In general, we find Japan a very child-friendly country. People will make contact more easily when you are walking around with a kid. Even more so when your baby is blue-eyed and/or fair-haired. Prepare for the ‘kawaii’.
What you will love:
- Eating out is terrible with a baby? Japan has a great invention called tatami rooms. Just make sure there is no hole in the floor, so you can let them crawl without concerns. Avoid hot plate (teppanyaki) and hot pots (like sukiyaki or shabu shabu). Chopsticks are interesting toys! The little bell on the table to call the waiter as well.
- You will always get free water – although it will almost always contain ice cubes- and a plastic eating set for your kid.
- Supermarkets and drugstores sell diapers and baby food. In konbini’s (convenience stores like Lawson, Seven Eleven and Family Mart) you can sometimes find rice porridge.
- Book a family room in a ho(s)tel or a tatami room in a ryokan or minshuku. Just pay for an extra futon (or not if you like spooning) and there will be no hassle over a baby cot.
- You will always find free, clean toilets, most of them with diaper changing stations. Hurray!
- If there are no diaper changing facilities in the restroom, go to a department store, shopping mall or (larger) train station. The best part: also the daddies have these facilities so there are no excuses 🙂
- Trains and subways have priority seating for pregnant passengers and for small children. There are also women-only carriages. Avoid trains during rush hours.
What you must prepare for:
- A dead battery while relying on Google Maps is no fun. I experienced some difficulties charging my phone in Tokyo. Some restaurants refuse, even when you ask politely. Starbucks is always an option, but you have to agree with the food (or lose time just sitting there while your phone charges).
- Finding a bin might be a challenge so be prepared to hang on to your waste (or dirty diaper) for a while. It might come in handy to have plastic diaper bags.
- Breastfeeding is generally not done in public, and if you do, you need to cover yourself with a breastfeeding shawl.
- Bring the medicines you might need, Japanese pharmacies don’t sell foreign medication and you’ll lose a lot of time explaining what you need.