Last December, Papa Bear and I brought our 3 cubs to Japan. We did Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Kyoto, Takayama, Shirakawago, Nagoya (a stopover for 1 night rest to break the journey shorter), Hakone, Mount Fuji and Tokyo. We used public transport while we were in Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Kyoto and Tokyo. We rented the car from Kyoto and did self drive to Takayama, Shirakawago, Nagoya, Hakone, Mount Fuji and returned the car in Tokyo. It's the best decision ever, even though that meant we miss the Shinkansen experience, but self drive allows us to do more that we could explore different routes and see different things. You are required to posses a valid international driving license to drive in Japan. :)
Everyone who has been to Japan will rave about Japan enthusiastically, us inclusive. Japan is a great travel destination for families; it represents an interesting mix of tradition and modernity. We are so inspired by the well-preserved ancient aspects of Japan and Japanese, from the manners and etiquette of the people, the stunning beauty and cleanliness of the country, the tea and onsen culture and many more… Japan also has top-notch infrastructures and technologies. All these added up to a truly unique experience for all travelers!
Below is our kids friendly travel itinerary, which we had spent quite a bit of time doing our research and homework, especially on getting around via public transport, renting a car, connecting points from one place to another and so on, we hope this will help you with your trip and please feel free to drop me a comment, if you have any further questions.
TRAVEL PERIOD: 2 – 15 December 2015 It's winter and you may experince snowing while you are at Takayama or Shirakawago if you are lucky! We were quite lucky that it snowed the night before at Gifu, which is on the way to Takayama. Kids were happy to play with the still fluffy fresh snow. :)
Day 1: Arrive Kansai International Airport (KIX), Osaka at 9.30am via Malaysia Airlines - Purchase ICOCA & Haruka Card – Check into the apartment booked via Airbnb – Street Food for Lunch - Nara – Dinner - Good Night
Junka’s Apartment, booked via Airbnb as per the link here. If you have not signed up for Airbnb yet, you may do so here, so we will both get RM65 travel credit each from Airbnb, which can be used in any of our bookings through them. :)
Our first time traveling business class as a family. MAS will sometimes offer an upgrade through bidding, so do try your luck! The food, the service and the flat bed are awesome! The steward made me Milo when he knew I don't take coffee or tea. :)
Nasi Lemak on board. We were also served with satays, fruits, salads and free flow of drinks (like wines!). :)
After collecting our luggages, we went straight to JR office to purchase the ICOCA & Haruka Card. It’s actually a prepaid card that gives you some discount on your airport transfer via train.
Read more and pre-reserve your ICOCA & Haruka Card here. The advantage of pre-reserve your card online is to help you save some time and hassle trying to communicate with the Japanese officers who don’t quite speak English. But worry not if you can’t make the reservation online for any reasons, as there will be at least one customer service officer who speaks Chinese stationed at most main JR office. Yes, this provided if you too speak Chinese!
If you are travelling with kids or wondering if you should get ICOCA card or Kansai Thru Pass or other deals, do read this. It’s a very good read that covers everything including sample itineraries to save more and which card offers the best deals that best suit you.
Our Airbnb host picked us up from Tennoji Station. We rested a bit and off we went to Nara for a wonderful evening.
Our cosy apartment in Osaka. Plenty of rooms for everyone. We love the Kotatsu heating table that keeps us warm during winter and kids love their Tatami room.
One of the reason we love Airbnb that we have the opportunity to live like the locals in a quiet neighbourhood.
All the sleepiness due to midnight flight were gone the moment kids saw the deers! Plenty of them at Nara Park!
Papa Bear was busy recording the moments. We love to look back at our travel videos and pictures.
Look! Who were spotted queuing for ice cream? LOL
We were still in time for the beautiful view of autumn foliage. Lucky us!
The Nandaimon Gate which impress us a lot with its acrchitectural structure.
Day 2: Osaka Museum of Housing & Living – kimono experience (9th floor) – Lunch - Kids Plaza Osaka – Dinner - Dotonbori - Good Night
If you would like to try wearing the kimono, Osaka Museum of Housing & Living offers the lowest fee, it costs only 200 yen per person. But they have no sizes for toddlers. Please go early as the queue could be long. We enjoyed having our photos taken at the 'old ancient streets of Japan' which was built for education and photography purpose. :)
If you do not see the smart phone at the background, you would really believe that we were in the old ancient Japan? :)
Photo taken by Sister Bear. She's a good photographer, isn't she? :)
This is taken by a professional photographer from Taichung who was there for a photography tour. We were honoured to be invited as his 'models'. :)
I'll recommend spending at least half a day at Kids Plaza Osaka too. The place is very well equipped and fun for kids of all ages, even Brother Bear enjoyed it. Most workers are retirees, which they were so passionate about their work that they did not just watch the kids, but they joined the kids in all the games. Have a look at some pictures we took, which do not do justice to this super fun place, which has TV station, international boutiques for you to play dress up in multi-racial traditional costumes, scientific floor, and many more... Just go! :)
We also enjoy Japan's streetfood a lot, it kept us warm during winter. Picture taken on the way to Kids Plaza Osaka from Osaka Museum of Housing & Living. Yes, these two properties are just a short walking distance away. :)
One of the games which provide great bonding and everyone will have a good laugh.
Your most kawaii postgirls at your service.
This must be the best Japanese ramen that the patron was grinning from left to right. :)
The employees who are mainly retirees and they love their jobs!
We took the train to Dotonbori for dinner and a bit of shopping and sight-seeing. We enjoyed the cool weather very much! :)
Day 3: Mount Rokko and Rokkosan Farm (Some call it Rokkosan Country House & Pasture), Kobe
Our kids love nature and farm animals so much that I specifically Google and did a lot of homework just to get to this farm. It's a day well spent as our kids enjoyed the farm so much. It was winter and most outdoor activities were cancelled, but the kids still had a blast feeding, chasing and being chased by the big fat sheep, the art & craft workshop, the nice cafe, the freshly made ice cream (yes, in this chilly winter!), the view, the nature playground and etc... If you visit during other seasons, you can do more such as bottle feeding the calves, horseback riding and etc... Read more about the farm in the links below:
It's the day that we took the most modes of transportation from the train, cable car, and bus. It took a total of 2 hours from Osaka. But fret not, as the journey was a comfortable and enjoyable one, with the beautiful views and helpful Japanese. Pardon Brother Bear's blur face, I wasn't sure why this was captured as so, must be the timing. LOL
The beautiful view of Kobe from Mount Rokko Cable Car Station.
Here we were!
First, we said hello to the goaties and bunnies.
What an amazing view! She was so HAPPY!
The sheep were all theirs for an hour or two until more visitors coming in after lunch. :)
Papa Bear and I in front of the castle.
The art & craft workshop making sheep using real wool. :)
Deng, deng, deng, deng...
Awesome cafe for lunch.
I love the freshly made ice cream the most! :D
Be prepared to get dirty and have lotsa fun!
So here's the part I of our Japan trip, with Osaka as base. I hope you enjoy reading it. :)
To read the part II of our trip to Japan, doing Kyoto in 3 days, please click on the link below:
Part II: Kyoto: http://vivianfoo.com/blog_post.php?blog_id=67
Part III: Takayama, Shirakawa-go: http://vivianfoo.com/blog_post.php?blog_id=75
Part IV: Hakone, Tokyo