What to do in Osaka, Japan with a toddler

Japan is one of the places that we enjoyed because of the culture and the people. So when Cebu Pacific had a promo for November we decided to visit again with Greyson! Last time we went here, we visited the tourist sites in Kyoto, Nara and they were mostly temples. This time around we explored kid-friendly places and there was still so much to see and so much to do!

Traveling with a toddler has its perks – it’s still free if your child sits on your lap, he’s still relatively manageable, plus it’s a great experience to teach new words what with his absorbent mind until 3 years. Of course we needed to brace ourselves for possible scenarios like how will he respond with the pressure in the plane, how will we entertain him during the flight, hopefully he wouldn’t catch a stomach bug, hopefully he wouldn’t get sick or us too that we would be unable to take care of him.

Grateful to God that the trip was really smooth and Greyson was such a trooper! He was easy to travel with as he didn’t make a fuss yay! He got bored on the plane but he didn’t cry. He entertained himself by playing with the magazines in front of us.

I think this was really the best time for us to travel as a family since we were finally recovered from the tiredness of last year =)) Also Greyson at 1 year 5 months by then was already showing his interests (like animals and tasting different foods – he is adventurous with his tastebuds and he’s starting to acquire a taste for spicy food) and it was easier for us to decide on the places to visit.

We stayed in Osaka for 5 days with 1.5 days allotted for transit. Here’s our itinerary in our 5 Day Trip.

Day 1 – Travel

Day 2 – Namba Walk, Osaka Aquarium, Passed by Tempozan Ferris Wheel along the way

Day 3 – Nara Deer Park, Yoshikien Garden, Kofukuji Temple (just because it’s on our way to the train station), Dotonbori at night

Day 4 – Tennoji Zoo, Shinsekai, Dotonbori

Day 5 – Nambanaka Park, Kuromon Market (mostly for us :)) to go on a date), Travel to Manila

Here’s a short review of the places we visited with our 1 year old.

  1. Osaka Aquarium – We visited on a weekday and there were lots of tourists and families and it’s not that crowded! I thought it would just be for kids, but we enjoyed this as well! It’s a place both parents and children will enjoy. The main attractions were the penguins (for us), dolphins, the shark, whale shark, and the last stop wherein you could touch the the shark and stingray. Please be mindful of course to wash your hands before touching them so any chemicals can be washed off. Some dolphins weren’t camera shy and they would get close to the glass of the aquarium. It was nice to see them cohabiting as animals that lived on land and in the water below were in the same aquarium. It was so awesome to see so many species in the sea. We wondered if we were really swimming with them instead of us looking in, it would be so scary to swim beside these giants and yet we would also be awestruck with them! There were a lot of species you wouldn’t see in Manila Ocean Park so it’s good to visit this place.

Some tips: For those carrying strollers, they don’t allow strollers in the escalators so you have an option to deposit it on the 3rd floor. Elevators were not that accessible so in order to use the escalator, you would need to fold your stroller. Eat snacks before going in since food and drinks are not allowed inside!

Direction from Namba subway: Take Midosuji line (red) to Hommachi Station. Take Chuo line (green) to Osakako station. Go down Osakako station and walk to the Aquarium. You will pass by Tempozan ferris wheel going there

Cost: 2,300 Yen for adults around 1K in PHP. toddlers are free (aged 3 and under)

Aquarium

2. Nara Deer Park – Deers in their natural state are here! They would be roaming the park some ready for photo op while some are quite shy. Last time we were here it was already dark so it was nice to see them in daylight. I wanted Grey to see the deers since he likes animals and I thought he would enjoy it here. Well initially he did, until I started feeding the deers some deer biscuits which you could buy in the stand for around 200 yen. When they started biting my pants and they were becoming aggressive I kind of panicked and turned around too fast. Grey who was leaning by my leg accidentally fell down and he started to cry. We were encircled by the deers and it was really overwhelming even for me! :)) Grey was okay but he got a little scared with what seemed initially like harmless creatures. :p They are actually until you feed them the biscuits.

Some tips: If you plan to hang around the area, you can buy some snacks as there are benches here you can sit on. Watch your tots run and play in this vast park. Kofukuji temple is nearby – you won’t miss the pagoda structure!

