Traveling With Kids | Japan
I am a big believer in getting out there to see the world. But when you have kids, it can seem daunting. I know first hand how amazing, and sometimes crazy, it can be to travel as a family. So I asked one of my favorite bloggers, who just happens to be an expert at traveling with kids herself, to head up a new column here called Traveling With Kids. I’m thrilled to share Jillian’s inaugural post with you today. It’s a great one. Enjoy!
When Jen from Classic Play! approached me with the idea to become a contributor I was ecstatic. And when she told me her idea of starting a column about Traveling With Kids I knew this was a match made in heaven. How incredible that I can combine two of the things I love to do the most, blogging and traveling.
I’m a mother of three kids (10 year old twin daughters and an almost 8 year old son), we live in Northern Italy and we’ve been an avid traveling family since the very beginning of this whole parenting gig. Our first overseas trip with kids was when our twins were 5 weeks old and we pretty much haven’t stopped since then. Our kids have clocked more miles on airplane than I can count and I think they’re close to hitting the 100 flight mark pretty soon.
For this first encounter I decided to jump right in and do a little write-up about our most recent trip to Japan. In the future I’ll be covering all sorts of different aspects of Traveling With Kids as well as specific destination descriptions.
Last September I was browsing Expedia for flights to different destinations (a favourite pastime of mine) and suddenly some very cheap tickets came up to Tokyo, direct from Milan. Japan has always been a place that I’ve dreamed of visiting and I thought after the devastating Tsunami in March 2011 it might be the perfect time to help support their tourism industry which has been suffering greatly. So five minutes and a click on the “purchase” button later there we were staring at the computer screen wondering what in the world we had done.
In the end Japan was one of the easiest and most convenient places that we have traveled with our children. The Japanese are such welcoming and warm people and will go out of their way to help you in any way possible.
Japan has so much to offer families: the food, the museums, the shrines and temples, the nature, the cities and, maybe most importantly, their karaoke establishments. Yes, we experienced all aspects of Japanese culture and we’re so glad we did (and who knew I would become such a mic hog at karaoke!).
For this post I decided to ask the kids what their top ten favourite things about our trip to Japan were (they gave me 11!). I’ve written them in order of what they said and I’m still laughing at the first thing that came out of their mouths.
Japanese toilets. If you’ve never experienced the famous Japanese computerized toilets you have not lived. Heated seats, water spouts, air dryers and music are just a few options you have to entertain yourself. And let me tell you, my kids really entertained themselves with these toilets.
The food. My kids were so enthusiastic to try all sorts of new foods and ended up loving most of it. Favourites included: Ton-Katsu (breaded pork cutlet), conveyer belt sushi restaurants, Okonomiyaki (Japanese “pizza”), Soba and Udon noodles, Coconut M&M’s and green tea ice cream.
Our Tatami House. While in Kyoto we rented a beautiful traditional Tatami House with paper and wooden sliding doors and Kotatsu (low table with special heater underneath for those chilly evenings).
Cherry Blossom Festival in Kyoto (Sakura). The image of an entire city covered in a cloud of pink and white blossoms is something that none of us will ever forget.
Mount Fuji and the Five Lake District. What a site to behold for all members of this family. Seeing such an iconic place in person really puts a lump in your throat.
Karaoke. Visiting a traditional Games Centre with some young Japanese friends of ours was definitely one of the most exciting days for the kids. We spent an afternoon playing video games, taking photos in the special “Kirei” booths and singing karaoke. We rented a private Karaoke room for a few hours and had a blast belting out our favourite tunes. Be warned, these gaming centres can end up costing you a fortune!
The Shrines and Temples. Surprisingly enough our children loved visiting all the shrines and temples. We all really learned a lot about Japanese culture and history and got to walk through some of the most beautiful grounds and parks in Japan.
Shinkansen Train. We were all impressed by the Shinkansen which is one of the fastest trains in the world. They are punctual, clean and so fast. Pretty much everything that our local Italian trains are not.
Onsen. We visited some world famous Onsen (Japanese thermal baths) near Mount Fuji and had an evening of soaking in the boiling hot thermal waters under a starry sky.
Meeting the little daughter of my friend. The kids found it fascinating to spend a few days with a little Japanese girl the same age as them. They didn’t have a common language but they did have a lovely time doing origami together, playing at a local playground and hiking in the mountains near Kobe.
Geishas. We were able to attend a traditional Geisha Cherry Blossom theatre show. They are held only a few times a year and include over 30 real Geishas dancing, reciting and singing. We also visited the famous Gion Neighbourhood (Geisha district) and caught site of a few Geishas scurrying from one engagement to another.
In the end our trip to Japan was absolutely wonderful. Our kids learned and experienced so many new things and still talk about it daily. I would definitely take your time planning a trip such as this. I think when you go to a country so far away, that has such a different culture and is famous for being one of the most expensive countries in the world the key to a great trip is great organization and planning.