7 days in Japan, no constraints (except the one who gurgles and poops)
November 23, 2007 10:07 AM   Subscribe

We'll have a week in Japan in March, and a nine-month-old in tow. Where to go? What to do? Is this even a sane idea?

I'm going to be at a conference in Yokohama the third week of March, and since our spring break is the second week, we thought we'd make a family vacation of it. So we'll fly into Narita and .... then what? Neither of us has any experience in the area, or even any real idea what the options are. All suggestions appreciated.

A few focusing comments: We like to eat well, and are moderately adventurous, but don't need to eat fugu, thanks. We like being outdoors, but aren't up for carrying the little guy up Mt. Fuji. Quiet cultural things like tea ceremonies are going to be pretty tough with him, too. We certainly aren't limited to the Tokyo area, but with only a week, we don't want to spend two days travelling.

(travel.metafilter.com/go/japan doesn't have much on it yet.)
posted by gleuschk to Travel & Transportation around Japan (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have to say that if there are places where strollers can go, my experience is that shopping and site seeing are fairly easy with a child of that age. I took my 9 month old to New Orleans 3 years ago and we had a simple time getting around with a stroller.
posted by allthewhile at 10:13 AM on November 23, 2007

Best answer: Tokyo is amazing. Each part of the city has a very unique vibe. Shibuya feels very different than Ueno feels different than Shinjinku. Just walking around is awesome. I don't think it's a good place to wheel a baby around in a stroller though, so maybe get one of those baby sack things.

My brother had a nice time in Kyoto, but he was in the country for longer. It would probably make a nice day trip.
posted by chunking express at 11:09 AM on November 23, 2007

Best answer: There's a website called Japan with Kids (originally Tokyo with Kids) that has a discussion board you might find helpful. It's mostly for expats who are raising kids in Japan, but a lot of the info is helpful for visitors too.

Tokyo Families also has some kid/baby-friendly ideas.

It'll still be a bit chilly in March, but a day at Inogashira park might still be in order. It has a zoo, pond and shrine. It's even close to the Ghibli Museum.
posted by zerbinetta at 11:12 AM on November 23, 2007

Best answer: Another delightful outdoor location is Nikko, which is about 70 miles north of Tokyo and accessible by train. The park features outstanding Buddhist and Shinto temples plus some excellent nature walks. It's not exactly roughing it, but it's much more green and peaceful than your typical Japanese city.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 12:54 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you can't make it to Kyoto, Kamakura is another old city with lots of shrines and what not which is pretty close to Tokyo. It might be a 30-45 minute train ride south of the city. I took photos when I was there.
posted by chunking express at 1:00 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, there's always "Tokyo" Disneyland... but I guess your baby would be too small to really be able to enjoy any of the rides.

You can see Koalas at the Tama Zoo, and there's a panda at Ueno Zoo. Tama Zoo is much bigger than Ueno, although Ueno is probably easier to get to from Yokohama. There's also a huge animal park called Zoorasia in Kanagawa, which is a lot of fun.

I don't know if you've ever been in Japan before, but as a resident I've noticed that the city (Tokyo. But probably Yokohama, too) has become a lot more baby-friendly than ten years ago when I was raising a toddler. There are lots of places where you can change diapers, for example, in probably all of the newer department stores and shopping facilities. There is at least one stall in most of the rest rooms where you can take your child inside with you and secure them in a little seat in the corner (in the women's side, anyway. Don't know about the men's). Most of the major train stations have elevators if you plan on using a stroller, and in the zoos I linked above, you can rent one if you don't bring one with you. Yokohama has lots of parks where you can just hang out, though in March it might still be a bit chilly, especially because it's so close to the sea. I'd say you shouldn't have any problems with your nine-month-old in tow. Hope you have fun.
posted by misozaki at 5:37 PM on November 23, 2007

Best answer: Thinking back to my son at 9 months, I don't think he would have even really appreciated a zoo. Kids at that age are entertained by exactly what you don't think they should be. "Hey, look, Timmy, an elephant! Yes, Timmy, I know there are some fallen leaves on the ground, but look at that elephant! Timmy, put down the leaves, you already have a backpack full of leaves. Elephant?"

