SD › Tokyo › Tokyo Things to Do with Kids
Updated: June 8, 2021
Best Tokyo Tours for Families
- Japanese Street Food Tour – My kids love food tours and they’re an easy and fun way to introduce a new culture to your children. This is a great tour of energetic Shibuya and loaded with iconic sites and great food (and pretty kid-friendly). If you can only do one tour in Tokyo, make it this one. Highly recommended!
- Private Full-Day Sightseeing Tour – An easy way to see a lot in a short time, great for families as the guide can tailor the itinerary for kid-friendly sights.
- Tsukiji Fish Market & Rolled Sushi Cooking Class – Tour Tsukiji Market then make your own sushi. Guides are great and the tour is good fun.
- Odawara Hakone Day Trip from Tokyo – The Hakone Loop (a circular route that takes multiple types of transportation: pirate ship, mountain railway, ropeway, and more) is the best day trip from Tokyo.
The Best Things to Do in Tokyo with Kids
Tokyo is a fantastic city for kids and it’s far and away the most interesting destination in Japan for families. It has an incredible array of attractions and kid-friendly destinations (beyond Disneyland) that could easily keep a family very busy for a week or more.
1. Tsukiji Market
Definitely worth a visit (but you have to be up early if you want to see the tuna auctions – entrance is granted first come, first served starting around 5am – and now at a different location than the original Tsukiji). The best restaurants are in the outer market which is still in the original location. Doing a Tsukiji tour is highly recommended to really learn about the market’s history (they’re not cheap for what you get – a 2.5 hour walk around the market – but worth it and without a guide you’re left in the dark about pretty much everything).
2. National Museum of Nature and Science
A dizzying array of hands on fun can be found at this attraction, maybe Tokyo’s best science museum. Almost every floor of the museum has kid friendly exhibits that are as much about fun as learning. It’s a short 5 minute walk from Ueno Subway and JR Station. Closed Monday – If Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is open Monday and closed the following Tuesday.
3. Tokyo Disneyland
Open year-round and swamped with visitors on weekends and holidays (go through the week instead). Its sister park Tokyo DisneySea is geared to older kids and adults never feels quite as busy. Disneyland gives you the typical Disney feel with lots of emphasis on Mickey, Minnie, and gang. DisneySea is unique to Tokyo and has more rides and thrills. My kids (ages 8 and 11 when we visited) ranked DisneySea as their favorite attraction in Japan.
Buy tickets in advance for DisneySea and Disneyland with transportation from Tokyo included.
4. Ueno Zoo
Kids will love this well spaced and relaxing area featuring a surprisingly wide array of animals (elephants, pandas and tigers being the highlights). Gets very busy on weekends. A 10 minute walk from Ueno Subway and JR Station. Closed Monday – If Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is open Monday and closed the following Tuesday.
5. Fire Museum
Dress up as a fireman and play in fire trucks and helicopters. The fun and games here are worth an hour or two of amusement for ages up to 8 or 9. Free admission is another plus. Accessed directly from the Yotsuya-Sanchome station. Closed Monday – If Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is open Monday and closed the following Tuesday.
6. Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)
There’s so much here – all with excellent English explanations – families should probably plan on a 3 or 4 hour visit. The exhibits target a range of ages with many of the them clearly intended for adults too. Lots of kid friendly fun. Asimo the walking robot has demonstrations a few times per day. Fune-no-Kagakukan station. Closed most Tuesdays – check website for exceptions.
7. Museum of Maritime Science
Makes a good 2-stop visit with the nearby National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (above). Not specifically a child destination, there’s still lots to keep the kids intrigued. Particular fun are the boats and ships that you can climb aboard. Fune-no-Kagakukan station. Closed Monday – If Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is open Monday and closed the following Tuesday.
8. Legoland Discovery Center
A hands-on destination with lots of blocks (big and small), a play area, model builds of Tokyo, and a short ride where you shoot at different targets. The highlight might be the game where you try to walk through a hallway the fastest while avoiding laser beams (it’s right at the end of the museum and can be easily overlooked). Open 7 days a week.
9. RiSuPia Panasonic Digital Network Museum
A hands-on museum devoted to science and math (and panasonic products). Each visitor gets a handheld tablet that they scan at each exhibit for an explanation of the science behind the games. Closed Mondays.
10. Ghibli Museum
A wonderful and whimsical museum from animator Miyazaki Hayao (who made films such as Ponyo and Spirited Away). Great for both kids and adults. You have to book tickets in advance and can be done up to 3 months before your visit. Closed Tuesday.
11. The Railway Museum (Saitama City)
Awesome for both train buffs and young kids, this is a brand new museum located in the Tokyo suburb of Saitama. It takes a bit of effort and time to get to, but is well worth the trip. The emphasis here is on the trains (Locomotives, electric railcars, diesel railcars, passenger carriages, imperial carriages, freight vehicles) but kids will also like the train cab simulators and the mini train. See inside the trains, over the trains, even under the trains. JR from Ueno to Omiya station, then shuttle to Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan station – takes about an hour. Closed every Tuesday.
12. Tokyo Tower
Great views of Tokyo. Some will find it more enchanting at night than through the day. Walk on a glass see-through floor one level below the main deck (it’s easy to miss if you don’t seek it out). Open 7 days a week, year round.
13. Hato Bus Tokyo Tours
Full and half-day tours (in english) are a little hurries but are a fast way to see the highlights over a short visit. The one-hour open air bus that leaves from Shinjuku (subway exit 8a) is recommended for kids. 7 days a week.
14. Science Museum (in Kitanomaru-koen)
Located in Kitanomaru Park just north of the Imperial Gardens, this is one of Tokyo’s three science museums and needn’t be on a busy schedule. That said kids will enjoy the well designed interactive exhibits. The museum has many demonstrations led by museum staff. When you arrive try to do a quick walk through the museum to see what shows are being done so you can choose appropriately for your child’s interests. Closed Wednesday – If Wednesday is a national holiday, the Museum is open Wednesday and closed the following day.
This is a pretty awesome place and highly recommended for kids 4 to 12. Kids can play-act their favorite careers with full uniforms and lots of real-world accessories. From dentist to cook, engineer to fireman (there are about 40 different careers in all). Everything is 2/3 life size. Book tickets at least a month in advance. Wednesdays are devoted to english-speaking events but any day will do. 7 days a week.
16. Joypolis Entertainment Center
An indoor amusement park in Odaiba. Lots of games (electronic and otherwise) and even a couple small scale rides. Kids love this place (parents will find some of it pretty lame). Open 7 days a week.
17. Tokyo Edo Museum
One of the best museums in Tokyo will replicas of Tokyo street life and home life. Free tours conducted in English (enquire inside after you arrive). Closed Monday – If Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is open Monday and closed the following Tuesday.
18. Sunshine City Aquarium
Good aquarium on the top floor of Sunshine City Mall in Ikebukuro. The aquarium is not huge but can comfortably fill 2 hours.
19. Tokyo Dome City (Amusement Park)
Good fun in central Tokyo without making the trek to Disneyland. Rides, games, and food in a lively kid-friendly atmosphere. Open 7 days a week.
20. Toyota Mega Web
There’s a mini-car racetrack, a car simulator, and race cars. Don’t make a special trip for this place but if you’re already in Odaiba it’s worth a visit.
21. Watch a Baseball Game
This is a lot of fun. Japanese fans are pretty crazy – they sing, and chant, and wave huge flags the entire game – but it’s still very family-friendly. Buy tickets through JapanBall.com.
22. Imperial Palace & Gardens
Some children may not be intrigued by the palace and the details of the royal family’s lives, but regardless, the grounds and gardens make a good open air destination to wander with the kids and let them run about while you enjoy the stunning views of the palace. The palace is open only 2 days a year, January 2 and December 23. It’s a 10 minute walk from Tokyo Station. The gardens are closed most Mondays and Fridays with many exceptions: calendar of opening days.
23. Boat Tour around Tokyo
The best route is to take the Tokyo Water Bus from Asakusa to either Odaiba or Hama Rikyu (all 3 piers have subway stations nearby). Combine the boat trip with a few hours looking around Asakusa which has the Sensoji temple, the Nakamise Shopping Street, and the observation decks at Tokyo Skytree (across the river from Asakusa).
24. Ninja Restaurant
Disappear through this door and enter a dark labyrinth of caves, hidden bridges, and old world Japanese style. All in all, it’s well executed and the food is remarkable. Book a table at least a week in advance.
25. Tokyo Skytree
Extensive views of Tokyo and surrounding areas (but I think the Tokyo Tower views are more interesting as it’s closer to Shinjuku and Shibuya). Fast Track tickets are recommended to skip the long lines.
26. Cup of Noodles Museum in Yokohama
Typical over-the-top Japanese wackiness and super fun for kids. Make your own noodles and ramen. There are kids classes and a large indoor playground. From Tokyo take the JR to Sakuragicho Station then it’s a 10 minute walk.
Playgrounds in Tokyo
- Robot Park in Roppongi Hills a short walk from a Roppongi Mall and the Grand Hyatt. It features several slides, a small play structures, and a huge totem-pole robot. Not huge but a great playground.
- Ueno Park has a good playground (just outside the zoo) with slides, play structure and swings. A nearby amusement park has a small collection of rides for kids aged 2 to 8.
- Yoyogi-koen, north of Shibuya, doesn’t have a playground but does have wide open spaces and quiet paths for running and exploring. The Meiji Shrine is an interesting stop along the walk.
- List of parks in Tokyo – with descriptions and maps
When is the Best Time to Visit Tokyo?
Anytime. Tokyo has so many indoor attractions and relatively few outdoor ones that Tokyo makes an attractive destination for kids and families almost any month of the year. Of course July and August will be very hot and humid and December, January and February will require an extra layer of clothing. The best months for a visit are probably April and May in the spring and September and October in the fall.
Tips for Visiting Tokyo with Kids
- My number 1 tip for Tokyo: Buy a Suica or Pasmo card for getting around Tokyo (and the rest of Japan). These are purchased at subway stations and can be used on JR trains, subways, and buses in Tokyo and Japan (but not the Shinkansen). You scan the cards as you enter the station. If you don’t have a card you need to calculate the fare for your trip and buy the ticket from a kiosk before entering. This isn’t hard but you’ll be taking the subway a lot and doing it 4, 5, 6 times per day gets old quickly. With the card the system calculates the your fare based on where you enter and exit. There’s a 500 Yen deposit which is returned to you (plus any unused credit) when you return the card. For adults you simply buy the cards from a kiosk. For kids you’ll need to take their passports to a ticket office because they get a reduced rate (this is easier than it sounds and only takes 5 minutes). More info on Pasmo and Suica cards here.
- Riding the subway: Download this map (Tokyo subway map in english) and ask lots of questions (to the train driver, the ticket worker, fellow passengers). Asking people if this is the right train or is it going in the right direction will save you tons of time and effort.
- Changing Money: ATMs that access American, Canadian, or European bank accounts are rare. Post offices and 7-11s will usually have ATMs that will accept western bank cards. If you’re traveling outside of Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto change all the money you’ll need before leaving. Changing money in smaller cities (even Hakone or Kamakura which see many tourists) is very difficult.
- Best American Breakfast: Eggs n Things. If you or your kids are craving pancakes or breakfast from back home, this is the place to go. Often very busy (lunch is the busiest) but worth the wait. (Nearby Golden Browns serve the purported best hamburger in Tokyo if you’re in a day long western food craving.)
- Many of the top attractions are closed on Monday (unless the Monday falls on a national holiday then they will close on the following Tuesday). If you’re enjoying an extended stay in Tokyo, this isn’t much of a problem, but if you only have a day or two and one of them is a Monday you’ll have a difficult time visiting all the attractions on your itinerary.
- Almost all tourist attractions have good, reliable (and usually free) lockers for rent. They’re often of a pretty good size that will fit a large backpack. Ask at the Information desk to see where they’re located.
- A confusing aspect of getting around Tokyo is the fact that many maps found on pamphlets or on city streets are turned about (seemingly randomly) to place north sometimes at the top, sometimes at the bottom, and even occasionally off to the right or left. This can make finding your destination particularly difficult, as you’ll have an idea in your head of where it is only to check a different map as you exit a subway station to see that it’s off in the opposite direction. Get used to checking where north is on any map and then reorienting it in your mind to best suit the coordinates in your head.
- Best Place to Watch Trains: There’s a walkway that crosses the tracks that offers a great view of all sorts of trains coming and going from Shinjuku station. The easiest way to find it is to go to this Starbucks then walk south (away from Shinjuku station) for another 100 meters and you’ll see the walkway to your left. If you’re arriving at Shinjuku station take the Southern Terrace exit to get you heading towards the Starbucks.
- Japanese Baths are great. So relaxing. You need to completely wash (using the stools and showers you see in the photo) before entering the bath. And when I say completely I mean wash every last inch of your body. No soap or shampoo should get in the bath so do a lengthy rinse after washing. It’s fine to shave in the showering area. There’s a separate area for storing your clothes, robe, and towel outside the bathing area. Older kids are welcome in Japanese baths but I’d ask staff about anyone younger than 6 just to be sure. The Mitsui Garden Hotel Shiodome has a wonderful Japanese bath on it’s top floor with views out over the city.
- Best Toy Store in Tokyo: Kiddyland in Harajuku. 4 floors of toys. It’s not cheap but fun to wander about and pick some Japanese toys (though western brands like Lego are well represented too)
- Most department stores have a play area for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Usually located on the upper floors or roof.
- Japanese style rooms are great for families. Lots of room and easy to slip an extra body in somewhere on the floor. Plus, kids love them.
- Vending machines are everywhere and are lots of fun for kids.
- For more on food and restaurants in for kids read Travel with Kids: Eating in Japan.
What are the Best Hotels in Tokyo for Families?
Tokyo is loaded with great hotels although many target business travelers and put little effort into pleasing kids.
Triples and quadruple rooms large enough to fit a family are rare. It’s often necessary to book 2 rooms for a family of 4 or more. If you go this route 2 good hotels in great locations are the Hotel Sunroute in Shinjuku and Hotel Wing in Yotsuya. Both are reasonably priced and though rooms are small they’re simple and clean and have nice beds and bathrooms.
Booking.com/Tokyo is the easiest way to book hotels and will usually have better prices than the hotel websites. They also offer free cancelations.
- Hilton Tokyo Bay at Disneyland – Located right at Tokyo Disneyland (and DisneySea) and an easy commute into the city. If you’re planning to spend the majority of your time in the city there are better places to stay. But if you’re, say, doing 2 days at Disneyland and 1 day in the city it’s a good choice. The large family rooms are a surprisingly good deal for Tokyo.
- Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi
In Ginza near Tokyo Station • Phone: +81 3-5222-7222
- Grand Hyatt Tokyo
In Roppongi Hills shopping district • Phone: +81 3-4333-1234
- Mitsui Garden Hotel Shiodome
5 minute walk from Shiodome station • Phone: 03-3431-1131
- Shinagawa Prince Hotel
Near JR Shinagawa Train Station • Phone: +81 3-3440-1111
- Tokyo Central Youth Hostel
Steps from Iidabashi subway • Phone: +81 3-3235-1107
A couple of notes:
Hotel demand in Tokyo is predicated on a complex holiday, business, and student exam calendar that is almost unknowable to foreigners. I strongly suggest booking early and confirming your hotel stay a few days before arriving in Japan.
Another factor is that email (at least for english-speaking customers) doesn’t seem to have a very high priority from many hotels – even top rated hotels. So you can often wait a day or two for a response to a simple question regarding your accommodations. This, once again, leads me to suggest getting a hotel booked early.
Great Excursions from Tokyo
While Tokyo has a ton to offer and should be the focus of any trip to Japan there are several nearby destinations that are perfect for 1 to 3 days of exploration.
- Hakone – The most appealing day trip from Tokyo. There are a series of small towns set in the mountains that are connected by cable car, rope way, train, bus and boat. Hakone is the main town and the start (and end) of the Hakone loop which encompasses 4 different types of transport around the area. Buy the Hakone Free Pass which includes transport from Tokyo and unlimited use of transportation within the area. Hotel Senkei has large quadruple rooms, a beautiful location, and an indoor and outdoor Japanese bath. It’s a great place to stay to get the Hakone feel (the outdoor Japanese bath looks out into the hills) and be close to the train station for doing the Hakone loop. Highly recommended.
- Kamakura – A series of beach hamlets spread around the main town of Kamakura and connected by tram. Good hikes, a few tourist attractions, and decent beaches make it a good day trip or overnight visit from Tokyo. Kakiya Ryokan has large family rooms and a nice Japanese bath. It’s not in the main part of Kamakura town but the tram stop is just down the street and the cheap rates make it worth the effort.
- Kyoto – Many peoples highlight of a trip to Japan is Kyoto. But unless your kids have an intense passion for temples it will pale in comparison to Tokyo’s museums, theme parks, and lively neighborhoods. That said, there’s plenty enough here (including a train museum and lively market) to fill 2 or 3 days. The Ishicho is a ryokan hotel with large family rooms (with tatami mats) and a great Japanese bath. Good location too.
- Osaka – A less intense version of Tokyo with a wonderful aquarium, some very cool shopping districts, and an interesting transportation museum kids will love. Hotel Naniwa is a good budget hotel with a great location and large family rooms.
- Best Hotels in Tokyo
- Best Hotels for Families in Tokyo
- Best Budget Hotels in Tokyo
- Best Hotels with Pools in Tokyo
- Tokyo Hotel Map
- Where to Stay in Tokyo
- Best Things to Do in Tokyo
- Best Time to Visit Tokyo
- Best Ryokan in Japan
- Kyoto Travel Guide
- Best Hotels in Kyoto
- Best Hotels for Families in Kyoto
- Where to Stay in Kyoto
- Best Things to Do in Kyoto
- Best Time to Visit Kyoto
Awesome site – came across it by chance and picked up lots of good tips. We are coming with 2 kids in April, first time in Japan for 12 days. Plan is Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and some day trips time pending. Can I ask for your opinions on whether to stay in Asakusa or Shinagawa? Shinagawa seems to be better for transport to Kyoto being available at the station, however Asakusa appears to have a traditional feel about it. Can you advise if it’s difficult to get to a JR station/centre of town from Asakusa, please? –
Definitely stay in Asakusa. Great area for families. Quiet (for Tokyo), walkable, good subway connections, several interesting sights. You will need to take the subway to get on the Kyoto shinkansen – but that’s easy.
Hi, I would like to travel to Japan with my daughter she is 5. How do you recommend we do this? Tour company or rent a hotel and figure it out? If we do the latter what is a great central location? Where do you suggest we stay? Btw I don’t speak any Japanese
Yeah, plan it yourself – no need for a tour guide (though individual tours within a city are fun). Tokyo is big and busy but lots to do. Kyoto is much smaller and manageable but fewer things that most 5-year-olds will find interesting. The Hakone Loop is great for seeing some small Japanese towns and traveling on 5 different types of transport. Highly recommended. If you do it, try to stay overnight somewhere along the loop instead of doing the whole thing as a day trip from Tokyo.
Hi, and thanks for the info. I m going to Tokyo With my 10-year-old son (his first trip to Japan) in a couple of months. We booked a hotel in Asakusa (4 Nights). Is it a good area to stay or do you recommend another area (my main consern is Access to different parts of Tokyo that we can manage to visit these 4 days)?
It’s not the most central area but I still think it’s a great choice. It has a more low-key traditional feel and there are wonderful restaurants and things to do right in the area. Ueno (zoo and a few museums) is just a few stops away. Most top sights are spread all around Tokyo so you’ll be on the subway a fair bit regardless of where you stay.
Hi, this page has really good information, we are planning a trip in October with two kids 13 and 5 years old, will be staying on base (Yokota), planning on going to DisneySea, Legoland discovery center, Panasonic center, zoo, Toyota mega web. Is it easier to rent a car ride the train? Will be staying for a week.
I don’t know the transportation options from the base but in general getting around by train is much easier, faster, and more efficient than driving a car. Certainly, traveling by car to any destination within Tokyo is asking for a lot of hassle and expense.
Thanks for all the great information. I’ll be traveling with my 4 year old and I was planning to visit both Disney parks but after reading that Disney Sea is more geared towards older kids I’m second guessing that one. Was planning to spend all my time in Tokyo but would love to get out of the city for a day trip, any recommendations for Mid-November? I’m guessing Kyoto would be too much for a day trip? Any other places that would be a fun/scenic day trip? Thanks!
While it’s true that DisneySea has attractions geared mostly toward older kids and that if you were going to pick only one Disney with young kids, there’s more to do at Disneyland. But DisneySea shouldn’t be discounted if you want to do both. There are plenty of rides for children 3 and older at DisneySea, including Toy Story Mania, Turtle Talk, the electric railway, Nemo and Friends SeaRider, a carousel, Mermaid’s Lagoon, and a few more. In other words, enough for your 4-year-old to enjoy.
For a day trip, Kyoto would be exhausting (5 hours roundtrip) and expensive. I’d suggest Kamakura (kind of like a miniature Nara, with temples and shrines). Or, closer in, Tokyo Sea Life Park with its aquarium. The weather is generally pretty good in November, but if not, you might also try KidZania, which lets kids explore a “city” and try out different kinds of jobs.
I’ll be in Tokyo with my 15 year old son in June. Do you have any recommendations for classes for teens (like advanced origami, techie, science, or making sweets)?
Although there are many programs geared toward teenagers in Tokyo, most are conducted in Japanese, and Tokyo’s schools are in session until late July.
Otherwise, a good recommendation for cultural immersion for your son is Omotenashi Nihonbashi, which offers a variety of inexpensive activities for the whole family, including food tours through a shopping complex, a cultural experience tour that takes in a local shrine and other stops, an origami workshop (though I’m not sure how advanced it is) and washi papermaking.
If your son is interested in science, he may be able to join a workshop at Miraikan (the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation). Its Science Workshop is held mostly on weekends, but you’d have to check whether language might be a problem in participating. Otherwise, there’s plenty of things to see and do in this museum, including robot displays. In Odaiba, where Miraikan is located, you might also want to see the Panasonic Center, the Trick Art Museum and a huge Gundam statue outside DiverCity and a huge Gundam store inside, where you can buy a Gundam, select colors and paint it right then and there.
The National Museum of Nature and Science, which is a must for its displays on technology, natural history, biodiversity (because explanations are mostly in Japanese, you’ll want to rent audio guides), also holds events for highschool students, mostly on weekends, but you’ll want to check here, too, whether they include information in English.
While there are several places where your son can make his own candy, they are conducted only in Japanese.
Finally, there are many guided tours geared toward foreign visitors, where language is not a barrier. Tours by Locals, for example, can take you and your son on a four-hour pop culture walking tour, as well as private tours of your choosing.
Otherwise, with its sensory overload, there’s plenty in Tokyo to keep a teenager occupied, from Harajuku with its youth-oriented stores to the free observatory in Shinjuku’s Tokyo Metropolitan Government tower. I’m sure you’ll have a great time no matter what you decide to do.
Thanks so much for this!!! Do you have a recommendation for a more traditional hotel to stay in for 1 adult traveling with 2 children. I don’t want to be in Japan staying at a Marriott. I would like something with more culture.
Ryokan Shigetsu in Asakusa is small, friendly and has a traditional feel. They serve a traditional Japanese breakfast which is fun to experience.
Hi there! I’m traveling with my husband and 3yo son to Tokyo for 7 days/6 nights in the middle of March. We’re staying in Shinjuku at the Keio Plaza (for its convenience going to Disneyland for a day). We were debating about going to Tokyo Sea as it’s so unique but I’m not sure if there’s anything really there for my 3yo. Opinion on that? Also, besides the above suggestions for kid activities, what else is feasible for that time frame? We’ll probably be using a very compact stroller that can fold up quite small as my son doesn’t like to walk much on his own. In terms of must eats, do they accommodate young toddlers? I’m guessing we’ll want to eat lots of ramen, oden, tonkatsu, sashimi, etc…. What would you suggest are some “must eats” bearing in mine that we’ll have a toddler with us? Thanks!!
You’re right that Tokyo Sea is unique because it’s only in Japan, but you are also right that it does not have as much geared toward young children like Tokyo Disney has. I would therefore advise Disneyland over Disney Sea.
On the other hand, your son will probably be just as happy with Hanayashiki, a small amusement park in Asakusa not far from Sensoji Temple. I also recommend Ueno Park, which has Ueno Zoo (with pandas) and the excellent National Museum of Nature and Science Museum, with dinosaurs, a great hallway filled with 100-some animals from around the world and a section devoted just to Japan. There’s also very small amusement park with just a few rides for little kids in Ueno Park near Toshogu Shrine. You could also visit the Shitamachi Museum near the exit of Ueno Zoo which displays items from Tokyo’s past in life-like settings and has hands-on exhibits upstairs.
As for dining with your son, really fancy places don’t want little ones during dinner but otherwise you should be fine. There are many restaurants in Japan – particularly those in department stores and chains like Denny’s and Royal Host – that have kids’ menus (though some of the items will be unfamiliar to your son). In addition to the foods you mention, you should also try bento – lots of small dishes that are tied to the season – as well as tempura and shabu-shabu or sukiyaki. And in case you are desperate there are a lot of fast food restaurants as well.
I am planning an 18 day trip to Japan with my husband and daughter (7 years old) at the end of June/start of July. Apart from trying to get over the fact that it will be hot & humid & rainy. I am trying to plan an itinerary where we won’t be changing hotels constantly. I thought of 4 nights in Tokyo, 4 nights in Kyoto, 3 nights in Shirahama-Cho, 2 nights Osaka, 2 nights around hiroshima, 2 nights Nara and one last night in Tokyo. Makes sense? I imagine that a two week JR pass would be convenient as we would only activate when leaving Tokyo ? Thanks for your input, your posts are really helpful.
Looks like a great itinerary. Yes, with all that moving about the two-week JR pass is recommended and activate when you leave Tokyo.
I wanted to know your recommendations for things to do with kids in Winter. Is Disneyland an option with 3 kids varying from 2yrs, 5yrs and 7yrs. We are arriving in late February for a week of skiing and then a week in Tokyo. I was keen on the fish markets, Pokemon Centre, Lego Centre, ninja dining, Sony Explorascience, Shinagwa aquarium, and was tossing up with going to Hanayashiki or Disneyland or the rollercoaster rides place. Would love to hear your advice.
The weather, of course, will play a role on your sightseeing plans, as Tokyo has seen much more snow and colder weather this year than usual. By March, however, Tokyo may have started warming up.
I would caution against going into Tsukiji Market with such young children, as this is a busy, working market with forklifts rushing about and in any case visiting hours have been restricted because of the increasing number of tourists. The Outer Market just outside Tsukiji Market, however, is where much of the seafood sold in Tsukiji ends up and is therefore just as interesting to young ones and is open much later until about 2pm.
Since you’re going to Odaiba for Explorascience and Lego, if time permits I’d also suggest a walk through Megaweb. It’s a huge free showroom for Toyota with lots to see (including a museum of old cars) and there’s also a mini course for children to drive their own cars. There’s a giant Ferris wheel, here, too.
For aquariums, the best (and cheapest) is probably Tokyo Sea Life Park in Kasai Rinkai Park. It’s a bit out of the way (about 15 minutes from Tokyo Station in the direction of Disney) but also provides a park with room to run (and there’s a Ferris wheel here, too—the Japanese love their Ferris wheels). Or, since you may be going to the Pokemon Center in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City, there’s the small Sunshine City Aquarium you can see in about an hour, making it the perfect size for young kids.
While Tokyo Disneyland is a class act, it requires a full day. Your kids might be just as happy with Hanayashiki, as it’s geared to young kids your ages and you’ll want to go to Asakusa anyway to see the Sensoji Temple and its bustling shopping streets.
For other suggestions, I recommend a visit to Ueno Park, which has Ueno Zoo (with pandas) and the excellent National Museum of Nature and Science Museum, with dinosaurs, a great hallway filled with 100-some animals from around the world and a section devoted just to Japan. Although they’re spread out, you should also consider the Fukagawa Edo Museum, a life-size recreated neighborhood from the shogun era with homes and shops you can enter, making it a great history lesson for the family. KidZania Tokyo is a “city” where children can try out grown-up jobs and activities. But you’ll also want to have unstructured playtime. Yoyogi Park (near Harajuku—the teenager hangout) is the best park for families.
Obviously, it would take more than a week to do all these suggestions, so you’ll want to pick those activities that suit your kids best.
Hi Dave, your blog is great!! So glad I stumbled on it. We’re planning our first trip to japan for Hanami this year – first 2 wks of April and will be flying into Haneda and out of Narita. As we have our parents and 2 kids (6 and 2) with us we don’t want the trip to be super hectic hence weighing the options of the JR pass vs other trains / car rental etc. What would you advise? Would Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka with day trips to Nara, Hakone or Fuji and Kamakura be a good itinerary? When do you suggest we activate the JR pass if at all? Any good guides or day tours or is it easy to navigate ourselves? Do you know of any tried and tested 2/3 apartments / Airbnbs? Thanks in advance!!
As you can probably guess, predicting the exact dates for flower viewing is tricky business. There are several websites that make predictions, however, including this one put out by JR. As you can see, Tokyo goes into bloom first, and if the past few years are any indication, full bloom is at the end of March, though there may still be cherry blossoms at the beginning of April. Because cherry blossoms occur later in the Kyoto/Nara/Osaka area, you might consider heading there at the beginning of your trip, though accommodations are very difficult to secure during this peak time of the year. Because you are traveling mostly between large cities (Tokyo-Kyoto/Osaka-Tokyo), car rental is not advisable because you will need to pay for parking. In addition, unless you feel comfortable driving on the left, it might prove challenging on Kyoto’s narrow streets. Furthermore, if the highway has traffic, it often takes longer to drive between Tokyo and Kyoto than to take the Shinkansen bullet train. On the plus side, with four adults it is cheaper to rent a car than to go by rail (though there is that pesky parking charge). You will probably find traveling by train more relaxing. Your 2-year-old can travel for free and your 6-year-old travels for half fare. As for rail passes, it’s a tossup if you’re only traveling to the places you mention and it’s actually slightly cheaper to purchase individual train tickets than to invest in a one-week Japan Rail Pass. But the advantages of the rail pass are that it includes free seat reservations (which can be made in advance or just before traveling) and you don’t have to bother with buying individual train tickets. Thus, if you plan on spending a few days in Tokyo and can complete the Kyoto/Osaka trip within a week, I’d go with rail passes. But there’s one more caveat: buying the rail passes are a bit of a hassle. Your itinerary sounds fine. If you’re going to Nara, I probably wouldn’t choose Kamakura but rather Nikko (which is best seen on an overnight trip). Hakone is also a great choice for an overnight loop trip that involves a mountain train, cable car, ropeway and even a cruise in a pirate’s ship. Note that for Hakone, you would take JR to Odawara and from there travel on private railway line Odakyu, which offers 2-day passes for that loop journey. Just keep in mind that if you’re traveling with a week’s Rail Pass you’ll want to complete your Hakone/Kyoto/Nara/Osaka journey within a week. As for tour companies, there are many different companies that all offer basically the same day tours. Stop by tourist offices in Tokyo and Kyoto for brochures of the many companies. Alternately, you should also be able to navigate on your own, as transportation in Japan is efficient and widely marked in English. Airbnbs can be inconsistent anywhere but for some reason they are particularly unpredictable in Japan. I’d recommend a hotel.
So glad to stumble upon your post! Lots of great ideas, plus I’ve found lots of helpful tips from the comments section. We are travelling to Japan this coming April 16-27 with our 3 year old son. My hubby and I have been to Japan twice 7 years ago and we made good use of our JR pass back then going to many cities. This time we only intend to stay in Tokyo April 16-24, then Kyoto April 24-27 then on to Korea. I am getting confused as to what train tickets we should buy since we are in Tokyo for 8 days. Should we purchase the 7 day JR pass and activate it on day 2 so we could use it to travel to Kyoto?
Without purchasing the JR pass, would it be alright just using a SUICA card and traveling mainly on the subways while we are in Tokyo?
Coming from Narita Airport to Sasazuka station where are accommodation is, should we purchase the JR Narita Express for 3,200yen? I have looked at Hyperdia and it looks like we can also travel from Narita to Sasazuka Stn on the Keisei Skyliner and doing a couple of transfers. I’ve also read that I can purchase a discounted ticket for the Skyliner limited express with a Tokyo subway ticket good for 24/48/72 hours. I am confused if this Tokyo subway ticket is any different to a Suica card and if it’s worth purchasing the discounted one as opposed to getting N’EX ticket and the JR rail pass and activating it on day 2 of our trip??
Lastly, what day do you suggest is the quietest to go to Disneyland to avoid the horrible long queues?!
Thank you so much in advance for all your help!
It does not make economical sense to purchase the Japan Railpass. Coming from Narita, the JR Narita Express is much more convenient, because it goes all the way to Shinjuku Station, where you can then catch the train for Sasazuka (the Keisei Skyline requires more transfers). But be sure to check the timetable, as trains to Shinjuku are less frequent. Get the SUICA card, which allows you to use JR trains (like the useful Yamanote Line), the subway and buses not only in Tokyo but also in the the Kansai area. Your 3-year-old son travels for free. As for Disneyland, because your stay is so close to Golden Week, most Japanese planning to visit will probably do so then, after you have left Japan. Otherwise, a weekday (like Monday-Wednesday) might be your best bet.
Hi! Glad I came across your blog. We are travelling to Tokyo on December 18-24 we will spend the 18th-22nd at Disney and will stay at the Disney Celebration Hotel. We will have a full day to explore on the 23rd. My family consists of my husband, myself, our children ages a 19, 15 and 10. Would appreciate any insights on areas and places to visit that we can easily get to and from the Disney Celebration Hotel. Tricia
The area around Tokyo Disney is a mix of residential and commercial and there are several things to do that are good for families. You’ll probably spend some time at Ikspiari, a shopping mall on resort property with a food court and other diversions. Otherwise, top on the list–and closest and easiest to get to–is the Kasai Rinkai Park (from your hotel, take the free shuttle to Maihama Station and then take the Keiyo Line one station to Kasai Rinkai Koen Station). The seaside park has a Ferris wheel, bird sanctuary, sandy beach, small Japanese garden and hiking trails, but the main reason for coming here is its Tokyo Sea Life Park, a great aquarium that will take about two hours to see.
Other suggestions include the local Urayasu Fish Market, which provides an eye-opening education on all the things from the sea that Japanese consume, and KidZania. KidZania is a “city” that allows kids to try out a variety of occupations, be it working at a TV station, bank or pizzeria. While KidZania is geared toward kids 14 and younger, it’s located in Urban Dock LaLaPort Toyosu, a huge shopping mall that is sure to keep your older kids occupied as well.
