This post is especially for Family, who’s traveling to Tokyo with small kids, aged 0~7… who needs playground!
My name is Koko, I am originally from Tokyo, Japan.
I am the creator of this blog 🙂
if it’s the first time you visit my blog,… HELLO! nice to meet you!
I have “3” eyes –
1 to look at Japan as a Japanese person, because I am native Japanese.
1 to look at Japan as foreigners, because I have been living abroad for a long time,
1 to look at Japan as parents traveler with kids, because I’ve traveled Japan with my son.
So I believe I know all the aspects.
This topic is focused for parents traveling to Japan.
Traveling with kids means we have to consider many small things.
I am happy to share my tips and advice here, I hope it helps your Tokyo holiday planning.
1. Avoid Summer
Oh. What can I say. Japanese summer…..The heat…. humidity….is murder. I said it. It kills you.
(Did you know that some people (usually old people) even die because of the harsh heat in Japan? )
I know for many of travellers summer is the best time to go, because of summer vacation… but I simply don’t recommend.
Sure, we have AC in trains / shopping malls, hotels…. that’s not a problem.
If you are renting a car in Tokyo, and you will be always in a air-conditioned car, then
no a problem.
The problem is, you don’t rent a car in Tokyo. You don’t take taxi all the time. (cost too much)
You take a public transportation, that means you have to walk outside to get to a train station. or any destination.
And THAT’s the hardest part – you are walking outside, basically, same as walking in sauna.
Those concrete streets reflect the strong sun, that attacks you directly,
Super high humidity makes you sweat like water fall.
Most of the days you will end up staying at a home or hotel, wait util it gets cooler … 4 or 5 pm.. So you will be wasting half of a day.
If you are traveling with kids, it’s important to think of their comfort first.
Walking streets in Japanese summer will drain your energy, make you tired, sweat, even dizzy….
If you are used to hot and humidity, maybe you can manage Japan Summer…but for kids? I am not sure.
Many Japanese moms bring kids to somewhere indoor activity centers (with AC),
playing in a inflatable mini pool, park with lots of shades.
But most moms say they try to avoid being outside during 11am~2pm.
On the other hand, the best time? Spring or Fall – hands down.
You will love every single second.
2. Know the emergency contact info
If you’re traveling with kids, it’s important to know emergency contacts such as ambulance, police, fire, doctors.
Kids can get sick or injured anytime anywhere unexpectedly.
When this happen, know what to do?!
Do you know which doctors to take to?
This advice comes from my personal experience.
My Bad Experience
I traveled to other European country with my son when he was 1.5 year old. During the trip he became sick.
He’s got fever and didn’t have much energy, all he wanted was being held by me, stay quiet in bed.
Guess what? I was unprepared for this situation.
I somehow, thought that things would go just fine during my vacation trip. Was I wrong!
Next day I had to spend quiet a time to look for English- Speaking doctors who can see my son right away,
Had to make bunch of phone calls, Find a way to get to the doctor… it was such a stress-moment.
We were staying at private apartment in Italy. I really wish I was staying at a hotel with front desk person, who can assist me finding a doctor, too.
(we will get this in next chapter)
Please know what to do, where do call in situation like that.
I’ve made a Tokyo handy contact list and stored on to my Library under Japan Travel section.
Just print this out and take it with you to Japan.
If you’d like it, please sign up for my newsletter form below.
Once you fill out the form I will send you a password and the link to my Library, where you can use all the resources there for free.
3. Think carefully – Should you stay at Hotel or Private Home?
So I believe you had read my bad experience story earlier.
From my experience,
If you are a first timer in Tokyo….
If you don’t speak Japanese….
Then I recommend choosing a hotel to stay – best is apartment-hotel with a kitchen,
that has a front desk person.
Airbnb (staying at private house) is value for money, but my biggest concern is —- what if emergency happens to your kids – what do you do?
Can your house owner help right away?
If you are at a hotel, you know you can always ask at a front desk. Anytime you need.
They will take care of you.
If you are staying at private house, I am not sure how you can get a help.
However, you are familiar with Japanese language and culture, or your kids are big enough….
then, yes, staying at short-termed houseswill be a wonderful choice.
If you are first timer in Tokyo, traveling with small kids – then I recommend a hotel.
4. Choose a Kid-Friendly Area to stay
What’s kid-friendly area?
In my opinion, there are 5 points:
- it’s close to a park
- less crowded
- easy access to grocery stores, other shops , transport
- more laid-back area
- more residential than business areaAlmost everywhere in Tokyo is crowded… houses, buildings, people, stores.
My Favourite 3 Areas (for kids to stay) are:
Those areas have good big parks near by where kids can play. Free Entrance.
Kichijoji is hands down my favourite area. This is where I stay when we’re back in Tokyo.
It’s slightly off to west part of Tokyo, but it’s got all small kids and what we need.
Odaiba is in bay area, lots of space, great museums, shopping mall, nice view of Tokyo.
Hiroo is right in the middle of Tokyo. Arisugawa-kouen 有栖川公園, is a beautiful park.
You can of course choose to stay anywhere else,
just know that you have to pay fee for some parks.
Also some don’t have good kids play equipments.
Make sure to check Google Map, Street View, see if there are parks near by.
5. Stay close to a Train Station
Either you stay at hotel or short-term-rental house, be sure that is close to a train station.
Not only it’s convenient for transport, the real reason is, you will have access to everything.
Clinics, hospitals, grocery stores, hair dressers, shopping malls, food take out….. there nothing you can’t get.
Sometimes you may need to buy unexpected things for small children. You will be very glad to be close to a train station.
6. Don’t plan too much
Know that Tokyo is a big city – both population and size wise. It can easily take 1 hour to get from A to B.
You won’t be able to do all the stuff you want, so make a super narrow-down list.
Don’t plan everyday, be sure to give some days as a “rest days”.
If you’re staying Tokyo for 5 days…then 3 days with a plan, 2 days for rest.
Don’t worry, just walking around your neighbourhood will be full of excitement & experience.
You will always run into something interesting in Tokyo 😙
7. Train etiquette for Parents with Small Kids
1 last thing…..this is something I noticed a big difference between Japan and other countries:
When you bring kids into trains, please take their shoes off. or, put shoe-covers.
We, Japanese like to keep public area very clean and shoes manners are rather more strict than western culture.
Please take your kids shoes off if they want to sit and want to look at the window.
No matter how empty or crowded. Please never, stand on a seat with shoes on.
If you are carrying a baby in a sling or a stroller, please take off their shoes. You don’t need to do this if a train is empty. Basically this shows “consideration for others” – you think of other passengers, that your kids shoes are not touching their clothes and making them dirty.
If it’s raining, please put rain covers on their shoes.
This goes to when you are riding a bus, too. Fami
8. Bring as much baby/kids stuff from your home
If you are staying in Tokyo for a short period, say, 3-5days,
then I would try to bring anything your kids need from your home country.
Diapers, Wet Wipes, Baby Soaps, certain snacks that they like…
You may think, “oh, if we are missing something we just buy in Tokyo.”
You’re right. True, most of the time you can buy anything you look for in Tokyo.
But it can cause stress and waste of big time if you need to buy stuff for small children,
especially when packages are written in other foreign language.
Many time you end up buy wrong products, wrong size, wrong flavour.
If you are in Tokyo limited time, spend your time checking out the city – not running around to find a perfect diapers for your kids.
I am planning on writing more helpful articles for Tokyo Family Traveling!
If you have any questions, email me or write a comment – always happy to help.
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