Tokyo is an incredible city. It’s well known that this megacity is a fascinating mix of old and new but nothing can quite prepare you for the amazing contrasts that Tokyo offers.
One moment you may be mingling with locals at an ancient shrine and the next you’re watching a giant robot transform before your very eyes. It’s these constant contradictions that make the Japanese capital such an exciting destination to visit.
We spent a week exploring Tokyo and completely fell in love with the city – you can see our Tokyo 7 day itinerary here and our two-week in Japan itinerary here – and were unanimous in our decision that we would all happily move to Tokyo if we could. Until then, however, we’re just hoping that we can go back for a return visit soon.
If you are wondering what are the best things to do with kids in Tokyo then this post is for you. Here I share all the many things that we did during our time in Tokyo and our top tips for making the most of your time in the city.
Tokyo with Kids: What to expect
Table of Contents
Firstly, Tokyo is a great place to visit with kids. My children were aged 8, 13 and 15 when we visited and I think these were the perfect ages. Of course, you can visit Tokyo with younger children but this is very much a walking city so I personally think it’s better with slightly older kids who are happy to spend a lot of time on two feet.
Tokyo is a very clean and safe city. Despite being one of the world’s largest and most densely populated cities, it’s sparkling clean, incredibly safe and remarkably organised. This is thanks to rules and etiquette that are strictly observed. It’s also part of the culture; for 12 years of school life, from elementary school to high school, students are required to help keep their school clean.
You’ll notice that rubbish bins are few and far between with everyone taking their trash home with them, eating in the street is frowned upon (unless you’re indulging in rainbow-coloured candy floss in Harajuku!), and everyone takes their shoes off when entering a home (and some restaurants).
There is no one central area of Tokyo, rather the city is made up of 14 urban hubs and each one is much like a small city in itself. Be aware of where sights are located when you are planning your days and try to stick to one or two hubs at a time. The below map will help you locate where each our the recommended attractions are located.
Make sure you always have cash on you. For such a technologically sophisticated country, Japan is still surprisingly reliant on good old fashioned hard cash.
Getting around by public transport is relatively easy. The subway stations might seem overwhelming at first but we quickly got the hang of using the Tokyo Metro. The metro is often the easiest way to get around. Cabs are plentiful and – compared to London at least – reasonably priced. They are also incredibly clean and the drivers very polite. If you are a family of five like us, you may have to get two cabs.
Vending machines are ubiquitous in Japan and you’ll find a drinks vending machine on almost every street corner selling everything from bottles of water and cans of soda to hot coffee and tea. You’ll need coins to operate them.
Tokyo with Kids Map
Things to do in Tokyo with Kids
The following Tokyo attractions, sights and museums are fun for the whole family but if you are visiting Tokyo with friends, as a couple or as a solo traveller then this list is equally applicable. One of the (many) wonderful things about Tokyo is how its many sights and attractions are good for all ages.
Ironically one of the few places we did not visit during our seven days in Tokyo was Tokyo Disneyland. Our focus was on seeing the city and everything that the capital has to offer rather than visit this Disney amusement park. That said, if Disney is your thing then you should definitely go.
Located to the east of the city is an enormous entertainment complex home to both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 and was the park’s first international location. It’s not dissimilar to the parks in Florida and California in terms of rides with old favourites including Space Mountain and Tomorrowland making an appearance. There are also some Tokyo-specific rides including Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage.
Tokyo Disney Sea on the other hand is a very Japanese product packed full of rides, shows, musicals, and parades many inspired by the myths and legends of the sea. It’s geared more towards adults than children in terms of food and drinks and offer (you can buy alcoholic drinks for example). That said, kids will still love it! The park opened in 2021 and has been a huge success.
It’s hard to understand just how big Tokyo is until you’ve seen the sprawling metropolis from up high. One of the best places to get a bird’s-eye view of the city is at the Tokyo Skytree.
