From Rome to Pisa to Florence and Back to Rome Again!

As the father of a 5-year-old boy who just HAD to go and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa while were were in Rome, I thought I should write down some notes for any one else who might attempt a similar trip. Searching the web provided lots of insights, but some information was missing, wrong, or incomplete.

From Rome to Pisa by Train

There are a quite a few options. Your search should start at the Tren Italia website which has an English version available (link: There you will find that you can take trains from Roma Termini to Pisa Centrale via Firenze (Florence). There are some fast ones available between Firenze and Roma (named “FECCIA”-something). Do be aware that these are quite comfortable/nice, quiet, and obviously quick; however, they cause more motion sickness then the slower trains and they also cause many more pressure changes (you will feel it in your ears) when you go through the many tunnels along the way. Additonally you will still have to change in Firenze SMN to another train.

Another very acceptable option is go to the Roma San Pietro station near the Vatican (bus 64 takes you there as of April 2012). From this small station there are many options for regional trains. Some are direct with no transfers and some transfer in Civitavecchia to Pisa. Either way, these can be desirable because they tracks run along the western coast, showing you sites you might not otherwise see. Please note that total travel time may be about the same as it would be through Firenze and it will cost you less. Therefore, all things considered, this might the best option.

From Pisa Centrale to the Leaning Tower

As of April 2012, you can take the LAM ROSSA bus from the station to the tower. Cross the street in front of the station and the bus will pick you up there at the bus stop. Look for other clueless tourists to reassure yourself you are in the correct location. You will need a bus ticket which you can buy at the “newstand” in the terminal. The ride takes a while, but keep looking left or you might miss your stop. A good indicator is that many people will get off there.

From Pisa Centrale to Stazione di Firenze Santa Maria Novella (Florence)

This was a “Regionale” train, it took only about 1 hour and seemed virtually non-stop. The ticket was cheap enough that we thought we ought to take it and stop by and see Florence for the afternoon. Exiting the station to the right (west) will take you too the trams (street cars) and exiting to the left or south will get you headed in the direction of the Montefiascone Cathedral (after a 10 – 15 minute walk). It was a pleasant stop.

Returning Home to Rome (Firenze to Roma)

We took the “FECCIA” train heading back so that we could be “home” before midnight. It was a quick trip, but not comfortable enough to sleep for us (see notes below). The train did get us back quickly, but of course left us at Roma Termini. The bus ride “home” was exciting due to the driver’s lead-footed dangerous flight through Roma’s busy nightlife. When we arrived at our wonderful bed & breakfast apartment near the Vatican we literally felt as though we had come home. It was a busy day and the comfortable apartment was so welcoming after all of our sites and travels.


More on trains

Some trains are just faster than others and some trains just stop more frequently than others. This is really true throughout the world. For this trip I think the slowest train is called “Regionale”. A step above this is “Regionale Veloc”. Then I think the next one up is “Intercity”, followed by the bullet trains called “FECCIA-something”. The “FECCIA” trains will have the cleanest coaches and bathrooms, but I found the coaches on the “Regionale” trains passable. We also felt motionsickness and too many pressure changes in the “FECCIA”; the “Regionale” trains were much easier to sleep on as a result.

Leaning Tower of Pisa Age Restriction / Limitation

In the spring of 2012 in order to climb up the tower you needed to be at least 8 years old. This was a big surprise to us and to many others who wanted to climb with their kids. You won’t be told this until you find the ticket booth in the back and you are told the bad news by the folks selling the expensive tickets.

Our Preferred Rome Bed & Breakfast Apartment

We were so lucky to have found Rosa Maria’s “Al Colonnato di San Pietro“. We stayed in her “Moon” apartment and loved it. The location was wonderful, right next to the Vatican and right on a bus line. TripAdvisor brought it to our attention, but the reviews and email exchanges with Miss Rosa Maria sold us. In person she was even better. She looked out for us as if we were her family. It was she that pointed us to use the Roma San Pietro station to get to Pisa. She knows so much about the city and outlaying areas. She even went the extra mile helping us to load up on San Marzano tomatoes and seeds. We would stay with her again in a heart beat. If you have any questions about her B & B or apartments please contact me.

