Like any family trip, planning your Japan family holiday itinerary isn’t without its obstacles. Where to stay in Tokyo with kids, where are the kid friendly hotels in Tokyo and will your children like sushi are probably all questions that are springing to mind. No matter what age your kids are, there are things to do in Tokyo that they’ll love, especially if you mix up temples and sightseeing with yummy eats and exciting things they’ll never have seen before. Tokyo with kids is exciting and will be a memorable trip for you all, but Tokyo with a baby is or toddler is perhaps a little trickier, as your three year old probably won’t appreciate visiting a historic shrine as much as you might! So here's my guide to a family friendly Tokyo, so you can kickstart your trip!
Is Tokyo kid friendly?
Tokyo can be a great city to explore with kids, but it does depend a little on their age. For small kids, there’s not a lot to do as most children don’t appreciate the culture or temples as much as they would when they’re older. But there are more reasons to visit than temples alone! It’s also worth noting that public pools don’t allow babies under the age of two in. I would say that from around seven years old is when your kids will really start to be fascinated by the city and love a trip here, but that’s not to say there's not plenty of things to do in Tokyo which will keep them entertained.
If you’re asking yourself is Tokyo toddler friendly, the answer is it can be, but one tip I would strongly advise you not to bring your stroller along for the trip too. Although Tokyo has an efficient public transport system, navigating it with your stroller isn’t the easiest task in the world. Using the metro can feel like a never ending maze for first timers in Tokyo, and it hasn’t been designed with babies and their buggies in mind. If you do take your stroller with you, be prepared to fold it down every time you get on the subway, so I’d recommend you bring a baby carrier instead. Also, please be aware that children in Japan are expected to behave well, and it’s part of the culture here not to disturb people. So if your kids are making a scene on the train for example, you may be asked to get off at the next stop so they can quieten down before you get back on board. Similarly, it’s culturally not the done thing to eat in public (especially on the train), even for children. If your kids need plenty of snack stops, please make sure you stop at restaurants or in spaces like parks to eat, not while you’re on the move.
Things to do in Tokyo on a rainy day
A museum which your kids are sure to love is the Ghibli Museum, which is all about the the Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, and the art and science behind animation. You have to book your tickets in advance though, it’s not possible to buy them once you’re there. Another good option, and one which younger kids (between 2 and 5) will also enjoy is the Tokyo Fire Museum, which I used to go to with my son. And around the corner is the Tokyo Toy Museum, where they have toys and games from all over the world which your kids will love playing with.
Another good option for rainy days is Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay - but thanks to its location, don’t rule it out for when the weather’s good too. We’ve been going here since my son was 3 or 4, and on warmer days he would play in the water on the beach here. On the island there’s Legoland, Madame Tussauds and Round 1, which is a huge indoor entertainment complex. There’s art for older kids, video games, bowling, and one floor is even a huge bouncy castle. I would say that Round 1 is good for kids between 2 and 10, but if your children are a little older there’s also Joypolis, an indoor theme park with arcade games and rides. Odaiba is perfect if you’re looking for something to do for half a day.
If you only have one day in Tokyo
If Tokyo is just one stop on your Japan family holiday itinerary and you just have a day or two in Tokyo, somewhere which will give you a glimpse into Japanese culture and keep your kids happy is Asakusa. The Asakusa district is in Tokyo’s ‘old town’, and is where you’ll find the famous Sensō-ji Temple. But to make this more fun for the whole family, you can reach Asakusa by Water Bus, a ferry company that takes you along the river so you can do some sightseeing along the way too. At Sensō-ji you can rent kimono and walk around the area dressed in traditional dress, something which is always popular with young girls especially, take a ride on a traditional rickshaw and balance out culture with what is probably one of your children’s favourite things: sweets! This area is famous for its traditional sweets and street food like monjya, a kind of pancake mix filled with sweet bean paste that’s fried, as well as mochi, which are sweet glutinous rice cakes.
For kids older than 10, and especially for teenagers, going to Shibuya to do some shopping and cross the iconic Shibuya Crossing is a must! I’d also recommend going to Harajuku, the district in Shibuya which is famous for being the centre of anime and cosplay culture. With its vibrant street art and quirky street style, kids will love just walking through the streets and seeing some of the crazy costumes worn by cosplayers. Takeshita-dori is the street famous for its shops selling all things anime and clothing shops selling costumes and crazy, colourful fashion. Some of the outfits here are pretty out there, and it’s fascinating to see this part of Japanese culture. You can stroll around, do some shopping and buy souvenirs to take home with you.
Eating out with kids in Tokyo
When it comes to eating in restaurants, Tokyo is amazing. You’ll find that most places have children's’ menus which are super cheap, and they normally include a dessert and a drink, and often even a free toy. Many restaurants also offer colouring or other games to keep kids busy while you wait for your food. You can find lots of family restaurants which offer both Japanese and Western dishes, so if your kids aren’t sure yet about Japanese food it’s not a problem. And yes, kid friendly sushi in Tokyo does exist. Conveyor belt sushi, which is called kaitenzushi here is something your kids will love to try at least once! If you’ve never been to one before, these are a sort of fast food way of having sushi; there’s a conveyor belt which goes past your table, with different small plates going past, each with a portion of one type of sushi on. Some kaitenzushi now even serve dishes like fries and have lots of non raw fish items, as they know that not everyone likes this.
I like Kappa Sushi, which is great as you can order specific dishes if you don't see them coming on the conveyor belt from a tablet screen at your table, so it’s very foreigner friendly and your kids will love ordering like this. There’s the normal conveyor belt, and a separate one above for any dishes you order from the tablet so they don’t get mixed up. When your dish is ready, it comes directly to your table on a miniature train, something else I’m sure they’ll enjoy!Most ramen shops also have kids options, which normally are smaller portions and come with a drink or a toy. Eating out with kids in Tokyo is easy and not pricey, and children normally go out for dinner when their parents do as Japanese people don't usually have babysitters. But if you do want to go to a fancier restaurant, you should call ahead and ask if children are allowed.
Unusual things to do in Tokyo can you do with kids
If you’re coming from a Western country, there will certainly be things here your kids won’t have seen before, so it’s a super exciting city for them. Pet cafes are super popular in Japan, and are probably something your kids aren’t used to experiencing back home. There’s owl cafes, cat cafes, dog cafes and even a snake cafe! We went to the snake cafe in Harajuku and it was a great experience. You’re seated at a table where you can order drinks and snacks, and a small snake in a box is placed on your table too, so you can look at it while you sip a matcha latte or enjoy some sweet treats. For an extra 500 yen, you can even hold a snake and take photos; we chose a boa and a python!
Something else which may surprise you is that you can even go on safari in Tokyo! My son adores this; we’ve been four times and it’s still so exciting. The best way to get there from Tokyo is to take the train from Tokyo Station to Mishima, and then it’s a 20 minute taxi ride. You can either go on the safari bus, book to go on a smaller safari car with a ranger or drive yourself. But the part we love most is that you can feed the animals from the safari bus! You’re given food and tongs, and can feed the animals when you stop in certain areas through the bars of the bus - even lions! If you’re looking for things to do but don't feel like going to Kidzania Tokyo, this is a great alternative and is an experience
Day trips from Tokyo
For a family friendly day trip from Tokyo which you and your kids will love, I’d recommend Hakone. I always take visiting friends here for a day or two, as it’s the perfect combination of sightseeing, culture, fun activities and food that everyone will like. You’ll get to see amazing views of Mount Fuji, you can go on a boat trip across the lake - something my son always loves - see beautiful temples, visit one of the great museums which are there, enjoy the onsen (hot springs) and stay in a ryokan (traditional hotel) if you spend the night and make it a two day trip. The best way to do this is to buy the Hakone Freepass, which you can either buy as a 2 or 3 day pass and includes a roundtrip from Shinjuku, as well as unlimited transport in the area including the sightseeing boat cruise and cable car, and other discounted attractions. For a 2 day adult pass it’s 5140 yen, and for children (in this case 6 - 11 years old) it’s 1500 yen. You can combine seeing the beautiful temples and Japanese culture with other things that are more kid-friendly, like the boat trip and choosing an onsen where children are allowed to go.
There are plenty of family friendly onsen in this area, and they’re more modern than in other places, although you’ll still need to check what the minimum age for children is. You wear swimsuits and the pools aren’t gender separated, and there are places inside where you can eat too; Hakone is almost like a resort town so there are plenty to choose from. If you plan to travel more in Japan with kids, I’d recommend you get the JR pass as otherwise it can get pretty expensive. For travel within Tokyo, there are a few different pass cards like suica and pasmo, which you top up and use across all subway and train systems, but it’s best to do a little research and figure out which would be best for you. Kids up to 6 years old are free, between 6 and 12 you’ll pay half price, but kids of 13 and older will have to pay the full adult fare. Another great day trip from Tokyo is to Kamakura, which you can reach in an hour on the train from Tokyo and Shinjuku stations. Here you can see the famous Great Buddha, some interesting temples and go to the beach if they get bored of sightseeing.
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