Dec 15, 2017
It's often said that Japan is an expensive place to live. Whilst that can be true in some respects, it's often as expensive or inexpensive as you want to make it. Some expenses can't be avoided - housing, utilities and so forth - but there are ways and means to keep other things in check.
I have two young children, and one of the things that my husband and I are always looking for is ways to keep them entertained and engaged without blowing the budget. It's not mission impossible though - there are plenty of ways to have entertained and engaged kids without having to pay a small fortune for attractions or events that cost big bucks. Here are some ways that we keep our kids having fun without blowing through our yen.
Find free local resources
When we lived in Tokyo, we used to visit paid indoor play centers - they're wonderfully fun for kids, but they can cost quite a bit. Since we've transitioned to life in Japan on a student budget right now rather than a full time wage budget, we have had to be mindful of spending like that. There are free locally run play centers both in our town and in the larger city near to us, and all you have to do is sign in as you enter - but then there are all manner of toys and play areas set up for the kids to enjoy. Check with your local city office or ask around at your children's school (other moms and dads are a wealth of information!)
One of our nearby free local play centers. Perfect for those days where you need to get out of the house, but with a budget in mind!
Obviously this one is easier said than done if the weather is super cold, super hot, or raining up a storm - which all do happen in Japan depending on the location and the time of the year. However, when the weather is good we simply enjoy getting out amongst nature. Crunching in leaves, smelling pretty flowers, and looking for cool bugs? It's a kids idea of heaven, and won't cost you anything.
Nature - educational, relaxing, and best of all, it doesn't matter if your little ones make a bunch of noise!
Check out fun festivals
One thing I love about Japan are their festivals. Another thing I love about their festivals is that they're usually free! There's also the great cultural immersion that a lot of these festivals provide - so you're not only saving some money but giving your kids a priceless experience while you're at it. Parenting win!
A local flower festival - you don't have to spend money for kids to have fun!
If you have to spend some money, try activities like fruit picking
Sometimes it's inevitable that you may have to spend money on activities to keep your kids occupied. One that we've enjoyed though, is fruit picking. The initial cost is there, but if you take into account the fact that you're getting to enjoy some delicious eats while you're also partaking in a fun (and educational!) activity, then the cost doesn't seem as painful to bear.
From blueberry and strawberry picking trips we went on - our daughter loved them!
After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!