Tokyo with kids: 34x things to do with the family!
You can easily have a whole week in Tokyo with kids! This metropolis has a huge number of activities you can do with the family. This Japanese capital is the place almost every family with kids visits when traveling to Japan. In fact, most flights from Europe fly to this major city. We visited the city of Tokyo for no less than ten days and in this blog we list all the activities you can do in Tokyo with kids.
Table of contents
Tokyo with kids: consider in advance
There are a few things to consider when taking a city trip to Tokyo with kids. We list them briefly below:
- There is a considerable time difference with the Netherlands. In Tokyo, it is 7 to 8 hours later than in the Netherlands (it makes a difference exactly how much it is whether it is summer or winter time with us). This can lead to jet lag, especially with kids. Because of this, they may not be tired by evening for the first few days. After all, it is only noon in the Netherlands then, which can cause them to have trouble waking up in the morning. We always try to keep the rhythm of the respective country with our daughter right away, then the jet lag usually goes away after about two to three days. So do start quietly the first days in Tokyo with kids.
- In Japan, you don’t shake hands with people, but people bow to each other. In that regard, Japanese are very polite and everyone lines up nicely. You don’t have to worry about people pushing ahead, since that’s not common in the culture. As a result, things are generally orderly on the streets as well.
- It is quite difficult at times to get your bearings through all the Japanese characters. This can sometimes be tricky to get your bearings. Our advice is to pre-download the maps.me app in the Netherlands and let it navigate you through the city without internet. That will save you a few tens of dollars on a SIM card in no time. In most hotels, of course, you have WIFI.
- The subway system is extensive, but it is run by two different companies, so the one ticket does not allow you to use all lines. This is where we went wrong ourselves a few times. Always check carefully in advance which lines you will be using and whether they are from the same company.
- In many buildings, you are required to take off your shoes. This may be in hotels, restaurants or temples. Be sure to put on socks, as bare feet are not appreciated in many occasions.
- Look for diapers on time. In Tokyo, you don’t have diapers for your kids in every drugstore. Because kids in Europe are bigger than in Japan, diapers may not be the right size and there are only diaper pants. Then again, what there is no shortage of are soda machines that you can really find on every street corner.
- Toilets in Japan are often a lot more modern than in the Netherlands. For example, many toilets have all kinds of buttons, the toilet seat is often heated and you can use jets to clean everything after your errand. This can take some getting used to, especially with kids.
TRANSPORT IN THE CITY
Most travelers from the Netherlands land at Tokyo Narita airport which is about seventy kilometers from downtown Tokyo. By train, you can travel from the airport to Tokyo Station in central Tokyo in about fifty minutes. From here, the best way to get around Tokyo with kids is by subway.
For example, you can buy a metro card at the airport for 72 hours. That way you don’t have to buy tickets over and over again. This is because in Tokyo, whenever you transfer to a different subway line, you have to buy new tickets and it is inconvenient if you have to get new tickets at a ticket office each time. Another option is to purchase the Suica pass and put money on this card here. Then you pay equally when you use public transportation in the city.
We did everything in the city by subway. So pay attention to exactly which lines you need to get somewhere, as they are not always from the same company.
You have during a city break to Tokyo with kids some sights you can’t miss. These sights may not be the most suitable for kids right away, but they must be seen if you visit the city.
#1 Senso Ji Temple: this is the most famous landmark in the city and this is by far the oldest and most famous temple in all of Tokyo. It is also an important place for Buddhist pilgrims. The entire temple complex is free to visit and, of course, it is quite crowded with tourists. The temple is near the Asakusa station and the Asakusa district is also nice to walk through with many historic alleys. We visited the temple on the weekend and then it was way too crowded.
#2 Imperial Palace Tokyo: Unfortunately, the palace can only be visited a few days a year. You can visit the gardens, though, which is actually a very large Japanese park in the middle of the city. It is fun to walk around the palace gardens. Especially with kids a great place to take a break from this busy city.
#3 Tsukiji Fish Market: This used to be a not-to-be-missed attraction, but that is long gone. You read about this everywhere, but we found it very disappointing. It is in a very modern hall these days and you can only see the market from above from a distance. This might be interesting in the early morning with the tuna auction, but for the rest of the day there is really nothing to see. So actually he doesn’t belong in this list ;).
