After returning from our second holiday in Japan (now affectionately known as our “Japanniversary”), I have some handy tips for all of you parents out there to save you time, energy, frustration or embarrassment for your visit to Japan. On this visit we were able to spend time again in Osaka and Kyoto, as well as Nara. Next trip we’re hoping to head to Kobe, up to Sapporo, and most probably to visit our pen pals in Osaka again.
- Stay hydrated! Since we spent most of our days walking with our eyes wide open and concentrating on the sights and our senses were occupied, we didn’t drink enough and this may effect the little ones more than you. Just a word though, the tap Water is chlorinated, within “safe” levels.
- Everything regarding the public transport is so efficient – don’t stuff it up by standing on the left or boarding before others leave the train/bus.
- Nishiki Markets in Kyoto are a must do as well but if you have more than 2 small children consider giving it a miss if they can’t handle squashy crowds. Samples and demonstrations are plenty and the food range is awesome.
- Proteins & fats are hard to come by in restaurants and more expensive in supermarkets – considering that weight training and daily movement are part of our family lifestyle, we generally do well on consuming more protein and fats. However, staples for the Japanese are predominantly carbohydrates so bear this in mind. We took along some hydrolysed collagen to help out. Super greens won’t hurt either if you’re used to eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables and won’t have access to your own kitchen.
- If you’re a coffee snob like myself, consider taking along an aeropress and your own ground coffee if you’ll have access to a kettle. ‘%’ coffee in Arashiyama is excellent, but be prepared to wait atleast 30 minutes as the line often twists out the door & around the corner. ‘LILO Coffee’ in Amerikamura (Osaka) is also a must for coffee lovers.
- Teach your children manners – it is normal for people in Japan to be respectful and display manners and courtesy at all times. If you show and teach your children what is acceptable, you’ll find the experience all the more pleasant.
- If you’re heading to Osaka an absolute MUST is to take your children to the Kids Plaza Osaka! Perfect on rainy days it’s a 3 level discovery & play Centre you could probably spend 3 days in if they wanted to experience each activity to its fullest. Ages 3 & up is best I think, however there are stations for babies/toddlers which are lovely too. Nature, Science, Culture, Technology, Imagination… everything is physically and mentally engaging. Perfect. The ticket price is more than worth it and well within budget! The link is here; http://www.kidsplaza.or.jp/en/
- Another few awesome attractions are the Arashiyama Monkey Park (Arashiyama is approx 25/35minute bus ride from Kyoto) a 160m climb with a mountain top park which protects Japanese Macaques, and Nara Park (5 minutes walk from Nara train station) which is filled with temples, museums, historical buildings, and wild deer roaming free. A word of warning – please please please pay attention to the signage with instruction on how to treat the animals – we witnessed a number of close calls simply because people ignored warnings. They are still wild animals. Make sure you and your children respect them, please. Then there’s the Osaka Castle and citizens park – so much to see in the grounds & surrounds as well as the brilliance of the castle itself.
- Be aware of smoking & non smoking in restaurants – if this is an issue for you please keep an eye out for the ash trays on tables, especially if you’re not confident with your pronounciation of “can we have non-smoking please”, or don’t recognize the characters. A positive note though, in public areas and all playgrounds there are designated “Manners Stations” where smokers must smoke – I love these as it’s easy to move your children from those areas when smokers arrive.
- Kimonos versus Yukatas – so both are traditional dress however the Kimono is more formal and the Yukata more casual. For both males & females of all ages. But be aware, Kimonos can be worn incorrectly which may offend, so if you’re hiring one please have the attendant dress you or help you. Kimonos are also considerably more expensive and custom made to order according to your social status. The Yukata is much more affordable (and easier to put on) as a souvenir if you’re wanting to purchase something like that. Prices range from $45aud and up where as Kimonos start in the 100’s and 1000’s.
- Dining – everywhere is good. Haha! Some better than others but if you’ve never been to a “real” automated sushi train please do – the kids will love using the screen/tablet to order and the speed at which the made-to-order dishes come along the track.
- Take a phrase book or app – as with most countries, an attempt to speak the language is welcomed and often you’ll be able to get by piece by piece even if the person you’re speaking to doesn’t know any English.
I highly recommend Japan as a destination so please go and please enjoy!