My first months with Via Yuna in Japan
Before giving birth, I read on various blogs how kids-friendly Japan is and how Tokyo has a lot of activities to offer for kids. I had a hard time to believe it because Tokyo for me is still - despite some great big parks - mostly an area with a lot of skyscrapers and crowds. However, I was proved wrong. Tokyo has quite some adventures for little ones.
The difference to Europe is, that it is not as rural and nature-bonded, but you rather have indoor activities mostly packed with people. But since the Japanese are extremely respectful and not pushy I don’t mind overcrowded places.
Having a baby in Tokyo
Of course, I can’t compare life with a baby to other cities than Tokyo because I am a first-time mom. Nevertheless, I have to admit that the Japanese are extremely friendly and helpful when it comes to babies. Almost every single time I am going outside there is at least one person who approaches us with the words “kawaii”, which means “cute”. Followed by the question of VY's age and if I breastfeed her (last question seems to me really personal but must be a normal thing to be asked here).
To name some examples where I found the Japanese very helpful: it already happened twice that I was caught by a sudden rainfall (rainy season is in June, but this year extended to July). Once I rushed home with VY because she was crying. A woman wanted to stop me and shouted in English “Excuse me, excuse me” (which was already quite surprising, usually they don’t say anything in English) and wanted to pass her umbrella to me. I didn’t take it because I was almost at home.
The other time I was caught by rain, VY was sleeping so I just hid myself under a roof of a restaurant and waited. I wasn’t in a rush, so I just accepted the fact to wait and I observed the rainy scenario in the streets. Suddenly, a young man came from the restaurant of the opposite side with an umbrella, opened it up for me and said “dozo“ meaning “here you go”.
I have to admit, the usual umbrellas here are rather cheap and you can get one for a few hundred yen - but anyways, I still thought it was a nice thing to do.
My latest experience was when I met with some friends 30 minutes’ walk from home and VY decided to get suddenly very very hungry. I had to stop in the middle of the street and prepare a bottle of milk for her. There was a flowerbed just next to me and at the edge of it I could practically sit down but I didn’t because it was full of ants and soil. So, I fed VY while standing up. Suddenly a woman, living in the house next to the flowerbed, rushed out of the house and said: “Please sit down.” She noticed I didn’t want to and went back into the house, came back a minute later and handed me a towel to sit on – how nice of her!
My highlight of Japanese kids-friendliness so far!
As I become more and more confident of going to normal restaurants with VY without Vitali’s help, I met my Danish friend Laerke and her newborn boy Esbjørn in a family run restaurant in our neighborhood. The restaurant exists since a hundred years, known for its “soba” and “udon” (buckwheat noodles).
It started out ok, VY was just a little bit more active than the other times. Although, by the time we passed from small-talk to choosing from the menu to order, VY got really fussy. I tried it all: feeding, cuddling, entertaining, sleeping - but it simply didn’t work.
So, I excused myself and went outside. In front of the restaurant VY immediately calmed down. I guess she was just too bored inside. Outside in front of the restaurant on the bench there was the 90-year-old owner and her granddaughter who also had already two kids. We had a little chat. After a few minutes, I went inside again because I didn’t want Laerke to sit alone in the restaurant. But the whole show started all over again. VY got even fussier and loud and I felt pretty bad to annoy the other guests plus I could not have a bite of my food. Suddenly, one of the owner daughters (there are four of them in their mid-fifties running now the restaurant) came up to me, obviously seeing that I had troubles to take care of VY, she took her in her arm and went outside. What is happening?!
I realized that she wanted to help me and I was so relieved. Now I could have some food. After a few minutes the lady came back with VY, who started crying again. She said “omutsu” which means diapers. But I knew their restaurant had this tiny, tiny toilet and there was no way I would change VY's diapers there. And then she went on and said: "Come to my house!" Her house was actually in the same building as the restaurant. So, five minutes later I found myself in the restaurant owner’s living room in a tatami room changing VY’s diapers and breastfeeding her. Later the owner came checking on me again, seeing if everything was alright and ensuring me I could stay as long as I need to. I was overwhelmed by her friendliness!