In this extract from her story, Thomas and the Great Japanese Farewell, author Marie Kreft takes her son for an adventure in Japan with his favourite television character, Thomas the Tank Engine.
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Vincent was Thomas-crazy, his love deepened by our good fortune in living close to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor, a theme park in Staffordshire. Over the past two summers Vincent and I had spent many Fridays riding round and round in Lady’s Carousel then up and down in Harold the Helicopter. Aged two, Vincent had thought the engines were alive; as he grew wiser we’d invent stories about them coming alive. The piped sweetshop scent, the looped Thomas songs, the always-surprising whoosh of Cranky the Crane’s drop tower: these memories are now inextricably linked, for me, with the joy of Vincent’s early childhood.
But here was August again and, when its languorous days gave way to September, Vincent would start school. Already I’d seen signs that his passion for Thomas was dwindling, making way for Star Wars and superheroes. So when planning our trip to Tokyo, I put Fuji-Q Highland at the top of my wish list. The amusement park is home to the world’s only other Thomas Land, and I hoped a last hurrah with Thomas there would provide a happy ending to this sweet chapter in our lives.
The day was overcast – nearly dull enough to suppress the drama of Fuji-Q’s setting near Japan’s famous volcanic mountain. Looking out from the coach at the ascents and plummets of the fierce Fujiyama, once the world’s tallest rollercoaster, I wished I could view Mount Fuji from the ride’s 79-metre peak. The child-free me would have screamed to go faster. But travel was so different now I was a parent: fewer thrills and many more spills, I decided, watching Vincent drop a bag of trail mix over his legs. ‘This is Great Cran!’ he declared, retrieving an oversized dried cranberry from the crack between our seats. I giggled. We were the only people on the coach who were making any noise.
We missed our stop, winding up lost in a hotel forecourt and wasting valuable Thomas time while I figured out how to get us back. Eventually joining the shuttle train bound for Fuji-Q, standing-room only, Vincent bounced around excitedly, occasionally forgetting to hold on. ‘Kawaii!’ young Tokyoites exclaimined at the sight of him. Cute. I wondered how I’d ended up in charge of a child, so trusting and entirely forgiving of my mistake, halfway across the planet.
To read the full story or to discover more intrepid tales of travelling with children, check out our anthology: