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Thinking long term - Japan with a 6YO


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#1 Lunafreya

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:13 PM

So probably can't do this for at least another year, but I am thinking of this as a goal as I like having long term goals and I've been planning a trip to Japan for years. Also I think it's a good first trip for DS because the time zone isn't that much of a difference and he LOVES trains

So the right time?  I am thinking either around Easter or October School holidays, Easter will be for Cherry Blossom season so that might wait until 2021 because of the expense and timing. But September/October is making me nervous at the moment with all the typhoons around.  I'm ruling out summer, Sydney gets enough humid as it is, maybe even winter?

This is my proposed itinerary which I have had in my head long before I even met DS's dad, I think it's fairly doable.

Fly to Tokyo, spend a few days there including Tokyo Disneyland and probably Pokemon Centre.

Get the Shinkansen south on the Tokeido Road to Kyoto, maybe stopping for a day trip at Mr Fuji as it's on the way.

Once in Kyoto, we stay for a few days at a family friendly Ryoken inn, take in some culture (and maybe geisha) as well as go to samurai school and the Kyoto Rail Museum.

Lastly go to Osaka, overnight there and see the castle and then leave by Osaka airport.

We will be ALL public transport. I don't have a car and I have told in Japan it's totally doable. DS does like Japanese food and is a good traveller.  Any recommendations? How expensive could this be?

It will just be me and him. A lot of what we will do is stuff DS will like that I would like to do as well. If I wanted more of a cultural immersion I'd go by myself or with other adults.

Edited by Lunafreya, 14 October 2019 - 01:13 PM.


#2 Molondy

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:19 PM

sounds fabulous. We took our two kids the first time and DS was 7. Its all very manic but at the same time organised. Food can be very inexpensive (especially if you buy takeaway from 711) but I find accommodation a bit expensive when there is 4 of you.

Two weeks for a family of four including a skiing component is about $18000.00.

The 14 day unlimited rail pass (you must buy it before you arrive) is an absolute must.

#3 born.a.girl

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:22 PM

No idea on the itinerary as ours is dramatically different, but sign up for Jetstar emails and specials. They go in to and out of Osaka from Cairns, but only Tokyo from Gold Coast.  We're going in to Osaka and out of Tokyo.

They recently had a sale whereby the return fare was free for some dates, which went within a few hours.

Also don't go over their holiday period of late April early May. The airfares then tripled.

ETA: Sister and BIL pretty much just broke even on their rail pass, so it's worth pen & paper and working out when and where you'll use it. We won't be buying one, for our 3.5 week trip, due to the nature of our itinerary.

Edited by born.a.girl, 14 October 2019 - 01:24 PM.


#4 Lunafreya

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:23 PM

We are likely not going skiing. I have never been skiing and neither has DS.  So I am guessing we avoid a big expense there?

I still want to go in their autumn, but typhoon season makes me nervous.

Edited by Lunafreya, 14 October 2019 - 01:23 PM.


#5 No Drama Please

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:27 PM

I love Japan! I probably wouldn’t go cherry blossom season just because it is super $$ and often all the accomodation/trains are packed or booked out. Also make sure not golden week as well.  We’ve been in June (early) and May and both times weather pretty good. I’d think March and May to early June pretty safe months. There’s some good YouTube channels for ideas, we watch the Only In Japan one, there’s heaps though.

Accomodation can be expensive but look at Airbnb or cheap hotels with breakfast. Food wise I find it cheaper than here, we eat breakfast at hotel then 7-11 most of the time (they sell sandwiches and hot food as well as snacks, bento boxes from supermarket, there’s heaps of pretty cheap and cheerful places to eat though.

#6 IamOzgirl

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:34 PM

Don't forget the Olympics and apprently the accom is already high next year (compared to this year)

Hyperderia is a great website for planing out train travel. But know that the pricing is weird and so the seat reservation isn't that at all and you have to add up both prices for each leg.

Consider a JR rail pass, depending on how many legs of train travel you will do. Price up and compare with hyperderia.

But otherwise sounds fabulous! I love Japan :-)

#7 Lunafreya

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:36 PM

Well if we go next Autumn the Olympics would have gone months before.

#8 TinMan

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:37 PM

We have been to Japan dozens of times- our oldest son did a high school exchange, then uni exchange and has lived and worked there for the past 6 yrs, he's married to a Japanese citizen now and unlikely to come back here to reside.

