sleep on the plane). They are not the only trick up our sleeve, we have the sleep playlist on Spotify and the excellent wireless headphones that will also block out most of the background noise. Together these three elements may just combine to achieve the impossible task of a sleep-filled flight. Of course, if all that fails we have an arsenal of backup activities to at least keep Hannah settled.
If there is no sleep on the plane, we have at least arranged with our very kind Airbnb host to have access to the apartment from the moment we arrive in Tokyo. The super easy Grobag, combined with the fast-to-set-up BabyBjorn Travel Cot, means that Hannah can be happily sleeping within minutes of checking in.
Ready for the Australian Summer
These Grobags won’t just be useful during our overseas adventures. Hannah will sleep in them all summer long. With the temperature in Sydney already reaching 32 degrees Celsius, now is a great time to start thinking about safe and comfortable sleeping arrangements for your child during the Summer heat. Head on over to The Gro Store and check out the fantastic range that they have on offer. While you are there, have a read of their guides to ideal sleeping temperatures to find out how to best use your new Grobags.
The Gro Company (Bloom & Grow) sent me two Grobags for on our Japan Adventures. While these products were provided for free, the comments within this post remain entirely my own reflections of my experience with these Gro products, as well as Gro products that I had purchased prior to any relationship with the Gro Company. This dad takes pride in providing honest and useful information to other parents.
18 months is a wonderful age. In recent weeks Hannah’s cognitive ability and fine motor skills have exploded! We can almost see the change in each day. One of the most recent, unexpected developments is that of the little helper.
Hannah wants to be a part of everything. She would much rather be participating in what the adults are doing than sit by herself and play with her toys. She has perfected the loud wail at the kitchen gate, which she produces any time that she is locked out of a menial task such as unpacking the dishwasher. Hannah loves to help and we are really happy to involve her in every activity that we can.
Of course, the help of an 18 month old kid is not always helpful in the traditional sense of the word. Often, involving Hannah in the activity is a sure-fire way to significantly extend the time that the task takes to complete. Nevertheless, Emma and I both feel that it is really important to make Hannah feel like she is helping, and that her input is valued. We believe that encouraging her now will help Hannah to develop positive attitudes towards household tasks and chores in the future.
The Top 5 Ways in Which Hannah Likes to Be a Little Helper
1. Unpacking the dishwasher
Hannah comes running whenever the dishwasher door is open. She is incredibly eager to be a part of the daily ritual of unpacking. Hannah is getting better at it too, She knows where certain things go, and she is slowly coming to the understanding that some things (such as knives, glasses etc.) are not for her to touch. Hannah diligently removes all plastic containers from the top shelf of the dishwasher (yes, she can reach!) and then reaches up on her tippy-toes to place them on the drying rack.
There is still the occasional (regular) hairy moment, when Hannah picks up something highly breakable. Luckily, she tends to just try and ask us what she is supposed to do with it, rather than drop or throw it. So far we have not had any accidents.
2. Hang out/take in laundry
This is one of Hannah’s favourite pursuits. When she sees one of us heading out the back door with a washing basket, she quickly races to the laundry to find her Frozen crocs (Don’t judge me, they were given to her second-hand). Hannah loves to help with this activity, and she does so by pulling pegs out of the peg basket and handing them to the waiting parent.
Unfortunately, Hannah hasn’t yet learnt to distinguish between taking the washing out and bringing it back in again. That means that even when we are bringing in the washing, Hannah insists on handing us pegs. I have tried to introduce the task of “patting down” the clean laundry when taking it back in, with some success. It has definitely reduced the amount of extra pegs that I have to return to the peg basket.
3. Folding laundry
I don’t know where Hannah gets her love of the laundry from, because both Emma and I hate it. Hopefully it means that she will happily take over from us once she is capable of doing so (keep dreaming dad). Hannah loves to help fold the clean washing. Initially that meant emptying the entire contents of a washing basket all over the floor, one item at a time.
These days she understands the concept of taking washing out of the basket and placing it on the dining table, she just doesn’t understand the techniques of folding, or the concept of placing like items in the same pile. What we end up with is a Hannah pile of clothes at the end of the table (and maybe one or two on the floor). It doesn’t matter, she always seems pretty pleased with her efforts.
4. Shutting doors/gates
Hannah loves to shut doors and gates. She can now reach the door handles in the house and she is quite expert at manipulating them. She is also extremely diligent about ensuring that gates are properly closed. Hannah is so good at these jobs that she closes doors and gates that don’t need to be closed.
5. Packing away toys
This one is great, and I think it has a lot to do with our attitude towards Hannah’s involvement in household tasks. She is an expert at packing away her toys and books at the end of the day. All it takes now is the simple words “pack away” and Hannah gets stuck right in. We rarely leave her to do it herself, after all, housework is a lot more enjoyable with a bit of company. Packing away time is usually a family affair and we get it done quickly, together.
Who knows if allowing Hannah to help us with these tasks will really make a difference to her attitude as she gets older? I will not be at all surprised if she hits a certain age and doesn’t want to be our little helper anymore. Have you had any success with introducing your children to chores and responsibility? I would love to know what worked (or didn’t work) for you! Be sure to leave your ideas in the comments.
I’ll admit it. When I was a younger man, I was a bit of a want-to-be racer. My pride-and-joy was a 1988 Nissan Skyline. It was a beast with its straight-six and rear-wheel drive.
Like most young men with dreams of Bathurst glory, I wanted to do all the things to my car. I wanted to make it as close to a racer as possible. The top of my list was RECARO racing seats. In my mind, they were the ultimate addition – sleek, body hugging and pure-bred for the race track.
Of course, also like most young men I had zero dollars to my name. I never realised my dream of racing seats (or of winning the Bathurst 1000, for that matter). I grew older, my priorities changed, the Skyline made its way to the scrapheap and I, somehow, became a reasonably respectable father who drives a terribly sensible car.
