We LOVE Tokyo. We just do. It’s a big, noisy, crowded, frantic, crazy place. Obviously, it’s not for everyone. But it’s for almost everyone. It’s one of our favorite places in the whole world, and one we visit as often as we can. Here’s our enormous guide to Tokyo with kids – Japan for families.
It ended up huge, but if you’re planning a trip there, use our neighborhood guide or our table below to choose what fits your family better!
|Family friendly place to stay in Tokyo|
|Things to do in Tokyo with kids|
|The best activities for kids in Tokyo|
|Transport for families in Tokyo|
|The best day-trips from Tokyo for families|
|Summer or winter?|
What to expect of Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is CRAZY. There’s no other word for it. Well, of course, there probably is, but I think it sums it up well. When I thought of Tokyo before actually seeing it, the image that came to mind was that of the neon lights in a night shot, with people all over. But it’s not only that.
It’s the biggest and busiest city in Japan. It’s super crowded – everywhere, anytime. It’s highly noisy: cars, trains, ambulances, people, bikes, phones. But it can be extremely silent, nearing creepy, in the residential areas. You’ll find temples and parks, mountains, markets, enormous malls, neon-lit streets, bullet trains, bike parking spots, small shops, and just about everything you can think of.
Whatever it is that caught your attention, Tokyo has it.
It’s a city that can not be missed when you go to Japan with kids.
Where to stay in Tokyo with kids
We spent our days in Tokyo in this apartment. It’s small, but by Japanese standards, it’s fine. Next time we go, it’ll probably be a bit too small for us because the sofa bed isn’t very comfortable for adults and our kids will be adult size, I think. But it’s the only place we found with actual home internet AND mobile internet (both with unlimited data), cable TV, elevator, and great, amazing hosts.
It’s in Shinjuku area, one of the best for those planning to sightsee a lot, in the heart of the city, but in a quiet part of it. Basically, the perfect place for anyone, all year long.
It’s a bit of a long walk to Shinjuku Train Station (around 20 minutes), but the closest station is around 5 minutes away.
My kids LOVE the fact that there are just 8 drink vending machines around the building.
Things to do in Tokyo with kids
I’ll divide this list into areas because it’s a bit more organized. If you don’t know which area you’ll visit, check the list below them to find what are our favorites in the area! If you know where you’re going to, it’s in alphabetical order!
What to do in Akihabara with kids
Akihabara is the electronic heaven of Tokyo. It’s also a mecca for otaku (or just regular nerds like us). Full of maid cafes, cat cafes, anime cafes, fun electronic shops (selling from the newest stuff to the very vintage things, like Fami-con!), cheap souvenir shops, and just way too much.
It’s the place that called out ‘Tokyo!’ the most – after sunset, the lights turn on little by little into the dazzling neon-lit roads.
I know we all just love the ¥100 shops for souvenirs, but we found some pretty different and amazing stuff in Akihabara too. They weren’t ¥100, but sometimes it’s worth the extra money.
- Akihabara is the best place to shop for electronics!
- The best time to visit it is on Sundays afternoons because the road closes to cars and becomes an incredible place to walk, people-watch, or shop. It’s also said to have a huge number of cosplayers but we saw probably 2 on the 2 times we visited it.
- Can’t-miss in Akihabara: the neon lights after dusk!
- Best for older kids with an interest in electronics and/or anime, but I need to add that Coral (5) had lots of fun running around the road.
- Just beware on the smaller streets and alleys because they may not be appropriate for children, with sex shops, and other things…
What to do in Asakusa with kids
With Kaminari-mon and Senso-Ji as it’s main attraction, Asakusa offers a piece of olden Japan for its visitors. We visited the temples and shrines, strolled through the beautiful gardens, ate a lot in Nakamise, and bought some lovely Japanese treats to try. It’s definitely worth a visit. We have a full post about it, click here to see it!
The Senso-Ji temple is stunning but the gardens were a lot more attractive for us.
There’s even a little theme park there if you want to!
Oh, and Sky Tree is right there! We never visited it, just saw it from afar.
- Asakusa is the best place to see what there is in Japan besides the crazy modern malls, buildings, and neon lights.
