Thinking about visiting Japan with the kids? We traveled to Japan in November 2022 with our kids (ages 8 and 11) and loved our experience! We went about a month after Japan reopened its borders to international travelers, which made the trip even more special. Japan is a popular destination for family travel – it’s safe, easy to navigate, and filled with activities for all ages to enjoy – manga, Pokémon, sushi and bullet trains were some of our highlights! While this is by no means a comprehensive list, these were some of our favorite activities and experiences in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Pokémon – My kids are very into manga and anime (especially Pokémon) so we made sure to include all the Pokémon stops during our visit! There are a number of Pokémon centers in Tokyo, including a Mega Center, a Pokemon Cafe and a Pokemon Sweets cafe.
The Pokémon Mega Center in Ikebukuro also has a Pokemon Go Lab, Pokemon Card Station and Pikachu Sweets Dessert shop.
Pokemon Center Shibuya – This Pokemon store in Shibuya Parco is next to several other stores that are popular (Nintendo, Jump Shop, CapCom Store). This Pokemon center has a Design Lab where you can design your own Pokemon t-shirt (complete with colors, graphics, character).
Pokemon Center Nihonbashi and Pokemon Cafe – we loved our meal at the Pokemon Cafe, our adorable meals were character themed of course, the drinks (and even coffee) were designed to resemble Pokemon and Pikachu even stopped bu to do a special show
We also stopped by the Pokemon Centers in Skytree (note, there’s a Kirby Cafe and Studio Ghibli store here) and in Tokyo Station
The Senso-ji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo and draws millions of tourists to Asakusa. We loved walking around here. We paid a small fee to take our fortune sticks to read, learned about the history of the temple and then spent time walking around and window shopping in the surrounding Nakamise Street and Kappabashi streets. If you are looking for a place to eat, there are many restaurants here or in nearby Skytree.
This was a highlight for us because of the Pokemon Mega Center (see above) and also the world’s largest Gashapon Department store in Sunshine City Shopping Center. My kids could have happily spent hours here…
A trip to Tokyo wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Shibuya Crossing. Grab a coffee (and wait for a window seat) at the Starbucks Shibuya to take in the view from above or dive into the orchestrated chaos that is Shibuya crossing. Don’t miss the Hachiko statue when you’re there. Hachiko was a dog known for being extremely loyal to his master, whom he walked to the station each day. Even after his master died, Hachiko continued to visit the station each day to await his return.
The Nintendo Store in Shibuya Parco is worth a stop, especially if you have a video game fan in your family. Note: When we went, advance timed-entry tickets were still required and available for free at the store’s entrance (or at street level before opening hours).
There are so many cute, over-the-top and memorable places to see in Harajuku that it would be tough to do and see it all! We chose a few (Totti Candy Factory for cotton candy and Cafe Reissue for the cutest coffee and hot chocolate art) and we went early. Keep in mind that weekends (especially Sundays) are busy – but also great times for people watching.
Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park – Talk a walk and enjoy some peace and serenity away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets.
We loved walking around Character Street inside Tokyo Station and browsing the many stores selling anime, Lego, Pokemon, Studio Ghibli and much more. Tokyo Gift Palette is located near here and is a great place to get gift boxes of Japanese kit kats. Don’t forget to grab a meal at Ramen Street while you are here!
Make time for a stop to browse through gorgeous stationery, stamps, stickers, envelopes and journals at Itoya. Then head over to Ginza Matsuya and Ginza Mitsukoshi (or both!) and grab a bite at the depachikas (department store food halls). Trust me, these food halls are worth a visit.
We picked up lunch at Tokyo Station and enjoyed our meal on the bullet train to Kyoto as we took in the beautiful views. We were able to purchase tickets ahead of time at the ticket counter, but there is also an app that can be used to buy tickets. We got reserved seats in the Green car and found the seats to be very spacious and comfortable.
Nishiki Market, known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” is a 400-year-old covered food market lined with over 100 food stalls. We snacked our way through the market and couldn’t resit making a stop at the Snoopy Kyoto store.
Take time to enjoy the serene ambiance at the temples in Kyoto – Kiyomizu is beautiful and the kids liked seeing the shops on the walk up. Nijo Castle is fun for children – my kids loved seeing where a shogun lived and learning about the hummingbird floors!
When you are in Kyoto with two kids who love manga, you have to check out the Manga Museum! This is a small museum, which is packed with manga books. We loved reading a few of the books, drawing our own manga comics and perusing the gift shop.