Travel to Japan with Kids...


I get asked this a lot. How? Where? What do I need to think about? It usually prompts a hollow laugh, wild eyes and the comment "oh just do it anyway". Travel with kids is very different and fun in different ways... no late nights drinking the entire shochu selection a bar has on offer, but lots of exploring and running and climbing and questions and children are always the ultimate ice breaker. You can't plan for every eventuality but given Japan is clean and things work and people are super-friendly, its generally going to go okay. Ahead of our trip this spring, I've cut and pasted an email I wrote on the subject. A non-specific brain dump of ideas but might be useful (with the obvious caveats of age, likes and dislikes and generally as with everything in life, you do you).

Yes! Happy to share, this will be a bit of a general brain dump but useful I hope.
- Overall route... Osaka is great, kyoto also fun (the two are way closer together than they seem). Also really like hiroshima (and nearby Nara - feeding deer) and the seto inland sea area - I can never think of the name of that famous art island! When we've wanted to do something countryside in that area, we went to Kyotango on the northern coast of kyoto prefecture. I also understand that the wakayama area south of osaka is beautiful but haven't been.
- The normal wisdom is that Japan isn't very buggy friendly, the subway is like London so not very, but if you are planning on being out all day, I'd def take a lightweight stroller if you have a younger one. The curbs are high but there is a tonne of walking.
- we didn't change the time zone for the kids properly but kept them about half way between - Indian time? They'd get up late, have a late afternoon nap (while we had a beer), then be awake for dinner before bed. Worked okay overall but think it might have been a stretch to get them on to Japan time fully. 
- Travel... we have always done a combination of internal flights, trains and car hire. Car hire is super easy to drive and good if your kids like a road trip.
- In the cities there is lots of scope for walking and climbing on things generally and to stretch kids legs. For example in Kyoto you have the philosophers path as well as the ginkakuji and the other temple that I can't remember the name of ! Similarly arashiyama (the bamboo forest) is great with kids as is fushimi inari (the red gates). 
- Our top hits with the kids were any sort of garden (ponds, koi carp, steps and pathways), and aquariums. Osaka has a really great aquarium and there was another sea life centre on the northern coast of kyoto. I have a tonne of these pinned on my google map! There are also a lot of castles which are fun to wander around as well as lots of shotengai - pedestrianised shopping streets that are good for wandering.   
- In the cities themselves, there are a lot of playgrounds (bit like London really) and a lot of them are really fun or at least different enough to the UK to give a lot of novelty. I permanently had a google map search for playgrounds on the go so that we could have 20 minutes letting off steam before lunch. The other hit were soft plays - there was often a freebie play area as part of larger uniqlos, also in osaka we found some amazing ones which were definitely worth it to give us some downtime. 
- In terms of food, we did "rice training" ahead of time but you can literally get any fruit/yogurt/bread etc from any conbini. Restaurants are a bit hit and miss as we had to avoid the smaller ones as there wasn't much space. The ones that we will be heading to this trip are definitely the kaiten (revolving sushi) and any okonomiyaki place. Also any sort of seafood/crab/hands on place was a hit. Eating out is pretty cheap and there's scope to order rounds of small dishes so you can play it by ear on how long you've got before the kids have had enough. 
The nice thing generally is that it's all clean and safe, there's a conbini store on every corner, and a uniqlo if you run out of clothes etc. They even have little plastic harnesses you can strap kids into in the loo so you can pee in peace! Bliss! 



Leave a comment