Mario's Castle

There's a park not too far from my home that the boy and I enjoy going to once or twice a week. This particular play area has a lot of the standard equipment that one would expect to see in a place designed for children, such as swings, slides, and see-saws. What makes this place unique, though, is its "Mario Castle".

Hill Park

At the top of a hill is a castle with red bricks. There are tunnels underneath, ladders that take you to the top, and a 30-metre slide that will bring a person down to the walking path below. Whether this glorious fort is actually called Mario's Castle is up for debate, but this is the name that I call it given that it reminds me a lot of the castle in Super Mario Brothers for the NES.

Another Look at Mario's Castle

In front of the castle is an elaborate play area that includes a number of slides, tubes, rope bridges, and even a zip-line. All the things that I would have absolutely loved had there been something like this around my home when growing up. Fortunately I can take advantage of my role as a parent to act like a kid. The boy and I are often the only people under 50 in the park when we visit, as most kids would be in school at the time. This gives us free reign on all of the equipment.

Slides and Tubes

One of the many things that I find interesting about being 40 is that I don't feel 40. My muscles and joints do not ache nearly as much as my parents said theirs ached at my age. I can still run and jog for several minutes before breaking a sweat. Climbing isn't an issue, nor is lifting my body up onto a rope bridge from below … which is something that would probably result in a broken leg if I didn't do it right. Generally I believe my body to be healthier and in better shape today then it was when I was in my 20s1, which makes it easier to keep up with the boy as he runs from place to place, packing as much fun into every 60-second block of time as possible.

This year in our adventures, the boy and I have visited 17 parks around the neighbourhood (and surrounding neighbourhoods). This one here, with Mario's Castle, is by far our favourite. One day we'll need to drag Reiko along and have a nice picnic under one of the lush trees.

  1. There are a lot of differences between my body today and my body 20 years ago, such as the amount and type of food that I can consume in one sitting. For the most part, though, it's better.

The First Month

It's been a month since the family and I moved into our new home and, like so many time-related milestones as of late, it feels both longer and shorter than the actual time that's passed. Short, because 30 days can pass in the blink of an eye as a person with all the responsibilities and expectations that come with adulthood. Long because a year of house design, construction, and planning can mess up a person's perception of being at a place. Everything is far from perfect but, all in all, this has been a very positive move for the family.

The Park

One of the biggest perks of the new home is proximity to a very well-maintained public park. The places that Nozomi and I used to frequent these past seven years would see a landscaping crew come by three to four times per year, meaning that the grass would often be tall for most of the year with collections of garbage under many of the bushes thanks to litterers and weather patterns. Here, though, it seems there are neighbourhood groups that take turns cleaning the public space every Sunday. More than this, the vast majority of dog-walkers here actually pick up after their pets! Nozomi is certainly enjoying this new place to explore.

Nozomi's Smile

The boy also likes going out to the park, walking along the paths, and touching anything he can get his hands on. With my new role at the day job — if it can be called such anymore — I'll be working with people in different time zones a lot more often. This means that I'll have the opportunity to work from home a great deal more than in the past, making it possible to bring my son out to this park to learn more about the world around him. It's interesting to watch him explore everything for the first time, as I've come to take things like leaves, sand, and discarded stones as they are. For him, though, all of these things are unfamiliar and interesting.

Which raises a couple of questions. While the boy is exploring the park, I'm often watching his reactions as he tries to piece language and objects together. He's just 15 months old and already walking up and down stairs, hills, picking up sticks that are long and awkward, and all the other things that kids will do while learning about their own boundaries and quickly surpassing them. I will not over-protect him while he's discovering some of what this world has, as I fully expect he'll fall or injure himself from time to time. These are important lessons to learn. But I do wonder whether I'm too relaxed about him doing stuff from time to time. I see other parents worry and fret over just about everything … but that can't be good for either party.

I will watch to make sure the boy does not do anything that'll break bones or leave a mark, but I want him to understand that the world is here to explore, enjoy, and share with others, be they human or something else entirely.

Hopefully the next 300 months are as enjoyable as this first one has been, though I know there will be trials ahead.

All Good Things

Nozomi and I have covered a lot of ground in the neighbourhood since moving here almost seven years ago. Every park in a three kilometre radius with grass has been visited at least once. Every path for jogging and walking has been trekked at least once. Every large rock that puts off the slightest whiff of pheromones has been sniffed (by Nozomi). In five weeks' time, Nozomi and I will have a whole new neighbourhood with new parks to explore. To make matters more interesting, we may even have a new participant with some of our daily walks.

Nozomi and I Returning Home via "The Poopy Park"

So while many of the places that Nozomi has come to know and enjoy over the vast majority of her life will be too far for her to visit in the very near future, new people, places, and (hopefully) puppies await. I just hope she enjoys our new home as much as she's enjoyed this one.

Cherry Blossoms

For two weeks of the year people all across Japan get to enjoy the definitive sign that spring has sprung as parks and riverbanks transform from brown and grey to green and pink. This is often accompanied by friends and family heading out to sit under a cherry blossom tree, picnicking and enjoying the company while taking in the pleasant aroma of flowers in bloom. That said, it's always a good idea to remember that age old rhyme:

April showers bring May flowers.

No sooner had the first blossoms started appearing on the trees did the grey clouds move in, drenching the ground in much-needed rain, and otherwise rendering outdoor activities in the presence of cherry blossoms all but impossible. Luckily, Nozomi and I did manage to get in a walk between showers.

The Riverside Walk.jpg

Click Here for the Full Resolution Image (6MB)

While Nozomi does not really look at the trees or sky very often, she did seem to enjoy sniffing the petals that had fallen to the ground. She may be "just a dog" to many people, but she's just as capable of enjoying the little things in life as the rest of us.

Cherry Blossoms and Rain.jpg

Click Here for the Full Resolution Image (0.7MB)

The weather forecast for this coming week does not look good for people who want to head out and photograph these lovely blossoms, but there's no reason why we shouldn't try anyway. A little rain never hurt anyone, after all.

A Day In Ogase

Ogase Pond (North)With the incredibly warm weather yesterday, Reiko and I decided to take a trip to the Ogase Pond, nearby our home (click here for a Google Map).  Although we've driven by the body of water hundreds of times, this was the first time we actually visited the park.

When the time comes for Reiko and I to build a house, this part of Ogase will certainly be high up on the list of places to do so. That said, we'll still have to look at more practical things like the kind of schools in the area and whether the jets from the local airforce base are still loud as heck, but the scenery is certainly nice and relaxing.

Ogase Pond (South) Holding On For Dear Life

This next shot was taken while we sat back and enjoyed some Egg Roll Bread. Bread in Japan is beyond great, and this view only added to the greatness of the bread!

Enjoying the View in Ogase Park

Heck, I enjoyed it so much, that I actually resized and trimmed it to become the new background for my Aspire One. If you'd also like to have the image, optimized for 1024x600 resolutions, you can download it here.