How to Plan an Incredible Family Trip to Japan in 2024/2025. Learn more.

How to Plan a Family Trip to Japan 2024/2025: Insider Tips

By Vicky LengUpdated Jul. 1, 2024

Japan is renowned for its anime, Japanese cuisine, Japanese-style ryokans (traditional inns with hot springs), and world-class theme parks. This makes it a perfect choice for a graduation gift, an annual family vacation, or a child's birthday.

Having explored Japan extensively during our yearly site inspections since 2016, we can't wait to share our personal insights and top tips with you, making sure your family trip to Japan is nothing short of unforgettable and truly special.

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Where to Go for Your Family Trip in Japan

10 day Japan Family Itinerary

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are top destinations for a first visit. They blend tradition and modernity, fulfilling kids' expectations of Japan (anime, ninjas, high-tech, ryokans, etc.). The Shinkansen offers convenient high-speed train connections of 1–3 hours. A popular trip length for these three places is 7–8 days. See our 8-Day Essential Japan Family Trip with Disneyland.

For a more relaxing immersive trip, 10 days are recommended. We have conducted in-depth research and field trips into the following cities and carefully designed an itinerary suitable for most families. It covers family-friendly experiences without many temple visits, to create a comfortable journey and lasting memories.

  • Day 1: Tokyo arrival (you could also enter via Osaka if there are better flight deals)
  • Day 2: Tokyo city highlights (Meiji Shrine, sushi-making, Senso-ji, Pokémon Center, and TeamLab)
  • Day 3: Day trip to Lake Kawaguchi to admire Mount Fuji
  • Day 4: Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea
  • Day 5: Take the Shinkansen to Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Shrine, kimono-wearing, and Gion district)
  • Day 6: Kyoto city highlights (Kinkaku-ji, Nijo Castle, Nishiki Market, and the bamboo grove and monkey park in Arashiyama)
  • Day 7: Feed deer in Nara (1 hour from Kyoto) and then transfer to Osaka (about 40 minutes)
  • Day 8: Osaka city highlights (Osaka Castle, a ninja experience, and a gastronomic adventure in Shinsekai or Dotonbori)
  • Day 9: Universal Studios Japan
  • Day 10: Departure

To travel beyond Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, some families opt for a longer tour of 12–14 days to explore Hakone and/or Hiroshima. See our 2-Week Japan Private Family Vacation.

Some also spend 3–4 days visiting the northeast Aomori for a cool summer. There are some all-inclusive resorts set amid lush forests or beside tranquil rivers, such as Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel or Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya.

To make this trip more enjoyable for your children, why not invite them to plan the trip together? Our travel advisor would be happy to create a group chat when tailor-making your Japan tour. Let us know your preferences and we would be happy to help you plan a customized trip.

Below are some top-rated experiences in Japan that are perfect for kids or are frequently inquired about in our family bookings. We have detailed comparisons for each experience and solutions for those that are difficult to book.

In Tokyo

Tokyo deserves 3–4 days of exploring as it offers more kid-favored experiences than other cities. Besides these, you could also immerse yourself in popular highlights, such as the century-old Senso-ji and the wooden Meiji Shrine in the downtown area. Here are some family-friendly activities for your inspiration.

1) Meet Pikachu and His Friends at Pokémon Center

DIY your Pokemon shirt at Pokemon Center ShibuyaDIY your Pokemon shirt at Pokemon Center Shibuya

Tokyo is the best place to visit for a variety of Pokémon products. It has four Pokémon Centers and all of them are near popular attractions, are easy to get to, and don't need a reservation.

Among them, Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo is the top recommendation due to its large size and comprehensive range of products.

The other three centers are:

  • Pokémon Center Shibuya: This is the only center offering DIY Pokémon shirts.
  • Pokémon Center Tokyo DX: It has a relatively comprehensive range of products and fewer crowds, and has limited Pikachu dolls of Sakura Pikachu, Ninja Pikachu, and Kabuki Pikachu. Next to it is Tokyo's only Pokémon Café.
  • Pokémon Center Skytree Town: It's in Tokyo Skytree and the center is smaller and has fewer products compared to the others. It has limited dolls of Pikachu holding the Skytree.

