I’ll be honest – I booked my trip to Tokyo based on our vacation to Tokyo Disneyland. I didn’t think much about the rest of the journey, and I wasn’t sure what kind of kid-friendly options we’d find to keep us busy during our time in Tokyo. To my surprise, I found more options than I could possibly hope to add to our itinerary for all age groups and interests. It was more challenging than I thought it would be to narrow down the list of potential activities to define our plans for our trip – which is a good problem to have!
From thoughtfully-designed museums and parks to elements of Japanese culture that everyone should experience while you’re in the area, these are some of the best ways I’ve found to have fun with kids when you’re in Tokyo:
Explore the National Museum of Emerging Sciences and Innovators
It’s no secret that Japan leads the world in scientific and technological innovation. Because of this, it’s not surprising to learn that there are a number of museums throughout Tokyo and Japan dedicated to science, technology, and innovation. The National Museum of Emerging Sciences and Innovation – often called the Miraikan – is one of the best to explore with kiddos. You can explore exhibits that focus on robotics, highlight new developments in space and Earth science, explain how the Internet works, and more.
Whether you’re looking for a way to make the most of a rainy day or your family likes to incorporate an element of education into your travels, a stop at the Miraikan is a great way to do it. Even if it doesn’t inspire your little one to pursue a career in robotics, it’s still an absolute blast for the whole family.
Visit the Ueno Zoo
If you and your family love a good trip to the zoo, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to stroll through Ueno Zoo. This national treasure opened in the late 1800’s, making it a historic experience as much as it is fun. The zoo is home to a wide range of animal species, from polar bears and panda bears to Japanese macaques and aye-ayes, which are native to Madagascar. While it is quite a bit smaller than many of the zoos you’ll find in America, it offers travelers a chance to check out some animals you may not find back home – or anywhere else in the world.
Tour the Tsukiji Fish Market
This might not be the spot to go if you and your family are vegetarian – or just plain don’t like fish – but the Tsukiji Fish Market is an iconic stop on any Tokyo travel itinerary. The Tsukiji Fish Market was on my list of places to visit, but was told that they’re only opened 5am-11am, and we are late sleepers, so there was no way we were going to make it, but I wanted to add it here to the list of places for those who’d love to go.
While little kids may not appreciate what’s going on, older ones will certainly marvel at the hustle and bustle of this world-famous market. While you can sign up for a guided tour to learn about the market’s history, you can visit on your own, but try to arrive early to beat the crowds and spot the day’s biggest catches before they’re sold.
If your kiddos are adventurous eaters, have some fun and indulge in sushi for breakfast while you’re at the market. Not only will you enjoy some of the freshest sushi you can find in the world, but your kids will also enjoy the novelty of the experience – as long as they’re sushi fans!
Soar to the Top of the Tokyo Skytree
One of the most impressive things about Tokyo is the city’s skyline. The sheer number of skyscrapers is impressive – like nothing you’ll find in America. For a great opportunity to admire the view and capture some photos of this stunning skyline, visit the observation decks at the Tokyo Skytree – as long as your kids aren’t afraid of heights.
This tower holds the honor of being Japan’s tallest structure, topping out at 634 meters, and it boasts two observation decks, one at 350 meters and another at 450 meters. You can purchase tickets to visit the higher deck from the lower one, or you can spend some time browsing the souvenir shop or grabbing a bite at one of the two onsite restaurants.
Eat at a Themed Cafe
For a meal, unlike one you’ll find anywhere else, make sure to grab lunch or dinner at one of Tokyo’s infamous themed cafes. Many of the cafes are dedicated to popular Japanese characters that aren’t recognized outside of Japan, like the Cinnamoroll Cafe and the Pompompurin Cafe, but there are some spots, like the PEANUTS Cafe and the Pokemon Cafe, that spotlight familiar favorites.
Other themed cafes in Tokyo aren’t centered around characters – they’re dedicated to animals. Dine at the Chiku Chiku Cafe and watch hedgehogs (yes, hedgehogs) wander through hedgehog-sized houses. Another option is Owl Village, where you can meet adorable owls and dine on themed treats almost too cute to eat.
These cafes typically offer themed food and drinks, and many embrace the theme throughout the decor, making it a truly immersive experience for the whole family. You’ll definitely want to snap some photos and pick up a souvenir or two while you’re there!
Walk Around Asakusa
This historic district is one of the oldest areas of Tokyo, and you can’t spend time in the city without paying this area a visit. Here, you can admire Sensoji Temple – one of the most famous in all of Japan – and stroll through some of the city’s oldest shopping districts, which are still just as vibrant today as they were hundreds of years ago.
For some family-friendly fun, you have a couple of options in the area. You can hop on a river cruise and tour the area by boat, or you can pay a visit to Hanayashiki, which holds the honor of being Japan’s oldest theme park. You’ll also have a blast exploring the shops in the area, which sell everything from quirky souvenirs and snacks to authentic samurai swords and other historical items.
The hustle and bustle of Tokyo might deter some parents from bringing their kids to the city, but Tokyo is a surprisingly great spot to visit with little ones. It’s clean, it’s safe, and it’s filled with kid-friendly attractions and activities that the whole family can enjoy. From themed cafes and high-tech museums to historic areas and world-renowned markets, you won’t have a hard time planning a trip that appeals to all age groups in your family.