Otherwise, Tokyo Station is only a 15-minute ride from Maihama Station, giving access to many things to do in the city. For a full day of sightseeing, I suggest heading first to Akihabara, two stations north of Tokyo Station on the Yamanote Line. It’s a fun area to explore with its many electronics, anime and manga stores. You could then board the Hibiya Line for Ueno Park, home to the Tokyo National Museum (Japan’s top museum for antiquities and crafts) and the National Museum of Nature and Science, the park’s top choice for families. There’s also a zoo and the small but sweet Shitamachi Museum, which shows how people in the area lived in days past. From Ueno, the Ginza Line goes to Asakusa, where you’ll find Asakusa Shrine, a very festive area with the city’s oldest and most famous shrine. Nearby is Tokyo SkyTree, with two observatories providing eye-popping views of the city.
I’m sure your hotel also has suggestions for things to see in the area
I plan to have my 1st trip to Japan with my family (2 kids – 15 & 6) next year in late May. It will be a free & easy exploration trip on our own. Duration of stay is about 7 days, 6 nights and was thinking of Mount Fuji for 2 nights and then explore Tokyo after that. Do you think too short or too long?
Hope to hear from you soon.
Many thanks, Wendy
That would leave you 3 full days to explore Tokyo which is definitely not too long but still should give you time to hit the highlights.
Hi there, we are travelling over with our four kids (9, 7, 5 and 2), we don’t arrive into the Narita Airport until about 9pm, we will have 2 suitcases and 2 snowboard bags – what will be our best options for travel, seeing that we also need to get through customs on arrival. We are staying over near Disneyland Resort.
You didn’t mention which hotel you are staying in, but because you are arriving fairly late and have four large pieces of luggage, you will probably have to contact one of the private transportation companies below to request a van for six people plus luggage. It will not be cheap, but getting to your hotel via public transportation will probably be more than you will want to handle after a long flight, regular taxis will not be big enough, and dedicated airport buses do not operate so late.
First of all, thank you for all the great information and replies to date, a great resource for us new visitors.
I’m visiting Tokyo (flying into Narita) for a week in late June/early July and will def cobble together an itinerary from all the information above. I’m thinking we’ll most likely stay in an airbnb in the Shimokitazawa district, sounds pretty cool and like I’ll be able to find some good coffee too while still being pretty close to everything (I guess it’s fair to characterise us a hipster family…).
One thing i didn’t see in your posts was any reference to cycling or cycle tours. I was considering a day trip to Lake Kawaguchiko to see Mt Fuji and was wondering if this was something we could spend the day doing while we were there? Any other places good to hire bikes to get around??
The other option I thought might be fun was Kamakura, we surf at home in Sydney a lot so this sounded like it might be a bit of a novelty and a place to cool off if it was getting too warm.
Love to hear any thoughts or suggestions you might have.
Cycling is a common way to get around in Japan. There are bike rental companies virtually everywhere (in Kyoto, for example, rental bikes are very popular with tourists because the city is fairly flat). Local tourist offices, usually located in or near the main train station, have information on where to rent bikes. As for Lake Kawaguchiko, there are several places where you you can rent bikes. The tourist office at the station has maps and information, including cycling routes to other destinations besides just going around the lake. Some info here.
Another good cycling destination is Lake Yamanakako, which has a dedicated cycling lane and also good views of Mt. Fuji.
As for Kamakura, if you are used to the waves in Sydney you are going to be disappointed by the very gentle waves of Kamakura, unless, of course, there’s a typhoon coming in. It’s a very nice town however, and worth a visit in its own right.
I am travelling to Tokyo in August with my 10 yr old daughter. We are staying in a hotel in Taito. The only thing I have really planned is going to Disneyland/Disneysea, and travelling to Universal Studios in Osaka. We are there for 12 days, how should I travel from Tokyo to Osaka? What else should I fit in and definitely visit?
Take the bullet train (Shinkansen) from Tokyo to Osaka. You can book a day in advance (while in Japan). You haven’t given me a whole lot to go as to your interests but possible ideas would include: 3 or 4 days in Tokyo to do most interesting things from list above; 2 days in Kyoto seeing the top sights; day trips or overnight trips to Himeji, Hakone, Kamakura, and/or Nara.
Would you recommend Nagoya as a good base for visiting Kyoto (and maybe Osaka)?
Kyoto makes an excellent base for seeing Kyoto.
We are a family of 4 (kids aged 8 and 12) and visiting Japan in July. Trying to figure out if the JR Rail Pass is worth the money. We have not settled on a plan yet but it will most likely include several days in Tokyo, a few days in both Osaka and Kyoto, and likely one or two more stops somewhere in that corridor. Do you have any simple rules for figuring out whether to buy the pass or stick with individual tickets? For us, ease and convenience is more important than saving every last dollar. Thanks.
If you are flying into Tokyo and plan on spending a few days there before going onward, the one-week JR Rail Pass costs only slightly more than a roundtrip ticket on the Shinkansen bullet train to the Kyoto/Osaka area. But the advantages of the rail pass are that it includes free seat reservations (which can be made in advance or just before traveling) and you don’t have to bother with buying individual train tickets. Thus, if you plan on spending a few days in Tokyo and can complete the Kyoto/Osaka trip within a week, I’d go with rail passes for sheer convenience.
The tricky part comes when adding other cities. If you can include other towns within a week’s journey, the rail pass is cheaper than individual tickets. Note, however, that some destinations are better using private rail lines, such as Odakyu when traveling to Hakone, Tobu for Nikko and Nankai Railway if going to Mt. Koya. There are other passes for those lines, so you might consider a combination of rail passes depending on where you want to go. You could, for example, use an Odakyu pass from Tokyo to Hakone, and then start your JR pass for the trip onward from Odawara to Kyoto/Osaka and back to Kyoto.
Otherwise, if your trip between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka + other towns lasts longer than a week, individual tickets are cheaper than a 2-week JR rail pass. In general I would err on the side of not getting the pass unless you’re certain the benefits outweigh the costs.
We have 8 full days in Japan. We fly into Tokyo then depart from Osaka to Singapore 9 days later. We are considering 2 days each in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. Do you consider this a good division of time? Is there anywhere you’d add between Tokyo and Osaka? (We are a family of 4, traveling with two children, ages 7 and 12.)
First off, while Nagoya is a fine city there’s not much of interest and with only 8 days to work with it’s not deserving of a visit. It does have an excellent science museum and a brand new Legoland, but you’re basically getting the busyness of a city without the attractions and on a tight schedule, I wouldn’t make a stop here. Tokyo can easily fill a week of interesting kid-friendly things to do. Kyoto and Osaka are each good for 2 or 3 days of quality sightseeing. With that in mind, I would do 3 days in Tokyo, 3 days in Kyoto (with a day trip to Nara), and 2 days in Osaka. Other options between Tokyo and Osaka include the Hakone Loop (with a stay at a Ryokan in one of the small towns in the area) and Kamakura (which is an enchanting area with some cool sights and walks). If you feel too much city time will be taxing and tiring for your family then I’d add one or both of these in. But if you’re comfortable with busy cities, subways, shops, and crosswalks then I’d stick to the big 3 of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
We are heading to Tokyo in October for 7 days and are trying to figure out whether to stay in Odaiba or Ginza/Shibuya. The Odaiba option is near the Ariake train station and a 4-8 minute walk from 2 other stations. Ginza looks very busy and the accommodations are smaller. We have an 11 year old who was there when he was 4 and loved riding the trains. This trip we will concentrate on all things Tokyo.
In terms of convenience, Shibuya and Ginza have many more subway and JR connections, which means you may be able to travel directly to destinations without having to change trains (for example, the Ginza Line travels from Shibuya through Ginza all the way to Ueno and Asakusa), which can save time. Odaiba, on the other hand is served only by the Yurikamome (which is expensive and can be very crowded on weekends) and Rinkai (which goes to other stations like Ebisu and Shibuya), but both of them mean at least two transfers to most of the places you’ll want to go. There are buses, but they tend to be slow. I would therefore recommend staying closer to the center of Tokyo. Your son will have plenty of chances to ride the train and it will save you both time and money. That said, Odaiba does have a lot of kid-friendly attractions (e.g. Legoland, Joypolis, Miraikan Science Museum) so if you were primarily interested in those then Odaiba would be a fine choice.
Thank you so much for the great information! My husband and I are planning a last minute trip to Japan with our 14 month old son. Out of your recommendations do you have any standouts that are better for toddlers? Also do you have any insight around stroller usage or etiquette? I’ve been to Tokyo a few times and have a hard time picturing the stroller being welcomed into some of the tiny restaurants. And finally we want to take a side trip to go skiing. Do you have any suggestions on places to do this that are closer proximity to Tokyo? And again, any spots that will be better for little kiddos is better. Thank you so much! Bethany
Although you’ll see plenty of mothers and parents pushing baby strollers, they are out for a stroll, not jaunting around the city sightseeing. Although it certainly can be done, keep in mind that there are plenty of stairs to traverse, from pedestrian bridges over busy streets to subway stairs. Although most Tokyo stations now have elevators, note that they may be inconveniently located at stations with more than just a few entrances; in addition, signs prohibit using escalators with strollers. In any case, you’ll definitely want to avoid rush hour on public transportation (until 9am, but best to wait until 9:30am just to be safe). As for restaurants, those that are too small or busy with customers do not allow strollers. Rather, you should fold it up and leave it at the entrance. If it’s a family-friendly restaurant (say, in a hotel or department store), you will probably be able to park your stroller by your table, but you should always ask first.
For reasons listed above, you might find a baby carrier an easier alternative (or, bring it in addition to a stroller), though it does make it more difficult for those all-important naps. When you’re out and about, it’s good to know that department stores have free strollers you can use in their stores, while many attractions have them available for rent. Tokyo is also becoming more egalitarian when it comes to restaurants with changing tables, with some even in the men’s room (again, department stores are your best bet).
As for skiing, there are several possibilities near Tokyo, all theoretically close enough for a day trip. The two closest are GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort (75 minutes by Shinkansen bullet train, with lifts right outside the station; and Karuizawa Prince Hotel (one hour by Shinkansen, then Prince resort bus, but note that runs here are not for serious skiers.
With regards to hotels in Tokyo, the ones I’ve listed would all be good for toddlers.
I have decided to do a last minute trip to Japan. I will arrive on March 25 and depart April 1st. I will be traveling with a 7 & 8 year old. I know we want to go to the Disney Parks. Given our time frame, what cities are a must between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and how long should I spend in each place and where to go?
You have 6 full days. If you spend 2 days at Disney (1 day for each park) you have 4 left. I would do 2 days in Tokyo, 1 in Kyoto, and 1 in Osaka. Stay in the same hotel for your time in Kyoto/Osaka and do a day trip to the other city.
I just stumbled upon your website and have enjoyed reading through your posts. My family (3 adults, one 7 year old, and one 2 year old) will be traveling to Tokyo Japan for the first time, within a short time-frame, from April 9-15, into Narita Airport. Our plan is to spend the first half of our trip at Disneyland / DisneySea and then the last half in Tokyo. We do not speak Japanese, but we do know Chinese. We’ve tentatively booked stays with AirBnB. We are traveling on a budget. We need some guidance and recommendations and hoping you could help.
April 9 – We arrive in Narita Airport around 4PM.
We will go directly to Airbnb lodging that is within 5-8 minutes from Disneyland. Questions:
– Would it be more economical to take a Taxi from Narita to Airbnb rental or take bus/rail to Disneyland, and then ride taxi from Disneyland to Airbnb?
– What kind of transportation passes should we buy?
– Should we wait to buy transportation passes until we visit Toyko?
April 10-11 – Disneyland / DisneySea
We will visit one place each day. Questions:
– Should we buy Disney tickets in advance online, or should we wait to buy the tickets when we arrive on 4/9?
– We are vegetarian, are there any vegetarian options there? Is it possible to bring our own food?
April 12 – Leave Disney to go to Tokyo
We are planning to stay around the “Ikebukuro Toshima-ku” area. Questions:
– In terms of attractions and family activities, would you recommend this area? Is this a good area?
– What is the best economical transportation option from Disney to Ikebukuro Toshima-ku, for a family of 5?
– What kind of transportation passes should we get if we are only staying/visiting Tokyo?
