Tokyo is the ultimate city break – yes, even with kids! There is so much to do in Tokyo with kids – it’s a fantastic place to visit with your family, and it’s my kids’ favourite city that we’ve ever visited. Traditional and modern, with tranquil gardens and glittering electric lights, sumo wrestlers and robots, Tokyo has something for everyone.
Don’t be put off by this mega-city’s size and reputation for being the busiest in the world. Tokyo is huge, and yes, it’s super busy – but the Japanese are so well organised that getting around Tokyo is easier than you think, even with two kids aged 5 and 3. I guarantee that you and your family will have a blast.
Tokyo with kids: 5 day Tokyo itinerary
Five days in Tokyo is a good length of time for your first visit. It allows you enough time to look around the main areas of Tokyo without feeling rushed. It also gives you enough time to go on a day trip from Tokyo if you want to.
In this post I’ll go over a complete 5 day Tokyo itinerary. It’s pretty much what we did but I’ll give alternative suggestions that you might be interested in, especially if you’re travelling with older kids. Families with teens aren’t necessarily going to want to do things that small kids will, although in Tokyo that’s not always the case as many attractions will appeal to everyone!
At the end of the post you’ll find information on how to get to Tokyo from Narita; where to stay in Tokyo with kids; and how to get around Tokyo. Happy planning!
The best things to do in Tokyo with kids
There are so many things to do in Tokyo with kids! And you can guarantee that adults will love them all too – Tokyo is a place where everyone will find something that they love. Tokyo is one of my favourite cities – it even gives London a run for its money, and I think if I spent more time in Tokyo it would quickly become my top city.
And if you’re looking for more things to do in Japan with kids then take a look at this list of unmissable experiences in Japan.
Read on to find out the best way to spend 5 days in Tokyo with kids!
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Day 1 in Tokyo with kids: Harajuku and Shibuya
Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu)
On your first full day you might as well throw yourself into the thick of things by heading to one of Tokyo’s busiest areas! Head to Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote Line and turn right out of the exit. Walk up the hill and turn right and you’ll find yourself at the entrance to Meiji Shrine, one of Japan’s most important religious sites. The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji who died in 1912 – he was the grandfather of the present Emperor Akihito and was instrumental in the Japanese modernisation revolution, bringing the Tokugawa Shogunate to an end and opening Japan up to the world.
The Meiji Shrine is set within Yoyogi Park which is a great spot to relax and people watch. There are sometimes events held here, especially in the summer months. It’s the perfect spot for a stroll and to get away from the busy streets.
While Meiji Shrine might be busy with Japanese and tourists alike, the path up to the shrine is peaceful and calming which make the most of the relative quiet before you head to the frenetic Harajuku and Takeshita Street. Once you’ve admired the shrine, head back to the station and take a walk down Takeshita Dori, one of Tokyo’s most famous streets.
Harajuku: Takeshita Dori
Takeshita Dori is heaving at the best of times but Sundays are especially busy. Guess which day we picked! We did choose Sunday deliberately as I was hoping that we could catch a glimpse of some of Japan’s famous otaku (youth) culture – we were on the lookout for some cosplayers but sadly we had no luck. They seem to have moved on since my last visit to Tokyo when I saw lots of cosplayers. You might have more luck in Akihabara.
Head down Takeshita Dori to explore some of the shops lining the streets. There’s a huge Daiso here which is a ¥100 shop so you can pick up some treats for the kids here. Kids will love looking at the bright clothes and thrift shops here, and make sure they look up too, as there’s weird and wonderful creatures on the top of some of the buildings.
It helps if you bring an appetite to Harajuku as there’s absolutely tons of street food to try. Some of the most famous food along the street is the enormous, pastel rainbow coloured candy floss that you’ve probably seen on Instagram (it’s just for show really, there’s no way you’ll be able to eat it all!). Other popular treats include crepes stuffed with every filling you can imagine, both sweet and savoury. We were on the lookout for creme brulee crepes but perhaps they’re old hat now, as all we could find was tiramisu filled pancakes. Not that I’m complaining!
Another thing that you might be interested in on Takeshita Dori are its animal cafes. You’ll find animal cafes all over Japan and they’re wildly popular as you’re able to pat and play with the resident animals. Each cafe is usually themed around one animal – often cats, but other more exotic and unusual animals like owls and hedgehogs are becoming more popular.
There’s the famous Harry Hedgehog Cafe here, and another Harry’s Zoo Cafe nearby too. We also saw a number of cat cafes. We didn’t go into any of them – the husband is allergic to several animals including cats, and I don’t particularly agree with the ethics of animal cafes. Lots of these animal cafes have nocturnal animals awake in the day or allow people to play with prey animals like hedgehogs. It must be very stressful for them no matter how gently they’re treated. But there’s no denying that the hedgehogs are utterly adorable and despite my reservations I was tempted to go in.
Harajuku: Kawaii Monster Cafe
One cafe I would recommend for lunch is the Kawaii Monster Cafe. To get there walk to the end of Takeshita-Dori and turn right. The Monster Cafe is on the other side of the road near the next big intersection – it’s up on the fourth floor of the building and you’ll see an enormous sign in the windows. If you cross the road here then make sure you pop into the Tokyu Hands building to see its amazing entrance!
The Kawaii Monster Cafe was my daughter’s favourite place in Tokyo. The cafe is decorated in a sort of Alice-in-Wonderland crossed with Willy Wonka, but on acid. It’s worth spending some time walking around and taking in the decor! In the middle of the main room there’s a huge stage where you’ll see the occasional performance and you might get to meet Chompy, the resident monster.
