Japan trip with a kiddo?
September 23, 2023 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I've been to Japan a few times and done the usual tourist fun. I'm planning a trip next June and want to bring my soon-to-be 6 year old. What's Japan travel like with a kid? Things to do enjoyed by both of us? Is there a recommended itinerary?

I'm weirdly struggling with where to start in planning this trip. I have yet to bring them on a trip to a big city, or one that is so populated so I am a bit worried. We've mostly done national parks and outdoor things (kayak, etc). They do enjoy that. They've come to like shopping and Totoro and (cooked) sushi and Japanese desserts, so I think we'll want to include some of that. I don't know how many temples and historical things they would enjoy.

Lately, I've also been watching Japan train videos and loving that. Not sure how feasible it would be to do an overnight train with a kid.

We can probably swing 2 weeks or so. Might hop to Korea or Hong Kong if that is too long.
posted by inevitability to Travel & Transportation around Japan (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
not to replace our human responses, but the last trip i took with my kid (12), i asked chatgpt to come up with a child friendly itinerary for tokyo and osaka (of course, including disneyland and universal/nintendoland) but it also came up with wonderful side attractions that were geared more for kids than traditional temples etc. (Odiaba, Teamlab, Small Worlds Minature Museum), i even asked it for recommended family friendly eating places based on our travel areas.
posted by edman at 6:31 PM on September 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am cracking up because my partner and I are brainstorming for this trip, and I turned to AskMe and they turned to ChatGPT.
posted by inevitability at 6:43 PM on September 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

The Ghibli museum is lovely if you have the time for that side trip. They have a catbus you can crawl on and in, if you are the size of a six-year-old. Tickets need to be purchased in advance.

June is the rainy season in Japan, so be prepared to do a lot of indoor activities.
posted by Jeanne at 6:59 PM on September 23, 2023 [4 favorites]

I follow this blogger, "Just One Cookbook" for her food content, but she has an article about traveling with kids in Japan

Skip the stuff about infants but she mentions useful things like looking for the "okasama lunch" kids lunch, which was always my favorite thing about Japan when I was a kid.

She lists some great parks and other attractions that might not come up on a simple Google search. She offers some good tips that also may not be easy to find just by Googling.

We have traveled in Kyoto during a rainstorm. We just had umbrellas at the ready. It was fine if you don't mind rain.

Yes, to traveling on the train. I recommend getting snacks from any convenience store near you. Your kiddo will be excited by the difference in variety and the delicious options in Japan!

There's so much to see and do, you might want to tailor things to your kiddo's specific interests. Definitely Ghibli museum! If they like certain toys or shows, find a store that carries those items.

Something my sister remembers from her visit as a child is crawling through a post at the Todaiji temple in Kyoto. "A supporting post in the Daibutsuden has a hole said to be the same size as one of the Daibutsu's nostrils. Legend has it that those who pass through it will be blessed with enlightenment in their next life." Wikipedia. Feeding the deer in Nara was a highlight as kids too.
posted by AnyUsernameWillDo at 7:10 PM on September 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

Just asked a friend who did this last spring with 6- and 9-year-olds (boy and girl) and she said their favorite things were:
1) Rabbit Island
2) Visiting a Traditional Ryokan
3) Finding a “themed” train (we did the Hello Kitty train!)

She just followed up with “ finding rainbow cotton candy”. Sounds like Japan is a pretty easy place to have fun with kids :)
posted by lovableiago at 7:25 PM on September 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

Small Worlds Tokyo is great! Here is a guide to activities for younger kids on my website "Where in Tokyo".
posted by Umami Dearest at 8:02 PM on September 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

We visited Tokyo recently with my then 6 and 4 year olds and had an awesome time. We visited TeamLab Planets interactive art space which has lots of cool rooms to walk through and explore, Shibuya Sky for the view and they have a green rooftop area where they could run around. We spent a day at Kidzania which is like a big pretend city where they could sign up for various different jobs. They have some activities in English on Wednesdays but we found that they could still follow along for the most part anyway in the non English activities. We also rented a car to drive to Edo Wonderland which was a medieval Japanese village recreation and they could rent ninja or samurai costumes and take ninja training classes. Getting around the subway was mostly okay as we had compact travel strollers. We didn’t wait in any long lines for food but we enjoyed Ichiran ramen and the food at Tsukiji market. Really enjoyed visiting as a family!
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:06 PM on September 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

