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2 weeks travelling solo with kids in Japan...
Which cities???


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#1 lizzzard

Posted 04 February 2013 - 01:22 PM

I would love some advice/suggestions to help with my planning for an upcoming trip to Japan.

I am planning a trip in July(ish) for about 12 days and will be travelling with my two kiddies – DS4 and DD6. It will be just me as I’m keen to spend some time alone with the kids because I travel alot for work and they already spend quite a bit of time with DH (he also can’t get additional leave this year). I am a pretty seasoned traveller, but have never been to Japan. I’ll be travelling minimally with a large pack+daypack for myself, and small/light day-packs for the kids.

I would like to get a rail pass and spend a few days in several different cities. My problem is prioritising! My ideal list would include Toyko, Mt Fuji, Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto....but rail passes are only for 7 days or 14 days. Since I don’t want to be too rushed (esp with the kids in tow) I want to allow full days for travelling (even though travel might only = a few hours, I know it will be more relaxed this way), plus a full day in each city outside Tokyo. This means I will need to buy a 14 day pass and ‘waste’ 5-ish days, or buy a 7 day pass and skip one of the cities.

So a few questions...
Which cities would you prioritise?
Are there any others besides those listed you think are definitely worth seeing?
Would you spend more than 1 day in any of the cities besides Tokyo?
Are there any that are especially good for kids?
Any other tips for travelling to Japan, by myself, with children?

Thanks for any tips!


#2 IVL

Posted 04 February 2013 - 02:01 PM

Hi Lizzard,

I did something similar when my girls were young (2 and newborn). I ended up getting an escort/nanny as I really needed an extra set of hands to manage the logistics of travel with a baby and toddler. With the age of your kids I think it will be a breeze! I would choose 3 desitinations. You could combine Tokyo and Mt Fuji as it just a train trip there and back which can be done in a (long) day, but I am sure they will sleep on the way back. As for the other destinations it depends on what you want to see of Japan, do you want big modern mega cities or do you want to see some history and tradition.

We stayed in mostly in Ryokans, which is the tradtional Japanese style of hostels where you get a bed and bathroom and dinner/breakfast. I found these really practical for families travelling together as me and the girls could all sleep together. Just so long as you don't mind a firm bed.

Every single person I encounted was falling over themselves to help me with the kids. Be prepared to get some very suprised reactions from the locals. I don't think females travel alone all that often with kids in Japan.

#3 immismum

Posted 04 February 2013 - 02:15 PM

If it were me, I'd look at skipping both Nagoya and Osaka as basically they are big cities without a lot of historical stuff there.  I don't think you get anything very different to Tokyo.  The only reason you'd go to Osaka would be to go to Universal Studios,and you could go to Tokyo Disneyland instead.

If you are in Kyoto, maybe look at doing a bike trip at Lake Biwa, as hiring a bike, and hopefully getting a bike seat for you younger child should be quite easy.

Definitely add Hiroshima though, and Miyajima Island.

Japan is lovely, and sticking to the tourist track should make it relatively easy in terms of English.  Be warned though, July in Japan is very hot and humid, (and unrelenting) if you could plan your trip for maybe September, you would have a much easier time in terms of weather.

#4 mum2_1

Posted 04 February 2013 - 02:18 PM

Which cities would you prioritise?

1. kyoto- i would definitely recommend more than 1 day here
2. mt fuji- easy enough to fit it in on the way to a city or back to tokyo
3. Nagoya, - havent been here
4. Osaka - nor here

you will notice i left Tokyo off the list- are you flying in and out of tokyo?  you can use 'local fare/tickets' for travel within tokyo and then have your rail pass start when you move from here to your first city (does this make sense).  Also I didnt much like tokyo i didnt feel connected there- its hard to explain...but kyoto was heaven

if you can fit it in, i would recommend Hiroshima, it is an absolutely beautiful city that obviously has a lot of history there is a wonderful museum and park,  but at the opposite end from tokyo (i think from memory it was a 5hr + train ride)

i second the ryokans, usually family run and a much more intimate experience,

Traveling in Japan was so easy- people are incredibly polite and almost always eager to help.  I had one lovely gentleman who walked me to the ladies bathroom because he couldn't explain to me how to get there in his limited english, bless him.

oh i miss it!