Located at the Tokyo Skytree Station near the Asakusa neighbourhood, the broadcasting and telecommunications tower was, for a time, the world’s second tallest structure. Measuring 634 metres tall (by comparison, the Eiffel Tower in France measures 324 metres, it was second to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai when it opened in 2012. Despite being overtaken by a number of buildings today, however, it’s still the tallest building in Tokyo.
Today its a prominent Tokyo landmark that lights up the night skyline at night with colourful LED lights (over 2,000 in total). Visit during holiday periods and you’ll enjoy themed lighting displays.
What you really want to come here for, however, are the observation decks. Tickets for the observation deck are on the fourth floor but the viewing deck itself is right up on the 350th floor and is reached by an elevator that travels at a remarkable 600 metres per minute. From the Tembo Deck Viewing Platform the city spreads out below you, a seemingly never-ending urban sprawl. On clear days, you can enjoy a great view up to 70 kilometres away.
The Sky Tree is also home to shops and restaurants and you can easily spend hours exploring the craft shops, theme stores and myriad restaurants.
Located in Aoyama neighbourhood is the eponymous cemetery. The sprawling Aoyama Cemetery opened in 1874 and was Tokyo’s first public cemetery. It’s the final resting place for many of Tokyo’s most notable residents and, during the Meiji period, was where many foreigners were buried. The cemetery is also where you’ll find Hachikō’s Grave.
Hachikō was a golden-brown Akita dog long admired in Japanese popular culture. Every day Hachikō would accompany his master, Professor Ueno, to Shibuya train station where the professor would board a train to take him to work at Tokyo Imperial University. Each evening, Hachikō returned to the station to meet his owner and walk home with him.
However, on May 21 1925, Professor Ueno died at work and did not return home. Nevertheless, every evening over a period of nine years Hachikō returned to Shibuya Station to wait for his master.
In 1935 the loyal dog died and he was buried next to Ueno’s grave in Aoyama Cemetery. A small shrine stands to one corner of the grave site and a statue to Hachikō’ stands outside Shibuya Station.
The cemetery is also filled with cherry trees and during spring season it’s a popular spot for viewing the cherry blossoms.
Shibuya Crossing, also known as the Shibuya Scramble – is one of the world’s busiest pedestrian crossings with as many as 2,500 navigating their way across the intersection at any one time. Located just outside Shibuya Station and surrounded by huge television screens mountain on tall buildings, it’s an iconic Tokyo sight and well worth a visit. Your main challenge will be trying to take a photo as people jostle for space around you!
The crossing has appeared in films including Lost in Translation and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift as well as numerous music videos, animations and more. Don’t forget to say hello to the small statue of Hachikō once you’ve made it safely across the intersection.
Miraikan – National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
Hands down one of the best museums in Tokyo is Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Located on the manmade island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, this family-friendly museum explores our relationship to science, nature and technology across three different zones.
Discover Your Earth focuses, as the name suggests, on planet earth and is where you’ll find the museums’ enormous LED globe hanging from the ceiling and projecting real-time weather patterns shot by weather satellites daily.
Explore the Frontiers takes a journey into space, the solar system and planet earth and explores how they all work together. Learn how volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters have shaped the earth, wander through the International Space Station (ISS) and more.
Create Your Own Future asks interesting questions such as “What does it mean to be human?” and “What type of future do you want”. There are plenty of interactive exhibits that are fun, engaging and educational and are particularly good for older kids.
What a lot of people come to the science museum for, however, are the robots and the museum is home to a handful of automations. Miraikan’s original robot, Asimo, the humanoid from Honda, has retired but there are several other robots to be amazed by. Our favourite – and a great one for little kids – is Paro the robotic pet harp seal. This adorable – and incredible realistic – animal robot was original developed as a therapy pet alternative.