#4 Shibuya Crossing: this is the busiest intersection in the world and with every green traffic light, more than 2,500 people pass through the intersection here. From the Starbucks you have an excellent view of the intersection, but you can also go up to the top floor of the mall and, for a small fee, check out the rooftop terrace at Mag’s park. Nice to take a picture.
animal parks and fun
Of course, you also have many activities in Tokyo that are extremely suitable especially for kids. In this overview, we list some fun family-friendly options you can do in Tokyo with kids. We list them briefly below.
#5 Disneyland Tokyo: The world’s most famous theme park also has two parks in Tokyo: Disneyland Tokyo and Tokyo Disney Sea. If you have ever been to Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Tokyo is very similar to this. To visit both parks you need at least three days. If you have already visited Disneyland Paris and only have time to visit one of the parks then Tokyo Disney Sea is a park that is completely different from the Disney parks in other cities, with very different attractions. We visited these parks for a total of four days and wrote the blogs Disneyland Tokyo and Tokyo DisneySea about them.
#6 Ueno zoo: this zoo is located in Ueno park which is in central Tokyo. The most famous animal in this zoo is the giant panda, which you can admire here. They also have several large animals such as the elephant, the rhinoceros, the tiger, the giraffe and different types of monkeys. However, the zoo is a bit on the cramped side, so the animals are also sometimes in somewhat cramped quarters. You can have a great time at this zoo in Tokyo with kids for a few hours. Big advantage of the zoo is the price. That one is only a few euros. We were there for about three hours at this zoo.
#7 Kidzania: In several cities around the world they have a branch of Kidzania and you can also go to this amusement park in Tokyo. We visited Kidzania during our trip through Singapore and our daughter loves this kind of park. Kids can reenact all kinds of professions here, and in the process they can sign up for all kinds of workshops, making their own hamburgers, sweets and ice creams.
#8 Legoland Discovery Centre: here everything revolves around the toy Lego. The different branches of Legoland Discovery Centre in different cities are fairly similar and the Scheveningen branch of Legoland, gives a good impression of the one in Tokyo. Here you also have a 4d cinema, a mini island where all kinds of buildings are recreated from Lego and an attraction where you can shoot guns. Of course, kids can also play with Lego.
#9 Joypolis: This is one of the largest indoor amusement parks in Tokyo. You can play all kinds of games here, with some games almost being an attraction, where you are completely flung back and forth through a room. Of course, some of the games will not be easy to follow because of the Japanese characters, but it is quite an experience to see the Japanese at work here, and several “attractions” are also great fun without understanding the language. This is definitely a fun option in Tokyo with kids, if your kids are very into computer games.
#10 Sunshine Aquarium: this aquarium is located on the top floor of a building. You can admire many sea creatures here such as lots of different (colored) fish, penguins and seals. It is not super big, so you will have seen it in an hour (or two). This aquarium is also located in the city center and the subway will get you there in ten minutes.
#11 Sanrio Puroland: this park does lie slightly outside Tokyo and can be reached by public transportation in about an hour. The indoor park has four floors and is dedicated to cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty, and especially for small kids, the decor will greatly capture their imagination. There are few rides, but there are shows and a parade featuring all of Sanrio’s characters.
#12 Tokyo Dome City Attractions: this amusement park is located near the Tokyo Dome downtown and this is the stadium where Tokyo’s baseball team (Yomiuri Giants) also plays its games. The amusement park is free to enter and you pay for each attraction individually. You can also buy a day pass and then you will have access to all the attractions all day.
Just walk around the amusement park first and then decide what you want to do. In total, this amusement park in Tokyo lets you take kids on about 20 different rides, with some being for small children and you also have some spectacular rides. We visited the amusement park, but found it a bit disappointing. We paid for individual attractions, but decided not to buy a day pass.
You can also visit a number of family-friendly museums in Tokyo with kids. We briefly list the most important museums below.
#13 Samurai Museum: This small museum is entirely dedicated to the samurai. You can take a one-hour tour here from a guide, who will tell you more about the different samurai swords and you can also have your picture taken in samurai costume. There will also be a demonstration. You are in the museum for a little over an hour, which is often just long enough in a museum with kids.
#14 Edo Tokyo Museum: this museum is about the history of Tokyo and Japan and at first glance does not seem like much for kids, but it is very interactive, making it worthwhile for kids as well. There are plenty of signs in English at the exhibits, making everything easy to follow.