April 13-14 – Staying within Tokyo
We are planning to visit the Pokeman Center, Skytree and Tokyo Tower. Questions:
– With this short amount of time frame, what else would you recommend the “must-do” and/or “must-see” activities for families and for kids?
April 15 – Going to the airport.
Our flight leaves late in the evening, at 6PM. Questions:
– What is there to do in Tokyo in the morning and afternoon before our flight?
– What transportation option would you recommend to go to Narita Airport?
Your knowledge and advice will be greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance!
The most economical transportation is by Limousine bus from Narita to Disney and surrounding hotels (about ¥2,450 for adults, half price for your 7-year-old, free for the 2-year-old) and from there take a taxi. The last bus, however, departs around 6pm, depending on the airport terminal. Two hours should be enough time to pass through customs at Narita. If not, however, you will probably end up taking a taxi, but it won’t be cheap, starting at ¥16,000 or even more, depending on traffic and tolls.
Transportation: The best way to travel in the Tokyo area is via the Suica card, which you can buy at any station for the amount you wish. It doesn’t provide discounts, but is a contactless card that automatically deducts the fare, saving time having to buy individual tickets for each trip. The children’s fare is half price that of an adult; free for children younger than 6. When you reach Tokyo, there is a day pass that allows travel in JR trains, buses and subway within Tokyo’s 23 wards, but at ¥1,590 for adults and half price for children, it’s not worth it unless you plan to do lots of travel in one day (generally, more than 5 journeys in a single day).
It certainly doesn’t hurt to buy Disney tickets beforehand online, but your visit on Apr 10 is a Monday so you probably won’t be faced with overwhelming crowds. You aren’t allowed to bring own food, but there are many restaurants in both parks. Since Disney caters to people from all over the world, you will find vegetarian options, though not a vegetarian restaurant per se.
Departing to Ikebukuro: The best way to get to Ikebukuro is to take the JR Keiyo line from Maihama to Shin-Kiba, followed by the Yurakucho subway line to Ikebukuro. It takes takes 45 min and costs ¥400 for adults, ¥200 children. Ikebukuro is a busy place (it’s a huge commuter town), but is ok for families and has plenty of things to do in the Sunshine Building, including the small but sweet Sunshine Aquarium, J-World Tokyo and Namja Town, which are anime-themed indoor amusement centers. The Sunshine Building has its own Sky Circus observatory on the 60th floor and also a Pokemon Center.
You mention SkyTree, which also has a Pokemon Center. It’s ¥4,000 for both observatories but discounts are given to international guests with passports. You also mention Tokyo Tower, but not sure you want to visit both observatories. At any rate, note that Tokyo Tower’s top-floor observatory is closed for renovations until summer.
Since you seem to like observatories, a cheaper alternative is the free 45th-floor Metropolitan Government office in Shinjuku.
Otherwise, there are lots of things to do in Tokyo with kids. In Ueno is the National Museum of Nature and Science with dinosaurs and displays relating to Japan, while nearby is Ueno Zoo with pandas. Maybe the best museum for kids is the delightful Fukagawa Edo Museum, an indoor feudal-era “village” with houses you can enter.
A 6pm flight does not give much time for sightseeing, as you will want to arrive at Narita a minimum of 2 hours before (3 hours is better) and it takes a minimum of about 1 hour from Ikebukuro. You might wish to save something to do in Ikebukuro on your last day (like the aquarium) so you can then return to your hotel to retrieve your luggage or from lockers at Ikebukuro Station. The fastest way to get to the airport from Ikebukuro is to take the Yamanote line to Nippori, and from there take the Keisei Skyliner to the airport. Leaving Ikebukuro at 2:26pm, for example, gets you to to airport at 3:23pm.
We (5) are travelling to Narita in early April for 11 days with 2 children 6 and 3. We have booked accommodation in Urayasu, Tokyo Bay. We arrive at approximately 8.30pm and I was wondering about the easiest way to travel to the accommodation from Narita airport, a shuttle bus or train? We plan on doing Disney sea and Disneyland and then travelling in to Tokyo and surrounding areas for the period of stay and I am unsure what to purchase in regard to train travel passes. We were also contemplating the possibility of hiring a car……what would be your thoughts on this please?
Take the Narita Limousine Bus from Narita to Urayasu.
Thanks so much for your awesome info.
My 11 year old is a huge anime fan. Beside the Pokemon Centers and the Ghibli Museum, have you heard of any animation studio tours around Tokyo?
Warm regards! Claudia
P.S: Any Godzilla sightings too?
Tokyo is the right place for young anime fans! As you mention, Ghibli Museum is a big draw for those who have seen director Hayao Miyazaki’s many great films but as you probably know, requires advance ticket purchase. Less well-known is the Suginami Animation Museum, which is on the same train line going to Ghibli. It describes the history of Japanese animation, has videos describing techniques used to create rain and other special effects and shows past and present anime in its theater and more. Best of all, it’s free.
As for Tokyo’s Pokemon Centers, there are two convenient locations, in Ikebukuro and Tokyo Skytree in Japan. There’s plenty to see, but be prepared for the fact that they are mostly a means to sell merchandise.
You’ll also want to hit other big anime shopping areas, the biggest of which is Akihabara. Japan’s largest electronics district, it is also the best gathering place for Otaku (anime/manga nerds) due to its concentration of shops selling figurines, games, cosplay outfits and everything else, with Mandarake and Radio Kaikan among the big players (be aware, however, that some of the figurines are NOT for children). There’s also a Gundam Cafe here with character-shaped food items and a Gundam statue out front. Make the free Tokyo Anime Center (website is Japanese only) your first stop for map of Akihabara and to check out temporary displays and the merchandise shop.
Another popular shopping destination is Nakano Broadway next to Nakano Station, a rather dingy but fascinating mall with two floors of cubby-hole-size shops selling new and retro manga, figurines, software, games and more. Robot Robot on the third floor has a large selection of figurines, including Godzilla and Ultraman.
Indoor theme parks include One Piece Tower in the base of Tokyo Tower with a film, games, live show and a café with One Piece comics in English, and J-World Tokyo in Ikebukuro, with activities related to One Piece, Dragon Ball, Naruto and other anime hits. While in Ikebukuro, you might also want to check out Namja Town in the same building.
You didn’t mention when you might be traveling, but Gundam Front in Odaiba has 3D movies, displays explaining and showing how Gunpla (Gundam toy kits) are made, virtual reality experiences and a display of every Gunpla model ever made, and–of course!–a merchandise shop. Note, however, that it is closing in early April and its robotic 59-ft. outdoor Gundam statue will be removed in early March.
If you’re going later in this year, check whether Toei Animation Gallery has reopened after a major three-year renovation. In addition, though you may not be able to plan your trip around this, AnimeJapan, held at Odaiba’s Tokyo Big Site convention center, is one of world’s largest anime-related events (held this year on March 25-26). It’s attended by Japanese and foreign film, toy and software companies and features the latest products plus live shows.
Finally, for fans of Godzilla, try to get one of the Gracery Shinjuku hotel’s special Godzilla rooms opening in April, one of which provides a good view of its outdoor statue, which roars and puts on a show several times a day.
Hi! I would like to take my kids 12, 11 and 9 to Japan in January. I was planning skiing for 4 or 5 nights, a Tokyo stay for 4 nights and Disneyland/Sea 4 nights. I am a little concerned about the weather being too cold for Disney and Tokyo however. Maybe we should re consider maybe a April visit to take advantage of nicer weather. What do you think? Angie
January is cool but skies are clear and weather dry. It’s decent for sightseeing and one of the quieter times to visit Disney (though, have some warm clothes). Skiing is obviously better in January than April but otherwise I’d prefer April.
We are traveling to Japan at the end of May. We will be traveling with are two kids 8 and 6. We are going for 8 days. Do you have any suggestions for other cities to visit? We were thinking about Osaka. Our kids are not really into temples so not sure they would enjoy Kyoto . Also do you recommend the JR rail pass for travel from Tokyo to Osaka round trip? Also can I use the JR pass to get around Tokyo on the subway? Andrew
Yes, Osaka is great and has lots to do for families. JR Pass is not worth it just for Tokyo to Osaka return trip. Yes, the JR Pass can be used on Tokyo JR subway trains – but most subway routes in Tokyo are not JR trains, so I wouldn’t consider this when deciding whether to buy the pass. Also, the Tokyo subway is very cheap.
Thank you for your informational website. We are a family of five (2 adults, 3 children age 11, 10, and 9) planning to travel to Japan April 7th to 17th.
We arrive Narita on the evening of 7th (Friday), planning to go straight to Kofu where our friends live (due to our friend’s work/ school and a festival at Yamanashi on the Saturday, it’s best to spend the two weekends with them).
So for the week Monday 10th to Friday 15th, we plan to explore and visit another friend one night in Saitama, sight-see Tokyo, and somehow if possible, fit in a visit to the Universal Studio Osaka as the kids are Harry Potter mad. Then return Friday night (which will then be Easter) back to Kofu to spend the weekend again with our friend. Monday 17th we’ll head out to Tokyo for a short day, and in the evening we’ll leave from Narita.
I’ve been trying plan and it’s doing my head in! I notice the train ride to Osaka is not exactly short (something like 5 hrs from Kofu), so I’m thinking to go first to Saitama on Monday, stay the night, then to Osaka the next day (Tuesday) for the Universal Studio, stay the night near Osaka. Wednesday morning head to Kyoto for a quick visit, and then to Tokyo to stay the night. Thursday and Friday sight-see Tokyo (museums or nature based), and then back to Kofu Friday night. Do you think that’s do-able or will the travelling with kids between all those cities too much? Should we just stick with Tokyo/ Saitama area for the week and scrap Osaka?
Also, if we do Osaka/ Kyoto, I’m thinking of JR pass, but which 7 days should we use it for? Most days require some sort of shinkansen travel, but we’re technically there for 11 days counting the night we arrive at Narita. Can we use the JR pass for NEX? And can the JR pass take us to Osaka/ Kyoto – I heard you cannot use it for Nozomi or Mizuho bullet trains?
If we don’t do Osaka/ Kyoto, is it better to just buy the tickets as we go (not using any sort of pass, or just get Tokyo Wide Pass, or Tokyo day pass for JR and metro?), I believe the trains to Odaiba for the museums are also not covered by the JR pass?
Your knowledge and advice will be greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance!
Just reading your itinerary makes my head spin! Because you’d like to stay with your friends in Kofu for both weekends, plus visit a friend in Saitama, you really only have three-and-a-half days for sightseeing (Apr 11/Tuesday to Apr 14/Friday, when you head back out to Kofu). Planning to visit Universal Studios, Kyoto and Tokyo is nearly impossible in just 3 or 4 days, and your three children and their parents could well end up frazzled.
As you point out, you can’t use the faster Nozomi, so the Shinkansen bullet train takes about 3 hours, but it delivers you to Shin-Osaka Station, so you’d have to change to subway lines to get to Universal Studios, which is located near the port. If you left Tokyo very early, you could possibly be at Universal Studios by noon or 1pm. The Harry Potter section is insanely popular, so the only way you might all get in by a reasonable time would be to spring for Express Passes for everyone, which comes on top of admission, but know that by arriving later in the day all available times for Potter might already be taken.To save time, I suggest staying at one of the hotels near the park; that way you could drop off you bags and then proceed to the park (open to about 9pm on week nights).
Otherwise, a better plan of action would be to check in to your hotel near the park, then take the Captain Line shuttle boat from the dock near Universal Studios 10 minutes to Osaka Aquarium and spend Tuesday afternoon there. There are other things to do there, including a huge indoor mall and lots of restaurants. Then you could visit Universal Studios the next day on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning you could then return to Tokyo for two days before going to Kofu for the weekend (you can’t do Kyoto justice in a half day). In this scenario, you could use the 7-day rail pass from Apr 11-17. Yes, it’s good for N’EX express train from Tokyo or Shinagawa stations to Narita, but it’s good in Tokyo only on JR lines like the Yamanote and also the Rinkai line to Odaiba. You could also use it to get to and from you friends in Kofu.
