Top Things to do in Tokyo with Kids

SFI
Family Travel Blog - Travellng with Kids

I’ve been reflecting on my trip to Japan as it is nearly a whole 12 months since we departed! I was so unbelievably excited to be going as I had wanted to go for such a long time. I uploaded my Japan posts relatively soon after we got home and it only dawned on me this morning that I haven’t done a post on my top things to do in Tokyo with kids.

We only had 3 days in Tokyo and one of those was spent visiting Tokyo DisneySea. I do feel like we packed a bit in but there’s also quite a bit we missed which is means that I need to return one day soon. We recently had a Japanese exchange student stay with us for Kyoto, she was so lovely, spoke great english and was a pleasure to have around. I promised her when she left (in a highly emotional state) that we would visit within 2 years! Suppose I have set myself a task!

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So what did we get up to in Tokyo, without further ado, here are my must see Tokyo attractions:

Tokyo DisneySea or Disneyland

I love visiting Disney parks, I think they are a magical wonderland for kids. I love to watch the excitement on my kids faces when they get to experience these places. Which Disney park to visit was a big decision for me in Tokyo as we didn’t have time to visit both. We had already visited Hong Kong Disneyland and I knew that we would be visiting California Disneyland this Christmas so it made sense that we would visit DisneySea. DisneySea is the only one of it’s kind anywhere in the world and has a nautical exploration theme.

I love this photo from DisneySea, this is looking back towards the entrance.

I love this photo from DisneySea, this is looking back towards the entrance.

It still has the Disney characters and merchandise but the park, in general, is very different. It’s split into 7 themed areas which are;

  • Mediterranean Harbour,
  • Mysterious Island,
  • Mermaid Lagoon,
  • Arabian Coast,
  • Lost River Delta,
  • Port Discovery and
  • American Waterfront.

There are a number of thrill rides and I feel it’s aimed at the slightly older age group. If you have little kids and have never been to a Disney Park I advise that you visit Tokyo Disneyland. The Tokyo Disneyland Resort which contains both Disneyland and DisneySea, is located in Urayusa and is easily accessible by public transport from Tokyo.

Arabian World, viewed from across the lake.

Arabian World, viewed from across the lake.

Click the link for further information on our visit to Tokyo DisneySea.

Take a ride on a Shinkansen (bullet train)

No matter how long you are in Japan, you must take a ride on a Shinkansen, a.k.a bullet train. The Shinkansen runs between the bigger cities and If you are travelling around Japan you should purchase a Japan Rail Pass for either 7, 14 or 21 days. This provides you with unlimited travel on all JR Line trains for the specified time frame. This also covers the JR Circle Line in Tokyo which we mostly used while there.

Me and my girl, about to get on the Shinkansen - Bullet train.

Me and my girl, about to get on the Shinkansen – Bullet train.

If you are only planning one or two moves on the Shinkansen it may be more cost effective to purchase your travel as required as the JR Pass is expensive if you don’t get good use of it. HyperDia is a great website for working out single ride costs to assist when deciding if the JR Pass will be cost effective for you. However, riding the Shinkansen is a quintessential Japanese experience. On one  of our trips the train was travelling at 426kms per hour! Like all things Japanese though, it runs like clockwork! They are fast, comfortable and a great way to get around the country.

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Click the link for more information on best utilising your Japan Rail Pass.

Shibuya Scramble

I had seen the Shibuya scramble on Getaway (an Australian travel program) years ago and it had always stuck in my mind. I was very keen to visit the famous Starbucks and watch the thousands cross at the crossing to go to the Shibuya Station. It’s recorded as the world’s busiest crossing! Can’t miss that!  We arrived at 2pm through Shibuya Station and I knew from television programs the minute we arrived at the crossing. I could see the Starbucks and even though we weren’t there at the busiest time it was busy enough.

Shibuya scramble crossing!

Shibuya scramble crossing!

We made our way across the crossing and up to the Starbucks, as expected it was pretty busy and there were no seats at the window. Luckily as we walked in, two ladies were just leaving and we grabbed the table. The people that had the seats at the glass allowed me to squeeze in and film a crossing or two and you could see from the seats we were sitting at. There were plenty of people standing and watching, it was very busy. It was a great spot to stop for a while as we were clocking up the km’s playing tourist and I thoroughly enjoyed my chocolate frappe!

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I can just imagine what it would be like after 5pm with everyone heading home from work. I think my sister explained it perfectly, from the second floor at Starbucks, the crossing below looked like an ants nest on the move.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is a popular area for tourists, there are many hotels and it’s popular for shopping, particularly the Isetan Department Store. It also reportedly has the worlds busiest train station! If you are going to Shinjuku you will most likely be visiting the area around the station. Shinjuku is also known to be the skyscraper district with many of the cities tallest buildings in this area. We liked the area around Godzilla Lane, there is plenty of neon and shopping in this area and it’s exactly what you expect to find in Tokyo.

Exactly what you expect to see in Tokyo! Neon for miles!

Exactly what you expect to see in Tokyo! Neon for miles!

For a great view, head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building were you can take in the views from the observation deck for free. Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and is one of the best places to view sakura – sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom season.