- The best time to visit is seriously anytime! It’s full all day long, but it’s CRAZY on the 31 of December. It’s a show with people dressed in kimono and all, but very crowded.
- Can’t-miss in Asakusa: Kaminari-mon, Senso-Ji, and Nakamise, the little street market there!
- Best for every age, but do have everyone close by because it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
- Where to eat in Asakusa: our favorite is Kagetsu-dô and its delicious melon-bread filled with ice cream (ice melon-pan), but do try the little shops you find everywhere! Yum!
What to do in Harajuku with kids
If you want kawaii, alternative, and fun, you want Harajuku. It was the neighborhood my kids loved the most – and where they spent the majority of their money.
Start your visit with a photo with the Takeshita Dori sign (when we were there, it had a screen showing the people passing by), visit Meiji Shrine, and have fun watching all the funky people shopping around!
Kiddy Land and Toy Sapiens are two of the most amazing stores we’ve visited: both very characters oriented.
In Kiddy Land, there are just 5 floors of character money suckers, from Snoopy to vintage anime characters, passing through Star Wars, Hello Kitty, and Totoro.
Toy Sapiens is a more nerdy store with SO MANY Funko Pops that we went crazy. More for international, Hollywood and Disney characters, but still incredible.
There were also lots of shops selling the huge rainbow cotton candy! It was a bit hard walking with it due to the crowds, but fun nonetheless.
- Harajuku is the best place for kawaii, character, or alternative stuff!
- The best time to visit is anytime OUT of rush hour: seriously, lines EVERYWHERE. Avoid lunch hour (12 pm to 2 pm) and end of business hours (5 pm to 6 pm). During weekdays it’s also less crowded than during weekends!
- Can’t-miss in Harajuku: Harry’s café. Playing with hedgehogs is fun, but it’s pretty pricey. Kids can go as long as there’s a guardian present – everyone pays the same price.
- Best for all ages, my 4 very different kids loved it!
- A family friendly place to eat in Harajuku: Kawaii Monster Café. It’s a very quirky, colorful, and psychedelic restaurant, where everything comes with high doses of food coloring (so avoid if there’s allergy to it), shows, fun, and lots of noise. We also ate at Ichiran Ramen, but it’s more for older kids.
What to do in Ikebukuro with kids
Ikebukuro has the Ikebukuro Nishiguchi Park, Sunshine City (a huge mall with an aquarium and a Pokémon Center, besides many other character shops), and the incredible Sample Food Factory.
It also has some very cool views of the Sky Tree – far away, still cool.
Animate and the Maiden Road (Otome Road) are cool places to see cosplayers and an otaku culture more geared to women, and there are just so many nerdy stores, entertainment stores, and game centers that we were tired just by passing through.
- Ikebukuro is the best place to have it all, seriously. You can have the enormous shopping centers, entertainment streets, and the little restaurants passed on from generation to generation and residential streets. Full of contrasts!
- The best time to visit is anytime! During weekends, there are markets in the park!
- Not to miss in Ikebukuro: the food sample workshop! So much more fun than it sounds! There’s more about it on the ‘Kids Activities in Tokyo’ below.
- The best age to enjoy Ikebukuro is tweens and teens, as it can be a little bit overwhelming for the little ones. If you skip the entertainment streets, any age is fine!
What to do in Mitaka with kids
The only reason we ever went to Mitaka was the lovely Ghibli Museum. We’ve actually never done any sightseeing there, just the usual trip to Ghibli Museum. It’s so gorgeous, so perfect, so everything! Even if you’ve no idea what Ghibli is – well, in that case, I suggest you go watch ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ or ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ – it’s worth a stop.
Mitaka Park, right beside the museum, is beautiful and quite big, so it’s a nice stroll when the weather is good!
- The best thing in the area – for me, at least, is the Ghibli Museum. It’s the only one in the whole world and it’s very worth all the trouble.
- You can visit it anytime you want, all year round, but just avoid lunchtime if you want the chance to eat at the restaurant.
- It’s an incredible place for people of every single age – from little toddlers to grown adults, everyone can enjoy it!
