After 4 years in Tokyo you would hope that I would have a book full of tricks to survive here…
We live in the heart of Tokyo in the Minato-ku district, its a great spot to be with a close station connecting us to both Haneda and Narita airports. Our building has a pretty good supermarket in the base making quick milk runs a little easier, you can also find a ramen house and a few other restaurants – oh and a dry cleaner too. Our apartment is a western style home – without the tatami room and it feels like home. Its very convenient living. I am spoilt with five or so other expats in the building all working with my husband and one family with a little one for Riley to have playdates with and an awesome mum is my coffee date. We love them.
In our vicinity we have a few outdoor playgrounds, a loved coffee shop and a bus direct to Odiaba (my mum heaven) We have close access by train to the zoo, aquarium and many other cool spots
So what are the “cool spots”? our main go to hangs are places we find easy and comfortable to get to. Tokyo Tower (Shiba Park) is a stone through away so a 10 minute walk gets the kids out, we have a local coffee/baker joint to fuel up and two large play areas with lots of room to push bikes around, slide and kick a ball. During the summer months these spots have small markets and festivals. They never get overly busy like the popular Yoyogi Park etc.. and hey yoyogi is a beautiful spot it just gets very busy – if you are visiting defiantly check it out.
Our next fav is Odiaba, the bus leaves from directly out the front of our building making life super easy. A quick ride over the rainbow bridge and you are there. I feel like I still haven’t discovered all of Odiaba as there are four main buildings/malls. Hundreds of restaurants and eateries, dozens of play areas and endless shopping stores.
Our Odiaba days are often kicked off with coffee from “Bills cafe” (Divercity – Islandside)
Then we head upstairs to a small indoor play area. This spot is perfect for a quick play at a low cost 100yen per 10mins isn’t going to break the bank, it is best for ages 0-5. Side note they have massage chairs and a cool ball pit next door dad can run around with a game of laser tag.
When we aren’t there we are over to the larger indoor area, Venus Fort – the walk is lovely and open with blooming gardens for the kids to play and run along. TramPark is a bit pricey with an adult charge of 1400yen for adults (yes you pay) and from 6months + you are charged around 600yen for an hour, if you free join and become a member the price is reduced. Trampark offers a large soft play area for infants to toddlers with climbers, slides and bouncers. Moving up in age you will find a small and large climber playground for 5-10 year olds. They have some chilled areas to train tables, reading corner, puzzles and soft doh. Riley loves the ride on tractors.
Build a bike and bounce on an indoor trampoline – it really is endless with lots to do the older kiddies will have fun on the large gym climber and go carts. Outside of this park you will often find a few arcade activities like giant zorb balls on water and bunny bouncers.
Venus Fort has a cool mothers room too. In the summer the Odiaba beach is a lovely place to hang or even a nice stroll in the summer months.
I find Odiaba, accomodating for children, lifts, children room, stroller friendly and restaurant friendly, it can be stressful running around a foreign city with a baby. However most train stations do have lifts and pram areas – try to ride outside of peak times.
One on my favourite ramen houses is located here on the street, especially because they have room for baby strollers and a baby/kids menu — Riley loves the plain noodles and rice with chicken.
Baby’s R Us” can be found here for baby needs like nappies and bottles. When in Japan we stick to pampers as a brand but I don’t mind Mooneys range, I have had some terrible moments in countries trying to buy nappies and unsure of the sizing, and quality (being in a foreign language) so I added this incase you discover the same issues.
You can buy nappies/diapers in all supermarkets seven 11 and pharmacy’s. Or worse case Amazon prime (same day delivery to your hotel)
I remember my first visit to Disneyland when I was 10years old and have now been to the Tokyo park twice. I remember as a kid having wrist teathers so we wouldn’t wonder off, or snatched. I think that was exaggerated anyone research of my own has shown that kids have been known to disappear from Disney in the US so with that I mind I can say here you will feel safe. I haven’t experienced mass crowds. Hubby loved that he could walk with his beer around the park.
Recently my friends brought me along to aso bono indoor playground, they have a large variety of play areas for all ages – a massive ball pit, indoor bouncy castle, a building area with lego, trains and magnetics and also a market area full of little rooms to dodge between. An hour here will set you back around 930yen each.
This area however has a few outdoor parks, a roller coaster attached to a mall and international dinning.
Mount Fuji and Hakone
I have visited Hakone several times, the area has a wonderful views of Mount Fuji attracting tourists with the clear snowy days, pirate ship cruises and many pagodas and temples. I have stayed in the Hilton here a lovely location, onsen pools overlooking Lake Asahi and modernised traditional rooms.
Visit Odawara Castle and take explore the museum of samurai’s and walk the historic gardens.
Hakone also boosts a large outdoor shopping outlet, with views of Fuji while to snap bargains.
Hotels & Airbnb
APA and Mystays Hotels are tight they are really sleep only rooms with the bed taking up most of the room – however are often pretty reasonable.
Excel Narita, is a slightly larger room with restaurant and gym facilities this is where you will find airline crew.
