Wednesday, September 5, 2012

3 kids, no car? Tokyo? How?

I've been in Japan for 15 years.

I currently have a 2 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. My third baby is due any day now.
So, I had a friend ask me the other day, how I plan to get around with three kids, without a car.

First of all, I do have a license... in the states. I let my Japanese one expire because I never used it. I can drive, but I have no confidence to park. Plus, I have found ways to make it possible to travel with children using the public transportation system. It's not that bad. It keeps me fit. The Japanese moms all do it. Why shouldn't I?

WAY 1: Mama chari, bicycle
I have a bike, with a seat in front and back for two kids. My daughter has a bike as well. When Xavier was small, I would strap him on my chest and put Isabella in a seat. I go very slowly and am a cautious driver. I would not attempt putting three kids on the bike. That is just too ambitious. 2 works.

WAY 2: Trains
If I know the route in advance and can confirm that there are elevators on all stations involved, I can use my Phil and Teds double stroller. If I do not know, then I bring my one push Japanese combi stroller that fits just one kid, but if I put the seat all the way down, I can squeeze two kids in, for emergencies.

I am VERY strict about my kids holding on to the stroller in the train stations and will not let them go on the trains with anyone else but myself or my husband. I do have a back-up back-pack "harness" (i.e. baby leash) for my 2 year old, just in case. I won't take any grief for this, as it is for his safety.

I also utilize a baby carrier.
It sounds tricky at first, but it isn't that bad. It has made me tough and I get a work out without going to the gym.

I use this site to plan my train travels in advance. It does not have elevator information but at least I know where to transfer, time to allot, etc. I always add 10-15 minutes though when I am traveling with kids, as the transfers are not as smooth when I need to walk further for elevators, haul a stroller down stairs, etc. Again, this is not that big of a deal for me. It is just part of my life and I accept it.

For destinations that I frequent on a regular basis, I often make the trip solo or with just one child, to do my own research on where the toilets are in the stations, elevators, walking time to destination, etc. This comes in handy when going to Gotanda, to Akachan-hompo, the children's department store mecca.

Way 3: Bus
There are bus routes available in English, that are very helpful. I suggest taking a day to locate local bus stops and find out where the buses go. It is fun for kids to expolore with you and they'll be fighting to see who gets the turn to push the button for the bus to stop. You can play "I spy" games and have real quality time with your kids when taking a bus.

Way 4: Travel when my daughter is at school
I have to be organized, but with a bit of planning, anything is possible. I do my errands and running around when Isabella is at kindergarten.

Since I have been here since a teenager, I am very accustomed to public transport and don't think that it hinders too much. It takes some getting use to, but completely possible.

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