Related Articles:
World travelers Ilse and Yannick have lived in several countries and found that cultures come with a variety of habits. They explain the differences in every country when it comes to taking shoes off.


Who Was Your Hero?

Did you have a swing set when you were young? What do you remember most about your swings?

When someone tells me they are looking at swing sets for their children, one thing pops instantly into my mind. My Dad.

As a young child my father was my idol. My Dad could fix anything, he could do everything; he was larger than life. My Dad took me camping and taught me how to fish, he took me to the ocean and taught me how to body surf and he took me on walks and taught me to enjoy nature. When I got hurt, my Dad comforted me.

What I actually remember most was going to look for swing sets with my father. We picked one out and took it home – in a box. I was so excited; I couldn’t wait to use my swing! My Dad worked on that swing set the rest of that day and half the next day – with me there ‘Is it done yet?’ ‘When will it be done?’ Through all of that, my father never lost his temper or sent me away.

He finally got the swing set together and I got to swing on it. My Dad would go out with me every evening after work, and push me on my swing. That’s what I remember.

Around the time I turned 15, my Dad turned totally stupid – didn’t know anything and couldn’t do anything; He stayed that way for several years. Then I got married and had my own daughter. It was a miracle – my Dad returned to Hero status.

The real truth is that I got my head on straight. After the birth of my daughter I realized that my father had never once even come close to falling off that pedestal I had put him on when I was a child.

As my daughter was growing up, I watched my Dad take her to the park to feed the ducks, and push her on the swings. I watched my Dad take her into the garage so they could paint the toy box they made together.

Fathers, if you are looking at swing sets for your son or daughter, make sure you push them when it’s done. And NEVER, EVER forget who you are to your children. You are their Hero.

author: anonymous

Don’t Take Fatherhood For Granted

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey called life it’s not to take fatherhood for granted. I have been given a gift in the form of a child and nobody else has one quite like him. My child is unique and rare and can never be duplicated. Although it’s quite a responsibility being a father, it’s something that can pay back such high rewards. That is why I try to never take it for granted.

Sometimes it’s hard. After a rough day at work and a splitting headache the last thing I want to do is chase my child around the house looking for a hug, which is our current coming-home game. Sometimes I just need to walk in the house and arrive for a few minutes before the demands start. These are the times when I find it hard to take the time to enjoy fatherhood but I buckle down and do it. Someday I’ll be walking into an empty home and will miss my child screaming, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”

So I enjoy it today. Even after the boss has yelled at me and the heater broke in the car on the way home and my toes felt like they were going to break off from my feet. I want to have kids and I want to experience everything that goes with it. Even when I don’t want to; I want to. Try explaining that to someone that isn’t a father!

I guess everything falls into place best at night when I am tucking them into their twin over twin bunk beds. I love this time because we can have a good heart to heart. Sometimes they tell me what’s on their minds or what’s happened during the day. Some nights they’ll tell me about their dreams and what the future holds for them. It’s really a beautiful time where we can connect and even escape reality for a bit. Sometimes I sit on the edge of their bunk beds and tell them about my dreams.

It’s funny how my dreams have changed from owning a fancy car and getting it detailed twice a year to wanting the best for my kids and worrying about their education. It’s funny what one child can do to one man’s universe. Everything seems to have shifted and I don’t really mind at all.

Don’t take fatherhood for granted. It is something that will be gone in the blink of an eye and you’ll miss it terribly once it’s reached the next level and your child is out of the home. That’s one thing I’m sure of.

author: anonymous

Childproofing for your Creative and Adventurous Little One

To truly childproof you will need to think like your child. It is not enough to just install some plug blockers and doorknob covers. For little ones with less mobility and less personality this means you need to get on the ground and crawl around and see into what mischief you can enter. For toddlers and preschoolers you have to think about what attracts their attention and curiosity. child proof safety furnitureSome things will be universal and others may be particular to your child. Perhaps shes an avid climber, or he is an aspiring chef. You may need to look-out for potential makeshift step-stools and other tools that your little genius will invent. My mother brought this to my attention in an email she sent me today. She writes:

“When visiting overnight, after 2-year-old Leelee goes to bed, I always want to peak in at her, she has a way of getting stuck and tangled in things.