2) Indulge in the Anime Hub in Akihabara

Akihabara in TokyoAkihabara in Tokyo

Akihabara is the anime hub in Tokyo. Nearly every teenage visitor to Japan goes there. However, be careful to choose the store if you're traveling with kids. Some are for adults only and not suitable for kids. With our inspection, we have picked the following five family-friendly spots.

  • Radio Kaikan: an iconic building that has the newest garage kits, trading cards, and limited edition collectibles
  • Animate: a must-visit for anime fans, offering a wide range of manga and merchandise
  • Bic Camera: contains almost every type of electronic product
  • Suruga-ya: specializing in 90% secondhand figurines and rare collectibles
  • GiGO Building 1/2/3: houses thousands of claw machines and Gashapon capsule toys

3) Discover Disney's Fairy-Tale World in Tokyo

Tokyo DisneylandTokyo Disneyland

Even though many of our clients have enjoyed other Disney theme parks, they still plan a day in Tokyo's for their unique Japanese themes. Tokyo has a Disneyland and the world's only DisneySea, each deserving a day to visit.

Generally speaking, if this is your first time in a Disney theme park, we suggest you opt for Tokyo Disneyland. It showcases more Disney characters and more beautiful float parades, making it more like a fairy-tale world than DisneySea.

If you've been to a Disneyland resort and wish to meet Duffy and Friends, it's recommended to visit Tokyo DisneySea. However, most of the programs at DisneySea are more thrilling and suitable for children who are over 117 cm (3 ft 10 in) tall.

Both Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea offer fireworks shows. Based on our experiences, the side of the castle near Toy Story in Tokyo Disneyland provides a better photo opportunity with both the fireworks and the castle being captured in one picture.

Consider buying Disney Premier Access to reduce your queueing time. Each activity there costs US$10–12, with a 1-hour gap between purchases. Both the Mickey and Minnie meet-and-greet and a Mickey show require this Disney Premier Access. You could buy it a month ahead of your visit at the official Tokyo Disney website.

4) Immerse Yourself in the Ghibli Museum

Kids who love the Ghibli series and movies must see this! It's ideal to spend 2–3 hours exploring the four floors full of hidden gems at the museum.

  • The 1st floor: Make a hand-cranked film and watch never-before-seen animated Ghibli shorts at the Saturn Theater, showing every 15/35/55 minutes.
  • The 2nd floor: This exhibits original drawings of some movie scenes and a restoration of Hayao Miyazaki's animation studio.
  • The 3rd floor: There is a Totoro train for younger children to play on and a souvenir-selling area.
  • The 4th floor: This features a 5-meter (16-ft) tall giant robot soldier from Castle in the Sky.

You could enjoy special experiences, such as hand-cranking a lever to witness Haku shedding its scales, filling a bucket with water from a traditional Japanese hand-pressure well, and climbing narrow birdcage-like spiral stairs.

The tickets are available to reserve 1 month in advance on the Ghinli official website. Early booking is helpful to ensure the availability as there's usually a very high demand. Rest assured, we would handle ticket purchasing for all you want in your Japan tour with Asia Highlights.

5) Interact with Japan's High-Tech in teamLab

Tokyo Teamlab BorderlessTokyo Teamlab Borderless

TeamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets are both in Tokyo. They're about 15 minutes apart by car. Usually, it takes about 2 hours to visit each of them. Some loyal fans visit both while most clients just choose one of them. 

TeamLab Borderless is more recommended as it is larger and offers more photo opportunities. It is located next to Tokyo Tower, just a 5-minute drive away, and a 20-minute drive to Meiji Shrine. Don't miss the Tea House if you visit teamLab Borderless. A magic flower would bloom in your cup as you brew the tea.

TeamLab Planets provides an interactive water-focused experience. Stroll barefoot through water areas, which could reach an adult's knees at its deepest points. It's wise to pack a change of clothes.

No matter which one you choose, wearing light-colored clothes is helpful for better photos. Avoid skirts as both exhibition halls have glass floors.

6) Admire Mount Fuji at Lake Kawaguchi

Lake Kawaguchi is the best place to view Mount Fuji as it has many observation decks and easy transportation. The main ways to visit Lake Kawaguchi are by boat, cable car, biking, and light hiking.

