Japan with an infant - now or later?
December 27, 2014 3:25 PM   Subscribe

We want to take our 3 month old to Japan. Should we go ASAP or wait for better weather?

Our son is three months old, and super mellow by any measure. We'd like to go to Japan with him while he's still small enough that we don't have to worry about crawling or solids. Should we go now (January 2015), or wait until March/April when he'll be 6ish months old? The weather will be better if we wait, but will the logistics be significantly more complicated with an older baby?
posted by tealcake to Travel & Transportation around Japan (11 answers total)
Yeah, 6 month olds are a bit more wriggly and sometimes get bored. 3 months is a great age for long haul travel as long as you're ok with not getting as much sleep as you might want to counter the jet lag.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:17 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

With a super mellow baby, I say go now. It is much harder to deal with a baby on a plane when they want to move around and you can't let them. I found age 6 months to 1 year very difficult for long haul travel because she was mobile but couldn't be entertained by things like TV or iPads very much - but as a good sleeper, she did do awesomely flying from the west coast to New Zealand using a bulkhead row bassinet (slept 11 hours!!), the hard part was the ~6 hour flight from the east coast to the west coast before we could get on that red eye flight. That was basically a 6 hour long wrestling match. I admit, my baby has never been super mellow, though.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:09 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have to kids. One of them spent the first two years of his life in Japan, and we have travelled back to Japan many times since our second was quite young.

I don't think there is much difference between travelling with a 3-month old and a 6-month old in Japan. The long-haul flight is going to be challenging in either case unless you score a bulkhead bassinet.

Once you're in Japan a stroller is going to be necessary; Japan is too small for some of the gigantic strollers common in North America.

People are generally more tolerant of and indulgent towards young children in Japan compared to North America.

That said, there are cultural attitudes to be aware of. I'm not sure what it's like in urban Japan in 2014, but in regional Japan in 2002 it was considered very unusual for children to leave the home much before they turned 3 months old and could support their own head. There's other issues that people were concerned about during the first 3 months, such as transmission of diseases, and also the transition of the young family itself as the three of you get used to your new dynamic.

Ideally you could travel to Japan in May. The weather is warm and everything is green. So far it has been a pretty severe winter in Japan, and it's pretty cold (there is no indoor heating) until the beginning of April.

Compared to the States and so on, there's lots of good solid food to eat as well for a 6-month old - natto and soft rice is and perfect food, really (that's what my kids ate). And thin miso soup.

I tended to think that a 6-month old was a little easier to deal with. Their bodies are stronger and more robust, so it's easier to carry them in a crowded train station for example.

Friends of ours went back to Japan for a visit with their 6-month old and had a good time. But there is a lot of planning involved.
posted by Nevin at 5:34 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

My experience in Japan with small children has been that a good carrier is far more useful than a stroller. We were forever finding ourselves in train stations with stairs and inconvenient/hard to find/nonexistent elevators. Ditto for pedestrian overpasses over major roads. Finally, this is serious anecdata but the only times we've ever had a stroller lost by the airline were every flight to Japan and the stroller always turned up later and damaged. Rawr.

Depending on where you stay Nevin is not kidding about the lack of central heat. Japanese heated toilet seats sound like an idiotic luxury until you realize the bathroom is not heated.

As for 3 vs 6 months, I myself would have been more up for a big trip at 6, not to mention less worried about the baby's health, but then again our babies have had their serious illnesses in their later months, so who knows. I have not noticed a whole lot of difference in flying with a 3 vs 6 month old baby; both were well in the realm of, insert boob into mouth, activate sleep mode. My 14 month old, now, is a whole other ball of wax.
posted by telepanda at 5:50 PM on December 27, 2014

I'm in Japan right now, visiting my brother and his family in Tokyo. We also spent a couple of days in Hakone. I've found that hotels, restaurants, museums, etc. are all heated. They're a little over-heated by my standards, actually.

I agree that Japanese people seem to be more welcoming of kids and tolerant of their kid-like behavior than Americans sometimes are. My youngest nephew is 14 months old, though, so I haven't seen much of how it is for the little littles.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:51 PM on December 27, 2014

3 months will be a much easier trip for you than 6 months. Go now. (Travelled a lot with baby.)
posted by k8t at 5:59 PM on December 27, 2014

Nthing 3 months. Nthing carrier not stroller. Japanese people love babies and children, at least I felt it was more noticeable than Australian. 3 months is a lot easier than six, in my opinion.
posted by smoke at 6:21 PM on December 27, 2014

I'd say our baby was a lot easier to travel with at 6 months, than she was at 3 months (although we never flew anywhere; just drove). She was easygoing at both ages, but a lot more tolerant of disruption and vehicles by 6 months. Babies are different.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:08 PM on December 27, 2014

In Japan right now--posting this from the Shinkansen, in fact!--and I'm double-nthing the carrier instead of the stroller just from watching parents try to wrestle both through a very crowded Tokyo Station earlier today.
posted by telophase at 12:14 AM on December 28, 2014

Don't have kids, but also nthing the carrier idea. Not a lot of places with elevators/lifts in Tokyo, so you're forced to go up a lot of stairs, which would be a nightmare with kids. Many stores/restaurants also too small for a stroller/pram.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:46 AM on December 28, 2014

A little clarification on the "indoor heating" thing: There is indoor heating, but in private residences, there is no central indoor heating. So, for example, in my house right now the living room is nice and toasty, but the hallway, restroom, and bedrooms are like iceboxes.

As a tourist, though, this will not affect you. Hotels are centrally heated (or have individual heaters for every area. Either way, everywhere is heated) Trains are overheated. Stores are heated. Unless you're staying in someone's home, you will find Japanese winter, indoors, to be either "warm" or "too hot".
posted by Bugbread at 7:25 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

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