Big, bustling, buzzing, bright — welcome to Tokyo. And in a city the size of Tokyo, it’s easy to feel a little claustrophobic at times. But you might be surprised when I say it’s actually very child-friendly. My husband and I (along with our then two-year-old toddler Noah) were lucky enough to have experienced the sights and sounds of Japan’s capital city twice in the span of three months. Our verdict? Tokyo gets our nod of approval for a perfect destination for families!
If you’re traveling anywhere with kids, you know that it’s essential to plan ahead. We’ve done some of the homework for you (including these 11 tips on conquering the country with kids in tow) so you have less things to worry about.
Ready to see what Tokyo has to offer the little ‘uns other than Disneyland? From retro steam engines to jungle gyms, here’s our pick of places that might interest you and the kids. Best of all, they’re free!
1. Robot Park
Tucked away in the suburbs of Roppongi is a small but well-designed gem of a park for kids. Robot Park is a playground featuring several colourful slides, robot-designed spring-riders, a tall totem pole, and Noah’s favourite: a long rolling-pin slide built into the hill. Most of the playground is covered with rubberised mats so kids can run and climb without getting seriously hurt.
Robot Park is located right behind Roppongi Hills, where there’s an arts museum and more than 200 shops and eateries under one roof.
#HHWT Tip: Grab a bite at DIYA, which is a halal Indian restaurant located in Roppongi Hills, or venture into the surrounding neighbourhood to find Hiroo Mosque and the Arabic Islamic Institute Tokyo (less than a 10-minute walk from Robot Park).
Address: 6-16-46 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-6108
Opening Hours: All day
2. Tokyo Fire Museum
Credit: Little Projects in Style
Hands up if your child has a fascination for emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances. At the Tokyo Fire Museum, kids can see beautiful vintage fire trucks that were used in the 1920s and “pilot” a helicopter, amongst other things.
Credit: Cowan Travels
The third floor is where all the magic happens. There’s a huge diorama that uses lights, sounds, moving pieces and videos to show kids how the fire department deals with an emergency fire situation. The best bit, if you were to ask me, is the fact that kids can dress up as fire fighters, sit in an actual fire truck and press buttons to set off the sirens. How cool is that?
Credit: Little Projects in Style
Admission is free (yay!) and while the info is presented mostly in Japanese, English pamphlets are available at the museum.
#HHWT Tip: Pack some lunch before visiting the museum. The Observation Room, which is on the 10th floor, is a nice place to eat your bento and has a great view of Mt. Fuji on a clear day.
Address: 3 Chome-10 Yotsuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0004
Opening Hours: 9.30am – 5pm (closed every Monday, and from 28 December – 4 January)
3. Kiddy Land
Credit: Credit: Elenachibi.tumblr.com
A trip to Tokyo wouldn’t be complete without stopping by Kiddy Land – one of the best toy store chains in Japan. Their flagship store in Harajuku is five floors of toys, so don’t be surprised if you end up spending a lot of time and money here.
The toys on display at Kiddy Land constantly change and they range from your usual Hello Kitty and Disney fanfare to limited edition toys that can only be found in Japan. It’s best to visit on a weekday as the weekend crowd can be overwhelming for kids.
#HHWT Tip: Although there are lifts, parents don’t have to push their strollers around Kiddy Land. Dedicated staff are always on hand to help keep strollers on the ground floor.
Address: 6-1-9 Jingu-mae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Opening Hours: 11am – 9pm (Mon – Fri), 10.30am – 9pm (Sat, Sun & public holidays)
4. Muji at Shibuya Seibu
Dads and moms love shopping, but what is a kid to do? Thankfully, the six-storey Muji outlet at departmental store Shibuya Seibu comes with a play area on the fifth floor and it’s filled with wooden toys. Younger kids will be happy here and parents would be able to shop for clothes, stationery and homeware in peace.
On the same floor you’ll find a nursing/baby changing room, as well as a section selling maternity wear, baby and kids apparel, accessories, and wooden toys.
Address: 21-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0042
Opening Hours: 10am – 9pm daily
[Add in one of these kid-friendly places in our 5D4N itinerary for your trip to Tokyo!]
Last but not least, here are other tips we’ve learnt from traveling around Tokyo with a toddler:
- Diapers aren’t commonly sold at supermarkets like in Malaysia and Singapore. The easiest places to buy diapers and other essentials such as milk formula and wet wipes are at pharmacies.
- Avoid traveling on trains during peak hour (8-9 am weekdays). Despite it being very orderly, it’s an unpleasant experience if you’ve got a stroller or baby carrier.
- All departmental stores will have baby changing facilities that are clean and dry.
- Many restaurants will have high chairs and kid-friendly cutlery if you ask.
- Be prepared to carry your stroller up and down flights of stairs as the older train stations aren’t fitted with elevators.
- Train rides are a quiet affair for the locals. In fact, passengers aren’t allowed to talk on mobile phones, and are encouraged to keep their phones on silent mode, out of consideration for others. Needless to say, your kids can’t run around on the train.
- Don’t be dismayed if you get lost. Just keep walking and ask for directions! The locals are helpful and very polite. Those who can help, will!