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The Ultimate Japan Baby Travel Guide: Everything you need to Know!

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Visiting Japan Baby Travel Guide

There’s no denying it: All countries are different, but believe it or not, Japan is somehow more different than most.

Just imagine a country where tipping is considered disrespectful, a country where English is not that the national language, but is widely used and understood!

For any grown-up visitor, Japan is an exotic destination. It is a unique country that offers an exciting escape from the familiar surroundings with its peculiarity being part of the captivating appeal.

The big question, however, remains; what about taking your baby or even a wide-eyed six or eight-year-old kid on his/her first long-haul holiday to Japan?

 

Our Personal Experience of Visiting Japan with a Baby

Takayama

We have read time and time again about how baby-friendly Japan really is, but yet we found the holiday a bit challenging (*honest truth).

(We have a full guide of other ideas on the best places to go on a holiday with a baby.)

So here are my thoughts, if you are travelling to Japan with only a baby (and no other kids), I think Japan is a great destination to visit.

We were travelling with 3 kids though and together with having to drag luggage + hold hands + carry a baby up and down stairs to subways & train stations on a regular basis; we found the trip REALLY HARD.

But I have some invaluable tips on how to ensure your holiday will be easier than ours!  Learn from our mistakes and take them on board.

Because a vacation to Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that promises lots of adventure, education and a giddy blend of culture, it is always worth a little bit of a challenge.

 

Visiting Japan Baby Guide: Top Tips + Everything You Should Know

Before you embark on the journey to Japan with a baby, these great tips will help you create the ultimate baby holiday in Japan.

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1. Passports

Children are required to have their own passports in order to be allowed to travel to and around Japan. You will also need to carry the passport with you when you travel on trains as you might be required to show it.

 

2. Vaccinations

There are also no mandatory vaccinations for a child to travel to Japan, but it’s vital to ensure that your baby is up to date with his/her vaccines.

 

3. Don’t Pack Too Much!

Getting from one destination/attraction to the next, in Japan, can be a bit of a mission when you have too much luggage with you.  Whilst the train system is super-efficient, taxis are incredibly expensive, which means that you will most likely use the trains to get around.

Japan Baby Travel Guide

We found very few stations actually had lifts or escalators, which meant that we had to carry our baby (in a carrier) as well as all the luggage down and up way too many stairs.

So, try to minimise and to pack as light as you can. Really think hard about which items you will really need. (We have a full list of the best baby travel gear that you might find helpful).

Avie in a JR Train

You will also need to be able to fit the luggage in the luggage compartment above your seat (see photo above to see how much space you have – not much!)

TIP: If, like us, you find that it was way too hard to drag all your luggage from one destination to the next, here is a handy tip.  Japan has a luggage forwarding system.

Essentially you can organize and pay for your luggage to be collected from your hotel in one city and dropped off at your hotel in the next city.  You can do this at the hotel reception.  We thought the prices were pretty reasonable (nothing in Japan is cheap).

Important to note that the process typically works overnight, so you will have your bag the next day (depending on how far they have to travel).  So we always took our essentials in one suitcase and only carried that suitcase with us. You can learn more about this forwarding system here.

 

4.  Travel Slower

Avie and Daddy at Meiji Shrine

Travelling with a baby will undoubtedly slow you down. One of the downsides is that you won’t be able to visit as many locations as you’d have wanted. You should, therefore, always consider planning activities that are close to one another.

Ensure you travel slower and allow plenty of time for baby to be changed, fed or to be rocked to sleep.

Don’t forget to schedule some downtime for you too, otherwise, you might get exhausted.

Because it can be so tricky getting from point A to B in Japan I also highly recommend that you minimize the number of cities you will be visiting.

We tried to see Tokyo, Kyoto, Miyajima, Nara, Shirakawa-Go, Takayama, Kanazawa all in our 3-week trip and we were exhausted by the end of it.

So pick 1-3 cities for your trip and keep it simple and easy.

 

5. Be Prepared for the Flight to Japan

Japan with a Baby

Remember to book bulkhead seats that come with a bassinet. Not only can you make use of the bassinet, but you will also have loads more room (and no reclining seats in front of you!).

You should also know what your ticket includes. If your baby is eating solids, remember to call the airline and request a baby meal.  A baby meal usually includes a drink box and some pureed food pouches.

Remember, airline food is never guaranteed to be a hit with the baby. So make sure you have your own snacks and baby food supplies for the trip on hand.

