Thought I will do a round-up of our 5D5N Tokyo trip with Bubba (21 months old then) to share briefly on what we did and how we survived this holiday with our little hurricane in-tow. Before we became parents, we were actually determined not to bring the Bub on any holidays till she is much older. Afterall, what can she even remember from the holidays? Why bother ‘torturing’ ourselves? But at about 3.5 months small when we brought her to Tokyo first, there was no turning back. We fumbled a little when she was cranky but those precious memories that we created as a fresh family of three then through it all were all irreplaceable memories that I hold dearly. Parenthood actually makes you eat all your words! Pfft…
Alright.. on to more fun things about the trip that we want to remember. Contrary to popular belief that Japan is not all that child-friendly, we really do beg to differ. We found the place to be rather child-friendly (other than the cccasional subway dreaded flight of stairs) which is the reason why we keep going back to the city.
Here are some tips that I’ve compiled based our learnings for this trip that you may wish to take note if you are planning a holiday with your toddler:
Choosing your flights:
We took the red-eye flight from Singapore to Tokyo and found that the midnight timing works well for us. Bubba was all too excited to head to bed during her normal sleeping time. So we tired her out before the flight and after the plane took off, she did fall asleep thereafter. She had a good 5 hours sleep before we landed into Tokyo.
On the way back from Tokyo, we took the afternoon flight which meant that we would land back in Singapore at about 6pm. She did experience cabin fever after a couple of hours. In between demanding for milk, milk and more milk and asking to be carried by the in-flight stewardess, she just refused to take her nap. After a bit, I just firmly told her to close her eyes and sleep, to which she screamed for her daddy and fell asleep. Bubba: 0 / Mama: 1
Moving around in Tokyo:
a) From the airport to the city:
We usually like flying to Haneda simply because it’s way faster to get to the city from Haneda airport. But this time round, we flew out from Narita Airport. Sans Bubba, what we usually do is to take the train from Narita Airport to our hotel. We had about 2 huge luggage, a stroller and 2 carry-on hand-luggage which deterred us from squeezing with the crowds. Bought tickets for the Airport Limousine bus which was so convenient for us to get from the airport to the door-step of our hotel. They even have someone who will assist you to put your luggage to be stowed away. The bus ride can take up to 2.5 hours so pray your little one falls asleep so that you can catch more than 90 winks en-route to the city.
b) Traveling within Tokyo
We love how connected the subway stations are in the city so our main mode of transport is via the subway (Metro / JR). Our PassMo card from 9 years ago still works so we usually just make sure that there are sufficient funds for us to take the train. Bubba also enjoys riding in the train and gets real excited when we tell her we are going on the choo-choo train! She gets a thrill watching the trains zoom by.
Tip: Avoid rush-hour between 8am – 9.30am and 5 – 6.30pm if you can. These times are the worse as the trains are usually very crowded with people just jabbing you from all different directions. It can get quite claustrophobic plus hot too so best to just pick another timing where the ride will be more pleasant, a bonus too if you can get a seat.
c) Navigating around the city with your stroller
We love traveling with our Baby Zen Yoyo which weighs about 5kg, pretty lightweight and folds up quite compactly for storage. Strollers are a life-saver when the Bub offers to be seated in it or takes her nap in it. The train stations have often been criticised for being un-baby-friendly. That much is true but where they are lifts located within the station, I say use them. If there are not, then rely on the escalators. Worse case scenario, lifting your stroller with your Bub in it makes for a very good workout – so says the Man when he has to do all the heavy-lifting during the trip.
That said, if you are planning to be traveling out of Tokyo with your luggage, you may wish to ditch your stroller. Stroller rentals are pretty convenient around the city. We rented a stroller at Tokyo Disneyland for a fee and we also recently found out that strollers are also readily available for loan at major departmental stores and at the airport. Most of the strollers on loan are clean as the Japanese really do take good care of their borrowed items, so do the same for the other person who maybe using the stroller after you are done with it.
The Bub has kinda outgrown standards for Tula, so for good measure, we brought along our Toddler Tula. It was the first time this Tula went overseas as well. It was a life-saver when we took the Airport Limousine from Narita to our hotel. I strapped her in it, she fell asleep and I fell asleep on the bus-ride too. At Disneyland, the Bub took her nap in it while we waited in line for the Peter Pan ride. On days when we felt lazy to lug it out, we kinda regret not doing so for climbing with her up and down the stairs when she is cranky was just too overwhelming for me (at least). If your little one is still into baby-wearing, then I would say bring it along for your trip. You never know when it will come in handy.
Eating your way round Tokyo
The Man and I are huge foodies and we used to plan our way eating around Tokyo. From Michelin Starred restaurants to casual eateries, each day will be meticulously planned. However, with the Bub in tow, that made it a little harder to do any kind of fine dining, but we did manage to get by. 🙂
Japan is generally quite baby-friendly when it comes to eating out. If you plan on bringing your little one to restaurants, chances are that they have baby-chairs or some simple children cutlery which they will happily dish out upon request. We planned our cuisine around the Bub’s tummy so we ate mostly noodles and tempura (her new fave food). We didn’t even really get to eat sushi this trip.. sobs! All for the Bub!
