Japan With Kids: Family Travel Tips for a Great Adventure 

Traveling to Japan with kids is difficult, but it’s also very exciting. Despite cultural mistakes, “just go” and “just leave” moments, and mistranslation – traveling to Japan with children is worth it! We want to share some of the best tips we’ve learned along the way so that your trip can be as smooth as possible.

Is Japan Kid Friendly?

Yes. When traveling internationally, you quickly realize that kids live everywhere. Japan has playgrounds, museums, toy stores – all the things that make a child feel welcome. Restaurants also often have special kids meals, and are equipped with high chairs.

special kids meal with train with food on top in a restaurant in Japan
Awesome kids meal in a department store restaurant in Tokyo

Culturally, children are treated differently in Japan. Children are expected to be independent, and well-behaved. We found our kids to be a bit loud compared to Japanese children, but we tried to plan activities accordingly.

little boy eating rainbow cotton candy in Harajuku, Tokyo
Rainbow Cotton Candy in Harajuku, Tokyo

What to Expect when Traveling in Japan with Kids?

Our first day in Japan, we woke up early and went to breakfast at Denny’s (keep it safe right?). We sat down with our two hyper little kids only to find that restaurant was full of sleeping business men. Following a quick exit, we attempted the subway station, couldn’t figure out the ticket machine, lost fifty dollars we will never get back, and immediately retreated to the hotel. It was a total “Just Leave” moment.

Little boy with mother washing hands at temple before entering in Tokyo, Japan

So what should you expect when you travel to Japan with kids?  

  • Go Slow
  • Expect awkward Japanese culture moments
  • Prepare to retreat and regroup
  • Don’t plan to see everything
  • Build in time to rest
  • Don’t be afraid to reach for the comforts of home

Everything in Japan is different from the foods to the stores to the metro. Even visiting a 7-Eleven is an adventure. While we typically prefer off the beaten path travel, in Japan we found ourself looking for things that were a bit easier.

Even sticking to the bigger tourist sites and areas, Japan will be an incredible experience for your family.  Take it slow and enjoy the moment. You won’t regret going!

Japanese Garden in Tokyo on a rainy day

What’s the Best Japan Itinerary for Families?

The classic itinerary is Tokyo and Kyoto. We felt this was perfect for our first trip to Japan with kids. We spent five days in 7 days in Tokyo and 6 days in Kyoto. This worked for our family, and built in some time for rest.

When traveling in Japan, keep it simple.  Japan is a lot of stimulation.  When planning your Japan with kids itinerary, we recommend choosing two major Japanese cities with some small side trips.  

Little boy sitting next to the window at Tokyo Skytower looking over view of the city
Tokyo SkyTree

How Long Should you Travel in Japan with Kids?

We spent 14 days in Japan.  While this seems long, don’t forget about jet lag. Jet lag is REAL, especially with kids. 

When planning your Japan itinerary with kids, be sure to account for travel days and rest days. We planned nothing for the first two days and last day of our trip. That helped us settle and get used to the time change.

Gardens in Arashiyama

When to Travel to Japan with Kids?

Spring and early Fall months are the best months for a family trip to Japan.  Japan gets very hot in the summer. 

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

We traveled in July, and while he had fun, we needed frequent breaks from the heat.  If you want to see the Cherry Blossoms, they bloom in late March to early April.  Winter months drop to freezing, and aren’t well suited for tourism.

How to Get Around Japan with Kids?

Leave your carseats at home.  Taking kids to Japanese cities is easy due to its elaborate and high-tech train system. 

The Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) connects major cities and is easy to navigate.  Public transport is the easiest way to get around Japan with family.  Japan train stations are safe, clean, and family friendly. 

Boy looking out the window of the Shinkansen train in Tokyo
Riding the Shinkansen

Local metros also easy to use.  We recommend hitting the subways on off hours.  Avoid 8-9 AM in the mornings, and 5-6 PM in the evening. 

The sea of commuters can be overwhelming, and while the Japanese are very aware of personal space, they also are very willing to crowd into very small places.  Wake up early, or wait until after the bustle.

Little boy looking at toy dispensers in the crowded Tokyo subway station
Choosing a toy in the Tokyo Metro

Pro Tip: Avoid rush hour on metros. Take the subway before or after the 8-9 AM rush.

Should you Bring your Stroller when Taking Kids to Japan?

Leave the stroller at home.

There are differing thoughts on this.  We brought a stroller with us, and within the first day ditched it for a carrier.  

Little boy in carrier on back of father carrying him through a Kyoto palace
Exploring Architecture in Kyoto

When traveling to Japan with kids, you will want to explore small stores, cafes, restaurants, and use public transport.  Strollers are a hassle for all of this.  

Japanese subways are crowded, and impossible to manage with a stroller.   Even at more kid friendly museums or restaurants, there is no where to store your stroller if you want to go in and explore.  

Family exploring Nishiki Market
Exploring Nishiki Market

We recommend sticking to a carrier when visiting Japanese cities with toddlers, and leaving the stroller at home.  If you do bring a stroller, be sure the activities you are doing are stroller friendly.

What are the Best Places to Visit in Japan with Kids?