- To eat… well, the Straw Hat (Mugiwara Boushi), inside the Ghibli Museum is a must! Go first thing in the morning or later in the day for shorter lines.
What to do in Nihonbashi with kids
Pretty much like Asakusa, Nihonbashi area brings an olden Japan style. Just know that olden doesn’t mean Edo era, samurai roaming around. It’s just a more traditional and less touristy area. It was one of the very few places we visited that had very few tourists. You won’t find the incredible Senso-Ji, but there is just so much around to see! Japan’s Ground Zero is there too.
To be really honest, we weren’t even gonna visit it, but then we found that the Nihonbashi Tourist Information Center offers many tours for tourists – and we had to try. The gourmet tour took us through a lot of places we wouldn’t otherwise have found and I really wish we’d visited it first thing so we could enjoy all the amazing food presented to us for longer. It was very worth it!
Plus, it’s a very short walk to the Imperial Garden – which is also very pretty – but it was closed when we tried to see it. Check their calendar first!
Tokyo Station is also very close by and it’s a stunning (but very touristy) building!
Now, Tokyo Station has one great department store there, with an amazing selection of character shops (it’s a whole alley with only character shops), many food stores, and a ramen street, featuring around 8 ramen shops. Well, best place ever.
- Nihonbashi is the best place to get a bit of the non-touristy part of Tokyo feel.
- You can visit it anytime you wish, it should be great whenever. It’s easier to wander around when it’s not raining, though.
- If you wish to go for the tour, then I’d recommend it for either babies that can be carried or kids who can walk and listen to people talking for a while.
- The best place to eat there is… well, there are many, but the Ramen Street is incredible, and Coredo Muromachi Malls (there are 4 of them) also offer a lot of amazing and very traditional things!
What to do in Odaiba with kids
Odaiba is just the prettiest place in Tokyo. It’s an artificial island, built to be an entertainment district, and it offers exactly that. It has a beach, the Rainbow Bridge, boat rides, Gundam Café, Madam Trousseau, Legoland, Trick Art Museum, and just everything one can think of. It even has a Statue of Liberty, seriously.
On our first time, we visited it to see the Trick Art Museum, and for the second time, for Miraikan (The National Museum of Emergingforcience and Innovation). We have a post about the Trick Art Museum, to read it, click here!
Miraikan was pretty cool, it’s all highly technological and futuristic. There were realistic robots, Asimo (the cute robot), trying out some fun experiments with the internet, and just so much more! We highly recommend a visit to the museum. It cost JP¥ 620 per adult and JP¥ 210 per child (anyone under 18) and it’s closed on Tuesdays.
It’s all very entertainment-oriented, so it’s pricey, but there is a lot to be done without spending money, like walking on the beach, watching the sunset, or just seeing the Gundam Robot, the Statue of Liberty, and more.
- Odaiba is the best place to enjoy some entertainment and learn a lot at the technology museums (besides Miraikan, there’s the Sony Explora Science).
- Don’t miss the Yurikagome tram – which is a driverless tram that takes people from Akasaka to Odaiba. The views are stunning, it’s super worth the work it is to use it.
- Don’t miss 2: the giant Gundam Robot. Even for those who’ve never seen the anime (like us), it was cool.
- Take your time to watch the sunset at the beach, it’s worth it!
- Everyone can enjoy Odaiba, there is something for everyone there – just decide what you’ll do based on your kids.
- To eat, you can try the Gundam Café (we didn’t). If not, then the Takoyaki Museum is always a good call!
What to do in Shibuya with kids
Two main things in Shibuya: Hachiko Statue and the Shibuya Crossing. Shibuya crossing is said to be the busiest crossing in the world – it’s crazy, but I doubt if it’s really busier than many others – we saw many crossings as busy as this one in Japan. Hachiko is the dog, famous because he waited for his deceased owner until its death there, at that spot.
Besides crossing the road many times to get a photo, and waiting in line to get a photo with Hachiko, there isn’t much to do that’s unique there. There are many shops and restaurants, the 109 mall, which is said to be where young people shop these days, and that’s all.
- Don’t miss the crossing and 109 Mall because all the funky fashion stuff isn’t very wearable but it’s definitely fun…
- The area is best enjoyed by teens and older, but just as with anywhere in Japan, there’ll always be something for everyone.
