Post and photos by Philippa Langrish
Why You’ll Love Shiba Park Hotel
Tokyo with kids is brilliant, exhausting, fascinating and challenging! The city prides itself on its family friendly conveniences. For our little troop the pros definitely came up trumps. The incredible baby change facilities, FamilyMarts on every corner, beautiful parks, plus the ultra-clean, organised and safe environment make Tokyo a great family destination. Conversely it can be a big challenge with endless stairs in the metro, tiny restaurants with long queues and perhaps a little too much organisation.
Taking a city break with the kids meant we would be out most of the day exploring and needed a hotel which would offer comfort, good food, a nearby park and a hearty breakfast. We loved the Shiba Park Hotel for its location, friendly staff and delicious sashimi. The genuine hospitality of the staff known as “omotenashi” was very much prevalent in the daily welcome greetings and warm smiles of the staff members.
Staying in this area we felt like locals. A morning sojourn to the park where my husband took his coffee (at Pain Quotidien!) before studying a map of the city for a full day sightseeing really set us up for the day. Our kids played with the local pre-schoolers who were wheeled to the park in little carts by their teachers, where they all had a good dig in the sandpit before burning off some energy on the slides, swings and climbing frame.
Shiba Park Hotel is a short walk from Tokyo Tower, Zojo-ji Temple and Atago Shrine. We visited the Shrine and Temple on our first day, which was just as charming and interesting as the other more famous shrines we visited later on our trip. It was a calm place with a handful of other tourists meandering through, and a few locals who came to worship in front of the exquisite Buddhist statues.
There are many interesting-looking restaurants within walking distance. We dined at a few local establishments with the kids and were able to walk back to the hotel within minutes. Due to its quite location, the restaurants were not really busy so we were able to have relaxing meals where it didn’t matter too much if a chopstick or two was catapulted across the table!
Shiba Park Hotel made our kids feel really special with little toothbrushes and pastes, mini slippers, a toy bed for my son’s cuddly bunny (complete with mini pillow and duvet), an origami session, as well as welcome origami birds and flowers in the room. A perfect western style breakfast welcomed us each morning which the kids loved (I tried to get them to eat the Japanese breakfast but they were not convinced with fish at 8am!) Happy kids, happy parents!
Why kid will love Shiba Park Hotel
The toilets in Japan have multiple buttons, each with a different function – music, front/back wash, pressure, dry and flush. When I ask the kids what they love about Tokyo, they will say the toilets! Ok, aside from the hyper-tech toilets, the Shiba Park Hotel was a wonderful place for the children to relax after a full day discovering the city and they were always happy to arrive ‘home’. The lobby itself was one of their favourite places with sweets, a lovely Feng Shui water feature, and comfy sofas to rest tired feet.
We were pleasantly surprised by the spacious rooms as we had heard that Japan was a bit tight on space. However, we had an enormous bed that we shared with Gillan (almost two-years-old) and Maya had her own single sofa bed. Maya loved having her own space where she could organise all her little things creating a princess fortress which could not be invaded by her little brother (unfortunately for him, he was too small to climb up!).
The kids adored the freedom of the local park where they chased pigeons, climbed on huge rocks, dug in the sandpit, swung from the monkey bars, admired the flower beds and played at imitating the gigantic crows which glided from tree to tree.
Shiba Park Hotel is just an eight-minute walk from the nearest metro station, which was a huge hit with my toddler who is obsessed with trains. We rarely get the chance to ride on a train so this was heaven for him. The incredibly organised and easy to navigate metro made exploring the city an adventure in itself. The infrastructure in Tokyo is trailblazing and with kids in tow it is comforting to know that the trains are punctual, regular, clean and safe.
Shiba Park Hotel Details
The hotel’s history goes back as far as 1948, although the newest structure is a 1980s build with a brand new extension due to be finished this year.
There are 199 rooms split into the following categories:
- 120 x Twin Rooms (21 msq)
- 54 x Double Rooms
- 17 x Triple Rooms (22 – 32 msq)
- 8 Deluxe Twin Rooms inc Quad Rooms (32-39 msq)
The rooms are simply decorated in tones of navy blue, cream, lilac and grey. The windows are dressed with blinds and there is a mural of trees on the wall to give the illusion of more space. Rooms are carpeted throughout with lots of nooks for storage. There is also a small area with a coffee/tea making station. The beds are very comfortable with good quality bed linen and a heavy duvet. All the lights have dimmers next to the bed so you don’t need to get out of bed to switch them on.