There are so many wonderful places to visit in Japan with kids! Here are some of our favorites:

Things to Do in Tokyo with Kids

  • Scale the Tokyo Sky Tree
  • Play at Legoland Discovery Center
  • Explore TeamLab Borderless 
  • Walk the Shibuya Crossing
  • Go on some Rides at Hanayashiki Amusement Park
  • Learn about Japanese culture Fukagawa Edo Museum
  • Experience the Meiji Jingu Shrine
  • Eat Rainbow Foods on Takeshita Street
  • See the Sensoji Temple
  • Take a walk around Asakusa
  • Rent a Karaoke room
  • Spend a Day at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea
  • Visit an Animal Cafe
  • See the Studio Ghibli Museum

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids

  • Eat at the Nishiki Market
  • See Animals at the Kyoto Zoo
  • Marvel at the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest on a Day Trip
  • Take a Day Trip to pet Deer at Nara
  • Learn to be a Samurai at the Samurai and Ninja Museum

What to Eat in Japan with Kids?

There is plenty of kid-friendly food in Japan. This was one of our biggest worries when we traveled to Japan with kids, but it turned out to be unfounded. Kid-friendly food was everywhere and our kids loved trying new things.

Little boy sitting at restaurant with fluffy Souffle pancakes in Kyoto

These were our kid’s favorite foods to try in Japan:

  • Japanese Curry
  • Ramen
  • Soba and Udon Noodles
  • Rice Balls (convenience stores have these)
  • Yakiniku (Japanese style barbecue)
  • Japanese Street Crepes
  • Japanese Souffle pancakes

Where to Eat in Japan with Kids?

Food courts and department stores will save you. When planning our family trip, I made the mistake of bookmarking all sorts of small cute Izakayas that I wanted to try on our trip. After two days in Tokyo, I was desperate for noise, bustle, and food that didn’t have eyes.

Little boy eating a meal on a smiley face plate in Kyoto

Department stores often house approachable family friendly sit down restaurants, as well as “depachika” (food halls) typically on the the lowest level of the store.

Eating on the run can be a bit taboo in Japan, so find a place you can sit with your family with your food. Several of the department stores have rooftop picnic areas where you can bring your food and rest.

Rows of colorful fruit and cream filled crepes in a display in Kyoto with a little boy pointing at them.

7-Eleven is another life saver when in Japan. Unlike the unhealthy staples of the US convenience store, the 7-Eleven refrigerated section has walls of refrigerated food items ranging from rice balls, to ramen, to sashimi. Our kids loved going into 7-Eleven, choosing a snack and a dinner, and eating back in the hotel after a long day.

Where to Stay in Japan with Kids?

Japanese hotel rooms are often small.  Look for something with larger rooms, and convenient public transportation. 

In Tokyo, we stayed at the Mimaru Apartment Hotel Chain.  The Mimaru Apartment Hotels are really good family hotels. The rooms had bunk beds, a kitchenette, and a dining table.  They had washers and dryers in the building, and offered a small selection of games that the kids could borrow. It was perfect for our needs.  

We stayed at the Mimaru in Nihombashi.  It was a pretty quiet neighborhood, and I left wishing we had stayed somewhere busier.  There are Mimaru family hotels in Shinjuku, Ginza, and near Tokyo Station.  All of these would be walking distance to restaurants and a major train station.

When staying in Kyoto, we rented an AirBNB.  This is a great option if you want to experience a Japanese style home.  If you do consider this, we recommend making sure you have a safety plan in place. 

Unfortunately, our son had a medical emergency while we were there.  We had no idea how to call for help or how to communicate where we were.  Everything worked out, but now we always research how to get help when needed when staying in an AirBNB.

Bunkbeds and two double beds in Mimaru room

Mimaru also has two hotels in Kyoto.  We recommend Mimaru Kyoto Nishinotoin Takatsuji.  It is walking distance from Nishita Market, but would give you space to spread out with kids.

Other Tokyo hotels that are highly recommended with kids are:

Park Hyatt Tokyo:  If money isn’t a factor, stay here!  Known for amazing views, impeccable service, and kid-friendly amenities.

Grand Hyatt Tokyo:  Multiple kid-friendly food options, pool, and walking distance to Robot Park (great playground for kids)

Hilton Tokyo Bay:  Tokyo Disney hotel with monorail access to Disneyland and Disney Sea.  Thirty minute trip to downtown Tokyo.

Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel:  Also in the Tokyo Disney Resort area, if you are planning to spend time at Tokyo Disney this is a good choice.  Just remember far from downtown Tokyo.

What is the Best Area to Stay in Tokyo with Family?

We struggled with this decision.  We chose to stay in Chuo, which was quiet and residential.  I wished we had stayed somewhere more busy.  When visiting Tokyo again with kids, I would choose:

Roppongi Hills:  This is a quieter neighborhood that is great for kids due to access to playgrounds and shopping centers.  It is easy to get to from Haneda airport, and a short metro ride from Tokyo Station.

Shinjuku:  Central, Shinjuku is a convenient location to get everywhere, with tons of shops and restaurants.  Shinjuku is bright, modern, and busy with neon lights and lots of people.  Department stores make an easy retreat to find meals and things to do with kids.

Shibuya:  Also central to most things, Shibuya is a great neighborhood for families to stay who want to get a true Tokyo experience.  With restaurants, department stores, and kid-friendly shopping, Shibuya is easy with family.

Tokyo Bay:  If you are going to visit Tokyo Disney, Tokyo Bay is a good choice.  There are better family hotels with more space, and better prices.  Just be aware it is a thirty minute metro ride to most tourist sites in Tokyo aside from Disney which is very convenient.

Cost of Traveling to Japan with Kids

Japan can get expensive fast.  This is probably due to the nature of trips focusing around expensive cities like Tokyo.  However, you can definitely see Japan on a budget with good planning.

Hotels for us cost about $100 -$150 per night.

Adult Japan Rail Pass tickets cost $279 per person, Kids were $140.

Eating out ranges from 10-20$ per person, but can be cheaper if you cook or go to convenience stores.

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