Family Vacations to Tokyo, Japan

Nijubashi Bridge, Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan
Nijubashi Bridge, Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan (Glow Images/Getty)

Tokyo Family Travel Tips

  • Visit Tokyo Tower on a Sunday and see the jugglers, clowns, and other street performers entertain the crowd that gathers at the Glass Plaza on the roof of FootTown.
  • Prepare for the weather if you visit Tokyo Disney Resort. Bring sun block, sunhats, and sunglasses—these are essentials in summer as are heavy coats in winter. It might also be a good idea to pack a raincoat.
  • Lockers, stroller hire, and childcare facilities are available at the National Children's Castle.

Tokyo is the ultimate modern Asian city, a 24-hour gleaming, bustling, buzzing cocktail of packed streets, intense crowds, dazzling neon, and vaulting skyscrapers. This brash, adrenaline pumping side of Tokyo is well known; but behind this façade is a much quieter, more relaxed city where tradition and culture come to the fore in tranquil temples and neat gardens laced with perfectly trimmed Bonsai trees.

For adults, Tokyo is the ultimate urban thrill and so, too, for younger visitors. The energy and frenetic pace enthuses teenagers, while younger children can still find their own corners to take things a little slower. Getting around on the ultra-efficient transport systems is half the fun for families: you can join the Tokyoites bobbing around on the local ferries, zoom below ground on the metro, or whiz around on the Shinkansen—also known as the Bullet Train, the world's most famous high speed train.

To many visitors, Tokyo emerges as not one city but as a sprawling network of neighborhoods, each with their own character. The historical focus is on the Imperial Palace, an almost bucolic oasis of shaded lanes, moats, and temples. The ghosts of the Japanese emperors haunt the grounds and their legends make fascinating stories for young ears. A short stroll takes you to the downtown area, with its neon and manic shopping. This contrast in neighborhoods is unmistakably Tokyo.

The best advice on how to get a feel for Tokyo is to get as high as you can. There are numerous options, but Tokyo Tower works especially well for families. It is one of the tallest structures in the country, looming nearly 1,100 feet high above the city. From the observation gallery you can survey many of the city's sights and you'll be awestruck at its sheer scale. The rooftop is also home to an amusement park for those too young to be wowed by impressive cityscapes.

The most popular family attraction is undoubtedly Tokyo Disney Resort. It is split into two parts, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, and together they appeal to all ages. Seven themed "lands" with rides ranging from sedate to white-knuckle adventures guarantee to thrill kids and adults alike.

As the Japanese capital, Tokyo also boasts the lion's share of the country's cultural attractions, with a host of museums and galleries. The highlight for families is the Science Museum, which boasts five floors of interactive fun. The National Children's Castle sums up the city succinctly, as it may be called a castle; but, in fact, it is a modern family oasis alive with outdoor play areas, all manner of games, and child-friendly restaurants. It is as appealing for families as the massive city around it.


Published: 25 Jun 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Tokyo

$616-$665
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#1
The Peninsula Tokyo
$111-$121
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#2
Hotel Niwa Tokyo
$138
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#3
Mercure Tokyo Ginza
$166
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#4
Hotel New Otani Tokyo

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