A few months ago when they visited here, she slipped her body between the two pipes that make up the bed rail (top) and the bed base (bottom) of a youth bed but which didn’t have the netting attached after the last time it had been used. When I told her dad about it he said he had already seen her do that. I was so alarmed to see her stuck like that! She had been calling out (not crying) and they say let her “talk” it out and she’ll go back to bed. But she was wearing the bed rail like a flattened holla hoop with a bed attached. We pulled her out and thought that we could fix things so it wouldn’t happen again but it did: right away. Then we tied a bumper around those rails and she couldn’t do it. Then last week she got tangled in chords on the floor and something else got her foot stuck while she was playing in the bed room. I had bettered secure all the chords from now on.

But here’s the worst one: It reminds me of years ago when we were staying over your grandma’s. Hannah (about 2 1/2) and I had to share a bed (you had the other bed and Ida was in a pack ‘n’ play.) Then I woke up in the morning with the long tie from my nightgown tightly wrapped around Hannah’s neck! Sheesh! I told everyone about it so that it wouldn’t happen to someone else that way. Who would have thought about it? Earlier that day I had bought that nightgown and thought it was great. Later I tied it in back and went to bed. But then in the night the tie made its way from around me to around her neck. She was fine, a little surprised only when I woke her up shreeking in whisper.

What happened to Leelee was this. I was putting sheets on her bed and she had gone into the hall to climb on a stationary bike. She had managed to climb up onto a low flat spot where she could sit and straddle the bike, like she was riding it. Then she began to call out and I thought she was just frustrated with her new climbing spot. She would yell when she couldn’t get something to work and I saw her in my periferal, thinking, I’ll go help her down in a second if she doesn’t figure it out. Then I really looked at her and she had slipped her neck between two pipes that make up the handle for the stationary bike. They are separated just the width of a neck. About two feet up from where they start, they open up and become the handlebars, allowing her neck to drop in when she stood up on the flat spot. The thing is she wasn’t even sounding distressed, just calling for help as though she needed help getting down from a highchair.

Now, we are of course getting rid of that bike but are waiting for the soon-to-be yard sale. You can bet if anyone wants to buy it I”ll tell them to watch out for that. It should not go to a house with small children!

Please look around your house at everything you might have that is dangerous. Can you imagine that if Leelee had let her body slip off the bike and lost her footing (there was still a foot of room to lower herself before the floor). She could have broken her neck!

What made me think about it today was that all day on the radio I was hearing about the recall of drop side cribs. We still have two, maybe it’s okay to get rid of them and use the pack n plays. After all it’s just a visit at Grandma’s. Let’s hope a safe one.”

One of my son’s pediatrician’s once described Lex as a “moving target”. This analogy could not be more fitting, except for the shooting part. The aim that was hitting a bulls-eye last month or last year might not even land in the outer ring today. Childproofing is no different. Just because we ambitiously childproofed they home with Lex started crawling does not mean that it is any where near adequate for a four-year-old that knows how to start up computers, open up hot water faucets, and turn on the dishwasher.

Having said this, no amount of childproofing will substitute for regular adult supervision, instruction, interaction, and correction. Teach safety. Reward safe choices. Observe problem solving and attention-seeking behaviors. Regularly check on your little ones; as they grow they need more alone time, but they need to be checked on as well.


