Doraemon Town, Japan
We ended up riding the Doraemon train because Seth saw an ad for this
train right after we landed at Narita. After much translating, Tara figured
out that the train left from the Northernmost town in Honshu and traveled
under the sea to a town in Hokkaido. She also concluded that there was
a Doraemon town under the sea since the name of the station translated
to "Under Sea Station". There was no doubt in our mind about where we'd
be traveling to at some point during our three weeks in Japan!
|In the end, we decided to head North toward the Doraemon
train first. This made Tara very happy. We decided to break the seven
hours journey from Tokyo to Aomori up across two days. Therefore, after
a night in Sendai and the day in Matsushima, we arrived into the Aomori
train station in the evening. The first thing we did was hunt for the Doraemon
train in the station. We found it! Obviously, Tara was VERY excited! Here,
in person, was the train she'd been seeing in the Doraemon train ad.
|We did have some problems finding a place to sleep - either
because we were backpackers or foreign - various places were "full" when
they didn't look it. In the end, we settled for a less than luxurious business
Seth was a bit concerned about the police wanted posters posted in the lobby, but Tara's Mom said that at least you know there are no criminals in the hotel. And it was clean, even the duck tape on the toilet seat looked clean.
This business hotel had all the familiar features of the Yaesu Terminal
Hotel near the Tokyo train station where we'd stayed in 1997: coin-operated
TV, door frames too short for Seth and totally plasticized/trailer home-ish
bathroom. A real letdown after last nights gorgeous ryokan in Sendai.
|There was NO WAY that Tara was going to miss the departure
of the Doraemon train the next morning. We were at the train station very
early and had plenty of opportunities to take photos. The whole train,
inside and out, was decorated with cute Doraemon stickers.
We also got to play one of our favorite "games" that we played often while living in Tokyo - the "which two of these things are different" game. It was immediately apparent to us that not only were we the only non-Japanese on the train, we were also the only non-parents on the train!
|We were in for quite a shock when the train did stop and everyone got off. We were not at a train station as you'd normally use the word.We were being let off into an emergency access tunnell off the main tracks. It was odd. The train just stopped on the tracks, a conductor beckoned everyone off and then we were walking in a group of Japanese people and their kids through the middle of emergency tunnels. Of course, we couldn't clearly understand everything that was being said. Tara was understanding some of the words and phrases, but she was at about 60% comprehension level - so that did us really no good. We basically just followed everyone else along. We at least knew we were in the right place since the emergency tunnel was lined with Doraemon banners and a golf cart carrying two of Doraemon's friends popped out of a side tunnel and started leading the way. It was neat, but weird, since we kept walking and walking and walking.|
Needless to say, Doraemon Town was built for the average 3 year old and Tara loved it!!
Doreamon Town was also inside of an emergency access tunnel. Doraemon's
tunnel was slightly wider and taller than the tunnels we'd been walking
through so far. His tunnel also had a small aquarium at the entrance showing
fish that lived in the water surrounding the tunnel. Very kool! We headed
immediately for all the small displays that Tara had seen in the Doraemon
Train advertisement: Shizuka chan's garden, Giant's store, Nobita kun's
house and bedroom. It was so much fun to see life sized Doraemon TV show
characters (and these were only the plastic characters - the costumed characters
had not materialized yet.
|Costumed Nobita kun and Shizuka chan appeared first. Just like Disney
characters, they didn't talk, but mimed fun-things and posed for photos
|We were exploring the inside of the "jump into the ball pit" play area when all of a sudden Seth said, very forcibly "Tara, come here!" Who did we see but Doraemon - waddling up the center of his town!! Seeing a waddling Doreamon was definitely the high-point of the whole day for Tara. She was very eager to meet him, but she did wait her turn behind the other 3 year olds. He waddled so cutely. Left, right, left, right, left right. He'd take little tiny steps and his whole body (plus tail) would sway from side to side.|
|Overall Experience||9||Tara couldn't have asked for a more exciting and fun day!|
|Ease of Journey||8|
|Accommodation||3||The hotel we stayed at suffered in our rating system since it had duck taped together toilet seat and the wanted posters taped in the Lobby. Other than that, it was fine. Tara's Mom told us to look at the bright side, at least we knew there were no wanted criminals staying in our hotel!|