Boating and the Cable Car are the most recommended. You can enjoy the grandeur of Mt. Fuji up close while rowing manually. It's the most relaxing without much physical effort.

Light hiking is suitable for families with teenagers. The suggested moderate route is from Kawaguchiko Station to Oishi Park, taking about 2 hours each way. Along the lakeside path, one side features the mountains and the lake, and the other side has forests and cozy cafés. Taking a private tour, you could be transferred back by car.

Biking requires more energy due to the presence of many steep slopes. You're highly recommended to rent an electric moped for easier uphill rides. Children less than 6 years old can sit in a child seat attached to the back of a bicycle. To secure an electric moped, make sure to arrive before 11am as they are quickly rented out.

7) Watch an Exciting Sumo Wrestling Match

Sumo wrestling matchSumo wrestling

Sumo wrestling is a popular sport in Japan. Tokyo hosts sumo tournaments in January, May, and September annually. Tickets are very hard to get as they require selection a month ahead via a lottery system, not reservations.

If you're lucky enough to be selected after applying online, you're advised to arrive at the site at about 2pm. A sumo wrestling match is usually divided into morning and afternoon sessions. The high-level wrestlers usually join after 2pm.

If you don't have a chance to watch an official match this time, we could arrange a visit to the sumo training house for you to witness sumo wrestlers' training as well as learn about sumo's history and match rules.

Tokyo would never disappoint any family group. Besides the activities mentioned above, there are still many others to experience, such as go-karting on Tokyo's streets (only for adults) and sushi-making. Contact us to share your interests and we would recommend the most suitable ideas.

In Kyoto

Exploring Kyoto for 2–3 days is the perfect way to uncover this ancient capital's famous shrines, castles, and quaint streets. Although Kyoto may not offer as many family-friendly experiences as Tokyo, it is the best destination to learn about Japan's history.

1) Enjoy an Onsen Experience

Enjoying an onsen experience with your family is the top thing you shouldn't miss in Kyoto. Children aged 7 and above would need to use the designated hot spring based on their gender. Most onsens don't accept people with tattoos.

Some ryokans provide a private onsen for couples or a family with a baby. However, these ryokans are difficult to book due to being in high demand. You're advised to make your reservations at least 6 months in advance.

2) Feed Deer in Nara

Deer in Nara with KidDeer in Nara with kid

In Nara's culture, deer are the messengers of God. Therefore, they're well-protected and taken care of in the park or temple. Nara Park is the most well-known site to interact with deer. However, because of the popularity, most of the time you would experience large tourist crowds and see the deer lying on the ground, having been overfed.

About 10–15 minutes' walk from Nara Park, there is another nature park for deer called Mount Wakakusa. It provides a quieter and more natural environment. If arriving in the late afternoon on a sunny day, you would encounter a romantic sunset and a bird's-eye view of the city.

In Kyoto, you could also enjoy other appealing experiences, such as dressing in a kimono to walk the old streets and exploring the natural habitat of monkeys in Arashiyama.

In Osaka

It's ideal to spend 2–3 days enjoying Osaka's highlights, such as Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan, a ninja experience, and sampling Japanese snacks in Shinsekai.

1) Indulge in Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan

To maximize your Universal Studios Japan experience, buy an Express Pass to cut the queue times. Otherwise, you would probably need to spend hours in lines and only be able to enjoy two or three hot projects a day.

The top Express Pass options in order of priority are: 3-Hour VIP Pass > Express 7 > Express 4 > Express Premium. You could buy your pass 1–2 months in advance from the official Universal Studios website.

However, the 3-Hour VIP Pass is popular and tends to sell out fast. In such cases, Express 7 is a great alternative. While Express 4 and Express Premium don't offer as much value as the 3-Hour VIP Pass and Express 7, they could be used as backups if the former two are sold out.

