When we are traveling, we are almost a travel group. Six people - three kids, two parents, one grandma. As I think I told you, we have triplets, so can not ask the kids to babysit each other. Intergenerational travel has its challenges too. Grandma does not use a wheelchair (yet), but she does not have the stamina that a three-year-old does. And she is too big to carry, which I sometimes have to do with our youngest daughter (by a few minutes).
It is not automatically easy to travel wirh such a large family. There are hurdles everywhere. Not only that we need space for everyone, we need space everywhere. We have to hire a big rental car, we need family tables in restaurants, and we need a big place to stay. A hotel room is not nearly enough. Two hotel rooms are a challenge. You need a suite, and not a junior one. An apartment is better.
But with an apartment you have to do everything yourself. Except maybe cleaning, if you got a serviced apartment. And even so, the cleaner does not come in every day.
Luckily, Japan is different. While hotels are designed for business people traveling alone (or in pairs), that is not how most people in Japan do vacation trips. While there are plenty of business hotels aimed at the traveler on a business trip (and plenty of hotels aimed at single travelers who found a different kind of business partner), the places which focus on family travel are focused on big families. And multigenerational big families, at that. This is what happens in a society with an abundance of seniors and scarcity of children.
So if you travel for pleasure, finding places which can accomodate your family is easy. And the hotels, inns and guesthouses are really happy to get some use for the family rooms they already have. Since they also have set everything up for families, things like breakfast get really easy to handle. If it is a resort or ryokan (a traditional guesthouse) they will be used to accomodating children, both at breakfast and dinner (which is served in your room in traditional inns, and which is the culinary highlight of the day).
Japan may be expensive, there is a language barrier, things can be hard to access, but if you have children who are reasonably well-behaved, they will be very appreciated. And so will you as a guest. "Omotenashi", the Japanese service spirit, is real.
So I started planning the next trip. Actually, we started planning already when we came back from Seoul last year - you need to do that if you want to book a place for six people. That will be a year ahead of our trip. And I already booked it.
We decided to go to the nearest tropical paradise we could find: Okinawa. Well, first we will go to Ishigaki island, which is even more a tropical paradise than the rest of Okinawa, and then to the main Okinawa island.
I booked the tickets today, using a low cost carrier. There are several in Japan now. I decided on Vanilla Air, since they were cheaper than the alternatives. But one main contributing factor was that the main carriers have not started selling their tickets yet - they only do two months ahead of the trip.
So we will go with a low-cost carrier from Tokyo to Okinawa, and then use the local carrier betwene Okinawa and Ishigaki island. It is a really quick hop - the islands are close together, much closer than they are to the Japanese mainland. Actually, Ishigakijima is so close to Taiwan that you can see it on a clear day (Taiwan has several extremely hight mountains, taller than mount Fuji).
Now, I have been to these islands myself before, when I lived in Japan the first time. And then they definitely were as close to paradise as you can come. They are on the same latitude as Hawaii, after all. The only problem is that they are in the middle in the stretch of water where typhoons go before they hit China or Korea (or some parts of Japan).
I did the booking a year in advance, because this is how you get nice places to stay. While airlines do not allow you to book that far in advance, hotels do not have a problem with it. Although in Japan, people get greedy around the "golden week" season. I will tell you more about this in a later post.
About Wisterian Watertree
I am the father of triplets, living in Tokyo, and love to travel around Asia with my wife, our kids, and their grandmother. Read more about it here. Or sign up to the email list if you want weekly tips and news about traveling with big families in Asia.