Give your family the experience of a lifetime, as you immerse yourself in the unique mixture of ancient culture and new technology that exists only in Japan.
Japan is a great destination for a family vacation and has something for people of all ages. From introducing the family to new food and cultural experiences to exploring the natural beauty of the country, you can find it all here.
In this article, we discuss everything you need to take your family to Japan, from important travel information to suggested family activities.
Japan is an all-round great destination for a family vacation, because it is not only safe but also clean and exciting. The unique mixture of ancient history and modern technology means that there is something in Japan to interest people of all ages.
Young people especially love Japan for its futuristic game centers, walking robots, and anime cartoons, as well as its interesting food and history.
One important feature of why traveling with your family is easy in Japan is the country's convenient and reliable public transportation. The famous Japanese bullet train provides families with an easy and quick way to travel across the whole country without risk of delays, or the hassle of getting to the airport.
More than 99% of bullet trains arrive at their destinations within a minute of the scheduled time and long delays are very unusual. Trains also provide meal boxes to passengers so you won't have to worry about hunger. Children’s meals are also available.
Bullet trains are not only convenient, they are also a thrilling and futuristic way to travel and see the landscape of Japan.
One reason why many families want to travel to Japan is that it is a great place to introduce children to new experiences and increase their cultural understanding.
In Japan, cultural learning can take place at your own pace by choosing which activities your family wants to participate in. For example, if your family loves food you can set up a cooking class, or if you love anime you can take an anime tour.
One thing some families with young children worry about is whether or not the adjustment to Japanese cuisine will be too much for their kids. Luckily, Japan has a huge variety of delicious food, so if you have a picky eater who doesn't like sushi, there will still be plenty of other options.
Our favorite dishes in Japan include wagyu beef, tempura, Japanese omelets, and of course ramen.
The best way to enjoy your time in Japan and help teach your family about a new culture is to get involved in local activities. Here are some of our personal favorites.
Cooking classes are a great opportunity for family-bonding and cultural learning. Sushi is one of the most famous Japanese foods, and sushi-making classes are quite popular and also very informative and interesting.
If not all of your family members like sushi, an alternative that is just as fun and interesting would be a wagashi-making class. Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets that are often beautifully crafted into natural designs, such as small flowers or leaves.
The ancient legends of samurai warriors are among Japan's most unique and intriguing stories. You can learn more about the warriors by joining a Samurai Sword Dance Class. Students dress up in samurai costume and learn the basics of the kenbu, which is a beautiful meditative sword dance.
This is a great way to connect with the ancient history of Japan in a way that is incredibly fun and rewarding.
Manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation) are popular with people of all ages all around the world and feature prominently in Japanese culture today. Tokyo is the best city in Japan for taking a Manga and Anime tour.
There you can stop at J World, an amusement park dedicated to the heroes of some of the most popular Manga characters, or you can head over to the Pokémon Center where you can find all sorts of Pokémon memorabilia and items.
If your family loves nature, then Japan's most famous mountain is a must-see. It is an easy drive from Tokyo and is worth the trip. You can take in the spectacular view of the mountain from a boat on Lake Ashinoko.
If your family likes hiking, you can check out some of the trails in the area. Or you can take a cable car up Mount Owakundani to see the surrounding volcanically active area, complete with hot springs, hot rivers, and stinky sulfurous fumes.
Often called Deer Park by the locals, Nara Park is a large park in central Nara that is full of over a thousand free-roaming deer.
Here you can walk through the park while observing the adorable animals. It is possible to feed the deer by buying some deer crackers sold in the park. The deer are quite docile and some have even learned to bow in order to ask for food.
The park covers an area of over 1,000 acres and includes some beautiful Japanese gardens, the Nara National Museum, a sake brewery, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine which has been used in many famous films, including Memoirs of a Geisha.
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn that was originally used by samurai and tradesmen as a place to rest while traveling. Today, staying in a traditional ryokan is a popular experience for people visiting Japan, since it is so different from anything in the West.
Ryokans are great places for family-bonding and for an introduction to the Japanese culture of bathing, sleeping, and dining.
In a ryokan, you won't sleep on a traditional bed. Instead, you will sleep on a large and comfortable futon on a straw or bamboo mat. Many ryokans also have private hot springs where guests can bathe in thermal waters.
One of our favorite ryokans is located in Hakone National Park. It is known for the healing properties of its water and also for its view of Mount Fuji.
Now that we have talked about the reasons why Japan is great for family vacations, here is some important information that every family should know before visiting Japan, touching upon etiquette, safety, and best time to visit.
Japan is very warm and welcoming to visitors, though the difference in culture can be a little daunting. In general, Japanese people expect foreigners to make mistakes in etiquette, but here are some tips to help you avoid some of the most obvious.
When entering some businesses and private homes, you will be expected to remove your shoes at the entrance. After your shoes are removed, house slippers will be provided to wear indoors.
Bowing is common practice in Japan and is often used, including when you meet someone, thank someone, or say goodbye. Bowing can also be used in place of a handshake in Japan. If a Japanese person bows to you, a simple bowing of the head in return is usually okay.
In Japan, the eating utensils of choice are chopsticks. One important rule here is never to leave your chopsticks standing upright in your bowl. Doing so is thought to be very unlucky.
Japan has a relatively low crime rate and overall is a very safe country for traveling. There is a small risk of petty crime such as theft, especially in busy tourist areas, so it is best to keep track of your belongings.
One important thing to bear in mind about safety in Japan is the possibility of danger from earthquakes, tropical storms, or volcanic activity.
The country is extremely active geothermally and often experiences small earthquakes and some volcanic activity. Natural disasters such as typhoons and tsunamis have hit the island-nation in the past.
Before traveling to Japan, it is important to be aware of any likely geothermal activity. Although unlikely, if a natural disaster does occur during your time there, it is important to follow the safety directions of police and other officials.
The best times to visit Japan are typically late spring and late autumn because these times are when the country experiences the best weather, with low rainfall and mild temperatures. It is possible, however, to visit Japan during other seasons, though the month of June and early July should be avoided, due to the rainy season.
If you visit Japan in spring, from March to May, you can expect excellent weather, and you can get to see the famous blooming of the cherry blossoms known as sakura.
The cherry blossoms, however, are only in bloom for about one week per year. Spring is high season in Japan so hotel prices and flight prices are likely to be more expensive than at other times.
Winter is also a popular time to visit Japan if you are interested in winter sports. During the months of December to March, many people head to Japan to ski and snowboard in the northern mountains. This is also a good time of year to bathe in Japan’s abundant hot springs or onsens.
One of the most convenient times to visit Japan for families is often during the summer, due to school summer vacations. Although the months of June and July should be avoided, it is possible to visit Japan in August.
The weather will be quite humid and hot, but this is a good time for hiking, festivals, and seeing some of Japan's top attractions with fewer tourists.
Want to visit Japan with your family? At Asia Highlights, our experts have lots of experience planning incredible trips through the country. We work with our clients to plan custom-made trips, to ensure that every trip is the trip of a lifetime. To get started, simply send us an email!