Going out with an infant can be difficult. There are many things you need to prepare in advance, from things needed to change diapers and breastfeeding, which means you would need to carry around a lot of luggage with you. Traveling abroad to Japan under these circumstances might even cause anxiety. Japan has a declining birth rate, but despite that, many of you may be surprised to find quite a few facilities for infants and toddlers. In this article, I would like to introduce some useful information when changing diapers and breastfeeding, which I am sure is a concern when traveling with an infant!
Does Japan have a lot of diaper-changing & breast-feeding areas??
As most people travel by car, in Western countries it may be normal to change diapers and breastfeed in your car. When it comes to urban areas in Japan, parking lots are small and many people travel by public transportation such as trains and buses. As a result, diaper-changing and nursing areas are actually very well equipped in Japan.
＊Airport / train station
You will always find a special area for diaper-changing and breast-feeding at the airport, of course, and at any major train station. Shinkansen (the bullet trains) are also available on board. Moreover, public toilets & multipurpose toilets at almost every local train and metro station have diaper-changing spaces. If you can’t find one, just ask a station attendant for directions.
Almost all shopping malls that are family friendly have wide diaper-changing and nursing rooms, sometimes with warm water for baby formula, and a microwave for baby food, which is very useful for people with children.
＊Amusement parks, zoos and museums
Most amusement facilities have diaper-changing and nursing rooms. In the unlikely event that a nursing room is not available, it is often possible to ask & use an office or any available room.
＊In the city, outside
Although not well known, there are many public facilities in the city (libraries, city halls, civic centers, etc.) where you can change diapers and breastfeed. Most of the cities have pamphlets for families going out with infants and toddlers, so please refer to these for more information.
Manners you need to know
Next, I would like to introduce you to manners you must not forget when changing diapers and breastfeeding in Japan. When you change a diaper in a public facility, it is normal (considered good manners) to take the used diaper home with you. You may not find many trash cans in the streets, and the unspoken rule is to keep your trash with you until you get back home. Diapers are dirty items, so you may feel uncomfortable with this, but it is best to put them in a plastic bag and take them to a place where garbage can be disposed of. Diaper changing areas in shopping malls and some other places have special trash cans, in which case you can dispose of your trash there.
However, it is okay to breastfeed outside of the special rooms, but it is better to put a nursing cape over the area if you are in a public place. This is not a rule, but it is an unspoken manner.
Where can I buy baby products?
The most convenient place to go when you need diapers, diaper wipes, baby formula, or other baby items is the drugstore. At drugstores, you can buy not only diapers, but also baby food packets. Also, large supermarkets have diapers and baby formula, but please note that you cannot buy these items at convenience stores. (Sometimes small packs are available at convenience stores in tourist areas.)
Some of Japan’s leading baby goods chain stores include Nishimatsuya, Akachan Honpo, Birthday, and BabiesRus. These stores are located throughout Japan. They can also be found in shopping malls. In these stores you can find everything you need from baby goods to maternity goods at reasonable prices.
Akachan Honpo (アカチャンホンポ)
Useful Japanese words: feeding a baby or changing a diaper
＊おむつ替え (Omutsu gae) - diaper change
＊おむつ替えがしたいです。(Omutugae ga shitai desu.) - I want to change my baby’s diaper.
＊授乳(Jyunyū) - breast-feeding・milk-feeding
In Japanese, 授乳(Jyunyū) expresses two meanings. If you want to make it clear, say 母乳の授乳 (Bonyū no jyunyū) for breast-feeding, or ミルク授乳 (milk jyunyū) for bottle-feeding.
＊授乳室はどこですか？(Jyunyū shitsu wa doko desuka?) - Where is the nursing room?
＊授乳できる場所はありますか？(Jyunyū dekiru basyo wa arimasuka? - Are there any places I can breastfeed?
＊ミルク用のお湯が欲しいです。(Milk yō no oyu ga hoshii desu.) - I want some warm water for making baby milk.
What do you think? In Japan, there are many diaper changing and nursing rooms that can be easily accessed in the city, and all of them are usually clean, so it is convenient to go out with children. Although there are some aspects of manners that are a bit strict, as long as you remember to be considerate of your surroundings, I don’t think it will be a big problem. I hope you enjoy your stay in Japan with your baby!