Life around town with babies & kids: US vs. Japan

I may or may not write a review specifically about travel or the United Airlines flights I took, but right now I mostly want to comment on how the US is so NOT baby friendly! To be fair, maybe the US does not realize it. Before I had a baby, I never noticed all the little things that shops and restaurants provide for babies/kids in Japan, but now that I have a baby, I am all to aware of what is offered and not.

Large Stores: (grocery, furniture, clothing, discount, etc). 

Japan: 2 or 3 sizes of “buggy” with attached part for your shopping basket: baby size for infant to 12 months, seat for older babies and kids, and sometimes car or train or other novelty cart for toddlers and kids. Also sometimes it has the mini cart with a flag so your toddler or kid and “go shopping”, too.

I took this photo in the womens’ bathroom somewhere – there’s a urinal for the boys, too! …and a baby seat photo – so Mom doesn’t have to hold the baby while she pees!

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US: Kid seat attached to cart – only for older babies/kids. Sometimes without a safety belt. Changing tables available in some womens’ bathrooms.

Airports: 

Japan: Terminals 1 and 2 have kids areas. In Terminal 1 it is E concourse near all the star alliance flights (near a smoking room, but the smoke doesn’t get out and I think that is so one parent can do their thing while the other parent watches kids). Every womens’ bathroom has a changing table and kid seat in at least one stall so Mom can go to the bathroom, too. Every bathroom area has a family bathroom/handicap bathroom so Dad can change diaper, too and families with multiple kids can stick together with their luggage in a large restroom. SEVERAL lactation rooms for nursing moms or general privacy while feeding/changing (men also allowed) and the lactation areas have privacy doors or curtains. Often these rooms also have filtered mineral water for formula families. Always have sink with hand soap and garbages so you don’t have to take your diapers with you.

Kids Park in Terminal 1 – Star Alliance (E Concourse) (photo from the Narita Airport website, I keep forgetting to take a photo here):

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Nursing room before security at Narita (similar rooms are found after security in each terminal):

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These photos are from a rest area along the Kan-etsu highway in Japan. Private nursing and changing – men welcome. LOVE IT!

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US: … I found 1 changing table at SFO and another one at MSP. At SFO there was a room called a family room, but it was locked and there was a note to call a number, but no one answered and the room didn’t open, from what I could tell there was a sink, changing table and some floor space for playing. No baby seat in the restrooms and the handicap restroom was barely large enough for a wheelchair so my buggy and luggage did not fit. I had to leave my luggage unattended. I had to pee while holding my baby.

Hospitals: 

Japan: Kids play area in EVERY hospital I have been to. Nothing fancy, but toys & books on tumble mats. These are not kid hospitals, they are regular hospitals for all people and ailments. I’ve been to two hospital for myself since my daughter was born, once for my wrist and once for a female problem. In both cases, at two different hospitals, I was ushered to a special kid room while I waited to see the doctor. The attendant came to get me when it was my time – awesome! Womens’ bathroom with changing table and baby seat in toilet. Sometimes family/handicap bathroom.

US: I was at 2 hospitals in the US. Both are very large and one is very famous for research and cutting edge surgery. No play room (I hope the kids getting treatment at least have something). 1 changing table on the first floor in one hospital and 1 changing table in a family room at the larger hospital. Luckily it was located near where I needed to be since it is a huge complex. No baby seats so again, I must pee while holding my baby.

Department stores: 

Japan: Mostly these are only in Tokyo or Osaka, but all department stores have a kid area, usually with a large tumble mat space with big soft blocks. Sometimes also with video games and riding games. In the smaller towns like around Nagano, there are often a couple “rides” next to a photo booth. At Matsuya Ginza, I was told about the Garden level. This is separate from the kids floor with a play area, but it has baby room (for nursing and sleeping) and kid room (for being loud) and it has a changing room that also has a scale and flat height chart, so I got to check on my babies physical progress and then get a latte! If you run out of diapers, there was a diaper dispenser as well. All the same awesome bathrooms apply.

Mitsukoshi Kodomo Park (photo courtesy of www.TokyoStroller.com – Check out this blog!) This is NORMAL in Japan.

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US: … nothing. Changing table in some womens’ bathrooms. No baby seat, I must pee while holding my baby. (only from one experience, to be fair).

Restaurants: 

Japan: If fancy, just the highchair. If family restaurant or any mid level or fast food restaurant they offer boosters, high chairs, booster in booth with sides for new sitters, and sometimes bassinets for newborns. Most restaurants offer some kind of baby food for purchase and will give you hot water, juice and utensils to eat of mom and dad’s plates for free. Bathrooms have changing table and baby seat in stall usually. Sometimes family bathroom.

US: high chair usually available. Bathrooms may have a changing table. For my daughter who is adorable, we often got special service from the wait staff (free juice, fruits, and in one case cotton candy!).

I went to one hotel in the US and they did not have a bathtub or baby tub or baby crib/bassinet available. I am not sure if this is normal and I cannot compare to Japan yet.

I guess I could go on, but you get the idea. I was happy about Japan before, but after my visit to the US without my husband, I am so impressed and proud of all the services Japan offers. It is funny that Japan, a country that still has a large number of full-time moms has so many services no only for moms, but that both parents can enjoy, while the US, with a rising number of single working moms and two-dad families, offers almost nothing for male or female parents.

My experiences are mostly Tokyo and Nagano in Japan and Minnesota (Twin Cities and Rochester) in the US. Airports are Narita and SFO, ORD, and MSP.

Comments welcome.

One thought on “Life around town with babies & kids: US vs. Japan

  1. I agree with you about the Japanese baby friendly facilities. The UK is probably the same to the US, not every place is providing mum & baby facilities. However, I noticed a lot of harsh criticism during my stay in Japan which was directed towards mums with babies. Complaining about baby buggies on public transport or babies crying in public places, I found a little too unkind. In the UK, people are more relaxed about it and also very helpful if mothers are struggling with their buggies. Men or women, they sponteniously lend their hands helping to carry them up or down the staris. How about in the states? Are they helpful to mums & babies?

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