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Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008

Other alterna-activities for alternaparents


Special to The Japan Times

Most alternative child-rearing info in Japan tends toward the crunchy, tie-dyed hippie variety. One option (in Japanese) is the semiannual Mammoth magazine, which combines groovy fashions, cool crafts and kid-friendly themes such as the environment and travel. It also holds an annual family music festival and camp on Children's Day on May 5 each year. Tokyo Families is slightly mainstream but is also a good resource. The book "Urban Babies Wear Black" (by Michelle Sinclair and Nathalie Dion) and its companion volume "Foodie Babies Wear Bibs" are primers on the groovy baby lifestyle directed at the actual babies (they are also sturdy enough for teething).

Parents looking for a detailed account of indie child-rearing can reference Neal Pollack's struggle to sleep in past 9 a.m. after the birth of his child in his book "Alternadad: The True Story of One's Family's Struggle to Raise a Cool Kid in America." (Conclusion: Get a wife.)

Though most parents don't do it, Japan is actually a relative easy place to take one's children out and about. Unlike say New York (where my kid was actually carded), most live-music venues allow in children with their parents and most shows end conveniently before a 9 p.m. bedtime. Rock festivals can also be great family events. Fuji Rock has even had child-care facilities at past festivals.

For music listening at home, the "Baby Loves Music" ) series now includes albums dedicated to salsa, jazz and a killer hip-hop album with tracks by producer Prince Paul. "Baby Loves Blues" and "Baby Loves Rock" are due out soon. The new Nikki Giovanni- edited book "Hip Hop Speaks to Children" comes with a companion CD. Hipster musicians have also moonlighted as children's television-show composers, so if "Dora the Explorer" gets you down, console your self with the "Backyardigans" (music by Lounge Lizard Evan Lurie) or "Rugrats" (music by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo). Both are available in Japan on Nickelodeon.

Kids like to look at cool stuff, and if they can keep their sticky fingers to themselves, they are pretty welcome in art museums. Most Japanese art museums and galleries have yet to develop the extensive educational programs of their Western counterparts; the exception is Roppongi's Mori Art Museum, which generally has activities and brochures designed to make exhibitions more enjoyable and more enlightening for the younger set. In the same complex, the Toho Cinema Roppongi Hills holds regular parent-and- baby matinees where parents and tots can enjoy watching films listening to some other person's screaming baby.

Dressing the hipster kid is enticing but expensive in Japan. Hysteric Glamour's Hysteric Mini is like its parent line — rock 'n' roll (maybe too raw for English-speaking parents who can understand the profanities printed on the T-shirts) and way expensive. Boo Hoo Kids is a hippie-chic alternative but likewise costs a bomb. One option is Brooklyn's Pink Gorilla ( www.pink gorillas.com ), which stocks a variety of funky indie kids' clothing such as Holland's Kik-kid and ships to Japan for a flat rate of just $10.

And to relax after a busy week of clubbing, museum-hopping and dining, hipster tots and their parents can join Shizen Yoga's yoga moms and kids classes.



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