Eat where: Across Nara park, you will see a commercial space where Starbucks is. Try Gyu-Katsu (Deep Fried Breaded beef cutlet) more on this in another entry. There is also a convenience store for packed food and coffee shop here.

Direction from Namba subway: Ride kintetsu-nara line (yellow orange) going to Kintetsu-Nara station. Walk to Nara Deer Park

Cost: Free!

Nara

3. Yoshikien Garden in Nara – I don’t know about you but we wanted to visit the parks in Japan as there seem to be a few back at home. We decided to visit Yoshikien garden a few meters away from Nara Deer Park. Here you can see the traditional parks in Japan where there are lots of trees and with a stream flowing. It was a relatively small area and it was so peaceful. You can just really be one with nature here. I suppose if you visit when the leaves change, it would be so glorious to see!

Some tips: Free of charge for foreigners if you show your passport! Food and drinks are not allowed so be sure to fill up before!

Cost: Free! but if no passport it would cost around 200 YEN

Park

4. Dotonbori – Must visit if you’re going to Osaka! You wouldn’t leave Osaka without putting this in your itinerary. Greyson enjoyed the huge 3D displays of Kani Duraku, Octopus, Blowfish restaurant and what we call the Angry Man. :)) We went at night so the lights were especially bright and his eyes grew wide in amusement! We bought a Tako soft toy as a souvenir and Greyson liked it so much he would kiss it since it also had a puckered mouth :))

Some tips: This is a very popular tourist destination so if you plan to eat at the stalls, it’s going to burn a hole in your wallet! But what’s going to Osaka without going on a food trip? 🙂 We had some street food but we weren’t that filled so we ended up eating Takoyaki along the Dotonbori river and loaded on Taco Bell right after :))

Cost: Free!

Glico

5. Tennoji Zoo – This is going to get a lot bigger since when we went there, there was a part that was under construction and they are going to add more animals! Things that were new to us were the Chinese Gray wolf (Chinese Grey :)) ), the antelopes, rhinoceros and the hippo. There was a petting area wherein the kids can pet the sheep! Greyson was delighted to be able to see the sheep go Baa Baa as in like Baa baa black sheep! What I like about the design of the zoo was they were really trying to recreate their natural habitat. The giraffe and antelopes were sharing the same space as if they were in the wild. It may seem small to us adults but for a 1 year old, it was already huge. Greyson’s last animal to see was the flamingo then he drifted off. We weren’t able to see the reptile corner. This is a great place for our toddler to get acquainted with the many different animals! They also had penguins here so whether in hot or cold climate, our toddler can have exposure to various species in varying weathers.

Some tips: You can bring food here and have a picnic in shaded areas. Don’t feed the birds! I just saw this when we left. Greyson enjoyed chasing them around.

Cost: 500 Yen for adults, free for toddlers!

Tiger

6. Shinsekai – This is right across Tennoji Zoo so be sure to stop here to see the “old” Dotonbori. It really looked like Dotonbori with all the huge 3D displays and the restaurants were beside each other. If you are not iffy with your toddler eating fried food, you can all try their Kushi-katsu which is deep friend skewered veggies / meat. We also ordered Gyoza of course for Greyson. Shinsekai is famous for their Kushi-katsu so don’t leave this place without trying it here! Most restaurants offer this so it just boils down to your preference in dining – if you’d like a bigger dining place (which I think is best if you have kids).

Directions: Right across Tennoji Zoo exit!

Cost: Free to walk along Shinsekai! But for the food it’s around 1,000 – 1,500 Yen per pax.

Shinsekai2 Shinsekai

7. Nambanaka Park or any park! – Japan has lots of them and if you look in Google maps, you might be lucky to see one near you. We had one near our hotel which was Nambanaka Park. Greyson had the park all to himself! Of course we prefer if there were other kids that he can play with. There were also birds and insects that his daddy taught him about. It was fun to just run around and play. We really prefer that he is outdoors but there is a lack of it back home in the city so we end up in the mall and play areas. Here we got refreshed by nature and it was simply wonderful to enjoy the cool breeze, watch the birds, and stay under the shade of trees. Truly the best things in life are free.

