First, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. Tokyo has a Disneyland and a Legoland. Obviously those two places are must-visits if you’re taking kids on this adventure to Japan. However, despite the obvious kid-friendly attractions, Tokyo is a great place to immerse your family into a different culture and see some less “Americanized” family-friendly sights. Japan is also known for a very low crime rate, which puts parents at ease when traveling with little ones. Here are some insights for planning your trip.
As soon as you arrive, make sure to buy a Suica or Pasmo card in order to get around the city. These are transit passes that resemble subway systems. You pay a deposit (there’s a reduced kids’ rate if you show passports) and any unused credits will be refunded. To be efficient and buy in advance, go here.
Your options are unlimited for hotels, but the following three are my top choices:
1. Mimaru Tokyo Ueno Inaricho. This hotel is rated number one by trip advisor for being family friendly and comes with kitchenettes. Those of you who have read past posts know how much I like rooms with kitchens included when traveling with kids. This gives you the option to “short order cook” just in case the kids are not acclimating to the culture change yet.
2. ANA InterContinental Tokyo. Anything from this hotel chain is a safe bet, which is why I’m listing it. InterContinental hotels are known for luxury, and surprisingly, this hotel was very reasonably priced for a 4.5-star hotel when looking up rates. Despite the extravagance, it is also very kid friendly, and don’t worry- it has a pool.
3. Citadines Shinjuku Tokyo. Also equipped with kitchenettes, this hotel is very close to the subway lines and has a clean, modern feel. The property is also in a prime location for many activities and restaurants around town.
What to See (That’s Not Disneyland Tokyo).
If you can plan your trip around seeing the famous cherry blossoms, it is highly recommended. Japan is known for amazing displays of blooming cherry trees in the spring months that are symbolic to the Japanese culture. Because the blooms only last a couple weeks, Japan has recognized their beauty as what they call “mono no aware”, which means “nothing last forever”. Blooms can start as early as January and continue through as late as May, however for optimal timing, I would suggest visiting in March or April.
KidZania is a museum where kids can dress up in their favorite occupation, and everything is two-thirds life size. Kids anywhere from 4-12 can enjoy it easily, but all are welcome. Those six and under can also play in the toddler area that provides complimentary milk. Visit the website link for reservations and more information.
For science buffs, visit the Miraikan Museum of Science and Innovation. There are so many things to explore that you’ll need to set aside a good portion of the day. It has exhibits for all ages as well as for adults, including ASIMO, the humanoid robot that does demonstrations throughout the day. Be sure to stop in and watch!
Another great science museum is the National Museum of Science and Nature. With multiple permanent exhibits, a seasonal exhibit, and a theater, there is plenty to explore and something for everyone. They also offer astronomy viewing a couple times per month, so if you can time it right, that is something fun and free for kids high-school aged and younger. For more information, visit the general information page on their website.
For some sight seeing in the city, make sure to visit Tokyo Tower. Think of it as Tokyo’s very own Eiffel Tower. It has a glass floor right below the main floor that you can walk across and has great views of the city. Many believe that evening visits make this attraction more satisfying, but if the kids need to go to bed early, it won’t disappoint in the daylight either.
Japan is the sushi Mecca of the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find plenty of other kid-friendly restaurants around the city. Here are some top picks:
Organic Café Lulu (Organic (obviously), egg and dairy free food for those with dietary restrictions, a play area with books (in English and Japanese), all kinds of toys for kids, and even child-sized toilets in the restrooms.)
Minoru, Ginza Mitsukoshi (A posh but kid-friendly rooftop restaurant within a department store with a farm-to-table style menu and a variety of unique, pure juices.)
Gundam Café (A robot style restaurant that features bot-shaped foods and other fun things for kids of all ages to enjoy.)
Chano-ma (Super kid-friendly for all ages, especially babies and toddlers. There is ample space for them to roam around if you so choose, or put the smaller ones next to you on mattress-style seating and let them nap while you enjoy a hot meal.)
Daylight Kitchen (An organic café and of the most family-friendly restaurants in the city. It also has big tables, providing plenty of space for a stroller, as well as a kids’ menu that is sure to please any little one.)
Genki Sushi (I have to include at least one sushi spot! Most traditional places are too fancy or too confining for families, but this sushi spot is inexpensive and has great food options for every age. The conveyor style service will also entertain the kids.)
Get That Suitcase Out!
Tokyo is sure to give you and the family a great time regardless of your interests. Brush up on your Japanese and get ready for an amazing adventure! Don’t worry though, even if picking up another language is not your strongest suit, you will not have a problem getting around. Pack your suitcase and enjoy!