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20 FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES IN JAPAN
Article | December 14th, 2021 | Anne
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PLANNING A TRIP TO JAPAN WITH YOUR FAMILY? HERE ARE SOME FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES THAT YOU CAN INCLUDE IN YOUR ITINERARY.

Japan: the birthplace of Manga, Anime, Sushi, Karaoke, and much more. If you’ve ever been to Japan, then you’ll know how beautiful it is, the hospitality and kindness of its people, the delicious and healthy local cuisine, and the rich depth of its culture and traditions. With all the country has to offer, it’s no wonder that Japan is an ideal place to plan a family vacation. If you’re thinking of local activities to engage the interest of your family while in Japan, there are many family-friendly activities to choose from. Here we’ve compiled 20 of the best ones for you to consider.

1. TAKE A JAPANESE COOKING CLASS

Japanese cuisine is far more diverse than many people realize, and its variety comes through its regional cuisines. Each region showcases unique styles of cooking and employs various ingredients based on what is grown there, their history, heritage, and culture.

Instead of just trying out regional foods, why not let yourself and your family gain hands-on experience in cooking them? You’ll find that Tokyo has a bunch of places where they facilitate cooking classes for everyone, like Tsujiki cooking. Here they’ll give you a tour of the famous Tsujiki market and help you procure the best produce for your meals.

2. TAKE A RIDE ON A BULLET TRAIN

Japan is undoubtedly the technological hub of the east. Among these high-end creations, the pinnacle of sleek, convenient public transportation can be seen with the Shinkansen, or bullet train. It is the best way to travel across Japan and experience what its different regions have to offer. Moreover, it allows for a family-friendly adventure, especially if you have kids traveling with you.

Accessing the Shinkansen is very easy and cost-effective. All you need is a JR (Japan Rail) Pass. Only tourists can get a hold of these passes, allowing you to journey across Japan at a fraction of the price that the locals have to pay.

3. TOKYO DISNEYLAND OR DISNEY SEA

Disneyland is an experience, no matter which one you go to. You get to enjoy the thrill of the rides and attractions, eat Disney-themed foods, and meet your favorite characters. If you and your kids have been to a Disneyland before, then we recommend DisneySea, which can only be visited in Japan, and has plenty of kid-friendly rides and shows. You can even book a room at a hotel inside the park, where the wonder and delight continues at one of Disney’s most enchanting accommodations.

4. EXPLORE A JAPANESE CASTLE

You probably know that Japan has a monarchy, maintaining a feudal society that lasted as far as the late 1800s. When visiting Japan, take your kids to discover the rich traditional culture that this period in history left behind by visiting one of a number of castles scattered around the country.

The top castle to visit is, without a doubt, Himeji Castle – a grand fortress built in the classical style located in the city of Himeji, in Hyogo Prefecture. This castle is often referred to as “White Heron Castle”, for its splendid white exterior and walls spreading out from the central tower like wings. A visit in the spring during cherry blossom season is by far the most beautiful time to go. Other top castles include Osaka Castle – built by famed samurai general Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Matsumoto’s “Black Crow” Castle – a truly imposing feudal fortress.

5. DINE AT A THEME RESTAURANT

Japan is known for its cute (or “kawaii) culture, and has developed many charming ways to entertain families inexorably drawn to the cuteness. One such way is themed restaurants that you’ll find in a number of places across Japan; however, Tokyo is where you’ll find most of them. You can find adorable Cat Cafes and other animal-themed restaurants – even an Owl Café! Children who enjoy Japanese anime or video games won’t be disappointed in a city that includes a café dedicated to the cute critters of Pokemon (especially Pikachu), a restaurant stylishly themed around the Gundam anime franchise (what kid doesn’t like giant robots?) And fans of Ghibli films can find a delightful treat at the Shirohige Cream Puff Factory – a sweets café officially recognized by the Studio Ghibli.

