Should I Take a Stroller to Japan?

When traveling to Japan with babies or toddlers for the first time, all the parents will eventually ask themselves if they need to take a stroller. Preparing for this huge trip to Japan can be a little stressful, and you want to make sure you have everything you’ll need. I understand you. Travelling with kids it’s not the easiest thing in the world and there are lots of things to pack, so why bother carrying a stroller with you to Japan? Well, the right question is: “How can you not have a stroller in Japan?”.

Travelers going to Japan with babies and toddlers will need a stroller to make their travel easier while moving around, sightseeing or even waiting in line. Parents with babies can eventually replace the stroller, which takes a larger place, with a baby carrier that can fit everywhere.

However, the stroller is still the most relaxing option, at least according to 85% of the parents I asked “Do you prefer a stroller or a baby carrier?”. In the next paragraphs, I’ll explain why it is a good idea to take a stroller to Japan and some inconveniences that you might come across. This way, you can be prepared for everything, and also, you’ll be able to make your own decisions because some parents might not have the same problems I have. 🙂

Advantages of Using a Stroller in Japan

I’m sure all parents can understand how useful a stroller is, otherwise, there wouldn’t be 75% of the parents using it with their 3-year-old kids. But more often than not, when they decide to travel far away (usually overseas), they start to hesitate about taking the stroller with them. I can understand that taking equipment like that can be complicated at the airport or the plane, but the stroller will literally save your life in Japan. 😉

Let me tell you in detail the reasons that make me think the stroller will be your best friend during your trip to Japan.

In Japan, You Walk a Lot

I bet you heard this before, but it is true. In Japan, you will be doing lots of walking and there’s no way you can avoid it. There’s so much to see around the main attractions that you will find yourself walking a little more each time. Plus, you will be walking to find a place to eat, to find places to buy souvenirs, to do some shopping, to return to your hotel (especially, if this one is not located close to a train/subway station). You might even get lost and have to walk a lot to find your way. Getting lost is not a bad thing because you will be able to see the best of Japan when you’re lost, but it will mean extra walking.

A trip to Japan is known to be somehow physically challenging for adults, so I let you imagine how that feels for kids. Can you imagine your small kid walking for hours? I know I can’t.

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And when you need your kid to stay still because you’re admiring a beautiful view, or visiting a temple? Sometimes you just need to slow down a little, but kids don’t get that either and this is when a stroller can become really handy.

Whether you need to keep going or slow down, a stroller will certainly help you manage your kid and keep the right pace.

Kids Need to Rest

Don’t fall into the trap that a toddler doesn’t need a stroller anymore. Kids who start walking will be easily tired since they tend to run around all the time instead of just walking.

My kid is 3 years old, and I certainly use a stroller for long walks anywhere, even close to our home. When you go for a walk in a park, your kid will be tempted to run around and explore things, which is perfectly normal. When you decide to return home, that’s when things become complicated because your kid won’t have the same motivation and that’s when the stroller becomes a life-savior. Until now, there wasn’t a single parent who told me he or she preferred to carry a tired kid instead of simply pushing the stroller. Can you relate to this?

If this kind of situation happens near your home, expect it to happen in Japan as well. If you want to give your kid a rest from all the walking and sightseeing, use a stroller. It will be good for your kid and you, as well. Pushing a stroller will be easier for you than carrying a tired kid.

And if your kid still takes naps, a stroller is essential, especially one that can be reclined into a lay-down position. This way you don’t have to return to your hotel to let your kid rest, and you can do it on the go.

A Stroller Grants You Security

No matter how good you are at taking care of your kid, you know that small kids run faster than you initially thought possible. Small kids have this amazing superpower of disappearing in seconds. They are small, they run fast, and they don’t listen to what you say to them. I let you imagine how fast they can disappear in a crowded country like Japan.

