Looking for somewhere overseas to take a vacation with a toddler or baby? Moving to Japan soon? Just generally interested in one of the coolest countries on earth?
If you have kids, and especially if they are infants or toddlers, I am confident you will find Japan to be one of the easiest places to raise your little babes.
Don’t believe me?
Why is Japan the best for kids?
1. Public nursery/breastfeeding locations
These are everywhere. The mall, the airport, train stations, airports. Anywhere that you might be caught needing to tend to a baby, there is likely a free-to-use nursery nearby.
These rooms boast: purified hot water access for preparing formula, privacy for breastfeeding, changing tables, and a ban on both smoking and electronic device use- making for a clean and quiet space for little ones.
In addition, these rooms are often sectioned off so that men can enter too! HOW COOL IS THAT?! One half of the space is for anyone caring for a baby, and one half for women only, so you can openly breastfeed here if you do not feel comfortable doing so in public.
Furthermore, Japan is incredibly accepting of breastfeeding in all the experiences I have had while feeding two babes over here, and while I choose to cover- I have never got a bad look if I chose to use the two-shirt method without my nursing cover.
2. Chaos does not exist
Everything has order.
Everything has an unspoken rule about waiting your turn.
And when you have chaos holding on to each of your hands in the form of a small and loud child you are trying to drag onto public transit, more chaos is the last thing you need. We were terrified initially to use public transit with a language barrier, but it has proven to be one of the most stress-free things we have done since moving here.
When boarding a train that just entered your terminal, there is an unspoken rule that those exiting the train will do so before those boarding ever step foot on it. There is no pushing, no squeezing past somebody in the aisle- everything happens in order, everything runs on time, and it is glorious.
And finally, everyone is always willing to help you find your way. Whether they speak ANY English or not, they will do their best to help you. Chaos doesn’t happen here.
3. Kids meals are delivered first
Almost anywhere you go in Japan, children will be served first. Small plates, bowls, and spoons are also almost always brought to tables. Water is always offered to kids immediately. Japan seriously takes care of kiddos.
4. Kids meals are HUGE
Kids meals aren’t just one chicken strip and three soggy fries thrown in a cardboard box here. Seriously, everywhere you go- your kids will leave full.
Meals here almost always come with: a scoop of rice, a main dish, a side dish, some sort of juice or milk, and often even a toy or treat afterwards. If your kids love rice (which I guarantee they will after a few months in Japan) you can basically ALWAYS request a side of rice at a restaurant. This is our favorite trick with Henry, who is the pickiest eater in the world at times.
Best part? Most kids meals like this cost like $1.50-$3.50 max.
5. Baby Holders
Um, so, this is probably in my top 3 favorite things about Japan.
Who wants to poop while holding a child? Who wants to let their toddler crawl on the bathroom floor? Not you, eh? Need I say more?
6. Priority parking for pregnant mothers
Yep, Japan considers you handicapped while you are pregnant, and it’s the most genius thing I have ever seen. Most parking spots like these are DIRECTLY in front of an establishment. During the time that I was pregnant and had a toddler, this fact about Japan was 100% a lifesaver.
The Japanese will also refuse to let you carry ANYTHING heavy if they notice you are pregnant. I can’t tell you how many times a Japanese man carried a watermelon or even just a small bag of groceries to my car while I was pregnant.
7. Priority seating
Elderly? Pregnant? Injured? HAVE KIDS?
Yes? Then not only is there designated priority seating for you on public transit, but the Japanese people are ATTENTIVE to it. Last week on a train, an elderly man stood up for ME and said “please, please” gesturing to his seat so that I could sit with my 9 month old, who was already sleeping happily in my arms.
The Japanese are intentional, they notice, and they are SO kind.
8. The Japanese are so kind to children
If you spend 10 minutes in the midst of the Japanese people and your child makes eye contact with somebody, chances are you will be coming home with some sort of treat or toy. We have had elderly couples walk us over to cookie/candy stores specifically to buy Henry a treat in front of us. We hear the term “kawaii” (cute) about our babies all the time, and it is our favorite to tell Japanese families that their babies are kawaii, too.
Children here also LOVE American kids. Because they often are learning English in school, you may even be stopped so they can practice their English with someone who is fluent. When you respond to their “hellos” you may be met with the sweetest giggles in the world.
