Japan with a baby
We travelled Japan five years ago. Then just the two of us without a baby. We remembered a very clean and well organized place. So, the perfect country to travel again, but now with a baby. We thought…
Japan is still one of the cleanest and safest places we travelled. So in that sense you can really relax and the little one can go around easy and without worry. If your kid eats food from the floor, Japan is the country where it would harm the least. You can really eat from the floor here.
Most shopping malls offer free strollers and many times baby seats are provided in restaurants. But even more great: everywhere are public toilets that provide great kids facilities. In the streets, in malls and even in the trains. And when we say great facilities, we really mean GREAT! They all have a changing table, special sinks for cleaning your kid, and handy baby chairs mounted to the wall where your little one can sit safe while you have a private moment. And in most malls and trains you’ll find special rooms for feeding your baby.
Japan is a very safe country. So nor your child, nor your stuff will be taken. How chill is that? You can just leave your luggage somewhere while you change your kid. And when you came back, yeah, it is still there! I think you would be the first if your stuff is not there anymore.
‘So far so good’, I hear you thinking. And yes, so far so good!
But there are definitely some challenges travelling Japan with a baby. And these challenges are bigger because communication is difficult. There is a lot of room for improvement for the Japanese on learning English. As well Japanese is not our strongest asset either. Our dear friend ‘Google translate’ helps out, however many times we look into questioning eyes when showing the translated words.
Buying diapers is a little quest the first time. We are used to buy them in the supermarket. In Japan you have to look for them in big shopping malls or the better pharmacies. But don’t be surprised if you have to spend a couple of hours chasing after a new pack of diapers.
We were really surprised that baby food is so hard to buy. If you want more ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ stuff, it becomes a day outing to find it. The baby food you can buy in some stores are generally full of sugar, salt and other stuff I don’t expect in food anyway, let alone in baby food. The same applies for powder milk. Or dairy products in general. Yoghurt ‘without’ sugar is mostly one choice and tucked away in the cooler. We have spent many hours scanning labels with our phones hoping the translation app would recognize the characters on the package. Basically there is sugar in almost everything. Even all the bread tastes sweetish.
Fresh fruits are more easy to buy, but prepare yourself to pay the jackpot!
Before we left for Japan, we sent home one of our bags to travel even more light. We also packed our electrical hand blender. That one we regret. Anyway it is not easy to make your own baby food in hotels or B&B’s. But with some creativity you can do a lot with your water cooker in the hotel room or a microwave in the plentiful 7even Elevens.
We bought a small hand cranked blender to keep the traveling light and still be able to blend some veggies or fruits to make our own baby food. We also brought this little mixer to the restaurants to blend some of the food we were having. The Japanese like their noodles and that is not easy for a little one to process. But, our little blender did it’s magic and makes a portion of ‘Ramen soup’ into a very manageable baby dish!
We are very lucky that Mirin tries and seem to eat everything. She loves sashimi (raw fish), fish roe, oysters, nori, pickled ginger, seaweed, miso soup, rice and so on. The food in Japan is different than at home. We like to introduce Mirin to different tastes. And luckily she likes it too! But if your kid is more picky, it will be much harder to find food. Especially because menu’s are only in Japanese and the waiters only understand Japanese.
Oh, and sometimes you will not be accepted in a restaurant or coffee shop with a baby. Even is the place looks empty it is said to be full. You’ll get an understandable reason or explanation. But it won’t be told directly to you. But, in most of the cases kids are welcome!
Hotel rooms in Japan are generally much smaller than in Europe. A Japanese style ‘Ryokan’ room provides a little more space, but a western type room is tiny! Many hotels don’t offer a baby bed. For us not an issue, as we always bring our little pop-up tent (see our tips: https://www.mirin.world/single-post/BABYTRAVELTIPS-Travel-Tent). But many times the tent was half in a closet or under a desk and the suitcase would take the rest of the ‘free’ space. And so little space is not always easy for the little one, but also challenges your private space as a couple…
Most babies need a nap two or three times during the day. Of course they can sleep in a stroller (if you have one during traveling), or, in our case, in the carrier. But many times we use Mirin’s nap time to take a break and relax. We normally look for a nice terrace or bar, improvise a sleeping place for Mirin, have a drink ourselves and plan the next steps. But… Japan doesn’t do terraces or relaxed sitting places! In Europe we are used to have a terrace or café on almost every corner. But in Japan they are not very common. It is just not in their culture.
Mirin was ill for a couple of days. Finding a doctor in Japan was not so difficult. We went to the tourist information center and they helped us out very well. But also many hotel receptions will try to sort you out. Basically we had a good experience. But … prepare yourself for some stress situations. Especially when you are concerned about your kid, the language barrier can be frustrating and aggravating.
In general we experience the Japanese people as reserved and keeping their distance. But they are really extrovert towards Mirin. She gets a lot of attention. Maybe because she has blond hair and blue eyes. Many times women and men come up to her and touch her hair, cheeks or hand. Everywhere we hear people saying ‘Kawai!’, what apparently means ‘cute’. We had not expected that in Japan.
We did expect a lot or reactions to Mirin’s name here. The sweet Japanese cooking wine is called ‘Mirin’. But many times it took quite some explaining before they realized it. Even if we handed Mirin’s card, it did not sink in.
All in all, Japan is easy and fun country to travel with a baby. Don’t let what is mentioned above withhold you. We just want to share our experiences so you will be not surprised by it. Japan is a special country with a special culture. The people are really nice and helpful. Explore and enjoy that!