Travel with kids…in Japan

at Haneda airport

We spent 14 days in Japan in February 2013 visiting Tokyo, Sapporo, and Niseko. Jake was 20 months old on this trip.

Here is the low-down on some logistics specific to Japan:

Flight time: JFK to Haneda, 13 hours. (American Airlines has a direct flight.) Tip – Try to fly into Haneda vs Narita, as it’s about 40 minutes from the city center vs. over 2 hours.

Car seat: didn’t bring one. Not required in taxis, and we mainly used the excellent network of public transport anyway.

Stroller: Used our Uppa Baby Gluxe umbrella stroller in Tokyo no problem. We tried to avoid taking the subways at rush hour since they get very crowded. It handled the snow fine in Sapporo. We didnt use the stroller at all in Niseko — the hilly terrain, 15 feet of snow and constant powder falling made in difficult. Luckily he was old enough to walk and didn’t slip at all in his miniature Sorrel snowboots.

Crib: We requested one in advance at each hotel we stayed in. (I’ve found that if the hotel accepts children, generally they will have cribs to borrow.)

Highchairs: About half the restaurants we went to had them. Japanese highchairs don’t have buckles/seatbelts, but they push right up to the table. At sushi bars and tiny places with limited seating, he sat on our laps. Tatami matted rooms/private spaces may SOUND like a good idea, but they’re not. Your toddler will just run around instead of sitting down.

Food: There are endless food options for your toddler to eat in Japan. Staples for Jake were white rice and ramen (which can be found anywhere.) He also became a huge yakitori fan and enjoyed crab, corn, shrimp tempura…even nori crackers to munch on. Strawberries and other fresh fruit are juicy and plentiful. Shimegi mushrooms, another favorite. An unexpected hit was the salmon fish roe piled on top of white rice…he devoured every last little orange ball.

Chopsticks vs flatware: Mostly every restaurant we went to brought over a kid’s bowl or dish with Thomas the Train or something similar on it, and a baby fork and spoon. Most of the time, he went for the chopsticks anyway and amazingly,developed his own technique for using them.

Baby changing tables/stations: available in most bathrooms

Playgrounds: Every few blocks, and some really cool ones too

Babysitting: This is the first time we’ve done this, but we arranged for 2 during our stay — both through the hotel concierge (one in Tokyo, one in Niseko.) They reserved experienced and qualified sitters through services they’d used for their guests for many years, and we had a good experience with both.

General attitude: Our toddler was like a little celebrity in Japan with his curly mop. People on the street patted him on the head as they passed by and others asked if they could take his picture with their phones.

 Travel with kids...in Japan

fans, at the Meiji Shrine

 Travel with kids...in Japan

examining our waitress’ manicure at Ebisu Yokocho

Don’t miss: In Tokyo – the whimsical Ghibli Museum, Ueno Zoo, the Meiji Shrine. In Sapporo — the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, especially it’s Tsuodome site. In Niseko — drinking hot cocoa (pronounced hot-a-co-co-ah), playing in the snow.

 Travel with kids...in Japan

hot-a-co-co-ah

4 Comments

  • Laura Ambrey says:

    Heading to Tokyo in a few days with a 22 month old. Thank you for this post!

  • 3onthego says:

    Laura- I’m jealous! Cherry blossom season!! Have an amazing time. You will be surprised how easy it is to get around with young kids. Post lots of (pink) pics!

  • Jeff Hsu says:

    Hi,

    Your post is very informative. We’re thinking about a trip to Japan, and reading your post, we decided we should go to Tokyo.

    Can I ask a question? Can you say a little more about navigating the subway stations with a stroller? We have a twin stroller, the side-by-side kind. It’s well built and a bit hefty. Will there be elevators? Or will I have to fold up the stroller and carry it up and down the stairs?

    • Thanks Jeff! We found Tokyo very easy to get around with kids. Regarding elevators at subway stations – the big stations have them, but not all do. I’m sure you can find a subway map once you’re there that has accessible stations marked. Also try to avoid taking the subway during rush hour, as the cars get very crowded and will be tough with a double stroller. We did a lot of walking between neighborhoods there as well. Enjoy, Tokyo is an amazing city and I’m sure you will have a great time!!

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