Mi Paternidad Verdadera

Por Rodrigo Galván

La paternidad verdadera, cuando me pongo a pensar en el titulo de esta página lo primero que tengo que pensar es si yo sé que es la paternidad verdadera, y al día de hoy todavía la estoy descubriendo, asi que si vienes a esta página para resolver la pregunta , soy un buen padre? Creo que no estás preguntándole a la persona correcta, la única persona que te puede responder eso eres tu, No tus hijos, ellos solo podrán responder,  “Fui un buen padre?” Y quizá para cuando te puedan responder sinceramente ya será muy tarde; Ni tu pareja , ella solo podrá responder,  “Soy una buena pareja?” Ten en cuenta que tu pareja también tiene necesidades, de atención, de cariño,  el hecho de que seas padre no te quita que seas su pareja, es muy importante que tomes en cuenta eso ; la verdad es que son preguntas muy ambiguas, que hace a un padre un verdadero padre? quizá  hay tantas respuestas como hijos , como personas en este planeta, lo que si te puedo comentar es que NO hace a un buen padre, y trataré de enlistar las cosas más comunes ya que para todos puede haber excepciones asi que empezare con darte mis 3 recomendaciones de cómo NO ser un padre verdadero según mi corta experiencia.

  • Un padre NO verdadero NO está ahí para sus hijos,
    “tu trabajas para vivir, no vives para trabajar”

Decidí empezar con el más polémico de los puntos ya que este punto también lleva a una questionante, que es “estar ahí”, para mi es simplemente estar al pendiente de sus necesidades, entonces cuales son sus necesidades? ,  esas solo las podrás responder mientras conoces a tu hij@,  una de sus necesidades probablemente será verte, asegúrate de que te vea, al día de hoy hay mil formas de hacer video llamadas en caso de estar fuera, háblale aunque no te entienda, pon fotos tuyas en todas partes, salgan mucho, diviértanse como familia, asegúrate de que te vea por lo menos una vez al dia, disfruta de su compañía y tu hij@ disfrutará de la tuya. Muchas veces no se puede, toma encuentra que es mas importante, esa junta en el trabajo?  O el partido de beisbol o la presentación de ballet de tu hij@; si no sabes la respuesta, preguntale a tu hij@?

  • Un padre NO verdadero NO crea un vinculo con su hij@
    “Que tu hij@ te considere su segunda Mama”

Darles de comer, cambiar un pañal, arropar a tus hijos, bañarlos, dormirlos a las 2 a.m. esas son cosas que no te puedes perder, quizá te de miedo al principio, o cansancio pero es normal nadie nació sabiendo como cambiar un pañal, ofrécele a tu pareja que tu te encargas de alguna tarea en especial, tu pareja trabaja tan duro como tu, deja que descanse los fines de semana y aprovecha para crear ese vinculo, quizá por el tiempo será difícil coordinarse, pero por ejemplo el baño es algo que puedes hacer por tu hijo todos los días o el despertarse a las 2 o a la 1 am aunque tengas trabajo al día siguiente, tu pareja pero sobre todo tu hij@ to lo agradecerá , ese tipo de cosas crean vínculos aunque no lo creas para tu hij@ que no puede todavía no puede hablar, cuando le cambias un pañal estas ayudándolo a sentirse mejor y eso lo sabe, y aprende que tu estas ahí para hacerlo sentir mejor, eso es la base de el cariño, una ves que hayas cumplido con lo básico, juega con el/ella, juega todo el dia no importa lo cansado, báilale, cántale , se su mejor amigo, cuidado la televisión lo hace por ti, que no sea la tele un mejor padre que tu.

  • Un padre NO verdadero NO vive en armonía con los demás.
    “No compres una casa , crea un Hogar”

Tu eres su ejemplo, o su primer amor, ten cuidado con lo que le enseñas a tu hijo porque ellos aprenden todo de ti aunque no creas que están aprendiendo, ellos te ven cuando maldices, cuando das sobornos, cuando compras piratería cuando gritas y maltratas a la gente que quieres, verbal o físicamente, me da mucha pena hablar de este asunto pero nosotros somos los que moldeamos ese pedazo de arcilla que nos mandan del cielo, y muchas veces no nos damos cuenta que estamos moldeando a un criminal, a un golpeador, o algo que no sea tan obvio, a una persona que no sabe querer o rechaza a los que lo quieren por no saber manejar ese cariño, es el momento de mirar atrás y caminar hacia delante, si esperas que tu hijo sea mejor que tu y tenga una vida mejor a la que tu tuviste es el momento de ser mejor, se mejor tu para tu hijo.