Universal Studio Express 3-Hour VIP Pass Express 7
Prices US$200-250 per person US$150-200 per person
Projects Four classic projects with staff via the non-queue VIP channel; enjoy three self-selected projects on fast-track at any time with short queues Enjoy seven projects at specified times on fast-track with short queues
Super Nintendo World Enter at any time; enjoy staff-led play without waiting; get a 10% discount at the restaurant inside Enter within a specified time
Others VIP entrance access at the park opening; VIP lounge entry 30 minutes early for tea and drinks Gate access is at the park opening
Universal Studio Express Express 4 Express Premium
Prices US$140–180 per person US$200–250 per person
Projects Enjoy four projects at specified times on fast-track with short queues Enjoy 13 projects at any time with short queues
Super Nintendo World Enter within a specified time Enter at any time

Other options: If your family has four members and prefers a more relaxed experience, you could opt for a foursome 5-Hour VIP Pass (US$300–480 per person) or 8-Hour VIP Pass (US$480–650 per person).

Take a portable fan to stay cool when you're going there during the summer vacation. Download the USJ app beforehand to access the park map and check project wait times.

2) Dress Like a Ninja to Learn Ninja Techniques

Ninja experience in OsakaRobert, our Product Manager, is having a ninja experience.

A ninja experience is especially popular for fathers and sons. You would suit up in ninja outfits and the ninja master would teach you the etiquette and skills.

Although there are also many pavilions in Tokyo, we recommend you try this in Osaka. It is usually cheaper by about US$50 per person for a similar experience.

Most pavilions require appointments made through their official website. Or you could contact us to recommend a pavilion that's available and the most suitable for your schedule.

3) Watch a Baseball Game to Support Your Favorite Team

Japan has many baseball games annually, with Tokyo and Osaka as prime locations. It is advisable to book tickets at least a month in advance.

Two of Osaka's top famous venues are Kyocera Dome Osaka and Koshien Stadium. Both are outdoor facilities. Take a portable fan to reduce the heat during summer.

Tokyo's main venues are Tokyo Dome and Meiji Jingu Stadium. Indoor Tokyo Dome hosts the Giants baseball team and you don't have to worry about the heat or rain in summer. Outdoor Meiji Jingu Stadium hosts the Yakult Swallows team.

Generally, the match schedule would be published in January on each venue's website for the whole year. You could purchase a ticket yourself or ask us to include it in your tour package.

Where to Eat in Japan

When choosing a restaurant in Japan with your kids, pick popular, easy-to-find, line-free spots with a cozy vibe and no need for reservations. Most ordinary Japanese restaurants are kid-friendly but some fancy ones do not welcome kids under 12 years old.

Most hotels provide buffet breakfasts with Western and Japanese options. Alternatively, you could have breakfast at a café, a convenience store like 7-Eleven, or a restaurant nearby. They're easy to find within the city.

When it comes to lunch and dinner in Japan, ordinary food, such as sushi, ramen, fried rice, and snacks in local markets, are great options.

Some unique dining experiences:

1) Pokémon Café

Pokémon Café is the most popular choice with children because of its good-looking food and Pikachu performances. You could enjoy lunch or dinner at either the Tokyo or Kyoto locations, both offering similar experiences.

The seats are hard to reserve, so choose and book early to find one with seats available. Zones A and D have a clearer view of performances and close interaction with Pikachu.

The best shot at getting a table at these highly sought-after places is a personal reservation, which needs to be made a month in advance. From our experience, if you execute this in advance yourself, you would have a higher success rate. Click the official Pokémon Café website to make your reservation.

2) Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurants

Conveyor belt sushi restaurants are fun for kids as they could watch sushi moving toward them. Some restaurants offer a fun bonus where you could trade in five plates for a small prize at a mini-game machine. You could also have fun making 10 pieces of sushi with a chef at a restaurant or in a local's home as both offer similar experiences.

3) Kaiseki

Most Kaiseki restaurants do not allow children under 12 years old. A Kaiseki meal typically lasts about 2 hours so children may become restless. Some Kaiseki restaurants allow children in private rooms, so you'd better confirm this in advance.

4) Visit Osaka's Cup Noodles Museum

You could customize your cup noodles by designing your cup, adding noodles, selecting seasonings and toppings, and sealing your creation. No reservation is required but arrive early to beat the crowds during peak hours.

Where to Stay in Japan

An authentic ryokan in KyotoAn authentic ryokan in Kyoto

Almost all Japanese hotels are clean, offer high-quality services, and come well-equipped.

