Human life in Japan dates back thousands of years. When visiting the Land of the Rising Sun, your family will experience the dichotomy of one of the oldest cultures on earth mixed with one of the most technologically advanced. Looking for things to do in Tokyo with kids? Look no further. We’ve explored every corner of Japan’s largest city to find not only the classic, family-friendly things to do but the cool, weird and unusual things your whole family will love.
Planning a Trip to Tokyo with Kids
Even seasoned travelers may feel nervous when they begin planning a trip to Tokyo with kids. From navigating the Tokyo Metro to choosing one of over 3,000 hotels to stay in, Tokyo tends to be overwhelming. To plan our 10-day excursion with two kids, ages 9 and 11, I reached out to local tour company Your Japan Private Tours.
Your Japan Private Tours – Family Travel Planning with a Personal Touch
While many visit Tokyo for traditional Japanese cultural experiences, our motivation to visit was far from what you see in tourism brochures. Our travel goals didn’t involve classics but a variety of Pokémon, anime (computer or hand-drawn Japanese animation) and Kuwaii, the Japanese word for cute, stores and attractions.
I required the help of a tour guide to make our dream Tokyo trip a reality. I knew as soon as I spoke to Ian Ropke, the founder of Your Japan Private Tours, that I had found the right person for the job.
The process when booking with Your Japan Private Tours is simple. A tour guide contacts you by phone to begin your travel planning. What really impressed me was the specific questions Ian asked about me and both my kids. From hearing about what we liked to do at home and our eating tendencies, he was able to suggest a number of unique activities and restaurants. Through follow-up email communication, Ian was able to design the itinerary of our dreams.
Before our trip, Ian sent an overview of his recommendations for final approval. After that, we received easy-to-read PDFs for each day of our trip to Tokyo. These not only included detailed instructions on how to use the Tokyo Metro to get to and from our hotel, but even had Japanese translations to show people if we needed help along the way.
Ian also sent allergy cards to present before eating to help navigate my daughter’s allergies. With Ian’s help, Tokyo went from overwhelming to completely manageable in no time at all.
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Classic Things to Do in Tokyo With Kids
After speaking to Ian, I decided we needed to experience a traditional day in Tokyo. His recommendation was to visit the neighborhood of Asakusa. Some of the most classic things to do in Tokyo with kids are in this area.
We started our day at the Senso-ji Temple. Outside the temple, you’ll find alleys lined with shops that rent traditional kimonos and samurai apparel. The Senso-ji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple, completed in 645.
At Senso-ji Temple kids can pick a fortune. If the fortune is good, kids can keep it. If the fortune is bad, kids can tie it to a tree to ensure it does not follow them home. There is also a purifying station with both smoke and water. We found locals were eager to show the kids how to properly purify themselves.
After visiting the temple, it is a quick walk to Hanayashiki Amusement Park, the oldest amusement park in Japan. The amusement park features various rides including the oldest steel-track coaster in Japan built in 1953. Asakusa is a haven for families looking to experience classic Tokyo activities, restaurants and shopping.
Cool Things to Do in Tokyo With Kids
Strolling down almost any street in Tokyo, kids will spot something to eat, do, or see that looks cool. One of our favorites was undoubtedly the Teamlab Borderless Digital Museum. Visiting the museum comes with several warnings. While you can buy tickets in advance, wait times can extend over six hours even with a pre-purchased ticket. The line to enter the museum can stretch over numerous blocks.
While the images online are enticing, be prepared for crowds of people in every room. That being said, the coolness of this museum cannot be overlooked. My kids loved getting lost in rooms of dangling lights and mirrored floors. There was something unique about being in technology instead of looking at it.
Many cool things to do in Tokyo with kids involve Pokémon. Tokyo is home to several Pokémon Centers. If you only choose one, visit the Pokémon Center in Nihonbashi near Tokyo Station.
Tucked away in the Takashimaya department store, this Pokémon Center is home to the only Pokémon Cafe in Tokyo. The cool factor here is high with a variety of merchandise you won’t find outside of Japan and unique Pokémon-shaped foods.
Lastly, kids will find the presence of robots in Tokyo quite cool. While you’ll see robots in the Tokyo Metro, the coolest ones tend to be inside stores. We found robots in many stores that dance and interact with customers.
Tokyo is also home to the Henn na Hotel whose two locations are run by robots. Visit the lobby area to see guests being checked in by dinosaur robots and robot fish swimming in tanks.
Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant is an experience not to be missed for kids who love robots. While the experience is more of a show than a restaurant, the Robot Restaurant is undeniably cool. Book seats in the front row for a truly interactive experience.
Weird and Unusual Things to Do in Tokyo with Kids
There is no better place to experience weird and unusual things to do in Tokyo than in Harajuku. This is an area you will want to visit more than once. Harajuku is home to unique shopping streets and irresistibly cute deserts at every turn. Since locals flock to Harajuku on Sunday afternoons, expect large crowds if visiting on a weekend.
Harajuku is the center of youth culture in Tokyo. Head to Yoyogi Park to see Harajuku girls displaying Tokyo’s unique clothing style. Then head to Takeshita Street to experience the heart of Japan’s Kuwaii scene. Kids will love the Kuwaii Monster Cafe. Here you can dine under a Unicorn drinking from a baby bottle while eating rainbow-colored spaghetti. Every hour or so, dancers dressed in Harajuku style perform on a birthday cake with an oversized monster by their side.
In Harajuku, you will also encounter one of Japan’s weirdest obsessions, animal cafés. Use your judgment upon entering these establishments. Some are home to small rabbits or hedgehogs you would find in any pet store. Others contain owls on chains, capybaras and meerkats who are visibly not comfortable. Two highly recommended cafés in Tokyo are Neco Republic and Cafe Lua. Both are cafés that serve as adoption centers for dogs and cats in need of a home.
Visiting Tokyo with Kids
While I was hesitant to plan a trip to Tokyo with kids, I am now itching to return. The city is full of amazing, unusual and completely zany things to do, see and eat. While our trip stretched almost 10 days, we left feeling we needed more time to experience Japan’s most eccentric city.
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*Disclosure: I was a guest of Your Japan Private Tours in order to facilitate this review. The opinions are my own.