I wasn’t expecting much from the food (being a vegetarian my options were very limited anyway). I ordered pancakes but dear God they were sugary – I actually couldn’t eat them as they were far too sickly. The others fared better – the husband got a burger and the boy was happy with his rainbow spaghetti (although we had to pick out all the meat chunks for him so veggies beware!).
I’d only recommend taking small kids here in the daytime – in the evening it looks as though it’s got much more of an adult element to the entertainment.
Harajuku: KiddyLand and Omotesando
Just around the corner, past Tokyu Plaza department store is Omotesando, a fashionable shopping area with lots of high end stores. You can get some retail therapy here if you like. We took the kids to KiddyLand, a five-storey building of kid heaven.
KiddyLand is a great place to take kids. The floors are separated out by character or franchise so it’s easy to find what you’re interested in. You can get toys from Western franchises like Star Wars and Marvel action figures. There are also loads of Japanese characters here – there’s a big Studio Ghibli section and huge Hello Kitty and Pompompurin areas too. Most of the toys here are only sold in Japan so they make perfect souvenirs. Set a budget before you go in though or the kids will blow the lot!
In the evening take the Yamanote Line one stop to Shibuya and go out of the Hachiko exit. Here you can see the famous Hachiko statue. Much like Greyfriars Bobby, Hachiko was a loyal dog who would wait for her master at the train station every day after he died. Hachiko’s statue is a popular meeting point so don’t be surprised if it’s super crowded here.
The Shibuya Crossing is probably the world’s most famous crossing. It’s actually one of the places that you want to be at rush hour as the view of the mass of people crossing the road is better the busier it is. You’ll want to cross it several times yourselves as well as watching everyone else scramble across!
One of the best, but most crowded viewpoints is the Starbucks on the first floor across the road from Shibuya station. We grabbed an evening snack here (they have vegetarian sandwiches) and while we didn’t manage to sit by the window we could still stand for a good view. Can you spot the bride posing for a photoshoot in the above photo?
After you’ve watched the crossing for a bit, you can head deeper into the Shibuya area to look at the neon lights if you and the kids still have enough energy! Head down Shibuya Center Gai street just off the crossing for some nightlife and restaurants. If you visit Japan in winter, then take a look at the Shibuya Blue Cave winter illuminations nearby (pictured).
Day 2 in Tokyo with kids: Hamarikyu Gardens, Asakusa, Ueno, Tokyo Skytree
Hamarikyu Gardens and water bus ride
Hamarikyu Gardens are right in the centre of Tokyo near to Shiodome station. This is a manicured Japanese garden with paths, boardwalks and bridges over lakes. I love the view of the traditional gardens framed by modern skyscrapers.
There’s a wonderful old-fashioned tea house in the centre of the park and this is a lovely place for matcha tea and a snack. There’s a small entrance fee to the gardens – ¥300 for adults, kids go free.
When you’re done walking around the gardens head down to the pier and get a water bus up to Asakusa along the Sumida river (unfortunately the boat doesn’t make a return journey). The boat ride up the river is great fun and kids will enjoy it, and the boats are suitably futuristic looking. It’s a lovely way to get a different perspective on Tokyo. You can check departures and reserve tickets here.
Asakusa: Senso-ji Temple
Asakusa is one of the oldest and most atmospheric areas in Tokyo, and makes a great contrast to the modern streets of Harajuku. It’s my favourite place in Tokyo and I’d say that it’s unmissable. But it can also be as crowded as Harajuku is.
Once you get to Asakusa head to the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre. If you want to pick up some information and get your bearings then this is the place to come to. It’s also well worth heading up to the top floor to get a birds’ eye view of the Senso-ji temple complex.
The Senso-ji temple area is going to be the main draw; this is one of Tokyo’s oldest and most beautiful temples. We visited Asakusa with Arigato Japan Food Tours and ate our way around the area – it’s a tough life! We’d highly recommend taking an Arigato Japan tour when in Tokyo – click here to read our full review and get your discount code.
As well as visiting Senso-ji temple and Asakusa shrine, you may also want to browse in the shops along Nakamise-Dori which is just opposite Senso-ji temple. I’d also recommend looking around the covered shopping streets that run across Nakamise-Dori.
You might also be interested in seeing Kappabashi-dori which is Tokyo’s kitchen street. It’s where the fake food that you’ll see in restaurant windows is up for sale, as well as any other kitchen item you can think of. Kappabashi street is in between Asakusa and Ueno area.
Just watch the time – it’s easy to lose track in Asakusa as there’s so much to see, and you can easily spend the rest of the day here. (Mind you, this would be in no way a wasted day).
Hanayashiki Amusement Park
Just around the back of the temple is Japan’s oldest amusement park. Many of the rides here are suitable for small children, and while the rides aren’t anything to those at Disney Land, it still makes a fun stop for the kids. The Bee Tower is the best ride and you can get some views over Asakusa from here.
Entry to Hanayashiki costs ¥1000 for adults, ¥500 for kids aged 6+. You have to pay for each ride separately too.
Ueno Park, Ueno Zoo and Tokyo National Museum
After spending the morning in Asakusa, you can jump on the train (or walk) to Ueno. Here there’s a large park which is one of the nicest in Tokyo, and has plenty for kids to do as well as being beautiful in cherry blossom and autumn leaves seasons. There’s tons of stuff to do here.
Younger kids will probably want to visit Ueno Zoo which is home to a giant panda as well as plenty of other large animals like gorillas, elephants and polar bears. Smaller animals like Galapagos tortoises and Japanese macaques also feature here. There’s a petting zoo for kids which they’re sure to love. A monorail links the two sides of the park and kids will enjoy riding this! Entry to Ueno Zoo costs ¥600 for adults.
