I travelled a lot before having children and since welcoming two lovely babies into the world I’ve been keen to continue exploring, taking them with me. Some places are easier than others to travel with kids and as we recently experienced, Japan is an excellent place to travel with babies.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and purchase something I’ve recommended I may earn a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay but helps me to run this site. You can read my full affiliate disclosure here.
We spent a week travelling Japan with a baby and a toddler and would recommend taking your little ones there for a holiday. It’s clean, it’s safe and has excellent transport, delicious food and great baby facilities. We did a lot of research before travelling, spoke to other families that had travelled and after visiting ourselves now have some key tips to make a holiday in Japan with babies as stress-free as possible.
Take the Shinkansen Train
We loved travelling on the Shinkansen with the babies. It’s speedy and comfortable, and you can take plenty of snacks, drinks and all your luggage on board. Previously, many people opted to purchase the JR Pass which allows unlimited travel on most Shinkansen train services for a set period. (7, 14 or 21 days). However, the prices went up significantly in October 2023, so if you’re only taking a few train journeys in Japan then it makes much more sense to book individual point-to-point (P2P) train tickets, which is what we did. The other bonus of this is you can take the fastest trains (Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen Bullet Trains) which weren’t previously included in the JR Pass.
Our Japan family itinerary started and ended in Tokyo with a stay in Kyoto in between. So purchasing two single tickets was the best option and even if we had visited an additional city such as Osaka, P2P tickets would still be cheaper than buying a JR Pass.
We booked our tickets through Klook. Make sure you select a ticket with ‘reserved seat’ on booking, which allocates you a seat. Babies and toddlers don’t require a ticket, but they won’t have their own seats unless you purchase them a ticket with a seat reservation. We had both the toddler and baby on our laps for the 2 hour train trip and it was fine.
There is just one row on each Shinkansen carriage that has an allocated space for large luggage, so if you need this, pop to a train station in Japan before your journey and ask to swap your reservation to that seat. Alternatively, you can pay a fine onboard which is 1000 yen to store your luggage providing there is space. (The reservation swap is free for one change). If you have small pieces of luggage then you can place them in the luggage racks above the seats.
One tip for taking the Shinkansen with a toddler and a baby is to make sure you get prepared for embarking/disembarking early. The trains don’t stop for very long, so it’s good to have one parent dealing with the bags while the other focuses on getting the kids on and off. A baby carrier is a good idea for this.
Take a Travel Pram and a Baby Carrier
It’s hard work lugging a big pram around, especially if you are taking the Metro and Shinkansen, so it is a good idea to take a travel pram to Japan. We have a double travel pram so that both the baby and the toddler can nap on the go, and it made it much easier to navigate the busy streets. It is compact enough to easily get on and off the train when folded and we took it on the Metro with no problem. Just be aware that not all stations have lifts, but we were always able to manage on the escalators.
In Tokyo, we also visited the Tsukiji Fish Market, which is pretty busy and the stroller was narrow enough that it wasn’t too stressful! However most of the time, we kept the baby in a baby carrier – I think it was more enjoyable for her and in busy places like Tokyo it’s much easier. So if you don’t already have one it’s worth investing in a good baby carrier before the trip. We love the Ergobaby Omni Breeze. The baby also slept most of the flight there and back in the carrier too.
It’s worth noting that not all tourist attractions are stroller-friendly. For example, Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto has lots of steps, especially the later sections. So it’s better to leave the pram at your accommodation when visiting and use a baby carrier.
Family Friendly Accommodation in Japan
Japanese hotel rooms are notoriously small, so I highly recommend booking an apartment hotel in Japan. We stayed our entire trip at Mimaru Suites – a chain of apartment hotels – which we loved. These are perfect for families, with one, two and three bedroom apartments with kitchens and living spaces. Most also have a washing machine which is ideal for washing baby clothes after a poonami or a messy dinner. All of the apartments had microwaves so I could sterilise dummies and bottles in this handy reusable sterilisation bag.
It also means that you can put the babies to bed and enjoy an evening in the living space – rather than having to sit in the dark and trying not to wake the kids – something we did in Milan before realising apartments are the way to travel with children!
Mimaru Suites offer an extensive range of free rental items too, including baby cots and bedside panels for toddlers and they even provided us with a nappy bin! There are also more unusual items available like rice cookers, kitchen scales, yoga mats and luggage scales.
