Travelling as a Family to Japan
Having been to Japan and loved it, I want to share my tips and recommendations on how to best visit this amazing country with your little ones!
Planning is key when travelling anywhere, but especially when you are going to a foreign country where the culture, traditions, and region are a little different than your own. Kooshy Kids love stress-free travel and want to assure you that you can have a relaxing and fun experience with your kids in Japan.
How to get there...
Travelling to Japan is easy with frequent flights and many airline carries, most flying into Tokyo, to choose from. Japan Airlines (JAL) offer direct flights from most Australian cities to Tokyo. They also accept the use of the Kooshy Kids Kooshion!
Tokyo really is a must visit when travelling to Japan, but please take note, it is a very large city with lots to see and do, so give yourself time and be realistic in what you try to see and do everyday. Don’t try to do too much in a day or you may feel overwhelmed, especially with kids it’s better to be flexible and choose just a few key things in the one district of the city. There is also the option of a city tour experience if you don’t have much time, they usually include the Tokyo Tower, traditional tea ceremony and temple market, or else you can easily visit most attractions on your own. The trains in Japan are very user friendly, clean, frequent and reliable so we recommend using them to get around Tokyo. There is also the famous Shinkansen, a large fast bullet train, that whilst not cheap is a very convenient comfortable and enjoyable way to get from Tokyo to other cities, which are definitely worth a visit.
Kyoto is a beautiful city with many temples, so if you want to see some of the most impressive temples in Japan we recommend a visit here. The best way to get around Kyoto is on the bus; the tourist map is easy to use and helps you to navigate your way to tall the major sights. The temples often have a stand out feature that should keep the kids entertained and the temple rituals when visiting are also interesting. The Golden Pavilion Temple, which is completely covered in gold leaf, is our favourite.
Osaka is a really great entertaining city with fantastic food and heaps to do. The canals and bridges make it a great city to explore areas by foot. Osaka is known for its food and this combined with shopping and entertainment options galore ,make this city enjoyable for all ages. If you have more time to explore further afield, Nara is an easy train ride away and is a lovely historical city, plus it has a really fantastic Park filled with Deer that the kids will love!
More on what to do below…..
Where to Stay?
It can be difficult to find a hotel room that will fit four or more people in Japan, which is why we recommend staying in a traditional Japanese Inn called a Ryokan, or a family room of a hostel or an AirBNB apartment. The Ryokan’s are great because the large Tatami rooms can fit five futons laid out in a row, plus they are steeped in tradition, which is a nice cultural experience. Children often love the rituals that take place with staying in a Ryokan, such as always removing their shoes when they enter.
Family friendly Ryokan’s such as Sawanoya in the Yanaka district of Tokyo is full of old school charm and surrounded by boutiques and galleries in a major cultural area of the city, plus Ueno Park is only a 25minute walk away.
In Kyoto, the Garden Ryokan Yachiyo has spacious rooms for larger families and is nearby numerous parks and the Kyoto Zoo, so your children will have plenty of fun things to keep them entertained during the day. Alternatively the Hirashin Ryokan can be found in the middle of the downtown area, which makes it perfect for sightseeing and exploring the city with multiple family friendly restaurants nearby.
If you do decide to stay in a hotel there are plenty to choose from in every city, but western style hotels can be expensive and hotel rooms in Japan all tend to be small. Staying at a hotel with a Japanese Hot Spring, called an Onsen, can be nice as it offers a unique cultural experience to bath in a traditional hot spring. Note the bathing rules, such as no bathers and men and women bath separately, in advance to decide whether this activity suits your family members.
What to Do?
There are so many things to do in Japan, but the historic attractions can sometimes be more suited to adults. If you stick to historic sites throughout the day, your children may become bored and that is when the tantrums will begin. While you will not want to miss some of the temples and other famous historical and cultural sites that Japan has, you will want to include some of the more kid friendly attractions to your days.
- Tokyo Disneyland in Tokyo- The Japan version with classic Disney attractions.
- Kyoto Railroad Museum in Kyoto– Everyone will love learning about the history of Japan’s trains, from the steam engines to the bullet trains.
- Visit a Character Goods Store – They sell all types of items from underwear to chopsticks, and everything has characters on it. The most famous character is Hello Kitty, but your child will find whichever character they are in love with!
- Universal Studios Japan in Osaka– Japan’s version of America’s theme park.
- Ueno Zoo in Toyko – If your child loves animals, they will love going to this zoo where they can see elephants, tigers, giant panda bears, and more.
- Fire Museum in Tokyo – Kids love playing dress up and they can pretend they are putting out fires while driving fire trucks and flying helicopters at the fire museum.
- Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo – While your kids might groan at the thought of learning something on holiday, they might change their mind when they see Asimo the walking robot do his demonstrations. This is a hands-on museum, so plan on a lot of interaction during your visit.
- Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – This is the world’s largest aquarium and your kids will love seeing all of the underwater creatures, including whale sharks, and many other exhibits and large tanks that make up this impressive aquarium. A walk through this aquarium will excite both adults and kids alike.
- Cherry Blossom Flowers - If you and your family are keen to see the famous Cherry Blossom flowers in Japan the blossoming typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo towards the end of March or the beginning of April.
Best Family Friendly Places to Eat in Japan:
The list of family friendly restaurants in Japan is quite extensive, the Japanese love food and eating out so you won’t find a shortage of places to eat, so we are going to stick with just a few for Tokyo. This large city might be tight on space, but some restaurants still offer enough room for families to sit comfortably while enjoying a delicious meal at any time of the day.
Organic Café Lulu serves friendly healthy café food, but more importantly your children will love the playhouse that they can use when they are finished devouring their food.
76 Café offers a non-smoking environment complete with a children’s menu. It may look small from the outside, but there is a basement dining area although you wont be able to take a pram downstairs.
Kichiri Mollis is a classier restaurant that offers large tables that are cordoned off for a more private dining experience, that makes it perfect for families with children who need a little more space for their meals. The soft floors and no shoes policy will help too if your kids have a habit of being up a little too much during meals and get caught underfoot.
Many restaurants will have a Western menu; you may just need to ask for it. Most menus have pictures of the meals in them and restaurants often display plastic models of the meals out the front too, so if your children are more adventurous eaters and you don’t mind taking a gamble you can always just point to something that you think looks good!
Exploring Japan will be an experience of a lifetime and one you and your family will remember forever! You will just need to plan accordingly to make sure that you don’t try to do too much in one day and that you include enough family friendly activities, so that your children will enjoy and share in your excitement of being in this fascinating country.