Unless you have an angel as a kid (I don’t, that’s for sure!), I recommend using a stroller to avoid any problems. A stroller will prevent your kid from running around, maybe putting himself or herself in danger, and will avoid the use of the annoying superpower I told you before.

I know that when my kid is in the stroller, I stress a lot less than when he stands by my side because he will hardly be able to get out of the stroller by himself.

A Stroller Can be Used as a High Chair

As you probably know, in Japan you shouldn’t walk and eat or drink at the same time. It is not a law, but it is a big no-no. Imagine that you bump into someone with your food full of sauce, and you stain his or her clothes, this could be a big problem, particularly when people are rushing to get on time. Now imagine kids with food on their hands.

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Other than worrying about others, you probably agree that is much better to have your kid sitting somewhere when you give him/her food. Small kids can’t wait for you to find the perfect restaurant when they’re hungry, and sometimes, searching for a restaurant in Japan can take a lot of time (unless you have all planned and booked a restaurant in advance, but that’s usually not the case).

A stroller is, once again, your best friend because your kid can sit and eat without problems.

A Stroller Can be Used as a Change Table

If your toddler still uses diapers, a stroller is a life-savior. Instead of having a hard time looking for a restroom with a diaper change station, just change your kid on the go in the stroller. Reclinable strollers are the best for these situations.

Babies and toddlers might have to be changed at any time without further notice so just push your stroller to some calm place, and you can end the problem right there. No need to stress while trying to find a restroom.

A Stroller Helps You With Your Bags

A stroller is not only useful for your kid, but for you too. If you plan on doing lots of shopping in Japan, and if you don’t you will certainly change your mind once you get to Japan, a stroller can be very helpful to carry all your bags.

Imagine yourself in a mall carrying your kid’s bag, toys, etc., plus your purse or backpack and all the shopping bags with souvenirs, etc. It will be a little complicated, don’t you think? I know that it is doable to carry all that at the same time, but I rather avoid it, especially in crowded places like Japan and when I have to manage a kid at the same time.

In these situations, a stroller makes my life so much easier so why should I deny myself this help?

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The only inconvenient I can think of for a stroller’s use in Japan are:

  • Stairs (it is annoying to have to take a stroller through stairs when elevators are not available).
  • Escalators (less annoying than stairs, but also difficult, and most of the time it is forbidden to use a stroller in escalators).
  • Crowded trains are a true problem in Japan, especially during rush hour. Sometimes, it’s really difficult to get a person on a crowded train, so I let you imagine how hard it is to fit a stroller.
  • Small cafés/restaurants: Japan is full of small commerce and most of the time, you can’t enter if you do not fold the stroller. And even when you can fold it, sometimes it is still a problem.

The bottom line is that despite these few situations, I still think that more often than not, a stroller is a true life savior during your trip because of all the advantages we saw previously.

What if Your Forgot or Didn’t Take Your Stroller to Japan

If you forgot to take your stroller to Japan or if you don’t want to travel with your stroller, there’s still a solution to have a stroller in Japan during your stay. It is possible, of course, to buy a stroller in Japan, but parents who tried that option didn’t find cheap strollers that could serve this purpose.

The best option, in my opinion, is to rent a stroller in Japan and then return it at the end of your stay.

There’s a cool company created by parents that can help you with the stroller rental. It’s called Lileo. It offers the possibility of renting high-quality Bugaboo strollers made specially for the city because they are compact enough to fit almost everywhere. Plus they are easy to fold, carry and store, and they can be easily pushed with one hand.

The service couldn’t be easier. You just have to rent the stroller online with Klook, and tell the number of days you need it. You will have to indicate your hotel address and the date of arrival so that they can send you the stroller just before your arrival. It is possible to receive the stroller in the following cities at the moment:

  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Nara
  • Hokkaido
  • Chiba
  • Kobe
  • Hiroshima
  • Fukuoka

This couldn’t be more hassle-free for parents. You can benefit from all the advantages of using a stroller in Japan without having to travel overseas with your stroller.