- To eat in the area, try Starbucks inside Tsutaya – it gives the best views of the crossing without the crowds.
What to do in Shinjuku with kids
Shinjuku is our favorite area, and maybe that’s because we always stay in that area, it’s our familiar place in Tokyo.
There’s so much there, I think it’s perfect!
To start, there’s Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which is a perfect place to enjoy a sunny day. It’s paid, it costs JP¥ 200 per adult and JP¥ 50 for kids between 6~15. Under 6 are free. It’s closed on Mondays (when Monday is a national holiday, it’s closed on the following weekday).
Imagine peace and silence, just the sound of the trees and the wind – that’s it. Well, of course, there are people chattering, but it’s so much quieter than anywhere else! We loved it! Try to get there before 2 pm to get to the tea rooms and enjoy a Japanese tea with a sweet. We didn’t get there in time. Or better yet, bring your lunch and enjoy a sunny day there!
Hanazono Jinja (Shrine) is another place to visit that brings you to a peaceful and silent place that seems out of Tokyo’s hustle and bustle.
You can shop, as there are more malls and shops in the area than anywhere else in the world.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building offers free entry and incredible views of Tokyo from above. It’s great! Ir gets really crowded for sunset and the beginning of the evening but the views are great!
Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station in the world and it takes a while to learn how to navigate it – it’s immense and a bit complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you can accomplish anything and get anywhere with ease.
There’s just about everything there, it’s a great place to be.
- Shinjuku is the best place to shop and stay!
- Don’t miss Godzilla near Don Quijote store – fun!
- It’s incredible all year long, but avoid the train station near rush hours – it’s so crowded it ends up being scary.
- It’s a great place for all ages, it just depends on what you’re going to do!
- We love eating in Ikkei Ramen behind Odakyuu Mall – the best ramen in Tokyo, seriously. And a little coffee shop called Counter Part Coffee Gallery – great coffee!
What to do in Ueno with kids
Ueno is one of our least favorite places in Tokyo because of the Zoo. Honestly, we went and got seriously sad and depressed and left within an hour. After that, we just didn’t want to return to the area. We must conquer our disappointment sometime in the future, but for now, I’m just going rant about the zoo.
It’s dirty, it’s huge. The cages are super small and filthy, the animals are all crammed up with very little space, and yes, you get a great view of them, but at what cost? It was a horrible experience, we felt those animals’ pain and just gave up on zoos altogether after that visit.
Kids activities in Tokyo
There are many things for kids in Tokyo, and most of them are family-friendly, meaning that parents and guardians also get to enjoy. I’m listing our favorites! If you’re unsure, here’s a list of what to do in Tokyo with kids.
Well, yes, it’s true that shopping isn’t on our list of favorites, but sometimes it’s a necessity, sometimes it’s just for fun. Tokyo has a range of incredible stores that make everyone happy. Start with the great character shops anywhere – Pokémon, Jump shop (for One Piece, Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, etc), Ghibli shops, Hello Kitty (and Sunrio in general), Snoopy, Moomin, and just about any character you can think of.
But then there are the huge stores like Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, and many others. They sell electronics, toys, house appliances, stationery, and so much more!
Tokyu Hands is also a great shop for people wanting to buy something – they have everything. I had a blast wandering around their homeware, craft, and stationary sections. The kids loved the toys and stationary areas.
Uniqlo and Muji are great for clothing, but Muji offers a huge range of different things – even food!
Depending on what you want or need to buy, there’s a perfect place for it!
- For kawaii stuff, go to Harajuku.
- For electronics, try Akihabara. If you need something commonly available, then Shinjuku would do it.
- For souvenirs, try the Daiso shops anywhere.
- For traditional things, get to Nihonbashi or Asakusa.
- For clothing, Uniqlo!
There are many animal cafés in Japan. Although I don’t think it’s a good idea to mess up with animals – because they aren’t happy, they’re there because they have no other choice – it’s just a very different experience!
