Rushing to plan a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun this year? Read our fuss-free, kid-friendly guide to its capital, Tokyo.
If you’re like us, you’ve probably been counting down to Japan opening up to international travellers. Well, guess what – you’re not alone. According to data from YouGov, almost 50 per cent of Singaporeans are considering visiting Japan for their next vacation. The country may look like a small, tiny island on the map, but it’s actually pretty long. In fact, Japan is bigger than Malaysia and Finland, and it is as long as from Amsterdam to Algeria!
So if you’re planning to visit (or revisit) the country, why not start with Tokyo? Not only is the city kid-friendly, but it’s also chock full of historical sights that will awe and amaze even the little ones.
How to get there
Never been to Tokyo? No worries – getting to the capital is easy peasy. There are regular flights to Narita Airport, which serves as a hub to other cities in Japan or around the world. Tip: when searching for flights, see if you can find those that fly to Haneda Airport. This is Tokyo’s second airport, and it’s much closer to the city centre than Narita.
Getting around Tokyo with kids
Though it might seem complex at first, there’s no doubt public transport is an affordable and fast way to get around Tokyo. Taxis may be great for families, but they can be expensive if you’re travelling long distances. Buses, on the other hand, can be complicated. Thus, we recommend taking the subway for fuss-free travel with the littlies. This bustling city’s exceptionally well connected, with many subway lines and stations.
Psst, planning to travel to other cities in Japan? Hop on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to travel quickly and seamlessly around the country.
Where to stay in Tokyo with kids
Like other metropolitan cities, there is no shortage of places to stay in the capital. But when it comes to the best ones for families, it’s a bit like real estate: it’s all about location, location, location! Don’t forget the perks of connecting rooms, solid views, and fun activities for the kiddos.
1. Hilton Tokyo Bay
It’s no surprise this hotel is top of our list – Hilton Tokyo Bay is an official Tokyo Disney Resort hotel. This means easy access to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea… in fact, you’re guaranteed park admission if you choose to stay there. You’ll also get a complimentary shuttle bus to the Disney Resort Line! Other perks include staying on a Magic Forest-themed floor and rooms with child-friendly interactive features, and more. And, if you’re planning to head downtown, it’s only 30 minutes by subway. Easy!
Hilton Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Disney Resort, 1-8 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba 279-0031
For those looking for a fulfilling stay in Tokyo with the kids, this hotel fits the bill. There are various room options that families can look into, all minimally decorated in a Japanese theme. The rooms are spacious that they can fit a kitchenette and dining table! Also, the rooms are interconnected, so adults and kids can sleep separately but are still near each other. Want to make your stay even more special? Add the special theatre projector experience to your room – everyone can unwind after a long day by watching large-scale movies!
Mimaru, various locations in Tokyo
3. Tokyo Ueno Touganeya Hotel
The best part about this hotel isn’t its affordability, but its proximity to the sights and sounds around the district of Ueno. It is walking distance to the Ueno Zoo and close to other cultural sights like Ueno Park (a park dating back to the 1870s!) and many museums, such as the National Science Museum, Tokyo National Museum, and more. Psst, Ueno Park is also a prime spot to see the cherry blossom and is one of Japan’s most popular city parks.
Tokyo Ueno Touganeya Hotel, 3 Chome-17-5 Higashiueno, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0015
4. Four Seasons Marunouchi
As we said, location is everything – especially when you’re short on time, and the kids are raring to explore the capital. Take full advantage of Four Seasons Marunouchi’s promotions (when available) that include a discount on your room rate, daily breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant for two adults and two children under the age of 18, a welcome amenity just for the kids, and more.
Four Seasons Marunouchi, 1 Chome-11-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-6277
Things to do in Tokyo with kids
1. Tokyo Disney Resort
Do your kiddos love Disney as much as we do? It’s a no-brainer then that you should go to Tokyo Disney Resort. Comprising Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, and entertainment complex Ikspiari, the resort is a fun getaway from the city sights. Tokyo Disneyland has all your faves from the OG Anaheim park, like Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and more. On the other hand, Tokyo DisneySea‘s park layout has seven ports of call, each with a different theme. You can expect to ride Venetian gondolas, thrilling rides based on familiar tales such as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, and heaps more.