6. EAT SUSHI AND SASHIMI AT THE TSUKIJI FISH MARKET

You can’t complete a trip to Japan without having authentic sushi or sashimi. Perhaps the best place to experience this would be the Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, the largest marketplace for seafood in the whole world. You’ll find numerous fish vendors who have a legacy of perfecting their trade. You can try many options including favorites like salmon, tuna, and shrimp. But don’t miss the chance to experience some other, more local dainties, such as sea urchin, bonito, and monkfish. You can even get a table where the chef prepares the sushi right before your eyes!

7. SPEND A NIGHT IN A RYOKAN, EAT A KAISEKI MEAL AND SOAK IN AN ONSEN

Japan’s naturally mountainous terrain, dotted with (largely dormant) volcanoes, have allowed some excellent hot springs to emerge throughout the country. Accompanying them are a number of resorts that embrace the traditional Japanese style of living – Ryokans. Classical wooden architecture showcases a communal living space with shared amenities. These hot spring resorts, or “onsen”, create a way for families to relax together while enjoying a more simple, rustic Japanese way of life.

Additionally, you can enjoy a traditional Kaiseki meal, a multi-course meal prepared using traditional Japanese techniques. These are healthy meals, usually with small servings, offering a broad variety of flavors sure to have something to appeal to your family’s taste.

8. EAT AND MAKE YOUR OWN SUSHI

Creating sushi is an artform that involves creativity of form as much as taste. When visiting Japan, you too can partake in a family-friendly activity where you and your loved ones can enjoy designing various sushi dishes together, as well as learn about the history and traditions connected with the craft. And the best part is you can eat your creations when you’re finished!

Kyoto and Toyko both have places where you can find chefs who provide short courses to make your own sushi. Many sushi places offer vegetarian substitutes for people who don’t like fish, so everyone in the family can enjoy this cultural experience..

9. EXPERIENCE KAWAII CULTURE

When walking the streets of Tokyo (or anywhere in Japan, really), Kawaii culture is hard to miss. Kawaii is a Japanese word meaning “cute” or “adorable”, and the whole country has embraced this family-friendly ideal. Kawaii is a kind of Japanese pop culture, which exhibits fashionable clothing, food, and themed places inspired by Manga or Anime, including Pokémon, Hello Kitty, and other popular characters.

10. EAT RAMEN

Other than Sushi, Sashimi, Tempura, Miso, Onigiri, and much more, Japanese cuisine is not complete without ramen. Though originally from China, the popular noodle soup dish has been seen a renaissance in Japan. As a result, you’ll find many restaurants across the country that display variations of the dish. But if you want to experience the best ramen, you need to visit Kitakata, Fukushima prefecture, the Ramen capital of Japan. Other than that, you’ll find ramen everywhere from inside large shopping centers to small hole-in-the-wall eateries.

11. LEARN ABOUT CALLIGRAPHY, IKEBANA, OR ORIGAMI

Japan exhibits a number of fine arts, the most famous of them being calligraphy (shuji), flower arrangement (Ikebana or Kado), and paper folding (Origami). All of these arts have a history grounded in traditional roots dating back centuries. You, too, can partake in these arts just by interacting with the locals, especially those in the rural areas of Japan. They make for delightful family activities as you learn together the proper calligraphy brush strokes, the meanings of various flowers, or various folding patterns.

12. DRESS UP LIKE A SAMURAI OR GEISHA

Your family will surely enjoy dressing up as Samurais and Geishas; however, what’s more important is the first-hand knowledge you’ll gain from partaking in such activities. Samurai and the Geisha way of life showcase rich Japanese cultural heritage that dates back to the Japanese Feudal periods. Of course, children will be more intrigued by Samurai swords and Geisha makeup. Regardless, it’s one of the most fun-filled, family-friendly activities Japan has to offer.

13. BE SPIRITED AWAY BY THE STUDIO GHIBLI MUSEUM

Perhaps no other production house has made a name for Japanese animation worldwide than Studio Ghibli. Titles like Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, and of course Spirited Away, have captured the world of fantasy perfectly while showcasing the realities of life. If you’re a big fan of Studio Ghibli movies, then you should definitely visit their museum in Inokashira Park in Mitaka, Tokyo.

14. ATTEND A JAPANESE FESTIVAL

Japan is an archipelago, that is, a collection of islands. However, the geography of each region varies, and so do their cultures, religion, and customs. As a result, the Japanese hold festivals to honor their deities, mark an auspicious occasion, or celebrate their region’s most important aspect.

