<Home/Articles/Take the family to Japan

Take the family to Japan

|

Imagine your children wide-eyed with wonder at Japan’s neon-lit cities, pop culture and stunning temples. Picture taking them to see exotic wildlife, serene ornamental gardens, or the iconic snowy peak of Mount Fuji, and their excitement at riding the Shinkansen bullet train.

Japan is one of Asia’s cleanest, safest and most efficient destinations, making it the top choice for adventures with the kids in tow. Outdoorsy fun is easy to come by among its many splendid landscapes, so it’s up to you to decide whether to hike, bike, ski or paddle your way through its wonderful natural highlights.

Fun-seekers can’t go wrong with an itinerary that prioritizes the modernity of Tokyo, while culture fans will delight in the beauty and history of Kyoto. Whatever your family look for in a memorable holiday, you can find it in Japan. Here are a few of our favorite family-friendly activities and destinations to add to your list.

A father and son walk under the cherry blossom in Kyoto

Kyoto

Visiting some of Kyoto’s famous temples is an absolute must, and most kids will enjoy a break from the urban streets to spend time among tranquil spaces and greenery. Fushimi Inari Shrine is an exciting one to visit as it is so unique, with its long corridors of orange torii gates leading up to some magnificent viewpoints. Expect to climb lots of stairs here; small children might need to be carried at times.

Make time for the Kyoto Railway Museum, a well-presented and fun spot with interactive displays and a fine range of trains both new and old. The Samurai Ninja Museum is a good means for older kids to gain an understanding of the way of the samurai, see some historic costumes, and even try out ninja weapons and learn samurai sword techniques. Kyoto boasts a zoo and an aquarium, both ideal for days of fun animal encounters; also of interest is the Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto, where the weird and wonderful food on offer will fascinate children and adults alike.

Out on the western fringes of Kyoto, Arashiyama is perfect for exploring with your kids. The whole family will enjoy marveling at the seemingly sky-high bamboo groves, renting bikes for trips to temples along the river, embarking on leisurely boat excursions, and visiting the Japanese macaques at the Iwatayama Monkey Park. It’s also a go-to for viewing the beautiful cherry blossoms and vibrant fall colors when you’re in Kyoto.

The orange torii gates of the Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Tokyo

There is so much to explore in Tokyo that you could easily stay for months and still not get to see it all. Everyone from toddlers to teens are well catered for, and you’ll be amazed at how family-friendly this huge city can be. The obvious destinations that many children will be clamoring to visit are the Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks. More appealing for adults are the many excellent museums dotted around the city, including the National Museum of Nature and Science, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, the dreamy teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum, and the Tokyo Railway Museum.

Young children will adore Kidzania, where they can roleplay around 30 different jobs in a child-sized world, while older kids into gaming would probably prefer Joypolis – an indoor amusement park full of computer games. As long as they aren’t scared of heights, most children will love visiting the Tokyo Skytree, where you can ride to the observation deck for amazing views. Wandering around Harajuku is also a must-do, and a big hit with teens for the vibrant culture on display.

For a meal with a typical Tokyo twist, head for a fun themed cafe – you’ll find countless options to choose from, giving real insight into quirky Japanese passions as you eat. Think dimly-lit eateries where you’re served by vampires, or ninja hideouts where you can feast on life-like bonsai trees made entirely of sweets!

Don’t miss a trip to Akihabara, a hi-tech district where gadgetry, anime, manga and gaming arcades are big business. Visit in the evening to see this part of town at its luminous best, with all the colorful billboards lit and flashing; while you’re here, don’t forget to try out a karaoke bar for some giggles. Venture into Yoyogi Park to let the kids run off some energy in a more serene space, or pay a visit to Senso-ji Temple – another must-see where children will enjoy the serene surroundings and souvenir stalls.

Bright lights at the immersive Digital Art Museum in Tokyo

The rest of Japan

Children who enjoy the outdoors and are happy getting active will be spoilt for choice in Japan’s more rural areas where skiing, hiking and biking are popular activities. Delightful natural surroundings await on Miyajima Island – just offshore from Hiroshima – where the old-fashioned charm, photogenic Itsukushima Shrine and ‘floating’ torii gate are the major sights. What are most likely to appeal to children, however, are the free-roaming deer all over the island – many of which are quite happy to pose for a selfie – and the cable car up Mount Misen. Back in Hiroshima, don’t miss a visit to the historic castle and Peace Memorial Park.

If you are traveling in winter, consider taking a trip to the Jigokudani Hell Valley, to see the snow monkeys who like to hang out in the hot springs during the colder months. It’s quite a sight to observe them grooming and playing in the steamy pools, with the volcanic activity in the surrounding mountains creating plumes of steam that rise into the chilly air. Nearby towns such as Shibu Onsen have plenty of hot springs for humans to enjoy, too.

Hakone is a great year-round destination where you can get a taste of Japan’s natural splendor. Look for the best viewpoint for photos of Mount Fuji, ride the ropeways and cable cars, and strike out on foot around the national park. Boat trips on tranquil lakes are appealing for children, but what families will really love is the geothermal spring aqua park where kids and adults alike can relax, enjoy the warm waters both outdoors and in, and admire the views over the surrounding mountains.

For family beach time, look no further than Okinawa, Japan’s subtropical islands, home to plenty of lovely sandy beaches and a warm climate to boot. The main island is the easiest to reach by air and has lots of options for R&R, from peaceful coves to lively resorts. Traveling onward to outlying islands can be time-consuming but delightful, as some of the smaller islands are completely car-free and perfect for some family downtime.

A snow monkey enjoys the hot springs in the Jigokudani Valley

Make it happen

Japan has so much variety on offer for visitors of all ages. Our hand-picked local experts can design an itinerary around your family’s interests, and have lots of child-friendly suggestions to make your trip extra-special.

Get inspired

Here's some articles to inspire you...

Back-to-nature escapes: rainforests

July 22, 2024

Our recommendations for your next fall vacation

July 17, 2024

10 must-visit places in Malta

July 16, 2024

Book with confidence