Last year I chose to travel to Japan with my 1 year old and we were able to stay there for a whole month! Now, as exhausting as that may sound, it was still a very enjoyable experience and it is one I will cherish forever. Japan is a country I had always wanted to explore so this family visit was the perfect opportunity!
I would like to share with you what we did in Japan as well as tips so you can ensure your holiday is just as enjoyable as ours was!
Suggested Post: Travelling Internationally With a Toddler: my top tips
I initially wanted to structure this in a week by week itinerary style post but… that started to get messy, so I categorised everything for y’all!
Beating the Jet Lag with a Toddler
Tourism can be exhausting enough without that added strain of Jet lag.
Before I even considered enjoying Japan I knew the Jet lag was something both Maya and I had to beat; and as we were coming from The UK, there was no avoiding that 9 hour time difference!
I had read multiple times that ideally, you should be able to adjust baby’s sleep time by 1 hour each day depending on the time difference. If you are travelling from the UK to Japan, that would mean a 9 hour time difference will take around 9 days to rectify baby’s sleep schedule. As nice as this sounds, believe me when I say it will not be as simple as they make it out to be! But since we were staying in Japan for 1 month I was ready to take on the challenge.
I must say hooowwwwwever, if your stay in Japan will be shorter that ours, then I advise you to read this blog post as you may find it very helpful when trying to get your little tearaway back to normal!
Now once your lil one is no longer sleeping through the morning, you can finally explore Japan- YAY!
It took Maya just a little over a week before we felt ready to explore so… what exactly did we get up to?
Child Friendly Places to go in Japan
Japan was full of many child friendly places and I had no issue taking Maya with me everywhere I went!
Don’t think you should ever leave the stroller behind as every single train station I went to in Japan (apart from one, due to refurbishment) had a lift!
You may be wondering why I would be getting excited over the bare minimum but if you live in London, you’d be able to sympathise. I didn’t have to alter any of my journeys and I could freely take Maya around in her pushchair without worrying about how we would get to street level- bloody brilliant if you ask me!
Anyway, let’s get to the point…
Kid-O-Kid (Indoor Playground)
One weekend we chose to take Maya to an indoor child space, Bornelund play world (Kid- O- Kid). This play space is a chain so you will be able to find one in numerous locations all over Japan! The recommended ages are from 6 months to 12 years so every child can get involved.
Kid-O-Kid has a wide range of activities and If I remember correctly there were different stations categorised by age. A baby station with a ball pit and sensory toys, a toddler area with puzzles, fake food, a play kitchen etc and an older kids area with climbing frames! Maya was spoilt for choice and frequently alternated between the ball pit and the fake food station; she didn’t want to leave!!!!
I totally recommend going to Ueno Zoo with the kids! It is home to many different animals and seriously, what child doesn’t love animals!?
This zoo is known for their 2 giant pandas but be warned, those pandas are absolute celebrities! Just be prepared to queue for at least over an hour if you intend to see them.
Unfortunately for us, when we got there, by the estimated time of the queue, the zoo would be ready to close once we finally reached the Pandas- so we decided to see as many of the other animals as possible!
There were tons of different animals; polar bears, tigers, monkeys, flamingos, you name it! I was happy Maya was able to see as many animals as she did, especially since a large amount of them had been either removed from the zoo, sleeping or were in fact in hibernation!
I am confident that the next time we go (preferably during the summer) that the visit will be more beneficial! No doubt Maya will enjoy it more as she is starting to recognise more animals now.
We were fortunate enough to have a small park near where we were staying. I can’t lie, the park was lacking, but it was a nice space for Maya to stretch her legs!
Don’t be shy to use Google maps as Japan is full of local parks.
Food in Japan
When it came to food, Japan definitely knew how to bring it.
Before I even left the UK, I was dieting like crazy (well… trying to) because I knew I was gonna eat like an absolute pig for a month- yeah I said it!
The food in Japan was amazing. Like I have mentioned many times before, I am crazy about food! I tried so many different things during my time there and I miss it all so so much. But of course, it was important we found places to eat that were child friendly.