There’s also a large selection of museums in and around Ueno Park. There’s the famous Tokyo National Museum which older children might be interested in, although I wouldn’t really recommend it for small children. It mainly displays art and items from Japan’s past, and the collections are housed in several buildings. Entry to the museum is ¥620 per adult and it’s closed on Mondays (or Tuesday if the Monday of that week is a public holiday).
Alternatively you could just stroll around the park. There’s a large pond with fountains, a huge waterlily pond, and several more shrines (if you’re not templed out). If you’re travelling with young children it might be a good idea to let them run around for a bit. There’s a kids’ playground in the centre of Ueno Park and I’m sure your small children will thank you for taking them!
If you still have time (you may not, depending on how quickly you’ve seen the above) then you can choose from heading to Akihabara or the Tokyo Skytree for the evening. Akihabara is Tokyo’s Electric Town – you can shop here for any electronic item you can think of (although make sure they’ll work back home before you buy!). The whole area lights up brilliantly at night. Don’t worry about heading there later in the day – many of the shops stay open until 8 or 9pm.
There’s also a lot of otaku culture here too – so if you missed out on seeing any in Harajuku then you could try here instead. There are a huge amount of comic book stores, maid cafes and other themed shops, like Tsukomo Robot Kingdom. Small kids might like going to the Gundam cafe – I probably wouldn’t take them to a maid cafe personally!
Akihabara station is on the Yamanote Line, direct from Ueno.
An alternative to heading to Akihabara is going to Tokyo Skytree. You can’t miss the Skytree – it’s the tallest tower in the world and the main viewing deck is 350m high. You can go even higher if you want, up another 100m. So this is the highest view of Tokyo you’re going to get! Getting there just before sunset is a good time to go as you can watch Tokyo’s lights twinkle on as the sun goes down.
Once you’re done looking at the view, there’s a cafe at the main observation deck (be prepared to queue for your seat), or there’s a huge mall at the base of the tower. When we visited we saw lots of winter themed food stalls outside, but inside there were tons of shops, a food court and a huge soft play centre for small kids.
It’s probably best to book your Tokyo Skytree tickets in advance so you can skip the queue. Prices vary according to which ticket you select and the age of your kids. Click here to book Tokyo Skytree tickets.
To reach the Tokyo Skytree from Ueno take the metro back to Asakusa and then take the Skytree train or walk from Asakusa.
Day 3 in Tokyo with kids: Day trips from Tokyo
There are plenty of opportunities to take a day trip from Tokyo, and this is a great idea to tick off some more destinations in Japan. Which one you pick will depend on the age of your kids and what they’re interested in.
Studio Ghibli Museum Mitaka
This is the day trip that we chose to take with our kids as they love the Studio Ghibli movies. The Ghibli Museum is based in Mitaka which is on the outskirts of Tokyo. Set within a pretty park, the museum is full of trivia, concept art, exhibits on the animation process, and best of all, there’s a Cat Bus for the kids to play on. You even get to watch a short in the on site cinema. The kids loved it.
Mitaka itself is a nice area. Inokashira Park that the museum is in is very pretty, especially in spring and summer. You can hire boats or swan pedalos to go out on the lake, which is fun for anyone, let alone kids!
If you’d like to visit the Ghibli Museum make sure you read our post about it here as you have to plan how to buy your tickets well before you travel to Japan.
Kamakura and Enoshima
Kamakura is an easy day trip from Tokyo with kids. It’s a nice easy journey from Tokyo out to the countryside, and the main things to see in Kamakura are temples and shrines. Before your kids groan too much, the temples are set along lovely paths through forested hills so this is a great breath of fresh air from the city. Don’t miss the enormous seated Buddha, second only in size to the one just outside Hong Kong.
Alternatively you can explore the coastline by Kamakura – there are several nice sandy beaches and the island of Enoshima with its shrines, gardens and hot springs.
To reach Kamakura from Tokyo take the JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station, or the JR Shonan Shinjuku line from Shinjuku Station. Both journeys take around an hour.
Nikko is a little further than Kamakura, but still possible to visit in a day. A small town up in the mountains north of Tokyo, Nikko is an important place for the Japanese. It’s where Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried – he’s the samurai often considered to be the founder of modern Japan. There’s a huge amount of stunning temples to explore at Nikko, all in beautifully tranquil woodlands. Tokugawa’s shrine, the Toshogu Shrine, is unusual in how decorative the buildings are; there’s nothing else like them in Japan. The shrines have also recently undergone restoration so they’re now at their sparkling best.
Other things that you should see in Nikko include the Tamozawa Imperial Villa and the famous red bridge, Shinkyo Bridge.
To get to Nikko from Tokyo you need to take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Ueno or Tokyo Station to Utsonomiya, where you need to change for the JR Nikko Line to Nikko Station. It should take less than two hours.
Hakone or Kawaguchiko
Hakone has the potential to be a bit of a killer day trip from Tokyo. It’s really better suited to an overnight stay, but it’s possible to do the main circuit in a day (probably not with small kids though). The most popular thing to do here is the Hakone Loop, a self guided tour of Hakone’s main attractions.
At Hakone you can take a cable car over the volcanic area of Owakudanai to a spot where you might be able to get one of the best views of Mt Fuji. From here you can take a trip on a pirate ship over a lake, and jump on a bus back to the town.
The Hakone Free Pass gives you access to transportation around the Hakone Loop. Note that although the pass is valid for two days, it still saves you money if you’re only going to be in Hakone for the day. Click here to buy the Hakone Free Pass.
Kawaguchiko is one of the five lakes around Mt Fuji, and makes a good alternative to Hakone. You can get some of the best views of Mt Fuji from here, and one of the most famous shots of Mt Fuji and a red pagoda is taken at Arakura Shrine near Lake Kawaguchiko. Kawaguchiko is linked with direct trains from Tokyo, so it’s super easy to get there.
