Japan is a surprisingly family-friendly destination with tons of attractions — theme parks, museums, castles, temples, parks and gardens — to explore. The hardest part of visiting Japan with kids is deciding what to include so you’re not overtaxing your kids or your budget.
Buy a JR Pass
Zipping through the Japanese countryside on a bullet train is a must, especially if you’re traveling with kids. It’s also a quick and convenient method of getting from one place to another. Thanks to the bullet trains, you can base your family in one city, like Osaka or Tokyo, and take day trips to the country’s other cities and attractions. Depending on how much train travel you plan to do, you’ll likely save money by purchasing JR Passes for each member of your family.
Visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
Disney has done an excellent job of recreating the Disney experience in Japan. Tokyo Disneyland has many of the same attractions as the original park, including the Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as some new additions. Unique to the Tokyo theme park is DisneySea, a second nautically themed park that opened in 2001. If you only have time for one, take the kids to DisneySea.
Stick to One or Two Cities
With so much to see, it’s easy to overextend yourself. When you’re traveling with children, choose one or possibly two cities to base yourself and your family. You can still make day trips to other cities, but you won’t have to repack your bags and switch hotels every couple of days, and you’ll be free to explore at a more leisurely pace.
Explore the Outdoors
The islands of Japan have been blessed with stunning natural beauty, and a day trip to Hakone National Park makes an excellent family escape from Tokyo. Your kids will get to ride a bullet train, cable car, funicular and even a boat on Lake Ashi. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji in the distance.
Enjoy Japanese-Style Accommodation
While you’ll find plenty of Western-style hotels in Japan, your family might very well enjoy staying in a Japanese-style ryokan. You’ll typically find the best ones at the hot springs resorts, like Hakone, as hotel chains in the cities have driven many out of business. In the major cities, shop around for hotels that allow children to stay free.