Japan for Kids – A Guide to Discovering Japan with Kids
Japan with kids can be a lot of fun - but what shouldn't you do? What to bring? Where to play and eat? We've got the ultimate guide to navigating Japan with kids, right here.
Japan for kids
Japan is an extremely interesting, clean, safe and convenient country, which makes it exceptionally kid-friendly and a great place to travel with children.
The Japanese education system stresses the importance of teaching kids various survival skills and practical knowledge, learning from a young age the value of self-reliance. It is not uncommon to see Japanese kids holding hands and walking the streets under their teacher’s observation…
… or, indeed, all by themselves.
There are also countless facilities and services for children on offer everywhere in Japan. So don’t hesitate, bring your children to Japan! This article will provide you with some practical tips to make your trip easier.
There are several things that you should pay attention to in Japan that may be slightly different to your home country.
In general, breastfeeding is not done in public. The majority of department stores, hospitals, bullet trains and public attractions provide baby nursing rooms for mothers to take care of their infants. However, in unavoidable situations, you may get away with breastfeeding in a quiet, uncrowded place using an ergo carrier to cover your baby and yourself.
2. Using a stroller
Strollers are very doable in Japan, as sidewalks are quite even and elevators or escalators are available in most public places. However, umbrella or lightweight strollers are preferable for getting through train station ticket gates. Also, watch out for street braille as they can make the pavements quite bumpy.
Alternatively, many people use ergo carriers – baby carrier backpacks and slings to carry their babies around.
3. Avoid rush hour
During rush hour, especially in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, traffic tends to get quite crazy, with trains and sidewalks packed with people. This makes it difficult to use strollers and may create some discomfort for your baby.
4. Slow down your itinerary
Don’t rush! Babies, especially young ones, need time to get used to the time difference and their new environment. They need to be fed, played with and get enough rest as well. In a new country, it may also take you some time to buy diapers, baby food or locate nursing rooms for example. Leave enough free time on your itinerary to ensure your little one’s happiness!
5. Be aware of attention from strangers
Everyone loves babies, but foreign-looking babies get the most attention of all. In general, people are happy to see babies and will try to interact with them, give them snacks or ask to take pictures with them. You’d better get used to it!
6. Avoid smoking areas
Japan has many designated smoking areas in both public spaces and restaurants. Some restaurants, however, do not effectively separate smoking and non-smoking rooms – which, obviously, isn’t a great environment for kids. Avoid these areas at all cost!
7. Riding public transportation
Riding public transportation like buses and trains with your baby is not a problem. Strollers are allowed, although when space is limited this may be difficult. Again, try not to bring your baby onto public transportations during rush hours.
8. Using hot springs and public baths
Toddlers and babies should not go inside hot springs or public baths, but this should not prevent you from enjoying these facilities. Perhaps taking turns with your partner would be a useful solution.
9. Using taxis
Taxis do not normally provide any baby seating, except special companies like Cocoro Taxi (Information is in Japanese). Seatbelt rules for children in Japan are also stricter than in many other countries so taking taxis is not a great option. Any child under 6 years old has to sit in a safety seat and is prohibited from moving around while the car is in motion. In cases where you have no other choice but to catch a taxi, you can keep the baby in an ergo carrier and fasten the seatbelt around your waist.
10. Pre-booked cots
Baby cots and cribs are available in many hotels in Japan. However, prior reservation is often required.
What to bring to Japan for Kids
1. Nappies and diapers
Though diapers are easily purchasable in Japan, bringing some for the first few days of your trip may be a good idea. Pay attention to the picture on the package, a good indicator of whether they are female or male nappies. Be aware that your baby may get rashes from unfamiliar diaper brands. If your baby is particularly sensitive, bringing a supply that’ll last the trip or some diaper rash cream could be a good option.
2. Child carriers, pushchairs and umbrella strollers
A child carrier, pushchair or umbrella stroller may come in handy also, allowing your child to have a nap during the day or sleep when you are out at night.
3. Baby formula
If you’re traveling for a short period of time, you should bring baby formula from home, as it is unlikely that you’ll be able to find the same brand in Japan. If you’re in the country for longer, your baby will have time to adapt to a new formula.
4. Bottles, sippy cups, nipples or plastic feeding sets
Bottles, sippy cups and nipples will ensure that you can keep your baby fed and happy anytime and anywhere. If your baby is onto solid food, having a lightweight feeding set will make feeding much easier.
5. Wipes and tissues
It may be useful to have some with you when you first arrive. Afterward, you can easily buy these from any Japanese drugstore.
6. Disinfecting hand gel, baby wash and baby lotion
You will need these for changing diapers for when you’re out and about. You can also buy these from Japanese drugstores.
7. Medication and first-aid kits
Remember to keep some basic medication and a first-aid kit with you in case of sudden illness. Keep in mind that, though widely available, the language barrier may make acquiring drugs and medicine difficult.
8. Plastic bags
Plastic bags can be used in different ways: storing nappies, storing dirty clothes and so on.
A small and light blanket can be very useful for covering your baby, laying your baby on or covering yourself while breastfeeding.