Empecé la plática con decirles que yo no se cómo ser un padre verdadero, y quizá lo que yo les comentó no sea la solución a los problemas del mundo, pero si te digo que si tu eres un buen padre, tendrás un buen hijo, y ese hijo sabrá dar cariño a los demás y sabrá la diferencia entre lo que es bueno y lo que no es, ser padre es más que solo tener un hijo, es criar a un hijo, y tienes mas responsabilidad sobre tus hombros de lo que crees, de ti depende que ese hijo o hija tenga los valores tuyos y de tu pareja y que al final sea igual o mejor persona que tu.


Un papa haciendo un hogar para que su hija de 10 meses crezca siendo feliz.


Milk Kefir for Children: Excellent Probiotics and a Milk Allergy Cure?

In case you have not read some of the other articles I’ve published on this web site, I should begin by saying that my son had terrible colic, was diagnosed with severe GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) at 2 month of age, and was diagnosed with a bad milk allergy by his 8th month. At the writing of this article my son is 3.9 years old.

Six months ago my wife started looking into Milk Kefir as a treatment for some health issues she was experiencing; she also thought that my son and I would benefit from its consumption. Instead of trying to list the various health benefits in this article, I’d like to point out that it has a very high concentration of probiotics and has been alleged to aid digestion, lower cholesterol/blood-pressure, and incite world peace. I let you guess which of those is an exaggeration of the truth. The following links might educate you better: Wikipedia’s Kefir Page and Comprehensive Kefir Information from a believer

Milk Kefir Grains (Mother Grains)

About 4 months ago we started put teaspoons of Kefir Cream Cheese in my son’s juice once or twice a day. Kefir Cream Cheese is made by removing much of the whey from Milk Kefir in order to thicken it, concentrate many of its nutrients, and reduce its lactose content. We used such small amounts to both ease him into the taste (which is a little like a sour yogurt) and ease his digestive system into regular dairy consumption. Steadily we increased the content until about 3 weeks ago we started giving his up to 3 ounces of Kefir Cream Cheese mixed with 4 ounces of juice. Lex appropriately calls it “milk juice”. He often requests it throughout the day and I estimate that he consumes up to 7-9 fluid ounces of concentrated Kefir Cream Cheese per day.

The Proof is in the Pudding

On his current diet of Milk Kefir Lex can now eat any quantity of and variety of cheese without any digestive issues. Three years ago, the smallest trace of any dairy product gave him endless diarrhea. We no longer give him daily does of Culterelle Probiotics. We expect that 20+ friendly bacteria strains in Milk Kefir are more than enough for our son. Honestly, Lex is the most regular that he has ever been.

Perhaps coincidentally we were able to reduce his GERD PPI medicine by half for the first time after after Lex was taking Kefir for two months. This was totally unexpected after so many previous failed attempts. I can’t help bu think there is a connection between this wonder food and the improvement in his reflux.

We recently went on a cruise and for some very foolish reason we did not take any Milk Kefir or Kefir Cream Cheese; we took some Soy Milk instead. Bad idea. Firstly he would barely drink it. Secondly, although we resumed giving him 1 capsule of Culterelle probiotics each day, Lex developed a bad case of diarrhea. We are almost certain it came from all of the cheese and deserts that we let him eat while on the cruise. When we cut off the cheese and dairy-containing desserts Lex returned to normal. I am almost certain that if we had been giving him Kefir Cream Cheese as regularly as we do at home that he would not have had any digestive problems. Needless to say, when we got home we were all happy for him to get back on his super probiotic-fortified milk Kefir.


I was skeptical of Milk Kefir and all of the miraculous claims that my wife told me about, but after what I have witnessed I now cannot deny that it has helped my son greatly. He likes the flavor and I know that he loves the ability to eat regular cheese and even regular ice cream without getting diarrhea or bad gas. Even I feel better when regularly eating it and it has lowered my wife’s cholesterol as well! Has it cured my son’s Milk Allergy? No, but it is treating it, or rather it is controlling it and permitting him to eat, within reason, as all of his other friends do without any concerns. We don’t even tell others that he has a milk allergy anymore and we don’t worry about him being offered or finding dairy products.