#15 Fire museum: this museum is dedicated to the fire department and its history. Kids can dress up as a firefighter and play in a fire department helicopter, for example. The museum is free to visit.
#16 Ghibli museum: these film studios are also called the Disney of Japan. Every Japanese kid knows about animated films coming from Ghibli studios. This museum is located in western Tokyo and for kids there is a whole play arena. You can also see a short animated film but it is in Japanese.
#17 Toy Museum: at this toy museum, kids can actually play. You often see that at toy museums you can mostly look, but at this museum you can play with games and toys in ten rooms. The museum is located in an old school building and has several floors. You can have a great time at this museum in Tokyo with kids for a few hours.
#18 National museum of Emerging Science and Innovation: you can also visit a science museum in Tokyo with kids. You will encounter different robots here, as well as a demonstration with robots. The museum is more suitable for older kids, though, than very young kids. You have enough interactive exhibits here on seven different floors to keep you and your kids entertained for a few hours.
You can also visit Tokyo with kids a number of parks to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. We briefly list some of these family-friendly parks below.
#19 Heiwa No Mori Park: this is one of the most fun parks to visit in Tokyo with kids. After all, there is plenty for kids to climb and play here. ER are, in fact, two courses you can do in the park. One course is for children up to seven years old and the other course is for kids ages seven and up. You do pay an entrance fee for this park, but then you have forty different obstacles for kids.
#20 Yoyogi Park: this is one of the most beautiful parks in Tokyo, but we honestly found that there was not that much to do in the park. The famous temple of Meiji Shrine is also located here and these are publicly accessible. It is definitely fun to walk around here and watch the people who come to the shrine to make offerings or write a wish on the ema.
#21 Inokashira Park: this park is located slightly outside the center of Tokyo and has a large pond, where you can take pedal boats out onto the water. You can also take a nice walk here and enjoy the cherry trees in the park. Keep in mind, of course, that the trees are in full bloom for only a certain part of the year. You will also find a small zoo in this park that you can visit with your kids.
You can also see the city of Tokyo with kids from a great height. You have a number of options in town where you can do this. We list several options below.
#22 Tokyo Skytree: this television tower is Japan’s most famous and tallest tower and is the second tallest building in the world at 634 meters tall. The tower was built as a transmission tower, but you can also visit the viewing platform at a height of 350 meters. You can use one of the thirteen super-fast elevators for this purpose, which will take you to this altitude within a minute. There is also a second viewing platform at 450 meters, from which you can view Tokyo with kids from a great height.
By the way, near this tower is also the Sumida aquarium that you can visit and there is also a whole shopping and entertainment center with more than 300 stores and restaurants near the tower.
#23 Sky Circus Sunshine 60 observatory: this tower which is also located in the center of the city is less high than the Tokyo Skytree (you have views at 240 meters high), but there is more entertainment in this skyscraper. For example, you have areas where you can do all kinds of things with VR glasses, there are light shows and there is an area with all kinds of mirrors.
#24 Tokyo City View Observatory: this viewpoint is in the Mori Tower. You have two floors where you have a view. The first level is more like an exhibition, where of course you also have views, but a lot less than going all the way up. You do pay extra money for this, but then you are not behind glass and you are in the great outdoors. The first platform is at 250 meters and the second platform is at 270 meters. On good days, you can even see Mount Fuji (by the way, you can do the same at the other platforms if you are lucky).
#25 Tokyo Tower: this tower is very similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and it also gives you a great view of Tokyo with kids. The Tokyo Tower also has two platforms where you can view the city. The first platform sits at an altitude of 150 meters and the second platform sits at an altitude of 250 meters. By the way, the higher you go, the better the view often does not have to be. At a certain height, everything becomes so small that we often find it less beautiful than having a view of the city at a lower level.
#26 Metropolitan Government office: this is the only free viewpoint in this list and in this “city hall” you can get a great view of Tokyo with kids in two places (North and South). You go up to the 45th floor in this building just over 200 meters high, and from there you have a great view of the city. The building is open until 11 in the evening, so you can also go here sometime in the evening to see the city after dark. Because it is free, the queue here can be long. We have been here and it is indeed a very nice view of the city.
Other children’s activities Tokyo
In addition to the activities mentioned above that you can do in Tokyo with kids, there are a number of activities that we place in the other activities category. We briefly name them below.