Nambanaka nambanaka2

8. Eat at Namba walk – Most restaurants are kid friendly and would have a high chair. In the restaurant we ate, they automatically provide a bowl and spoon when they saw we had Greyson. Have omu rice and desserts here at Namba walk, there are lots!

Some tips: Pay when you exit near the door and as much as possible have as many cash. Card is rarely used when paying for food. Also it is practice to order one dish per person. Sharing is not practiced here, but for bringing babies and toddler, of course they can share with the adult.

Cost: Around 800-1,000 Yen per pax

Namba walk

9. Buy Fresh Fruits at Kuromon Market – There is a passage in Namba walk going to Kuromon Market, so Namba seems to really be the center as you would also land here from the airport. Anyway, buy seasonal fruits here for your toddler! We bought green melon, strawberries and persimmon for Grey!

Some tips: While you’re at it, try their sea urchin, crab, and sashimi! To be really filled and if you’d like to try lots, you would probably spend around 1,000 Yen – 1,500 Yen per pax. Will post in another entry our food finds in Kuromon Market!

Cost: Around 400-500 Yen for fruits.

There were lots of kid friendly activities in Osaka like a multi level play area but we didn’t go there yet since Greyson is still too small for it and we wouldn’t be able to maximize it. Other attractions that maybe your kids will enjoy are the pet cafes. They had an owl cafe along Dotonbori but we decided to forego it for now. What I like about Osaka was it’s kid-friendly. You can see many young moms in transit and in the trains with a kid or two. It isn’t that busy except of course when you go to Namba subway which seems to be the center of connecting trains. Hoping we would go back (within 5 years because that’s when our visa will expire:)) ) when Greyson gets a little bigger and he would see the angry man, kani duraku and the giant tako again!:)

Post below your other suggestions on where to take your toddler to Osaka! 🙂

First Time Mom Diaries: First year of motherhood

Started writing this when Greyson was 11 months old but got to finish when he’s about to turn 17 months (1 year and 5 months)

11 months in and I’m feeling sad my baby’s going to be a toddler soon but relieved we are over the newborn and getting to know stage. How time flies! He’s getting heavier by the week and it’s getting hard to keep up – both in carrying him and also his activities. As his birthday draws near we look back at the 11 months of his life and being new parents to the biggest, priceless blessing in our married life.

The first 3 months or what they call the FOURTH TRIMESTER: PURE CHAOS, and bliss, AND CHAOS.

It was living in the dark inside my room. Why was it dark? I do not know too! But we were creating an atmosphere for him to sleep longer as if he were in my womb. I couldn’t move much because of my leaking wound so I would often retire in the room and just sit for long hours. I felt Grey’s cry was so loud and hearing him cry inconsolably was stressing me out. I didn’t know if he was sleepy, hungry, or cold, or worse, sick. We were always always in a rush! To feed him. He would eat for an hour and wake up the next to eat. We were hoping to catch some sleep. Every time I would face him I would pray that God would give me more milk to feed him and after praying, I would feel peace. Despite the million things running in my mind, by God’s grace I am able to talk to Grey calmly and urge him that he can do it and that he should keep sucking to draw milk out. I am amazed at how God has created the human body and given us milk to supply to our babies.

The first few months was chaos but it was pure bliss as I remember him sleeping on my chest when I burp him or as Jason burps him. He was so small, so so thin and fragile. It was also so peaceful even as I drift off to sleep. It was the best feeling when both of us would sleep at the same time.

It was so chaotic when we went back to the pedia on his 4th week. I dreaded feeding him in public. My mind was a mess, I had a hard time thinking and even deciding what to bring, what to wear, what to do. My pre-pregnancy clothes don’t fit me yet so all the button downs are out of the question. I just bought 2 breastfeeding wear, I was so unprepared! Thankfully my mom bought a few that could get me by. It seems so trivial now but back then we were as confused and as lost as we could ever be! But thank God despite Grey’s cries his weight was growing steadily. Slowly but surely. I was so concerned that he looked super super thin and frail and I was kept questioning my milk supply. I was here and there! I was so anxious with his weight and would often compare him with other babies. They would say breastfed babies would often be lean but Greyson was soooo thin! It would worry us and we would often discuss if we should give him a top up of milk or just decide to mix feed him.

