Tokyo is a great place to travel for families with kids. It has lots of activities and attractions that will surely keep the little ones curious and preoccupied, but at the same time keeping things interesting for the adults, too. Whether for the young or the old, the city is a fun and exciting playground. If you need to be convinced more, have a look at these family-friendly experiences Tokyo has to offer.
A day at an amusement park is an itinerary shoo-in for traveling families. It offers the convenience of having in one contained place entertainment, fun rides, experiential activities, delicious dining, souvenir shopping, and most of all, the opportunity to escape into “other worlds”.
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
When it comes to amusement parks, one place always comes to mind first – the happiest place on earth, Disneyland. In Tokyo, fans of Mickey Mouse and friends are in for a treat. On top of Disneyland, there exists a second theme park called DisneySea. It’s the only one of its kind in the world, and as its name implies, it features fantasy realms inspired by myths and legends of the sea. Located right next to each other, these two Disney worlds are run independently. Meaning, tickets are priced separately; but for visitors who want to enjoy both parks, combination tickets are also available.
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea: http://www.tokyodisneyresort.jp/en/
Address: 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031, Japan
But wait, there’s more. As amazing as Disneyland is, it is just one of the many theme parks in the city. For instance, there are a few more character-based universes to step into. Sanrio Puroland is an all-out kawaii heaven, headed by no other than Hello Kitty.
Sanrio Puroland: http://en.puroland.jp/
Address: 1-31 Ochiai, Tama, Tokyo 206-8588, Japan
For followers of Japanese anime, you might want to check out the Tokyo One Piece Tower. On the other hand, other places rely on attractions and experiences instead. Adventure-seeking families will have a grand time boarding the various fun rides of Tokyo Dome City and Asakusa Hanayashiki, while parents who prefer to combine entertainment with educational tours can opt to bring their kids to Kidzania or Lego Land Discovery Center.
Tokyo One Piece Tower: https://onepiecetower.tokyo/
Address: Tokyo Tower 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo
Tokyo Dome City: https://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/
Address: 1 Chome-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo, Tokyo 112-0004, Japan
Asakusa Hanayashiki: http://www.hanayashiki.net/en
Address: 2 Chome-28-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Address: 3F North Port Urban Dock LaLaport Toyosu 2 Chome-4-9 Toyosu, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Lego Land Discovery Center: https://www.legolanddiscoverycenter.jp/tokyo/en/
Address: 3F Island Mall Decks Tokyo Beach 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo
The zoo is another family favorite. One of the greatest things about Tokyo is that despite its urban flair, it has managed to keep pockets of nature in its midst, including adorable animals too! In fact, you don’t have to go very far to see these beautiful creatures up close.
Tokyo’s most popular zoo, the Ueno Zoological Gardens, is actually just a few minutes walk from Ueno Station on the circular JR Yamanote Line. Founded in 1882, it is the oldest one in Japan. It is currently the home of over 3,000 animals comprising of about 400 different species, which include rare finds like the giant panda, polar bear, Madagascar’s aye-aye, and the okapi – an animal native to central African countries that looks like a cross between a zebra and a horse.
Ueno Zoological Gardens: https://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ueno/
Address: Ueno Zoo 9-83 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo
While Ueno Zoo is the best and most recommended, you might also want to check out other options. Inokashira Zoo in Tokyo’s Kichijoji suburbs is rather low-key, but it specializes in animals endemic to Japan. If you want a more pristine environment, then Takaosan Monkey Park is a good choice. This park is located in Mt. Takao, a popular day hike destination about 45 minutes by train from central Tokyo.
Inokashira Zoo: http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ino/main.html
Address: 1-17-6 Gotenyama, Musashino-shi, Tokyo
Takaosan Monkey Park: http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
Address: 2176 Takaomachi, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo
Another type of zoo but one that features creatures from under the sea, the aquarium is a mesmerizing place for kids and adults alike. These facilities combine the use of massive tanks with state of the art technology to up the wow factor of its recreated underwater world. There are entertaining shows, too, where the stars are none other than the animals themselves. Depending on the aquarium you visit, the master entertainers could be dolphins, seals, penguins, or sea lions.