DisneyLand and DisneySea
I absolutely have to mention Tokyo Disney Land, don’t I? We opted not to take our children to Disney Land when we visited Japan because the boy is still pretty small for his age and we didn’t think the kids would get the most out of the visit (we’ll take them next time!).
But most families will definitely have Disney on their wish list when they go to Japan, and it’s a brilliant visit (yes, I have been!). Disney with a Japanese twist is definitely something worth seeing!
Disney Land is best for small kids and those who want a traditional Disney vibe. Tokyo Disney Sea is probably the better park for older kids as it’s more innovative and has more thrill rides. It’s also the only Disney Sea in the world so if you’re looking for a unique Disney visit then this is the one to choose.
Getting to Tokyo Disney is easy. From Tokyo Station take the JR Keiyo/Musashino line to Maihama station. The parks are a 10 minute monorail journey from Maihama or a 20 minute walk.
Day 4 in Tokyo with kids: Odaiba
Odaiba is a man made island on Tokyo’s harbour. It’s got loads of attractions, enough for several days, so spending a day in Odaiba is definitely worth your while. It’s even fun to get to; a futuristic monorail sweeps you over the Rainbow Bridge to the island.
TeamLab: Borderless at Mori Digital Arts Museum
The TeamLab: Borderless is one of the best things to do in Tokyo with kids, hands down. If you only take your kids to one museum, make it this one.
The museum is a darkened maze (no maps provided) with digital artworks lining the walls, floors and ceilings. The artwork is interactive – if you touch a figure walking down the corridor then it will bow or look at you. In the main room there’s a digital waterfall – you can sit underneath it and watch the water flowing around you. And upstairs there’s a room especially for kids where little ones can play in a sensory area, although we had the most fun bouncing on trampolines which made stars explode into supernovas if you bounced long enough.
Allow at least two to three hours for TeamLab: Borderless and make sure to book your tickets in advance online as they usually sell out. Click here to book your tickets.
Diver City: Tokyo Plaza
Diver City: Tokyo Plaza is a large shopping mall, but the main attraction is the life-size Gundam statue guarding the entrance. It’s Unicorn Gundam and every hour he transforms – his helmet opens and the unicorn horn emerges; his armour on his arms and legs slide about a bit. In the evening there’s a light show around him. If your kids are into robots make sure they don’t miss Gundam!
Inside Diver City there’s a large food court which is where we had lunch – you’ll find plenty of different choices here and the food is reasonably priced.
Decks Tokyo Beach: Trick Art Museum
Around the corner from Diver City is Decks Tokyo Beach, another large mall that has several attractions and shopping inside. The Trick Art Museum is on the 4th floor, through a 1950s styled corridor lined with shops and arcades.
The Trick Art Museum is a great place for kids; the museum is filled with paintings on the walls that you need to pose with. If you look at the paintings from the right angle then you become part of them so you can have all sorts of silly fun posing and making idiots of yourselves. Don’t forget to take your camera – getting the photos right is half the fun!
You don’t need to book the Trick Art Museum in advance, just show up. Entry costs ¥1000 per adult and ¥600 for kids aged 4 – 14.
From outside the Decks Tokyo Beach building you can get a fantastic view of the harbour and the rainbow bridge crossing it. It’s best seen at night when Tokyo (and the bridge) light up. Look out for the replica of the Statue of Liberty too!
More things to do in Odaiba
Miraikan: National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
Miraikan is Japan’s main science museum and it’s where you’ll find some of Japan’s real robots. Asimo is probably the most famous, but there are ever more human-like robots here – some of them are quite eerily human like.
As well as learning about robots you can also find out about space, the human body and the Earth. This museum is geared towards school age kids rather than little children, although there is an accompanied discovery/play area which preschoolers will enjoy. See what’s on for your visit on the website.
Entry costs ¥620 for adults and ¥210 for children.
Museum of Maritime Science
As an island nation, you might think that the Japanese have a lot to say about boats. Indeed they do, and you can find out everything you’ve always wanted to know about boats at the Museum of Maritime Science. You won’t miss the museum as it’s pretty much the size and shape of the QE2 ocean liner.
Inside there’s a comprehensive history of the shipping industry and outside there’s a an Antarctic icebreaker research vessel, Soya.
Admission is free. You should be aware that the main museum is currently being renovated and so the only parts that you can visit are the Soya research vessel and an annex of the museum.
Legoland Discovery Centre
This is in the adjacent building of Decks Tokyo Plaza to the Trick Art Museum and Joypolis. Small kids are bound to go wild in here! The Discovery Centre is aimed at kids aged 3 – 10 and inside there’s plenty to explore. There’s a cinema, rides and plenty of interactive activities to keep the kids busy. Not to mention a Lego shop…
Tickets are best booked online in advance and start at ¥1700 but walk up prices will be more expensive. Click here to book your tickets.
Joypolis is for older kids and teens, as well as adults. It’s Japan’s largest indoor amusement arcade and theme park with VR games, rides and attractions, and it’s run by Sega. As Joypolis is indoors it’s a good option for a rainy day.
Joypolis is not for very small kids as most of the rides have height restrictions, and some of the attractions are unsuitable for small kids (kids under 7 aren’t allowed in the Tokyo Ghoul adventure, unsurprisingly). But tweens and teens will probably really enjoy the experiences. Note that everything is in Japanese!
There are a variety of ticketing options – you can buy the entrance ticket and pay for rides separately or get a passport which allows you go on everything as often as you like. Kids under 6 go free. Click here to buy a Joypolis passport.
Day 5 in Tokyo with kids: Shinjuku
Shinjuku is a hugely busy area in central Tokyo. There’s loads of stuff to see here, and at night its neon lights are particularly entrancing.
