If you have wondered where to travel on vacation with children: plan a family vacation to Japan! It is one of the safest travel destinations in the world, with many family-friendly hotels and places to eat in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other top locations. In addition, there are must-see attractions all across the country that create an atmosphere where kids can enjoy, discover, and learn about Japanese culture. Please check out our list of the best places to visit with children in Japan.
The Ghibli Museum, designed in part by director Hayao Miyazaki, brings visitors to visit the memorable settings and unforgettable characters of the iconic Studio Ghibli animated films. Child-like wonder and creative imagination are prevailing themes across this interactive Tokyo-based museum, which invites children of all ages to “get lost together” in its various rooms. A grand hall with maze-like passages, pastel-colored rooms with backgrounds like scenes from an anime, plus a private movie theater, a reading room, and an enormous plush Catbus – all this and more awaits at the fantastic Ghibli Museum.
Disneyland is a place that needs no introduction. Parents can count on Tokyo Disneyland to be a big hit with small children, where they can interact with the colorful characters from the world of Disney. Their parks include food and attractions in the based on their most popular films and characters, with a variety of themed areas geared towards sparking a child’s imagination, such as Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Westernland. Although marketed mainly towards children, it maintains a broad family appeal as Japan’s top amusement park.
Universal Studios Japan is in Osaka and is a sister park to the USA’s Hollywood-based movie theme park. Children and adults can experience worlds of action, fantasy, and imagination that you have only enjoyed on the movie screen. Attractions and restaurants bring blockbuster movies and TV shows to life, inviting children and adults to enjoy the thrills and laughs with their favorite characters. Popular shows and movies include Minions, Sesame Street, Snoopy, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and more.
Hanayashiki is Japan’s first amusement park, and it is located in Asakusa near Sensoji Shrine. Originally opened as a flower garden near the end of the Edo period, Hanayashiki, which means “flower mansion”, maintained a brightly colored, floral aesthetic over the years, adding various attractions mostly geared toward young children. The charming delights of Hanayashiki include roller-coaster type rides, a merry-go-round and other carnival rides, and even a splendidly spooky haunted house.
The National Museum of Nature and Science is a large museum in Ueno, Tokyo. The facility is one in a collection of museums and galleries in Ueno Park, located near the National Museum of Western Art. The National Museum of Nature and Science is one of the most interactive and interesting for children, with hands-on exhibits spanning different scientific studies, and natural history displays reaching back to prehistory. Some galleries focus on the history and ecology of Japan, while others take a global perspective.
Located in Kyoto, the Toei Uzumasa Eigamura, also known as the Kyoto Studio Park, is an excellent recreation of a traditional village from Japan’s Edo period. The town is a combination theme park / film location, serving as a classical setting for numerous Japan historical films and period dramas. Park staff can be seen walking about in old-fashioned costumes, which allows visitors to feel more like they have stepped back in time. Attractions include a ninja maze, martial arts performances, occasional live filming, as well as restaurants, gaming arcades, and souvenir shops.
The Koka Ninja Museum celebrates the way of the ninja and can be enjoyable for kids with an interest in Japanese culture and martial arts. Located in the town of Koka, easily accessed while on a tour between Tokyo and Kyoto, the museum is a former ninja mansion with special features children can enjoy. These include secret rooms, revolving walls, hidden compartments, trap doors: everything one would expect in a house of these masters of subtlety and misdirection.
The Ninja Akasuka Restaurant is a dinner and show where visitors can get immersed into a fun and mysterious ninja atmosphere. Take a trip back to the feudal Edo period from the moment you and your kids step inside. You will be waited on by the ninja staff who give an enthusiastic performance. The tasty food delights the eye as it arrives at your table, with dishes shaped like paper cranes, throwing stars or other icons of the time. A rare restaurant that is as fun for kids as it is for the parents, it brings the experience of traditional Japan filled with humor and energy for a worthwhile experience.
If your child’s creativity includes an enjoyment of building things, the Legoland Discovery Center in Odaiba is a must-visit. The colorful blocks and building sets of Lego take center stage in this themed discovery zone and shop, which is decorated in building pieces of all shapes, colors, and sizes. You can see a wide variety of imaginative Lego constructions, and there is even a creative workshop where children can try and build something new from the random assorted blocks. Of course, if your child is a Lego fan, they will find boxed building sets of many kinds – pop culture, anime, Star Wars, Ninjago, and more.
