Going to the Land of the Rising Sun this year for the Summer Olympics? Read our fuss-free, kid-friendly guide to its capital, Tokyo.
It’s 2020, and that can only mean one thing: it’s Olympic year! You can bet our family will be huddled around the TV to watch athletes compete in our favourite sports – you never know, it may even inspire our kids to pick up a new sport. It’s also a great time to visit Japan as the country will be welcoming thousands of tourists, eager to see its sights and soak up the spirit. So if you’re planning to pay the country a visit, why not start with Tokyo? This city is not only kid-friendly (hello, Disneyland and DisneySea!), but is chock full of historical sights that will awe and amaze even the little ones.
HOW TO GET THERE
Never been to Tokyo? No worries, as 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.
This bustling city’s extremely well connected, with many subway lines and stations. Though it might seem complex at first, there’s no doubt public transport is an affordable and fast way to get around Tokyo. Taxis are great for families, too – but they can be expensive if you’re travelling long distances. On the other hand, buses can be complicated – so, if you’re looking for a fuss-free way to travel with the littlies, we’d definitely recommend taking the subway!
Psst, traveling to other cities in Japan? Hop on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to travel quickly and seamlessly around the country.
WHERE TO STAY
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 having connecting rooms, solid views and fun activities just for the kiddos.
Hilton Tokyo Bay
It’s no surprise why 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. Plus you’ll get a complimentary shuttle bus to the Disney Resort Line, too! 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!
Where: Hilton Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Disney Resort, 1-8 Maihama, Urayasu, 279-0031, Chiba
Four Seasons Marunouchi
Like 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 off 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.
Where: Four Seasons Marunouchi, 1 Chome−11−1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, 100-6277 Tokyo
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. Not only is it walking distance to the Ueno Zoo, but it’s also 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.
Where: Tokyo Ueno Touganeya Hotel, 3 Chome-17-5 Higashiueno, Taito City, 110-0015 Tokyo
WHAT TO DO
Tokyo Disney Resort
If your kiddos love Disney as much as we do, you’ll definitely want to bring them to Tokyo Disney Resort. Comprised of Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea and entertainment complex (read: shopping) Ikspiari, the resort is a fun getaway from the city sights. Tokyo Disneyland has all your favourites from the original Anaheim park like Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters 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 Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, and heaps more.
Where: Tokyo Disney Resort, 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, 279-0031 Chiba
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.
Where: Tama Zoological Park, 7 Chome-1-1 Hodokubo, Hino, Tokyo 191-0041, Japan
Calling all fans of Studio Ghibli! You’ll definitely 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 that are shown exclusively in the museum. Tip: you’ll need to purchase your tickets in advance in order to gain entry to the museum. Get a headstart before you go: several of the studio’s films are currently on Netflix – so get watching before going!
Where: Ghibli Museum, Inokashira Park, 1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013, Japan. Opens Wednesdays to Mondays from 10am-6pm, and closed on Tuesdays.
Kids are kids – and we’re sure they’ll especially 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 even see a Shinkansen zip by!
Where: Asukayama Park, 1 Chome-1-3 Oji, Kita City, Tokyo 114-0002, Japan
A special mention: Cup Noodles Museum
We’re calling it: no trip to Japan is complete without paying a visit to the home of instant noodles, the Cup Noodle 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 out 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 own unique cup of noodles to bring home. Yum!
Where: Cup Noodles Museum Yokohama, 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001 Japan
WHERE TO EAT
Want to dine somewhere that’s good for little ones? 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 highchairs for toddlers, diaper-changing stations and a nursing room, if you require some privacy.
Where: Chano-ma Cafe, -34-17 Ebisu-Nishi, Za House Bldg 2F, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
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?
Where: Kaitenzushi Nemuro Hanamaru, JP tower KITTE5F,2-7-2, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
If the little ones are hankering for 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 and indoor attraction with cats, unusual flavours of ice-cream and more.
Where: Gyoza Stadium, Sunshine City Alpa 2F, 1, Toshima-ku, Higashi-Ikebukuro 3-1-2, 170-0013 Tokyo, Japan
Lastly, if you’re feeling bummed about leaving Tokyo, make your return special with a flight with ANA! The airline carrier has Star Wars-themed aeroplanes designed like R2-D2 and BB-8 on flight routes back to Singapore from Narita, which will thrill all fans alike.
Top image: Jaison Lin via Unsplash