The streets and train stations of Tokyo, especially central Tokyo, are not exactly baby/child friendly. Finding a seat on a train or bus when you’re pregnant is tough. And if you’re pregnant and have a little one in tow, or are getting from A to B with several little ones, good luck to ya! Here are my tried and tested tips for getting around Tokyo.
I recently went to The Very Hungry Caterpillar themed cafe in Ginza. While I had trouble making my way to my exit, it was mild compared to my Shinjuku disaster a few months back.
A 30 minute train ride from Shinjuku to my home station turned into a nightmare 3 hour train trip. It was awful! And all because I forgot to bring my baby carrier!
The Problem With Tokyo’s Efficient Transportation
Let me get this out the way – I think the transportation system here is uh-ma-zing. I’ve been all over Asia’s major cities, capital cities of Europe, and rode trains in LA and NYC.
Tokyo’s transportation network is practically flawless, except for one tiny, tiny detail – the passengers are cold AF! Maybe you gotta put on your resting bitch face to survive life in the concrete jungle. But it wouldn’t hurt salaryman Jiro or school boy Taro to give up their seat to a passenger in need!
No doubt you’ve heard about Japan’s priority seats and “Women Only Cars.” (which are a bit of a misnomer. The fine print says that elementary school aged boys or younger, disabled persons and their helpers are allowed to ride in the carriage).
I worked right up until I was 34 weeks pregnant and continued to travel around town until I gave birth. (The day I went into labor, my husband and I were all dressed up to go on a date!)
Now the monster comes to work with me 1 or 2 days a week. I know what it’s like taking a baby out during rush hour. Here are the lessons that I’ve learned:
By Bus is the Way To Go
Trains are speedy and punctual, but buses are a comfortable way to get around. I used the orange and green Toei buses all throughout my pregnancy. Even now, I use them in getting around my side of Tokyo, and also getting to and from my home train station.
It might be intimidating at first, but once you master the bus system, it’s hard to travel by train.. Did I mention the free wi-fi?
Buy a One Day Pass
You might think that you don’t need a one day pass. After all, you’re just heading 3 stations away.
But, one day passes really do come in handy. Some bathrooms in train stations are located outside the ticket gate. Meaning, you’ll have to exit the gate, then re-enter.
Other times, you might want to console a fussy child by getting off your train or bus and walking around a bit.
Finally, there might be a nice park (or sale!) that catches your eye from the train or bus window.
Plan to arrive at your destination at least 45 minutes early. Sounds like a pain but you’ll need it.
Here’s here most of your time will go: Waiting for elevators; waiting for the sole multi purpose toilet with a baby changing table; waiting to use the sole nursing room; struggling with fussy kids; changing diapers; feeding hungry mouths; backtracking to the right exit, bus stop, or train platform.
I forgot to mention toilet time for mama — that all adds up! Arrive early and you’ll have time to take care of your little ones and yourself, before getting down to business.
Take a Stroller
Even if your little one doesn’t like strollers, you’ll appreciate it it as a way to carry extra stuff.
Babywearing For the Win
Some parents don’t want to babywear, and I respect that choice. But, in a city where elevators are narrow and in high demand, sometimes taking the stairs is your best option.
This hands free option lets you grab your chance to buy a drink, carry extra things, jot down directions, and so on.
Plus it’s a great way to calm down a child overstimulated from a new environment.
My Ergo Baby is my BFF, and I even nurse in it. Which can be awkward when people try to peek in and they get a face full of boob. Awkward for them, not me. I didn’t ask them to come see the baby.
Something thin that you can throw into your bag all year round.
First Aid Kit
I always take a thermometer, baby scissors, bangadges, antibacterial wipes and gel, gas drops and teething gel.
Spare Clothes and Plastic Bags
Just in case. Trust me, I’ve been there. 5 words for you: Massive. Diaper. Blowout. In. IKEA.
Diapers and Wipes
While Japanese convenience store seem to sell everything they don’t sell diapers and wipes gentle for babies soft skin.
Most restaurants and cafes have a kids’ menu. Baby rooms will have a vending machine with food. Throw some snacks in your bag for you and your little on to munch on while on the go.
Precharged Suica or Pasmo
The last thing you want is to lose precious time fumbling for change. Top up your card before you go for less hassle.
Know the Lingo
Elevator | Erebe-ta-
Escalator | Esukare-ta-
Bus | Basu
Train | Densha
(Train) Platform | densha no ho-mu
Where is the elevator? | Erebe-ta- wa doko desu ka?
Where is the escalator? | Esukare-ta- wa doko desu ka?
Could you help me please? | O testudai shite moraemasen ka?
For more tips on navigating Tokyo with baby, check out my Guide to Strollers in Japan on Best Living Japan.
Navigating Tokyo While Pregnant Or With A Baby