“Kodomo no Yu” Sentō-themed Ball Pit at Tokyo Skytree

Yesterday, we met a friend of mine and her family at Skytree Soramachi and spent the morning at Kodomo no Yu (こどもの湯) play area. It’s an indoor ball pit that looks like a sentō, Japanese-style bathhouse.

My 4-and-half-year old daughter jumped right into the pool of balls and even made a new friend. Her younger brother, who is 1 year and 9 months old, was a bit careful at first but it didn’t take too long before he got into it.

The area called “Festival Square” is not a big space but they had a good time playing at kids-size storefronts (takoyaki, sushi, and veggie shops).

Until May 6, you can see 1,000 Koinobori carp streamer under Skytree as well 🎏

Comparing 4 PDF Text-To-Speech iOS Apps: Voice Dream Reader, Capti Voice, NaturalReader, and vBookz PDF

Lately, I’ve been really into listening to as much content as possible. In addition to podcasts, web pages, and audiobooks, I started listening to PDF documents these days.

iOS native text-to-speech (TTS) feature is fine for a short text but isn’t great for PDFs. So I started searching for an app that suits my need.

Trying Out Four Apps

At first, Capti Voice app seemed to be very promising. But after I used it for a few days, I found the rich text mode (free version) to be buggy with PDF documents. I tried the original layout mode with a free upgrade trial and it worked okay.

Then I tried NaturalReader. I didn’t have much to complain about this one, but I wasn’t convinced enough to upgrade to the paid version.

The next one was vBookz PDF Voice Reader. Similar to NaturalReader, this is also a solid app with basic features for reading PDF files. If you like following the text while it’s being read, this app has a nice text mode that makes it easy.

Then finally, I read several good reviews about Voice Dream Reader and decided to purchase it.

Winner: Voice Dream Reader

I immediately liked Voice Dream Reader. Things I liked:

  • The navigation control is much easier than other apps
  • Lots of shortcut gestures
  • You can add custom pronunciation of words/phrases via the dictionary feature
  • In addition to iOS system voices, you can add one of the voices provided by Acapela/Ivona/ NeoSpeech comes with the app for free
  • The app is stable; no annoying issues like skipping to random locations

I wish it had a free trial version, but other than that I have no complaints.

For Free: Capti Voice

Even though I wasn’t happy at all with the unsteadiness of the app’s rich text mode, I think it’s an okay solution for someone who is looking for a free PDF reading app.

Demo Videos

Voice Dream Reader (English/Spanish/Japanese) – my own demo!

Capti Voice (official video)

NaturalReader (user video from 2016)

vBookz PDF Voice Reader (official video)

Comparison Table

The table below is best viewed on a wide screen.

Voice Dream Reader Capti Voice NaturalReader vBookz PDF
Free Version n/a
Price $13.99 $1.99/month, $9.99/6 months, $17.99/year $9.99 $4.99 (per language)
Voice upgrade 1 free credit, additional voices are $1.99-$4.99 each $1.99-$4.99 each n/a n/a
Text search Upgrade plan only n/a n/a
Bookmark Upgrade plan only
Pronunciation Dictionary n/a n/a n/a
Fine speed control (WPM) n/a
Visual book cover n/a
Table of contents n/a Partial support n/a
Other versions Android Desktop browser, Chrome extension Android, desktop browser, desktop app n/a
Pros Stable, feature-rich, easy navigation Free version & upgrade trial, OCR option Relatively easy-to-navigate, stable Relatively cheap, wide font selection for text mode, stable
Cons No free trial Rich text mode (free version) is unstable, navigation is awkward, sync with desktop is very slow Limited free version Very limited free version

Sakura in Tokyo, 2018

It felt like this spring was the best sakura (cherry blossom) season in Tokyo since I had moved here 7 years ago. The blossoms started early, but the weather during the full bloom was warm and less windy/rainy than I had experienced in the past.

I fully enjoyed the flowers by taking many walks and going hanami picnics.

March 17

Early blossoms outside of the Imperial Palace, where I biked along with my new battery-assisted e-bike.

First fully bloomed tree I saw this year, near Iidabashi Station.

March 23

Another one right above the railroad of Sōbu-Chūō Line at Iidabashi Station.

March 24

Walked around Akagi Jinja/Shrine.

The darker pink kind I spotted while my daughter Lisa played in a park.

March 25

This was the best day of the season for me. Sakura at their most beautiful time.

March 27

I took kids to a quick night picnic. Lisa liked it so much she kept saying she wanted to go again. Hopefully, we can do that next year!

March 31

Back at the Imperial Palace area — picnic at Kitanomaru Park with some local families.

April 1

Last hanami for the year at Koishikawa Botanical Garden. It was a windy day, and the fallen petals looked like snowflakes.

Sakura season is so short and unpredictable, but that makes it even more precious. 🌸