Eating at Restaurants with a Toddler in Japan
In Japan, unfortunately not every restaurant is baby friendly but that’s to be expected. I can’t lie, there were a few times where we went looking for food, found a great place on Google maps only to find that it was counter only restaurant. It appeared to be pretty rare to find restaurants that provide baby chairs in Japan also so make sure you are prepared for that spanner in the works.
Enjoying Ramen with a Toddler
Ramen, ramen, ramen. Oh how I love ramen- so much that it gets its own paragraph! You really can’t go to Japan and not have some ramen.
I was yet to have a great bowl of ramen in Japan yet, I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Japan’s no.1 ramen addict; Maya’s father! lol
You can totally take your toddler with you and still enjoy a hearty bowl of ramen but as I mentioned earlier, avoid counter only restaurants.
The ramen spots that we went to had high chairs which is a must, as ramen is really a 2 hand kinda meal. They also provided rice which was very convenient and allowed Maya to share the experience with us too (she absolutely loved the rice and meat combo).
You can’t go wrong when choosing a chain restaurant as 9 times out of 10, they are very child friendly or what would be called, a family restaurant.
Here are a couple of my favourites:
An affordable chain restaurant notorious for selling gyoza and other Japanese Chinese dishes.
We ate so many gyoza that day I lost count- and it didn’t burn any holes in our pockets.. what a bonus!
A family restaurant who’s menu will cater to anyone- especially kids! Ranging from Western dishes such as spaghetti and pizza to more traditional Japanese dishes, Gusto will leave you spoilt for choice. There is also a kids menu containing some child favourites!
Foreign chain restaurants also can especially be a life saver if your lil one is not too fond of Japanese cuisine (this might be something for the older kids though).
Finding food for Toddlers in Japan
In the shopping mall near to where we were staying, there was a drugstore that sold many baby necessities. This is where I was able to find a large majority of the packaged baby food and formula for Maya during our stay. The baby food in Japan was pretty different to what you would find in the UK, but still very palatable. It came in either pouches or small bento boxes and were very easy to warm up. There were many healthy choices such as fish and rice, curry and rice, stews and more! Maya was definitely spoilt for choice, it’s just a shame she wasn’t too fond of it at the time!
Admittedly, she was going through a spitting phase (Every time I gave her food, she would spit it out) so that probably most definitely contributed to her preferences at the time.
Convenience Stores (Conbini)
One of my favourite things to do was to go to the convenience stores. The thing about Japan is, the quality of food is amazing. If I went to a convenience store in the UK, I am met with questionable sandwich fillings and chocolate bars, but in Japan, you can get a 3 course meal and then some; for a fraction of a restaurant price! In most shops you would either be able to warm up your food at a counter or some places would even have the cashier request to warm it up for you at the checkout.
My biggest weakness would have to have been the fried chicken and cream cakes but don’t worry, there are tons of healthy options too! From various salads to grilled fish and much much more.
It was easy for me to just pop to the family mart if I didn’t cook that day. As Maya wasn’t too fond of the Japanese prepackaged baby food, I was able to find her alternatives. I gave her convenience store food on numerous occasions and didn’t feel guilty about it since it was fresh and pretty healthy (minus the many pancakes she consumed). She absolutely loved tuna mayo onigiri, it was a breakfast favourite for her.
The thing I love about shopping in supermarkets in Japan is that there is no queuing for HOURS. You know how it can be, especially when you have kids, waiting for that one person with a ton of shopping to pack everything… and despite people waiting in the queue, they take their sweet sweet time!
In Japan they don’t have this issue. Once the cashier scans your groceries, you are moved to another station to pay and they yet another area to pack your groceries! It’s so simple yet so effective. When I got back to the UK I was raving on about it for DAYS! Honestly when you have children, you don’t have time to be faffing about so this was incredibly convenient.