Gundam Robot Transformer
If it’s giant robots that you’re after then head to the Diver City Mall, not far from Miraikan. Here you’ll find the Unicorn Gundam, a 19.7-metres tall replica of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam from the popular 1970s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam. Not only does this life-size Japanese Gundam robot look impressive but it actually transforms, its frame expanding and a unicorn horn protruding from its head. The transformation usually takes place four times a day.
The Tokyo Poop Museum
Once you’ve finished boggling the Unicorn Gundam head inside Diver City Mall to Tokyo’s most unusual museum. The Tokyo Poop Museum – officially known as the Unko Museum – is dedicated to the kawaii (cute) poop emoji and is a technicolour maze of all things poo-related.
During the course of your visit you will sit on a Crayola-coloured plastic toilet, play the “catch the falling poo” game, scream “unko” as loudly as you can into a microphone, watch a poo volcano explode and lots more.
It’s weird, it’s quirky, it’s uniquely Japanese, and it’s unbelievably fun.
For more kawaii culture head to the Harajuku neighbourhood, the capital of Japanese teen fashion. This is the place to come for wonderfully outlandish fashion, colourful food creations and cute animal cafes.
The heart of the neighbourhood is Takeshita Dori street which is lined with shops selling enormous plushies by Sanrio (the company behind Hello Kitty), clothing stores and themed restaurants such as the one dedicated to Pompompurin, the friendly Golden Retriever character made famous by Sanrio. Crêperies selling Harajuku-style pancakes (rolled into a cone and stuffed with ice cream, cream and fruit) line the street as do cafes where you can meet hedgehogs, pigs, dogs and even otters. It was also once home to the Kawaii Monster Cafe although that has since closed.
Don’t miss the chance to get snapped in a purikura photo booth; these sticker photos booths come with props and are great fun.
Takeshita Street gets busy at the weekends so be prepared for crowds! Of course, being Japan, the crowds are ordered and polite with police on the scene carrying signs urging people to “keep left” when walking down the street.
Not far from Takeshita Street is Yoyogi Park, one of the largest parks in Tokyo. If you’re looking for a break from the concrete and bright lights then Yoyogi Park is a great place to come. That said, this park is hugely popular so it does get lively.
Yoyogi Park officially became a public park in 1967. Prior to that it was a military parade ground, home to US military barracks when the Americans occupied Japan and was also where the main athlete’s village was housed during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
One of the best reasons to come here, however, are to watch the rockabilly dancers. Dressed in leather jackets, tight jeans and with slicked-back hair, these rockers dance away to 1950s classics every Sunday. There’s no set time so it’s a matter of luck if you spot them or not. Fortunately, we did!
Meiji Jingu Shrine
Adjacent to Yoyogi Park is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirts of Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. He came to power at the end of the Edo period. Entry into the shrine grounds is via a massive torii gate (these gates represent the border between the secular world and the sacred world in Shinto Buddhism) and along a forested path before you reach the main complex.
It’s a remarkably peaceful spot, thanks to the 100,000 trees that make up the Meiji Jingu forest. The trees were planted when the shrine was being built and were donated from regions across Japan. A colourful wall of painted sake barrels also stand on the road leading to the shrine entrance.
The original shrine buildings sadly burnt down during World War II so the buildings that you see today date back to 1958 when they were reconstructed in the typical Shinto style. The shrine is one of the most popular in Tokyo, particularly during Hatsumode, which takes place over the first three days of the New Year. This time of year sees thousands of visitors arrive to worship and wish for good fortune. It’s also a popular spot for Shinto marriage ceremonies and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot one when you are there.
If you would like to make your own wish then you can write a prayer on a wooden tablet and hang it with the many other wishes under the camphor tree (you can also take it home with you if you like!). My kids each bought an amulet, the oldest opting for one to help with his school studies!
Off the main path of the shrine is a small garden although you need to pay to enter this (entry to the shrine is free).
The other temple that you should add to your list in Tokyo is the Senso-Ji Temple. This is the oldest Buddhist temple in the capital and also one of its most popular (and busy!).
