Tokyo with a Baby: The Essential Guide
Savvy Mamas On The Road
No need to stress over the crowds, the uphills and the escalators — maneuvering around Tokyo with a baby can be comfortable, affordable, and enjoyable. Try these tips from an experienced savvy mama on how to manage your way through the city with your little ones.
Every department store has at least one “Baby Room,” which are amazing spaces with clean and cushioned changing tables, private areas for breast-feeding, hot water dispensers for formula, microwaves, high chairs, sinks, and vending machines that sell diapers, wipes, and juice boxes. Some even have play areas for crawlers or beginning walkers. Dads are allowed in all areas except the nursing rooms. To find them, look on the directory or ask someone at the information desk.
There’s Always Room on the Elevator
Think no one else can fit? Worrying about bumping into everyone with the stroller? Think again! I’ve seen women with strollers push their way into elevators, and people inside go out of their way to make room for them. Try it next time instead of waiting for the next ride. Just make sure to politely say “Sumimasen,” and return the favor to a fellow mama.
Say “Yes” to Packaging
Japan is known for over-packaging but with a baby, this has saved me in many situations. Save plastic bags for dirty clothes, dirty diapers, and general trash, as it is not always easy to find public waste bins. Save product packages, which are usually really nice cardboard boxes, and give it to your little one as a toy.
Konbini to the Rescue
Konbini, the savior! I really didn’t appreciate the availability of convenience stores until I brought my hungry son to Tokyo. When he wants food, he needs it right away. His favorite snacks were the onigiri, or rice balls (or should I say triangles?) and the nikuman, which is a fluffy bread filled with tender meat. Convenience stores also help with any other objects you may need, including hand towels, wet tissues, baby food and more. Some even have rest areas, where you can sit and hide from the heat.
When waiting for the train, look on the platform for priority access signs, which have a bit more space for you to enter. Sometimes, the priority access cars have a whole section, void of seats, for wheelchairs and strollers. Once inside, don’t hesitate to tap the snoozers on the shoulders and politely remind them that the seats are for you not for them.
Rainy Day? Plan Anyway
Rainy days shouldn’t stop you from going out. Many department stores have direct access from the train stations, and many museums are located not too far from them either. Both museums and department stores have baby changing and nursing facilities, not to mention baby friendly restaurants. Check out a few great areas perfect for a rainy day here.
Picnic Like a Pro
What’s the 4-letter magic word? Tarp. Pick one up at the ¥100 shop. Keep it in your stroller. Take part in Tokyo’s picnicking culture and enjoy the advantages of being outdoors with your baby. Use it to sit wherever and whenever without the anxiety of getting your clothes covered in mud or grass.
Cut your baby essentials down to a minimum and consider what you may be able to purchase while you are out – food at the konbini, toys and wipes at the ¥100 store, and drinks from vending machines. As for strollers, it is helpful to not have one that is too bulky because the streets are busy and narrow. When choosing a stroller, I suggest finding the smallest one that has a basket underneath and a reclining back. One thing I left at home was the baby carrier. I walked too much and too far in Tokyo, and having the weight of a baby on me was too much for my back.
Hoard Tourist Pamphlets
I would read tourist information out loud to my son, as if I were reading a book. He loved the photos and maps, and I learned about areas I have never been to. After I was finished, the pamphlets became his, and he would point and babble as if he was reading them himself.
Use these phrases to express your needs and locate useful spots.
ハイ・チェア (hai chea; “high chair”)
ベビー・ルーム (bebii ruumu; “baby room”)
ベビーカー (bebii kaa; as in “baby car” or “stroller”)
ベビー・フード (bebii fudu; “baby food”)
おむつ (omutsu; “diaper”)
The most important thing to remember is to be flexible and have a sense of humor. With the above advice, I hope that traveling with your baby will be fun and exciting. Enjoy the food, parks, and all of the kawaii characters. You and your baby will love Tokyo!