Travelling with a baby
When my lovely friend at Zenbabytravel asked me for an honorary contribution to her travel blog on Japan with toddler, I literally jumped at the chance to share our travelling experience with other adventurous/foolhardy parents. Let’s be honest, between the twelve hour time difference and the thirteen plus hours flight this is not an excursion for the faint hearted. However it is well worth it especially if, like us, you time it so you don’t have to pay for the toddler’s seat. What I wouldn’t recommend is that, as was my case, you end up going when you are 16 weeks pregnant with baby no 2, but that’s a whole other story.
My husband was incredibly excited about Japan as it was a trip to celebrate his 30th birthday. We didn’t know much about what we wanted to do before we got there except that I wanted to stay in the hotel from Lost in Translation (the Hyatt Park) and go to the bar where Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray met. So we started by planning the end of the trip and booked the Hyatt Park for the last 4 days coinciding with my husband’s 30th.
As I was feeling pretty rough with the pregnancy, I kind of left the rest of the arrangements in David’s hands and in the end it worked out really well. I found Tokyo apart from the Hyatt Park broadly uninspiring – we arrived in the evening so just went out to a Sushi restaurant near our hotel. Amazing sushi but obviously a bit of a risk when pregnant and the toddler wasn’t convinced although she thought noodles were pasta and she was better than me at handling the chop sticks – as exemplified in here.
The first full day we went to the Asakusa temple and had a walk around and soaked up the sights. Although the Freya (my then 18 months old) struggled a bit with the jet lag she was broadly fine and really enjoyed the trip. Tokyo is a very tourist friendly, cosmopolitan and safe city and we went in the middle of the summer so loads of people were eating and drinking outside and no one batted an eye lid that we had a one year old with us. But maybe we needed a local guide as I really didn’t love Tokyo and the ‘lost in translation’ feeling.
Kyoto instead was completely different. We took the high speed train from Tokyo and got there just as expected perfectly on time. I was still suffering from both jet lag and morning sickness and it was over 30 degrees but my husband dragged me to see Fushimi Inari – aka the temple from Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger.
Stunningly beautiful, in the middle of a lush forest and worth every minute although there is a lot of walking! The toddler fell asleep halfway through (it’s a walk up to the top of a hill and then down it) and a lovely coffee shop owner let us put her down for 20 minutes whilst we had a coke and beer. If there is only thing you see in Tokyo this is it, I literally cannot recommend it more.
The next day we went to Nara which is another beautiful Japanese city only 30 minutes from Kyoto – Todaiji Temple has one of the biggest statues of Buddha in the world,they have beautiful landscaped Japanese gardens and also a park where deer roam free and you can purchase food for them! Freya absolutely loved it and so did mummy and daddy.
Back in Kyoto just before heading back to Tokyo for the last part of our trip (at the Hyatt Park) and daddy’s birthday, we checked out the Bamboo forest in Sagano. Another eerily beautiful site that I heartily recommend (it is a traditional cemetery I believe).
For the last part of our trip we returned to Tokyo to take up residence at the Hyatt Park and celebrate Daddy finally turning 30 (yes I’m a cradle snatcher but this is yet another story). The Hyatt Park is everything one can possibly want from a 5 star hotel and has beautiful views of Tokyo, a cocktail bar to die for and lovely restaurants. What you would expect from a massive city on a par with New York or London really but with a bit of Asian ‘otherness’.
We tried to see Mount Fuji and took the train to one of the lakes right at the base of the mountain, however, Mount Fuji refused to see us! Apparently it is actually quite difficult to see and you have to be really lucky with the cloud coverage- but we had a lovely time chasing him/her anyway!
Our last night in Tokyo, my enterprising husband decided he was going to take us to a baseball game as the Japanese are mad for baseball! It was amazing (even though I don’t understand baseball at all) and again we were made to feel completely welcome and people were getting so into the chanting and cheering on their favourite teams, it was absolutely amazing.
A word on food- I was recently vegetarian and suffering very badly with morning sickness and I really struggled with the food in Japan. Of course the Hyatt Park kept me nicely supplied with French fries and bouillabaisse (yes this is what I craved in Japan) but if you are not a fan of Asian food or if you are vegetarian/vegan you will struggle in Japan. Their attempts at European food in most but the highest end hotels were pretty laughable and even the fish based noodle soups used a meat based broth. That coupled with the language barrier and David’s desire to explore the less touristy places made it slightly difficult for me food wise and by day 5 I was so off Japanese food it took me another year before I could even be persuaded to look at sushi. But if you like Asian food and you can persuade your toddler that noodles are pasta- you are onto a winner!
All in all, Japan with toddler was fabulous and I am looking forward to going back there (preferably not pregnant). Everyone was incredibly welcoming and polite (apart from the fact that they were fascinated by my blond blue eyed baby and people kept taking pictures of her without asking for permission but I guess they were just genuinely curious). Kyoto and Nara have definitely captured our hearts and imaginations and we will be back!
PS: Many thanks to honorary contributor Laura! Zenbabytravel has an extensive list when it comes to babymoon ideas and inspiration, from volunteering with rescued kangaroos in Australia, to wild Dominica in the Caribbean, more developed Barbados or exotic Fiji, enjoying culture and friends in Melbourne, babymoon with a toddler in Turkey or with another child in tow in Grenadines. Thanks again to Laura for sharing their babymoon lovely adventures: Japan with toddler ! Enjoy!