With my last visit to Japan being a decade ago, we knew a return trip was long overdue! So when we were planning our 7 week maternity leave adventure we knew our first stop had to be Tokyo!
Tokyo has a little bit of everything and is the perfect blend of modern technology and traditionalist zen. Of course, a few days isn’t enough time to fully experience all this city has to offer. I’m not even sure a few years would be enough to soak it all in but here are some of our top 5 Tokyo experiences with a baby.
1. Visiting Sensō-ji Temple: Tokyo’s oldest temple is a must do for any visit to to this city. It is almost always swarmed with tourists and for good reason. As you enter the streets of Asakusa you begin to feel like you have been transported back in time. This feeling becomes undeniable once you pass the Kaminarimon Gate. The hyper modern architecture of Tokyo fades to the background and you are confronted with the bright and beautiful Sensō-ji Temple. Take your time and stroll through the surrounding streets, sip on some Amazake (sweet rice-based drink served warm) and snack on Japanese dumplings as you explore all that Asakusa has to offer.
2. Exploring the Imperial Palace grounds: While you won’t be able to visit the palace itself, you can take your time exploring the vast grounds surrounding the Imperial Palace. You will find moats, bridges, beautiful stone walls, gardens, trees and more as you explore this quiet oasis in the city. This peaceful sanctuary is a must-do for every tourist, and the perfect spot to sneak a nap for your little one.
3. Taking in the sights and sounds of high-rise Tokyo: Japanese culture is known for being traditional, zen and peaceful. However, for every temple or pagoda in Tokyo there are hundreds of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers decked from top to bottom with dozens of technicolor signs. Tokyo is the definition of bustling. Everywhere you go, people walk quickly and with purpose. Everyone has somewhere to be. But whether you are exploring Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku or Akihabara, you should take your time. Take in all the chaos. Take in all the Tokyo you can, because there really is no other place like it.
4. Eating all the food: One of the best things about Japan is Japanese food and its all available to you in Tokyo. Whether you are sitting down at a restaurant or eating on the run, you won’t be disappointed. We filled our bellies every day with gyoza, teriyaki, udon and ramen. For a true Tokyo experience – hit up one of the many ramen restaurants where you order from a vending machine outside and then squeeze into a tiny, single-file-only restaurant and slurp away.
5. Day tripping to view Mount Fuji: You have a bunch of options when it comes to day tripping for a view of Mount Fuji. You could pick Hakone, the Fuji Five Lakes region or check out the Fuji Shibazakura Festival if you are visiting in the Spring. You can even get a good view on the Tokyo-Kyoto train if you sit on the right hand side of the train. We chose to view Mount Fuji from the observation deck near the peak of Mount Tenjo using the Kachi Kachi Ropeway. If you are lucky, you will have jaw dropping panoramic views like we did. For your best chance of viewing this behemoth, try and keep your Tokyo itinerary flexible and check the weather often. Pick the day forecasted to have the clearest skies and away you go!
TIPS FOR PARENTS
- Bring your stroller and baby carrier. You will use them both, we promise. Bringing a baby carrier will mean you can squeeze into all those tiny shops and restaurants you want to check out. Your stroller will come handy for getting from one destination to the next, riding public transit and any impromptu diaper changes!
- Expect that its going to rain at least a couple times during your stay. Make sure you’ve packed your rain gear and don’t forget the rain cover for your stroller.
- Build extra time into your itinerary. Distances between sights can be deceiving and subway stations in Tokyo are huge and often confusing. Not to mention that elevators are often tucked far away from the train platforms.
- Most subway stations and malls have excellent family rooms equipped with private, comfortable nursing areas and diaper change stations. Tokyo Station was our favourite.
- Check room size when booking your accommodations – many hotel rooms have barely enough room for your luggage let alone a travel cot. We stayed at the Citadines Shinjuku Tokyo and recommend other families do as well – it was affordable (relative to other Tokyo hotels), well located and spacious.
- Tokyo can be expensive so if you are looking to save some money stop in at a 7-11 for some yummy on-the-go budget options. Grab some onigiri (rice balls) or Nikuman (steamed meat buns) and save some yen. These meals are also perfect for those times you must eat in a dark hotel room while your baby sleeps – don’t forget a couple cans of Asahi!