If you go at the right time, you can visit the grand Sapporo snow festival in Hokkaido, Japan. It showcases a winter wonderland within the heart of Hokkaido. Or, you could visit Fukuoka to witness the Oniyo fire festival to drive away evil spirits. Moreover, Kyoto is a hub for festivals owing to its cultural significance; something’s always happening there.

15. EXPLORE TEAMLAB BORDERLESS MUSEUM

TeamLab offers you something that you can never experience anywhere in the world. Calling it an art gallery wouldn’t do it justice. Instead, we prefer to call it an experience and an exploration of the senses. The teamLab Borderless Museum provides a haven for integrating the arts and sciences to form a digital landscape in a huge space. The immersive experience you’ll gain there will mesmerize you and have your family in awe.

16. PARTICIPATE IN A JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY HOSTED BY GEISHA

Geisha is a class of female Japanese women who undertake a very unique lifestyle. They are trained in primarily performing arts like dancing and singing, but their training also involves them developing conversational skills. As a result, they are excellent hosts, showcasing a tradition as old as the 1700’s.

You and your family, too, can take a closer look at the geisha way of life by partaking in tea ceremonies in Kyoto and Kanazawa. You get to wear traditional Kimonos and sit on tatami mats while tea is prepared and served to you. It’s a relaxing experience that can educate you on the diversity of Japan.

17. TAKE A NINJA OR SAMURAI LESSON

Ninjas and Samurai are popular throughout the world. But, in Japan, they were highly skilled martial warriors who struck fear in the hearts of their enemies and earned respect and honor for their families, masters, feudal lord, and even themselves. Though their history goes back to the 1300s, their skill and command of sword fighting and distinct combat techniques have been popularized in movies. Children are especially fascinated by them, trying to mimic their movement and style of fighting. However, you can learn from true masters of the art, who know the proper discipline and safety of the samurai way of fighting. There are many dojos in Tokyo that can facilitate your training, even if it’s just for a short duration.

18. GO TO A CAT OR OWL CAFÉ

As mentioned before, Japan has a number of themed attractions and restaurants. Some of them are themed around animals like cats and owls. You’ll find a number of cat (Neko) cafes and owl cafes in japan in most major cities, like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

These places showcase various cat and owl species in Japan, allowing locals and tourists to interact with them freely. If you’re an animal lover, or if someone in your family enjoys the company of cats and owls, then you’d surely want to visit them. They are great places to relax and unwind in the company of animals.

19. EXPERIENCE THE WORLD-CLASS AQUARIUMS OF OSAKA AND OKINAWA

Given that Japan is a collection of islands, it has an extremely close relationship with the surrounding seas. Other than being a source of sustenance, the ocean is also a source of entertainment for the locals and foreigners of Osaka and Okinawa.

Osaka is home to the largest aquarium in the world – Kaiyukan. It showcases marine exhibits behind thick glass in huge tanks, housing aquatic life of all sizes. Their interactive exhibit takes you closer to marine life and lets you experience what it can feel like.

However, Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa is considered to be Japan’s best aquarium, consisting of four floors of pure unadulterated fun and family-friendly activities. Other than housing countless exhibits on marine life, it also includes a shark research laboratory

20. ATTEND A SUMO TOURNAMENT

Other than Geisha, who live a certain lifestyle of entertainment, Sumo wrestlers of Japan, too, form part of Japan’s traditional sporting culture. In fact, sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport and a form of wrestling that has captivated the imagination of the world.

Attending sumo wrestling matches is fairly easy; you can book tickets in advance and watch the tournament in person. A total of 6 tournaments happen throughout the year, 3 in Tokyo and 3 in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.

The bouts are small, lasting about a minute at max. However, what’s intriguing is the Sumo lifestyle that showcases their regimented way of living, eating, sleeping in Tokyo’s Ryogoku and Kiyosumo neighborhoods.

Join one of our pre-designed escorted group tours, visiting must-see sights in Japan and including unique cultural activities. Or contact us to plan a fully customized itinerary based on your interests.


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