Originally founded in 628 the temple was destroyed in WWII so the current structure is what was constructed after the war. Personally, I prefer Meiji Shrine but it’s still well worth stopping by Senso-Ji Temple, if only to peruse the shopping street lined with some 90 odd shops selling crafts, souvenirs and food.
A 15 minute metro ride from Senso-Ji Temple is Ueno Park, one of Japan’s five oldest public parks – it official opened to the public in 1873. Today the park is home to a number of Tokyo museums including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.
Young kids might enjoy a visit to Ueno Zoo which is also located in the park. It opened in 1882 making it the country’s oldest zoo.
The other reason to visit Ueno Park is for the cherry blossoms. More than 1,000 cherry blossom trees line the park’s central pathway making it a popular destination for hanami, the traditional Japanese art of cherry blossom viewing.
Not far from Ueno Park is Nezu Shrine, less well known by tourists but it’s well worth visiting, especially if your family vacation coincides with azalea season.
The shrine is one of Japan’s oldest and also one of its most beautiful. During April and May the surrounding greenery transforms into an ocean of pinks, whites, blues, and purples when the 3,000 azalea plants bloom. It’s an incredibly pretty site but do be prepared to share the paths with lots of visitors (at most other times the temple grounds are gloriously quiet).
The other reason to come here is for the tunnel of narrow, vermilion torii Shinto shrine gates that wind along the paths on the hillside above the main shrine providing the perfect family photo opportunity.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Ask any traveller to Japan what’s on their Tokyo wish list and the Tsukiji Fish Market will inevitably feature. Things have changed a little at this legendary fish market (and biggest in Japan) in recent years but it’s one of the best things to do with kids in Tokyo.
Although the ‘outer market’ is still very much alive and kicking, the ‘inner market’ has moved. The outer market is where you’ll find hundreds of vendors hawking baseball sized mussels, enormous pre-historic-looking spider crab and sea urchins freshly pulled from the sea.
The inner market was the wholesale fish market that was famous for the its early morning tuna auction. This part of the market has now moved to the Toyosu neighbourhood, a quick 10 minute taxi ride away.
This lively market is an easy place to spend a couple of hours. As well as the vendors there are restaurants serving up melt-in-your-mouth fresh sashimi, shops serving scoops of weird and wonderful ice cream flavours (the sesame is very good) and a stall creating giant rice crackers made using shrimp or octopus and flattened using heat and high pressure. These are called tako senbei and the stall is one of the most popular in the market.
Tsukiji gets very busy so channel your inner zen and be prepared to wait in line at the popular restaurants and foods stalls.
Art Aquarium Museum
Located in the chichi neighbourhood of Ginza, the Art Aquarium Museum opened on the 8th and 9th floors of the Ginza Mitsukoshi New Building in 2022. This is another wonderfully unique Japanese experience, an art museum dedicated to the living goldfish.
Designed by Hidetomo Kimura, who “sees goldfish as living pieces of art”, the museum houses a number of rooms each one home to a different exhibition involving dozens of different types of goldfish. the fish are displayed in glass vessels of varying shapes and sizes (among then there are cylinders, large rectangular tanks and fish-eye portholes) all illuminated by multicoloured lights.
It might sound a little odd – and in reality it is – but it’s incredibly peaceful and the display are beautiful. We really enjoyed our visit here and would highly recommend adding it to your Tokyo itinerary.
Nissan Japan Cafe
Also in Ginza is a Nissan showroom, which might seem like an unusual thing to do in Tokyo with kids until you realise that this car showroom is also home to the Nissan Japan Cafe where you can have your picture printed on your cup of coffee!
Once you’ve chosen your drink – they offer a range of hot or cold coffees as well as hot chocolate for the kids – the barista uses an iPad to take your photo. The iPad is then connected to a machine not dissimilar to a 3D printer and uses minuscule drips of coffee (or chocolate) to transfer the picture onto the latte creating your very own personalised latte in just a couple of minutes.
