This is a bit of a follow up from last week’s blog on Japanese design, but in a bit of a departure from interior design, I thought I’d share a few thoughts that I had on the ‘joys’ of travelling to Japan with a young child. At the time of travelling our little darling was 15 months old which is firmly in that tricky age range where your child is too old to just sleep most of the flight, but too young to want to sit still for very long and by that, I mean that you can’t just put the TV/iPad on and order a large red wine.
Our flight was a 9 hour one to Japan, I can’t give any tips on longer flights, my husband is from England and we’d love to take our child back there for Christmas, but we aren’t currently brave enough to risk it as by all accounts 24hr flights are horrendous. We flew with Qantas because it was a direct flight and there was no way that we were going to be changing planes mid trip.
It was irrelevant to us but I suppose the best tip I could give you is to fly business class or first class! At least I’m assuming that would be a good tip as we flew business class for our honeymoon (obviously before child); although at least in economy people expect to have to deal with children where as at the front of the plane you’d have to ignore some pretty violent dirty looks I imagine. I read that George Clooney pre-bought his fellow passengers gifts by way of an apology for taking his kids in first class – as if being in 1st class isn’t nice enough without film stars handing out pressies!
Anyway, as I said that wasn’t an issue as we were in economy, although we did buy an extra seat for her which was only a few hundred dollars more but guaranteed us a row of three. There is a school that suggests that you just book an aisle and window seat for the two adults and hope that no one sits in between thereby ensuring you get a row of three to yourselves. It won’t work on a full flight though and we went for peace of mind.
Qantas don’t allow you to use the Plane Pal, which is an inflatable device you can put in front of your child’s seat so they can stretch out, we did try but got quickly asked to deflate it. Having that extra seat did therefore enable us to stretch Penelope out with her head on one of us and legs on the other; given how much she moves in her sleep it meant we didn’t get much rest but she slept for six hours. We had chosen night flights in the hope that she would sleep well on them and that did work, but meant that we did keep her awake past her bedtime before boarding the flight which she definitely did not appreciate.
It is fair to say that Japanese people love children and this makes travelling there with a small child so much easier as people are more sympathetic when your child throws a tantrum because you won’t let her go headlong down a giant flight of stairs. (Note: Poppy is currently obsessed with steps and will go up and down them for hours at a time but needs her hand held all of the time; in a city like Tokyo where there are steps everywhere this can get more than a little irritating!)
We had a week in Tokyo and attended my cousin’s wedding which was fantastic. Tokyo itself is pretty easy to get around even with a child as there is an extensive train and subway system with signs in English so you won’t get too lost. Unlike in say London or New York, the people are courteous and polite so you and your child won’t get too buffeted.
My husband loved the fact that there are stringent rules about anti-social behaviour that are followed to the letter. We watched in disbelief a local on the train tap a tourist on the shoulder and tell them to turn the music off as it wasn’t allowed! There are seemingly very few litter bins around but there is no litter anywhere; everyone is taught from a very young age that you take your litter home with you. It is a bit like the ‘no dickheads’ rule that is often trumpeted in some clubs in Australia except here they mean it and it applies to everywhere.
We caught the Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Kyoto which even at those speeds was a three-hour trip. Our daughter made friends with seemingly everyone on the train as she marched up and down, usually with my husband holding one of her hands and furiously apologising to everyone . There was no need to apologise as the locals would always smile at her, wave and try and make her laugh even if it was the tenth time she had stopped to stare at them.
Kyoto is better than Tokyo for small children. It is smaller and more easily navigable on foot and there are some great sites to see. The food was amazing and even with Penelope we managed to eat in a few places, albeit we were very thankful that the food comes out to you very quickly after ordering so you can be in and out of the restaurants before meltdown o’ clock hits.
From Kyoto we fitted in a day trip to Osaka which is also very nice, although doing a full day trip caused us problems at Penelope’s midday nap when she refused to sleep, but instead decided to just scream her lungs out. Good times.
All in all, it was two weeks that went a lot better than I had feared, even if this was probably the least refreshed, I’ve ever felt after a holiday, it was still not something I regret doing at all as we had an amazing experience. Although having said that our next few holidays will be within a two or three hour driving radius of Sydney.
Here are some quickfire tips:
· Whether it was jet lag or because she was suddenly in our room again but our daughter was waking at 5am. Exhausting as this felt you might as well embrace it; we were able to get up and out before the rush of tourists which allowed us to get some amazing photos.
· The Baby Bjorn carrier was our saviour in Tokyo especially. I’d say it is a must, as Japan is full of stairs and hard to access areas. It saves you a lot of time looking for escalators (which barely exist) and lifts.
· Snacks! Just bring snacks everywhere, especially sultanas and muesli bars as it entertains the kid as well. Thankfully our child loved sushi which you can get everywhere, even 7-Eleven had great sushi and provided our dinner on more than one occasion.
· Wherever you go try not to be more than a ten-minute walk from a park, (of which there are many). Children like parks. Children do not really like temples or shops. Also, she got to make friends with local children which made for some really cute photos too!