At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
We help families take meaningful vacations so that they can escape everyday life, show their kids the world and make lifelong memories - with care, confidence and peace of mind.
Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
There are so many reasons you’ll want to take your children to Japan that it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, it appeals to family members of different ages, whether you’re dealing with grade-schoolers obsessed with Pokémon, teens looking to enlarge their anime and manga collections, or adults longing for the liberation of slurping ramen noodles in public. (Yes, it’s as good as it sounds!)
Of course, that’s just the beginning when it comes to this history-steeped nation where ancient temples, thick bamboo forests, and snow-dusted monkeys lounging in natural hot springs are the norm. You’ll base some of the activities on your itinerary on seasonal restraints, so planning is everything to ensure your family’s varied needs get met.
Here’s everything you need to know about planning the perfect Japan family trip.
The best family vacations go to places where kid-friendly activities and amenities abound, and Japan checks all the boxes. From its verdant natural spaces to its historical towns and dynamic neon cities, you’ll find something to capture everyone’s imagination. Yet, the nation is easy to navigate, has spick-and-span infrastructure, and offers innovative amenities.
It also has a well-deserved reputation for safety, which means you can do less worrying while your kids can do more exploring. Coupled with the nation’s obsession with efficiency, cleanliness, and organization, few places are more pleasurable to explore. And we haven’t even touched on the wonders of Japanese cuisine. Think sushi and sashimi, tempura, seafood, and noodles galore! You’ll also want to visit at least one onigiri (a.k.a. omusubi) café to try Japan’s on-the-go comfort food.
Tokyo comes with some unique challenges. Space is limited, and it’s not all kid friendly. The subway is one of the deepest subterranean facilities in the world, and much of it lacks elevators. Nevertheless, navigating the routes proves a breeze.
Caveats aside, no visit to Japan would be complete without spending some time in this veritable technicolor dream world. Incredible attractions lay scattered across the city, including Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea. But you don’t have to hit theme parks to enjoy Japan’s capital city with kids.
At Shibuya Crossing, witness the busiest pedestrian crossing on the planet. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Just about anywhere in Tokyo, you can duck into a Karaoke Room to try this popular pastime. Another local activity you don’t want to miss out on is a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest seafood market in the world. Known for its daily tuna auctions, get there before dawn to secure tickets.
Another must-see attraction is the Senso-ji (or Senso) in Asakusa. A five-minute walk from the Asakusa Station, stroll the bustling Nakamise-dori, a pedestrian street leading to the breathtaking Senso-ji (a.k.a. Asakusa Kannon), a Buddhist temple. The oldest temple in Tokyo, this incredible structure dates to A.D. 645.
Among our favorite spots is the Harajuku District in Shibuya, Tokyo, which showcases the best in Japanese pop culture and street fashion. From its modern neon lights to its quirky cafes and shops chock full of Pokémon, anime, and manga, your family will never be at a loss for what to do in this area of the city. Takeshita Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, is especially popular with tweens and teens.
Don’t forget to check out the Meiji Jingu, a historic Shinto shrine with vast grounds, including a tranquil forest. Leave the hustle and bustle of Tokyo behind while remaining within its city limits. The site commemorates Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, who laid the foundation for the modernized nation. The monument also celebrates Japan’s ancient Shinto religion, which places a premium on values such as sincerity and harmony.
Another pop culture hotspot your teens will get behind is Akihabara, a neighborhood jampacked with techie boutiques, electronic stores, and computer shops. Akihabara represents the epicenter of highly popular subcultures: anime, manga, figure collecting, and gaming. If you’ve got kids connected to Japanese culture, check out the AKB48 Theatre, which represents the birthplace of the famed girl band AKB48. Fans still flock to the location on musical pilgrimages, and it’s a fun way to introduce your children to music from another culture.
Nestled in the mountains north of Tokyo, the beautiful town of Nikko contains the celebrated Shinto shrine Tosho-gu and the Rinno-Ji Temple, both world heritage sites. Grade-schoolers and preteens will love Nikko’s Edo Wonderland, where they can play ninjas for the day while learning about the Edo Period in Japan.
In Nikko National Park, explore natural landscapes from forests to waterfalls while giving the kids some open space to blow off steam. And don’t forget to check out the Shinkyo Bridge. This impressive structure dates to 1636 and exudes the vibe of post-medieval Japan.
In Shiga Prefecture, explore Kusatsu and the nation’s largest natural hot springs. There’s no better spot to visit a traditional Japanese hot spring bath or onsen. Shigaraki boasts an ancient pottery industry worth a visit. One of the most notable things you’ll see on a tour of pottery shops are whimsical figurines of Tanuki or raccoon dogs. Inspired by real-life animals native to Japan, Tanuki have played a prominent role in Japanese mythology for centuries. (Fun fact: They’re also major players in the highly popular video game Animal Crossing.)
Next, it’s on to Kyoto. Like Tokyo, Kyoto sits at the juxtaposition of tradition and the cutting edge. At the Arashiyama Bamboo grove, savor a little relaxation while snapping shots of your family surrounded by the magical and distinctly Japanese woodlands.
Pass through the vibrant orange torii gates at Mount Inari to make your way up the winding path to the Shinto shrine. Savor a delectable meal on a sushi train. While you can find these fun restaurants throughout the nation, Aeon mall in Kyoto’s city center has a great kid-friendly option!
Kyoto is also the perfect place for some hands-on cultural activities, from a tea ceremony to a calligraphy or soba-making class.
Unlike Tokyo or Kyoto, Osaka appears rather unimpressive at first sight. Because of its early and lengthy industrial history, it lacks the green spaces you find in other Japanese cities. But don’t be too quick to judge the city or you risk missing out on its incredible attractions.
For families who didn’t take advantage of the interactive history lessons offered at Edo Wonderland, check out the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. It provides rich insights into life during the Edo era. For a deeper historical dive, stop by Osaka Castle to explore its impressive architecture and the fascinating legends that have sprung up around it.
You won’t want to miss out on the Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium, which focuses on the marine life of the Pacific ring and Japan’s land animals. The facility is internationally renowned for its innovative exhibits, which showcase animals in their native habitats. The site includes 15 large tanks, including Antarctica, the Japan Forest, and the Pacific Ocean, which feature massive whale sharks. If visiting, we recommend organizing your tour around the marine animal feeding times to see the animals at their most active.
From Tokyo’s colorful pop culture neighborhoods to the tranquility of Shinto temples and the natural beauty of the Arashiyama Bamboo grove and Mount Inari, there’s so much to see on a Japan family trip. And that’s just the beginning.
Depending on the time of year you visit, consider attending a Cherry Blossom Festival, exploring Sapporo and skiing in Niseko in Hokkaido, or scoping out the snow monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park. Your options are endless, and a travel advisor can help you tailor an itinerary to your family members’ ages and unique interests.
We’ve got the local connections and family-travel experience to ensure that every trip you take with us is meaningful, rooted in authentic cultural experiences, and sustainable. Ready to start planning your dream trip to Japan?
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