You can then enjoy your coffee with views of Ginza crossing below.
The 3D Billboard in Shinjuku
Shinjinku is one of those neighbourhoods that feels very “Tokyo”. This busy corner of the capital is one of the city’s major hubs; a business-shopping-entertainment neighbourhood that never seems to sleep. It’s a really popular place for its nightlife but if you’re travelling with kids then this probably isn’t that important to you.
Nevertheless, it’s well worth coming here to see the Tokyo that’s often depicted in the movies and also to see the incredible 3D billboard.
Located opposite Shinjuku Station’s east exit, is Tokyo’s first 3D billboard home to a curved LED screen that helps to create a 3D effect when seen from certain angles. When we visited we saw the billboard’s famous calico cat who sleeps, lounges around, wakes up and waves his tail before staring down curiously at the pedestrians below.
You can spot other 3D billboards in Shibuya. There’s one around the corner from Shibuya Scramble Crossing that features a giant panda and another on the crossing itself that features an Akita Inu dog, the same breed as Hachiko, the dog who waited faithfully for his master at Shibuya station. All three also play advertisements.
If you or your kids are interested in Japanese manga and / or anime then Akihabara is the neighbourhood for you. Also known as Electric Town, this buzzy neighbourhood is pop culture paradise where the streets are lined with department stores selling electronics (hence the nickname), shops with floors stacked high with manga comics, stores selling collectable anime figures and much more.
Start your Akihabara adventure at Radio Kaikan, 10 floors of anime figures, video games, manga stickers, trading cards, games, manga dolls (including build-your-own) and much more. We spent hours in here!
Located in an older, narrow building (the kind where you have to take turns on the stairs) is Super Potato. Navigate your way to the top floor and you’ll be rewarded with a dozen old-school video game machines. Relive your youth playing Street Fighter and introduce your kids to life before Apple products ruled the world.
Taino Station is another good place to go for a true Akihabara experience. This shop is home to five floors of arcade games starting with “crane games” (otherwise known as “UFO catchers” in Japan) on the ground floor. These are highly popular in Japan – and highly addictive! We tried a handful but, not surprisingly, didn’t win anything.
The other floors in Taino Station host a range of electronic games but our favourites were the dancing games located on the top floor. Make sure you have lots of change!
Baseball might be the most popular sport in Japan but sumo wrestling is the national sport and can be traced back as far as the 8th century. In Tokyo, it was in and around the Ryogoku area, to the east of the city, that the first organised sumo competitions started.
Today there are a couple of ways to see the big guys in action, either training at one of the city’s Sumo Stables or in action at one of the six Sumo Grand Tournaments that are held each year. Of these, only three are held in Tokyo (at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall just outside Ryogoku JR station) and the other three are hosted in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.
Unfortunately, when we were in Tokyo the sumo wrestlers were out of town competing so we were unable to see them training or competing. Hopefully, however, you will have more luck!
If you want to watch the sumo wrestlers training at their sumo stable then here’s what you need to know. Not all sumo stables allow visitors to watch the daily sumo training sessions but a handful do allow fans and tourists to spectate, providing that they watch in silence.
Professional rikishi (sumo wrestlers) and apprentices live together in sumo stables (called heya in Japanese) where they follow a strict training regime and lifestyle. They rise very early in the morning for training with sessions lasting at least a couple of hours including one-on-one bouts in the ring.
One of the easiest ways to organise a visit is via a tour operator who will also explain the history and traditions behind sumo wrestling.
If you have time, stop by the Ryogoku Sumo Museum, inside the Ryōgoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall, which displays rotating memorabilia and artefacts relating to the history of sumo. They also display the Banzuke, the official rankings of sumo wrestlers today.
Watch a baseball game
One of our favourite day’s out in Japan was watching a baseball game in Hiroshima. There, we saw the Hiroshima Carp defeat the Yomiuri Giants, one of Tokyo’s two baseball teams, in a fun-filled afternoon of chanting, cheering and general feel-good merriment.