So I'd say the best would be to try to enjoy stuff that your kid will be fine attending, not to enjoy stuff that you hope your kid will actively enjoy.

I'd thus say Nikko is a good bet. It's near-ish Tokyo (2 hours from Tokyo station), has a lot of temples that you can see, which is all outdoors, so your kid can cry or shout or whathaveyou without disturbing anyone. It's full of junior high school kids on trips, so it's not really a solemn, quiet place.

For eating, I'd recommend going to an izakaya. It's a traditional Japanese style "bar", but they're more like restaurants with lots of alcohol. You can have a great meal, with a good variety (since you order lots of little dishes instead of a main course per person), just drinking tea or juice or whatnot, and depending on the place you sit in a tatami (mat) area, which is great for kids to crawl around and you don't have to worry about them falling off a chair. Menus have tons of photos, so you can just point at stuff that looks cool. They aren't amazingly noisy, but they do have a constant buzz of sound, so you won't disturb other patrons if your kid is fussy.

Also, if you're adventurous and foody, I'd recommend going to a kaiten-zushi place (sushi which revolves on a conveyor belt). If there are a lot of customers, you can know that the food is fresh, and the most important things to know are: you can also order out-loud (that is, you can either grab food from the conveyor or ask the chef to make some fresh, same price), and the magic words are "sabi nuki". This means "no wasabi", so the chef will make the sushi with no hot wasabi. I don't know if your kid is eating solids yet, but, if so, this would guarantee no unpleasant screaming-hot-sauce surprises.
posted by Bugbread at 6:30 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: you should be fine with a kid,
the train ride across kushu is great and not crowded.
it is more fun than hangin in tokyo.
maybe catch an early morning train to kobe or kyoto,
will be rewarding place to browse around, less crowded, but more to see in a short area
posted by edtut at 5:34 AM on November 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone.

Because I am a dope, I didn't think to check Ask MeFi proper for previous threads about this. (For some reason I thought all the travel threads were now duplicated in travel.metafilter, which seems to be far from true. What was the deal with that?) I've now, belatedly, gone through and found a few highly-helpful threads, which I'll post here for adoring future generations.It's awfully interesting to me how much better/more informative the old threads seem to be -- does this say something about the community, or just my poor questioning skillz?
posted by gleuschk at 3:21 PM on November 26, 2007

gleuschk writes "It's awfully interesting to me how much better/more informative the old threads seem to be -- does this say something about the community, or just my poor questioning skillz?"

I don't think it's poor questioning skills, just bad luck in the questioning: your question was very baby oriented, so the answers weren't general info about Japan, only baby related stuff. But you didn't have a lot of specific questions about the baby (like the bonsai baby AskMe), just general questions, so the answers were general. You just happened to be in the zone between "Tell me everything you know about Japan" and "Tell me the answers to these 20 specific questions".
posted by Bugbread at 3:44 PM on November 26, 2007

Response by poster: That's a good point, bugbread -- my questions were awfully broad, within the very narrow kid-in-tow category. I actually did that sort of on purpose, since I thought that there were hardly any useful Japan threads on the travel site, and I had absolutely no idea what were reasonable questions to ask. Turns out I could have read a bunch of old threads to learn better questions, just on AskMe instead of the travel site.

Maybe I should start a MetaTalk thread to ask what the deal is and then post it to Projects then I'll offer you a Job getting me information about Japan and something about the podcast then it'll end up on the blue somehow....
posted by gleuschk at 6:08 PM on November 26, 2007

Also, a lot of people can't be bothered to answer questions that have been asked before.
posted by chunking express at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2007

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