#5 ImpatientAnna

Posted 04 February 2013 - 02:26 PM

QUOTE (immismum @ 04/02/2013, 03:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If it were me, I'd look at skipping both Nagoya and Osaka as basically they are big cities without a lot of historical stuff there.  I don't think you get anything very different to Tokyo.  The only reason you'd go to Osaka would be to go to Universal Studios,and you could go to Tokyo Disneyland instead.

If you are in Kyoto, maybe look at doing a bike trip at Lake Biwa, as hiring a bike, and hopefully getting a bike seat for you younger child should be quite easy.

Definitely add Hiroshima though, and Miyajima Island.

Japan is lovely, and sticking to the tourist track should make it relatively easy in terms of English.  Be warned though, July in Japan is very hot and humid, (and unrelenting) if you could plan your trip for maybe September, you would have a much easier time in terms of weather.


I second adding Hiroshima and Miyajima. I would also add Nara for the deer park and giant Buddha, but you can always travel there from Kyoto. Will type more later from computer

#6 elegie

Posted 04 February 2013 - 02:41 PM

Sounds like great fun! I'd also recommend skipping Nagoya and Osaka - they are (in my humble opinion) not worth setting foot in, unless you want to go to USJ or the big ferris wheel in Osaka, or see Nagoya-jo (castle), which is nowhere near as attractive or interesting as many other castles in Japan.

I assume you want to see Mt Fuji but not actually climb it - in which case a trip to Hakone or Kawaguchi-ko is worthwhile. I also think Hiroshima and Miyajima are an absolute must (a day for each), and Himeji Castle is beautiful too.

If your trip is 12 days I think a 7-day rail pass will be enough if you plan your time well. If you're flying return to Tokyo, you could spend 2-3 days there either side of your trip, and if you're arriving Tokyo and departing from Kansai you could spend a few days in Kyoto before you leave. Definitely at least 2 days in Kyoto anyway.

There are plenty of good day trips to do from Tokyo - Nikko, Kamakura, Disneyland - and lots to do in the city itself - Tokyo Tower, Sky Tree, shopping, Asakusa, parks, Kiddyland shop in Harajuku (your kids could easily spend a day there!). There is a cute old amusement park in Asakusa called Hanayashiki, I haven't been there yet but have heard great things about it.
http://www.hanayashiki.net/e/index.html

I second staying in ryokans too. It's so much easier with kids when you can sleep on a futon on tatami, rather than worrying about beds, and you get to enjoy the traditional setting original.gif
And yes, July in Japan is hot and sticky so be prepared.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like some more advice; I live in Tokyo.

ETA Nara is nice too but if you're going to Miyajima you'll see plenty of deer there so no need for a special trip to Nara for the deer.

Edited by elegie, 04 February 2013 - 03:09 PM.


#7 bjk76

Posted 04 February 2013 - 02:48 PM

Just wanted to agree with ImpatientAnna that the deer park in Nara, near Kyoto, is worth visiting with kids, although the deer do get quite pushy if you've got food and that may be frightening for children. - They are roaming around freely.

I also second PPs that the Japanese people are SO lovely and helpful towards travellers and with kids, I'd expect them to be even more so! I just had to stand with a map in a Tokyo train station for 30 seconds before someone would come and ask me where I wanted to go and then take me there. I spoke a little bit of Japanese, but people assumed I didn't know any and would just gesture to communicate.

One time I'd gotten on the wrong train in Kyoto and ended up going out of the city into the countryside, rather than staying in the city. I explained that I was on the wrong train to the conductor (I had a rail pass I didn't want to waste on this) and he was fine with this. On the journey back into Kyoto, I was sitting opposite a very serious looking business man, who sat staring ahead, stony-faced. I got off the train in Kyoto and walked over to a station map to try to figure out which train I should have caught. The business man walked past me, then stopped, returned and asked me where I wanted to go. I told him, then he led me to the right platform!

Enjoy your time there!

#8 Lagom

Posted 04 February 2013 - 03:00 PM

I haven't taken the kids to Japan but have travelled there extensively myself.  I agree with PPs and would do Tokyo and Kyoto.  Japanese people are very friendly IMO and I've never encountered difficulties there outside language.  I speak basic Japanese and read many Chinese characters so was able to get by.  It can be hard to find someone who can speak English outside big cities (even in them)!  
Travelling with kids I like to slow things down so would rather only move twice.  There is more than enough in both Tokyo and Kyoto for you to spend 5-7 days in each.  In July the weather makes doing things outdoors exhausting so I would also take that into consideration.
Have fun!

