A holiday to Tokyo is a fabulous choice for families – this friendly, buzzing city is perfect for adults and kids and will have you on your feet exploring for as long as you can, each and every day of your trip.
Tokyo is safe, easy to navigate and lots of fun – think kawaii (Japanese for cute) rainbow toast and fairy floss – and with a little research can be a very affordable city to visit. Its beautiful parks and lakes are fabulous for exploring, you can watch street performances, learn about ancient rituals and pay your respects at revered shrines and temples. The only risk you’ll take is falling in love with this energetic city and wanting to return again and again.
Here are our favourite family activities in Tokyo. Have fun!
Eat a rainbow in Harajuku
We discovered the most incredible rainbow food at the famous Takeshita-dori in Harajuku. This pedestrian street runs down the hill from Harajuku train station and it’s where you’ll discover the most colourful, sugary treats you’ve ever tasted.
Our favourites were the incredible rainbow cheese toast – you have to wait around 10 minutes for your grilled sandwich but it is oh so worth it – lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster, animal ice-creams and rainbow fairy floss.
TIP: Have your camera ready for action as your food will melt or be eaten super quickly.
The cute piggy ice-cream from The Zoo:
And the huge rainbow fairy floss:
From Harajuku you can wander down to Shibuya Crossing, a famous Tokyo landmark thought to be the busiest intersection in the world. It’s like a moving jigsaw as people from all directions pour into the centre of the crossing and somehow, politely manoeuvre around each other to reach the other side before the lights change.
Of course, you will have to give it a try and cross with the crowds at last once. When you have, head upstairs in the Q-front Building (take the escalators inside the bookstore) to Starbucks for an awesome view of the crossing. It’s a little busy but we managed to grab two seats facing the crossing, so if you’re patient you should get a spot.
You’ll love watching tourists – some racing ahead of the crowds and doing yoga poses or handstands for their photos – and locals converging. It’s best at night time, and Friday and Saturdays at peak hour are the busiest and most entertaining.
Pay your respects at Meiji Shrine
Shibuya’s Meiji Shrine is also a short walk from Harajuku, and a visit here will balance out your day if you’re planning on eating rainbows and wandering Takeshita-Dori. This Shinto Shrine is within a protected evergreen forest and is incredibly peaceful and calming in contrast to the excitement of the city.
Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken and is a replica of the original shrine completed in 1920 but destroyed during the Tokyo air raids of World War II.
Walk through the beautiful torii gate – said to be the biggest in Japan – and cleanse your hands before entering the complex. Inside you can pay your respects and write a wish on a wooden block that you hang around the wishing tree. It costs around $5 and children will love writing their special wishes out.
If you visit on a Sunday check out the rockabilly dancers just metres away at Yoyogi Park, and you may also be lucky enough to see an impromptu performance by a local act like we did with Tokyo based hip hop group We are Prank Room.
Views for days at Tokyo Tower
While you’re exploring Tokyo you’ll notice the striking red tower visible from many parts of the city. This landmark is Tokyo Tower, built in 1957 and once the tallest tower in the world. It’s a gorgeous Eiffel Tower-like structure and was the perfect spot for us to enjoy wonderful views across the city at sunset.
We loved this tower because it is not crowded and our views were uninterrupted from all angles – there are no cafes here requiring you to eat or drink to see the best view!
You can find space in front of the windows as you watch the light change, and take your time gazing out over the city. The Tower also has an excellent audio-visual guide for guests with a city map to help you spot landmarks across the skyline. Emmie and I both loved it.
TIP: Visit just before sunset and watch the sunlight fade as the sparkling city lights flicker on for the evening.
Adult tickets are 2,800 yen and children 1,800. Kids four years and under are 1,200 yen.
The family dream park at Heiwanomori
Just 15 minutes from Omori station is one of the best parks we’ve ever seen for kids (Note:I did see quite a few adults playing here too). It’s the outdoor athletic park inside Heiwanomori Park, and features more than 30 wooden pieces of climbing, balancing swinging and sliding equipment that your children will love.
The park also has two ziplines, a lake with wobbly wooden step-ping stones (bring a change of clothes), bucket boats and water wheels, plus ropes, swings and separate areas for over sixes and toddlers.
It’s definitely an affordable day out at only 100 yen for kids and 360 yen for adults – and believe me your children will want to spend the whole day here playing.
There’s more to explore in the grounds of Heiwanomori Park. It’s a large leafy park with beautiful trees and flowers, water features and fountains, a lake and bike paths. Finish off the day with a visit to the park’s community centre for flower and nature craft on your way home.
Visit Tokyo Disneyland
Like most families we absolutely love Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland ticked all the boxes for us – we loved it! It is so easy to visit for a one or two day trip from your hotel, with on time and efficient public transport and the usual helpful and polite Japanese staff to guide you on your way. The park is closely based on the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California but the difference is that its rides are like an upgrade on the original – they’re a little newer and shinier with all the original Disney heart.
Before you book, use a crowd checker to pick the best day with lowest crowds, and on Disney Day get to the park about 30 minutes before opening. Make sure to plan your Fast Passes to maximise your time on the rides as even on low crowd days it is quite busy.
Popular rides to plan to ride early are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight. Make sure to try the Star Wars matcha balls in the cafe on the first floor, opposite the Star Wars: Star Tours ride.
Tip: If you can, use the Single Rider option on rides such as Splash Mountain to avoid long queues.
We hope you love Tokyo as much as we did! Have a great holiday :)
Reposted with the permission of Evie Farrell of Mumpack Travel. Evie has been travelling the world for more than two years with her eight-year-daughter Emmie and sharing their adventures.
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