Next door is the Hilton, they offer larger and slightly more modern rooms, both hotels are perfect for transit stays.
Sheraton Minato ku, is Devine as you can expect, it is located in the heart of Minato-ku district with easy access to the main attractions and also offers airport services and day tours.
The Prince, in my area there are two and modern and a older both are located near Tokyo Tower offer breakfast and have access to tramlines and airport transfers – these two are my recommended hotels when staying in Tokyo.
Japan has restrictions on subleasing and are heavily cracking down – most apartment buildings are monitored and have 24hr security. However there does seem to be a few popping up.
Seven 11 (international ATM)
You will also spot Lawson’s, Family Mart and Sunkis all offering quick snacks and refreshments not two mention any other needs like bandaids and sewing kits..
Getting around, most places are kid friendly and pram friendly however there might be some tighter times or a few stairs in stations – you will find that some places are closer than they may seem. Have a look at your destination sometimes it is faster and nicer to walk.
Taxi’s are great and relatively inexpensive 780yen per 100 meters.
I recommend loading up a Pasmo train/taxi card top get around – a lot of places don’t accept cards only cash and Paso this way you wont get stuck. Most tourist’s are recommended to buy a JR tourist all access card for trains, I haven’t done so. With your passport you receive a reduced fare on return tickets with the NEX. My favourite train from Narita into Tokyo is the JR NEX its is by far the faster, simplest and comfiest train. To and from Haneda I use the monorail directly into the terminal. If you are planing on coming directly to Tokyo try get a flight into Haneda and save the trip.
Temples, I advise picking 1 or 2 to see a popular one is Sensoji in Asakusa – here you can see the temples, eat some traditional food and even catch a ride on a Japanese Rickshaw.
March-April is cherry blossom (Sakura) season. Their are loads of lovely spots to choose from our favourite is the Imperial Palace – here you rent a row boat and row around the mote of the palace with draped Sakarua following into the water. Child friendly.
Another fav is close by Buddist temple Zojojo and Meiji Jingu is located by Yoyogi park. This area is near Shibuya and Harajuku, extremely busy ares for tourists and certainly a must see. It can be pretty tricky to get around with a stroller in the main street of Harajuku as it get very overwhelming crowded People come here for the cute little stores and cartoon dressed girls. We like to stop off at “cookie time” for a milkshake and ice cream cookie sandwich. A short walk from here you will find the prestigious area of Ometesandai, has wonderful back streets to get lost in a do pop by omotesandai koffee.. With a few large malls to stop into for shopping goodies, interesting eats and treats – Mangolia Bakery is here for those in search for some international names. Head down the Jingūmae street to walk to Shibuya along here are some international and Japanese street food. Popular spots are Lukes Lobster and The Smokehouse, below for the coffee brewhouse. Octopus balls are a big deal here too. The street is dotted with stores ranging from Burton gear to converse shoes.
My massive mum hack would have to be uber eats.. We all have those moments where we have had a massive day out and just need our food to come to us..
Nakameguro is known for its vintage shopping and is fast becoming the hipster area. Omnibus coffee offers wicked iced lattes, the side walk stand bar has incredible sandwiches and craft beer. Punk rock Izakaya is home to dozens of expats too.
Nissin and National supermarkets are our international stops with produce from the US, UK, AUS and NZ.
Hanamasa Wholesale is great for bulk meats and has a good variety of vegetables.
Peacock can be slightly expensive and caterers to single meals.
Online The Meat Guy is also excellent.
My Favourite Eats
The SmokeHouse – An American BBQ restaurant that sits above a coffee brew house.
Bills Cafe – Australian Breakfast house serving famous ricotta pancakes also serves lunch and dinner.
Ty Harbour – A brewhouse over the water, they have another Restaurant called the Ivy – this area has a bake house and a few other restaurants
Apollo Ginza – Australia established Greek Restaurant great for cocktails and large groups (best slow cooked lamb)
Gonpachi Izakya – is large and famous for its influence of Kill Bill and has good food.
Lukes Lobster Shibuya and Hiroo – On the go try a lobster roll
Onigari – Lawsons Rileys favourite
Cookie Time A New Zealand famous cookie selling cookie ice-cream sandwiches in Harajuku
Yakitori – The yakitori izakaya (Japanese chicken skewers pub), Abe-chan was founded in 1933 and sells yakitori through the hole in the wall.
BurgerMania a few locations Ebisu, Shirokane, Hiroo they are the best burgers around.
Omnibus Nakameguro is perfect for a coffee.
The Side Walk Nakameguro, sells craft beer my fav all press coffee and New York sandwiches
Maruichi Bagel located in Shirokane, was a life saver of mine.
We shop in Odiaba for most things, as they have two Zara stores, H&M Baby Gap and designer stores. For souvenirs and nic naks you I recommend the 100yen stores
For now that is a wrap, I am sure there will be more that comes to mind later, I hope this little insight into my Tokyo will encourage you to visit with your little ones.