05 Jul Thoughts from our first trip to Japan with a toddler
We absolutely loved our time in Japan with our toddler. I think we had a good balance of exploring different places yet not being too rushed. There isn’t anywhere we visited that we think we could have skipped, we could have easily spent more time at each place but then it would have been compromising time from somewhere else. We had thought this would be our one and only trip to Japan so of course, could have planned differently had we have known we would return the following year.
- Flying open-jaw helped to plan a smooth trip without any back-tracking. We were able to stay in both Kyoto and Tokyo and add Takayama in between.
- Daytime hours were easier to handle as we just had to keep Fletch entertained rather than worry about sleep.
- Layovers were a slight nuisance.
Japan Public Transport with a toddler
- Experiencing the bullet train was pretty awesome.
- Everyone left their children in strollers and pushed them onto the subway.
- We knew to avoid peak hours but often got crammed in after school hours.
- Having a card to scan was so much easier than buying single tickets.
Rental car in Japan
- Gave us a break from train schedules.
- Allowed us to have a smooth trip that would have otherwise involved transfers and bus rides.
- Fletcher easily slept in the car seat.
- Nagoya may be too large to drive in when unfamiliar with the city. Luckily we were outside of any busy times and managed ok.
Accommodation in Japan with a toddler
- As Fletcher was still little and yet to sleep in his own room at home, sharing a queen or king bed worked for us.
- Having rooms with enough empty floor space allowed Fletch to unwind and play with his favourite toys.
- Baths helped us stick to a usual routine and settle him for bedtime.
- Being close enough to stations with direct routes meant one less hassle of having to transfer.
Eating with a toddler in Japan
- Traditional eateries were usually too small to accommodate a family with a child, many only having bar height seats.
- The foods we thought Fletcher would like, he didn’t.
- We were always un-organised when it came to lunch, I think most days we ended up just snacking rather than having meals.
- Prepared meals from the convenient stores were surprisingly good and were a great option for dinner with a worn-out toddler.
- Convenient store drinks and snacks were not as over-priced as the ones in Australia.
- Fruit can be expensive and we should have stocked up at the supermarket near us in Kyoto.
Read my full post about eating in Japan with kids here.
- The milk tasted different and Fletcher stopped having a before bed milk.
- The smaller drug stores didn’t stock nappies. We bought a large pack when we came across them near Nara station.
- We had packed plenty of wipes so didn’t need to purchase any.
Read my post for tips on where to buy nappies/diapers in Japan here.
- The baby carrier was extremely useful for places that weren’t practical for the stroller.
- Although we couldn’t use the stroller everywhere, it was still a must-have for long walks and the shoulder strap was a great addition.
- Fletcher slept through a lot of major sights which allowed us to really experience them without distractions.
- Most places we visited had open areas that were great for letting him stretch his legs.
- The Japanese people treated Fletcher like a celebrity, it was weird at first but they were all very friendly.
- We had many people offer to help us when they thought we needed it.
- We found it interesting that people’s personalities were visible even without speaking. The grumpy men that would huff and puff and the people who would offer a friendly smile from across the train. One young lady gave Fletcher a charm off her handbag to play with during our train journey and managed to get him to happily hand it back when she got to her stop.
Souvenirs from Japan
We aren’t big on buying souvenirs, preferring to enjoy our experience and make memories, taking photos along the way. We did purchase some small items and my favourite souvenirs from our time in Japan were free. The sights we visited all hand out tickets with lovely pictures featuring the particular sight.
Our souvenirs from Japan. Fletcher’s gifts from Disneyland, Kyoto face towel, Torii gate from Fushimi Inari, fan from Kyoto, Sarubobo from Takayama and Totoro coin purse from Harajuku Kiddyland.
Various brochures and entry tickets to sights.
Why we think travelling in Japan with small children is absolutely achievable
- With a low crime rate, it is a safe country to travel in.
- Everyone and everything runs so efficiently, people patiently queue and enter trains in an orderly manner.
- Public transport is extremely reliable.
- Certainly not the cheapest place in the world, the costs are on par or cheaper than our own country, Australia.
- Plenty of open areas for little ones to stretch their legs.
- lots of food options.
- Sightseeing to suit adults yet still interesting enough to entertain children.
Japan is great for family travel
We enjoyed all aspects of our Japan trip. Tim favoured the bustling modern city of Tokyo whereas I preferred being amongst the nature in the smaller cities we visited. The smaller places were much more relaxing when travelling with a small child. Fletcher loved anywhere that he could roam around, especially if there were stones to play with. Seeing the wild deer in Nara was a clear highlight for him.
We loved travelling in Japan with kids so much we have now been three times. Here are our itineraries:
First time Japan itinerary this was a 12 day Japan trip with a toddler aged 18 months.
10 day Japan trip itinerary this was quite fast-paced as we wanted to fit so much in. We travelled with our 2.5-year-old and a highlight was driving around Mount Fuji.
12-day Multigenerational Japan trip we travelled with our two children (4-year-old & 9-month-old) and my parents.