If it were me, however, I would probably nix Osaka. There is so much to do in Tokyo with kids that you could easily spend Tuesday-Friday there (maybe you could placate the kids with a trip to DisneySea, the only one of its kind in the world). Wide Passes are good for only 3 days, so not sure it would be economical as it would cover only one way between Kofu and Tokyo because you’re not traveling roundtrip within 3 days. Day passes are only worth it if you’re going great distances or plan on using transportation for many different locations within one day (like the Tokyo day pass for metro), which is unlikely. It’s better use of your time to visit Tokyo’s sights neighborhood by neighborhood (like visiting Asakusa and Ueno in one day, which are near each other). For the small fortune it would cost to buy rail tickets to Osaka, a hotel, plus entry passes and fast passes to Universal Studios, it might make sense to promise the kids that you’ll take them to similar exhibits at Universal Studios in Florida or in California and to concentrate on only-in-Japan experiences in Tokyo while in Japan.
And have fun! Your family is going to have a blast!
Thank you for your great posts.
I would like to experience a modern capsule hotel with my children (14 and 11 years old), either in Osaka or Hiroshima. Would you have any advice?
Capsule hotels originated as a cheap place for businessmen to crash when they missed the last train home. As such, few accepted women. In recent years, capsule hotels began devoting floors also only to women; a capsule hotel only for women has even just opened in Tokyo.
If there’s a capsule hotel that accepts children I’m not aware of it. In any case, there are caveats that would make me advise against it. For one thing, capsule units are large enough only for one person, so children would have to each sleep in their own unit (fine for 14 and 11 year olds but could be a problem for younger kids). Because of fire regulations, capsules cannot be locked and sometimes there’s nothing more than a curtain or flimsy door that can be closed. Because people enter at all hours, they can be noisy and you can be sure some guests will be inebriated. In addition, facilities like showers and toilets are shared.
In short, there are better options for families experiencing Japan, including Japanese inns.
We’re planning to go to Japan in December with 2 kids (4.5 and 2yrs) for about 10-14 days. Besides Tokyo, which other cities do you suggest us to go that might suit for the kids (not temple kind of place) and easy transportation and accomodation
In December I’d be sure to stay at a Ryokan with outdoor onsen/Japanese-bath. Hakone is a good spot to do it.
This is the first time I’ve read your blog, and I’ll certainly be back! Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed info about traveling with kids in Tokyo. I’ve been wanting to travel to Japan for a very long time and my husband always has a reason for why it won’t work. His latest excuse was because our son is too young. Reading him your blog proved to him that there were plenty of attractions for children. I’m so excited that last night we decided to put in our calendar a two week trip to Japan in two years. It’s far off, but I’m going to hold him to it and will learn as much as I can about the sights you’ve recommended.
Cheers from Vancouver, Canada!
Awesome. Japan is a great taste for foreign travel. It feels really different and is a fantastic experience yet it’s a super safe, predictable, plan-able destination.
Thanks for such a detailed post! I’m playing to head to Tokyo with my 11, 6 and 4 year old in mid April. Is 10 days enough time to do Tokyo? Is it possible to do day trips to outside of Tokyo and where would you suggest? Or would it be better to take the bullet train (which my boys would love) to Kyoto and stay a couple of nights there?
At first I was considering Shinjuku or Shibuya to stay in but after reading your articles am thinking it might not be as easy with kids? Any advice?
10 days would be easy to fill in Tokyo but with that much time you’re better to shorten your stay to 4 or 5 days, do 2 days in Kyoto, and a day each in places like Hakone (do the Hakone Loop), a small town on the Izu Peninsula, and the beach towns around Kamakura. If Shinjuku or Shibuya are too busy then Asakusa is a great area (Sadachiyo Ryokan has some large rooms and beautiful Japanese baths).
Thanks for the helpful post!
Is it difficult to find laundry services there?
Your easiest option is to find out whether your accommodation offers laundry service. Most hotels provide professional laundry service, usually limited to weekdays, but it’s not cheap. Some hotels and budget accommodations like business hotels, inexpensive Japanese inns or guest houses offer self-operated coin washers and dryers.
Otherwise, it’s not difficult to find laundry service in Tokyo, as many apartments are too small for personal washing machines (that’s why you often see washing machines on apartment balconies; dryers are rare, so most people hang clothes to dry). Self-operating “coin laundries” (as they’re called in Japan) may be difficult to find in central business areas, however, in which case you may opt to leave your laundry at a laundromat to be professionally dry cleaned or washed and dried. Many companies also offer pick-up and delivery service. Ask your hotel where the nearest laundry service is. Even if personnel don’t speak English, they will take care with your garments.
If you do use a coin laundry, be aware that instructions will likely not be in English, though there will be an attendant on hand who might assist you. Many washing machines have detergent already included in the wash cycle so you don’t have to add it. Coin laundries are open late, sometimes 24 hours, and are clean and pleasant.
Otherwise, probably the easiest way to deal with dirty laundry is to travel with clothes you can hand wash and dry quickly in your bathroom. Many Japanese hotels have a laundry rope you can pull to extend over the bathtub.
Thanks for the awesome blog. Before reading this I was COMPLETELY clueless as to what I was going to do with my 6 year old son when we travel to Japan in December.
We are travelling to Osaka and Tokyo in December for 10 days (mother and son trip) and was wondering excluding accommodation, how much you would put aside for each day approx. We have booked a 3day Disneyland pass whilst we are in Tokyo, and I know my son will be hugely interested in the lego museum and the RiSuPia museum. Is there anything else that would be top of the list to visit in Tokyo.
Also other than a soccer game, we have no set plans for Osaka. Any recommendations for a 6 year old manga/anime/cosplay mad boy – Maybe something indoors due the the weather.
Although it’s difficult to give an estimate for daily expenses, you should plan on a minimum of about ¥10,000 a day (approximately $100) for meals, transportation and sightseeing (not including accommodation, Disneyland and train travel between Tokyo and Osaka). Your son can travel on public transportation for half fare, get reduced admission to most attractions and opt for kid meals at restaurants that offer them. And although you are going in December, the weather in both Tokyo and Osaka is generally mild with little snow.
As for additional sights in Tokyo, there are lots of good places for families. In Ueno, one of Tokyo’s largest parks, there’s Ueno Zoo, the Shitamachi Museum filled with historic relics from Tokyo’s past (including folk-art toys kids can try out), and the National Museum of Nature and Science. Since your son is also into manga and anime, he might also enjoy going to one of two Pokemon Centers, located in both Ikebukuro and at Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest free-standing broadcast tower and with an observatory.
There’s also lots to see and do in Odaiba, where you’ll find the RiSuPia, which is actually located in the Panasonic Center. In fact, you might find it more worthwhile to visit the much larger Miraikan–the National Musum of Emerging Science and Innovation, which also has a neat section on androids and robots. Here, too, is Gundam Front Tokyo, with a robotic 59-foot Gundam statue out front, a Gundam Cafe (with food shaped like Gundam characters) and a display of Gundam toy kits.
Probably the biggest anime attraction is the Ghibli Museum, the creation of Hayao Miyazaki (who did Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle). Note, however, that you must purchase tickets in advance and it’s located 30 minutes outside Tokyo, so unless your son is a huge Miyazaki fan you are probably best off spending your time at some of the other places above.
In Osaka, the biggest draw is Universal Studios, which has a new attraction, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which recreates Hogsmeade Village, but also has attractions centered on Shrek, Spider-Man and other movies. Other family attractions include the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Kids Plaza Osaka (though if you’ve been to Miraikan, you probably won’t want to come here) and the quirky Tsutenkaku Tower, which contains an observatory, dioramas of how the town looked in 1912 when the tower was erected and a museum with figurines and capsule toy dispensers. You also won’t want to miss Osaka Castle, which is a remake of the original but impressive nonetheless.
Obviously, you won’t be able to do all of the above, but as you can see, you won’t lack for fun things to do with your son.
Thanks so much for this blog! Our family with 3 kids are very much into Pokemon, Anime, Dragon Ball, etc. Are there places in Tokyo to go to see this? I’ve always wondered if this is authentic Japanese culture.
While Pokemon may not be as popular as it once was, anime is very much a part of Japanese popular culture, with an almost cult following. You could probably spend a great part of your time (and money) in Tokyo pursuing this side of Japan, but places you will want to hit include:
1. Pokemon Center
This is one of the largest of 10 Pokemon Centers in Japan. There’s plenty to see, but be prepared for the fact that it’s mostly a means to sell merchandise. And since Ikebukuro is slightly out of the way from most Tokyo attractions, you might wish to combine it with the small but sweet Sunshine Aquarium in the same Sunshine City complex.
2. Gundam Front Tokyo
Look for the robotic 59-ft. Gundam statue in front of DiverCity, and you know you are close to this indoor amusement center devoted to this anime action figure. In addition to 3D movies, displays explaining and showing how Gunpla (Gundam toy kits) are made, virtual reality experiences and a display of every Gunpla model ever made, it has–of course!–a merchandise shop. There’s also a Gundam Cafe. Bonus: There are many other worthwhile sights to see in Odaiba, including the Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation), a free Panasonic showroom, the free Megaweb Toyota showroom, numerous shopping malls and the Maritime Museum (with a public swimming pool beside it).
Japan’s largest electronics district is now also the best gathering place place for Otaku (anime/manga nerds) due to its concentration of shops selling figurines, games, and everything else, with Mandarake and Radio Kaikan among the big players (be aware, however, that some of the figurines are NOT for children). There’s also a Gundam Cafe here. Teenagers will also like Don Quijote, packed to the rafters with all kinds of useful and not-so-useful stuff (cosmetics, food items, clothing) and a nail salon that does anime characters.
4. Ghibli Museum
You have to make reservations in advance (like at JTB agencies in Japan or abroad or Lawson convenience stores if you can get someone who understands Japanese to help) and it’s located a 15-minute train ride outside Tokyo followed by a shuttle bus, but Miyazaki Hayao is to Japanese animation what Disney is to American film and this whimsical place dedicated to the creator of Spirited Away draws dedicated fans.
5. Suginami Animation Museum
This is on the way to Ghibli, so combining them makes the outing more worth it (and it’s free).
I think it would be important to add that kids ride free on the trains when they are under 6 (school age).
We plan on going to Japan in the beginning of July for 10 days. I have 2 four year olds and a 10 year old. I’m trying to find activities that they would all enjoy so I’ll be looking into some of your advice.
I would like to spend half of my time in Osaka and then the other half in Tokyo. What rail passes do you recommend?
If you are going only to Osaka and Tokyo, and your travel time is within a week, the price of roundtrip tickets between the two cities is slightly less than the cost of a one-week Japan Rail Pass: ¥27,240 for roundtrip unreserved seats (¥27,880 for reserved seats) compared to ¥29,100 for a railpass. On the other hand, the Japan Rail Pass includes free seat reservations, can also be used on the JR loop lines around both Tokyo and Osaka (though often times the subway is the better choice) and might even end up cheaper if you think you will be traveling outside the cities (say, to Kamakura or Nara). So it depends on what you decide fits best with your plans; just the convenience of not having to buy individual train tickets might be worth the cost of a rail pass. If, however, you are not completing your round trip within a week, the cost of a two-week Rail Pass is significantly more than the cost of individual tickets.
Great resource. My wife and I will be visiting Japan August 10 – 20 with my almost 6 year old boy. We plan on a week in Tokyo and 4 days on a short trip outside. Do you have any special must visit sight for us at that time in Tokyo? And, If you were to do a 4 day trip with a 6 year old old outside Tokyo, in mid August, where would you go?