For those reason my knowledge of Japan is pretty in-depth so I'll try and be brief.

The cheapest way to get there is on Jetstar- when they have a sale- which is frequently- either buy one ticket take a friend for free or fly home free. But this would necessitate you flying in and out of the same airport.

JR rail pass is essential if you plan on leaving Tokyo- structure your itinerary to use it most effectively- and maybe get away with a 7 day rail pass. Have a base hotel in Tokyo and a base hotel in Osaka- everything is day trip from Osaka once you're down that way.

Super safe, child friendly country. I am hyper vigilant about my safety and I've happily had DD in a pram coming back from Disneyland at 11pm at night (by myself) and never had a problem. I'm not reckless, I am aware of my surroundings but in all my trips to Japan I've never ever had a problem.

When friends come to me about traveling to Japan I always direct them to the Japan Guide website- endless source of itinerary help.

As for time of year- I wouldn't do cherry blossom- I have, it's busy with tourists (yes I know I was one of them) and hotels are at peak pricing- We'll be there from Dec 1st this year and will likely catch the tail end of the autumn leaves.

Happy planning.

#9 IamOzgirl

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:38 PM

Hmmm okay - but tourism affects Olympic cities long before and long after.

#10 born.a.girl

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:42 PM

View PostLunafreya, on 14 October 2019 - 01:36 PM, said:

Well if we go next Autumn the Olympics would have gone months before.

The closing ceremony is 9th August, and there will no doubt be people staying on after that for who knows how many weeks, so the prices may well still be high in September.  OF course you'd find that out soon enough looking at the airfares.   I don't book anything until I've booked the airfare, but I do look beforehand to make sure I haven't committed myself to an expensive time, like Golden Week (thanks pp), which is why we're going late May, rather than early May.

#11 Lunafreya

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:42 PM

Ah OK, fair enough.

Maybe I'll have to do Cherry Blossoms by myself another year.  I do want to go but it might not be the right sort of trip for DS.

I do like the idea of staying in a Ryoken in Kyoto, wandering around to the Gion District with the geisha and tea houses. I did look up stuff for an experience, but they seem to be adults only.  Samurai school and the rail museum do look fun for DS.

#12 JBH

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:44 PM

Winter can be a good option. If you’re not planning on going up north or to the mountains, it’s not much worse temperature wise than a Sydney Winter and outside of the ski regions accommodation is well priced. It might not be the very cheapest for flights but it is better than cherry blossom season, and once you’ve got a child in school you’re never flying at the very cheapest times in any case. It’s also a bit less frenetic.

#13 JBH

Posted 14 October 2019 - 01:45 PM

We stayed in a ryokan in Kyoto and it was wonderful but hideously expensive!

#14 niban

Posted 14 October 2019 - 02:04 PM

Autumn is my favourite time in Japan, great weather and the foliage is just so fantastic (cherry blossom is also good, but the crowds are huge and I don't know how much fun travelling by yourself with a young child - hanami is more fun when older and with groups I think).   Like with cherry blossoms, the leaves are at their peak at different times in Oct/Nov (Japan TV shows maps of the "cherry blossom front" every year with estimates….)

I wouldn't be worried about typhoons - I lived there several years and can only remember one bad one (and that was really heavy rain)   I trust Japanese building standards and infrastructure more than just about any other country. Look what happened with Hagibis which was the worst in 50+ years - less than 24 hours after a super typhoon pretty much directly hit, they were able to play the RWC in a stadium that had been flooded (it's on a flood plain, designed on stilts to weather almost anything) and all the transport and other systems up were up to transport 70K people and have it run smoothly - just wow.  And there's always days of advance notice - with a rail pass you could easily hop on a train and be 500km away in hours (Osaka - Tokyo is 500 odd km and about 2 1/2hr) and well out of  range.

5 and unders are free in many places (even the bullet train!)  and kids are half price till about 12 (though Disneyland etc may have different kids rates).  I remember being shocked when we went to pay for a buffet breakfast on the first morning while traveling with DS1 when he was 5 only to be told he was an "infant" and free!  We took both DS to Japan in January immediately prior to them starting Kindy and it was great. We did a week at the snow and then a week in Tokyo/Disneyland.  Things to note - there are lots (and lots) of stairs and walking in the big cities, even though the transport systems are fantastic. Don't pack your itinerary too much for a single day.