We went to Harry’s Hedgehog Café, where we paid to have half an hour with hedgehogs. They’re adorable, spiky (there are gloves available), but they’re nocturnal and they should’ve been sleeping. For other animals, we saw many cats, dog, and rabbit cafés. Then there were the strange ones, like snake café, and owl café.
Some places don’t accept kids under a certain age, so make sure you check before going!
Workshops and classes
If you want a place where there are things for kids to do in Tokyo, then you’ll find this topic useful!
There are so many workshops available, from Japanese calligraphy, sword fighting, Japanese taiko, origami, and many others.
We had a blast with our Sample Food workshop. In Japan, you’ll see that most restaurants have wax/plastic models of their food on display. We wanted to do it, and we loved it!
We took the mini-parfait (ice cream sundae) workshop and it was great! Even Coral, who was 5 then, made a perfect looking Sunday to take home. It was super fun and the kids wanted to do another one, but we didn’t manage to because of our schedule. Next time we’ll try the ramen – it must be great!
They kindly showed us everything, including things that weren’t on our workshop. It’s always an incredible experience to meet real artisans who are experts in what they do. They make everything there and it’s a really extraordinary experience!
Cooking classes are one of the best things to do with kids, but since we’d already done one in Nagoya, we skipped it in Tokyo. ABC studios offer classes in English, but there are many other options too, and for all tastes and budgets! Mister Donuts also offers donuts experiences (not very Japanese, but…) but they’re for 8+.
Gourmet / Culture tours
Nihonbashi Tourist Information Center offers a few options of cultural and culinary tours for everyone. They’re cheaper than most and still fun. Tours last from 1 to 1,5 hour and they’re very informative and in English. We took the Gourmet Tour because… food.
We were taken to 9 stores, each serving something different and very Japanese, with samples to try. Coral (5) didn’t like most of them, but we found so many foods we should’ve tried earlier to enjoy throughout our stay (like pickles, bonito flakes, and mochi).
There are other tours around, but we chose this one because of the price and the length – with kids, the shorter the better.
After we were done, we went back to some of the stores to buy food around because they were great. Seriously good.
We were shown so many different things – they were new even to us, who’d previously lived in Japan!
My kids loved it, but once they found out that with the money they spend there, they could’ve got something way better (like a Nintendo Switch), they stopped asking for it.
It’s fun, but the claw machines are all broken. It’s a waste of money. It’s a good experience but once or twice, no more than that.
It’s also very very very loud, and sometimes, smoking inside is allowed, so horrible for non-smokers. The lower levels (yes, there are mostly more than a few floors) are usually smoke-free.
There is one in every corner – just don’t mistake it with the adult entertainment centers with slot and pachinko machines!
Tokyo has a wide variety of museums – from science to arts, to toys, Ghibli, and just every single thing one can think of.
We don’t visit many museums anymore because they’re almost always the same and we got bored, but there’s always one or another that we end up visiting.
Ghibli Museum is a must, and if you want to see the technology stuff, Miraikan in Odaiba is amazing, unlike any other Science museum in the world!!
I believe every child in the world enjoys an amusement park. In Japan, there’s one for every type of traveler and for every budget. They are one of the best Tokyo attractions for kids.
There are many theme and amusement parks in Tokyo besides Disney. Asakusa’s Hanayashiki, One Piece Tower, Joypolis (Odaiba), Namco Namja Town, Lego Land, and many, many more. We haven’t done any of them because our amusement park budget always goes to Disney – maybe some other time we’ll manage. Walk around and you’ll find one for you!
Transport for families in Tokyo – and Japan as a whole
Well, yes, some lines or trains (like the bullet trains) are expensive (sometimes, more than a flight), but overall, it’s affordable.
We found that JR passes aren’t worth it unless you plan on traveling to a lot of different cities using bullet trains in a very short period of time.
There are many different lines, and some train stations have one or more lines connecting. Sometimes, different lines use the same track, which is very confusing. They’re all signaled, so if we’d paid attention, we probably wouldn’t have gotten on the wrong train that often (just kidding, it was just twice).
To use the train system, you’ll go to the nearest station and find the map above the ticket machines. Find where you’re going to and see the number right under it – usually from ¥170 to ¥300. Then go to the machine and follow the instructions (there’s always an English button there). There are day passes, but they’re also for those planning on visiting multiple stations in a day, and if you don’t, it’s usually not worth it.
