Japan Travel with a Toddler — What to Know and Essential Tips

toddler in japan

Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by Kay

Thinking about visiting Japan with a toddler and wondering what you should know?

I’m a Canadian mom living in Japan with my family, including my daughter who has been raised here since birth. I also lived in Japan for almost a decade before having my child and I’m married to a Japanese national.

My family has traveled throughout the country with our little one and I’ve written many articles about our adventures, so I thought I should share some tips about what every parent should keep in mind before visiting Japan with their toddler and be prepared for once they’re here.

Do I think parents should travel to Japan with a toddler? Well, in theory, yes as Japan is a very family-friendly country. But this also depends on your child. Every child is different and some may be able to adapt to long trips or flights better than others. (You might be interested in reading my article on taking a 24-hour flight from Japan to Canada and back again with a toddler to see how my daughter handled it.)

You know your child the best, and I hope after reading this article, you’ll know what to be prepared for. And feel rest assured that Japan is very doable with a toddler. I went on many adventures in Japan with just me and my daughter which have become treasured memories.

Bed-Sharing and Futon

Hello Kitty Hotel Room in Japan at RESI STAY KYOTO

Toddlers usually stay for free at hotels in Japan, but this means you’ll likely be bed-sharing with them. Bed-sharing is quite common in Japan, but I understand this isn’t necessarily the case in other countries.

I suggest getting a hotel room with a king-size bed so that your toddler can sleep in between you and your partner and you can have enough space. Having your toddler sleep in between you and your partner prevents your toddler from falling off the bed as well. But keep in mind that they might kick you in the face in their sleep (as my lovely daughter does — why do toddlers move around so much when they’re sleeping?!).

Sometimes hotels will push twin beds together as well, so check with the hotel before booking to see whether this is possible.

I’ve written extensively about kid-friendly hotels in Japan, including ones that provide baby and toddler-friendly amenities, so please take a look!

If you’re a solo parent and worried about your child falling off the bed, you might want to consider staying at a ryokan. Ryokan typically provide futon to sleep on, which are laid on the floor. Note that with ryokan, you will need to pay an additional fee if you want your child to have their own meal and/or their own futon. But it’s nothing that breaks the bank, and the food is amazing.

Look for Toddler-Friendly Food and Restaurants

where to eat with babies and toddlers in japan

Thankfully, there’s lots of toddler-friendly food in Japan. In fact, I’ve written an article all about it! And even if there aren’t meals specific for a toddler at a restaurant, most don’t care about a parent sharing a meal with their child (which is what we do often).

Keep in mind that sometimes it can be difficult to get a restaurant to accommodate allergies. I highly recommend using Google Translate or Google Lens and sharing your child’s allergies with the restaurant before being seated.

Some restaurants may not have high chairs, booster seats, or utensils for kids. I recommend bringing your own utensils for your child if you would prefer they feed themselves, especially since some restaurants might only have chopsticks, and bring a lightweight travel booster seat.

There are restaurants that do not allow children. These are usually higher-end restaurants, although once I wasn’t allowed to go to a hole-in-the-wall omurice restaurant in Osaka because according to the owner, my daughter wouldn’t be able to finish an entire meal (for adults, there was no kids meal). I felt that was up to me to decide but I decided it wasn’t worth it to argue and left.

If you don’t want to encounter possibly being rejected by a restaurant (although it happens seldomly), use Tabelog to find child-friendly restaurants near you. It’s a lifesaver! (Anything rated above a 3.2 is pretty good.)

Family restaurants tend to be your best bet when it comes to toddler-friendly food. And kids usually get a toy! I share food and my experience at family restaurants in Japan in this article, as well as helpful restaurant vocab, so make sure to give it a read.

There’s also a wide array of food that toddlers can eat from convenience stores in Japan, including fruits and veggies. I love visiting convenience stores with my daughter to get a little treat for both of us!

Baby stores in Japan also carry many snacks for smaller toddlers, like cookies and rice crackers, which are essential when you’re traveling to keep little ones from getting hangry!

Use Baby Rooms

When you hear or read the phrase, “Baby Rooms”, you may not think it applies to toddlers. But if your toddler still needs their diaper changed, this is a good place to go. You can change their diaper in private and throw away the diaper.

These rooms also provide hot water if you need it for follow-up formula or any food and breastfeeding space if you need it.

I’ve written an article about baby rooms in Japan so please give it a read!

Children’s Toilets — Not As Common As You May Think

A few months ago, I saw a video going around of a new mom in Japan who claimed that all bathrooms (washrooms, whatever you call it) in Japan had children’s toilets, and that made me chuckle.

Most bathrooms do not have small toilets for kids! You’re most likely to find them in shopping malls like LaLaport, AEON, and Q’s Mall, but even then, not all the bathrooms will have them.

Some bathrooms will have potty rings hanging in the toilets, although it’s more common in women’s bathrooms than men’s. I’ve also seen many with small urinals for little boys, as shown below.

children's toilets in Japan

If you can, bring a portable potty ring with you when you travel to Japan. This was very helpful for me when my daughter was around two to three years old.

