What to do and Where to stay in
Bright, boundless and bursting with energy, Tokyo dazzles with its unique blend of traditional culture and futuristic flare. Japan’s capital – and the world’s largest city by area – is shiny and new, yet also steeped in history. Sci-fi streetscapes of neon towers and flashing lights rub shoulders with peaceful temples and gardens. Super safe and surprisingly clean, this enchanting city makes for a great family break.
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Experiences in Tokyo
Don’t be put off by the scale of Tokyo – it’s a refreshingly easy city to visit despite the crowds, and has an excellent public transport system. The city is comprised of a diverse collection of neighbourhoods, each with their own unique character. Harajuku is the place to join the city’s eccentric fashionistas as they shop, while Yanaka is the old city that survived both the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) and the allied fire bombing of the Second World War. Join the throngs of people at the Shibuya Crossing, crane your neck to see Tokyo Skytree and gawk at the colourful sea creatures on sale in Tsukiji fish market.
Tokyo is also one of the best regions in Japan for children. Tokyo Disney Resort is a popular amusement park, where you’ll find both Tokyo Disneyland (modelled on the California original) and Tokyo DisneySea. Families preferring to immerse themselves in nature should head to Ueno Park, which has pretty ponds, a playground and even a zoo. It’s one of the most popular spots for Hanami, the ancient cherry blossom-viewing festival.
Cross the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba, a large man-made island in Tokyo Bay. This is a family-oriented entertainment district, with arcades, shopping malls and a range of quirky museums, including a new digital art museum called teamLab Borderless. Adults and children alike will enjoy walking up to the artworks, moving and touching them to see how they react.
In Shinjuku, the Ghibli Museum is a must for fans of Miyazaki Hayao’s animated films – children will love its fairytale atmosphere and the big cat bus. Other family-friendly museums include the National Museum of Nature and Science and the National Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of Japanese art and has hands-on activities, events and an art studio. You could also book a Taiko drumming workshop, learn how to draw Manga in a class or visit a sumo stable.
You’ll be spoilt for choice for food in Tokyo. You’re never far from a good, inexpensive restaurant, whether you’re after ramen, sushi or Western food to please fussy children. One experience not to be missed is visiting an “izakaya”. These are the Japanese equivalent of pubs, serving food and sake. Shinjuku is a maze of lanes filled with izakaya, some so small they seat just a handful of people. Try authentic edamame beans and “karaage” (fried chicken pieces). Most izakaya welcome children, though usually they don’t have separate smoking areas.
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