Wisteria Watertree is a travel blogger and a mom of triplets (2 girls and a boy)! She raises her family in Tokyo and has shared her top tips on how to spend your days there in the best way possible, so as everyone enjoys this magnificent city.
Tell us a bit about your family.
We are a family of five, six if you count grandma who lives with us more and more, living in the near suburbs of Tokyo. Our kids are triplets which presented a number of logistic challenges while they were still sitting in strollers. Tokyo is very accessible and there are elevators in all subway stations, but they may not be right where you are or want to go. Or you may not be able to figure out where they are going. When your kids start to walk by themselves, and even were able to carry some of their own things in their backpacks, things got so much easier.
Now they are five so they walk everywhere they want to go. They still get tired faster than adults, so you have to plan your breaks accordingly. And include public transport, because in Tokyo it is no use to have a car. And them being kids, of course we need to include time to play. There are playgrounds dotted all over Tokyo, even smaller parks may have a couple of swings and a slide. Just walking is much more boring to kids than to adults, and they need to excercise all their muscles, not just those in their legs. We always try to figure out where the playgrounds are, which can be really difficult since they do not show up on the maps. When we go somewhere we have not been before, I always look in Google Streetview which always shows pictures of the park, and if there are playthings they will usually be visible even if there are no direct pictures of them.
How does a perfect day out with your triplets look like?
They get to see and experience something different, play in a park for a couple of hours, and taste a new cuisine. And mommy and daddy get a glass of wine and a chance to breathe for a few minutes.
That is a fairly generic description and every day is different. Our kids love to go to different playgrounds every time even though there may be some walking involved, since we try to get the sightseeing done before we get to the playground. That means starting pretty early since the kids normally want something to eat after a couple of hours of play. It may be a snack but a solid meal is better, and since most restaurants close for lunch at 2 PM, we have to get there by 1 PM. Unless we want to eat in a place that is open longer, but that usually means McDonalds and that is not the healthy option we like to offer our kids.
What are your favorite toddler friendly restaurants and cafes in Tokyo?
There are lots, and as we usually go out and eat near where we live, the choices are a bit different. But when we absolutely need something to eat and have not planned in advance, the family restaurants are a life saver. And they are even better when you have kids who need highchairs and special baby cutlery. There are several chains to choose from. Most ubiquitous is the Gusto chain, but Jonathans, Royal Host, Cocos and Dennys all have kids menus and something to do for the toddlers while they wait for the food. Saizeria is a great chain for Italian food, but the places our kids love the most are Komeda Coffe for breakfast, and Miya steak house for dinner. The best cafe chain for toddlers is probably Tullys, but we usually go to places where you can get cake or icecream – the kids love Cold Stone Creamery.
What would you recommend to a family traveling with young toddlers in Tokyo?
There is so much to do and it depends a lot on where you stay and what you are interested in. Anywhere in Tokyo there are small parks with a small playground. They are scattered all over the city since they double as evacuation sites and water cisterns for emergencies. Just going there is usually good for a couple of hours. But as we live near Shinjuku we go to the Shinjuku Gyouen occasionally. It is an amazing park although there is no playground, and you have to pay a (very small) entrance fee.
We also go to Ueno Park occasionally, we have been to the zoo a couple of times, but the most interesting thing is really the museums. While art museums are hard to explain to toddlers, the Museum of Natural Science and Technology was really fun for the kids and while they enjoyed the dinosaurs, they also were very interested in finding out how people got to the Japanese islands (by boat through Okinawa), and how people lived during the stone age.
As a travel blogger living in that city, do you know of any toddler friendly accommodation?
Japanese hotels typically have family rooms – in ryokan this means really big tatami rooms where you can spread futons for the entire family, which often includes grandpa and grandma as well. In hotels with modern beds, there are often a couple of bunk beds and two or three twin beds. Japanese kids often co-sleep until they are old enough to move out – there is no space to give them their own rooms in the cramped Japanese houses.
Tokyo Disney Resort, and the Hilton has really cute rooms with a storybook theme (not a Disney story). But as Tokyo is so easy to get around, we rarely stay overnight when we go out. But if you filter for family rooms on Booking.com, you can find them too.
What are some cool one day trips a family with toddlers can take from Tokyo?
There is such a long list! I have written several blog posts about this. And as a matter of fact, that is going to be the topic of my next book. Some of our favorites from the past couple of years are Mount Takao, Mount Tsukuba, and Hakone. You may have to get up early, but it is really rewarding. One caveat is that they are all very hard to navigate with a stroller. Your kids have to walk if you are going to enjoy it, so they have to be old enough to walk on their own. A stroller can be really hard on the gravelled paths, although you can take it in the ropeway cabins in Hakone. If you have a stroller you may be better off visiting Kawagoe, which is a very traditional Japanese city famous for its sweet potato candies. Or go to Kamakura, famous for the enormous Buddha statue. When your kids discover they can go inside they will be hard to get out. Just remember the station for the big Buddha is Hase-Dera on the Enoshima line. If you are early Enoshima is a good second place to visit, as going to the many temples of Kamakura means you have to walk a lot. But if your kids are up to it, or you are up to pushing their stroller, then it is a great way to spend a day.