Old Feelings Reignited – RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller
Imagine how it felt then, when through the haze of mother-centric stroller names appeared a familiar word. A word that reignited long-forgotten associations with freedom, speed, comfort and untouchable quality – RECARO.
The teenage me, that long supressed champion of thrills and enjoyment, jumped for joy somewhere deep inside. He shook me, he begged me to remember that once-upon-a-time I didn’t drive a Camry. He pleaded with me to get my hands on the contraption!
The adult me considered it. The adult me looked closely at the features. He read the specifications and diligently Googled reviews. Much to his surprise, the adult me was impressed. Perhaps this stroller could do the job. Perhaps this stroller could be the one to take to Japan – the one that met the long list of requirements that he had compiled in the most adult of ways:
Lay-flat position for daytime naps, tick!
Single-handed folding function, tick!
Large storage basket, tick!
Large canopy for whole-days in the sun, tick!
The list went on and the boxes continued to be ticked. There was nothing for it, I had to contact RECARO and find out if they really did have the stroller for me…
The Delivery – RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller
To say that I was excited on the day of delivery is a massive understatement. I was like a little kid at Christmas. Every few seconds I glanced at the door. I was terrified that if I didn’t answer it within a split-second, the delivery driver would turn around and take my package away. And with it, he would take my opportunity to live vicariously through my child. I may never have realised my dreams, but she sure could (realise my dreams. Not hers).
Finally it arrived. The box was smaller than I had anticipated, but the weight of it told me that it was full of stroller.
For the past 18 months we had used second-hand strollers and buggies, so I had never had the simple pleasure of unboxing a stroller for the first time. The RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller comes mostly pre-built. The only parts that are not already attached are the rear wheels, the TWO cup holders (yes, two!) and the tray. Each of these pieces were easy to attach, the wheels and the tray made a satisfying click sound and they were put in place.
Step Back and Admire – RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller
The RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller is a good-looking ride. I walked around it as if examining a new car in a show room. I resisted the urge to kick the tires. Instead, I set about taking in the details. I admired the sturdy frame, I appreciated the feel of the padded handlebar. Some details stood out fairly quickly, the embroidered RECARO branding on the shoulder straps, for example.
The seat looked large and comfortable. If anything, It has plenty of room for Hannah to grow into. In fact I’m pretty sure she will outgrow the need for a stroller well before she outgrows this stroller.
I gave the stroller a push. It glided forward smoothly and silently. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so used to second-hand strollers, or because the RECARO is so well built, but if felt really easy to push and manoeuvre.
Size and Weight – RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller
The size of the RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller is just about the maximum with which I would feel comfortable travelling. At just over 10kg, it’s certainly not a light-weight umbrella stroller. However, at that size, it also comes with benefits.
The stroller offers a full recline for out-and-about napping. It has a large canopy for protection against the elements and a huge basket for storage under the seat. The frame is robust and feels as if it will last for many years to come. Nothing about the RECARO stroller is flimsy. The large puncture-proof wheels and suspension system also add to the overall size, as does the very handy removable child’s tray. Did I mention it has two cup holders?
The footprint is a little larger than our current umbrella stroller, but it still doesn’t feel huge. The RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller also feels extremely agile and manoeuvrable, so I’m pretty sure it’s size isn’t going to cause us too many issues in Japan. If size/weight is your number one priority, the RECARO Easylife Ultra-Lightweight Stroller looks like a pretty great alternative.
Where the RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller really stands out in terms of size is in when it is folded. Unlike our second-hand Bugaboo Chameleon and many other premium buggies, the RECARO folds as a single piece. No more messing about with dismantling pushchairs in the carpark! The fold is really easy, after a little practise, and it can be done one-handed. Once folded, the RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller sits neatly in an upright position, which helps it to take up minimal space. That will be very handy in our not-so-large (tiny) Japan accommodation.
First Drive – RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller
Like any good boy-racer, I was eager to get the new set of wheels on the road. I must have been grinning wildly as I pulled into the parents with prams spot at the local shopping centre. The stroller was out of the boot and ready to go in mere seconds – a very welcome change from the cumbersome two-piece buggies, to which I had become accustomed.
I strapped Hannah in and off we went.
Also like any good boy-racer, within seconds I had misjudged the proximity of the rear wheel to the curb. The result, a tiny scuff mark. I shook my head in disbelief at my own incompetence, but the irony of the situation was not lost on me and I quickly saw the funny side. I guess it’s a good thing that I never did get the set of alloy wheels for my Skyline that I so desperately craved.
After that first little hiccup, we were once again on our way. This time it was smooth sailing (or should I say rolling). The RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller glided smoothly over the bitumen of the carpark. Once on the smooth, tiled floor of the shopping centre, the stroller moved with barely any effort.
Steering was excellent, the stroller turned easily and precisely. It felt well-balanced and easy to manage even in tight spaces.
I’m a fairly tall man, and a pet hate of mine with strollers is not having enough room between my feet and the back of the stroller. This was never a problem with the RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller. There seemed to be plenty of room for me to take full strides as I pushed the stroller through the shopping centre. The adjustable handle also helped with providing a comfortable pushing position. I’m confident that I will have no trouble pushing this stroller around the streets of Japan for days on end.
That’s it for now. I’ll be putting the RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller through its paces shortly on the streets of Japan, then I’ll let you know all about it in a full review.
Disclosure – The Amazing Baby Company provided Blog Of Dad with this stroller free of charge, for the purpose of review during our Japan adventure. The views expressed in this post are entirely my own views, based on my experiences with the RECARO Performance Denali Luxury Stroller. For further information, please visit my disclosure page.