We particularly loved Mimaru Suites Kyoto Shijo which had lots of nice extras like a coffee machine that was available all day, a free craft beer and sake happy hour and calligraphy lessons.
It’s worth being as minimalist as possible when packing for a Japan trip with a baby. We managed to take one suitcase for all four of us, along with a big backpack, a daypack and a nappy bag. It’s not easy pushing a suitcase and a pram simultaneously, so if you can reduce wheeled cases to one, then it makes life a lot easier when travelling between destinations.
This is another reason why staying in an apartment with a washing machine is a great idea. You can take less clothes and wash them during the trip.
What to Pack for a trip to Japan with a Toddler and a Baby
I’ve written an article all about what to pack when travelling with a baby, which includes most of the things required for a trip to Japan. But a few extra things to point out specifically for travelling in Japan with a baby and toddler are listed below:
- Hand sanitiser – this may sound like a strange one, but we found that while the baby change facilities were excellent, lots of them did not have soap. So it’s well worth bringing hand sanitiser and hand sanitising wipes with you everywhere.
- Disposable nappy bags – Another thing we noticed in the baby changing rooms was that many of them didn’t have bins and in fact around Japan, it’s very rare to see a bin. People tend to eat in restaurants or at home in Japan – not on the move – so the take-out culture isn’t as common as it is in places like Australia and the UK. If you do get a takeaway coffee for example, you are expected to take your cup home with you or back to the place you bought it from for them to dispose of. So it’s a good idea to have some plastic nappy bags with you as you might not find a place to dispose of a dirty nappy for a while!
- Cash – Japan is such a modern and developed country that I wasn’t expecting to need cash. However, there were many occasions where only cash was accepted or only Japanese credit cards worked, such as for tickets on the Metro and for food at the fish market, so make sure you bring some cash with you or head to the ATM when you arrive.
Restaurants and Food in Japan
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Japan was to eat the delicious food and it didn’t disappoint. Not all restaurants in Japan are baby-friendly, so it’s worth doing a bit of research before you go, but we had some fantastic meals with the children.
In Tokyo, there are lots of fun little areas of laneways with tiny restaurants, such as Golden Gai. Unfortunately, many of these are not that accessible when travelling with babies. Some only seat a few people so there is no way you’ll be getting a pram into one of these tiny eateries. However, we did manage to sit outside at one of the Omodie Yokocho restaurants and had a great meal with the babies.
We generally tried to find bigger places to eat, such as Kura Sushi in Asakusa which is very child-friendly and fun. We also enjoyed Yakiniku Marutomi in Kyoto and they were happy to provide a high chair for our toddler which was handy given that there was a hot plate in the middle of the table so we needed to keep him contained!
Quite a few of the restaurants we ate at offered a kid’s menu, including children’s sushi (which generally seemed to be smaller and sweeter portions of regular sushi).
In the evenings, we either ate early at a restaurant or ate at home in our apartment hotel. You can use Uber Eats in Japan and there is also a Japanese app called Wolt. On other evenings we bought sushi from 7 Eleven or Fresco supermarket and ate that in our apartment. Both have great options and are very affordable.
In Japan, legally you have to be 20 to enter a bar. We tried to go out for a drink one evening with the baby in a carrier but sadly couldn’t get in anywhere for this reason. So that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re planning an evening out.
You will find baby-changing facilities in shopping centres, train stations and most tourist attractions. These are in general very clean and spacious. Though worth noting as mentioned before, that many don’t have soap. Nappies can be purchased from most pharmacies. Lots of the public toilets also have a little seat to put your baby in while you use the toilet which I thought was very cute. Though my baby is far too wriggly to trust putting her in one!
Parents of toddlers will know the importance of having somewhere for the little ones to let off steam. Luckily the Japanese cities we visited have fantastic parks. Yoyogi Park in Tokyo is huge and has lots of green space to enjoy – it’s also very beautiful – particularly during the Cherry Blossom and Autumn periods. I also bookmarked a variety of children’s playgrounds on Google Maps before the trip so we could pop to a park for a quick swing or slide when out and about each day.
Travelling to and from Japan with Babies
We flew with ANA who were amazing and I would fly with them again. The staff were so attentive and helped us with the baby and the toddler. Tokyo Haneda airport is great and has excellent facilities and they have prams that you can use once you have checked in your luggage. (ANA also had this option when flying from Sydney too).
Overall, travelling in Japan with babies was a fun and easy experience and I’m keen to go back soon and see more of the country.