Baseball is huge in Japan. It was first introduced by an American English teacher working in Tokyo in 1872 and today is the country’s most popular sport. Fans are devoted to their local team; when we saw our game in Hiroshima, 90 per cent of the crowd was wearing Carp t-shirts, there were dedicated chants for each individual player and the whole crowd took part in synchronised cheering using mini plastic baseball bats.
In Japan, Tokyo Dome (home to the Yomiuri Giants) is the place to go to catch a game. This website tells you all you need to know about buying tickets.
Gonpachi, the Kill Bill Restaurant
It’s not often that a restaurant doubles up as an attraction but when you’re in central Tokyo you should really book at table at Gonpachi, otherwise know as the Kill Bill Restaurant. This restaurant, located in Minato City, was the inspiration for the House of the Blue Leaves in Quentin Tarantino’s 2004 film Kill Bill.
Although the restaurant wasn’t actually used during filming – they instead built a replica on a soundstage in studios in Beijing – it looks identical to what you see in the movie when The Bride (Uma Thurman) battles the Crazy 88, including Lucy Liu,
And don’t worry if you haven’t seen the movie (or if your children are too young!), this is a fun place to dine out for kids of all ages and they often have traditional Taiko drumming live shows as well. Plus, the Japanese food is excellent!
Ask my youngest what his favourite thing was to do in Tokyo and he’ll tell you that it was shopping. If you have yen to spend then Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise. The following are some of our favourite shopping destinations.
This beautiful stationery store stocks 12 floors of products from pens, paints and paper to intricate paper cutting and 3D models. There is a cafe on the top floor, too. The shop is located in the upmarket neighbourhood of Ginza.
Located in Shibuya, on the 6th floor of the Parco building, this is one of only two official Nintendo stores in the world (the other is in New York). As well as games, the store stocks Nintendo-branded clothes, stationery, watches and more alongside life-sized statues of favourite characters including Link (from Zelda) and Princess Peach (from the Mario Bros. games).
6F, Shibuya Parco, 15-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-8377
Pokemon Centre Shibuya
Opposite the Nintendo store in Shibuya’s Parco building is the Pokemon Store, which opened here in 2019 (there are a handful of other Pokemon centres in the city but we liked this one as it was conveniently located). At the entrance stands a life-size Mewtwo (a type of Pokemon for those who don’t know!) hibernating in a tank and inside the store are rows upon rows of plushies, collector’s cards, bags, figurines, clothes, and much more.
There is also a Pokemon Cafe in Tokyo but, not suprisingly, it gets very busy. Make sure to book well in advance if you want to dine surrounded by your favourite Pokemon.
6F, Shibuya Parco, 15-1 Udagawachō, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 150-8377
One of our favourite stores in Tokyo – and in Japan in general – is the department store Hands. Originally known as Tokyu Hands, these enormous shops (often encompassing seven or more floors) sell literally everything. The first Tokyu Hands store opened in Shibuya in 1976 as a do-it-yourself store and today they have branches across the country.
This is the place to come if you need travel accessories or beauty products; are looking for the perfect thank you card or kawaii stickers; or you are in need of a new coffee dripper, bento box or even a toilet-seat cover. Some of the Hands stores stock up to 30,000 items! Some branches also host workshops.
It’s highly likely that you’ve seen images of Kabuki Theatre even if you’re not familiar with the traditional theatre itself. The flamboyant costumes and elaborate bright make-up are unique to Japan, as are the stylised performances and “whiny” style of singing.
Kabuki theatre was founded in the early Edo period in Kyoto although you can now watch performances throughout the country. In Tokyo, the main kabuki venue is the Kabukiza Theatre in the upscale neighbourhood of Ginza.