Senso-Ji Temple

Alannah wanted to visit Senso-Ji, a buddhist temple located in Asakusa and is Japans oldest temple. She was reading a book while we were there and the girl in the book had visited Senso-Ji. I’m glad that she asked, as Asakusa was my favourite part of Tokyo, particularly the area around Senso-Ji Temple. The temple is just a few steps from the Asakusa Station and is hard to miss, there are signs around the station also that will point you in the right direction.

Senso-Ji Temple entrance, just a few steps from the Asakusa Station entrance

Senso-Ji Temple entrance, just a few steps from the Asakusa Station entrance

At the entrance to Senso-Ji there is the bright red Kaminarimon a.k.a Thunder Gate and large lanterns, we arrived just on dusk and there is likely to be a crowd around the entrance. As like anywhere in Japan don’t wait thinking you will get the Insta worthy shot as there is never a moment when someone isn’t in your shot! Snap away, everyone else is!

Temple at the end with Asakusa souvenir shops lining the walkway

Temple at the end with Asakusa souvenir shops lining the walkway

Once you pass through the initial entrance, there are 200m of Nakamise, market like stalls lining either side of the walkway down to the temple. Its a great place to purchase all your typical Japanese trinkets, including lucky charms, paper Japanese doll bookmarks, oriental umbrellas, traditional fans and various food outlets.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine, located very close to Harajuku Station, is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his Empress Shoken. It was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt shortly after. A Shinto Shrine, it is surrounded by a tranquil forest and Yoyogi Park. Here you can write out your wishes on an ema, a wooden plate which you leave behind, in the hope that they will come true.

Entrance to Meiji Shrine with the Torii Gate

Entrance to Meiji Shrine with the Torii Gate

Meiji Shrine is not flashy in bright reds like other Shrines and Temples, although the 40 foot tall Torii Gate at the entrance made of cyprus wood is very impressive.  A peaceful oasis in the heart of a vibrant city, once inside it’s hard to believe that you are still in the crazy metropolis of Tokyo. Meiji Shrine has a calmness to it, its size means it doesn’t feel as busy as other shrines.

Meiji Shrine, not the most elaborate Shrine although still beautiful

Meiji Shrine, not the most elaborate Shrine although still beautiful

Meiji Shrine in the middle surrounded by urban Tokyo

Meiji Shrine in the middle surrounded by urban Tokyo

Harajuku

Harajuku is famous for its quirky vintage clothing stores and street art especially along Takeshita Street (we got some good mileage out of that street name too mind you). Takeshita Street is directly in front of the Harajuku Station and if you are there at the right time you will witness some interesting Japanese youth culture and fashion including some pretty wild hairstyles and ‘out there’ make up. The fashion style in Harajuku is often confused with cosplay a.k.a costume playing which takes place on Harajuku Bridge on Sunday afternoons.

Good mileage out of Takeshita St in Harakuju

Good mileage out of Takeshita St in Harakuju

There are also various restaurants and high end boutique shops in the Omotesando Hills area including many international brands. If you are looking for traditional souvenirs head to the Oriental Bazaar and for the kids you can’t go past Kiddy Land, a 6 storey building full of toys with each floor dedicated to different types. If you’ve got kids, don’t expect to find your way out of there quickly.

Very much the gothic, alternate style of clothing

Very much the gothic, alternate style of clothing. The store name did make me giggle though! wonder if they have heard of ACDC! Akka Dakka!

Visit a Sushi Train

Visiting a Sushi Train restaurant while in Japan is a must, we visited Kura Sushi in Shinagawa Station in while visiting a friend from home that now lives in Japan. It was great to have some locals to guide you through the experience. It’s a lot of fun for kids and a relatively inexpensive dining experience.

This was a great experience, I don't think we would have experienced this without a local guiding us

This was a great experience, I don’t think we would have experienced this without a local guiding us

You can either choose your plate from the ones that are on the train or you can order from a menu. All you do is enter a number in the automated machine and within minutes the food that you selected comes down on the sushi train. When you have finished you place your used plates in the plate chute and choose the next thing that tickles your fancy! Alannah was excited about the plate chute so was happily eating everything so she could use it. It’s mostly a self service experience, with a very family friendly atmosphere about it. I haven’t been able to find anything similar here in Melbourne, if you know of one let me know in the comments.

Verdict

There’s nothing not to like about Tokyo! We were only there for a short time and look how many things I found to love. I know that there is so much to see and I would go back there in a heart beat. I will go back, next time for longer. Tokyo is fantastic and unbelievably safe. I never felt uncomfortable at all and we were out and about from early morning to late at night.

My advice is to get out and about. The transport system can be a little overwhelming but once you work it out it’s very efficient and will get you anywhere. If you are having trouble finding your way ask someone, they will gladly help you. I found that if I was standing there looking perplexed, a local would stop and ask if I needed help.

I feel a strong need to go back to Japan, its got under my skin! People had warned me that would happen. If you are travelling with a family, you will find Japan expensive. I think after our big trip to the USA at the end of this year we might have to return to Japan as I travelled with my mum, sister and oldest daughter.

While in Tokyo we stayed at the Righa Royal Hotel, it wasn’t my favourite hotel but you could do a lot worse. The rooms are a great size but location is a bit of an issue.

If you have any tips for my next visit, please leave them in the comments below. Hopefully I will make it back there some time soon.

Safe Travels,

Sal & Co.

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