Update – Lex Age 5.2

We now give Lex just about 1/3 cup of straight milk kefir mixed with about 3/4 cup of 100% fruit juice. He seems to like it and it mixes more smoothly. He seems even more regular now than before and more importantly he seems to have no trouble with the occasional ice cream or chocolate milk. We still add KAL Crystal Calcium to the “shake” and also supplement every other day with those Calcium Gummy Bears.


Enjoying Tokyo with Your Toddler and Seeing a Side You Wouldn’t Otherwise (2 of 2)

PLEASE NOTE: If you haven’t yet read the first part of the Article (part 1 of 2) then I highly recommend that you start there first.

The following is a continuation of the lit of places that I have enjoyed in Tokyo with my 3-year-old son and I highly recommend that you and your toddler, pre-schooler, or older child explore them together.

Kameido Sun Street

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Fun on Kiddie Train at Kameido Sun StreetSun Street Kameido (link) is a swirling cluster of mall stores generally geared towards children and parents. On the weekends they have a train for the kids. Towards the back there is a big slide and in the middle there are often free concerts and games for the kids. They have a great pet store, Sizzler, a grocery store, homegoods oriented Daiso (100 Yen store chain), a nice 300 Yen store, a store with affordable kids and mother’s clothing, lots of coin operated rides, etc. My son generally loved going there. There is a Toys R Us, probably the largest one in the area. If you want to get a feel for

Shinjuku Times Square

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South Shinjuku Times Square Tokyo JapanThe satellite view of this area is a bit scary, but my son loved exploring all of the different views from the ground as well as the views from the top of the Takashimaya department store (east side looking out over Tokyo) and from the Hotel Restaurant floor (18?) just west of Francfranc. Krispy Kreme is just north of Francfranc and he loved that place (especially the free donuts given while in line). The Christmas lights here are amazing. It is fun to watch the trains below. There is a big bookstore with lots of kids books just south of Tokyu Hands. The Takashimaya department store has lots of fun toys out to play with and there is a small park and fountain on 12th or 13th floor.

Shinjuku Station Department Stores

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Department Store Rooftop Amusement ParkMany of the department stores in Tokyo are wonderful for two reasons: they have handicap bathrooms with wonder changing tables and they have great toys that your children can play with. Our favorite department stores where Tokyu (Shibuya), Odakyu (Shinjuku), Keiyo (Shinjuku), Takashimaya (Shinjuku), and any other department store with Bornelund store. If you are looking to purchase any Japanese toys and you want the best deal I would head to Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara for the very best prices and Toys-R-Us for almost as good a deal. In most cases, your child will enjoy Toys-R-Us and their surrounding locations much more.

NHK Studio Park / Yoyogi Park / Meiji Jingu Shrine

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A northern walk from Shibuya, or a quick jump on a “Hachiko” bus from the station will bring you to Tokyo Meiji Jingu Shrine with Toddlerthe NHK Studio park. This national television station has created a theme park which shares a little of their world with the public. I have been twice and I can say that my toddler enjoyed it as much as I did. Just to the north of the NHK studios begins a long, wide sidewalk that leads you to Yoyogi Park. This park is pretty good. Very big, lots of paved trails, lots of trees, lot of grassy areas, lots of benches, lots of ponds. My son really enjoyed this one, and it is just the prelude to the must-see Meiji Jingu Shrine. Bring an ERGO baby carrier, or an off-road stroller for that hike.

Ginza, Clocks and Sony Building

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The Sony Building may be quite interesting to some children. My toddler loved the annual aquarium event (Early August).Sony Building Aquarium He also enjoyed exploring the first few floors and watching a movie up on the top floor. The Yurakucho station is interesting and you can find a Krispy Kreme in one of the small underground malls. There are some great clocks in Ginza and some are animated in the afternoon (I forget which hour, its either 4, 5, or 6 PM).

