Traveling Japan with a young toddler can be tough.
This is what my husband and I quickly realized on our first trip to Japan since our little one was born. My husband’s concern prior to our trip: How can a 14 month old appreciate all that we love to see, do, and eat in Japan? He was right, but I assumed we would just figure it out as we went along. So off we went to our favorite country in the world.
Getting there was an entire ordeal in itself. Anyone who has traveled with young children knows that it is a hit or miss situation. You might get lucky and they might sleep or play happily. Or you might be incredibly unlucky and your baby screams for most of the flight. My family was somewhat in between on the luck scale. But this isn’t where I made my mistake.
Fast forward to a few days into our week-long trip. The baby was fussy, grumpy and just generally discontented. We were continuously questioning what was going on. Are we feeding her enough? Is she hydrated? What the heck is going on? Until it finally dawned on us: she’s bored! We’ve been walking around multiple cities, riding on trains, seeing the sights, but for a large majority of the time she was either buckled into her stroller or strapped to my back. She never had a chance to run around and just be free! At this point we decided to remedy this major issue and try to salvage what was left of our trip. Here’s what we did:
1. Osaka Aquarium
We were excited to go to the aquarium, not only for the baby, but also for us. I personally love aquariums and hoped that the baby would too. Lucky for us, she was absolutely thrilled to run around and see everything. She loved watching the schools of fish and the sea lions speeding through the water. It allowed her to run around and see the ocean at work.
I think if we left her, she could have sat and watched the schools of fish swimming around all day. But we had to keep moving her along from exhibit to exhibit due to all of the people. But every time she saw a school of fish she ran up to the window and just sat there.
2. Grape Festival Green Space
In Tokyo (near Ebisu station) we stayed at the Westin which was located just past the Yebisu Garden Place. In the square are many restaurants and a small shopping mall with a supermarket at the bottom level.
The grape festival (located in the main square) was great because as they were setting up, a green astroturf like material was placed on the ground. Here, families gathered for the kids to run around and play. It gave us a chance for our baby to get out and move. Unfortunately for us, her only interest was in the many stairs that were presented behind the green space. Exhausting for us, but at least she was happy!
3. Outdoor Parks & Indoor Playspaces
In the mall at the Yebisu Garden Place was a small indoor play space for kids. Our baby was happy to run around and play with the toys without interruption from us. Unfortunately she was too loud and scared some of the other kids playing in there, but she had fun nonetheless.
We were also able to take her to a nice, big outdoor park in Ebisu before the weather got too bad. She was able to run, climb, jump, and scoot through the structures placed in that park. I overheard a few older kids telling their parents “kawaii!” (“cute”) as she passed with made me feel confident that we were finally doing the right thing. (A miserable kid can’t be kawaii, so she must have been happy.)
Since we had learned from our mistakes traveling through Japan, we made sure not to make the same mistakes in the airport as well. We were able to go into the JAL lounge at Narita Airport which had a family room with a kids playspace. Again, Mackenzie loved this because she wasn’t expected to sit quietly. Though the room was small, she was still able to move around, play with toys, and sit with other kids, which I think she had missed while we were away.
As difficult as it was for the first few days in Japan, I am glad we experienced what we did. We appreciate our mistakes because we learned from them, and now I cannot wait to take our baby on another adventure (with some park research done before we arrive).
Have you travelled with a young toddler? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!