Tokyo for ChildrenMonday, February 20, 2017
Hey guys! I hope everyone has been well so far. The Tan's have been very busy as usual, as we juggle between work, house and our three children. Over the Chinese New Year break, we brought our troopers to Tokyo, Japan, for a fortnight to experience some winter!
I think children these days are very lucky, don't you think so? Nian and I always say that we used to be pretty old before we first sat on an airplane... and our kids travel as young as 6 months.
Do you have plans to bring your children to Tokyo soon too? I understand that some parents are concerned about the radioactivity level since the Fukushima reactor broke down a couple of years back. If that is your concern, I would think Korea is a nice place to visit to experience winter too.
When it comes to experiencing winter, I guess being around Asia, the few countries that are probably easier to navigate around on our own and a relatively manageable flight time (this is quite important for us!) are Korea, Japan, some parts of China and Australia. China is out for us because... I have a morbid fear of that country when it comes to food, drinks and crime rate. I don't think it is a suitable place to bring our children to lol.
As we were planning for a holiday during the Chinese New Year period, Australia's in summer right now, so no winter party for us. So we were really down to choosing between Japan and Korea. The husband prefers Japanese food, and we had a slight upper hand of having lesser language barrier, so Japan became the decided country.
Pros and Cons of Japan
I think I wouldn't need to elaborate on the pros of Japan - everybody knows that! 😂 I would, however, elaborate (or probably, hype) on what I really, really love when I was there.
💛 Great food and food hygiene
I have never seen anybody handling any food without gloves. The packaging was beautiful, the display was eye-catching.. almost everything was delicious! I mean.. just look at this *bucket* of Omakase Sashimi we had!
Our older kids take sashimi like us, even though it is raw. Thankfully, they have a pretty strong stomach so as long as these are properly prepared, they can eat them without issue. Our youngest 10-month-old, of course, wouldn't be fed raw food. However, she eats the rest of the food like a pro!
Baby eats the cooked shredded lobster in this Omakase sushi set.
Baby eats udon and egg in this spread.
Baby eats soba in this one.
I don't go through the hassle of cooking for my children, even for the youngest one, when we are travelling overseas cuz seriously... there is a reason why we call this a "holiday" ok 😂😂. Apart from the food that they share with us, we also prepare instant cereal and porridge where it can be prepared by just mixing hot water.
So, unless your child has dietary restrictions, I feel that you can really let them eat almost everything! You know, as compared to.. Bangkok perhaps? I would be inclined to let them stay away from street food if they are not freshly cooked kinda thing.
💛 Generally stroller-friendly
Most of the places we go to have very little stairs, and most of their subways, if I remember correctly, have lifts to bring you to different levels. That being said, though, I would still recommend parents to babywear their children if possible, because certain places are just too crowded to be pushing a stroller around.
Like Harajuku. WTF would you look at the crowd? I am not quite sure how I would manoeuvre my stroller through this!
💛 Low crime rate - 'nuff said.
💛 Availability of rest rooms - which is really great because hey, we all have kids who want to go toilet only when you tap into the station, don't we? You would be pleased to know that most subway stations and JR stations have restrooms located inside the paid area, so you won't have to tap out to relieve yourself.
💛 Generally courteous and helpful locals
Except for the grouchy cab driver we met on our first week of stay. Story below!
💛 A lot of tourist attractions are actually free of charge!
Yes, many, many places are free of charge. In fact, the only places that we spent money on entrance fees are Disneyland, Disneysea, Ueno Zoo and Legoland Discovery Center. Everything else was free.
Of course, nothing / nowhere is really perfect. Some of the cons I feel towards the Land of The Rising Sun are:
💔 High expenses
I think the high expenses puts me off quite a bit, especially when it comes to getting a taxi. This is my third time to Tokyo, but it is the first time where we travelled free and easy.
Having three kids in tow sometimes meant that we really NEED the additional convenience because.. imagine 2 adults hauling 3 kids, 2 luggages and 2 hand-carries? Not quite sure if we should use the left hand to pull the luggage, right hand hold one child... and then what's gonna happen to the hand-carry!
We only took the taxi twice in our entire stay, and both times were because we needed to deal with the heavy luggages.
Our first taxi ride was a short 5-minute ride to our AirBnb because that day when we reached, the wind was howling, the kids were screaming that they were cold... and we had absolutely zero directions to our apartment because we didn't have any maps and our Google Maps was not working because we had no Internet connection. 😱
Our Airbnb had portable wifi and we wanted to save some money on SIM card.. anyway, after 5 minutes of trying to figure out the right direction, we decided to just hop onto a cab. We knew we were really near, yet we had no inkling where the exact place was.