The bathrooms are a bit dated with cream tiles, mirror, a small bath, sink and toilet. There is an integrated shower. Despite its aesthetic, the water pressure is fantastic. Toilets in Japan are a real novelty due to the integrated bidet system complete with wash, music, heated seats, pressure and drying functions! Needless to say the kids loved playing with all the buttons!
The extra bed policy is included in the room rate. The standard rooms are too small for any extra beds. There are four sets of interconnecting rooms.
Best Rooms for Families: This depends on the size of your family however, we stayed in a superior twin room which was ideal for the four of us. We shared a bed with our two-year-old, but this was not a problem as the main bed was huge.
Food at Shiba Park Hotel
You can choose from two different types of breakfast, Western or Japanese. The western is a buffet style with eggs, bacon, cereals, toast, croissants, juices etc… The Japanese is a set menu of fish, soup, rice and steamed vegetables. There is no charge for children’s breakfast under 6 years old. The children are also given miso soup and rice complimentary at meal times.
The hotel has two restaurants open for lunch and dinner, one serving Japanese and the other Chinese cuisine. Both offer high chairs if needed. I took the children for a Japanese lunch at the hotel and we were very wisely squirrelled into a quiet corner so as not to disturb other patrons. We found out that many local restaurants have separate nooks or upstairs areas for families with small children offering privacy to both us and fellow diners.
I ordered the sashimi set lunch for 2,900yen ($27), which was great for all three of us. It came with tofu, vegetables, six pieces of sashimi, rice and miso soup. This was ideal to share with the kids who ate the veggies, rice, tofu and miso soup while I had the sashimi, which was utterly delicious. The soup, veggies and rice contented the children – my son even ordered extra miso soup!
There is also a bar within the hotel if you want a nightcap.
Activities at the hotel for families include:
In-room traditional Japanese-style Shiatsu massage.
More activities will be offered once the new, Shiba Park 151, extension opens in August 2016.
A/C in all rooms, Babysitting (available on request), cots (only available for children aged one and under), doctors & hospitals (good medical assistance three minutes from the hotel), highchairs, laundry service, pushchair friendly, shops (a FamilyMart is almost next door), travel desk, wheelchair access WiFi.
When to go:
The best time to visit Tokyo is either Spring or Autumn. We visited in Spring and the weather was perfect – fresh and mild whilst sunny. Summer is peak tourist season, which you’ll quickly see from long queues everywhere. Avoid this time of year if you can; you’ll face oppressive heat, humidity and high room rates.
On the opposite extreme, winter weather is chilly but still manageable although you will not enjoy the beauty of the parks at this time of year. In Spring the city springs to life with the gorgeous cherry blossoms that pervade Tokyo’s green space. Autumn weather is equally pleasant with autumnal colours filling the parks.
Location & Travel:
Shiba Park Hotel is located in the heart of Tokyo with easy access to four major train and subway stations. It is also near to Tokyo’s major sightseeing spots and business districts. The nearest metro station is Hamamatsucho Station, which is approximately eight minutes walk from the hotel.
Philippa’s Top Tokyo Tips!
1. Visit the Asakusa Temple, Market and Shrine.This vibrant little area is a great place to pick up souvenirs, eat street food and visit a cultural attraction. On the weekends you will see Kimono clad women making their way across the pedestrian area towards the temple. It is also a great spot to treat the kids to rainbow coloured shaved ice cones.
2. Take a trip to Harajuku Market before walking up the road to Yoyogi Park where the kids can run along the tree lined pathway leading to the Shrine. Harajuku Market is Japan’s answer to Camden Town – a hip little street full of vibrant fashions, little cafes and teen culture. Pack a picnic if you plan on an alfresco lunch in Yoyogi Park as the eateries here, and at many of the tourist spots are disappointing. It is easy to pick up some delicious take-out sushi, gyoza, pastries and wasabi snacks to eat under the shade of a tree.
3. Buy a Pasmo rail card. This will allow you to travel easily on the metro without having to buy multiple single tickets. You can add credit as you need and just scan the card as you pass through the gates.
4. Read my guide to Tokyo! What to see and do with kids in Japan’s capital.