19 January 2013

Japan in a Day

We are "young" parents with young children. We don't make a lot of money. Our kids are loud and fight and pee their pants just like yours do. (yours do right?) But man oh man do we love traveling with them.

 If you've ever traveled at all with children, gone to Grandma's or even done the "Time Travel" thing where you fly so far, you skip days, live the same day for like 37 hours, or land at your destination and day is night and night is day and "jet-lag" feels like way too small of a word to describe the level of tired you feel...and you plan to do it at all again, then keep reading.

The temptation with any trip is to get through the "getting there" part as fast as possible.  Especially those long ones. Torture sometimes, isn't it? But don't do it! Ignore the urge! Travel will always make you tired whether you take a short road trip, cross state lines, or go farther. So why not kick that tortuous feeling where the sun don't shine and make the most of your "getting there?"  

One of the ways we get to see more than what our budget truly allows is to take short side trips while we're actually traveling on "bigger" trips.

For instance, we bought tickets home for Thanksgiving. Our bank account didn't even see it coming. Poor thing. The cheapest route we could find was through Japan and then on to America.  Stopwatch time that trip adds up to 44 hours from door to door. FORTY-FOUR hours y'all. Just traveling. (we'll discuss how much travel funk accumulates per child per hour on a trip like that next time, for now, it's enough you can't smell the photos)

We had never been to Japan, and it wasn't high on our must-see places. But if we have to stop there and sit at the airport for a couple hours, why not choose a longer layover and get out and see some of Japan? 

Remember:  "It only counts if you leave the airport!"

So that's what we did. We opted for a longer layover. 12 hours instead of 3. We've done this on a Germany stop too. (The WWII Axis Powers thing? Just a ko-ink-ee-dink.) Once we let NYC host us for 3 days on our way somewhere else.

When you make your stopover plans. Go easy on yourself. This won't make or break your trip, but it WILL be fun. Google some simple, nearby things you can go see and do in your stop. Since your time will be limited, research beforehand. Trains were the cheapest and easiest way to get to Narita.  We opted against Tokyo because it would have cut into our time too much. Narita was maneuverable for us as we don't speak Japanese and would have our stroller and 3 small children to haul around. I wonder sometimes why there's even school anymore? The skills of reading and googling could get you pretty far.
Our google results brought us this list:

* A huge park with great Japanese architecture.
* A Japanese temple
* An "authentic" Japanese ramen noodle place.
* And even that many Japanese people eat "Bento" boxes from 7-11 as their standard lunches.

As much as I wanted to see Mt. Fugi. It would have to wait.  We only had time for the above things, but the walk through Narita was LOADS better than even waiting 3 hours inside a boring airport. And now my kids can say they've been to Japan. JAPAN!
Since she's too young to remember, we took a picture for her.

Feels like Mr. Miyagi is just right around that corner!
So. Much. Fun.
"Boys wear those shoes too?!" The movies lied to me!
I wonder how you say "Peek-a-boo!" in Japanese?
Suki: "Doesn't matter if we ask, she doesn't speak Japanese! Just do it Kokoro!"
Kokoro: (picks up baby)

THIS is better than fixing boredom in an airport.  Though Isaiah did get one shoe soaked. (But we all saw that coming.)
All of these concepts can be added to road trips too. Driving up an interstate? Could a short beach picnic detour be taken? A nice lake or national park? A quaint town? A museum? Maybe don't take the bypass interstate to avoid that big city (I'm picturing Atlanta for some reason! Or Orlando? Dallas?) Drive THRU it and stop somewhere famous. Eat at "The Varsity," take a stroll through Downtown Disney, find a famous Tex-mex place and live it up and HAVE FUN! Your kids will still be tired when they get there, but you'll've nose-tackled that tired with some fun memories.

Traveling isn't only about your destination. Make the journey there memorable too! (and bring extra clothes in case of pee in the pants). 


  1. Love your adventurous spirits and its paying off in so many ways for Isaac, Isaiah and Immanuelle! Beautiful pictures....wonderful idea!

  2. "Cars didn't drive to MAKE good time, they drove to HAVE a good time" (quote from Cars in reference to Route 66....but it still applies to this post, right?)

  3. I love checking the blog and seeing pictures even I haven't seen. The picture of Bird on the bridge? Love. -The Husband/Father

  4. Perfect timing. We're going to stay in Narita for the night when we're thru. We have 22 hour layover and we also opted not to try to get into Tokyo but stay near the airport and just go into Narita. Some one here that we know grew up there and has already told me where to go for the noodles! :)

  5. I've left this post open for a month now to remind me to show it to Shannon before commenting. It is SO true that making time to enjoy the journey is often what makes the journey. I love the way you guys are doing this with your kiddos and it's definitely something that we want to do with ours one day too! These photos were so fun to look at. I'm sure your little ones will thank you for this type of fun one day! We both found the photo of Immanuelle with the 2 random ladies amusing. :-)

  6. Those pictures look so quintessential Japan. So perfectly beautiful and picturesque and exactly what I've imagined! I agree about the layover thing - we did that in Dubai and Bangkok too. It actually made our trip cheaper in Dubai (the flight, not the hotel + food + desert safari + incredibly expensive city part). I love it that you made up names for the Japanese people. And I'm so glad I re-found your blog.