Metropolitan Government Buildings
If you didn’t make it to the Tokyo Skytree or you didn’t want to cough up for the ticket, then the Metropolitan Government Buildings are a great and free alternative for far-reaching views across Tokyo. On a clear day Mt Fuji is easily seen. Though you’re not going to get as high a view as you do from the Skytree, it’s still pretty impressive. The building has two towers, both with an observation deck (the South is closed until April 2019) and the North deck stays open longer if you want to catch the views at night.
It can be difficult to navigate your way out of Shinjuku Station (the maps tend to orient themselves by the way that you’re facing, not by north) but you need to try to get out of the west exit and the Skyscraper District is a 10 minute walk away. Alternatively a more direct way is to take the Oedo subway to Tocho-Mae station.
Out of the other side of Shinjuku Station is the Kabukicho district with several attractions that you might be interested in. You might not think that Kabukicho is the best district to take kids to in Tokyo. It’s a red-light area and compared to other parts of Tokyo, it is definitely a bit seedy. While it’s not as blatant as in some other cities I’ve been to (Phuket springs to mind) older kids will definitely notice the billboards and ads in some of the shop entrances. There are also lots of Love Hotels with signs in English – so be prepared for questions from curious youngsters! Our kids were too small to notice or understand so we felt that this area was fine for them in the daytime.
Our first stop in Kabukicho was the Samurai Museum. This is a small museum where you take a guided tour for an hour or so. As it’s a fairly brief tour and has some hands on activities (including dressing up at the end) we chose to go here rather than the Edo-Tokyo Museum which has far more samurai and Edo-era artefacts. The museum is inside a traditional Japanese building which adds to its authentic feel.
At the museum your guide will talk you through the history of samurai, their lives, their armour and some of the most important battles in Japanese history. You’ll also find out more about Tokugawa Ieyasu, the “patient” samurai and his rise. Kids will be enjoy being able to touch some artefacts, like helmets, and dressing up is fun for everyone!
In the afternoons there are sword performances, and if you reserve in advance it’s possible to see concerts, traditional calligraphy and sword lectures. Entry to the samurai museum costs ¥1900 per adult and ¥800 for kids aged 4+. Click here for more details and to book experiences.
Ninja Trick House
An alternative to the Samurai Museum is the Ninja Trick House, just around the corner. If you’re following this itinerary then you probably won’t have time to see the Ninja Trick House as well as the Samurai Museum (we didn’t).
At the Ninja Trick House you get to try out throwing shuriken, learn about the difference between ninja and samurai, and handle Japanese weapons. As the building is very small you have to reserve your place in advance – it will book up. Entry costs ¥1500 and it’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Click here for more information and to book your place.
Shinjuku-Gyoen is a fantastic place to chill out in the afternoon before you hit the Robot Restaurant. There are wide-open grassy spaces perfect for running around in; pretty ponds to spot koi carp in, and a lovely warm glasshouse full of tropical plants. We had a picnic lunch here before heading back to Kabukicho for the evening.
Our kids loved the freedom of running around here after us clutching them pretty tightly through Kabukicho.
Shinjuku Gyoen is especially lovely in spring when its many cherry trees are in bloom, but even in the middle of winter it was prettier than I expected!
We planned our day in Shinjuku around visiting the Robot Restaurant, which is probably one of the most famous things to do in Tokyo. We went to the first performance of the day at 4pm which was super kid-friendly. There were several other kids around the same age as ours, plenty more older children, and even a baby. Some of the later performances can get a bit rowdy and aren’t so kid-friendly.
The performance itself has to be seen to be believed – but it’s probably the most Japanese thing you’ll ever see. Think of a mix of Power Rangers crossed with Pokemon, with added robots, dinosaurs and fish (yes, fish). You can’t fault the performers – they really go for it! Don’t expect to actually eat here; the food is mostly very expensive snacks so I’d recommend that you wait until after the show and eat somewhere else.
The Robot Restaurant generates mixed reviews – some love it and some hate it. Our kids thought it was fantastic and raved about it afterwards! We’d recommend it for the kids (you know you want to go too)!
Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai
After the madness of the Robot Restaurant, you can head out into some of the alleyways around the Kabukicho area for food. Golden Gai is an atmospheric street filled with tiny restaurants and bars. Be aware that not all of them are family friendly, and others will only serve their local, regular customers. If the menu has an English section then you can be pretty sure of a warm welcome.
Omoide Yokocho, or Piss Alley as it’s affectionately known, is a similar area north of Shinjuku Station. It makes for an interesting wander, even if you don’t go in to any bars or restaurants. Again, you might be refused entry if you’ve got small kids or if the restaurants want to serve their regular customers. Both of these alleyway areas are becoming quite touristy now so do watch out for cover charges and you might have to wait for a while before you get a seat.
If you’re not sure about navigating this area by yourself, you could take a tour through this district which includes dinner. Click here to book your food tour!
If these alleys don’t sound like your kind of place then you can be sure of finding restaurants in Shinjuku station. We had an evening meal in the part of the station underneath this area (Tokyo is a true 3D city!).
More things to do in Tokyo with kids
Not interested in everything on this itinerary so far? There’s so much more to do in Tokyo than a family can do in five days, so here are a few more things to do in Tokyo with kids that we considered, but had to leave for our next trip!
I felt more than a bit guilty not taking my daughter here, but we couldn’t really fit it into our schedule. Sanrio is the company responsible for Hello Kitty (among many other characters) and Puroland is their equivalent of Disneyland. A hefty dose of pink and blue sugary kawaii awaits you here.