#27 Boat Tour Sumida River: near the Senso Ji temple is a boarding point to take a cruise on the Sumida River. You will have a great view of the Tokyo skyline from the boat, and you will also pass all kinds of colorful bridges during the cruise. As far as we are concerned, this is always a relaxing way to see a city with kids.
#28 Hato bus tour: another way to see the city of Tokyo with kids is by bus. This bus company organizes several tours both through Tokyo itself and to Mount Fuji. You will ride a distinctive yellow bus through the city and stop at various sights around the city. Of course, you will receive explanations from a guide along the way. Especially if you don’t feel like putting a lot of effort into figuring things out yourself and might find it scary to visit the city by subway, this can be a good option for your family.
#29 Harajuku: This is a fun neighborhood to visit in Tokyo with kids. In this neighborhood, many Japanese walk in unusual clothing. The most interesting street in the district is Takeshita. This street we definitely enjoyed walking through once. In addition, they have several crazy restaurants. For example, our daughter ate a rainbow sandwich here.
#30 Karting through the streets of Tokyo: unfortunately, you can no longer go karting through the streets of Tokyo as Mario or Luigi, as Nintendo won a lawsuit against the company that offered this activity through the city. However, it is still possible to go karting through Tokyo and then dress up as a superhero. Unfortunately, though, this is an activity that is not allowed until kids are 18, so for most parents, this cool activity is not an option.
#31 Akihabara district: this is another nice district to take a tour around. It is also called Electric city because of the many electrical appliances and gadgets they sell here. You also have many crazy cafes here. For example, we visited a café here that featured girls in maid costumes. This was a special experience though, where we didn’t quite know when we were back outside where we had now been. In this neighborhood, you see these girls standing everywhere in all kinds of outfits trying to lure people in. There are long lines at many of these cafes.
#32 Shinjuku District: this is another district that is very crowded and where you see a lot of neon lights and the like. Again, you will feast your eyes on all the crazy things and people you see in the street. We found visiting Tokyo’s various crazy neighborhoods to be perhaps one of the highlights of the city of Tokyo.
Family-friendly restaurant Tokyo
You can eat anywhere in Tokyo with kids, of course, and the choice is of course huge in such a metropolis. Still, there are some special restaurants in Tokyo that are fun to visit with kids and are like a sight in themselves in the city. They are sort of theme restaurants and they are certainly not cheap. However, it is obviously a special experience to eat here.
#33 Restaurant Ninja Tokyo: This restaurant is all about ninjas. You walk through dark corridors with secret doors as you enter the restaurant, and you are served by ninjas in the restaurant. The whole restaurant is made in style and you can, for example, call the waiters by a button under the table. Occasionally there are also shows with ninja in the restaurant.
#34 Robot restaurant: this is not really a restaurant as the name suggests, but more of a bar, where you can order some food. It is advisable to book in advance, as otherwise you have a good chance of it being full. Actually, it’s just a big show that you see with robots and the people in the audience are given luminous sticks, which they can use to move along to the music.
#35 Vampire Cafe: If you and your kids love Halloween and horror then this restaurant might be a fun choice for you. The restaurant employees obviously try to scare the hell out of the guests, but really what they do is mostly hilarious.
#36 Alice Fantasy restaurant: you can also go in Tokyo with kids to a themed restaurant dedicated to Alice in Wonderland. Of course, the restaurant looks entirely in the theme of the fairy tale and you should not go here for the food. This does not seem to be very special.
Where to stay in Tokyo with kids?
We slept at the Lumiere Kasai hotel for 10 nights during our stay in Tokyo and we liked it very much. The hotel was super close to the subway, you were at Disneyland Tokyo within 20 minutes by bus, the hotel had an excellent breakfast and the room had nice beds and a bathroom with a bathtub. As far as we were concerned, the hotel was really recommended. For more information about the hotel where we slept, take a look here.
Of course, there are many other options for families with kids. To give you a bit of an overview, we have listed the top rated hotels for each price range. Click on the blue link for more information about the respective accommodation.
Minn Asakusa Sakura Cross Hotel Shinjuku East Annex Mid-range accommodations: Asakusa Tobu Hotel hotel aima GATE STAY Premium Nihonbashi Luxury accommodations: Asakusa Kokono Club Hotel The Kitano Hotel Tokyo Andaz Tokyo – A Concept by Hyatt For the entire list of all accommodations, see Tokyo with kids just here.