#9 ImpatientAnna

Posted 04 February 2013 - 06:26 PM

Ok at my computer so can write a little more.  I have done one big trip to Japan pre kids, and one with a 6 month old and found Japan to be the most kid friendly place on earth.  Everyone is very accommodating of children, to the point where every time we sat down in a restaurant they set a place for my DS too which was very cute.

If it were me I would do as a PP stated and just get the 7 day rail pass as you can do a lot of trips out of Tokyo.  I would fly in to Tokyo, and a great place to stay with kids is the Shinagawa Prince Hotel.  It is right at the shinkansen station so you are ready to travel south, plus when you fly in it's a direct airport express stop.  There is an aquarium, 80 lane bowling alley etc etc - heaps of stuff for kids for a day to recuperate after the flight....so maybe stay 2 nights.  The hotel isn't flash but there is heaps to do and it's well located!  If you do stay there, stay in the main tower!

Then hop on a skinkansen to Hiroshima (maybe 2 nights), also go to Miyajima whilst there (you need a whole day), stop at Kyoto for a few days because you can also do a day trip to Uji/Nara.  Kyoto in itself is lovely though - my personal have place is Kiyomizudera, it is a beautiful world heritage site. Also between Hiroshima and Kyoto stop off at Himeji for the castle there.

Then come back to Tokyo for the remainder of the time.  In Tokyo, I would make sure I saw Hachiko crossing from the Starbucks in Shibuya, Tokyo Disney, Harajuku on a Sunday, Ueno zoo area (tons of museums, Odaiba, Asakusa (your kids will probably be templed out but more for the tourist shopping)

#10 ImpatientAnna

Posted 04 February 2013 - 07:06 PM

Ooohhh and forgot to mention, on the way from Kyoto to Tokyo get off at odawara and do the hakone free pass (google) for mt Fuji . Be warned - it's a long day though

#11 little lion

Posted 04 February 2013 - 07:16 PM

QUOTE (lizzzard @ 04/02/2013, 01:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I would love some advice/suggestions to help with my planning for an upcoming trip to Japan.

I am planning a trip in July(ish) for about 12 days and will be travelling with my two kiddies – DS4 and DD6. It will be just me as I’m keen to spend some time alone with the kids because I travel alot for work and they already spend quite a bit of time with DH (he also can’t get additional leave this year). I am a pretty seasoned traveller, but have never been to Japan. I’ll be travelling minimally with a large pack+daypack for myself, and small/light day-packs for the kids.

I would like to get a rail pass and spend a few days in several different cities. My problem is prioritising! My ideal list would include Toyko, Mt Fuji, Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto....but rail passes are only for 7 days or 14 days. Since I don’t want to be too rushed (esp with the kids in tow) I want to allow full days for travelling (even though travel might only = a few hours, I know it will be more relaxed this way), plus a full day in each city outside Tokyo. This means I will need to buy a 14 day pass and ‘waste’ 5-ish days, or buy a 7 day pass and skip one of the cities.

So a few questions...
Which cities would you prioritise?
Are there any others besides those listed you think are definitely worth seeing?
Would you spend more than 1 day in any of the cities besides Tokyo?
Are there any that are especially good for kids?
Any other tips for travelling to Japan, by myself, with children?

Thanks for any tips!


I haven't got time to read PPs ...

Kyoto is way better (IMO) than Osaka, which I describe as a poor man's Tokyo. (I lived in Tokyo so am biased.) I would spend a night at Hakone (or somewhere near Mt Fuji) stay in a ryokan or onsen hotel, then do a week in Tokyo, about three days in Kyoto.

Make at least a day trip from Tokyo to Yokohama.

Tokyo Disneyland would be fun for kids.

You'll do a heap of walking so try to stay close to a train station on the JR lines. I prefer places on the Yamanote line, the big ring around Tokyo. Your rail passes won't be wasted because you'll use them to get from place to place in Tokyo. original.gif Just remember not all lines belong to JR, therefore you'll need to buy a ticket for those.

Have a great trip!


#12 TinMan

Posted 04 February 2013 - 07:26 PM

My favourite Japan planning website Japan-Guide.

We've travelled many many times to Japan with the children in my sig.

I think you're right to take it steady with kids esp in July as PPs have mentioned.

Lots of walking in Japan- so tired little feet at the end of the day.

I would probably try to plan an itinerary around a 7 day rail pass.

