Tokyo | Traveling Solo in Winter with 8-month-old baby

I’ve travelled Solo plenty of times, to places like Morocco and Mongolia. I’ve travelled in Winter before, -15C in Siberia. But I’ve never travelled with a baby before, and that’s a whole other kind of challenge. 

Before we get into traveling in Tokyo, let’s get to my main takeaways of traveling with a baby. 

 Getting from the airport to your accommodation: forget trying to transfer trains. Even if you don’t have a stroller, trying to find an elevator for your checked luggage is a pain in the ass, and a lot of Tokyo’s stations are undergoing construction for maintenance. Try to get as far as you can in one train, and just bite the bullet and cab the rest of the way. In my case it was something like 2,000 yen. 

⌲ Use both the stroller and carrier strategically. Using a carrier all day is very tiring on the body, swap out for a stroller at night and just grab dinner near your hotel so you don’t need to worry about getting the stroller through public transport. Also, a stroller is great because a lot of restaurants in Tokyo don’t have baby chairs. Keep in mind that you heat up while having an infant strapped to you, so you will need 1 less layer of clothing unless you prefer to be a sweaty mess. 

 Avoid trains during rush hour, and taxis aren’t necessarily faster. I made the mistake of taking the train around 8am, let’s just say my son was not impressed with that trip. To my shock, no one stood up for me for the entire 8 days while I was in Japan when using public transportation while carrying the baby. I only got a seat if there was a seat available when I got on. People pretended to be asleep or just selectively blind to other passengers with infants. 

 The baby’s sleep and eating schedule will be out of whack, stick to it as much as possible but be flexible at the same time. I always tracked his sleep and food intake, and after we got to Japan, some days he was sleeping way less than I thought in my head. He also refused to eat all of the pre-packed solid food. Your kid may not nap at the same time, but the important thing is that they day time and night time sleep roughly adds up to what they need at their age (in our case 12-14 hours per day.) And since he wasn’t eating solids, I had to increase his formula intake. 

 Most department stores will have a baby changing station, and convenient stores will have hot water to make formula. You can also download the Mamamap app which is an app that shows you the nearest changing room to you in Japan, with reviews and photos from other parents. 

 Find formulas and diapers at Drug stores, but not every drug store will carry them. If you are in a business district, it will be harder to find. But definitely look for them in a drug store, grocery stores don’t carry them. 

Now let’s dive into traveling in Tokyo itself. 

I had about only 2 whole days in Tokyo, so the suggested places to visit are very basic. I've been to Japan over 10 times in the past 10 years, so I went to places I felt like were easier with a baby where you could still see a good amount of "Japan". 

| Where to stay |

Fly into Haneda if you can since it is closer to the city and I’d highly recommend to stay in Shinjuku, you will thank yourself later. Shinjuku is one of the most convenient locations in terms of transport. Shinjuku is just a few stops away from Shibuya, Harajuku, Roppongi, and is a major transport hub for the trains that go in and out of the city. Shinjuku also has lots of restaurants and shops, so when you are done with your day, Shinjuku will still have lots to offer at night and is a great place to wrap up the day at. 

Recommended hotels: Shinjuku Washington hotel, APA hotel, Tokyu Stay. 

We chose Tokyu stay since it was just me and the kid, the size didn’t matter so much, and it is an apartment style hotel with a washer/dryer plus microwave in the room. There’s also a Lawson convenience store just across the street, and major department stores such as O1O1 just nearby. 

| Autumn time |

Japan has beautiful maple leaves from the 3rd week of November to early December if you are in Tokyo area. Check out my blog post here on where you can see them. 

| Sensoji Temple |

Station: Asakusa 
Hours: 6am – 5pm (Shops open at 10am) 

I’ve written about Sensoji so many times. It is a very popular tourist location, and I keep going back to it again and again. It offers the Japan experience where you can see a temple, draw your luck, and buy a good luck charm; at the same time there is a long shopping street full of street food and souvenirs. You can also see the new iconic Tokyo Skytree from Sensoji area. It is a one-stop-shop especially if you have limited time but want to get the most out of your Japan experience. 

Go early! There are a lot of people. The shops open at 10am, so I’d suggest arriving at 9:30am, see the temples first. And by the time it’s 10am the people will be pouring in already, and you can start making your way out. 

Facing the temple, there’s a street on the right-hand side near the beginning of the shopping street where you can see Tokyo Skytree. 

Last year vs This year

| Hie Shrine |

Station: Akasaka-Mitsuke or Tameike-Sanno 
Hours: 5am – 6pm 

If you have no time to go to Kyoto, this shrine has its own little Fushimi Inari. The red Tori gates are in the stairway leading up to the shrine. It’s also a small quiet temple with few tourists so you can enjoy your Japan experience in peace and snap away without people photobombing you. 

| Harajuku and Omotesando |

I’ve also written about Harajuku quite a few times already, but again I keep going back to it (Takeshita Street specifically) because it is great for souvenirs. This is where the “Lolita” fashion trend is most concentrated, so you will see a lot of clothing shops with frilly clothing. But not to worry, there are some shops that sell small trinkets and other non-clothing items you can browse. And also, they have a lot of crepe and cotton candy shops! 

Also, if you like Gacha Gacha (Japanese egg capsule toy machine where you insert coins, spin the dial, and a random plastic egg falls out with a toy inside), you don’t have to make it to Akihabara (Tokyo’s Anime central) to find them. There is a new Gacha Gacha shop inside the building “Alta”. If you can’t find Alta, look for the Disney store, it is in that building on the 2/F, and just head to B/1 for the Gacha Gacha shop. 

Omotesando is good if you are more into high-end fashion. They also light up the whole street with fairy lights to celebrate Christmas and is beautiful after sunset (4:30pm in winter). Another shop good for cute Japanese souvenirs is called “Kiddy Land”, it will mainly carry products of Japanese characters such as Gudetama or Hello Kitty. 


| Shopping in Shibuya | (109 and Loft) 

Shibuya is great for its crossing, and to get a good view from up top, you can go to the Odakyu Mall which is just near the Hachiko Statue. You don’t need to be in the paid station area to go to the 2/F for the view. 

If you are a younger mom like me, and still enjoys fashion suitable for 20 somethings, then Shibuya 109 mall is perfect. It has a lot of younger fashion and in all kinds of styles, not just cute but also street, punk, and sexy style clothing brands can be found there. Bonus, there is a baby changing room on the top floor! A lot of people kept asking about my winter coat and I got it from the brand Liz Lisa which can be found in 109. 

Loft is another huge store you should visit if you’d like to look for Japanese products to bring back home. It is a lifestyle department store where you can buy stationary (and we all know Japanese stationary is amazing), travel essentials, body & beauty products, home essentials, and cultural goods (anime products and souvenir like products). 

After Tokyo, I took the train into Kawaguchiko to see Fuji and stay for 2 days until my husband joins us on our trip. You can continue to read here on how to get there and what it is like traveling with a baby in the countryside of Japan. 

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