Disneyland - I'd vote for 3 days, 2 in Disneyland and 1 in DisneySea.  Day trips to places like Kamakura (great leaves!) using Tokyo as a base.  Kyoto is wonderful, I remember Higashiyama in particular in autumn.  I'd also use Kyoto as a base for several days - you can get from there to Osaka in 15 min on the bullet train, less than an hour normal routes.  From Kyoto day trips to Nara and optionally Kobe are all very doable.  I'd keep your changes in accomodation to a minimum (see note above about stairs everywhere - minimise the luggage lugging)  and also maybe more setlling for your child (does he have some SN?  If so, having familiar 'home bases' might be good, if it's his first time travelling outside Australia.   You plan sounds good otherwise, there's so many different things to do in both the Tokyo and Kinki (Osaka/Kyoto) regions without trying to cram in other cities or places (I'm biased though as I'm very fond of the Osaka region)

Edited by niban, 14 October 2019 - 02:06 PM.


#15 chicken_bits

Posted 14 October 2019 - 02:34 PM

We did Tokyo in winter. It was glorious.

#16 Twinblue

Posted 14 October 2019 - 02:49 PM

We did Japan in September/ October school holidays when our youngest was 7. It was a fabulous place to travel with children- they are amazingly helpful and friendly and everything works so smoothly.
A typhoon hit while we were there, but they have very sophisticated monitoring systems so everyone seemed to know exactly what it was doing and many friendly locals kept us updated. About half a day before it was due to reach Tokyo everything was closed (with plenty of advance notice so we knew there would be no trains etc), so we had no choice but to hang out in the hotel where we felt completely safe (with everything shut down like this I would say there is very little danger of being caught out and about in one unawares). The next morning there were some slight disruptions to the rail system but nothing compared to what you would imagine given how ferocious the storm was- they are obviously well set up to handle them. It might be a bit different if you were in a smaller city or a rural area but if you’re sticking to the big cities I think you’d be fine.

#17 kiwilisa

Posted 14 October 2019 - 03:02 PM

We took our kids when they were 3 and 5 and Japan was so easy.

If you're going to Osaka, our kids loved the aquarium!

#18 kerilyntaryn

Posted 14 October 2019 - 03:07 PM

We've been twice in winter once 10 days in Dec the other 3 weeks Dec/Jan and it was great.

#19 Lunafreya

Posted 14 October 2019 - 03:32 PM

This is all super encouraging.  I do like the ideas of a home base, DS and I do need time to chill.  Especially DS, he'll need time to play and relax after all the crowds.

#20 born.a.girl

Posted 14 October 2019 - 03:40 PM

I know you won't, but just don't breathe a bliddy word to your ex about this.  He's irrational.   It might feel at times as though you're friendly together and are working together for your son's mutual benefit, but he's shown that that gets thrown out the window if it suits him.

Sorry, probably preaching to the choir.

#21 No Drama Please

Posted 14 October 2019 - 03:43 PM

Air bnb in Osaka or Kyoto might suit you for a first trip. You could just get one for a week, fly in and out of Osaka, then do day trips from one spot rather than worrying about finding you accomodation with your luggage etc. Do stuff in the mornings then relax in the afternoons.

#22 Lunafreya

Posted 14 October 2019 - 03:43 PM

I know, haven't said anything yet.  But eventually he will have to sign DS's passport application and I'll need permission to take DS out of the country

#23 born.a.girl

Posted 14 October 2019 - 03:59 PM

View PostLunafreya, on 14 October 2019 - 03:43 PM, said:

I know, haven't said anything yet.  But eventually he will have to sign DS's passport application and I'll need permission to take DS out of the country


Yes, clearly at that point.  I'm just talking now, if he starts to sound conciliatory, don't be fooled into thinking he's any different from the person who's tried to foil your plans so many times.

#24 Lunafreya

Posted 14 October 2019 - 04:27 PM

My Dad asked if we wanted to go to Europe with him.  But I don't think DS is ready for such a trip yet. Japan sounds more fun for both of us.

#25 IamOzgirl

Posted 14 October 2019 - 05:07 PM

View PostLunafreya, on 14 October 2019 - 04:27 PM, said:

My Dad asked if we wanted to go to Europe with him.  But I don't think DS is ready for such a trip yet. Japan sounds more fun for both of us.

I think going on a holiday with just you and DS is what you both need :-)




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