What neighborhood to stay in on a visit to Tokyo with a kid?
February 6, 2023 2:51 PM   Subscribe

We're taking a family trip to Japan this summer. Yay! First stop, 4 or 5 days in Tokyo. What neighborhood (and, if you know, what hotel) should we stay in and why?

Our child is 7 and we will prefer sleeping space for 3 in some configuration that is not all three of us in a queen or even a king. I know that not all Tokyo hotels have family rooms and family rooms are a bit more expensive. We know that Tokyo rooms are small.

I have been to Tokyo just once for work and stayed in Shibuya because my office was across the street. I liked wandering around Shibuya, Ebisu and Daikanyama, but maybe it's not the best choice for us. I also got out to Asakusa.

We will likely do at least some of the kid-friendly things in Tokyo. Hopefully the Ghibli museum, a zoo (Inokashira Park Zoo? Ueno Zoo?), parks, Odaiba? Not Disney. Definitely walking around and eating and not nightlife. I have heard recommendations for Ginza, Shinjuku, Akasaka, Asakusa (and some of the recommendations are directed at families with kids who are younger, more numerous and maybe less flexible than ours.)

My budget is around $250US a night, could stretch to $300US especially for something that would seem cool for the grownups and/or the child. We are fairly urban folks (and we are coming from the Bay Area if that makes any difference). We are comfortable walking a lot and I was fine taking the subway when I visited, and we are willing to grab a cab when needed. (I'm also curious if we'd particularly enjoy a pool if we are there in late June and if that would be worth paying more for? Or if we could even afford it?)

If you have any can't-miss sights to recommend, please do, especially if they inform why we'd want one neighborhood over another.
posted by vunder to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not an expert at all, but I really enjoyed staying in Asakusa for the more mellow vibe and walkability. 10/10 would stay there again, with children, too.
Public transportation is excellent in Tokyo, so we felt it was easy to go everywhere.
posted by mumimor at 3:04 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

I ended up staying in a hotel in Asakusa for a couple of nights last summer. It was a pretty basic hotel but we were able to get two rooms with a door between them so our kids were in one room and my wife and I were in the other. We were only there for a weekend and barely spent time at the hotel (things to do, people to see) so it worked out well for us. If you plan on actually spending time at the hotel you might want something nicer though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:43 PM on February 6

I haven't visited Tokyo recently enough to be able to comment on hotels...

... well, other than to point out that there is a Godzilla Hotel in Shinjuku, which you might want to at least go and see, even if you don't stay there...

... but on the things-to-do front:

You mentioned zoos. My favourite of Tokyo's zoos is actually one you didn't mention, Tama Zoo, which is an hour by train from Shinjuku. However, I'd make the choice based on what animals you want to see. Amongst other things, Tama has koalas, Ueno has giant pandas, and Inokashira, the smallest of the three, has the heaviest focus on Japanese wildlife.

As for can't-miss sights, I strongly recommend riding the Shonan Monorail if you can, as per this previous comment of mine. It takes you to Enoshima, which, as you can see from other answers to that question, is somewhere quite worth visiting. There are a couple of other monorails around - the Tokyo Monorail connects Haneda Airport with central Tokyo, and the Yurikamome connects central Tokyo to Odaiba[*] - but the Shonan Monorail is definitely the best.

[*] ... I've just learned from that Wikipedia article that the Yurikamome Line actually isn't a monorail. My mistake. It's self-driving, though, so it's also quite fun to ride. Travel in the front!

There is a Trick Art Museum on Odaiba... If it's as good as the one at the foot of Mount Takao, which is again a longish train ride out to the west, it should be fun. You cover one eye to remove your sense of perspective, and then look at trompe-l'oeil paintings designed to fool the brain.

Also... perhaps someone who's been to Tokyo more recently than 2015 can confirm whether this fantastic cake-making machine is still going strong in Asakusa?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:43 AM on February 7

Be warned that zoos in Japan can be kind of depressing, as they don't demonstrate the same level of animal welfare as most North American zoos. Same for any exotic "animal cafe". Aquariums can be quite nice, but I haven't been to any of the ones in Tokyo.

Ueno is another good area to stay in - very convenient for transit, walkable to Asakusa and Ueno park with lots of major museums. Asakusa's a good option too as there's a direct train to both airports. But as long as you're near a metro station you can get just about anywhere easily.

Hotel idea: the OMO5, which has a cool layout with a loft bed. Not the most exciting neighborhood but it's on the Yamanote Line so you can get lots of places very easily.

Some suggestions - take the water bus from Asakusa to Odaiba. Odaba has one of the giant Gundam statues, teamLab Planets, the Miraikan science museum, and the Seaside Mall has a fun retro shopping street inside with old arcade games and a dagashi (candy) shop.

The Sunshine City mall in Ikebukuro has Namja Town indoor theme park, Pokémon Center, and an aquarium.

There are lots of fun non-Disney amusement parks too... Hanayashiki in Asakusa is the oldest in Japan, Yomiuri Land and Sanrio Puroland both a little outside the city, and Seibuen Amusement Park which I haven't been to yet but apparently has just completed a huge overhaul to build a 1960's Showa-era street and has a Godzilla ride.
posted by Gortuk at 1:56 PM on February 7

teamLab Planet is cool, and I saw kids that age really enjoying it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:43 AM on February 8

teamLab Planet is cool, and I saw kids that age really enjoying it.

Yeah, we visited that in August and it was pretty neat. We kind of rushed it at first and then when we got to the end we came back and took our time with it. The stuff that interacted with your phone was pretty wonky though, we would do stuff but were never sure if it actually had an effect. It looked like there was some other semi-interesting stuff nearby but my kids didn't want to walk around to see (in fairness it was August and pretty hot and humid).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:35 AM on February 8

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