There are a handful of aquariums scattered all over Tokyo, but the one that comes out as the most recommended would be the Sumida Aquarium. It has impressive displays of various aquatic life, which include hypnotic jellyfish zones, an open-type pool for penguins and fur seals, and of course, a huge tank that resembles the diversity of life in the ocean. It is conveniently located inside the Tokyo Skytree complex, so you can easily combine this activity with souvenir shopping and a trip to the observation deck for fantastic aerial views of the city.
Sumida Aquarium: http://www.sumida-aquarium.com/en/
Address: 5-6F Tokyo SkyTree Town Solamachi Oshiage 1-1-2, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan
As an alternative, do also check out Sunshine Aquarium. It is located inside the Sunshine City mall in Ikebukuro, making it another convenient option especially for those with small kids in tow. If you happen to be staying in Shinagawa, do drop by the Shinagawa Aquarium. It has an amazing water tunnel that allows you to literally walk under water amongst different kinds of marine life – without ever having to get wet. It really is a surreal experience that will leave the whole family awestruck.
Sunshine Aquarium: http://www.sunshinecity.co.jp/english/facility/aquarium/
Address: Rooftop Sunshine City World Import Mart Building 3 Chome-1-3 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo 170-0013, Japan
Shinagawa Aquarium: http://www.aquarium.gr.jp/en/
Address: 3-2-1 Katsushima, Shinagawa, Tokyo 140-0012, Japan
Find more: 10 Best Aquariums In And Around Tokyo
These cute little monsters do not need any introduction. They’ve certainly taken over the world and catching them all has become an addicting hobby to many. It is then not surprising that Pokemon Centers in Japan are a must-visit destination for any fan. It is the holy grail for all Pokemon-related merchandise – from edible items to collectibles like plushies. There are 11 branches all over the country but lucky for Tokyo visitors, the city is home to not just one but two megastores. Better save up before going because you or the kids would probably end up wanting to buy everything on display!
Address: (1) Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo: 2F Sunshine City 3-1-2 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo; (2) Pokemon Center Skytree Town: 4F Tokyo Skytree Town Solamachi East Yard 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Museums in Tokyo are among the best in the world. They are highly educational, expertly designed, and most of all, very engaging. It puts focus on a wide range of topics – from arts to science. Whatever you end up visiting, it is an enriching experience that is well worth the ticket price.
One of the most popular museums among tourists is the Ghibli Museum located in Tokyo’s Kichijoji suburbs. If the West has Disney, Japan has Studio Ghibli – the animation studio responsible for the most revered anime feature films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. Needless to say, the museum is a portal to these whimsical worlds that will fascinate visitors of all ages. It makes use of various art forms, technology, and architecture to create a truly unique experience that only these Japanese animation masters can deliver. Do take note that tickets are by advance reservation only. Check out their official website for more information.
Ghibli Museum: http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/
Address: 1-1-83 Simonrejaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo
Find more about Ghibli Museum: Ghibli Museum and 3 Other Ghibli Eating and Shopping Spots!
If you and the kids would rather geek out on science and technology stuff instead, the most recommended museums to visit are the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno and the Railway Museum in Saitama. These two places have a knack for making learning a fun and interesting pursuit. Aside from viewing eye-catching exhibits, children will surely enjoy various hands-on activities.
National Museum of Nature and Science: http://www.kahaku.go.jp/english/
Address: 7-20 Uenokoen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Railway Museum: http://www.railway-museum.jp/en/index.html
Address: 3 Chome-47 Onaricho, Omiya-ku, Saitama
Find more museums in Tokyo: 7 Best Museums in Tokyo You Must Visit
Experience Japanese culture
Of course, a trip to Japan won’t be complete without a first-hand encounter with its rich culture. There sure are many activities to try but perhaps the most appealing for families with kids would have to be signing up for Japanese food cooking lessons or ninja training. Going for these experiences guarantees a memorable bonding time for the family. At the same time, it goes without saying that trying these things will make your Japan experience more authentic.