We have loads of tips for flying with a baby that you can read in our post here.  You can also find bucket loads of travelling with baby tips by clicking to our guide here.

 

6. Book a Machiya (Japanese-Style House) or Airbnb Apartment

Avie in her Travel Bed

When it comes to accommodation we suggest you stay clear of the hotels.  The hotel rooms in Japan are really tiny and pretty pricey.

Renting a Machiya rather than a hotel or a guesthouse in any of the Japanese cities will go a long way in ensuring that your stay with the baby is completely enjoyable. They’re not only less expensive compared to hotel rooms, but also offer some privacy as well as a larger space where baby can crawl and play.

We loved our Airbnb’s in Japan as they typically come with a fully functional kitchen that certainly affords you the chance to cook your own meals, especially for the baby. Most also have a washing machine which will make things easier as far as the baby’s laundry is concerned.

If you haven't used Airbnb before, we have a coupon for your first stay! Simply sign up with this link and it will apply a small discount to your first Airbnb booking.

Kids Airbnb

We ended up taking a portable baby cot with us to Japan as many of the hotels and Airbnb’s did not have a cot available, so it is important to ask the question before you book, to ensure that baby has a safe space to sleep.

>>> Click here if you wish to see a list of recommended travel cribs to take along.

 

7. Always go for Public Transport in Japan

JR Train Seats

Whilst we are on the topic of transport, here is another tip.

If you’re planning to stay in Japan for longer than a week and plan to travel between major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto (which is obvious) travelling by rail would definitely be the most economical option.

The Japanese public transport is undoubtedly one of the best in the world.

So whether it’s a bus, a subway or the Japan Rail Pass (which is basically long-distance train travel), the Japanese public transport is extremely conducive for kids. Kids under the age of 6 can travel for free and kids aged between 6 and 12 will be half-price.

JR Pass and Train

Tip: Always avoid rush hour in the main cities. This is because it can sometimes get hectic and the lack of space can scare the little one. You will be surprised at how many people can squash into the trains at these times.  I wouldn’t recommend it.

The weekday rush hours peak between 8 am and 9 am in the morning, and shortly after 5 pm in the evening.

 

8. Try to Travel Hands-Free

Miyajima Island

We found that many attractions were located in beautiful hilly areas, which meant that not only did we have to deal with stairs at the train stations, but we also had to climb stairs at the attractions.

Whilst we did indeed take our baby stroller along, we barely ever used it and I would suggest that you leave it behind altogether.

Instead, try to travel hands-free.  We had Avalee in a baby carrier all the time.  It just made life so much easier as we climbed many stairs at attractions or headed down all the stairs to the subways.

Japan with a Baby

We also prefer to travel with a backpack diaper bag, which is great to not only balance out the weight of our baby on the front, but also makes it easier for us to have our hands free to deal with money and tickets (and to hold our other two daughters hands at the busy train stations).

Tip: If you find that you really do need a stroller, you can always rent one.

There are a lot of online shops that offer baby cots, car seats, baby carrier and many more baby amenities at affordable prices.  They are all in Japanese though, so best to ask your hotel receptionist to help you book one.

Most of the department stores and shopping centers in Tokyo have free stroller rentals which will give you a break from the carrier if you need.

 

9. You can rely on Japanese Department Stores

Most department stores in Japan are extremely baby-friendly. They have nurseries with changing tables, and private rooms for breastfeeding. Some of the well-known stores with these amenities include; Daimaru, Isetan, Matsuya and Mitsukoshi.

For food and baby supplies we often found it best to head to the drug stores instead of the supermarkets.  Drug stores are an excellent source of baby supplies and you can typically find them easily.  They will sell your pre-packaged baby food, formulae, baby snacks and diapers.

Pureed Baby Food: Our baby didn’t like the Japanese baby purees, so make sure you pack your own just as a backup.

Baby Formula: Our baby didn’t mind the baby formula in Japan.  The best brands are Meiji, Morinaga and Icreo. We couldn’t understand how many scoops to add, but our hotel receptionist managed to translate the instructions for us, so just ask if you are confused.

Baby Diapers:  Whilst they are readily available, they are expensive.  Our Australian diapers were much better quality as well so we made sure to keep a good supply of our own diapers for the flight home (because nobody wants to change baby’s diaper more often on a plane than is necessary)

Note: We did struggle to find supplies in the smaller towns, so stock up in the cities before you head out to islands or remote destinations.

