Saturday, December 02, 2006

Horseriding in Tokyo for Kids for 150 yen

Horseriding in Tokyo for Kids for 150 yen

Saturday 2 December, a bright sunny day in winter, we went to a park at Gakugeidaigaku, a station on the Toyoko line which runs between Tokyo's Shibuya and Yokohama's Chinatown.

The park we went to was Himoya Park, which is quite large. It is free, but you do have to pay 150 yen if you want your kid to get a ride on a horse. To put things in perspective, 150 yen is what I pay locally for a copy of the International Herald Tribune. In American money, it's roughly $1.32 and in New Zealand money about $1.87 (assuming that a kiwi dollar costs 80 yen, though that's an old figure and I haven't checked lately).

Though the park is in a densely populated area it was only lightly sprinkled with visitors. A bunch of parents had shown up with kids, the kids chattering about "oma-san," "oma" being a childish word for "horse" (the adult equivalent being "uma").

However, even at the horse place, there weren't big crowds. Maybe a dozen people waiting in all, and Cornucopia was second in line for her ride.

The horse riding is open from 1000 to 1130 and from 1330 to 1500. Closed on Mondays and closed, also, on any day which follows a national holiday.

It's very easy to find the park. Exit the Gakugeidaigaku station, face toward Shibuya and hang a left. If you're not sure where to go, just ask "Himoya?" or, if you want to venture into the territory of complicated Japanese, "Himoya Koen?" (ie "Himoya Park").

If you're going in the right direction then you'll shortly see a police box on your left (built into the side of the structure that supports the train line, which here is raised well clear of the ground, so it does not look like a box), and then, on the right, not far from the station, you will see the Matterhorn cake shop.

The Matterhorn cake shop is not big in Japan, but it does enjoy a certain degree of local fame in Meguro Ward, the ward which contains Gakugeidaigaku station.

If you look right down each side street that you pass, you will, after a walk of about ten minutes, see the opening to Himoya Park, just down a side street and on the left. Again, asking is the way to get there if you start feeling lost. If asking one person doesn't work then ask the next.

The park features a large duck pond with a fountain, a children's play area with slides and swings, an enclosure which has turtles, the riding area and a petting zoo.

This was Cornucopia's third petting zoo and, this time, having confidently ridden the horse, she was full of beans and more than ready to play with the animals.

The animals were assorted dogs, which obviously were used to being mauled by strange kids, and showed no objection to being patted and handled; various rabbits, very good at escaping (they've had a lot of practice) and some guinea pigs.

Cornucopia managed to stroke a rabbit but was not able to grab hold of one and pick it up, the rabbits being too tricky for that.

I took photos using my reading glasses.

Previously, I was taking photos by simply pointing the digital camera in the general direction of a photo subject, since I couldn't see anything but a blur of color in the little LCD screen. Then I realized that if I used my reading glasses I could make out the picture, thought my reading glasses are optimized for a focal length of 15 centimeters or thereabouts, so that is how far I had to hold the LCD screen away in order to pull it into focus.

On the way back to the station we ran into an old lady who kindly informed us that one of the eight tyres of our pushchair had fallen off (the wheels are in four sets of two, each with a hard rubber tyre) and we discussed the possibility of buying a replacement pushchair.

My wife is of the opinion that Cornucopia is more or less ready to say goodbye and just walk. But perhaps we will get a lightweight pushchair as a replacement.

We stopped at the Matterhorn cake shop, which is a delicious shop, though not cheap.

One of the good points about Japan is that there are quite a few places selling cakes, and also a lot of boutique bakeries where you can buy freshly baked bread, with the actual ovens that made the bread sometimes visible in the background.

(This statement is true of the Tokyo-Yokohama area, but, of course, once you get into rural areas, the eating environment becomes leaner.)

When I upload this blog entry I'll take a shot at uploading a photo of Cowboy Cornucopia, but I've had trouble uploading photos to Blogger in the last few months, so if there's no photo at the top of this entry then you can take it that the system turned out to be broken yet again.

On the subject of horse riding, my wife and I once stayed for a weekend at a place out in the country (back in the years before Cornucopia was born) and they offered horse riding. But it was formidably expensive, because you had not only to pay for the horse riding itself but, additionally, to hire a whole heap of compulsory riding gear, at really expensive prices. So we didn't seriously think about going horse riding, and, at this stage of my life (age fifty) my equestrian exploits number one, and one only: as a child, I once sat on the back of a horse. Didn't get to ride it, but I have sat on one.

On the subject of parks, the Tokyo-Yokohama area is pretty well supplied with them. When we first moved into the house where we now reside, a few years back, there didn't seem to be any park nearby where a child could play, but now we know (and not infrequently visit) three parks which are set up for kids to play in and which are within walking distance.

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