20 Dec Guide to using trains with small children in Tokyo
Tokyo is the land of impeccable transportation. With millions of people, there isn’t enough road for everyone to drive. Not to worry, superbly clean and always on time, trains and buses can take you to any destination you need to go. Children also enjoy the thrill of riding on a train. Needless to say, trains are a lifesaver in Tokyo. Until you journey them with a stroller and realize just how inconvenient the convenience can be. Thankfully with the Olympics around the corner, they have been working hard to make Tokyo completely barrier-free. Yet still, there are many times you might find yourself stuck wishing you did a little more preparation before you left.
(Train header image by hans-johnson)
Before hitting town with a small child, here’s some things you can do to avoid any meltdowns (from the caretakers’ side!)
Steer Clear of the Stairs
A fun adventure out can quickly turn into a nightmare when you find out that the connecting train lines are only accessible by going up and then back down a set of stairs. The last thing you want to do is carry your sleeping baby in a stroller packed with numerous shopping bags from your day out. Wondering how you could have avoided this situation?
Ditch the Stroller
Ever notice that there aren’t many strollers out? Japanese people love to baby carry and for many good reasons. There are so many brands nowadays, but Ergobaby’s ergonomic baby carriers can be a real game-changer. Unlike the child hiking backpacks, this carrier is slim and fits snug, allowing precious baby bonding time without knocking anything or anyone over. Perfect for a city lifestyle. You can strap them on in seconds and go, enabling you to explore Tokyo!
If you must Stroll, then do some Homework First
Sometimes a stroller is the only option, especially if your child has gotten too heavy for a carrier or you’re planning to spend the whole day out. If possible, we recommend not traveling to an unfamiliar location with a stroller. Sometimes it might not be the final station that doesn’t have the elevator; but the connecting lines that don’t. If trains can’t be avoided, here are some websites in English that give you every station’s exit information, as well as elevator locations. Plan well before you go!
Here is also a great website on all things barrier-free in Tokyo. Including toilets, hotels, and attractions in English.
How to Plan Around the Crowds
Busy, bustling Tokyo never sleeps, but there are some things you can do to help avoid those sardine-packed trains. Again, baby carrying could be an easier option to keep in mind.
Schedule Around Rush Hour
There is nothing worse than being smashed into an already packed train- then try to add a little one into the mix, and it can become dangerous or very much a hassle. If you have a stroller, it’s unlikely for you to even fit on during the heaviest rush hour times, which are from 6:00~9:00 AM, and then in the evening again from 5:00~7:00 PM. Avoid these times if you can, and also research the train lines you will use– some train lines are significantly more busy than others during rush hour.
Choose Your Location Wisely
You will have better luck riding on the front and back cars of trains, as they tend to be less crowded. Look for a designated stroller section on some of the cars, for you to park the stroller. They might not be the closest to elevators or exits, so make sure to give yourself extra time in between transfers. In fact, always add time on to what your google maps time tells you (or whatever map app you use). They don’t calculate finding time to find the elevator, elevator waiting-in-line time, or even those desperate potty breaks. Google maps do, though, have a wheelchair accessible function, when searching for routes and can be found under the route options button.
Other transportation options that can be used…
No need to avoid buses- they can be quite peaceful and relaxing! You might have to fold your stroller if overcrowded, but if not riding during peak hours, you should be able to fit right on. Most buses are not wide enough to fit through the front door with a stroller, but the bus driver will graciously let you on and off from the back door.
Although taxis do not provide car seats, it isn’t illegal to ride with your child. If using with a stroller, make sure to call out for the newer oversized, van-sized taxis.
JapanTaxi is a convenient app, that let’s you pick up a taxi from wherever you are! Download it, if you haven’t already:
Tokyo is such a fun city to explore, and having small children shouldn’t stop you from having your Tokyo adventures. Although it might be a bit more time consuming than going out alone- with much planning involved- you will cherish and appreciate all the memories you’ve made by not letting Tokyo transportation difficulty stop you!
Contact us at Apts.jp – if you’re looking to move in Toyko! We are definitely expat family friendly~ 🙂