Fun fact: did you know that the Tokyo Disney Resort is not located within Tokyo per se? The massive resort wasn’t built in Tokyo as there wasn’t enough space at the time.
Tokyo Disney Resort, 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba 279-0031
2. TeamLab Planets Tokyo
If you thoroughly enjoyed Future World, don’t miss this exhibition when you’re in Tokyo with kids. Conceptualised by the same folks that designed the exhibition at ArtScience Museum, TeamLab Planets is an immersive experience with four massive exhibition spaces and two gardens. Visitors are required to go barefoot to fully experience the artworks – there are areas in which you’ll have to walk through water! Bring a change of clothes for the little ones as a precaution. The exhibition is kid-friendly (parents are not to let go of their child’s hand once inside) and wheelchair accessible.
TeamLab Planets Tokyo, 6 Chome-1-16 Toyosu, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0061
3. Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo & Pikachu Sweets
Pokémon fans out there, this one’s for you! While there are a few Pokémon centres in Tokyo, this flagship store is the largest and is highly regarded as the “Pokémon sanctuary” among fans. You can literally catch ’em all here – plushies, keychains, pokeballs, and limited edition merch that you can’t find elsewhere. Be sure to keep track of time, because you might be here for some time. When you’re done, pop over to the cafe and grab as many sweets as you wish to devour. If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you’ll get a reusable plushie drink sleeve. (Do note that the cafe is strictly for takeaways.)
Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo & Pikachu Sweets, Sunshine City Alpa 2F, 3 Chome-1-2 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 170-6002
Here’s an innovative concept that you ought to check out when you’re in Tokyo with the kids. KidZania is a miniature interactive city where little people can roam around and try their hands at various jobs. This unique role-playing experience provides kids with the opportunity to develop their social skills and understand the value of money. A day at KidZania is divided into two shifts (morning and afternoon), and adults are not allowed into the establishment except for special areas. So, parents, you can take it easy while the kids work! You may want to drop by on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, where it’s over half of the centre’s activities are conducted in English.
KidZania Tokyo, Urban Dock LaLaport Toyosu, North Port 3F, 2 Chome-4-9 Toyosu, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-8614
5. Snoopy Museum Tokyo
Did you know that Snoopy and the entire Peanuts gang are adored in Japan? There are many attractions that feature the beloved beagle, one of which is the Snoopy Museum in Machida, Tokyo. The museum features reproduced comic strips, vintage goods, and animation. You can purchase limited edition Peanuts merch at Brown’s Store, and then have a meal at the Peanuts Cafe where you can enjoy the greenery of the park.
Snoopy Museum Tokyo, Minami-Machida Grandberry Park, 3 Chome-1-4 Tsuruma, Machida-shi, Tokyo
6. Tama Zoological Park
Once a branch of Ueno Zoo (Japan’s oldest zoo), Tama Zoo is not only four times larger than its counterpart but offers a natural environment for its animals. The highlight of the zoo is its Lion Bus (which, unfortunately, is currently suspended) and is a must-do in the zoo. Why? It drives straight towards the lions’ enclosure, giving you and the kiddos a front-row seat to the mighty kings of the jungle.
Tama Zoological Park, 7 Chome-1-1 Hodokubo, Hino, Tokyo 191-0041
7. Ghibli Museum
Calling all fans of Studio Ghibli: you’ll want to add the Ghibli Museum to your list. Say hi to your favourites like Totoro, Kiki and other characters from one of the world’s most acclaimed animation studios. You’ll also get to walk through special exhibitions and watch select short films shown exclusively in the museum. Tip: you’ll need to purchase your tickets in advance to enter the museum. Get a headstart before you go – several of the studio’s films are currently on Netflix… so get watching before going!
Ghibli Museum, Inokashira Park, 1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013
8. Asukayama Park
Kids are kids, and we’re sure they’ll love it when Mum and Dad factor in a trip to the local playground. If you’re looking for a fun, accessible playground, pop by Asukayama Park! It has a large wet and dry play area that the kids will love exploring. If the kiddos love trains, they’ll also enjoy the journey getting there – partly because you can choose to hop on the Toden Arakawa Streetcar to get to your destination. If you’re standing in the right spot, you might see a Shinkansen zip by!