Things to do at Sanrio Puroland include several rides, a Hello Kitty house, character parades and shows, and loads of shopping. Shops sell general Sanrio wares or revolve around a single character, including Hello Kitty, My Melody, Pompompurin and even Gudetama the lazy egg. (It makes more sense when you’re there). You can also meet Sanrio’s famous characters – more mum guilt!
Sanrio Puroland isn’t exactly in Tokyo – it’s in a city called Tama which is a 30 minute train journey from Shinjuku.
Buy tickets in advance – click here to buy Sanrio Puroland tickets.
KidZania is an activity centre where kids can role play at doing adult jobs. They could be a firefighter, a doctor, a pilot, a delivery person, work in TV or many other roles.
We’ve been to KidZania in London relatively recently so we didn’t put KidZania Tokyo on our list. It’s best suited for kids aged 5 and up. At only 3, the boy isn’t allowed in most of the activities at KidZania yet so I’d recommend it for older kids.
It’s a good thing to do on a rainy day, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit KidZania unless you’ve exhausted all other Tokyo options – you can visit KidZania in loads of cities. Click here to book your tickets in advance.
KidZania Tokyo is near Toyosu Station, which is towards the Odaiba area.
Yayoi Kusama Museum
Yayoi Kusama’s Museum is a great place to start getting kids interested in art. Kusama’s bold art with its dots and pumpkin motifs is easily accessible for kids and they’re bound to enjoy a visit to the Kusama museum, especially if you can’t get out to Naoshima, Japan’s island of art. The displays and exhibitions vary throughout the year.
In the end we plumped for the TeamLab: Borderless over the Yayoi Kusama Museum but it was a tough choice! We’ll definitely pay a visit here next time we’re in Tokyo.
You need to book tickets to the Kusama museum well in advance of your trip as only a few people are allowed in each day. The museum is open from Thursday to Sunday, and tickets cost ¥1000 for adults and ¥600 for kids aged 6+. Here’s the link to book your tickets.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum is the place to come if you want to learn about Japan’s feudal past. Starting with the famous Tokugawa Ieyasu, the museum traces the history of Tokyo through the ages right up until the present day.
There are reconstructions of homes, bridges, transport and more, and lots of intricate models bringing the street scenes to life. Edo Tokyo Museum entry costs ¥600 per adult and young children go free. Click here for more information.
The nearby garden, Kyu-Yasuda Teien, is a lovely little spot for lunch. Kids will love the stepping stones over its pond.
Tokyo Toy Museum
The Tokyo Toy Museum is a hands on play area for kids of all ages. It’s located in Shinjuku so could be a good stop if you’re in the area and you’re not into samurai or ninja! There are different areas for wooden toys, traditional Japanese toys, scientific toys, baby areas and much more. There are over 15,000 toys in the collection!
Entry for adults costs ¥800 and ¥500 for kids. Here’s a PDF with more information.
Tokyo Dome City
Tokyo Dome City is an amusement area located in central Tokyo. There’s a huge mix of attractions here and it looks as though you could probably spend all day here.
At the Tokyo Dome itself you can watch a baseball match – the Japanese are almost as into baseball as the Americans. There’s also a museum dedicated to the history of baseball in Japan.
As well as the Dome there’s also a large amusement park with rollercoasters including the Thunder Dolphin ride which goes through the side of a building.
Click here to find out more about Tokyo Dome City and its many attractions.
Tokyo Character Street
This is a cute street found somewhere in the bowels of Tokyo Station. You’ll find shops full of character goods and the kids can shop until their hearts content! Character shops include Studio Ghibli, Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Rilakkuma and many more.
It’s worth looking for if you’re passing through Tokyo Station and you have a few spare minutes (we never did, sadly, although I meant to get there!). The street is underneath the Yaesu North Exit.
Tsukiji Fish Market
This one wasn’t on our list as the kids and I are vegetarians, so, yeah, not for us. But people rave about going to the Tsukiji Fish Market and as sushi is Japan’s most famous cuisine, if you like fish it’s worth going to see this and grabbing some of the freshest fish money can buy.
Tsukiji used to be all about watching the auctions in the very early hours. Be aware that the market has changed a lot recently. The actual auctions bit has moved to another location at Toyosu, down near Odaiba, but the outer market is still going in its original location, as are plenty of sushi restaurants. The fish sold at Tsukiji Outer Market is sent over from Toyosu.
If you’re not sure about navigating the market yourself, why not take a tour? Click here for more information on Tsukiji tours.
To get to Tsukiji Outer Market take the subway to Tsukiji or Tsukiji Shijo stations. The market is a short walk from either stop.
The Imperial Palace is where to Emperor of Japan and his family live. You’re not usually able to go into the Inner Gardens except at certain times of the year unless you book a guided tour – click here for more information. You aren’t able to go inside any buildings so don’t expect a palace tour!
However, the Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public and here you can retreat from the busy Tokyo streets and see the ruins of the old Edo Castle. Ninomaru garden is worth walking around.
Would you like to see sumo wrestlers training? Then pay a visit to the sumo stables where the wrestlers live and train. This is one activity for older kids only. It’s not suitable for smaller children as you have to watch quietly, and can’t drink or eat while the wrestlers are training in case you disturb them. Click here to book a tour.
If you’re in Tokyo at the right time then you might want to book tickets to a sumo match – it’s highly recommended. On my first visit to Japan I was lucky enough to see a match in Fukuoka (pictured). Tournaments are held in Tokyo three times a year at Kokugikan, the national stadium. This is centrally located in the Ryogoku district. There’s also a small museum at the stadium although you can’t access it during tournaments unless you have a tournament ticket. Click here to buy tickets to a sumo tournament.
