One of the best freebies in Japan are the Baby Carts in the stores. If you are like a lot of families visiting or relocating to Japan then you want to know all the little details about how to make your life easier when navigating a foreign country. A great place to find things to do with little ones is to visit your nearest mall. Aeon Mall in particular is very kid friendly.
When we first arrived in Japan I was overwhelmed by the many differences. Most of the shopping areas had really narrow aisles and my American style stroller seemed monstrous and just did not work well in the tight crowded space. It can also be a struggle if you are living car free in Japan or downsizing to a more Tokyo friendly smaller scale car. One of the best things I found when I first arrived was the great abundant of themed baby carts and toddler carts in the malls.
I realized that many families in the malls, grocery stores, and department stores were pushing along sleeping babies reclined in style while still having a place for the shopping bags. The toddlers were pretending to drive along with their favorite characters and they were being pushed along giving their moms and dads plenty of shipping time since they were throughly entertained.
The baby carts that are available in many of the stores and malls are high up about waist level and the baby sit can sit up straight or recline fully to allow your child to nap. This also provides those who came to the mall via bicycle or train a way to transport without having to baby wear throughout the entire trip. It is also helpful to many in Japan with mini sized cars that do not have the trunk space to haul a stroller if they are also going to be making purchases on their trip.
The baby cart is free for use in the store and you can take it all the way out to your car or bicycle when it is time to pack up your purchases and head home. There are also handles on the cart for shopping bags to hang and a rack underneath to store your basket while you are adding items to your cart.
Some of the baby carts face forward but generally you will see the infant style baby carts facing towards their parent so they will feel at east.
The carts have rubber handle grips and do not have a tight strap or buckle. Instead they have a plastic breathe comes across the lap and between the legs. The plastic Lapland can be tightened or loosened. It will not get loose enough for your child to fall out but it can not get too tight like a small buckle or strap. This design is pretty good, especially if you have a wiggle baby that hates straps. However I find it a bit difficult to put a baby in when I have no assistance. The cart is on wheels and you also have to hold the plastic lap band forward while putting the baby in. It can be done but I think the carts should have some type of brake for this situation. Overall it is a really nice design though.
Most stores have a lot of infant style arts available. I have not come across a time where we couldn’t get one. Even on the dreaded Sunday with heavy crowds!
The toddler carts are available at most locations that have the infant carts. Sometimes if you can not locate a toddler cart inside near the infant seat area then they will be available outside of the store entrances.
These carts are good for children from about 1 1/2 to 4 years of age. There are a variety of character theme and colors. We found most common are Anpanman, Hello Kitty, Thomas the Train, Winnie the Pooh, Miffy, and Mickey Mouse. The carts are equipped with steering wheels, mirrors, and some pretend car controls to entertain your toddler. They all have a strap and buckle. The entrance of the carts are low so toddlers can actually clim in the carts themselves and parents do not have to bend over to life them up. They may just require some help with the buckle.
The carts also have two hooks for shopping bags. You can hang a grocery shopping basket on them as well but then is not really stable and you should use caution. These are more designed for shopping bags, not baskets for use in the grocery area. If you would like to grocery shop with this cart it is possible but not suggested unless you have a second person to help you hold the basket separately.
There is also an area at the top of the cart that you can use for holding small items. We use this area for holding soppy cups or small toys that our toddler might insist on bringing in the mall.
There are many carts available usually. However, we have noticed that there are less toddler carts than infant carts for use. The toddler carts do sometimes run out, especially during peak shopping times during weekends.
Don’t forget the Aeon Malls and large grocery areas generally have a play space for children. The basic play spaces for infants and crawlers are generally free but some of the larger play areas do charge by 5 to 15 minute increments. They can be as little as a few hundred yen to requiring monthly memberships. Either way, when you are using the baby cart you can still participate in the play areas or the arcade spaces.. you can simply park them on the outside of the play area and leave your bag hanging on the cart. This signifies that you are not finished with the cart and no one will use it.
Hope this post helps those venturing out and about the first few times in Japan. Maybe you can accomplish your tasks via bike or car and leave your strollers at home!