Ninja Trick House: http://ninja-trick-house.com/en/
Address: 4F Daiichi Wako Bldg. 2-28-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
ABC Cooking Studio: https://www.abc-cooking.co.jp/english_1day/
Address: (1) 2F Tokyo Midtown Garden Terrace 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo; (2) 2F Ginza Five Bldg. 5-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Learn about Old Tokyo at Edo-Tokyo Museum
You don’t need a time machine to get an idea of how life was in old Tokyo. Just buy a ticket to this museum, and right away, you will be transported back in time – in particular during the Edo, Meiji, and Showa periods of Japan’s history. The permanent exhibition features a life-size replica of Nihombashi bridge, historical artifacts, meticulously detailed dioramas, model houses, and other interactive displays. There are free guided tours, which lasts for about two hours. The museum also holds events and hands-on classes, so best to check their official website before heading there for a visit.
Address: 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥600 (Adults), ¥480 (College & vocational students w/ ID), ¥300 (High school students w/ ID), ¥300 (Seniors), Free (Elementary students and younger, Junior high school students residing or going to school in Tokyo)
Participate in food sample making workshop
Here’s something quirky for the family to try. How about joining a workshop that makes fake food? Food samples or the plastic food replicas are common storefront displays in restaurants all over Japan, and at Ganso Sample – the country’s number one replica food manufacturer, you can see and try for yourself how these yummy but inedible items are made. Regular workshops are held at the company’s Kappabashi branch, and registration is open to customers ages 10 and above.
Address: 2 Chome-25-9 Nishiakasusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.ganso-sample.com/experience/kappabashi_exp.html (Japanese only)
Hang out with felines at a cat café
Are you leaving behind a feline family member at home? If the kids are starting to miss your house kitty, one way to make them feel less bad is to visit a cat café. There are dozens of these establishments in the city, and for a few hours, the family can hang out with these adorable pets as if you were hanging out in the comfort of your own living room.
Find more: 8 Best Cat Café in Tokyo to Hang Out
Visit any one of Tokyo’s Observation Towers
There are several reasons why Tokyo Skytree or Tokyo Tower deserve a spot in your itinerary. Starting with the most obvious, the view of the city from the observation deck is breathtaking. On a clear day, Mt. Fuji makes an appearance. But if you’re not so lucky, that’s totally ok because the aerial view of Tokyo is majestic nonetheless.
Moving on to other attractions, there are actually a lot of things to expect from both towers. Its lower floors are chock-full of shops and restaurants that cater to tourists. It’s a great place to hunt for souvenirs as some of the best products and food from across the country can be found here. Both places offer entertainment too. For instance, the in-house aquariums and museums will make your visit a whole day affair.
Tokyo Skytree: http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/
Address: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Tokyo Tower: https://www.tokyotower.co.jp/en.html
Address: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Boat and Bus Tours
Despite Tokyo’s efficient public transport system, sightseeing around the city is a bit of a challenge when you’re traveling with children. One way to make things easier and hassle-free is to join organized tours. Choose your preferred mode of transportation and then your desired route.
Bus tours like the ones organized by Hato Bus take participants to different points of interests in and around the city. There are full-day and half-day tours, and routes are organized based on themes. Full-day tours already include lunch, and for a better appreciation of the places visited, tours are headed by English-speaking tour guides to provide stories, trivia, and local insights.
Hato Bus: https://www.hatobus.com/int/en/
Tokyo Water Bus
Another way to enjoy the city is to navigate its waterways. The Tokyo Water Bus takes passengers on a cruise along Tokyo’s major water channels like the Sumida River. It makes stops at popular waterside sightseeing attractions such as Odaiba, Hamarikyu Gardens, and Asakusa.
Tokyo Water Bus: http://www.suijobus.co.jp/en/
All price information in this article is as of April 2017.
Thumbnail image is from Flickr.