Japan an autism friendly travel destination?

Anyone who knows our family would know that we try and tack on at least a few days in Japan whenever we go on holidays. Our household just loves everything about a Japanese holiday….it is just so easy.

Now, I was recently considering taking the family for a week long holiday on the Gold Coast next year, but after some investigation (which I will go into more detail in an upcoming blog post) it did not seem particularly autism friendly and I decided against it for the time being.  So this got me thinking…why is Japan so easy for a family with a mum who is Aspie and a son who is severely autistic?

  • Multi-purpose rooms. They have these rooms EVERYWHERE, you cannot walk more than a few hundred metres in a major city without coming across one. They are in train stations, department stores, temples, shrines, theme parks, bullet trains…..you name it, there is a multi-purpose room. So what is it you may ask? It is a room that can be used by people with disabilities, the elderly, breastfeeding mothers or anyone who needs privacy and somewhere to sit/lay down.
  • Public transport runs on time. Both myself and my son have this innate need for things to happen when they are meant to. This is why we rarely catch public transport in Sydney, because trains change departure time/platform with no advice and it ruins an otherwise perfect outing. Not the case in Japan! Trains depart within 30 seconds of their advertised departure time consistently.
  • Hotels are consistent. When I book a hotel room in Japan, I know that I can expect a certain standard of comfort and service. I am never unpleasantly surprised.
  • People are kind and will go out of their way to be helpful.   Touristo on the whole is pretty amazing on holidays and I could count the amount of meltdowns he has had on one hand, but when he does meltdown, people don’t look down on you or whisper about you. Also when I have been unsure about how to find elevators or other disability services, people will go out of their way to help.
  • Plastic models of food. Touristo is now at the point of learning to talk and can tell you what he wants most of the time, but before he got to this stage you could ask him what he wanted to eat by getting him to point at the plastic models of food. Also, these plastic models help expectation manage me because I know what I will be getting.
  • How people give instructions. When Japanese people describe how to do something (e.g. using an onsen), they do this in step-by-step detail, very explicitly, as well as telling you exactly what is and isn’t acceptable.
  • Japanese people are literal.
  • Takeaway bowl meals (dons). When you order a takeaway bowl meal, e.g. tonkatsu curry rice, they put all of the different components in different packages. For example the steamed rice is in one container, the fried pork cutlet is in another, the curry sauce in another…… This probably sounds like a little thing but Touristo will eat all of those things when separate but will not touch if combined.
  • Convenience stores. The selection of cheap but good food here is out of this world, plus there are a bunch of options for Touristo. If he has a piece of fried chicken, a plain rice ball and some pre-sliced fruit, his world is a happy place.
  • Disability services at Tokyo Disneyland are amazing (but this is a whole post on its own for another day).

There are probably are bunch more things, but these are the top reasons I find Japan to be an autism friendly destination without trying.



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