 

10. Restaurants in Japan

Visiting Japan with a Baby

Whilst most restaurants and pubs do allow babies, use your common sense when deciding which restaurant is appropriate for him/her.

Many restaurants in Japan are tiny, crowded and noisy, which is such a great atmosphere for us but can be pretty overwhelming for a baby.

Smoking in restaurants is also allowed and we often walked into a restaurant only to turn back around when we realized how heavy the cigarette and cigar smoke was.

You also won’t easily find a high chair in these restaurants, so expect to hold our baby on our lap or in your baby carrier. If your baby is a bit older, you might like to take a lightweight travel high chair with you. Here is our recommendations for portable high chairs.

Dinner time for us typically meant that our baby Avalee was tired, but the restaurants were way too noisy so we struggled to get her to sleep and she spent the dinner crying.  It wasn’t fun.

So my tip here is to remember that they do have Dominoes Pizza Delivery.  We ended up ordering delivery a few nights, so that we could eat in our Airbnb apartment instead (and that way Avie could get some sleep in her portable cot) – dinner + peace = heaven!

 

11. Breastfeeding in Japan

If you are planning on breastfeeding in Japan I would highly suggest that you pack in a cover-up.  Whilst breastfeeding in public is fine, I never saw anyone with their boob visibly out, it is all about discretion.

If you prefer to feed in breastfeeding rooms, you will always find them in department stores, museums and play centers.

 

The idea of travelling to a foreign country is often an intimidating prospect for many. The idea of making the trip with a baby or toddler in tow is even more worrying to many, but that doesn’t mean parents cannot have an exciting holiday to a foreign land far away from home.

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Save for the jet lag, travelling to Japan with a baby is easier than in many other countries.

That’s because Japan is an extremely baby/kid-friendly country and everybody seems to be in love with babies. To highlight this, there are seats for babies to sit on in many public places, as well as kid areas for children to let loose, run around and have some fun.

Believe it or not, changing tables are everywhere including in the men’s bathroom! Some places even offer free diapers and microwaves.

This is a place where you’ll walk in big cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto and see babies everywhere.

But do learn from our mistakes and travel slow and travel light.

So if you’ve been planning to travel to Japan and have some worries regarding your baby, be rest assured that Japan has got you and the baby properly covered. All you have to do is keep up with the above fantastic tips and you and your baby will be good to go.

 

Over to You:

  • Do you have any helpful tips to add to our Japan baby travel guide?
  • Do you have any other questions that you need answers for?

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Karina La Spina
    October 5, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    Great article and thank you for the tips – we are travelling in May 2019 with our baby boy who will be 2 years old by then. Would you be able to recommend the AIRBNB places you stayed in, please?

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      October 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      Hi, the one we stayed in Tokyo was super dodge, so won’t recommend that one.
      This is the one we stayed at in Kyoto: https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/15151166 – super lovely place but be prepared to grab a bus and train and to get to most popular attractions.
      We stayed here in Osaka – https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/15778655 – the lobby of the apartment complex was super dodgy, but the apartment was nice.
      Can’t find the other ones I stayed in now. Important to take your own baby cot as many airbnb’s won’t have one for you. Also make sure you choose ones with really good reviews.
      Have fun planning your trip 🙂

  • Reply
    Adi
    October 9, 2018 at 6:55 am

    This is amazing! We are planning to travel in December with a 7 month old! Will it be too cold for him? What do you recommend to tackle the cold weather?

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      October 16, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Hi, looks like the temperature will be similar to when we went with our little one. Make sure to take layers – we had leggings on the legs with jeans over the top, layer a jumper with warm jacket over the top. Beanie on the head. Many people in Japan used a special warm cocoon on their prams to combat the cold as well. We chose to baby-wear our little one to help with body temp instead as we knew we wouldn’t use the pram cocoon again after the trip, but could be worth looking into as well.

  • Reply
    Joanne Marshall
    October 18, 2018 at 6:08 am

    Such a fantastic post – thanks for all the tips! We are going in 2 weeks time and have pretty much sorted itinerary and travel. Only question I have is where would you recommend staying in Tokyo (AirBnB) there are soo many properties!

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      October 18, 2018 at 11:33 am

      Hi, we had a super dodgy place in Tokyo that I don’t want to recommend – it didn’t have a mattress on the bed, just the base!! Make sure you pick a property that has lots of reviews on it and that has at least a 4-star rating! We went during Cherry Blossom season and made the mistake of booking to late, so was left with the newly added properties that hadn’t been reviewed yet – big mistake.

