Family Travel Guide- Exploring Japan with Kids

Japan is as an ideal destination for family travel, as it offers experiences that cater to all ages Japan provides a safe and engaging environment for families seeking a blend of educational and recreational activities. Whether it's exploring ancient castles, enjoying the vibrant pop culture, or indulging in the local cuisine, Japan promises a kid-friendly adventure that is both exciting and memorable.


Safety in Japan

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Japan stands out as one of the safest countries in the world, a fact reflected in its impressive ranking in the Global Peace Index. This high level of safety is particularly reassuring for families traveling with children. A notable aspect of Japanese culture is the independence granted to children from a young age. It's not uncommon to see young Japanese children commuting to school alone or running errands in their neighborhoods. This level of trust in public safety makes Japan an appealing destination for family travel, where parents can feel more at ease about their children's security.


Transportation in Japan

Trains in Japan are known for their punctuality, cleanliness, and child-friendly features. For families, there are practical advantages, such as discounted fares for children and amenities designed to accommodate young passengers. Children aged 6 to 11 usually pay half the adult fare, while those under 6 often travel for free, making train travel a cost-effective option for families.

Rental cars provide a flexible alternative for families preferring to travel at their own pace. With well-maintained roads and clear signage, often in English, driving in Japan can be a straightforward experience. However, it is important to note the requirement of an international driver's permit. For families exploring urban areas, walking is a viable option. Cities like Tokyo and Kyoto are pedestrian-friendly, with many attractions within walking distance. When navigating the cities, consider the use of baby carriers over strollers, especially in crowded areas or when traversing narrow streets and stairs common in historic sites.


Accommodation Options

When it comes to accommodation in Japan, families have a wealth of options. Western-style hotels are prevalent, especially in urban areas. These hotels often provide a range of services tailored for families, including spacious rooms and the availability of cribs or extra beds for children. The proximity of these hotels to major attractions and transportation hubs makes them an appealing choice for families.

On the other hand, traditional Japanese inns, known as ryokan, offer a unique cultural experience. Ryokan are characterized by their tatami-matted rooms, futon beds, and often include traditional Japanese meals served in the room itself. These inns are especially family-friendly due to their spacious room layouts and the communal nature of dining and bathing, which can be a novel experience for children. It’s important for families to be aware that ryokan meals typically feature local and seasonal Japanese cuisine, which might be different from what some children are accustomed to. Checking meal options in advance can be helpful.

In addition, there are minshuku, which are similar to ryokan but are usually smaller and family operated. Both ryokan and minshuku often feature onsen (hot springs), which can be a relaxing activity for families, although parents should note that children who are still in diapers are not usually permitted in the communal baths.

For families prioritizing budget and flexibility, vacation rentals such as apartments or houses can be a practical choice. These rentals often provide more space and the convenience of kitchen facilities, making them ideal for longer stays or for families with special dietary needs.


Dining with Kids in Japan

Family restaurants in Japan typically provide spacious seating and a diverse menu that combines Japanese and Western dishes, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Popular items like omurice (omelet rice) and katsu (breaded and fried meat cutlets) are often favorites among children.

Conveyor belt sushi, or kaiten-zushi, presents an entertaining dining experience, ideal for families. Children can enjoy watching their food arrive on miniature conveyor belts. These restaurants not only serve sushi but also offer a range of non-sushi items like fries and noodles, ensuring that even less adventurous eaters have options.

For families looking for familiar tastes, Western food is readily available in Japan. Many restaurants offer Western-style dishes, often with a unique Japanese twist, like spaghetti Napolitan or hambagu (Japanese-style hamburger steak). Additionally, international fast-food chains are widespread, providing familiar options for children.

Moreover, family-friendly amenities in many restaurants, such as highchairs and kid-friendly utensils, make dining out with children more convenient.


Kid-Friendly Activities in Japan

Japan offers a treasure trove of activities for children of all ages. Iconic amusement parks like Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan are major attractions. Tokyo Disneyland, known for its magical atmosphere, and DisneySea, unique for its nautical and exploration themes, are must-visits for families. Universal Studios in Osaka, featuring the latest addition of Super Nintendo World, offers an immersive experience into the world of popular video games and characters.

Across the country, there are also numerous interactive exhibits; for instance, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo is a place where children can engage with science and technology in a hands-on way. The Ghibli Museum, dedicated to the famous animation studio, is another unique destination, offering insights into the world of animation and filmmaking.

Additionally, places like the Cup Noodles Museums in Yokohama and Ikeda allow families to explore the history of instant ramen, one of Japan's most famous culinary inventions, with opportunities for children to create their custom ramen flavors and packaging.

For families seeking a blend of adventure and wildlife, Japan does not disappoint. Various locations offer the chance to interact with animals like friendly deer in Nara Park, cats in cat cafes, and rabbits on Okunoshima Island.


Cultural Experiences and Learning Opportunities in Japan

Traveling to Japan with children also offers a chance for educational and cultural experiences that extend far beyond the classroom walls.

One of the most enriching cultural activities for families is participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This teaches children about Japanese customs, etiquette, and the art of tea making. It's a peaceful contrast with the fast pace of modern life. Additionally, calligraphy classes are another engaging way for children to learn about Japanese culture. These classes provide a hands-on experience where kids can learn to write Japanese characters with a brush and ink.

Whilst visiting iconic castles like Himeji or exploring the ancient streets of Kyoto, families can witness and learn about the feudal era, samurai warriors, and the evolution of Japanese society. Museums dedicated to various aspects of Japanese history and culture, including samurai and ninja museums, also provide interactive and educational experiences for children.

For families interested in contemporary Japanese culture, areas like Akihabara in Tokyo, known for its anime and manga scene, offer a fascinating insight into modern Japanese pop culture. Here, children can experience the excitement of amusement arcades and discover the latest in Japanese video game technology.


Practical Tips for Family Travel in Japan

Luggage delivery:

Traveling with a family in Japan presents its unique set of challenges, but with some practical tips, the experience can be smooth and enjoyable. One of the primary considerations for families is managing luggage. Japan offers convenient services like luggage delivery, known as takuhaibin, which can transport your bags from the airport to your hotel or between accommodations.


Navigating with strollers:

Navigating with strollers or baby carriers is another aspect to consider. While most train stations in Japan are equipped with elevators, they may not always be conveniently located. In cities with steep and narrow streets, like Kyoto, baby carriers are often more practical than strollers. However, when using a stroller, lightweight and easily foldable models are recommended, as they are easier to manage.


Health and medication:

Health and safety are paramount when traveling with children. Pharmacies in Japan are well-stocked with basic medical supplies, but it’s advisable to bring any specific medications your family might need, as some medicines may not be readily available. It’s also important to stay hydrated and protect against the sun, particularly in the summer months.


Use convenience stores:

Convenience stores in Japan are an invaluable resource for families. They offer a wide range of services, from ATMs to affordable meal options, including kid-friendly snacks. These stores also provide basic toiletries and emergency supplies, making them a one-stop-shop for most travel needs.



In summary, Japan is a destination that offers something for every member of the family. Its safe streets, efficient transportation, diverse accommodations, and a wide range of activities ensure that a family trip to Japan will be both enjoyable and memorable. Families looking for an adventure that combines fun, education, and culture should undoubtedly consider Japan for their next holiday. With its unique blend of modernity and tradition, Japan is an experience that will leave lasting impressions on both parents and children alike.