Tenichi Tempura in Ginza made for a somewhat kid-friendly dining experience. There were no baby chairs but the tatami room where we were served our food was a pleasant area for the Bub to roam around freely. We skipped the full omakase course and went for a simple lunch menu instead. She loves Ramen too so we did managed to squeeze in a trip to Ichiran Ramen (thankfully). Some of the restaurants that we bought Bubba to also offered up kids meals like Omu Rice with Hamburg steak, fries and ice-cream. The Bub didn’t polish off the food that readily but she definitely enjoyed the ice-cream that came with the meal.
If you are not quite sure where to head to, then restaurants located at Shopping Malls are probably your best bet. They offer a wide selection of different types of cuisine – Japanese, Italian, Chinese, etc – so you can see what your taste-buds fancy for that day and just fill up your bellies with the food.
The Food Halls located in most major Departmental Shops are also a must-visit. It’s there where you can suss out the latest food items and fresh fruits for the season under one roof. Strawberries were in season when we were there and the Bub loved it! We knew they would probably won’t taste as good as the ones that we could get here for that price-tag, so we couldn’t resist buying them for her when she kept asking for more!
Here’s a pro-Mama tip that I’m sharing with you : you may wish to enlist the help of your concierge to see if they are able to provide you with a list of restaurants with private rooms. We found that to be most useful because the Bub could run around freely in the room and we don’t have to worry about the dagger stares from other patrons should she choose to have a melt-down. Some of these private rooms come with a minimum spend but more often than not, the restaurants would be willing to accommodate if the rooms are available. So no harm asking them in advance.
We did just that as well when we caught up with our friends in Tokyo. The Man booked a private room with a stunning view of the Tokyo Tower. The girls made a mess and had a riot running/ climbing around the room while us parentals loaded up on marbled beef Shabu Shabu and sake. It made for a fun and memorable night out for us all. 🙂
After all the feasting of tempura and fried food, I felt bad that the Bub was not having enough vegetables in her diet. The thing about Japanese cuisine is that they rarely mix. For instance, if you go to a sushi restaurant, chances are that they only serve sushi and nothing else. Unlike the Japanese restaurants here in Singapore where we know we will get variety.
Inspired by Mama Libby who was also in Tokyo during the same period and who cooked for her little Sophie-doll on most days, we made a trip to the Supermarket one evening and loaded up on these simple groceries for the Bub. We didn’t bring along any electric cooker or an equivalent of a magic lunch-box, so I ended up boiling the broccoli using a hot water flask. It did work and the Bub polished off nearly the entire head of broccoli that very evening as a snack and for dinner. The veggies must have really been fresh and sweet for when I tried replicating the same back in Singapore days after, she barely touched the vegetable.
The yogurt and candied cheese are also amongst the Bub’s new found favourites this trip. Imagine my happiness when she finally would open her mouth for yogurt for I had been trying to give her yogurt since she was like 7 months small.
Shopping in Tokyo for kids stuff
Tokyo is seriously a shopping haven. Pre-baby days, the Man and I would spend days just hanging out in the different shops for our stuff. The Man loves the city for the cool fashion-wear for men and golf apparel. I, on the other hand, love the brands that you probably can’t find here in Singapore (for example: Lanvin en Bleu) as well as the quirky beauty products and brands.
Now throw in a kid into the mix and we find that we hardly have time to do shopping for us all. This trip, I took a back-seat when it came to shopping and just spent time looking at the kids stuff for Bubba. Here are some of the cool toys that we picked up just by window-shopping at the major department stores.
A magnetic book filled with 25 types of animals in different habitats. It functioned like a quiet book and kept the Bub occupied during our meal-times and in the hotel room. Bubba loves animals so this was a great find as we could play with her and tell her where certain animals should be placed given the different environments. The animal pieces are also very well-made and the entire book is very compact which is great for travels. We picked this up for about 1,000+ yen over at the book corner located on the Children’s section at Mitsukoshi Ginza.
This Disney KIDEA Wooden Blocks set was also a cool find that we scored over at the Kids section at Isetan. The wooden blocks are lightweight and with cute Disney characters as figurines, it definitely encouraged the kids to explore the different shapes and colours during play. We got the Winnie the Pooh Balancing Blocks set and Bubba really liked playing with it as it challenged her to think creatively how she can balance the different cartoon characters on the arch. This toy can be played by both young kids as well as slightly older ones. It cost us about 5,900+ yen which wasn’t that cheap but for the quality, I think it was worth the money.
Other random buys that we scored during the trip include shoes and these cute Hummingmint character cutlery for the bub. Miki House is also very expensive here in Singapore but cost almost half the price in Tokyo, I didn’t quite fancy their apparel but the water bottle does make for a very cute accessory so we got that instead.
There you have it.. a round-up of our little whirlwind trip to Tokyo with a toddler. Just drafting this post and I’m already missing Japan terribly. Need another trip back to Tokyo soon!! This time round, we need to cover more ground on what we missed out! 🙂
Also, if there is any other tips that you would like on Tokyo that I may have missed out here, do feel free to drop me a mail.
Happy weekend folks.. the Bub is down with a fever and we are hoping that she will get well soon for us to enjoy the weekend together.