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    November 8, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Jolene! We are going to Japan in December with our 10 months old baby, just to let you know that your tips are very useful! Thanks a lot 🙂

  • Reply
    Kal
    November 19, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Hi there, thanks for your article. I will be traveling in Feb -Mar for 2 & a half weeks with my hubby and baby (who will be turning one over there) . Just wondering what you recommend we do with the JR rail pass. I thought I would just get a two week pass instead of three weeks (to save on Money) and activate when we leave Tokyo to our next destination however I wasnt sure if we’d need this pass activated on arrival to Tokyo to get from the airport to the accommodation. What do you think would be the most cost efficient option for us? Get the 3wks JR pass or organise a transfer to the hotel from the airport maybe?
    Also are there any destinations that are easy with a baby or on the other hand to difficult with a baby and we should avoid?
    Thanks for your help!!

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      November 23, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Kal, yes we only activated ours when we left Tokyo as well. We grabbed the Airport Limousine Bus from the airport – https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/ and it was easy enough with our baby. So check that out as an option. I think a cab from the airport will cost you a small fortune, so avoid doing that.

  • Reply
    Jen
    December 3, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    Hi! Your post is so helpful! We plan to travel on February and witness the snow festivals in Sapporo. My baby will be 1 year old by then 🙂 What winter clothes would you recommend? And is the water in Japan safe for our baby? We are feeding him formula milk so I’m worried if there will be safe water to use.

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      December 17, 2018 at 12:37 am

      Hi Jen, water in Japan is safe. Japan is such a modern country you really don’t have to worry. In regards to clothing, I highly recommend you layer her up, you might also like to baby-wear your 1 year old for extra warmth. Take a beanie or warm hat too. we had leggings under jeans for our little one and a vest, long sleeve t-shirt, jumper with a thick jacket over the top. Easier to take off some layers when/if a day warms up. Have a fabulous trip!

  • Reply
    Jennipher
    January 16, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    We’re leaving in a few weeks to Tokyo to attend the Sapporo Ice Festival as well. We have a doona stroller that converts from a stroller to a car seat. Would you recommend just leaving that behind? Or bringing it with? I ask because we’re not planning on strolling her that much, and she has a carrier, but for the car seat. Did you bring a car seat? And if so was it helpful on the plane to have a place for her to settle in? Or did you do a lap baby ticket?

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      January 19, 2019 at 12:45 am

      Hi, we used a lap baby ticket and had her sleeping in the baby carrier on the plane and in the car trips as well. We mostly used the trains and to be honest it is really tricky when you have to much ‘stuff’ and you use the trains as space for luggage, prams etc are so limited. Travel as light as you can if you plan on moving around Japan.

  • Reply
    Jo
    January 16, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Jolene, your article is great and full of good tips. I am trying to plan a 8 to 10 day trip to Japan in May with my husband and 2 year old son. I cannot decide if we should stay in tokyo for about 6 days and then head out to Fuji 5 lakes area (mainly to check Thomas the tank engine Land) or head south to Kyoto and Osaka. What would you recommend for a first time trip or could we squeeze in both Osaka and Fuji?

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      January 19, 2019 at 12:43 am

      Well, I love Kyoto and Osaka much more than Tokyo – but that is probably for personal reasons 🙂 You can also visit Universal Studios Japan if you head that way. You could try to do Osaka and Fuji but the thing with Fuji is that you don’t want to have anything set in stone, because it is actually tricky to get visibility on it – so best to call them in the morning to check if it is worth the trip or not.

  • Reply
    Jane
    February 15, 2019 at 8:00 am

    This is super helpful! My partner and I are in love with Japan and have been three time so far, but have been feeling a bit nervous about going back with baby, so it’s super reassuring to hear from someone who’s survived! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      March 4, 2019 at 2:24 pm

      Haha, we survived 🙂 Just pack light and make sure to take a baby carrier along with you on the trip. Have a fabulous time!

  • Reply
    Avi
    February 19, 2019 at 5:23 am

    This is such an inspirational and helpful post! We are hoping to travel to Japan with our then 10 month old during the cherry blossom season this April. Which travel bed is Avie pictured in here? Also, for a trip of about 10 days, would you suggest about 2 days in Tokyo and then having a main base out of Kyoto or Osaka? TIA!