But all worry seemed to stop for a moment as it was pure bliss to see him SMILE for the first time sometime during the 6th week. In my confused state that time, I was honestly convinced he would feed on and on and on till he grows up. Crazy right?? So it was so new to me when around his 6th week he looked up at me, unlatched… and smiled! Then he would coo… Our hearts melted. We would talk to him and pause as if conversing with him. And he would coo. Oh what joy!! <3

By the 2nd month we were having cabin fever and we needed some fresh air – so we went out with Grey for leisure. Just a few minutes on his stroller and he was wailing! His outbursts are so loud it made me panic. We immediately packed up and rode the car so I could feed him privately. I dreaded feeding in public! Was this the way to cross cradle hold? I have no idea! I wondered if all babies cried like him, some moms would say they couldn’t stand the cries of their babies because it was too loud. But when I hear their babies cry it was just so little compared to Grey’s. The moment he cries it was so loud and high! It really made me panic and just want to stay at home until he grows up.

We tried different ways to transport him like the carrier and the stroller.  It was so confusing to use the various carriers lent to us no matter how much I tried watching youtube. I needed an actual demo. The Lillebaby worked best for me but he was still too small for it. Anyway, he would just cry in both carrier and stroller! Little did I know this was the season of letting him get used to it. There were times he would fall asleep in the carrier without me nursing him but then it would change again the next. We really needed a lot of patience and perseverance!

These were the months of teaching him tummy time to strengthen his neck! Tummy time can be done as early as 2 weeks old! He would often cry when we would turn him over. So we would pick him up again. Jason was in charge of the activities and he was so courageous in handling Grey even if he was so unsure about his daddy skills. He taught me how to hold the head properly so I could turn him over for tummy time. I didn’t have the time or energy to play with him because I was so spent just feeding him. My mom was also very helpful during these times as she would give Grey some sunlight in the morning as he had jaundice for almost 3 months! I am also thankful to my mom that it was so instinctive of her to care for Grey. It’s as if she’s been taking care of a newborn all this time! She also taught us that Grey has to have his “ME TIME” as she put him in the play mat / activity mat to look at the animals that dangled. When Grey could open his eyes longer nearing 3 months he would have his “me time”.

Websites like The Baby Sleep Site, WebMD, The Bump, and the app Wonder Weeks helped us to track developmental milestones and what Grey should be hitting every month. We would write this on our mirror. His height and weight and make a checklist if he hit his milestones. I discovered that when he would have longer waking times, he was following a schedule / a pattern. Eat, Wake Time, Sleep or it would often be known as E.A.S.Y. (Eat, Activity, Sleep. You – for me time)

Finally it looks as if we were getting the hang of it. Until the next month when this would all change again. 😛

4 – 6 months : More waking hours and personality coming out 

*More minutes awake and suddenly I do not know what to do during his waking hours! This was the time when I started to realize we do not have toys for his age that would keep him occupied and that we had to buy a few things.

*Tried sleep training for around 5 days, putting him down to sleep at 7PM and let him cry it out in his crib (just beside us) but it was so tiring and draining for us and I figured he still needs the extra feed at night since he looked so thin. We ended up with him sleeping beside me again.

*We heard some babies are already sleeping through the night (meaning 4-5 hours straight) or from 12 midnight-5am. But not with Greyson! I was still breastfeeding him every 2-3 hours but it wasn’t so bad because as soon as he latched, he would fall asleep and I would sleep as well.

*Sleep regression! was real. When we would get used to him sleeping longer now, he would suddenly wake up from 30 mins in his naps and wake up every 45 minutes at night. wahhh! Sleep when will you come to me??

*What we discovered: He was such a smiley baby! He was crying so much during the first 3 months but then by the 4th month he made up for all the crying with smiling and giggles. His personality is starting to show and we were so glad he was smiley it was pleasant taking care of him.

*We were also trying to let him sit with the tripod position wherein his hands would prop him up.