I toured Japan with a blue eyed infant, and checked in with a colleague whose sabbatical included their 4 year old blonde haired blue-eyed son. His question was, how comfortable would you be with adoring people touching your kiddo? It was apt wisdom-lots of people would approach us! When we went to Hiroshima it was the same day as teens were in field trips and my family felt like we were the entourage to our infant rock star- so many teens wanted pics and selfies with my oblivious little one! Just a word of advice for anyone traveling with a young blue eyed blonde.
posted by childofTethys at 8:29 PM on September 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

Japan is very kid friendly. Went this spring with my kids. Wherever we went, we were not far from a park with a playground.

In Tokyo my kids loved Teamlab, and the Ghibli museum. The Ghibli museum is adjacent to a very beautiful park and small zoo.

We also did a day trip to Enoshima, saw the island, and the aquarium there.

Kyoto has many nice shrines and an excellent train museum with many kid-oriented exhibits.

Hiroshima has great food, and the island of Itsukushima is amazing. See the floating gate, then take the cable cars up to the top of the mountain. Fun ferry ride to get there too.
posted by nickggully at 9:47 PM on September 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

I visited Japan with my family when I was six years old in the early 1980s. People did touch my hair a lot and I didn’t mind at the time to my memory. I really like the trip especially looking at foreign toy stores eating foreign candy. I also enjoyed yakitori. I had two older sisters, who would sometimes stay behind in the hotel room, and just watch TV.

I liked seeing the different animals also. We traveled into the countryside and I enjoyed the different trains and trams. We stayed in Japanese inns that were part of an English speaking network of foreigner friendly inns. I liked those a lot since the matts on the floor and beds on the floor and everything low was kinda great for me.

I really loved the trip and look back on it frequently. Especially when I travel.
posted by creiszhanson at 11:17 PM on September 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

I am going to Japan in spring with my two kids (3, 5). My cousin whose is half Japanese is planning the trip for us because she has a 7 year old and they visit Japan a lot (from Hawaii). Their Instagram stories looks amazing so I’m excited what the itinerary is. Unfortunately it’s not ready yet so I can’t share it, but I do know that she is planning the trip around Osaka and Kyoto because she felt that Tokyo was too busy and didnt offer anything the other cities didn’t have. ymmv and it sounds like many people had a good time but just a data point to share!
If I can I will return to the thread with the itinerary when it is ready. Our trip is for one week (then flying to Korea for the second week)
posted by like_neon at 12:56 AM on September 24, 2023

The Ghibli Museum (which I loved) is rather small and didn't have a lot for kids when I visited - not that that stopped it being full of small rushing children who were apparently having the time of their lives.

But there's now also a big Ghibli theme park

There are small playgrounds everywhere, even in city centres, and lots of parks. If you are near Kyoto and go to Arishiyama there are boat trips, ice creams and rice cakes, a scenic railway and semi-wild monkeys on a hill, and lots of other families with children.
posted by BinaryApe at 2:04 AM on September 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

i even asked it for recommended family friendly eating places based on our travel areas.

Just a head's up - I experimented with ChatGPT the other day, specifically asking about restaurants in Tokyo. It gave me some very promising reviews of restaurants that turned out not to exist. (One that did exist was in Shanghai.)
posted by Umami Dearest at 2:27 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

To address your concerns re: overnight trains. If by "feasible" you mean safety-wise, I'm pretty sure they're fine for children and you'll be okay as long as you take reasonable levels of precautions. But you don't have many options now (there's only one, or two depending on how you look at it, overnight train that currently runs regularly) so if you want tickets you should consider booking them as early as you can. If the timing of your visit aligns with some of the fancy irregular ones, by all means go for it, but they are super popular and fill up fast.

If you're into trains, there's a shiny new express train that runs from Asakusa to Nikko called Spacia X that looks like a fun ride (that I want to try someday, too!), if you don't have time to take an overnight trip from Tokyo Station. And the Romance Car to Hakone has a brand-new 7000 series GSE model that's beautiful if you can book tickets.

If you do come to Tokyo and enjoy trains, The Railway Museum in Omiya is always worth a visit and fun for kids.
posted by misozaki at 3:07 PM on September 24, 2023

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