The Japanese know how to have fun, and their families are very important to them. That makes Tokyo the best city in the world for a family vacation. Not only does Japan’s capital boast a range of major landmarks, but there are also several amusement parks and lots of museums with child-friendly exhibits. So, pack your bags and get ready for the time of your life.
Read on for information about just a few of the many activities you and your family can enjoy during a day trip or weekend in Tokyo.
See the big picture
There are 2 towers in Tokyo you can climb for fantastic panoramic views of the city: Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree. These will help you get a feel for the shape and scale of Japan’s capital.
If you’re feeling courageous, Tokyo Tower features a see-through glass floor that you can walk across. Try not to have a heart attack when your kids decide to start jumping around! This tower was built in 1958 and at 1,092 feet high was once the tallest structure in Tokyo. Many say it’s better to visit Tokyo Tower at night for enchanting views across the city by starlight.
Tokyo Skytree is far taller at 2,080 feet and more popular than Tokyo Tower, though some say the views aren’t as interesting. Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding tower in the world! Braver souls will love the unique glass spiral walkway and viewpoint with see-through glass floors. There are multiple cylindrical observation levels at varying heights.
For visitors who prefer an overview at street level, why not jump on a city bus tour? Several tour companies run sightseeing hop-on-hop-off buses around the city, including Sky Bus. You can even combine your bus tour with a river tour on an amphibious Sky Duck. However, the most eco-friendly way to explore Tokyo is by bicycle. Bring your own in a bag or book a Tokyo Bike Sharing bike for the day.
Visit the big attractions
Every city has its major landmarks that you must see. For Tokyo, these are the Imperial Palace and Senso-ji Temple.
The Imperial Palace traces its history back to 1457 when a fortress was erected on this site. The current main structure was built in 1888 and is the official residence of the Emperor of Japan. In truth, he and his family live in a modern complex within the palace gardens built in 1993. The 17th-century palace parks are surrounded by thick walls and a moat. Note that you must book in advance for a tour of the palace and its beautiful gardens.
The Sensō-ji Temple is Tokyo’s most iconic shrine. Like many Tokyo landmarks, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. However, with each rebuilding, the temple has retained its original 645CE design. The temple is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion. It is believed that the smoke from the Incense Vat has mystical medicinal properties, so many people come here to pray for healing. The temple is especially beautiful at night when illuminated by lamps.
See the future
Do your kids know what they want to do when they grow up? Visit KidZania to find out. KidZania is a city designed just for kids where everything is to 2/3 scale. Inside the city, your kid can choose from 100 careers to try out. They’ll be given a uniform and put to work in their chosen job. This is a great chance for them to discover if they would prefer to be a police officer or a chef. This attraction is aimed at kids aged 4 to 12, but you must book at least a month in advance to ensure a place. Wednesdays are English speaking days.
The Tokyo Fire Museum also offers kids the opportunity to dress up as a firefighter and play in real fire trucks and helicopters. The museum also holds a collection of historic fire fighting equipment and dioramas depicting past devastating fires. Displays show the evolution of fire fighting from the birth of modern techniques to a working fire station next door to the museum.
Visit more kid-friendly museums
Your kids will have lots of fun in the National Museum of Nature and Science which is found in Ueno Park near Ueno Zoo. Opened in 1871, it is one of Japan’s oldest museums. From dinosaurs to robots, there’s something for everyone. The museum features lots of hands-on and kid-friendly exhibits to make learning fun. Many visitors also take in the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation to see a vision of the future and watch the famous walking robot demonstrations. Here you can interact with an AI and learn about androids.
Also Read: 3 Must-Visit Family Attractions in Tokyo (Not Disneyland)
Let your hair down
Tokyo boasts a selection of amusement parks for the whole family. Tokyo Dome City is actually in the city center and offers adrenaline-pumping rides and a child-friendly atmosphere. Older kids will love the Thunder Dolphin rollercoaster and the Big O centerless Ferris wheel. Toddlers can bounce around inside the ASO Bono indoor play facility, with its plarail railway toys, children’s house, and ball pool. There’s even a baby area.
The most popular amusement park is Tokyo Disneyland, which is the world’s 3rd-most-visited amusement park. Just like any other Disney theme park around the world, you’ll meet Mickey, Minnie, and Donald Duck. Ride the train through Big Thunder Mountain, play Ride & Go Seek with Monsters Inc., and climb aboard a Space Cruiser with Buzz Lightyear. Visit on normal working weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds.
Tokyo DisneySea is a unique theme park that offers more rides than Disneyland and is the world’s 4th-most-visited amusement park. The park is divided into 7 “ports of call” (areas) each with its own distinct theme and collection of rides. One example is Mermaid Lagoon, where you’ll find characters from The Little Mermaid and attractions to match this theme. The indoor attractions use special effects to give visitors the impression of being underwater. Ariel’s Playground is a kids’ playground that takes children through settings from the movie.