Joypolis is an indoor amusement park located in the Odaiba entertainment district of Tokyo and is designed to be enjoyed even on a rainy day. Various motion-simulation rides appeal to a variety of ages, and while some may not be suitable for smaller kids, there are diverse attractions to appeal to everyone in the family. This includes a wide variety of classic and modern arcade games. Japan is a country that still has coin-operated gaming arcades, and Joypolis is king of them all. There are multiple levels of video games to enjoy involving classic characters like Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Tokyo Skytree is currently the tallest tower in the world, and a 360-degree panoramic view of Tokyo from the observation deck is something all ages can enjoy. Looking out from the wide windows of either the lower deck (at 350 meters high) or the upper deck (at 450 meters high) is inspiring and commands an incredible vista of Tokyo cityscape. On clear days, one can even see Mount Fuji standing tall in the distance. The lower deck includes interactive learning tools for young learners to discover information about the tower and the landscape around it, as well as restaurants and souvenir shops to browse.
The Cup Noodle Museum is in Yokohama, within a day trip from Tokyo. The main attraction of this delicious series of exhibits is the Cup Noodle, invented in Japan by Momofuku Ando. Kids will especially enjoy the hands-on opportunity to make their own flavor of ramen, a ramen factory that allows you to take part in the ramen-making process, and an especially colorful “History Cube” that shows the wide variety of Cup Noodle flavors from all over the world. Adults, meanwhile, can enjoy learning about the fascinating history of Cup Noodle and the life of its inventor.
The Tokyo Toy Museum in Shinjuku features a collection of toys not only from Japan, but from all over the world. The museum is actually a hands-on play space for children and families, especially welcoming smaller children to relax and explore the different categories in its collection, including traditional Japanese toys, musical toys, and board games. There is even a special Toy Factory where children and adults can learn to make simple toys from recycled materials together.
For children who are lovers of Pokemon, the Pokemon Center is an absolute must. It is the largest Pokemon Center in Japan, with an eye-popping variety of characters and associated merchandise around the store. Larger-than-life sculptures of various Pokemon can be discovered around the center, and nearby is a Pokemon Café where kids can enjoy a meal themed to the most popular characters. Some specialty items sold in the Pokemon Center are exclusive to the store, crafted to perfect cuteness by local shops.
Ueno Zoo is located in Ueno, Tokyo, in Ueno Park. While there are numerous sights to explore at the massive city park, families with children should plan some time to experience the captivating wildlife of Japan’s oldest zoo. These zoological gardens house around 2600 animals in total, including exhibits of mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish. Many of the animals are from the Asian region, such as Asiatic black bears, Japanese macaques, and ever-popular giant pandas. But animals from other parts of the world are also represented, including the barbary sheep and the American bison.
Jigokudani Monkey Park is a wildlife reserve in Yudanaka, Nagano, where children and their families can enjoy the company of Japanese macaques, or “snow monkeys”, in their native habitat. The playful antics of these adorable creatures are fun and safe for kids to watch. See groups of monkeys come to the steamy hot springs to bathe, play, and groom each other in their unique society. Although they are called “snow monkeys”, these macaques can be enjoyed year-round.
Nara Deer Park is a public park next to Todaiji Temple in Nara, which provides a habitat for hundreds of adorable Sika deer. These small deer are known for being friendly and sociable, wandering around the visitors to the park without fear. Some of the cute creatures have even learned to bow their heads, as a way of asking for one of the crackers available for sale around the park. Families are encouraged to enjoy petting or feeding the deer together as a group, while keeping an eye on smaller children.
Osaka Aquarium Kaikyukan is one of Japan’s largest and most spectacular aquariums, providing a journey of of natural wonder and enjoyment to children and adults. Eight floors of diverse marine life await, with multiple regions of the Pacific Ocean represented across the aquarium’s tanks. Some of the massive tanks stretch across floors, allowing kids to view the aquatic life at different ocean levels, and there is even a “Fish Underpass” that allows visitors to walk under a tunnel of colorful fish.