Hike it Baby Tokyo: Exploring The City With Your Kiddos In Tow
Love Hiking? Have A Baby? Yes, You Can Join!
Hike It Baby gets families outside to see the sights at a pace appropriate for kids and parents.
My husband and I have always enjoyed hiking. Give us a walking trail over a bus or cable car any day, we prefer to explore our surroundings from the ground. While I was pregnant, our hikes were shorter and our peaks were lower, but the treks never stopped.
In the months after having my son, I was content staying close to home. But you can only make so many trips to the supermarket or the Aeon Mall before it gets monotonous. I needed to find new places to go — for the sanity of both my son and myself. Luckily, the perfect one was within an easy reach.© Photo by Joelle Kuiper
Hike It Baby: Climbing up together
Hike it Baby was started in the United States in 2013 by a new mother who invited some of the women in her moms group to go on hikes with her. More and more families started showing up, and as members shared their experience with friends or changed locations, Hike it Baby branches opened all across the US. There are now almost 300 branches in the US and in nine other countries worldwide — including Japan.
Hike it Baby operates on principles of leaving no hiker behind, following leave-no-trace ethics, and raising children to love the outdoors. Most hikes have between five and 15 families attend and once you find your city, the hikes are filterable by lots of different things to find something that suits your style and schedule.
Leave no hiker behind, leave no trace, raise children to love the outdoors.
After learning that becoming a Hike it Baby member is easy and free (for international branches) — all you need to do is sign up at hikeitbaby.com — and that it has two branches in Japan, one in Tokyo with about 800 members and another in Yokosuka with about 450 members, I was quick to sign up.© Photo by Joelle Kuiper
My first hike was categorized as a “Park and Play” at Nerima Kodomo no Mori — essentially, a water-and-mud park for kids of all ages. Difficulty: easy. Pace: wandering. Cell reception: excellent. Estimated distance: 1 kilometer. Terrain: any wheels. Sounds good to me.
But the night before the hike, my introverted self started to look for reasons not to go. I almost changed my mind because it was going to be hot. I almost changed my mind because it probably wasn’t designed for a 10-month-old. I almost changed my mind because there wasn’t a straight train route. I almost changed my mind because I didn’t have anyone to go with.
Being outdoors just feels good.
But the reason I put on my big-girl pants and committed to this hike was because of how the host, Joelle Kuiper, communicated lots of information about the park and made sure everyone knew exactly what to expect. Joelle is the branch co-ambassador for the Tokyo branch of Hike it Baby and has organized dozens of events in the nine months since she joined in February 2018.
She even wrote up a FAQ on the Hike it Baby Tokyo Facebook page, which answered questions that I didn’t even know that I had.
“It’s a simple thing to just get outside. But it’s very important and very powerful — being outdoors just feels good,” Kuiper said. “I also like that kids get along better outside! Inside there’s a lot of squabbling over toys, but outside the kids walk along holding hands and pretending to look for bears!”
My first hike© Photo by Joelle Kuiper
I packed up my gear according to Kuiper’s preparation list and headed out. I arrived about 15 minutes after the designated meeting time (punctuality is important when the hikes involve actual hiking, but in this case it was fine), and it wasn’t difficult to find the group: there were families from all over the globe. I was immediately greeted by Kuiper who gave me a quick introduction to the parents and kiddos who were still hanging out by the entrance, and then we were off.
My 10-month-old had so much fun. He grabbed my hand and began toddling all over the place. He was in and out of pools, standing at the play kitchen making mudpies, touching water as it gently dripped from a hose hanging from between kiwi vines (which can be harvested in the fall!)… he was totally in his element and it was great to watch. I chatted with the other parents while our kids played next to each other and during snack breaks. Everyone was extremely friendly, helpful, and fun to be around, and Kuiper’s FAQs were spot-on so I felt perfectly prepared.
You don’t have to be an experienced hiker to attend a Hike it Baby event.
We left the park almost four hours later tired and dirty, but energized. I probably would have never found this place if it wasn’t for Hike it Baby. And the best part is that they have hikes planned for a variety of skill and interest levels over the next few months. Kuiper says that you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to attend a Hike it Baby event, even some of the longer, more difficult ones.© Photo by Joelle Kuiper
“The motto of Hike it Baby is ‘no hiker left behind.’ If one family needs to stop and nurse, give a bottle, change a diaper, everyone stops,” Kuiper said. “I wasn’t a hiker before Hike it Baby. The idea of going alone to a mountain by yourself is scary the first time, but when you’re together with other families you feel safer. I like that maybe we will make it to the top, or maybe we will walk for 30 minutes and all the kids will have a huge meltdown so we will decide to just throw leaves around and go back down. For us it’s about getting out the door and doing something outside — not about making it to the top.”
Where is your favorite place to take your kids in Tokyo? Tell us in the comments.