Small toys enable you to play with your kid anywhere and can calm your baby down when you’re traveling.
Facilities for kids
Toilets and nursing rooms
In Japan, cots and diaper changing tables are available in the male and female bathrooms of department stores and public attractions. Many airports, department stores and public spaces also provide nursing or family rooms. In smaller places, a spacious separate toilet is normally available for parents. Nursing rooms and bathrooms in Japan are extremely clean so there is no need to worry about hygiene.
Inside each toilet booth, there is a baby chair where you can keep your baby for a while.
Parents are always warned to keep an eye on their baby while changing diapers or in the toilet.
Playgrounds and arcade centers
You will be surprised at the number of playgrounds available for kids in Japan. There are swings, slides, toys or play corners in most public parks as well as in many public places like airports, karaoke shops and restaurants.
For older children, arcade game centers may be a good spot for entertainment. For a list of the ten best Japanese arcades in Tokyo, check out our article here.
Food for kids
There are countless places that you can take your kids to dine out. Among these, the most kid-friendly are family restaurants (ファミレス / fami-resu). Family restaurants usually serve a variety of Western food (pizza, fries, pasta), Japanese food (Japanese hamburger, fried chicken), soft drinks, desserts and most offer a special menu for kids (normally a small set of rice, shrimp or meat, vegetables and dessert). They will also have child seats available for toddlers.
If your child is picky, bring some snacks or food from home, or buy food from supermarkets. Bigger cities always offer a wider range of food choices, including a wide array of Western options, ensuring you’ll be able to find what your kid craves.
It is also a good idea to have a list in Japanese detailing your child’s dietary restrictions or allergies which you can show to staff at restaurants or supermarkets.
Transportation for kids
Public transportation is the best option for kids in Japan. Trains and buses are fast, convenient and offer priority seats for parents with children. People are on the whole incredibly courteous and so will be more than willing to make space or give up their seat for you and your kids. However, as mentioned above, it is best to avoid rush hours.
Best destinations for kids
In Japan, amusement parks, aquariums, petting zoos and museums are extremely popular for families with children. Thanks to many services and facilities available for kids, parents can both keep their children entertained and keep them well taken care of.
These are some of the most suitable amusement parks and theme parks for children:
1. Tokyo Disneyland (Tokyo)
2. Tokyo Disney Sea (Tokyo)
3. Tokyo Joypolis (Tokyo)
4. Sanrio Puro Land (Tokyo)
5. Legoland (Tokyo)
6. Kidzania (Tokyo)
7. Thomas Land (Fuji-Q Highland)
8. Universal Studios Japan (Osaka)
9. Huis Ten Bosch (Nagasaki)
10. Sanrio Harmony Land (Oita)
Aquariums are a popular attraction for families – plenty of fun and educational at the same time. Many aquariums in Japan put on several performances every day such as feeding shows, dolphins and seals shows. Sometimes, children are even invited to interact with the sea life: petting walruses, interacting with dolphins or handling starfish for example. Below are some of the most popular aquarium in Japan:
1. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (Okinawa)
2. Sunshine Aquarium (Tokyo)
3. Sumida Aquarium (Tokyo)
4. Tokyo Sealife Aquarium (Tokyo)
5. Epson Aqua Stadium (Tokyo)
6. Hakkeijima Sea Paradise (Yokohama)
7. Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium (Nagoya)
8. Osaka Aquarium (Osaka)
9. Marine World Uminonakamichi (Fukuoka)
10. Umitamago (Oita)
Museums in Japan are well worth visiting and highly educational for children. Here are some suggestions for you:
2. RiSuPia Panasonic Center Tokyo (Tokyo)
3. Ghibli Museum (Tokyo)
4. Cupnoodles Museum (Yokohama)
5. Tokyo Toy Museum (Tokyo)
6. Railway Museum (Saitama)
7. National Museum of Nature and Science (Tokyo)
8. Toyota Mega Web (Tokyo)
9. Tokyo Gas Science Museum (Tokyo)
10. Drum Museum (Tokyo)
Farms and petting zoos
These are our top-pick of farms and zoos where children can learn more about animals and wildlife.
1. Mother Farm (Chiba)
2. Ueno Zoo (Tokyo)
3. Tama Zoological Park (Tokyo)
4. Inokashira Park Zoo (Tokyo)
5. Fuji Safari Park (Shizuoka)
6. Tennoji Park (Osaka)
7. Himeji Central Park – Safari Resort (Hyogo)
8. Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa, Hokkaido)
9. Maruyama Zoo (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
10. African Safari (Oita)
Japan also has a variety of different toy stores, where kids can purchase their favorite characters, be it a Disney figure or a character from Japanese manga. This is a list of 10 notable schains and individual stores.
1. Kiddyland (Tokyo)
3. Toy Sapiens (Tokyo)
4. Toys “R” Us
5. Pokemon Center (Tokyo)
6. Yamashiroya (Tokyo)
7. Hakuhinkan (Tokyo)
9. One Piece Store (Tokyo)
10. Tokyo Character Street (Tokyo)
Below are some websites that you may find helpful when in Japan with kids.