This was also the series of months wherein he was starting to get chubby cheeks and chubby legs and I was getting chubbier too! :)) I took the advice of my friend to eat lots of fatty food like a thick slab of butter on my toast, lots of oatmeal and cocoa with it. She said she lost weight anyway when the baby was 1 year old and somehow assured me I would lose weight by then too by caring for Greyson. Oh how I wish we were the same body type and had the same metabolism!!

This was also the first time Greyson developed a cold on his 4th month. It lasted about a week and a few days. I honestly thought that breastfeeding would prevent him from getting a cold but it’s not the case. It’s not the case too that he would heal faster. It was something all babies had to go through what with all the virus around, they need to be immune from the various strains. I remember it being tough since I had to sleep sitting down yet again while feeding him since his head needs to be elevated. But nevertheless we survived his first cold and his body could only get tougher!

7-9 months – The beginning of fun and messy feeding times. ALSO his waking hours just got real.

I decided to feed him his first solids on his 7th month and his first was squash with breastmilk. In my other blog entry, I recalled how difficult it was for me to collect milk. I could barely pump even if I tried manual and electric. It was normal to collect about 1.5-2 oz after every feed but I had barely since Greyson would often feed on and on. I had to hand express every time I fed him solids and I would collect another measly amount of milk.

He enjoyed his first solids and he seemed to want more! Our pedia advised 1 tsp a day was enough, and then it became 1 tsp per meal and soon we were increasing it to 2 tsps. I remember steaming them along with rice and storing them in little cube containers that resembled an ice cube tray.

These were the months he was becoming more interactive and was already showing his personality. Greyson can get easily frustrated since he would know what he want and he couldn’t communicate it.

On his 9th month, the water crisis struck us and it was such a challenging time since we live on the 3rd floor and water supply was low to none. It was so tiring caring for him, trying to stick to his routine and running the home. But I thank God for sustaining me with super energy to accomplish the things that need to be done! These were the months I started to get back up and cook at home. I started regaining energy to work at home.

Every month we would research about the developmental milestones and this would be our goal to help him reach this. At the end of his 9th month nearing his 10th, he started to stand up with support! We were thrilled but at the same time, I feel his baby-ness slipping through my fingers.

Around these months he uttered his first word “Mama” and I was floating! I loved hearing it over and over again. I have been waiting for this moment.

This was also the first few months he did his first hand signal which was to wave bye! It was so funny and he has been using it to call things too. He has been doing lots of funny things like wiping the table and sleeping. He learned his first chore probably because he can see us around the house wiping and sweeping.

10-12 months – Eating table food and walking a few steps

On his 10th month, our pedia gave the go signal for Greyson to eat table food! Of course we need to avoid salt at all costs. But when we go out to eat, I just had to choose what seemed safe enough for him. He was so fond of eating and I was so glad he wasn’t a picky eater (just yet!)

*These were also the months we intentionally taught him hand signals so if ever he needed to  communicate something, he could gesture. He wouldn’t gesture back until probably his 12th month, wherein he would gesture “more”. He signaled More because he wanted more rambutan! He is such a foodie!

After he turned 11 months, while I was on the phone and he was leaning towards my legs, he got so bored, he took his first few steps going to his play fence! I almost dropped the call to catch him on video =))

Milestones happen so swiftly!! I am so thankful to God for providing for us and to Jason that he gave me that option to stay at home for the meantime to be a full time mom to Greyson. It was so wonderful to witness his every milestone, to know what all his little sounds and gestures meant and to be able to interpret them. Sure it wasn’t everything and there were times I would feel crazy at home because time seemed to pass so slowly and yet so fast at the same time. It was like watching TV in black and white and everything was in analog. After the busy-ness and excitement of life and work, suddenly it would all be in slow motion. It takes a lot to be intentional and observe Greyson to be able to train him in the way he should go. But God is giving me the grace to endure and be joyful about what seems to be mundane things to me but exciting times for Grey. I thank God for giving me fresh eyes to see from Grey’s perspective – to see things anew, to just be amazed at this tiny little being He has given us for us to love and care for. True that some things can wait and all the things I used to do are put on hold. But seeing the joy in Grey’s face, watching him grow and all his antics, I wouldn’t trade being a mom to Grey for anything. <3