Thanks so much,
Christian (Berkeley CA)
There are no major festivals in Tokyo in August, as this is the school holiday time for Japanese families. There are, however, plenty of attractions geared toward children. The main thing to keep in mind is that it’s hot and humid in Japan in August, making the indoor museums and sights listed below particularly appealing.
Edo-Tokyo Museum – A fascinating introduction to Tokyo’s history, with lots of visual displays and replicas that appeal to youngsters.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Observatory – Just so your son can see how big Tokyo really is and it’s free (both Skytree and Tokyo tower are better picks if you’re willing to pay).
Hanayashiki – An old-fashioned amusement park with lots of rids geared to youngsters, not far from famous Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Ueno Zoo and National Museum of Nature and Science – Both in Ueno Park (and the Shitamachi Museum if you can’t make it the Fukagawa Edo Museum, below)
National Children’s Castle – a multi-level indoor educational/amusement playground for children
Museum of Maritime Science – lots of hands-on, model ships, etc (and a public swimming pool right beside it)
Fukagawa Edo Museum – A bit out of the way, but a great replica Edo-era village inside a hangar-like building that appeals enormously to kids.
KidZania Tokyo – This isn’t the only KidZania in the world, but it’s a great place to let kids run wild with imagination in the “real” world.
Tokyo Sea Life Park – Tokyo’s best aquarium, in Kasai Rinkai Park with plenty of room to roam.
As for 4 days outside Tokyo, Nikko might be a good option. There are plenty of Japanese-style inns where you can experience traditional Japanese living conditions, plus there are the many temples associated with Japan’s most famous shogun.
Hakone is a great roundtrip journey via train, mountain tram, cable car, and even a pirate ship, with plenty of Japanese inn or hotels on the loop trip (you’d want to leave heavy luggage in Tokyo).
Izu Peninsula is also a popular getaway for Tokyoites, especially Atami with its beach and Shuzenji for its hot-spring baths and Japanese inns.
Keep in mind, however, that it can be crowded in tourist towns in August, so make reservations as far in advance as possible.
We are a family of four travelling to Japan this October. We will be there for two weeks and plan to visit Osaka, Mt. Koya, Kyoto, Takayama, and Tokyo. Would a JR Pass be the best way to get around or would you suggest a SUICA card as well?
Actually, I would suggest both. Rail passes are infinitely easier than buying individual tickets each time you board a train and during their validity also allow you to use JR commuter lines, like the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo and the Loop Line in Osaka.
That being said, it depends on which international airport you are flying into. If it’s Osaka, I would suggest spending a few days there first, then going to Mt. Koya, which is a private line and not valid with the Railpass (but there are discount tickets for that – the Koyasan-World Heritage Ticket). Then you could use the Railpass only for the Osaka-Tokyo-Takayama portion of you trip, provided you see Tokyo and Takayama within 7 days (you can). Kyoto is practically next door to Osaka and easily and cheaply reached via a number of train lines.
If you’re flying into Tokyo, a 7-week rail pass wouldn’t give you enough time for the other three destinations you’re interested in, so individual train tickets would be cheaper than a 1- or 2-week pass.
As for SUICA, it’s valid on subways and city buses throughout Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and you can add as much as you need onto your card. This saves much time and frustration trying to buy individual tickets for four people. By all means, buy SUICA regardless of rail pass.
Hi we are coming to Toyko for 3 nights early Sept with our 7 & 8 year old. We will arrive on a Sunday and leave on the Wednesday. Can you please recommend a good areas to stay? We are on a budget and are looking to use Airbnb to book through.
I have been looking at Shibuya as a starting point but if there are other areas?
We love markets if you can recommend any? We are planning on going on the bullet train but it’s quiet expensive. My little boy is train mad and it would be a shame to miss out.
Thanks so much in advance for your wonderful advice.
So it looks like you have two full days but you’ll want to make the most of your time. While Shibuya is interesting, there isn’t really much to do there for young families (and is very crowded around the station), so I’d recommend staying closer to where you’ll probably be spending your time: Asakusa or Ueno, on the other end of town and both considered the “old downtown” part of Tokyo and with lots to do. In addition to the main tourist attractions, kid-oriented things include the Ueno Zoo and Shitamachi Museum in Ueno and the corny but historic Hanayashiki amusement park in Asakusa. From Narita airport, take the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno.
Have you thought of staying in a Japanese inn? There are several that are inexpensive and have larger tatami rooms good for families. Try Ryokan Kamogawa in Asakusa or Kimi Ryokan in Ikebukuro.
Markets are generally on Sundays, but there’s a good market open daily in Ueno called Ameyacho (also referred to as Ameya Yokocho) that runs underneath the JR Yamanote train tracks from Ueno Station to Okachimachi Station.
It would be expensive to take the Shinkansen bullet train just for experience. The JR Yamanote line runs in a loop around Tokyo and is above ground on elevated tracks. Or, from Asakusa, you could take the train to Nikko as a day’s side trip; the journey by train takes about 2 hours one way so that’s plenty of time on a train. Nikko is where the first shogun is buried.
Great info, thanks. We are a family with 4 children (15, 13, 5 and 3 years old), we will be in Japan the last week of April for 10 days. We are planning to spend a few days in Tokyo then head to Kyoto and Osaka and maybe Hiroshima.
I’m getting stressed about the trip as I learnt we will be there during the Golden Week!
Is it easy to travel around with the kids? We bought the JR pass, what do we need for traveling inside the city?
What do you recommend the best way to travel from airport to the city? (We will be staying in Asakusa). Will it be ok to visit Disney during this time or it will be too crowded and not value for the money?
We would like to do a day trip or two from Tokyo, thinking maybe to Fuji, is it doable with all the kids? Can we take the train or better book a tour? Any recommendations for day trips from Tokyo?
Thanks a lot,
You didn’t provide exact dates, but I’m guessing you’ll be in Japan a few days outside Golden Week. I expect Golden Week travel to extend beyond the usual May 5, however, because that falls on a Thursday and some people might presumably take an extra day off on Friday to make their vacation even longer. To complicate things, the Chinese Golden Week falls around the same time (about April 28 to May 4), and since travelers from China have skyrocketed in recent years, you will also be competing for seats and space with them.
To reach Asakusa (I assume you are arriving in Narita, as there are not as many US flights into Haneda), I recommend taking the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno and then a short taxi ride to your accommodations. Most convenient are limousine buses that go to major hotels, but the one going to Asakusa View is only twice a day. As for getting around cities, your JR passes are valid on trains operated by Japan Railways (JR) once they’ve been activated (like the Yamanote loop line in Tokyo), but you will also be best off buying a Suica card, which you can add money to during your trip and then swipe it to ride subways, JR commuter trains, and buses in Tokyo, Osaka/Kyoto and many other areas. It’s much easier than purchasing tickets each time you board a conveyance.You can even use them in 7-Eleven and vending machines.
If you’re arriving in Tokyo before April 28, I suggest you do as much as possible in terms of the big tourist draws, like Disney (I would suggest going to DisneySea, as it’s unique to Tokyo and is just as fun as Disneyland) or any side trips you might take. Speaking of which, I think you are better off going someplace other than Mt. Fuji. For one thing, it’s not as visible in summer as on clear winter days, and the effort of taking the train/bus to its Fifth Stage will be disappointing because it’s rare you can actually see the mountain from there, and hiking above the clouds with a 5- and 3-year old would be a herculean task. If you’re lucky, you might get a glimpse of the great mountain from the Shinkansen bullet train, about an hour out of Tokyo (sit on the right side of the train). Otherwise, for a day trip, consider going to Nikko (World Heritage Site, burial ground of the first shogun) or Kamakura (the Big Buddha and other temples and shrines), but ONLY if it isn’t during Golden Week. Buses and trains to tourist sites like these will be crowded beyond belief during Golden Week.
As for travel onward to Osaka-Kyoto-Hiroshima, you cannot purchase tickets for the Shinkansen going to those cities online. I suggest, therefore, reserving seats for those legs of your journey as soon as you are in Tokyo, which you can do in any JR station (like Ueno, the airport). Reservations are free with the JR railpass, and might be the only way to be sure you can sit together as a family. Bullet trains depart frequently, but they will be crowded during Golden Week. And pack luggage as small as you can get away with, because there is not much overhead space and the luggage racks will probably be pretty full.
Loved all the info you have put up on travelling with kids! Really useful for me as i plan our travel to Japan! Thanks!!!
Brilliant info – Thanks.
Thanks for this informative post and it really helps me as I’ll be travelling with the kids.
What you have – The starbucks that can watch the trains… this is what I’m looking for and something special than the ordinary places!
Thanks for great website. We are staying in Tokyo at the moment, and I would also add Hotel Ryumeikan to the list of family friendly hotels to stay at. The hotel is very close to Tokyo station (no more than a 5 min walk), and great sized family rooms (for Japan anyway!). My husband and I are staying here with our 2 kids, and think it is fabulous!
Great. Thanks Melanie.
Thank you for all of the wonderful suggestions. I wanted to take my son to KidZania while we are in Japan in November but we will not be in Tokyo on a Wednesday for English day. I see that you recommend going any day. Will my 5 yr old be able to understand and enjoy things on other days?
It’s a really fun place with lots going on (that doesn’t always require words and speaking). I’d go for it.
You have forgotten to mention one place which would be very interesting for children and equals the Ghibli museum and thats the Doraemon museum in Kawasaki.
Also in Odaiba, Aqua city or what is it called has a children playground and food court on the highest floor, plus special children toilets.
Fabulous website! I have only scraped the surface and am really enjoying it!
My husband and I along with our 3 daughters (7, 6 & 4) have just recently booked our first overseas trip as a family. 10 days in Japan – 4 nights/3 days in Tokyo followed by 6 nights skiing in Niseko. I would love to know what you recommend we do in Tokyo for 2 full days, as the 3rd day we are planning a day trip to Tokyo Disney. We live near the Great Barrier Reef so have no need to go to any aquariums etc, as have amazing aquariums where we live and seeing as we are going to Disneyland I don’t think we need to go to any amusements parks either. We are staying in the Asakusa area. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
Asakusa is a great area and lots to see (temples, shopping, markets) within walking distance – and the Skytree across the river. Take a river cruise from the Asakusa pier to either Odiaba or central Tokyo. Kidzania, the Edo Museum, the Railway Museum, and the National Museum of Nature and Science are all top picks.
Hi, we are planning to visit Tokyo in the last week on May. We will stay near disneyland. After that, we want to change hotel to shiba park. Is it possible for us to carry our luggage along (two medium size) if we use the train/subway? Thank you for your advice.
It shouldn’t be a problem as long as you don’t travel during rush hour. Try to travel between 10am and 3pm.
what a great site! Congratulations! We will be in Japan in May, and I would like to do something between Kyoto and Tokyo (coming from Kyoto). I was thinking of doing an overnight stay in Hakone, but now wonder whether it will be too touristy, and also a hassle with luggage, check-in, etc. Alternatively, we could do a day trip from Tokyo. I have been to Kamakura before, so would like to see something else. Oh yes, our little one is a 5 year old girl, who is the fastest runner but when it comes to “walking” may need a sherpa ;)
Greetings from super kid friendly Berlin,
I think Hakone would be a great choice. The train station is right in the center of the town with many hotels a short walk away – many with very good Japanese baths. Be sure to get the Hakone Loop ticket. If you do the loop there’s not a lot of walking.
Hi sir, what a great website, very informative, I m patton, from indonesia, please mind my not so fluent english.
We plan to visit Tokyo and Osaka japan for about 10 days with my wife, 2 and 4 year old kid and also my father, does hotel in Japan have a very strict policy that if the hotel mentions max 2 adult in room, they means that only 2 person can be in the room including kids?
I m confuse about booking one triple room or two double rooms?
Thank u for your recommendation, really appreciated it
Hello. It can be different with each hotel. If you book through Booking.com you can book any room you wish and simply write a message stating who will be staying there. They will write back saying that’s ok or is not – and you can cancel the room without charge if it’s not allowed.
