Goodmorning moms and dads! I hope you’ve been enjoying our stories about feeding baby Princess in Japan. Because today, it is Japan again. I guess that the fact that I’m craving for having sushi at Tsukiji fish market (which is now only for food, the tuna auctions moved to Toyosu market) is making me developing a Japan obsession. No, don’t worry, I’m not turning the whole thing into the umpteenth cooking blog: we have a good bunch of them already. As my mind goes back to our extraordinary trip (because it is an extraordinary Country), I’m more and more convinced that it was just perfect to be there before Princess becomes a toddler. Seriously, of all the destinations that I’d like to visit (and the list is sooo long), I cannot think of anything better than travelling to Japan with a baby, hence for the first year of life, assuming one becomes a toddler at around one year. Let’s see why.
You can walk with a stroller everywhere. Look at that elevator sign above. This is THE sign and you’ll find it everywhere. In Tokyo’s main stations and in the small villages on the Okinawa’s island. Japanese respect those who cannot use the escalators or the stairs as nobody else, at least as far as I could see. Elevators are so ever-present that I can name the only time we were in troubles with our baby’s stroller. It was in Shin-Okubo station, Yamanote line, in Tokyo’s subway. They were indeed working on it. People who saw us carrying the stroller down the stairs suddenly rushed to help us. In general, strollers are not a problem: they fit on Shinkansen trains, they normally fit in restaurants (even if you might need to fold them), temples are accessible . Only Fushimi Inari temple in Kyoto is actually difficult to visit with a stroller, as the most interesting part is the walk up the hill under red toriis. No worries: you can leave the stroller under custody before you start your visit for the equivalent of 4 euros (4,6 US dollars) in an office nearby: just ask the information point and they will show you the location. This sounded just awesome to us: we left the stroller, picked up the baby carrier from our backpack and did the whole walk. Watch out: it closes at 3 p.m., while the shrine closes at 5 p.m., so make sure you calculate your timings correctly (not like I do, be like my hubby).
Clean, very clean, steril. I’ve never seen a cleanest place than Japan. Not even my house, I admit. Even if you sleep on a budget, as we didmost of the nights, you’ll end up in a guesthouse where you are not allowed to get in with your shoes on. They enforce the rule very strictly. I tell you that, on our arrival in Kyoto, we were by mistake doing an extra step towards the interior of our guesthouse before putting off our shoes. They looked at us in a disgusted way, as if we were directly coming from Neanderthal to Kyoto without going through millenians of civilization and we were asked to go away unless we would put on the spillers (which they provide, everywhere). Considering that, everytime I ask my guests (coming to my home) if they can “please, take off your shoes, I’m so very sorry, but the baby is going around and putting things in her mouth, etc. etc. “, they normally look at me as if I was asking the weirdest thing ever, you can understand that the level of civilization of the Japanese is indeed at a higher stage than ours. We had no problems in letting baby Princess playing around, with such a degree of cleanness. This is something very specific of Japan (though I wish it wasn’t).
Tatami, fouton beds and chabudai tables. Besides cleanness, Japanese interiors are designed for babies that are not yet able to stand and walk. Especially foutons turns out to be extremely confortable if you sleep on a budget. Normally, budget places don’t have cribbs, which means that your baby is sleeping with you. If he/she is very little (0-6 months) this is basically no problem. From 6 months, it becomes dangerous, as you need to constantly be there to avoid the baby moves and falls down the bed. Foutons are the solution to this problem: we had a great time relaxing with a book while Princess was still awake , playing in bed. When it comes to dining, chabudai is also very helpful as it is at the level of your baby while seated. Moreover, chabudai tables stand on tatami-covered floor, where you access without shoes: this is very convenient because babies can freely crawl around.
Healthy and yummy fresh food. I’ve extensevely talked about this on our wean like a local category, so I suggest that you have a look to how we managed to feed Princess in Japan when she was eight month old. The main takeaway here is: not only adults can develop an addiction to Japanese cuisine. When we were back I had to “disguise” meat within a plate of white rice to Princess, unless she would not have it.
Your baby will be a star. Japanese love babies and they go bananas for Western babies traveling to Japan. Princess was a sort of Hollywood star in Japan. People stopped us to cheer her and play with her. This was the best way to be in touch with the lovely and polite population there. The very best memory from Japan, I admit, is the people.
You can show off this list to judgemental relatives/friends. You must have one of those. It is a fact that when you tell your intentions to travel a long-haul with a baby, they are gonna ask the million-dollar question: “Oh. You going to Japan. Is your baby coming with you?”. Now. I know that you are dying for staging an answer like “Oh no, she’s off to Mykonos this year. You know… I’m worried she’ll have too many milk-and-cocoa-powder but all her friends were going. We couldn’t really say no”. Still, diplomacy can be a much way to go on enjoying the barbecue . So, go ahead and show off these points. Please do.