I can’t say that i am an expert since i only have 1X baby and 1X experience, but after a 3-week stay in Tokyo with Junya for the first time, i am greatly inspired and would be very happy to share some tips and ideas that i found very useful for me!
There are too many things to blog about so perhaps i would separate them in a few entries maybe by category (eating out/dressing up/locating nursery, etc). This is the first generic one that answers some of the questions many of you have emailed me.
1. First and most important of all, is Tokyo a baby friendly city?
Honestly, yes and no. Rather ironically, Japan has the most advanced, convenient and thoughtful creations for mothers and babies, but the advancement (mainly Tokyo) also makes it very difficult to be baby-friendly.
Japan probably has some of the best baby facilities in the world, but just imagine the spider-web subway maps and then take a look at your gigantic stroller. Out of my 10 subway rides with Junya (either on carrier or with stroller), i probably only got offered a seat like twice. Either the train was impossibly packed to spare a seat (or even nudge your way to one), or there were too many moms in a train to be all seated down lolol. Plus Tokyolites probably are too used to the scene anyway. They all think that moms have super powers.
A few people also told me they were surprised to find out that Tokyo restaurants weren’t that baby-friendly, and i myself was quite shocked that when i brought Junya to a yakitori restaurant, a women sitting next to me would not put out a cigarette for the baby. (I didn’t ask her to, but i assumed that she would out of courtesy.) But that is the delicate differences between Japanese culture and norms we are used to, and also learning about TPO (Time, Place and Occasion). In this incident, who do you think is being inappropriate? For me, i was upset how insensitive the woman was towards my infant. But to her, she probably frowned at this crazy woman who brings her baby out at a yakitori place (which is an izakaya, for supper/drinking, and almost always allow smoking indoor) at night (which i think non of the Japanese mom would bring their babies to. Normally.), and that if i care so much i wouldn’t have gone there in the first place. But as tourists (sort of), sometimes we do things a little differently.
So yea these are just some of the things tourist often overlooked, and it’s no harm to learn more in order to enjoy your trip to Japan fully.
2. Flying with a baby
I have blogged about my experience here. Almost ALL of the Japanese moms told us (the danna and me) that if they have a baby, the only airline they will fly with is JAL. I have had my first experience with JAL this time, and it was nothing less than pleasant.
The crew was just very, very thoughtful! gave me a paper cup with cap and straw (other people just get a paper cup lol) so that it won’t spill easily (by those little hands!)
They also provide rinyushoku (infant solid food) for babies on board! They brought a few baby food in jars for me to choose, and then warmed it up just the right temperature for little delicate tongue. And gave me lots and lots of wet towels lol.
The cabin crew even offered to take photo for me and Junya! She was almost like a nanny (offered to carry him, play with him, cheer him up etc), worth every yen we paid lolol.
And most importantly, Junya had really happy flights with JAL!
3. Show us your your bag for outing with baby!
I have almost 10KGs on me (a 7kg baby plus all his winter apparels and all my winter apparels plus the bag and sometimes an umbrella), so i tried to pack as maximum light as possible.
Here’s a peek of my bag for everyday outing!
1. The bag i use almost every day. Just a usual spacious canvas bag and not a special maternity one.
2. Another small “diaper bag” i put inside the big bag for easy access.
3. Nursing cape (very important if you are breastfeeding!)
4. Pocket wifi
8. Disinfectant wipes (for Junya’s toys and hands)
9. Wallet and apartment key
11. Lip balm and 1X lip gloss of the day
12. Nodo Ame (throat candies)
13. Toy of the day for Junya
14. Teether of the day for Junya
15. Pacifier (rarely used)
Another peek inside the “diaper bag”:
1. The diaper bag
3. 3-4 pcs of diapers
4. Disinfectant liquid (redundant this one. Can omit)
5. Baby wipes
6. External charger for iPhone and USB cable
7. Plastic bag for soiled diapers
That’s all! I have survived 3 weeks with only all of these, so i can pretty safely say that anything else is redundant, at least for me and Junya. Unless your baby is on formula then it’s another story altogether T___T. I know your pain T___T.
A lot of sacrifice after becoming a mom hor. Last time i would have at least 2 types of cameras, 1 X big make-up pouch, 1X hand mirror, and more! Now have to make space for diapers XD.
4. Useful things for baby
Here are some of the things i find very convenient for our travels!
Actually it was a bath seat for babies, but i just brought it along since Junya couldn’t sit without support yet. Turned out it was a life saver!! He can sit there to watch TV/ play by himself.
And also makes an awesome feeding chair!
Formula in cubes/sachet
Life saver if you are giving formula. The best is Hohoemi Raku Raku Cube from Meiji, and i actually found another brand that has formula in a sachet (100ml each), and it is Morinaga Hagukumi.
A must for winter!
This one folds into a Monkey Pillow. It keeps the baby warm outdoor, and if you use a stroller you can just keep it there so it won’t be extra weight in your bag! Also when you are desperate, it could make do as a changing station XD. (Yes, i have done it before on the toilet’s floor in a cafe because the toilet was cover-less -_____-. Of course i washed it afterwards la!)
Ok this isn’t a necessity but it’s sure fun to have!
Since Japanese apartments/hotels all have a deep tub, you can let your baby enjoy some happy bath time. No need to waste money at baby spa centers!