Bathrooms can also be very small and sometimes I have to keep the door open (in the women’s washroom) so that I can crouch down and hold my daughter when she goes to the washroom.

Also, note that sometimes soap might not be available in bathrooms, so try to have some paper soap or sanitizer on hand.

Bring a hand towel as well as some bathrooms won’t have any hand dryers or paper towels. (My daughter is also scared of hand dryers so she won’t use them.)

Consider Diapers, Formula, and Other Supplies

If your toddler is still working on toilet training, they might still be in diapers (pull-ups). You’ll want to bring some from home, just enough to help before you go shopping for some.

I have an article about buying diapers in Japan, which I wrote with travelers with kids in mind. I’ve also written an article about pull-up diapers in Japan, so give it a read to figure out in advance what kind you might want to try first with your toddler.

Having tried pull-up diapers in Canada, I will say that I prefer Japanese diapers. In my opinion, they’re more soft and absorbent, so I definitely recommend giving them a try!

In terms of formula, it may be best to bring what you use from home just in case Japanese formulas don’t sit well with your child. But you know your child the best, and if you think they can handle a new formula, then by all means try one of the toddler formulas here! I’ve written an article about the different types of formula in Japan so check it out.

I also recommend bringing travel-sized bottles of your child’s shampoo and body soap, because the travel-sized ones in Japan are quite small and the regular-sized bottles are not travel-friendly.

Bring Medication

I’ve found that over-the-counter medication for children in Japan is quite weak and there is nothing as good as Children’s Tylenol or Advil when it comes to fevers. I stock up on those whenever I’m in North America because you won’t find them in Japan!

It’s also a bit scary to have your child use medication from another country, especially if you’re relying on a translation app to read the instructions (which can be hit or miss). So I highly encourage parents visiting Japan with their little ones to bring the medication from your home country that your child has tried before and that you feel comfortable with.

If you want to know more about children’s medication in Japan and where to find a doctor, I cover this in my article on traveling with a baby in Japan.

If you need bandages for your toddler, drugstores and children’s stores have plenty for little ones. If you need to ask someone for a bandage, just show the image below or ask, “Kodomo no bansoukou arimasuka?

bandages for kids in Japan

Give Your Toddler Fun Tasks

Kids can get bored easily so to keep them engaged (and away from any mischief or prevent meltdowns), try to give them a fun task to do. For example, ask them to help you find a train line (these tend to be colored in Japan to make it easy for everyone to find, so you can ask “Can you find the purple line?”). You can ask them to carry something as well.

You can also get them a camera for kids so they can take photos of their trip. My daughter has a VTech one and she loves it, especially since it has games as well.

To help parents traveling in Japan, I’ve created a fun scavenger hunt for toddlers to do. Subscribe below to receive it for FREE!

 

Do Toddler-Friendly Activities

This is a no-brainer. Toddlers want to have fun and have lots of energy to expend, so you’ll want to plan tons of exciting activities for them.

It’s really funny how kids will whine that they’re tired or want to go home, but the moment you decide to take them somewhere they can play, they suddenly have tons of energy. Or at least my daughter does!

If you’re wondering what to do with your toddler in Japan, from interactive museums to indoor and outdoor playgrounds, you’ll want to read these articles.

Toddlers and Public Transport in Japan

toddler in front of Miffy Hankyu train in Osaka

In Japan, the train and bus fare for children up until the age of 6 (so ages 5 and under) are free, so they don’t need to buy a ticket.

This applies to all trains except those requiring reserved seating (such as the Shinkansen — but if your child sits on your lap, you don’t need to buy them a ticket).

Children ages six to 11 are required to buy a children’s ticket.

I feel that I should also mention that kids in Japan are generally quiet on public transport. I seldom encounter screaming or shouting unless a child is having a really bad day. (People usually sympathize but some, just like in any country, can get annoyed by it.)

So please emphasize to your child that they should use their quiet voice on trains. Also, make sure they don’t stand on the seats or watch videos without headphones.

Trains also leave right away, especially Shinkansen, so do not let your toddler run ahead and get on before you or vice versa. Hold their hand! There can be wide gaps between the platform and train as well, and a toddler can easily get their foot stuck. I was really scared about this when my daughter was younger so I would carry her on and off the train.

Children Ages Three and Under are Free at Tokyo Disney and Universal Studios

Ariel's Playground at Tokyo DisneySea Japan

I absolutely loved taking my daughter to Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, and Universal Studios Japan. She not only had fun at all the theme parks, but children ages three and under are free! So I definitely recommend taking advantage of this.

If you’re interested, I’ve written in-depth articles about my experiences taking my toddler to the aforementioned theme parks:

Wrap-up: Japan Travel with a Toddler

toddler in japan

Japan is a fantastic country to take a toddler because there’s so much to do! And now that you know what to be prepared for, I hope your trip will go smoother, even in light of possible meltdowns and tantrums.

I suggest also checking out my article on traveling in Japan with a baby as some of the tips might apply to your toddler as well.

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As a small token of my appreciation, I'll also send you a FREE Japanese and English printable to help your little one learn all about words associated with Summer in Japan