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How to Ride Japanese Buses With a Baby

Traveling with a baby can be a bit stressful, and the crowded public transportation in Japan is no exception. The buses in Tokyo and other major cities in Japan tend to be quite packed and a bit troublesome for parents with small babies. Here are some tips that’ll help you ride buses more easily and worry free!

Waiting at the bus stop for the bus to arrive.
Waiting at the bus stop for the bus to arrive.

Have Your IC Card Ready

The first way we recommend saving yourself some frustration is by getting an IC card and making sure you have it ready to use as the bus approaches. IC cards can be charged beforehand, so you should load it up with enough money to cover your traveling expenses for the day.

Rather than moving the IC card in and out of your bag or wallet, you should consider investing in a small carrying case that you can attach to your baby’s carrier or stroller. That’ll reduce the amount of fumbling and searching you’ll have to do when you need it.

Most card cases come with an extendable strap, so you can just reach over and tap it quickly as you board or leave the bus. No more struggling with trying to hold the baby and pay at the same time!

On a side note, babies and young children who are not yet in elementary school are free to ride most buses.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Seat

Usually other passengers will quickly offer you their seat if they are able-bodied and see that you are carrying a baby. You should always accept their offer even if you don’t particularly mind standing. This is for safety reasons. There’s always a chance that the bus might stop suddenly or drive on some bumpy road.

Even if you feel confident about holding on tightly, there’s a possibility that another passenger could fall on you and injure your baby.The seats are faced in such a way that it’s very unlikely someone will land on you if they fall while you’re sitting.

The priority seating is intended for people who are pregnant, elderly, or have disabilities. Not all of these conditions are immediately noticeable, so ask very politely if you may have someone’s seat if you think they might not need it.

READ: A Discussion on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Child rearing in Japan with Kay

Boarding With a Stroller Versus a Carrier

Straps hang from the seats to attach to the baby stroller.
Straps hang from the seats to attach to the baby stroller.

The easiest way to board and ride a bus is with your baby in a carrier. Some bus companies post signs asking parents to refrain from boarding during peak hours with a carrier if possible. There are two main reasons for this.

First, strollers take up a lot of space, and they’re difficult to maneuver into position when the buses are very crowded.

Second, there’s a higher chance that someone or something could bump into or fall on the baby when there are a lot of people sandwiched into the bus together.

You’ll never be prevented from boarding a bus with a stroller regardless of the time of the day, but off-peak hours are a lot safer and more convenient for everyone.

READ: What to Pack in Your Japanese Maternity Hospital Bag

For Babies in a Stroller

The easiest way to board the bus with a stroller is from the back. Some buses, especially in Tokyo, usually require you to board and immediately pay for your fare from the front. Others will have you board from the back and pay as you’re getting off.

If the bus you’re boarding happens to be one where you’re expected to pay first, ask the driver if you may load the stroller in from the back, because the opening is much wider. Additionally, you can access the priority seats with the stroller straps much more quickly.

Be sure to secure the baby stroller properly and then proceed to pay at the front of the bus before it starts to resume its route.

Japanese instructions for how to secure the baby stroller to the bus seat.
Japanese instructions for how to secure the baby stroller to the bus seat.

Here is how you should secure the baby stroller to the bus seat:

  1. Point the stroller so that the baby is facing the rear of the bus.
  2. Place the brake on the stroller.
  3. Attach the seat belt that is hanging from the bus seat.
  4. Tighten the belt so that the stroller is well secured to the seat.
  5. Keep one had on the handle of the baby stroller, and the other on one of the bus handles.

Keep in mind that you are free to use the belt to secure the baby stroller even if someone is occupying the seat. Chances are they’ll quickly get up for you though!

For Babies in a Carrier

The back seat is very comfortable if your baby is in a carrier.
The back seat is very comfortable if your baby is in a carrier.

If you are boarding the bus with a baby in a carrier, then you should either sit in the priority section or at the very back of the bus. You’re free to sit anywhere, but these two locations will more than likely be the most comfortable for you.

By sitting at the very back, you and the baby will have more arm and leg space compared to the seats that are designed for 2 people. There will also be more space for you to put down any bags you may be carrying.

How to Keep the Baby Calm and Comfortable

Bus rides can be quite long and noisy. Some babies really enjoy all of the movement and fall asleep, but others may become restless and a bit noisy. I highly suggest bringing a pacifier to give to your baby in case there’s a chance that they may start crying—even if your baby isn’t normally one to get upset!

You shouldn’t attempt to bottle feed your baby on the bus, because it could be a choking hazard, and the last thing you’ll want to do is to quickly try to unstrap them from their safe seating position while the bus is moving.

Try to rely on a pacifier to just to keep the baby calm long enough until you can get off at your stop and take your time to feed them.

READ: Tips for How to Breastfeed Easier in Japan

How to Stay Cool on the Bus

If you’re riding a bus during the summer months, then you should consider bringing a hand fan, because it can get quite stuffy. The air conditioner isn’t always on—especially in the early summer months. Some of the seats will have a window next to them that you can open, but you might not always be able to get to one. A small electronic fan really is good to have with you when you ride the trains as well, so it’s worth investing in one.

I hope that you found this information helpful. If you have any questions about traveling with a baby in Japan, just ask in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you quickly. Have fun and safe travels!

LaShawn came to Japan in 2011 after earning her BA in Political Science at Morgan State University, and has worked as an English teacher at various public and private schools. She now teaches at a university and writes in her free time. LaShawn enjoys sharing parenting, lifestyle, and work related content. Her goal is to help expats and immigrants who are living in Japan, so that is why she created The Yokohama Life.

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