Thankfully, we decided on the cab because we were travelling in the exact opposite direction of where we should be walking! The 5-minute cab ride turn out to cost about SGD$10.
The second time we took a cab was when we transited from our accommodation at Roppongi to Magome. It was a 20 to 25-minute drive where we met the grumpiest driver because he absolutely couldn't tolerate my terrible Japanese ("Watashi wa... ano.. Magome ni... iki... ikitai?") 😂😂 He tsk-ed me really loudly when I gave up speaking Japanese and reverted to English.
That cab ride costs us almost $50SGD. I have never taken a $50 cab ride in Singapore ever. Even in a 25-minute journey!
💔 Space / Convenience / Affordability - You can only choose two
If you decide that you need more space because you have a big family like us, then you must be ready to pay more per night for accommodation.
|Our kids huddled in a single foldable bed playing their Lego because there are no more floor space! LOL|
Then when we moved to Magome, which is a more residential area where more locals lived, we had a really spacious apartment with a separate living area, bedroom, laundry room and toilet. It felt like a relief after being holed up at our tiny one-room studio apartment at Roppongi. Downside was that we had to walk 10 minutes to the subway station, which included several uphills and downhills.
The secludedness of the area also meant that it would be almost impossible to catch a cab at the area to send us to Haneda Airport when we were about to depart. That day, we left 2 hours early even though our apartment was a mere 10 minutes drive away from the airport.
***💔Damn difficult to locate the exact place!
OMG THIS. I really think it is not easy to locate the exact place of an apartment / restaurant, unless it is super huge and has super prominent signages. You know how addresses narrow down from the street, to the block.. and then to the unit number?
I think the Japanese addresses doesn't really work the way our addresses work? For example, we had an address like this:
7-8-7 PAL Roppongi 402
So when we showed it to our very helpful taxi driver whom we first met upon arrival, he enthusiastically keyed the address into his GPS... but when we got off....
This was the *exact* scene we saw. We were like...
"dafuq is 7-8-7?????????"
And then we realise, we had to look for something tiny like this, which can be located anywhere on the ground floor of the building, as long as it faces the road. That means that for some places, it can be located on the left, others right, some placed higher/lower than others...
Oh god, it is almost Mission Impossible because we really don't know where to look, and you would realise there are only two numbers below! Not sure if this is read as 21-9-2 or 2-21-9 seriously 😂😂
Every single place we went to, apart from the bigger amusement parks, we had to try to locate *the* place we wanted to go. I thought the hardest to navigate were places like Shinjuku because it is a battle of display signs... and everything is in a different language that we were comfortable in.
All we wanted was to look for Ichiran Ramen 😭😭😭
When choosing a place to stay: Great locations
Since Tokyo is really huge and most of the time you would require to take the subway, I would recommend staying as close to any subways as possible. However, if you do have the luxury to choose, the most convenient subway stations are:
Shinjuku is probably the most convenient place to stay as it gets you to popular places like Harajuku, Shibuya, Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine etc. in less than 5 quick stops
Roppongi is a great place to stay because it has its own entertainment area; travelling to the Shibuya area is also rather convenient with the Oedo Line as well. Running through Roppongi is another line, Hibiya, which connects you to Ginza.
When we stayed at Roppongi, it only took us about 45 minutes to get to Disneyland, which I think is not too far. There are also lots of fun places (like animal hospitals that you can walk in to see those adoraaaaable pets!) and great eats.
The Asakusa area connects you to Ueno Zoo and Tech City Akihabara really quickly. It might be a good place for you to stay if you are arriving/departing to/from Narita Airport, because the distance is pretty near.
Other slightly off-town areas that can bring you to town rather quickly are Meguro, Ebisu and Gotanda.
In those two weeks in Japan, we covered these places:
* Tokyo Disneyland
* Tokyo Disneysea
* Ueno Zoo
* HARRY Hedgehog Cafe
* Miss BUNNY Rabbit Cafe
* Legoland Discovery Center
* Asakusa Sensoji Temple
* Yotsuya-sanchome Fire Museum
* Owl Forest at Harajuku
Notable eating places are:
* Gram at Harajuku (limited edition fluffy pancakes that is served only to first 20 customers, three times daily)
* Aoi Marushin at Asakusa (Tendon and tempura)
* Ichiran Ramen at Shinjuku
* Isari Juhachiban (sashimi and sushi)
I look forward to writing up more in-depth reviews about these places, there are plenty of them that we really loved, while there are some... I think you are better off giving it a miss. Stay tuned to them by liking my Facebook page! 😊