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      March 4, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Avi, our little one is in the PeaPod travel bed, which worked nicely. You will probably need more than 2 days in Tokyo (depends on what you want to see though), but the city is MASSIVE and it takes a while to get to interest points. For Cherry Blossom season I would definitely choose Kyoto as a base and just do a day trip to Osaka from there.
      Be prepared for crowds though – recommend taking a baby carrier as it will be hard to squeeze into the crowds with a stroller.

  • Reply
    Juraiza
    March 9, 2019 at 1:03 am

    Hi

    Do you plan where to break when the baby wanto take a nap?

    Where is like a good place to rest while baby sleep

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      March 9, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Our baby mostly slept on the go. We used the baby carrier a lot and she just fell asleep in there whilst we kept on exploring.

  • Reply
    Mai Daoud
    March 9, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Your blog is what encouraged us to plan a trip to Japan with our 3 month old baby for end March/beginning April 2019. Considering how young he is he’ll almost always be in the carrier facing inward, so won’t get to see nor interact with much during the trip, especially with the weather being cold, so we are a bit apprehensive of our decision. I guess the main concern is, will it be miserable for the little one since he’s awake most of the day? He barely takes naps during the day. Any words of wisdom would be great!

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      March 9, 2019 at 9:02 pm

      We went around that time and it sure was chilly, but our little one was cozy in layers of clothes (because it does warm up in the day), a beanie and in the baby carrier close to our warmth. Our little one didn’t sleep easily out of our arms, but she did fall asleep easily in the carrier though.
      You could keep your outings short if you want and just head out at midday when the day is warmer and keep inside in the morning and late afternoon when it is colder.

      Where are you planning on going?

  • Reply
    S. Yamada
    March 10, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Hi Jolene,

    Very very cool blog! I’ve been living in Kyoto for the last 5 years and recently had a little baby girl.
    Living here obviously makes it completely different, but after travelling quite a bit with her this winter in Europe, here are the things I love about Kyoto; (hopefully you do not mind me sharing this with everyone, I don’t mean to hijack your post!!)

    1- Most traditional restaurants here in Kyoto have tatami floor seating; so even without a high chair, you can just lay/sit baby on the floor and actually enjoy a meal!!
    2- You’ll find a nursing room in almost ANY department store.
    3- Hotels (or air bnb rentals) again are great; no need for a baby cot because you can just sleep on futons! Most of them have a rental one if you ask them though.

    I hope that all the families planning a trip here will have an amazing time.
    I look forward to reading more of your articles!

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      March 14, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Hi there, thanks for your thoughts 🙂
      Our baby was moving around a lot, so the tatami floors didn’t always suit, sometimes we needed her strapped in to stop her from getting up to nonsense – but a helpful suggestion for those with little babies.
      Also, the boutique hotels we stayed in didn’t have cots, only the larger chain hotels did, so I would ask before I book, not after 🙂
      I love Kyoto, I think it might be my favorite city 🙂 Thanks for sharing some tips – always helpful for our next readers to have choices so they can pick what suits them 🙂

  • Reply
    Sandra
    April 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the information. We’ve been once before and now going back with a 1.5 year old in summer. It will be hot in a carrier, but we’ll use it sometimes and take a stroller too.

    I’m looking for information about the laws of crossing the boarder into Japan with a car seat made for Canada. I think the car seats here are better regulated and maybe even cheaper. Do you know where I cam find information about this? I’d hate to get to customs and have to leave it behind.

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      April 14, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      Hi Sandra, no idea on the laws for that sorry. My main concern would be whether you would be able to strap the car seat into a car. Every country has a different adjustment for seats, in Australia we use an anchor strap, here in Italy, they have clips to clip the seat into and other countries often just use the seat belt. If it is for a rental car, I would suggest maybe just hiring a car seat with the car so that you know it will fit.

  • Reply
    mannel
    April 9, 2019 at 3:43 am

    Hi Jolene,

    How old was your baby when you travelled to Japan? We were thinking of travelling with our baby end of May and he will only be 3 months old, do you think that is too young to be travelling to japan from vancouver, canada? He will have his first sets of shots by then but he is too young to get any extra vaccinations as per the travel clinics here in vancouver. Please let me know your thoughts, thank you so much!

    Mannel

    • Reply
      Jolene Ejmont
      April 14, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      Avie was around 6 months I think, but I would have zero hesitation in taking a 3-month-old to Japan. To me, Japan is on the same level as countries such as USA, Australia and European countries. I don’t even think we needed any vaccines for Japan as adults 🙂 Enjoy your trip and don’t stress about it 😉

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