Roppongi Hills Park

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The park behind the Roppongi Hills buildings is interesting. It has a slide that is sort of like a pyramid and swings that are safe for very young toddlers. There is a pond here and a basketball court. The inside of the main building (the mall) is interesting as well. If you go to the basement you might be able to find those $100 mangoes, grapes, and $300 square watermelons. In the passageway/breezeway there are lots of free cultural events; look for announcements and plan a return at night.

Tokyo Tower

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Tokyo Tower vs ToddlerMy son loved the “bounce house” up on the 3rd or 4th floor called “Nipponland” (as I recall). Entrance fee covers the first 30 minutes and then you pay a little for each additional 10 minutes. They have a pool of plastic balls, lots of bouncing, annoying blaring music, and those huge soft blocks. The roof of the building under the tower has a kiddie amusement park (a bit better than those found on top of some department stores).

Hibiya Park

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This park is near the Imperial Gardens and very much in the middle of Tokyo. It has a nice hill to climb, and Liberty Bell replica that was given to Japan, and some of the best swings in Tokyo. The park really helps balance out the more crowded parts of Tokyo with its spaciousness. The concrete animals are an interesting feature.
Closest Stations: Kasumigaseki and Hibiya

Tokyo Metropolitan Children’s Hall (Tokyo-To Jido Kaikan)

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Toddler Play Area at The Tokyo Metropolitan Children's HallIn the area between Shibuya and Omotesando stations there are two large buildings dedicated to children and the exploration of their world. One is called “The Children’s Hall” and the other is called “The Children’s Castle“. The Children’s Hall is free and, having visited both I, it may be just as good or even better depending on your child’s interests. The Children’s Castle seems to receive more Japanese children, but my son and I always felt very welcome exploring all of the different rooms and stations. We enjoyed the play room of course (indoor playground, toy trains, etc.), loved the music room, learned in the art room, romped around on the roof, built cool wood projects in the basement, ate delicious onigiri in the cafeteria, and loved discovering all of the rest of the games. It can get crowded in the afternoons, but in the mornings you will have the place to yourself and be welcomed by the warm smiles on the women and security guard at the front door.
Closest Station: Shibuya, exit 13a. If you are exploring Shibuya on the surface the easiest way to find The Children’s Hall is to located Tower Records (big yellow and red building) and then head east on the road on it north side. Go under the JR tracks and after you pass Meiji-Dori, pass the “cocoti” store, and head up the hill just a little a ways, you will see The Children Hall on your left.

Helpful Online Resources


Enjoying Tokyo with Your Toddler and Seeing a Side You Wouldn’t Otherwise (1 of 2)

In every place that I have lived or visited since Lex came into my life I have found great appreciation for the information I have received which helped me find new places and new ways to enjoy the location. Discovering these places with Lex has helped me see the location from a different perspective, often making an old place seem new again, like turning old stomping grounds into unexplored frontiers. Lex did this for me with Portland, Oregon and with Tokyo, Japan. In this article, I would like to help others enjoy and explore Tokyo with their toddler (or young child) and I invite all comments and suggestions that you may have on the topic.

Covering the Basics

You can’t really enjoy anything until you met your child’s basic needs. So let me break it down for you quickly:

Diapers: The cheapest place to get diapers is almost always at Toy’s R Us. There are located Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City, Kameido’s Sun Street, Shimura San-Chome, or at least those are the ones I have been to. The ones at Sunshine City and Kameido are the best locations because there is plenty for your little one to do in the area. Toy’s R Us usually posts the price per diaper, but calculate it, all of the pull-up brands they sell are great and perhaps the Genki brand are the best if you must have the best. Know your child’s weight in Kilograms. “Big” is the size Lex wears as a toddler. FYI, any larger supermarket with a sale on diapers will probably have a good price too.

Wipes: I don’t like Japanese brand wipes. Bring your favorite wipes if you can, if not get to a Costco. Otherwise, make do with the Japanese ones.

Changing Diapers: Diaper changing stations accessible to fathers are limited to very family-oriented places such as Toys-R-Us and Kameido SunStreet (see below for more info) and handicap bathrooms of upscale department stores. A good spy always knows his exits and a great parent always knows where to find a location to change stinky nappies. By the way, pack freezer Zip-Loc bags with you, because no one wants to smell your child’s masterpiece.

