How to travel with a toddler in Japan

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InsideJapan Director, Simon King took the step of visiting Japan with his family which includes a two year old! It was a bold move, but on the back of my trip with my two year old in 2011, they all took the plunge…

This was always going to be a very different visit to Japan – it was to be all about my 2 year daughter old Florence. I am not sure how much of it she will remember but it was certainly memorable for us!

The Kings in Japan

From this 2 week trip I wanted to be able to show Florence a bit of my second home – A bit of modern city life, some of the beautiful Japanese countryside, a good smattering of historic Japan and a bit of the culture that makes this place so special.

First was the dreaded flight…which wasn’t actually that bad. We flew to Japan with Virgin and the flights there and back went pretty much as well as could be expected. 12 hours is a long time in a small space for a 2 year old…but with a good mixture of snacks, toys (a new toy each hour) and strolling up and down it worked pretty well. We had a bassinet and were in the bulk head seats meaning a bit of extra space and even a short sleep.

Whilst in Japan we stayed at a great range of accommodation. The Shiba Park in Tokyo treated us to one of their best rooms with a baby cot, lots of space and views too. In Karuizawa we stayed at the luxurious Hoshinoya Resort were we were treated like Kings (no pun intended). In Nagoya we stayed in a simple but practical apartment – A short walk to the centre. Our stay in Kyoto was at a Machiya, a traditional Kyoto town house beautifully renovated – Lots of space, great cooking facilities and a nice supermarket around the corner with really friendly owners who were happy to advise on everything! We finished off back in Tokyo at the 5 star Shangri-La where we had a nice big room again – Florence enjoyed looking out over Tokyo. We were lucky to be able to stay at these places, but there are all sorts of options for all levels. One thing is prevalent – friendly staff and great service.

Top activities were the Tokyo SkyTree where we loved the views of Mt. Fuji and the huge Tokyo metropolis. Sanrio Puroland where Florence got to meet Hello Kitty  – a big hit. We strolled around the Imperial Palace East Gardens which was nice and relaxing and a good chance for flo to run about – there are lots of nice gardens that double up as parks for kids in Tokyo! In Karuizawa and Kyoto we had two great days on hire bicycles complete with baby seats. Kyoto also saw us visit the must-see temples and enjoy a morning at the new aquarium. In Nagoya, Florence enjoyed a morning at the Kido Kido soft play centre before heading off to Nagoya castle.

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We were blessed with fabulous weather and had a great time. Florence even slept pretty normally after the first few days. Japan is great fun for families with little kids. A trip to Japan with toddlers is also helped hugely that the country is completely safe, spotlessly clean, the people are very tollerant of little kids, public transport works and you can find most things from home in Japan….but better. Here are my tips from our trip –

  • Bring some favourite baby / toddler food with you
  • Plenty of snacks needed at all times – convenience stores are great.
  • Prepare picnics instead of eating at restaurants all the time
  • Use Japanese fast food places – good quality and cheap
  • Just bring nappies for flight and first few days – easy to buy more in Japan
  • Needed 4 days at first location to settle in
  • Don’t try and do everything that you would usually want to do without kids –  one area / activity per day
  • Allow plenty of time to get around
  • You must pre-book cots / family rooms at accommodation
  • Take a baby carrier / back carrier too for ease of getting around
  • Use luggage forwarding

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