Keep your ticket until you’ve arrived at the destination. You’ll need it to exit.
If you, for instance, pay the wrong price or decide to change the destination mid-way, it’s fine. You’ll just need to find the yellow fare-adjustment machines, insert your ticket and pay the remaining or collect the extra money you’ve paid, grab the new tickets and exit.
Every train station has a timetable – take a photo or grab one of the printed versions of the nearest station to you – but we never really checked them. There are trains almost all the times and we’ve waited, at most, 8 minutes.
For buses, you usually either pay on a machine or pay to the driver. You’ll know as there should be a machine near the stop. We usually tell the driver where we’re going and they tell us the price. Easy.
Kids 5 and under are free of charge, and kids up to 12 pay the child fare (around half of the adult price). 13 and up are adult prices. Some lines are different, like the Yurikagome (for Odaiba) or the bullet trains, but overall, this is it.
The best day trips from Tokyo – Yokohama, Disney
There are many day trips from Tokyo to the surrounding areas, be it by regular trains, bullet trains, or buses.
For instance, there’s Hakone, Kamakura, Odawara, and many, many more. We haven’t done them, but we can tell you about 2 places: Yokohama and Tokyo Disney.
- Yokohama is around 30 minutes away by regular train – very easy, straightforward, and amazing! We loved Yokohama, click here to see it! Yokohama seems like a calmer version of Tokyo, and it’s incredibly beautiful. I highly recommend a trip there – and if you’re going on a day trip, try to stay until night to see Minato Mirai and it’s stunning night landscape.
- Tokyo Disney should be a 2 days thing because there are 2 parks – and you do need a day for each to do it all. But if you choose one park only, then it’s a great day trip. Avoid weekends and national holidays and enjoy it! We’ve done it, you can see our summery Disney Sea day trip, and our full Tokyo Disney Resort review and guide here. If you must choose one park, Disney Sea is unlike any other Disney park in the world!
Tokyo in summer and in winter
We’ve been in Tokyo during summer and during winter now.
I love summer, but Japanese summers are a bit too hard to swallow. It’s just too humid and extremely hot. And by the end of it (september~october), it’s hurricane season.
Inside malls and all, there’s always air conditioning, but it’s almost never too cold, so you won’t feel cold. Some places, like movie theaters, can be a bit too cold, though, so plan ahead or maybe just take a scarf or something to cover up in case you feel cold.
Generally speaking, it was great. It’s a bit more tiring to walk around, and it’s sweaty (not a very pleasant experience inside the very crowded trains), but it’s not too bad as long as you can take breaks inside restaurants, malls, stores, markets.
Plus, everything is green and flowery and happy – except for my winter-loving family.
Winters are cold and dry – everything is beautiful, but it’s just so cold!
OK, it was bearable by the end of our trip, but one thing was super annoying: the air conditioning. Every single time we entered a place, we had to take off our jackets and hats and gloves and carry them. It’s not so easy when you have little kids (I only have one little, the elders can carry their stuff pretty well now).
Then to go to the toilet – a public toilet – is a nightmare. I had to carry all the jackets and hats and gloves, help Coral out of her 2~3 layers of clothing, clean the seat, wipe her, then repeat everything for myself. There came a time when I avoided drinking and using the toilet altogether.
I also preferred staying outside in the cold (because the cold was bearable with these tips) then go inside anywhere and have to take off all the jackets or accept the sweat that would freeze and slowly pierce me as soon as we got back outdoors.
But if you ask me, winter was prettier – and the food was better.
I still don’t like the cold, though. And the work that comes with it. Next time, I’ll aim it for midseason. For real.
To finish it…
Tokyo isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a visit. There are a lot of things to do with kids in Tokyo, and you will, for sure, find something you love about it.
If you still have questions about it, ask us – we’re more than happy to help!
- City / Country
- Minimun Stay
- $ ~ $$$
- Best local transport option
- Do we recommend it?
- Tokyo / Japan
- 3 days, but more than a week to be safe
- Perfectly child friendly!
- Trains, we love Japanese trains
- Super safe