At the end of your stay, you just have to return the stroller using the address label they gave you.

For more detail about renting a stroller in Japan check the Klook’s page for this service.

What You Should Know Before Travelling With Your Stroller

If you decide to take your stroller to Japan, you have to keep in mind a few things. Not all strollers are the same, so you have to pick one that will fit your needs in Japan.

Check Your Airline Recommendations

This is one of the first things you want to check before taking the stroller with you to Japan. As you know, airplanes have limited cabin space, so you will have to check in your stroller most of the time. Don’t worry, in almost every airline company, strollers are not subject to checked baggage restrictions, but it will be better for you if your stroller is not a huge one and if it can fold correctly. Also, it is better to have a case to check in the stroller, otherwise, it will be put in a plastic bag most of the time.

If you have a very compact stroller, usually you will be able to bring it on board with you if it respects the carry-on size regulations when folded. Just keep in mind that if several other passengers are bringing their strollers too, the airline company might ask some passengers to check them in.

However, if you choose to bring the stroller on board, you won’t be allowed to bring any other carry-on baggage.

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If you’re traveling with ANA (All Nippon Airlines) or JAL (Japan Airlines), they have a full page explaining all that you need to know when traveling with babies and small children:

No matter what airline company you’re using, just remember to always check the stroller policy they have to avoid any problems at the airport.

Your Stroller Must Fold and be Compact

This might seem pretty obvious, but it is really important in Japan because of the crowds. I already told you before that in some small cafés or restaurants, you can’t enter if your stroller doesn’t fold. Even if it folds, sometimes that’s still a problem. Unless you’re going to huge malls in the big cities, you will mostly find small stores everywhere and a stroller can be a problem.

When outside, remember that Japan is known to be a crowded country, especially in the cities so a compact stroller will be better to navigate the crowds.

An umbrella stroller is easily and quickly folded and can be a good option because you can push it easily onto the train (when it’s not rush hour).

Your Stroller Must be Light

A light stroller is crucial in Japan and pretty much everywhere, I guess.

You will probably have to carry your stroller a lot when you don’t have an elevator nearby so be ready for this.

Larger train stations have elevators, but finding them is another story, and if you’re in a hurry to catch your train on time, you will be tempted to take the stairs. In that case, I hope you brought a light stroller, otherwise, that can be a huge problem.

Many train stations have escalators, but you know that escalators and strollers are not the best friends so it’s better to avoid that.

The smaller train stations just have a lot of stairs (as well as many of the subway stops). This is starting to change, especially due to the Olympics, but it is better to be prepared to all kinds of situations.

Your Stroller Must Not be Expensive

Even if you have a top-quality stroller that is great and that you love a lot, I won’t recommend taking it to Japan. It will be useful, yes, but it can be damaged on the travel and that would be a pity. And even if your stroller resists airplane travel, you will be tempted to go everywhere with it and charge it with lots of weight, which can damage it too.

Also, it’s not uncommon to see a stroller parking in some places like restaurants, etc., so you have to be comfortable with the fact of letting the stroller away from you.

An inexpensive umbrella stroller can be enough to make your trip easier in Japan and you avoid damaging your best stroller.

For a long walk, I use a cheap stroller that I bought from Amazon for about $90. (Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but it’s like this one on Amazon.) It is the one that you see in all the pictures above, and it is pretty useful with its large shopping basket below and the meal tray. It folds easily, and it’s lightweight, but you can tell that it is not going to last several years, which is normal regarding the low price. I’ve had this stroller for 2 years now, and I’m pretty happy that it lasted that long considering the tough experiences we put it through 😉

The only inconvenience is the small wheels. If I were to change it, I would pick one with bigger wheels, which is easier to move around. I’m thinking about buying this one also on Amazon, if the current stroller breaks.

Just keep in mind not to spend a lot of money on a stroller that can end its days in Japan 🙂

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