You can pretty much get all your standard groceries in Japan but beware, some things such as fruit and cheese (that we don’t even think twice about in the UK) are very expensive there. I was still able to cook up some of mine and Maya’s favourites as well as try new recipes, it was a very fun experience!
Takeaways in Japan
During the first week, we tried to cook as much as possible as we adjusted to the timezone but I think this was the week where we had our first food delivery. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to food delivery in Japan, but in comparison to everything else- my expectations were pretty high.
We ordered Pizza Hut which I knoooow, Ive gone all the way to Japan to order Pizza Hut!? But Pizza Hut in Japan isn’t like it is in the UK, it is soooo different. Ofcourse typical American style toppings are optional but you tell me, have you ever had shrimps and potato on a pizza!? Definitely a game changer!
I’m not going to go into every single takeaway we had during my time there but I definitely recommend you try ordering something at least once. Amazing food, great quality at your fingertips!
Shopping in Japan
New Year Sales
I am gonna tell you now, taking a baby to Shibuya in January was not the smartest idea but it had to be done. The city was absolutely packed and this was due to New Year Sales! It became apparent that the streets were full of people trying to spend their bonuses on discounted items.
Having Maya with me definitely put me at a disadvantage. By the time I managed to escape the crowds and found a shop I liked, the shops were either full or not so pushchair friendly.
I absolutely hate crowded situations so this was not ideal for me at all. I was so stressed by the end of it that shopping for clothes was no longer the objective and I just wanted to eat. Don’t let me put you off though, it’s definitely something to check out!
Shibuya, Harajuku and More
When the sales ended it was much more enjoyable visiting Tokyo… once I could finally see where I was going of-course. I would definitely recommend going to Shibuya to cross the famous Shibuya crossing, it is exactly how it looks on TV… BUSY.
GU and Shibuya109 were home to my most pleasant shopping experiences in Tokyo. With enough space to navigate a pushchair and a lift, what more could a shopping mama want!?
Don Quijote Mizonokuchi (Anything and Everything)
If you like shopping random ass discount stores then this place is for you! Before venturing on our trip to Don Qujiote, Maya’s dad told me that this place sells eveything. Sounds a little pretentious right!? pfsht Little did I know he meant literally anything and everything!
I don’t know of anywhere like this in the UK so if you are looking to buy weird and whacky souvenirs for your loved ones, come to this place! Even writing this right now, I’m remembering lots of random things I bought there, this branch in particular probably had around 4 floors!
I was able to buy makeup, fake food for Maya to play with and a ton of other random things! That place was so cool that I went to another branch with Maya as I felt there was still more to see. I stocked up on snacks to take home, bought Maya some new shoes and I didn’t even have to leave the second floor!
You’ll be sure to find something for your lil one in here.
100 Yen Shops
Taking me past any 100 yen shop in Japan was seriously dangerous. I just had to have a look inside, I couldn’t help myself. I almost always ended up coming out with bags full of just…stuff… stuff I didn’t need! Sound familiar? We all do it!
My favourite ¥100 store had to be Daiso, I was able to find plenty of things in there to keep Maya occupied. This included things like crayons and a mini magnetic sketcher for mess free fun! I guess it is very similar to the £1 shop pack in the UK but I really felt I was getting much more for less in Daiso- the quality was very very decent.
Shopping Centres and More
Here I have listed some places I was able to spend my time, when I had time to waste (which was very often). These shopping centres were often packed full of things to keep you busy the entire day whether you are shopping till you drop or wanting to enjoy something new to eat.
This is a trendy outlet mall that is fun for all the family. Not only does it contain several outlets but it is also full of food spots, kids entertainment and more. Don’t forget to check out the kid’s discovery area for toys shops, family food, an indoor space for your child to play and an arcade!
A shopping complex full of plenty of floors to explore. This was where I was able to find the most baby clothing and toy shops in one area. Also, as well as many Japanese brands, I was overjoyed to find a H&M here.
I very much enjoyed my time in Japan and I hope to visit some time soon. Have you been to Japan, what did you do? Let me know in the comments!