David Bowie was reportedly a huge fan and incorporated many Kabuki techniques into his performances including the Kabuki trick known as the ‘quick change’ — the act of ripping off a layer of clothes — and the act of a man dressing as a female (onnagata actors).
Full Kabuki dramas can last up to several hours, which might be something of a challenge for the uninitiated but the good news is that if you’re keen to get an “only in Japan” theatre fix then you can opt to just watch one act.
Check the Kabukiza English web page to make sure that there’s a show on when you’re in town and then head to the theatre itself where you can buy one-act tickets on the door.
The Imperial Palace
The primary residence of Japan’s Imperial family, the Imperial Palace sits on the site of an old Edo Castle, surrounded by moats, imposing dry stone walls, parks and gardens. The current palace is not the original structure; the building was destroyed during World War Two and rebuilt in the same style afterwards. It’s located in the centre of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo Station.
Because the Imperial family still live here, the place itself is not open to visitors but you can join guided tours of the palace grounds. These take just over an hour and are take place daily in both Japanese and English. It’s best to reserve in advance although same-day registrations can apparently be make at the Kikyomon Gate.
Every year on January 2 (New Year) and February 23 (the Emperor’s Birthday) visitors are welcome to enter the inner palace grounds and see members of the Imperial Family appear on a balcony.
We ran out of time to visit the Imperial Palace – although we probably would have made the time if the palace itself was open to visitors!. Next to the palace grounds are the Imperial Palace East Gardens, which are open to the public throughout the year.
The Ghibli Museum
By far and away one of the best things to do in Tokyo with kids is to visit the Ghibil Museum. Designed by and co-founded by director Hayao Miyazaki (the man responsible for bringing the world anime masterpieces including My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service), the whimsical museum is dedicated to the legendary Studio Ghibli.
If you – or your kids – have even a passing interest in Japanese anime then the Ghibli Museum should be on your list (I know nothing about anime and I still completely enchanted by our visit). As my eldest commented, visiting the museums “was like walking into one of Miyazaki’s own movies”.
There is no set route within the museum, rather it’s a series of rooms connected by winding staircases, tiny doors and a rooftop garden, that you can wander at will. Highlights include a recreation of Miyazaki’s studio, which includes the most wonderful and tiniest of details including paintbrushes, bird feathers and even a bowl of sweets.
Another room charts the history of anime and yet another is home to wonderfully furry and inviting catbus from My Neighbour Totoro.
Not photography is allowed in the museum, which only adds to the mystery of this wonderful museum.
Tickets must be booked in advance, no tickets are available to purchase on the door.
teamLab Planets Tokyo
Not only is teamLab Planets one of Tokyo’s most popular museums it’s also one of its most unusual. After all, this is a museum that you explore barefoot.
The brainchild of digital art group teamLab, this digital wonderland is a highly immersive experience where guests are invited to touch, feel, listen to, and even smell the art.
There are four different exhibition spaces and seven different, large-scale body immersive artworks. One moment you’ll be sitting on a mirrored surface under hundreds of real orchids and the next you’ll be wading knee-deep through waters surrounded by dozens of digital koi carp.
One room is filled with LED lights that you can control through an app on your phone, another is packed with giant colourful light spheres and still another boats enormous digital flower projections.
We visited teamLabs on our final morning in Tokyo and it was an absolute joy. Tickets get booked up well in advance so make sure to secure tickets as soon as you can.
FYI, teamLab Borderless, which preceded teamLab Planets, is now closed.
Dedicated followers of kawaii culture and Sanrio characters should bookmark a day at Sanrio Puroland. This indoor theme park brings Japanese cuteness to life and is the place to come if you want to meet Hello Kitty in person alongside her pals Cinamaroll and Pompompurin.
The theme park is home to a handful of rides, plenty of shopping opportunities, a colourful parade, Lady Kitty’s House, a tour through the pastel-coloured world of Yumekawaii and much, much more.
You’ll find the cuteness overload in Tokyo’s Tama City.