Tokyo with kids: Know before you go
Arrival in Tokyo – getting from Narita airport to central Tokyo
I’m cheating a bit here as I’m not going to count your arrival into Tokyo as day 1. If you’re coming from the UK, North America or Australia then there’s no getting around it – you are going to be dog-tired when you arrive in Tokyo, and so are your kids! So take it easy and make sure you’ve pre-planned how to get to your hotel from Narita (or Haneda) airport.
Coping with jet-lag in Japan
Try to make arrival easier on yourself by picking a decent arrival time. With the time difference it can be difficult to know which is best: fly overnight and arrive in the evening, or fly through the day and arrive in the morning. You know your family best so pick what works for you – however, if you’re arriving at night then be aware that it takes some time to get into central Tokyo from Narita airport.
Whichever way you do it, try to get yourselves on to Japanese time as quickly as possible.
We flew through the day from London, stopping in Copenhagen on the way. We arrived into Tokyo at about 11am the next day. I’d been waking the kids up progressively earlier and putting them to bed as soon as I got them home from school for a couple of weeks before we went to Japan, so I’d managed to shift their body clocks by maybe four hours before we left.
By the time the kids had settled onto the Copenhagen to Tokyo leg, it was their new early bedtime and they slept for about 7 or 8 hours straight until we landed (and the boy promptly threw up, but we’ll forget that). The girl didn’t suffer from jet-lag at all, and the boy woke up in the night for about 3 nights before he finally adjusted so all in all it could have been a lot worse.
And one thing I’ve discovered about being mum to two small kids is that I don’t notice jet-lag any more; being sleep deprived feels pretty normal now. I’m not sure this is a good thing!
How to get from Narita Airport to central Tokyo
Once you arrive at Narita, there are several options for getting into Tokyo. There’s not necessarily a hands-down best way from Narita to Tokyo as it depends where you’re staying as to which is the best option.
If you have bought a Japan Rail Pass then you can activate it now and use it to get into Tokyo. However I don’t always recommend doing this – you don’t need a JR Pass in Tokyo and so if you’re spending several days here then you’d be wasting the expensive pass.
Trains: Narita Express
The Narita Express is one of the more popular options to get into Tokyo. The Narita Express train departs every 30 – 40 minutes and takes you to Tokyo Station, where you can change for the metro and Yamanote Line. The journey takes about an hour.
JR passes are valid on this train but you need to reserve seats before you travel. However we used our JR passes on the return journey and didn’t have time to make a seat reservation. The guards do check seat allocation on these trains so they picked up we hadn’t reserved our seats. When we showed our JR passes they didn’t mind.
If you’re buying Narita Express tickets then get your seat reservation at the same time. You can buy tickets inside the Narita airport train station where there are ticket machines and desks. Tickets cost in the region of ¥3000. Kids under 6 travel for free but will have to sit on laps.
TIP: To save money, you can ask for an N’EX return ticket which costs ¥4000 and is valid for a return journey within 14 days. You can only get this ticket at Narita Airport and it’s for foreign passport holders only. It’s probably worth doing this!
Trains: JR Sobu Line
The JR Sobu Line runs from Narita into Tokyo. It’s a slower but cheaper option so is good for budget travellers. Trains will take 90 minutes but only cost ¥1320, and depart roughly every hour. Buy your tickets at Narita station, or just grab a Suica or Pasmo card (more information later).
Trains: Keisei Skyliner
We took the Keisei Skyliner into Tokyo so that we could change at Ueno Station for the metro to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa where our hostel was. This was more convenient for us than taking the Narita Express to Tokyo Station. Keisei Skyliner tickets cost ¥2470 but you can buy cheaper tickets online in advance. Click here to book Skyliner tickets.
Skyliner is the fastest way into Tokyo at just 41 minutes to Ueno Station. Bear in mind that Ueno is not as central as Tokyo so it depends on where you’re staying as to whether you should choose Keisei Skyliner or the Narita Express. Mind you, Ueno isn’t a bad place to base yourself as it’s on the Yamanote Line so you can get around Tokyo easily from here.
Don’t be fooled by the name, while a pleasant journey, the Limousine Bus isn’t as luxurious as it sounds! However it’s a good budget option, getting you into Tokyo in about 90 minutes and for ¥1300. Click here to book the Limousine Bus.
There’s also another bus that runs into central Tokyo – the Keisei Bus is a snip at only ¥1000 per adult. Buses leave every 20 minutes and drop you off at Tokyo Station. Click here to book your tickets in advance.
If budget is not a concern then you can of course get a car to take you to your hotel direct from Narita. This is certainly a convenient option as you won’t have to worry about dragging your luggage around but it’s not a choice for budget travellers! Click here to book a private car from Narita to your Tokyo hotel.
Get on Tokyo time after check in
After you’ve reached your hotel you will definitely want to freshen up and maybe grab a quick power nap before heading out. You need to get onto Tokyo time as quickly as possible so however tempting it might be to sleep for hours, don’t!
Get out and explore the area around your hotel. We jumped on a train and went to nearby Shiodome for the evening, where we got to see some winter illuminations and watched the Ghibli clock chime. Bleary eyed and not thinking particularly straight, we tried (without success) to find some Japanese food suitable for veggies; we ended up having our first meal in an Indian restaurant – always a safe bet for veggies, but not very Japanese!
Where to stay in Tokyo with kids: the best Tokyo hotels for families
Top end hotels in Tokyo for families
The Park Hyatt Hotel is near Shinjuku. It’s one of Tokyo’s most famous hotels as it was featured in Lost In Translation. The views from its bars and restaurants are incredible, especially in the evenings. There are fantastic facilities on site including a pool and sauna. Unfortunately for kids, they’re not allowed in the New York Bar, but parents can take advantage of the babysitting services and sneak off for the evening! Click here to check availability and book.
