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The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Kids in Japan

Ms Sasajima
Ayako Sasajima
Aug 11, 2023
Beach with Family

Traveling to Japan with kids can be a truly unforgettable experience, but it can also be a bit intimidating. With its unique customs, unfamiliar language, and fast-paced lifestyle, Japan can present a host of challenges for families with children. But don't let that discourage you from taking your little ones on an adventure to this fascinating country. Japan offers a wealth of opportunities for families, from learning about ancient traditions to exploring cutting-edge technology and indulging in delicious cuisine

In this guide, we'll share everything you need to know about traveling with kids in Japan, from planning your trip and packing your bags to navigating public transportation and finding family-friendly activities. We'll also share tips on where to stay, what to eat, and how to keep your kids entertained during long flights and train rides. So whether you're a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first family trip to Japan, let us help you make it a success with this comprehensive guide to traveling with kids in Japan.

Planning Your Trip

Planning a trip to Japan with kids can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. To ensure that your family has the best possible experience, it's important to plan ahead and consider key factors like timing, budget, and accommodations. Here are some important aspects of planning your trip to Japan with kids:

Navigating the Map
Navigating the Map

Timing is everything: When to Travel to Japan with Kids

When planning a family trip to Japan, it's important to consider the best time of year to visit. The best time to travel to Japan with kids will depend on a variety of factors, including weather, school schedules, and the types of activities you're interested in. Generally, the best times to visit are during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November), when the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds. Summer (June to August) can be hot and humid, and winter (December to February) can be cold and snowy, but both seasons have their own unique charms and activities.

Featured tour
Disneyland
1-Day Disneyland/DisneySea Adventure with Morning Ride from Your Tokyo Hotel

Take the kids to the happiest place on earth.

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Budgeting Tips for Families: Saving for Your Dream Trip

Japan can be an expensive destination, but with careful planning and budgeting, it's possible to make it work for your family. Here are some tips for saving money on your trip:

  • Book your flights and accommodations early to take advantage of early bird deals and discounts.

  • Look for family-friendly hotels that offer discounted rates for children or have special amenities like play areas and kids' clubs.

  • Consider staying in a vacation rental or Airbnb, which can often be more affordable than traditional hotels.

  • Research free or low-cost activities and attractions, such as parks, temples, and museums.

  • Eat like a local by trying street food and visiting grocery stores and markets for snacks and meals.

Where to Stay in Japan: Family-Friendly Accommodation

Choosing the right accommodations for your family is an important part of planning your trip to Japan. Here are some options to consider:

Ryokan
Ryokan

1. Traditional Japanese inns (ryokans) offer a unique cultural experience, with tatami mat floors, futon beds, and traditional meals. However, they may not be suitable for families with young children due to their strict rules and shared facilities.

2. Western-style hotels and resorts often offer more amenities and services, such as swimming pools and English-speaking staff. Many hotels also offer discounted rates for families with children.

3. Vacation rentals and Airbnb are good options for families who want more space and flexibility but may require more planning and preparation.

Activities and Tours to Plan in Advance: Pre-Booking Your Adventure

Japan is full of unique and exciting activities and attractions, but many of them require advance planning and booking. Here are some activities and tours to consider booking before your trip:

Disneyland
Disneyland
  • A visit to Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea, which can be very popular and crowded. Advance tickets are available online or through a travel agent.

  • A guided tour of popular attractions like the temples and shrines of Kyoto, which can offer insight and context to the history and culture of Japan. Many tours offer special activities for children, such as making traditional crafts or participating in a tea ceremony.

  • A traditional tea ceremony or cultural workshop, which can offer a hands-on experience of Japanese culture. Many tea ceremonies and workshops require advance reservations.

  • A trip to Mount Fuji or a hot spring (onsen), which can require advance reservations and planning. Many tours offer transportation and activities for families with children.

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Origami
Family and Beginner Friendly Origami Experience in Asakusa

Enjoy the art of paper folding with your kids.

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Preparing for Your Trip

Preparing for a trip to Japan with kids requires careful planning and organization, especially when it comes to packing, paperwork, and getting your kids ready for a long flight. Here are some essential things to consider before you go:

Travel Documents
Travel Documents

Essential Travel Documents for Families: Don't Forget the Paperwork

When traveling to Japan with kids, it's important to have all the necessary travel documents in order. Here are some documents to consider:

  • Valid passports: Ensure that your passports are valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay in Japan.

  • Japan visa (if required): Check if your home country requires a visa to enter Japan, and apply for one in advance if necessary.

  • Travel insurance: Purchase travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen events.

  • Child consent letter: If you're traveling alone with your kids or with only one parent, you may need a notarized consent letter from the absent parent(s) granting permission for the trip.

Tips for Traveling with Kids: Packing for the Whole Family

Packing for a family trip can be daunting, but with careful planning and organization, you can make it easier. Start by making a packing list that includes everything you'll need for your trip, and check it off as you pack. When packing for a trip to Japan, remember to pack light and avoid bulky luggage, as Japan can be a crowded and compact country. 

Kids Onboard
Kids Onboard

Bring clothing that can be layered for warmth and versatility, as Japan's weather can be unpredictable. And don't forget to bring snacks, books, games, and other entertainment to keep your kids occupied during long flights and train rides.

Preparing Your Kids for a Long Flight: Smooth Sailing

Preparing your kids for a long flight is an important part of ensuring that everyone has a good travel experience. Start by talking to your kids about what to expect during the flight, such as takeoff, turbulence, and landing. Remind your kids to use their indoor voices, stay in their seats, and be polite to other passengers and flight attendants. 

