A week in Tokyo: Baby and Toddler edition
June 17, 2015 10:07 PM   Subscribe

For my 40th birthday coming up I've asked for a trip to Tokyo with the family for a week. We previously spent 3 days in Kyoto and loved it, staying at the Hotel Granvia. I'm planning the Tokyo trip and looking for options for accommodation and things to do/see with the kids.

It will be me, my wife, a 3 year old and a one year old. I would the following things:

* Family friendly, we can all sleep in the same room, with a cot for the baby.
* Pickup from the airport would be nice (though we can taxi if required). I don't fancy getting the kids and suitcases in and out of trains and crossing streets if I can avoid it.
* Located on a good train line
* hopefully some kid friendly activities nearby (a park?)
* I speak the tiniest amount of Japanese imaginable, so will need staff that has some level of English fluency.

Budget is up to around $400 a night.

Also looking for family friendly recommendations for things to do, and restaurants. Disneyland is a given (my son just loves Mickey Mouse at the moment).

We are planning on going to the Fire Museum, and Legoland Discovery Centre. and the Tokyo Sea Life Park.

The National Museum of Science and Nature looks great, though possibly is more for older kids?

Also interested in good day trips from Tokyo, and any other Tokyo tips for families would be welcome.

posted by Admira to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I went to the Ghibli Museum and really loved it. You can easily spend an entire afternoon here. It's pretty easy to go to -- there is a bus for it which you can take from the Mitaka train station. There is a a free short animation film showing included. There's also a play area on the top floor for the kids featuring the giant cat bus from the film "My Neighbour Totoro." If you are planning to visit, you'll need to pre-purchase the tickets. My friend and I bought ours from a convenience store called Lawson.
posted by Carmine Red at 11:18 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's Tokyo Disneyland and Sanrio Puroland, too, if you would like to visit a theme park.

Waaay more downscale, Asakusa has a retro/vintage theme park near Senso-ji/ Kaminarimon.

I haven't been there yet, but people recommend the Edo-Tokyo Museum a lot.
posted by sukeban at 5:15 AM on June 18, 2015

I've stayed at the ANA Intercontinental in Roppongi, and it'd be one of the few hotels that have rooms big enough for what you need. There's also the Imperial Hotel in Ginza. Both very central, and near train lines etc.

Instead of taking a train, there's airport shuttles you take from the airport to the hotel (esp if it's an upmarket one).

Most good hotels have English speaking staff, so you won't have a problem. Tokyo is also very kid friendly, so I think it's a great choice for a trip! There's parks in so many pockets of Tokyo, so you'll find something near wherever you stay.
posted by shazzam! at 5:51 AM on June 18, 2015

Kiddieland in omotesando is a popular shop for children's toys and it's walking distance to yoyogi park (also good for kids), Meiji shrine and harajuku
posted by banishedimmortal at 6:38 AM on June 18, 2015

I would pass on Legoland. It's small and crappy.
posted by Nevin at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2015

I don't know how interested your children would be, but around that age my son could spend an entire day and then some at The Railway Museum.

Anpanman Museum and Mall (pdf). I think every kid should be exposed to Anpanman and the world of Takashi Yanase. This is located in Yokohama, near the sea. There is a huge ferris wheel nearby, the Yokohama Museum of Art (and the Cup Noodles Museum!), and various shopping facilities so you won't run out of things to do and eat, but it's just generally a nice open area to walk around with kids.

Fujiko-F-Fujio Museum (Doraemon). This is fun too but you need to make reservations beforehand, and it's sort of a pain to get to.

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is fun too, though perhaps it might be for older kids. But there's a special Pokemon exhibition being held until October, which is for ages 3 and up. It's in Odaiba, near a huge seaside park, which is nice too if you want to just let your kids run around for a bit. It's also (sort of) near the shopping mall where the big Gundam is.
posted by misozaki at 4:31 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I visited the museum devoted to Anpanman creator Takashi Yanase in rural Kochi Prefecture, and it was fantastic. I would definitely take my kids (well, our older son may not be into it anymore) to the one in Yokohama.

We've taken our kids numerous times to the railway museum in Osaka before it closed down, and it's also really really cool. I would love to make it to the one in Saitama, north of Tokyo. It's also designed specifically for families with young children.
posted by Nevin at 4:50 PM on June 18, 2015

I've spent a lot of time at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku which has nice big rooms and fairly convenient subway-wise. And has the airport shuttles as shazzam! mentioned which is definitely the way to go if you're staying at a major hotel. Staff speaks English -- most of the major hotels will have no problem with English. (Smaller hotels, restaurants, etc will be where you'll run into issues)

Also I'd have some kind of subway map or app or something --- while _most_ stations have both English and Japanese (kanji) station maps, I've seen a few smaller ones that only had the stops labeled in kanji, so either you need to know the kanji for your destination or have a secondary map.
posted by thefoxgod at 6:11 PM on June 18, 2015

Transfers to/from the airport are pricey, and with two adults and two children could run you upwards of $100 each way. So factor that into the pricing.

We spent a few nights at the Strings Intercontinental, which is essentially directly next to the Shinagawa train station. It's clean, well-appointed, very convenient, we had breakfast included in the cost of our hotel, and the total per night was around $300. That's not a bargain, but it's also not super-expensive for Tokyo.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:48 PM on June 18, 2015

We were just in Tokyo with a 4 year old and found that finding a hotel room which could accommodate a family wasn't straight-forward. Having said that, we found ourselves in Citadines Shinjuku which was excellent. The room had two beds, and may fit in a cot (but you'd have to check as this wasn't an issue for us), and also a kitchenette which may be handy if you need to heat milk etc. It's close to Shinjuku station, a main hub for the subway and JR lines, and is also walking distance to a couple of other stations. There is food readily available all around the area, and the staff speak English.

With regards to airport transfers, we ended up going on the Narita Express all the way to Shinjuku station and caught a taxi from there to the hotel. It's walkable (about 10 to 15 mins), but you probably wouldn't want to do that with loads of bags and an unfamiliarity with the area.

A couple of off-the-beaten-track things to do that we really enjoyed were the Tokyo Toy Museum, a museum full of inventive, traditional toys which was, hands down, the most fun we had in the whole trip. All the kids (and parents!) were having loads of fun. If you go, your three year old may be interested in doing a crafts workshop, which you can sign-in for. Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the national gardens is also a beautiful place for kids to let off some steam. There are Japanese style gardens with koi ponds, pagoda style buildings, as well as greenhouses -- simply a lovely place for a walk, especially if the weather is good.

One thing I'd highly recommend is to get a Tokyo Suica / Passmo card. You can load money onto this at the beginning of your trip and then have any excess refunded. It can be used as payment in some stores as well as the subway, but makes it super easy to get around. We got ours at the JR East office in Shinjuku station. They have English-speaking staff there who are very eager to help and explain things. Grab a subway map there as well.

Overall, you shouldn't have any problem in Tokyo. Everyone is super-friendly and tries to help, good food is easy to find, and toilets are (almost) universally pristine. You'll have a great time.
posted by apcmwh at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2015

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