Things my kids have loved over the years- Miyajima, zoos, gardens, Nijo Castle in Kyoto with the nightingale floor, Fushimi Inari with the tori gates, and always Disneyland/Sea- but my kids love eating ice cream on the shinkansen too.

Enjoy the planning I find that half the fun.

#13 lizzzard

Posted 04 February 2013 - 08:11 PM

Thankyou SO much for all the wonderful suggestions guys!!! What a wealth of information you have all provided - I really appreciate it so much and will definitely be taking everyone's ideas on board biggrin.gif

#14 danielle1985

Posted 04 February 2013 - 09:32 PM

Hi! We went on a 3 week honeymoon to Japan and I absolutely loved it an cannot wait to go back! I will PM you through the itineraries and costings I am working on at the moment but they are very much a work in progress. There are a few places (such as Nikko, highly recommend as a day trip) that we will not be going back to as we have already seen it. For the same reason we will not go back to Hakone or may do it as a day trip, even though we really enjoyed it. I am very happy to help with planning or give advice if you need it original.gif (Then at least someone gets to go!)

I second Japan-guide too original.gif I actually loved Osaka (you would only need a few days tops though). The best day (which kids will love) is going to the AMAZING aquarium and then going across on the ferry to Universal studios. We did the aquarium until 12ish then universal and were home by 630ish.

#15 niban

Posted 04 February 2013 - 09:52 PM


Summer is REALLY hot and humid in Japan (and the temps in the cities don't drop much overnight), esp with little kids I think you really need to factor this in.  I wouldn't try to go from place to place but base myself in Tokyo and Kyoto and do day trips from there - really easy with the shinkansen, I would often go to Osaka for the day from Tokyo.  Personally Kyoto would be my absolute pick that time of year - not only is there so much there, Nara, Kobe and Osaka are all within very easy reach.
Make sure to check out some summer festivals too original.gif

#16 MangoTango

Posted 05 February 2013 - 12:47 AM

Japan is incredible and the super efficient transport systems  (especially the Shinkansen) makes it a relatively easy to navigate country.  

In terms of itinerary, I would suggest 4 to 5 days in Tokyo (incl. a day at Tokyo Disney and day trip to Kamukura), 3 days in Hiroshima (with a day trip to Miyajima), 4 days in Kyoto (with day trips to Nara and Osaka) and possibly an overnight stay near Fuji-san on your way to/from Tokyo.

I'd also suggest that you start the rail pass at the end of your Tokyo leg and then you should only need a 7-day pass.

Summer will definitely be hot and humid, so may not be ideal conditions for sightseeing.

Happy planning - Japan is definitely one of my most favourite places in Asia and you won't regret going there!

#17 Sal78

Posted 05 February 2013 - 03:09 AM

this is our itinerary

osaka(we took the train from airport straight to kyoto)- kyoto - day trip to arashimaya and monkey park - hiroshima (detour at himeji to see castle) - day trip to miyajima - takashimaya (long journey but well worth it)- hakone - tokyo - kyoto (spent 2 nights in kyoto)

it was the perfect itinerary for us. we went in october for the Koya season (autumn leaves) which imho is much prettier than cherry blossom. The mountains had 3 colours with snow capped at the top, auburn in the middle and green at the bottom...The temples, miyajima, arashimaya were all exceptionally beautiful.
It's a very busy season though coz Japanese loves nothing more than touring their own country and the temples were packed with japanese viewing autumn leaves.

we managed to fit un ueno zoo, disneyland and osaka aquarium too. I think we really got our money's worth with the 14 day rail pass.

Highlight were Arashimaya for koyo viewing, Hiroshima (kids will love the museum), Miyajima, Takashimaya (we loved this place soo much!), Osaka and in Tokyo, we like Asakusa.

Did not love kyoto, just the shrines, especially the one with lots of Tori Gates.

I feel we didn't get to see the best of Tokyo with kids. Tokyo Disneyland was a bad experience, wet, cold and incredibly busy. Everything was in Japanese with no translation and staff could not even help us. It's ok but as I've been to most of them, Tokyo Disney is bottom of the list.

Thinking of going back to Tokyo with just dh and sampling the great night life, quirky restaurants, bars etc all my friends rave about. We loved the Dotamburri in Osaka. Want to go up North next time..

Comparing Tokyo and Seoul..Seoul!

Edited by Sal78, 05 February 2013 - 03:10 AM.





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