Food and Drink: Toys-R-Us sells lots of feeding products, juice boxes, and formula (I think). American fast food can be found nearly everywhere, including in most convenience stores.

Miscellaneous:If your little darling is attached to a certain sippy cup, bring 3 or 4 backups. Otherwise feel confident that you will be able to find any other thing you need. Toys can be found at their lowest prices in Yodobashi Camera (Akihabara, a.k.a. Akiba) or for a little more at Toy’s R Us. Bring a compass, or get one at a 100 Yen shop. North with me the Kanji highlighted in a different color. The compass will help you know which way to go when you will undoubtedly get confused (especially when taking subway trains). Get an ERGO baby carrier and keep it with you at all times for safety, comfort, and sanity.

Imperial Resident Park

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My son loved this park and I enjoyed it a lot as well. Park Near Imperial Garden, Rock FountainIt has a lot of swings, a nice wooden play structure (off to the North side, watch out for the roller slide, a pinching hazard), a very nice and large granite rock wading fountain, a fenced/covered sandbox, and more. The park has a large sports practice field and even a basketball court too (as I recall). The park is quite spacious and generally a treat to visit.
Closest train station: Shinanomachi

Hiroo Park

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Just north of the Hiroo station, across from the National Azabu supermarket (lots of foreigners shop there for homeland favorites), there is a great park with a big pond, ducks, ancient style bridges, waterfalls, docks, great fall foliage, and lots of paths. There are no playground structures here, but the kid won’t miss them.

Hiroo Playground

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Hiroo Playground Tokyo JapanThis is a nice playground just south of Roppongi and north of Hiroo. It sits west of the Kogai Elementary School on Gaien-nishi Dori. It has a large sandbox area and a very large wooden play structure with a zip line that can be fun for older kids.

Mita’s Pirate Boat Playground

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It seems that all parks in Tokyo are unique, but this might be one of the most unique from a child’s point of view. It has a wooden pirate boat buried in the sand and ready to be played with by imaginative buccaneers.Pirate Boat Playground Tokyo Japan This park is literally hidden, but somehow it has been found by many locals. It is just South-East of the Mita subway station and it right along the unmissable JR lines that pass every minute or less. There is a fountain that runs during the day which is also quite unique and would be nice to run through on a hot day. Just under the JR rails to the south east of the park is a larger more spacious park with some different playground structures. Lex and I often hit one and then the other with every outing in this direction. If you have a bike or take Taxi then you can easily head north from here and hit the Hinode pier and take a nice boat ride too, making for a wonderful day out.

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Hinode Pier/Odaiba Seaside Park

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Hinode pier is not much to look at, but the water bus/cruise ride is amazing.Odaiba Beach I recommend a round trip ticket to Odaiba Seaside Park where you leave in the morning or afternoon and return later at night under the lights and stars. Odaiba Seaside ParkSure you could get there on the Yurikamome line, if you do get the front seat if at all possible and your child will love it, but taking a water bus/cruise is so much nicer and not really much more expensive. My toddler loved playing at the Odaiba beach with the locals and getting lots of attention from the teens and twenty-somethings. The Ferris Wheel is a must see (very safe for children) and there is a fun, large children’s store in Venus Fort (with Totoro’s cat bus, fur and all). Of course, closer to the beach they have lots of arcades and other fun happenings.

Ikebukuro Sunshine City

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This is a huge indoor mall with some interesting destinations that toddlers and children in general can find quite interesting. My 3-year-old Lex loved exploring all of the different Cars in the Toyota Auto Salon Amlux. Even at his age, he enjoyed much of the very affordable indoor theme park called “Namco Namja Town” (link to some info). There is a planetarium and an aquarium but we never made to either. Read more about it here. There is a Toys R Us (way in the back) here and some good deals can be found on clothing too in some of the other stores, especially if they are selling clothes in the kiosk areas. Tokyo Disney tickets can be bought here too, but not sure what the benefit is to buying them there.

(continue on to second part of this article, click here)