Encourage your kids to stretch their legs and take breaks from sitting by walking up and down the aisle or doing simple exercises. And plan fun activities like coloring or playing games to keep them occupied during the flight.

Navigating Japan with Kids

In Japan, trains, buses, and taxis are the most common modes of transportation. The train system is extensive and efficient, with a variety of options ranging from local trains to high-speed bullet trains. Buses are also widely available, especially in more rural areas where train service may be limited. 

Taxis are a convenient option for short trips or for getting to and from train stations and airports. While public transportation in Japan is generally reliable and efficient, it can be overwhelming for first-time travelers, especially when traveling with kids. ‍

Shinkansen
Shinkansen

Here are some tips for using trains and buses with kids:

  • Research your route in advance: Use a website or app like Hyperdia to plan your route and check train and bus schedules.

  • Purchase tickets in advance: You can purchase tickets for most trains and buses at ticket vending machines or ticket counters.

  • Consider buying a Japan Rail Pass: If you plan on doing a lot of traveling by train, a Japan Rail Pass can save you money and simplify the ticketing process.

  • Look for family-friendly amenities: Many trains and buses in Japan offer family-friendly amenities like diaper-changing tables and nursing rooms.

  • Be prepared for crowds: Trains and buses in Japan can be very crowded, especially during rush hour. Consider traveling outside of peak hours or using a stroller or baby carrier to navigate crowded trains.

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Tokyo Cityscape
Tokyo Highlights: Full-Day Bus Expedition and Cruise Experience

Recommended for a day tour in Tokyo.

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Exploring Japan with Kids

Japan is a fantastic destination for families, with a wealth of activities and attractions to suit every age and interest. Whether you're exploring the vibrant city of Tokyo or the historic city of Kyoto, there's plenty to keep the whole family entertained. Here are some tips for exploring Japan with kids:

Tokyo
Tokyo

Best Family-Friendly Destinations in Japan

Japan is home to many fantastic destinations for families, but some of the best include Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Here's what makes these cities so family-friendly:

  • Tokyo: Tokyo is a vibrant and exciting city that's sure to captivate kids of all ages. From amusement parks and zoos to museums and science centers, there's always something new and exciting to discover in Tokyo.

  • Kyoto: Kyoto is a city steeped in history and culture, with plenty of temples, shrines, and gardens to explore. Kids will love the opportunity to learn about Japanese history and culture through interactive exhibits and activities.

  • Osaka: Osaka is a bustling city with a lively food and entertainment scene. Kids will love sampling local street food, visiting amusement parks, and exploring the city's many museums and galleries.

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Ishikiri Tsurugiyajinja Shrine Kaminosha
Full-Day Private Guided Tour to a Japanese Mountain near Osaka: Ikoma

Visit Ikoma Sanjyo Amusement Park and enjoy the rides.

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Top Attractions and Activities for Kids: Fun for the Whole Family

Japan is home to many fantastic attractions and activities that are sure to keep kids entertained. Here are some top picks for family-friendly fun:

Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower

1. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea: These popular theme parks offer a variety of rides and attractions for kids of all ages, as well as parades and live shows.

2. Universal Studios Japan: Universal Studios Japan is located in Osaka and is a must-visit for families who love movies and amusement parks. The park features a variety of themed attractions, including Harry Potter World and Jurassic Park.

3. Tokyo Tower: Kids will love the chance to see Tokyo from above at the iconic Tokyo Tower. The tower also features a number of restaurants and souvenir shops.

4. Ueno Zoo: Located in Tokyo, Ueno Zoo is home to a variety of animals from around the world, including giant pandas and elephants.

5. KidZania Tokyo: KidZania is a theme park designed for kids, where they can role-play various jobs and careers in a fun and interactive environment.

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Kabukiza
Tokyo Half-Day Tour: Full City Experience by Hybrid Bus

Drop by Tokyo Tower and see the city from above.

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Japanese Cuisine for Kids: Sushi, Ramen, and More

Japanese cuisine offers a variety of dishes that appeal to kids of all ages. Sushi, made with fresh fish and rice, is a classic Japanese dish that's popular with both kids and adults. Ramen, a hearty soup made with noodles, broth, and a variety of toppings like meat, vegetables, and eggs, is a comforting and satisfying option for kids. 

Sushi
Sushi

Tempura, a dish of battered and fried seafood, vegetables, or meat, is a fun and crispy option that kids will love. Yakitori, made with skewered and grilled chicken or other meats, is a popular street food that's easy for kids to eat and enjoy.

Where to Eat in Japan: Finding Kid-friendly Restaurants and Cafes

Japan has a variety of restaurants and cafes that cater to families with kids. One thing to look for is plastic food displays, which many restaurants use to showcase their dishes in their windows or outside. This can be helpful for kids who are picky eaters or unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine.

Another option is to visit department store food courts. Many department stores in Japan have food courts that offer a variety of dishes, making it easy to find something that everyone in the family will enjoy. You can also find family-friendly restaurant chains like Gusto and Saizeriya that offer affordable and tasty meals for families.

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Namba Food Tour
Namba Food Tour: Exploring Osaka's Flavors

Discover Osaka's flavors.

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Conclusion

Japan is a wonderful destination for families with kids, offering a unique and enriching cultural experience that everyone can enjoy. With careful planning, preparation, and a willingness to explore new foods and experiences, you and your family can have the trip of a lifetime in Japan. Whether you're exploring the bustling streets of Tokyo, marveling at the temples of Kyoto, or sampling the delicious cuisine of Osaka, there's something for everyone in this amazing country. 

By following this guide, you'll be well-equipped to navigate the challenges of traveling with kids in Japan and to make the most of your time in this fascinating and beautiful destination. So pack your bags, grab your passports, and get ready for an adventure you'll never forget!