Japan is a country that had long be top of my bucket list but I wasn’t sure if travelling to Japan with toddler in tow was a good idea. I am so glad that we threw caution to the wind as it turned out that Japan was one of the best toddler friendly vacations we have ever done. In this guide up all our tips and tricks for travelling to Japan with toddlers to make sure you have as much fun as we did.
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Travelling to Japan with toddlers tips and tricks
Be Prepared for Jet Lag
Now if you are coming from Europe or North America for your Japan vacation then it is best to be prepared for jet lag. Now jet lag with toddlers is never fun however I actually found that my toddler bounced back quicker than I did when we were traveling around Japan. Our biggest tip is to make sure you have plenty of snacks with you, keep to the correct meal time at the correct time and most of all make sure you get outside and into the sunshine.
Move Around – Don’t just stay in one place
The rail system in Japan is amazing and I would definitely say that it is worth even if you are only in Japan for a week to sample at least two locations. The obvious two are of course Tokyo and Kyoto and they are two completing contrasting sides of Japanese life. But..
Don’t move around too much
Now that we travel with a toddler we have started to embrace slow travel. We find that two locations in a week is more than enough. It can be so tempting especially in Japan with the amazing transport system and bucket list worthy attractions to try and cramp as much as possible into your itinerary. However I would advise limiting how much you travel around and change accommodation on your Japan with toddler itinerary.
TOP TIP: Also while for most couples and solo travellers in Japan who plan to move around a lot the JR Pass can be a definite budget saver however if you are looking at only doing one or two big journeys on the trains I would advise doing the calculation as it might not be a cost saving to you. But be sure to factor in the cost of day trips too.
Take Day trips
To get as much in your Japan itinerary with toddlers I would advise to consider taking some day trips rather than having to pack everything up every couple of days. Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara and Arashiyama all can be done as day trips from Kyoto while Yokohama, Disney, Hakone and more can be taken as easy day trips from Tokyo with kids.
Avoid Rush Hour if you can
Although the Japanese rail system is amazing, the subway can get extremely busy at peak times especially if you are trying to carry a toddler or stroller around with you. My advice is try and avoid the Tokyo rush hour on the subway if you. We did things in walking distance to our hotel first thing in the morning so we were hopping on the subway once the commuters had all started work which definitely made things a lot easier.
Eating with Toddlers in Japan
Perhaps my biggest concern about traveling to Japan with my toddler was eating out. However we actually found that my child had a relatively good diet while we traveled around Japan but there are a few things that helped.
Try the cuisine at home first
We prepared our toddler for Japanese cuisine by letting her sample a few of the flavours before we went. By the time we were in Japan she was quite happy eating noodles and Katsu.
Don’t expect a plentiful availability of high chairs
Now those of us from Europe and North America might be used to all restaurants having a provision of high chairs however don’t expect this to be the case in Japan. We found very few restaurants had high chairs so we packed a fold up fabric high chair which can covert any chair into a high chair which was very useful. On occasions where we didn’t have this with us she just sat on our lap during the meal.
While we didn’t eat at any high end places we did find that everywhere we went was more than happy for us to take our toddler in and on many occasions the waiting staff are extra helpful with our little one.
Food and Fussy Toddlers in Japan
As I mentioned if you can try and get your toddler used to some of the Japanese food staples before you go it will help but if you have a fussy toddler fear not we found plenty of Pizzas restaurants and places that had more familiar fare.
Japan with toddlers Packing List
Should I use a stroller in Japan?
Before we went to Japan I was unsure about taking the stroller with us. I was concerned about how easy it would be to manoeuvre around the busy city and subway of Tokyo with a stroller and wasn’t sure we would use when at temples and shrines as many have uneven ground or steps. But let me tell you we were really glad we did take it. We used it in both Kyoto and Tokyo with our toddler and it was a lifesaver for a toddler with jet lag. My only advice is to be sure that you take an umbrella stroller with you that collapses down to almost nothing as it will be needed if you get on a crowded subway etc. We used this one and it was perfect for our needs.
Should I take a Carrier to Japan?
But even if you like us decide to take a stroller to Japan, I would also recommend taking a carrier. We travelled to Japan in August and September and it was crazy hot so my only advice would be to take the right type of carrier with you. If you are traveling in summer make sure it is a hot weather carrier that has extra breathability to make you and your toddler more comfortable.
What are the best places to visit in Japan with toddlers
Tokyo with toddlers
No Japan itinerary is complete without visiting Tokyo. The capital of Japan and the busiest place we went during our trip but not to be missed out. Tokyo has plenty of toddler friendly attractions including the Borderless Teamlab digital art museum, the two Tokyo Disney resorts and plenty of gardens and parks that will keep your toddler entertained. I would recommend spending at least 3 days in Tokyo.
Be sure to check out our Tokyo with toddlers guide for more information on conquering this city with toddlers.
Kyoto with toddlers
Like Tokyo, no Japan itinerary is complete without a visit to Kyoto. Kyoto is the historic capital of Japan and the cultural heartland. I would personally that you should allocate a minimum of 4 days in Kyoto to make sure you cover all of the main cultural attractions.
For a full guide on what to do on Kyoto with kids click here.
Osaka with toddlers
If you are traveling to Japan with toddlers I would personally recommend either staying in either Osaka or Kyoto as they are quite close together and can easily be done as day trips and will save you having to take luggage and all your toddler paraphernalia to a new location.
We opted to stay in Kyoto as it had more of the things we wanted to see (Gion, Fushimi inure Tashi and the golden pavilion to name but a few) but this is really a personal choice so I would advise picking the one you think you will be spending the most time in for your base location.
Nara with toddlers
Again, this is an easy day trip from Kyoto and while toddlers will love seeing the deer in Nara I think it makes a better day trip from Kyoto than as your base.
Hokkaido with toddlers
We spent over a month in Japan so decided to head up to Japan’s most northern island of Hokkaido. We loved visiting Hokkaido with kids as it is much quieter than the island of Honshu and has lots of things that toddlers will enjoy doing such as the zoo in Sapporo, the ice festival – if you are there in Winter, as well as beautiful flower fields etc.
I wouldn’t advise going to Hokkaido on your first visit to Japan especially if you are short on time but if you are a repeat visitor or like us are in the country for an extended amount of time it is definitely worthwhile. Check out our guides on the best time to visit Hokkaido and our Hokkaido itinerary for more information.
Okinawa with toddlers
We didn’t make it to Okinawa with our toddler but it is currently near the top of our Japan Bucket List. Okinawa still has loads of cultural things to do but the attraction for me is to see its beautiful beaches. Hopefully I will be writing about a trip to Okinawa soon!
Have you been to Japan with toddlers? What were your favourite things or top pieces of advice?