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The following is a guest post by Gadsventure.
We first travelled to Japan when we were fresh faced young backpackers, newly-weds with the whole world at our feet. My husband and I arrived full of anticipation and wonder about this exciting destination and it did not disappoint! Fast forward 12 years and our pace of travel has changed somewhat with four kids in tow!
After that first trip, Japan had always held a special place in our hearts and we waited for an opportunity to take our family back. We knew that it would be a hugely different trip compared to the days where we were carefree, but we were also sure that we would be able to find so many cool places to visit in Japan with kids.
The culture, the food, the atmosphere, the high safety rating, the friendly people, the ease of travel, the beautiful scenery, and the contrast of ancient tradition with futuristic technology makes Japan one of our absolute favourites for family travel.
7 Great Places to Visit in Japan With Kids
1. Takeshita Street, Harajuku, Tokyo
Within Tokyo there is a heaving mass of 23 million people but amazingly the city never feels crowded or overwhelming. The metro is incredibly efficient in transporting people about for their daily grind and always runs on time. The people are so people and non-arrogant that all of these people just somehow ‘fit’.
Our favourite place to visit in Japan with kids is Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo. This is a narrow alley way lined with kitschy Japanese stores and filled with plenty of local and international tourists. Browse the stores, stop for a crepe and bubble tea or grab a giant fairy floss along the way whilst enjoying the fun festival atmosphere. We preferred an early visit to avoid the crowds (with 4 kids and a stroller) but later in the day the street is often graced by the infamous Harajuku teenagers with their unique fashion and cosplay.
2. Visit a themed cafe
One of the most incredible experiences we had in Japan which surprised and delighted our children to no end was our visit to the Hedgehog Cafe in Harajuku. While sipping on a warm vending machine beverage, we got to hold and pet these cute little creatures.
On another day, a visit to Akihabara district saw us get sucked into a maid cafe and it was the strangest experience ever! We escaped after buying some very expensive ice creams but the pumping music and the excitable joyful atmosphere in there made it worth it! You couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm of the waitresses.
3. Kiddyland, Shibuya, Tokyo
Kiddyland is a 5 storey toy store like no other place on earth and it definitely deserves its place on our list of top places to visit in Japan with kids. This place will fill everyone with absolute happiness!
We spent many hours (and plenty of money) cruising around each level and marvelling at the cool characters and exciting toys that were for sale.
I think part of the attraction for us was that the toys in this store were so vastly different from the toys filling the aisles of our toy shops at home in Australia. They don't just have Lego, they have Nano-Lego. Our kids adored the Hello Kitty, Gudetama and Totoro accessories and I loved the incredibly intricate paper cut-out designs. This was certainly a toyshop for kids and adults alike! Kiddyland is located in Shibuya District, Tokyo.
4. Odaiba District, Tokyo
A visit to Odaiba is like a visit to the future. First you jump on a monorail which glides you smoothly past weird futuristic skyscrapers and eerily unpopulated streets and then you alight at Miraikan, Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The building itself is out of this world and this is also the home of the famous Asimo the humanoid robot. Check him out on YouTube. Within the museum you will find Asimo who does plenty of shows daily demonstrating his abilities to talk, run and kick a ball. He really is impressive, along with a host of other intriguing and educational displays.
After the museum and all the robots have blown the kids’ minds, wander over to the Diver City Tokyo Plaza where you will find a life-size (20 meter tall) transforming Unicorn Gundam! Oh my goodness the pleasure on the faces of my 7 and 9 year old boys was absolutely priceless.
5. Shinjuku, Tokyo – Neon, VR, Karaoke and Godzilla
Shinjuku is a super fun and colourful place to visit especially at night when it really comes alive with an incredible display of neon lights. See if your keen eyed kids can spot Godzilla atop the Chancery Hotel.
Pay a visit to SegaWorld for a fun futuristic VR experience, check out the famous Robot Restaurant if you are game and you have to give a Karaoke booth a go.
Karaoke Kan is the most foreigner friendly place we found and it was cheap for an hour in our own private booth. We had to fight the kids for the microphone though.
6. Snow, Japanese Alps
We took our kids to Hakuba which is located in the Japanese Alps, a 4 hour express train ride out of Tokyo. There is a direct line that departs Shinjuku daily at 7.30am. Make sure you download the Hyperdia app for the best resource on all your train travel around Japan.
This was a great side trip for us and our kids absolutely loved playing in the gorgeous pristine white powder while Mum and Dad took turns on the epic runs. The children were aged 9, 7, 5 and almost 1 on this trip and they enjoyed playing at the little snow playground that was provided near the lifts which included free tobogganing and snowball making. It was great!
The runs were perfect for beginners too and our older kids both had a try on the skis. Hakuba definitely rates high on our top places in Japan to take the kids.
7. Department Store Basement Food Courts
In every department store in every city head down to the basement and you will find the most engaging and interesting array of colourful and eclectic food ever. As you browse around marvelling at the visually pleasing displays, you will be assaulted by smells and tastes you never knew were possible. There are plenty of samples to try so be brave and you might just discover your new favourite food.
The kids were so happy in here, it was hard to get them out of the basement food courts.
- A note on Tokyo Disney and Universal Studios Osaka: We opted not to take our children to either of these big ticket attractions because the kids are so young, and the attractions were quite expensive too. Also, spending all day queueing up in the light Siberian breeze didn’t really appeal at the time, but if you are considering a trip to Japan and have a spare day or two, you may find these to be worth a visit.
Our recent trip to Japan with kids was by far the most amazing experience of our family travels. The people and the places in Japan to take the kids will astound your family too. We spent 2 weeks enjoying the country and visited Tokyo, Hakuba and Kyoto during early March. This meant that Tokyo was pretty chilly, Hakuba had great snow, and there even some plum blossoms in Kyoto (cherry blossoms don’t arrive until April).
For more, check out our post on our detailed Japan Itinerary
All images were provided courtsey of Gadsventure.
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