It’s been slightly over a month since my last blog posting…not because I stopped taking care of my daughter of course. My wife and daughter and I were traveling around the northeast of North America, particularly in the Ontario and Upstate New York area.
A lot happened.
So, I’ll be spending a couple of the next posts talking about some impressions of North American attitudes toward child-raising and how it compares to what we’ve experienced here in Japan.
(The short answer is: Not too terribly different, I’m afraid.)
One of the first things I noticed about traveling with an infant (well, young toddler) was how difficult it was to find a hotel with a crib in Japan compared to North America. After scouring the Internet and placing a few long distance calls, we managed to find quite a few hotels in North America that offered a baby crib free of charge — they called it a “pack and play,” since it’s really a plastic-frame net box designed to be packed up and thrown in the trunk of the car for families on the go.
(Aside: in hindsight, we shouldn’t have been so surprised when repeatedly asked in Toronto, “Do you need parking validation?” Despite the hotel staff obviously noticing that the hotel reservation was made overseas and that we were using a Japanese credit card, they still assumed we had driven from the airport to downtown rather than taken the shuttle bus. No car, no life in both Canada and the U.S. After experiencing what passes for a subway over there, I can see why.)
Compare this to hotels in Japan, which have exactly 0 cribs for your use. When we stayed overnight in Nagoya back in June, we had to settled for a hotel with a “wa-shitsu,” a traditional Japanese tatami (straw mat) room with futons instead of beds. (This is what we do at home.) We simply couldn’t find a hotel with a crib. None, in a city of over 2 million.
And the tatami-straw mat rooms are rapidly disappearing from hotels across Japan. It’s also hard to find hotels that have rooms with more than one bed, and even then rooms with only one bed typically have only a small “double” bed that is much smaller than the North American “queen” or “king” sized bed. It’s almost as if Japanese hotels are making a deliberate effort NOT to welcome families. Or couples. Or anybody who’s not a single office worker on a business trip who doesn’t mind staying overnight in a room the size of the average walk-in closet.
At any rate, we were very pleased with the hotels both in Ontario and Upstate New York. Not cheap, but service was much better than I had feared. The Toronto hotel even had a kid’s play room complete with babysitting services, tons of toys, and a “camping” and swimming program for older kids. Japan has yet to even contemplate offering such a service.
The hotel restaurant in Toronto, of course, was somewhat pricey, but it was very convenient for us (try wandering around an unfamiliar big city at 7 a.m. with a hungry one year old, looking for breakfast…). Of course the restaurant had highchairs. Giant highchairs, made of blue and red plastic and shaped like tree trunks (with “roots” at the bottom for support). We even got a small meal discount just for having a child under 5 with us when we paid at the register.
The Japanese hotel in Nagoya had no highchairs. None. No booster seats. And actually very few customers at all in the restaurant, which looked more like an opium den/1970s smoking lounge than a hotel restaurant. “Bubble-Era” relic, I guess.
On the other hand, when we accidentally left a “sippy cup” in the hotel room in Niagara, Ontario, the staff was less than helpful locating it for us (maybe because we had already paid). We got a phone call four days later at my parents’ home in Upstate saying that the hotel could ship it to us in a small UPS package — for USD 40.
I think a child’s sippy cup retails for slightly less than that. We declined the generous offer and used the opportunity to try to teach our daughter how to drink from a normal cup (“try” being the key word).
Oh, well. Even Canada’s not perfect.
In my memory, 30 years past! Niagara Falls is a universe far far far away, apart from general areas of human intercourse like Toronto, Hamilton, Rochester or Buffalo … you will get burned! I imagine the hotel staff misplaced the sippy cup for for you!
I thought the hotel in Niagara was nice, but horribly overpriced. And the staff seemed friendly, but in a forced sort of way. I was shocked when a Canadian colleague of my wife commented to us that Toronto hotels told their staff to be friendly, “like American hotels.” Yikes. What a comparison.
I speculate cribs are a hassle because of potential liability. Crib recalls are frequent stateside, and parents or stall setting up an unfamiliar “rental” crib might be more likely to do it wrong.
Of course that’s no comfort to you when you’re traveling with a baby!
You may be right…but that doesn’t explain why Japan, a non-litigious society, would *never* have cribs. IMHO, Japanese hotels still labor under the misapprehension that only “salary men” travel, and that the family never takes a vacation as a family unit. (On the other hand, family camping/tenting trips are relatively popular at certain times of the year…).