4. Baby-friendly facilities in Japan
I once read a sign that says “Babies are the country’s treasure, let’s take great care of them” (somehow my translation sounds very lame in English than it is originally in Japanese) at a train station, urging people to be extra considerate to infants and kids, because they are indeed, the people who can save Japan’s aging population. So they do make great effort to provide an environment as baby friendly as possible.
Japan pretty much has world-class baby nurseries.
I mean, just look at this.
Will probably do reviews on the nurseries i have been to! I have visited soooo many of them simply because they are too awesome.
In most shopping malls they would have a (sometimes more if it is a family mall!) Priority Elevator, where an elevator operator is stationed there to guide people up and down. She would shoo people out(politely) if there are people with strollers/wheelchair waiting outside. So i always get to navigate pretty fast while other babyless shoppers were stuck in a long queue XD.
Most malls have them too! I especially love this one in Haneda airport! It’s soooo comfy Junya loves it. And there are also lots of space for luggage and bag (and omiyage!!!!!!!!) storage.
This is unrelated but if you drive (rental car) in Japan, look out for the maternity sign. Basically if you are pregnant, you are handicapped in Japan lolol. Not a bad thing! XD
5. Breastfeeding in Japan
A lot of nursing moms are concerned as there’s still a huge culture gap between Japan and most of the western worlds, but it’s safe to say that breastfeeding is encouraged and very commonly practiced in Japan!
So far it’s pretty alright for me! First of all there are nursing rooms in almost all major shopping malls and departmental stores so if you go to touristy places there shouldn’t be a problem! Train stations are unlikely to have one (unless connected to departmental buildings). So stay close to shopping areas!
Sayaka and I in a nursing room at Omotesando Hills with our hungry babies lolol.
As for nursing in public, i haven’t had any problems with it. I did it in cafes on a daily basis, and at random places like on a bench at the roadside lol.
Very unglam but the baby won’t wait. XD
6. What can i feed my baby?
I was very lucky that Junya was mostly still nursing, with an occasional solid lunch. If your baby is older and feeding is a concern, Japan probably also has the best selection of convenient baby foods.
Some of the things i got from supermarket.
Most of the days i feed him Kewpie solids in a jar. And they are incredibly cheap, like 100+ yen (RM3-4??!). And it’s Japanese quality so i won’t worry too much.
If you are the more selective parent, there are also organic baby food. The one i tried was called “Ofukuro” (looks like pic above), you can get it from the more atas departmental stores like Seibu, Tobu, Isetan, Tayashimaya etc. It’s very expensive though. This costs 400+ yen (RM12) per jar.
If you run out of baby food and are panicking, head to a nursing room and likely most of them even have a vending machine selling baby food!!! *mindblown*
Cater for all age groups too. There will also be another separate vending machine selling drinks for the adults. Hmm. Japan.
7. Where can eat with my baby?
Unfortunately like i said earlier, you probably have to give up Michelin Stars and midnight Ramen if you have a baby attached to you, but for me i managed to fulfil most of my cravings during this trip!
Will do a separate post on all the restaurants i ave been to with Junya.
7. Stoller or Carrier?
Mommy dilemma of the century.
Here are some of my thoughts.
1. Quick and mobile. You can walk fast and go almost anywhere, up down stairs with no problem.
2. Easy to go into cafes/restaurants. When i had a stroller, i had to wait extra time for certain seats to be cleared. So when you carry your baby it’s so much easier to go into restaurants/crowded places.
1. Your body will fall apart by the end of the day.
2. You will for sure regret if you are going to do a lot of shopping.
1. No weight on mommy.
2. Baby can sleep in it while you shop/eat/do whatever.
3. You can hang all your crazy shopping on it.
1. You will curse when you end up spending half your day finding an elevator only to find that there are 45 other parents with strollers waiting to get it.
Until now i haven’t found a perfect solution to this, but most of the time bring both works the best for me.
Here are some of the general rules and tips for myself:
1. Either i go with only the carrier, or both carrier and stroller. Never the stroller alone. The carrier can be kept beneath the stroller (or any storage space your stroller has). Because when you only have stroller and you reach a dead end (only stair case, even just a few steps) without an elevator/escalator in sight, you are dead.
2. When it is a whole day outing, i would first wear Junya and push the folded stroller to take the train. It’s sooooo much easier and very time-saving. You can just lift the stroller and use the escalator. No more frantic searches for the lifts.When i reach the destination i will then let Junya sit in the stroller. Do some shopping, go for lunch… etc. Until he protests of course. He didn’t like it so much. Then i’d wear him again and push the folded stroller.
3. Stroller is also extremely convenient for times like this…
4. If i am alone and only going for a quick meet-up or shopping for lunch/dinner, i always only use the carrier.
5. If it’s a family day out with papa, we would definitely use both, as papa can do this:
So far by trial and error and working out what’s best for us, we had a rather smooth and very pleasant trip!
I would definitely do it again as i think traveling with a baby was not as daunting as i imagined it to be. But I’m speaking of a baby at 6-month old la. Maybe when he becomes a toddler i’d have an entirely different view XD. So yea, you don’t have to give up your romantic/fun holidays once you have a baby! With a little more planning i’m sure it would be an even more enriching experience for you to bring your baby with you on holidays.
Let me know if you have other things you would like me to blog about, or any tips you would like to share on traveling with a baby! 🙂