Tokyo is an awesome place to travel with small people in tow. Not only is it super safe and super clean, it is incredibly entertaining, in so many ways. My kids are not so small. In fact one of them towers over me and the other is catching up very quickly.
My kids are into anime and manga. This was one of the contributing reasons for our first trip. So, there is much to do in and around Tokyo for kids that like pop culture.
Akihabara, or “Electricity Town”, is out-of-this-world. A complete assault on the senses. It is loud, neon bright and busy and different from anywhere I have ever experienced. Akihabara is where geeks can feel totally at home, welcomed and, in fact, celebrated. Akihabara Station is on my favourite loop train line, the Yamanote line, as well as the Chuo-Soba line, Keihintohoku line and a couple of others, so is readily accessible. Full of manga bookshops (beware the adult only floors… not always obvious), pop culture figurine shops, maid cafes and other assorted awesome places (such as die cast train enthusiast shops), Akiba, as it is called by the locals, is very Japanese and very fun. I suggest setting a time limit for your kids, though. My saturation point was around 5 hours.
A totally different, but equally magical and mesmerising experience was the Studio Ghibli Museum. What an enchanting place. If you or your kids are into Totoro, Kiki, Spirited Away, Ponyo or any of the other masterful works of Miyazaki-San, or even if you are not, this museum is something totally different. It is a studio, an exhibition space and an all-round surreal experience. From a life sized, climb-able Neko-Bus (Cat bus) to an animation about sumo mice only shown at the museum, we were totally captivated by this place. It is situated in Mitaka, an outer suburb of Tokyo, and an easy commute on the train. Around 35 minutes from Tokyo station on the Chuo line. It is a wonderful suburb to walk through. It left my wistfully longing to live in such a clean and ordered neighbourhood. My son said, as we were leaving the museum, “Anyone who says Disneyland is the most magical place on Earth hasn’t been to the Ghibli Museum!”
NB. Please be advised that only a certain number of guests are permitted entry each day, and tickets become available 3 months in advance. It is advisable to pre-purchase tickets. I organised mine through JTB Travel jtbtravel.com.au
For a much more cultural experience, the Edo-Tokyo Museum is a must see, for anyone remotely interested in history, and even those who are not (my son). A brilliant display of historical artifacts from katana (swords) and samurai armour, to life sized models of historical homes, shops, and theatres. There are varying sized models of Tokyo and surrounds, as well as performances and quite a lot of hands on exhibitions you can touch, or even sit in/on, such as rickshaws and school rooms. This was a highlight of our trip. Very informative and lots of cool stuff on display, like an original Sony Walkman and a Space Invaders table.
Harajuku is one of my favourite areas in Tokyo. It is busy and bustling and VERY fashionable. It is home to the beautiful Meiji Shrine and also the best toy shop I have ever seen…. KIDDYLAND. Situated on Jingumae, between Harajuku and Omotesando (address says Shibuya), KIDDYLAND is five floors of the best selection of amazing toys, ever. The store is organised by theme and floor. I never get bored of looking around. It has something for everyone and is an excellent stop if you have kids to buy souvenirs for. Kiddyland had it’s 70th Anniversary when we were there in January of this year.
Shibuya Crossing is rumuored to be the busiest intersection in the world. “The Scramble” allows all pedestrians to cross, in all directions, at once. Sometimes this will be 1,000 people at a time. Not only is the crossing super busy, the surrounding buildings are adorned with gigantic plasma screens, running advertising and very loud (and competing) music. Many people stop half way across the road and take photos with a selfie stick. One of the corners is home to the Q-front building, which has a 2nd floor Starbucks, running along the length of the building. It is a great place to grab a matcha frappacino and watch the madness. The crossing is in front of Shibuya station, which is also home to the statue of Japan’s much beloved Hachiko. Hachiko was an Akita dog, born in 1923, who met his owner at the end of the work day, every day, at Shibuya station. One day, Hachi’s owner had a cerebral hemorrhage and died. Every day for 9 years, 9 months and 15 days, Hachi waited at the station for his master’s return. Many people noticed this, and Hachi appeared in the newspaper on 4 October, 1932. After this many people gave him treats and food. The statue is very popular with Japanese tourists and you often have to wait for several groups of people (of all ages and backgrounds) to take photos.
Read more about our time in Shibuya here.
Tokyo Tower is another great place to go with kids. At 333 metres high, (slightly higher than the Eiffel Tower),it is not only an awesome place to ride up an elevator, it has a terrific view over Tokyo.The main observatory is at 150 metres and the special observatory is at 250 metres. We visited at dusk and it was so pretty. You could clearly see Mount Fuji with the sun setting behind it. As well as much of Tokyo and Tokyo Bay. There are many restaurants, cafes and bars at the base of the tower, in the “Foot Town” building, as well as a ONE PIECE indoor amusement park. Tokyo Tower is in Minato.
Tokyo Tower website for info and pricing is tokyotower.co.jp , when you open the page, open the menu in left hand top corner and select the last (bottom) option to change the language on mobile or top left option on full website. Our visit to Tokyo Tower is here.
My final suggestion is my kid’s very, very favourite place to eat in Tokyo. Genki Sushi is situated at 24-8 Udagawacho, Shibuya 150-0042. It is a sushi train restaurant, where amazing sushi, as well as udon, sundaes, beer, edamame, and many other delicious morsels, are delivered via a three level, very fast moving conveyor belt, to stop directly in front of the orderee… It is magic. It is very reasonably priced and it is very delicious! We eat here several times a visit and can’t wait to return when we go back. This is easy eating in Tokyo at it’s best. If you arrive to find that the restaurant is full, go in and write your name down on the waiting list. Do not just line up. It is by order on the waiting list. Not only will you feast for not to much yen, (normally equivalent of AUD$35 for three of us), you get to play rock, paper, scissors, called “junken” in Japanese, and you can win a prize or a discount. We love, love, love this place.
Genki sushi has an English site, here, open the Japanese page and then click the arrow just under the main banner.