One of my favorite things to do since moving to Japan is to take our kids to local playgrounds or play places. If there is anything that will teach you about inclusion, it is seeing toddlers of two different cultures, who don’t even speak the same language, playing flawlessly and happily together.
9. Arcades, parks, playgrounds GALORE
The entire country of Japan is basically one giant playground for kids and adults alike. You can’t enter a city without finding an accessible place for a kid of any age to play. There are 7 story arcades, huge playgrounds, massive activity centers… and the best part? We have yet to find somewhere that isn’t totally affordable for a day of fun.
And can we talk about how cute the entire country is? For goodness sake, the traffic cones are made to look like cute little animals here!
10. Japan is CLEAN
I mean, you will see people picking weeds or cigarette droppings out of the cracks on their sidewalks. It is clean here, it is tidy here, and it is orderly here.
We never buy train tickets for our toddler and infant (mainly because kids under 6 are free,) but also because we feel comfortable letting them sit at our feet on the train. That’s how clean everything in this country is.
You will never find dirty tables, dirty floors, and it is incredibly rare to find a dirty restroom. This would probably make you think that they are uptight about kiddos making messes- but again, Japan will shock you on that. I always try to crawl under tables to clean up the messes our kids make- and the servers always gesture for me to not worry about it.
Poor Henry even had an accident in a booth once at a restaurant, and the kind waiter just nodded, smiled, and told me “Hai, hai, it okay, it okay!”
11. Shopping is EASY with kids
For instance, shopping carts with the little cars or characters on the front? FREE. You know? The ones that are usually like $5 to rent at malls in the states? Yep, totally free. They also have infant carts that recline perfectly for your baby to sleep when they are little.
This seems like a silly point, but my kids LOVE the mall because of this. Most shopping malls also host grocery stores- which makes this an even bigger point for our family personally. Happy kids while grocery shopping= happy mom all day.
In addition, refrigerated lockers are available at lots of malls and shopping centers, so if you purchase your groceries first but need to do other things, you have a cold place to store them so you don’t have to lug them around with you.
12. Restrooms are catered to children & families
This was one of my favorite things to find upon entering a restroom in Japan for the first time. There will almost always be a tiny toilet sitting next to the regular sized toilet in the family/handicapped stall. Toilets here are ultra interesting to kids, with all their buttons and strange sounds, so potty training is usually a little more interesting if you are out and about in Japan.
Changing tables are available everywhere, including in men’s rooms, and even on the Shinkansen train, which has airport sized bathrooms. Everywhere you go, you will find a family restroom, equipped with a changing table, a baby holder, and often a small toilet or tiny urinal.
And might I also mention… TINY URINALS IN THE WOMEN’S RESTROOMS.
Yeah, that was my reaction the first time I walked into a women’s restroom in Japan and noticed the 1/2 size urinal on the ground before the stalls.
Well, because women have sons, and sometimes sons have to pee too.
13. It’s always easy to find food and snacks
Can you say, “the land of vending machines?”
Because they have EVERY kind here, and they are on every street. Hot drinks, cold drinks, soups, snacks, ramen, ice cream, full fledged meals… even cigarettes can be found in vending machines. They are at every building, on every floor, even on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. You will see residential homes with vending machines attached to the side of their garage if they reside on a main street. Your kids will NEVER go thirsty, because you are always 130¥ away from an apple or grape juice.
14. Japan is SAFE.
Let me just say this- I would take my two kids off base and explore just about anywhere in Japan without fear and without my husband, and I am a CAUTIOUS human. I can’t say that about many places in the world, to be honest- and definitely not about many places in America. Nearly every Japanese person you come in contact with is more than willing to help, and even with the language barrier, I feel the safest I have felt in my life since moving to this country.
The Japanese police rarely have to intervene with regular life, but when they do, they mean BUSINESS. Crime is not taken lightly here, and you never see crimes happen.
If you are looking for somewhere to raise kiddos where you can likely go without locking your door, Japan is your place.
I sincerely hope you find the same incredible pro-kid factors if you visit Japan someday, too. Was there anything I missed? Be sure to tell me below, or head over to my Instagram and be sure to use the hashtag #takeyourbabieseverywhere if you post photos of your adventures so I can see your kiddos loving Japan as much as we do.
Happy exploring with your babies!