Hi, We are travelling to Tokyo in September for 2 weeks. How far is a train ride to Osaka? Do you think to hang around Tokyo for 2 weeks or do you suggest going out to other places? Keri Gostelow
The bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka takes 2.5 hours. 1 week in Tokyo is easy to fill but for the 2nd week I would definitely try to see somewhere else. The Osaka/Kyoto area is a good choice.
A very informative smwebsite. I’m planning to stop over at Tokyo for 5 days in April 1st week, while transiting. This is going to be my first visit to Japan and I do not understand Japanese language. I’ll have my wife and 11 month old daughter with me. I was wondering what Tokyo has to offer for a family with such a little kid. We love site seeing plus shopping. Would love to take my daughter to a zoo one day. Any recommendations would be highly appreciated.
Ueno has a zoo, small amusement park, playground, nice walks, and places to eat – so I’d recommend a visit there. Lots of other small parks dot the city – ask your hotel for what’s nearby. Good luck.
Thank you for the wonderful site! Quick question for you as I don’t seem to know many families that have traveled to Tokyo. I would like to bring my 2 boys (9 and 11) –My husband has a meeting but to make it worth the trip I’d like to head there 5 days early. Would a single woman with 2 kids be comfortable traveling Tokyo. I do not speak the language (will try to learn as much as possible but only have 2 months!). I think we should be fine –am just concerned about potential emergency. I’m adventurous but try to be mindful of safety for the kids. Thanks for your feedback! Jill
Sounds like fun! You’ll be fine. The most stressful thing to negotiate is the subway system. (I mean this half-jokingly, half seriously. The first time or two you take it you’ll be a little stressed – but figuring things out is half the fun.) So much to do in Tokyo with kids. It’s close to London for having a ton of stuff that kids love to do. And it’s a very safe environment. Have fun.
Hi David, thanks for a very helpful link. I’m traveling to Singapore in two weeks and have a stop over flight in Narita. So we’re thinking to look around the city for two nights. But we are bringing a young child of 4. Is it too crowded there to walk around with stroller? Also we have 6 luggages, what’s the best and inexpensive way to get to hotel? I’m thinking a hotel in Shibuya or Shinjuku or Ginza. Thanks in advance for your help.
Hi Victoria, the easiest way into the city is on the N’EX train from Narita terminals 1 and 2. (It’s not quite the cheapest but it’s not a huge difference so I’d go with the NEX.) It takes about an hour into the city. Tickets can be purchased at the airport or in advance (more info here). It stops at Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, and Shinagawa stations.
What you want is a hotel close to a subway stop (preferably one of the stops for the NEX train). I’ll recommend two.
The Dai Ichi Inn Hotel is steps from the Ikebukuro station and thus very convenient. It’s a mid-range hotel with nice rooms. Good value.
More expensive but a wonderful hotel is the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi. The hotel offers a greeting service at Narita that will help you find your train, buy your tickets, and just make the transition to the Tokyo easy and effortless. (There is a fee for this service however.) There is a similar complementary service for arriving at Tokyo Station. So if you can get yourself on the N’EX train, get off at Tokyo Station and then find the Four Seasons staff they’ll direct you out of the station (which even at the smaller stations can be tricky to get right) and get you to the hotel. If you have a lot of bags they may direct you to a taxi to do the quick trip though it’s a short walk.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
This is one of the best, and trustworthy sights, I’ve visited! It helps others experience, and recommendations of the country! Thank you so much, and I hope you have a good time for all your trips hereon.
Your website is very interesting, I would like to thank you for sharing this information, need to ask your opinion,
We are living in Dubai and thinking to visit Tokio for the summer vacation in July, me, my husband and 2 kids (10 and 2.5 years) looking into hotels which one you recommend? I can see most of the hotels donot have kids pool which is important for the small kid…is there any which u recommend that has kids facilities? Also which area /location will be suitable for kids? Would the language barrier be a big challenge? I heard almost all signs in streets in japanese… Do you have any suggestions? Also what places beside Disney land would be suiting the kids? Many thanks
Here are the best hotels with swimming pools for kids:
All of these have outside pools and they are only open in the summer. The Prince has both an inside and an outside pool however.
Most of these hotels will have a charge for using the pool. Sometimes this is described as “free if you join our hotel club” – which doesn’t sound very free to me. Last time I checked the Keio doesn’t have a charge for its swimming pool.
As for location, just be sure you’re within walking distance of a subway station and you’ll be fine. None of the neighborhoods have a monopoly on fun family-friendly attractions so you’ll be taking the subway a lot, and your proximity to a station is more important than any specific district.
The language barrier can be a challenge but it’s never something that prevents you from getting what you need or going where you want. You will need plenty of patience though.
Hi we are heading to Japan for our third time to ski. We normally just stop in Narita for the night and then head onto our final ski destination. This time we are planning to spend 3 days in Tokyo and one of them is Christmas Day. We are definitely thinking of visiting the fish markets & the palace and maybe Tokyo Dome? Do you have any suggestions for xmas day? We have already been to Disney at Tokyo on a previous trip. We would love to see a sumo match. Do you have information about how to find out about these? Our kids are big kids 11,12,13,14.
Hi Trish. I don’t have any specific recommendations for Christmas day in Tokyo. Christmas is an ordinary workday in Japan so everything should be open. (Things close early afternoon on Dec. 31st and are closed for New Years Day.) For sumo wrestling in Tokyo check this schedule.
I am going to Japan for Christmas and New Years with my husband and two kids (13 yr and 4 1/2 yrs old) . I already got apartments for 8 nights in Tokyo and 6 days in Kyoto. I am not sure if to buy the JR pass for 7 days and use it when we are going to Kyoto and the towns around or to buy 14 days JR Pass and have it for Tokyo too.
We are planning to go to Disney, Sanrio and one day trip outside Tokyo to Hakone or Kamakura or both. I read about a card that you can reload (SUICA) and use it when we are in Tokyo.
What is better in terms of money? thanks
Hi Rebecca. I would probably go with the one week JR pass. They don’t pay off if you’re just hanging around a city so you want to be sure to activate for the week when you’ll be doing the most traveling. If you only go Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo then it’s likely not worth it at all. But add a few more trips and it should be a good deal. The SUICA card is more for convenience on local transit than saving money. It’s like a refillable prepaid card that can be used for a variety of things.
Hi Rebecca. May I know what apartment you got in Tokyo? How much? And is the place near shopping and tourist destinations? We are 5 travelling, me, my husband, kids ages 27, 16 and 8.
And David. Your site is such a great help esp. your tips.
We stayed in two apartments in Tokyo. One small and cute but you won’t fit there. The second one good size but I won’t recommend it.
I have a recommendation if you go to Kyoto. Good size for apartment. Not walking distance to tourist places but easy to get by bus or train. Manager nice and price was good. This is the contact:
Hiro Araki (Manager)
Love Japan. We had a great time. Great for kids, very secure. People very friendly and helpful with directions.
Thanks for this wonderful site. I loved everything, especially the video you posted of your kids exploring Tokyo. I am coming to work for the summer and the family will join when their vacation starts.
I am in particular looking for “beat the heat” activities. Certainly the indoor activities will have some kind of AC. But wondering about the outside. Do you know anything about swimming? Looking for clean fun places to go to get wet. Does Disney Sea have that kind of thing as well?
And a colleague suggested KidZania in Tokyo. Seemed like kind of a wacky odd place to go. Wondering if enough english would be spoken for the kids to have fun. I have a boy 7 and girl 10 and my wife would be with the kids most of the time.
Hi Paul. KidZania – I would definitely check it out if you have the opportunity. Here’s some more info.
The Japanese support swimming and swimming pools almost as much as any activity in Japan so you shouldn’t have any difficulty finding a place to swim. If you’re having trouble walk through the doors at a 5 star hotel (e.g. The Hyatt) and ask about swimming pools. They’ll probably be able to give you a half dozen choices in the neighborhood. (Many parks have wading pools too.)
And finally a list of the top water parks in Japan.
I hope that helps. Have fun.
I’m hoping you could help us. We are a family of four with two girls and planning to travel to Japan December/January this year. We are hoping to do 4days Tokyo, 3days Osaka. Do you have any tips on what to day to make the most of the limited stay, where to go, where to eat that is cheap, places to shop etc.. etc ?
I’m lost with the transport rail details. Is this the best transport?
Your help is most appreciated.
I was surprised by how much my kids loved the museums – especially the science museums – in Tokyo. They’re really great. The train museum in Tokyo is very good as well, but it’s a fair distance outside the city so if you only visit one, maybe do the train museum in Osaka. It’s right in the city and just as good. The restaurant I mention in the article “Eggs N Things” is really great. Check it out if you’re craving some western style breakfast food. As for Japanese food, we just wandered around until we saw something that looked good, and most of it was delicious. The aquarium in Osaka is very good and the ferris wheel just beside it is worth a spin. Kyoto is less than an hours train ride from Osaka so makes a good day trip. (Kyoto also has a good train museum.)
The train is definitely the way to go. Just show up at Tokyo Station and buy your tickets the day of travel – no need to book in advance. Don’t worry about buying a Japan rail pass as it’s not worth it if you’re just going to Osaka and back.
Oh, and there is obviously Tokyo Disneyland, though it will probably be pretty cold and chilly in December or January so be sure to take some warm clothes. And even in the tourist low season there will still be plenty of lines.
Taking the kids back to Japan this summer. They’ve never been but I taught English there about 10 years back. Thanks for the exciting list. We’ll have a week there a week in the Kyoto region and then a week in the Okinawa islands. We’ve booked our hotel for our time in Tokyo (it seems much cheaper than what I remember) and now trying to plan our days touring the city. Any suggestions for the best guide book for Tokyo?
Sounds like a great trip you’ve got planned. I’d love to get down to the beaches of Okinawa some time. Next trip I hope. I’m a Lonely Planet man, and that’s the guide book I’d recommend for Tokyo. They have a city guide which is slim and compact as you walk around the city. They also sell a Japan guide for the entire country which you might like since you’ll be in a couple different regions. It still has the Tokyo section, of course, but some of the material and information has been cut from the larger guide. The maps are the big draw with the Lonely Planet series. Frommer’s has a good guide as well but the layout and maps are really wanting in comparison to LP.
we’ve also found that some of the larger department stores in Shinjuku and Shibuya have reasonable children’s playgrounds on the roofs. I’m thinking Seibu or Parco but they all blur a bit, sorry :-) They are a bit exposed and not very ‘green’ but we founds a couple of good one that gave the kids something to do while one parent gets some serious shopping done. It was wonderful to see our kids playing with local boys and girls, and really communicating despite speaking different languages.
Thanks for the great information Peter. Agreed – the interaction between the kids is great, and a big reason on why we travel. Playgrounds can be a little difficult to find in Tokyo, so when we found a good park or play area it was something the kids really enjoyed.
hi! I just stumbled upon your website and have enjoyed reading through your posts. I find myself so inspired to travel with my kids (4 and 11 months). Thanks for this list of things to do with kids in Tokyo. We’ve lived in Tokyo for 1-1/2 years and haven’t done any of these… except Robot Park. Will definitely be checking these places out.
Do you have any posts about your visit to Kyoto?
Great. Thanks. Tokyo was incredible. What a great city to live in? You’re very lucky! We really enjoyed our time there.
I haven’t done any posts on Kyoto yet. I had a lot planned when we set out to visit Kyoto, walk through Higashiyama, visit the Ryoan, Kinkakuju and Kiyomizu temples, tour some shrines, maybe the Botanical Gardens, then the kids heard about the Steam Locomotive Museum and, well, there went that day. We did manage to see Nijo-jo (the castle of the shogun), some smaller temples, and have some really good food. The kids definitely liked Tokyo a lot better.
All the best,