Asukayama Park, 1 Chome-1-3 Oji, Kita City, Tokyo 114-0002
9. Cup Noodles Museum
No trip to Japan is complete without paying a visit to the home of instant noodles, the Cup Noodles Museum. After all, it has settled one too many dinners in our household and is a tasty (albeit unhealthy) snack. First invented by Momofuku Ando, this museum in Yokohama is one of several cup noodle museums in the country – the first being in Osaka. The kiddos will love to explore its museum grounds, participate in different attractions, and of course, taste different kinds of cup noodles. Our favourite part? Getting to create your unique cup of noodles to bring home. Yum!
Cup Noodles Museum Yokohama, 2 Chome-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001
10. Kodomo no Mori Park
This outdoor play area in Tokyo is strictly for the dino fans – there are eight dinosaur statues for the kids to run around, climb, and have fun with. There’s also the usual play equipment that you can expect such as swings and slides, as well as three colourful pipes of varying heights… perfect for water play in the summer months.
Kodomo no Mori Park, 3 Chome-10-13 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa City, Tokyo 140-0001
11. Tsutaya Books Daikanyama
Everyone knows of Books Kinokuniya. But when you’re in Tokyo, we highly recommend you pay this aesthetically-pleasing bookstore a visit. Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama is divided into three buildings, which are connected by a 55-metre aisle at ground level. You can browse through books of every genre in this store: art and design, travel, vintage titles, and even international magazines. Pop over to another building and you can find children’s toys, pet services, and a gorge terrace cafe. Be warned though, you may spend a good few hours being here!
Tsutaya Books Daikanyama, 17−5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0033
Where to eat in Tokyo with kids
1. Chano-ma Cafe
Want to dine somewhere that’s good for the kids in Tokyo? Visit Chano-ma Cafe in the Shibuya district of the city for a baby-friendly time! The kiddies will love crawling all over the wall-to-wall couches while you dine on healthy, seasonal produce. The restaurant also has high chairs for toddlers, diaper-changing stations, and a nursing room if you require some privacy.
Chano-ma Cafe, Za House Bldg 2F, 1 Chome-34-17 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0021
2. Ginza West Aoyama Garden
The Japanese are pros when it comes to fluffy pancakes. So what else should you be sampling in Tokyo than that? Ginza West Aoyama Garden is one popular eatery where you can get delish, fluffy flapjacks. The kids will enjoy jiggling their plates and watching the pancakes wiggle! If that’s not enough, you can order the cake set or hot desserts. This cafe is often in hot demand, so you may have to wait for some time before you get a table.
Ginza West Aoyama Garden, 1 Chome-22-10 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062
3. Sanrio Cafe Ikebukuro
We’re big fans of themed cafes, and this is one spot that we can’t wait to pop by when we’re in Tokyo with the kids! Sanrio Cafe Ikebukuro consists of two areas: the standard sit-down cafe, and a wagon dedicated to takeaways. The cafe menu features popular Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty, Gudetama, and My Melody. If you’re looking for sweet treats, head on over to the wagon right at the shop gate. Here, you can get doughnuts, crepes, ice cream, and even cute merch.
Sanrio Cafe Ikebukuro, Sunshine City Alpa B1F, 1-28-1 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 170-6090
4. Kaitenzushi Nemuro Hanamaru
There’s nothing more fun than watching plates of sushi move past your table and letting the kids pick out what to eat without a fuss. And that’s what you’ll get at Kaitenzushi Nemuro Hanamaru, a popular conveyor belt restaurant in Tokyo. Not only that, the sushi’s fresh, too – meaning, you can have affordable, high-quality sushi at great prices. Plus, free entertainment for the kids, so why not?
Kaitenzushi Nemuro Hanamaru, JP tower KITTE 5F, 2 Chome-7-2, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-7005
5. Gyoza Stadium
If the little ones are craving some good ol’ pan-fried dumplings, bring them to Gyoza Stadium. This food amusement park (yup, you read that right) is dedicated to one of Japan’s most popular foods: gyoza. Walk around and try different varieties that showcase 14 gyoza restaurants from around the country. The best part? Once you’re done eating, you can explore Namco Namjatown, a kid-friendly indoor attraction with cats, unusual flavours of ice cream, and more.
Gyoza Stadium, Sunshine City Alpa 2F, 3 Chome-1-2 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 170-0013
Have an enjoyable time in Tokyo with the kids!