The Peninsula Tokyo is a high end hotel next to Tokyo Station. Rooms are top notch and the hotel has extensive facilities including a pool, spa and gym. There are several restaurants on site so no chance of going hungry! There’s also a shuttle bus from the airport. Click here for more information and to book your stay.
The Four Seasons hotel in Marunouchi has a great location right by Tokyo Station. Its rooms are beautifully appointed and the are hot spring baths and a sauna on site. Kids will love playing on the console games supplied! Click here to book your stay.
Mid range hotels in Tokyo for families
The New Otani Tokyo Garden Tower has incredible views out over its stunning 400 year old garden. Family rooms mean that you can all stay together and there’s a restaurant, pools, gym and spa on site. The hotel is located in Akasaka close to transport links. Click here for more information and to book your stay.
The Grand Nikko Hotel is located in Odaiba and boasts spectacular views across the bay from its restaurant on the 30th floor. Rooms are Western style and spacious, especially the family rooms and as the hotel only opened in 2016 everything’s in great condition. On site amenities include a pool, gym and restaurant. You can get a free shuttle bus to Disneyland. Click here to book your stay.
Mimaru Tokyo Ueno Inaricho is an apartment hotel close to Ueno station. The rooms are fairly large by Japanese standards and family rooms come with two beds and two sofa beds. Each apartment has a kitchenette, seating area and TV and Wifi. Bathrooms are private. Click here to book this hotel. If this hotel isn’t available for your stay there are other Mimaru hotels across Tokyo.
Budget hotels and hostels in Tokyo for families
If you’re after budget accommodation in Tokyo then get your skates on as budget hotels and hostels get booked up quickly. Be aware that rooms may be very small, with only enough room for the beds!
We were on a backpacker’s budget and so we tried to get the best accommodation for the cheapest price that we could. In Tokyo we stayed at the Share Hotels Lyuro, near the metro station Kiyosumi-Shirakawa. It might look a little out of the way but the two metro lines at K-S station were super convenient and connected us direct to Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Tokyo Skytree among other main stops. Sitting right on the Sumida river, the views from our room were fantastic, and there is also a great seating area outside (pictured). We managed to get a private room with two bunk beds, although bathrooms were shared. Click here to book the Share Hotels Lyuro.
Hotel Trend Asakusa has family rooms in a great location in one of the most atmospheric areas in Tokyo. The hotel provides Wifi, TV and fridges in the room, and bathrooms are private. Click here to book your room.
Hostel Pumpkey is over in Shinjuku near to the lovely Shinjuku Gyoen gardens. It’s a pretty central location not too far from Shinjuku Station. The rooms are dorm rooms but you can get a private room with two bunk beds which is suitable for families. As with many hostels and ryokans in Tokyo, bathrooms are shared. Click here to book this hostel.
If you’d like to be near Tokyo Disney then the Comfort Suites Tokyo Bay is the best budget option for you! It’s family friendly, with family rooms and there’s a free shuttle bus to Disneyland. Click here to book your stay.
A note on AirBnB in Japan
Be wary when booking AirBnB in Japan. Private homes for rent, or minpaku, recently become heavily regulated so do make sure that you’re booking into an official property as loads of properties have been removed from the database. However it’s still a valid option for family stays in Japan, and you may find that it’s best for budget and space. To avoid any problems just make sure you always book through AirBnB and that you use superhosts. If you’re new to AirBnB then you can get £25 from signing up through this link.
How to get around Tokyo with kids
Paying for public transport in Tokyo – Pasmo and Suica Cards
You need two things to get around Tokyo with kids easily: pocket Wifi (or a Japanese SIM card) and an IC card like a Suica or Pasmo card. We used a Pasmo as we could also use it on Kyoto’s buses but either will be fine. You can also use your IC Card for purchases in some convenience stores and even vending machines!
You can buy your IC Card from the ticket machines by the gates, or click here to buy a Suica pass online. The machines have an English language button, but we found that in most train and metro stations there was an English speaking member of staff on hand to help. You top your card up with money at the machines and then tap in and out of the gates – there is a ¥500 refundable charge to buy the card initially – you can get this back if you hand the card in before you leave.
Kids under 6 do not need to pay for transport in Tokyo. You can get a child IC Card for older kids but you need to take your child’s ID along to a manned ticket office to get it.
If you’re buying a Japan Rail Pass and you want to use it to get around Japan, don’t buy a pass that includes the time you’ll spend in Tokyo. It’s much cheaper and more convenient to use a Pasmo or Suica.
The pocket Wifi is indispensable as you will need to use google maps or the Hyperdia app which is brilliant for navigating your way around the train system. Download the Hyperdia app just before you leave for Japan as the first 30 days are free but you’ll have to pay to keep using it after the trial period is up.
Using the Tokyo Metro and train system
As well as the Metro, there are many different train companies and lines in Tokyo and at first glance the map looks overwhelming. With a bit of study it is not as difficult as you think to get around but you need to bear in mind that Tokyo is huge and so are its train stations. There seems to be almost as much Tokyo below ground in the train stations as there is above ground. You might have to walk for quite a while to change lines, for example. However signs are in English and the metro stations are colour coded and numbered which definitely helps with navigation. We also found that there was more often than not a lift to get to ground level.
A useful line to know about is the JR Yamanote Line. It’s a bit like the Circle Line in London, so it’s a loop line connecting many of Tokyo’s most popular stops, like Harajuku, Shibuya, Tokyo and Ueno. We found we used the Metro and Yamanote lines most of the time.
That’s a wrap for our 5 day Tokyo itinerary! Have you been to Tokyo with kids? What did your kids like doing best? Let us know in the comments!
And if you liked this Tokyo City Guide, then check out some of our other capital city guides here: