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Exploring Japan with a Toddler: Tips from a Travelling Parent

When I was pregnant with E four years ago, I started looking up the countries which are child-friendly to go and found Japan on the list. We started thinking and brainstorming about the trip and planned to go in November 2020, but Covid struck and delayed our trip till November 2023.

Known for many staircases and no elevators, many people might think that Japan is not a child-friendly place for travel. While it is indeed true that there are many staircases in Japan, I think that Japan is still a pretty family-friendly place to visit. And here's some tips on how we explored Japan with a toddler!

1) Fly one-way

We flew in to Tokyo by Scoot, took the Shinkansen to Kyoto, and came back from Osaka by Scoot instead of going back to Tokyo again to avoid the hassle of travelling with our luggages. We brought to Japan one cabin-sized luggage, a medium-sized luggage and a backpack, and came home with an additional large-sized luggage we bought in Osaka.

Pushing luggage to Kansai Airport
Enroute to Kansai Airport

2) Book the Shinkansen in advance

Be sure to book the Shinkansen in advance if you're planning to take one! You'll be able to choose between the "mountain side"or the "sea side" -- if you're hoping to see Mt Fuji, choose the "mountain side", which by the time we booked our tickets, there was not much options left. We booked it two days in advance at the Shinkansen ticket counter as we didn't know about this and the tickets were alomost fully sold out! Thankfully there were still tickets available. Also, transportation is free for children below 6 years old; as for the Shinkansen, as long as your child doesn't require a seat, then it'll be free for them. We didn't book a seat for E; he sat on our laps and it was good for us!

Family in Shinkansen
Enroute to Kyoto on the Shinkansen

3) Bring a really light-weight stroller

Aware of the staircase situation in Japan, we looked for a stroller that is as light as possible. We found one that is only 2.8kg, albeit it cannot be adjusted to different angles for E to sleep in and has no storage for bags, it was really helpful to move around. When E took his nap in it and happened that we had to take the stairs, E's daddy could carry him with the stroller up and down the stairs.

coming down from Mount Inari
Carrying E and the stroller down the steps

4) Feed the children first and eat in smaller portions

E only wanted to eat ramen and inari sushi but there was so much more food we wanted to try! We'd eat when E took his nap and we'd feed him his ramen first if he's hungry then we'd go to another place to eat what we wanted to eat. We also shared portions so that we had space for other foods that we wanted to try.

Eating at a Gyukatsu restaurant in Nara
Enjoying a good Gyukatsu when E was napping

5) Don't attempt to cover ground

Travelling with children can be fun but you got to travel at their level and pace. Go slow and take time to be at one place for longer than you normally would without kids. Go to places where you and your children would enjoy being at.

child hugging a deer in Nara Park
Hugging the deer at Nara Park

If you're planning to go to Japan and thinking of attempting the same route as us, we'd recommend Odaiba in Tokyo, Nara Park and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.These were places that E really had fun at and we enjoyed too!

Let me know if you're plannig a trip to Japan and I'd be happy to share my itinerary with you!

-E's mommy


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