If you book your room via some hotel booking platforms, pay attention to the room size. The room may appear large in the photos but the sizes are usually 18–25 square meters (194–269 square feet). This is the common size for most 3/4-star hotels. Japanese hotels require check-in after 2pm and check-out before 10am.

A family room or room with an extra rolling bed is not very common in hotels in Japan. You could look for triple or quadruple rooms if your family would like to stay in the same room. They're more commonly found in 4-star hotels. Some 5-star hotels provide connecting rooms but this could not usually be guaranteed.

Based on our research and field visits, we've handpicked some 4-star hotels for families with teenagers in popular destinations in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. These hotels offer triple rooms, convenient transportation to attractions, and a variety of dining options nearby.

  • Tokyo: Shiba Park Hotel / Hotel Gracery Shinjuku
  • Kyoto: Kyoto Ryokan Kinoe
  • Osaka: Hotel Vischio Osaka by Granvia

A ryokan is a great option for hosting 3–5 family members in one room. It provides a full immersion into the unique Japanese culture. For convenient exploration, opt for a ryokan close to the subway or attractions.

Ryokans have prices comparable to 4-star hotels and above. A standard room in a 4-star hotel costs about US$200–280 and a 4-star ryokan costs about US$300–450 per room per night for most of the year.

I spent three wonderful nights at a ryokan in Kyoto last year. This type of accommodation is a clean and authentic Japanese-style house. A pleasant scent of bamboo mats was noted as soon as the room was entered. The only issue was that the ryokan had steep stairs, which is a common feature in most ryokans. I strongly recommend this experience to you.

How to Get To and Around Japan

Tokyo receives most international flights to Japan, followed by Osaka. You could easily get nonstop flights from the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia.

Most cities in Japan are conveniently connected by the Shinkansen. For example, it takes 2½ hours to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto and only 15 minutes from Kyoto to Osaka. The trains are usually punctual. The signs in the stations are clear, making it easy to find your train.

Shinkansen trains typically have a Green Car and an Ordinary Car. The Green Car is of a higher class and provides more space. For most travelers, the legroom in the Ordinary Car is more than sufficient.

Shinkansen Green Car Ordinary Car
Seats Around 60 seats per car, 4 seats per row, more comfortable chairs. Around 80-100 seats, 5 seats per row.
Services Free drinks, wet towel, in-seat LED reading light, quieter atmosphere. Food costs extra
Costs (Take Tokyo to Kyoto as Example) Around US$120 per seat Around US$90 per seat

Shinkansen tickets include reserved and non-reserved seats. We recommend booking reserved seat tickets for your family so that you would sit together, rather than non-reserved seats where you might get split up.

  • Reserved seats are available in both Ordinary Cars and Green Cars, and it's recommended to book your tickets 1 week in advance.
  • Non-reserved seats are typically in ordinary cars. You could sit anywhere without an assigned seat but you may need to stand if all of the seats are taken.

Although some tickets are available for purchase at the train station, we suggest that you reserve the tickets via the official Shinkansen Online Reservation website to ensure the availability. You need to register for membership before booking online (membership is free) by submitting your credit card information. We could also handle that for you if your trip is booked with us.

If your luggage is oversized with three dimensions sum of 160–250 cm (63–98 in), you're advised to reserve a seat in the last row in front of the designated area for oversized luggage on the train.

Most hotels and supermarkets in Japan offer luggage delivery services, which could help you transport your luggage to your next destination or airport, saving you the trouble of dragging your luggage around.

How Much Does It Cost for a Family Trip to Japan?

cost of Japan

US$350–500 per person per day is the typical cost for a private tour with 4-star hotels, based on a family of 3–5 people. This includes a private guide, private car, full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, all intercity transport within Japan, and handpicked 4-star hotels.

Travel costs in Japan during peak times are higher, even twice as expensive as usual, such as in the cherry blossom season (March to April), at Christmas, and at New Year. We suggest planning your family trip at least 3 months in advance, especially at these times, as booking earlier would give you more options and savings.

Best Times to Visit Japan

Japan is a year-round destination and has four distinct seasons. The best times to visit Japan are in spring (March to May) for the cherry blossoms and in autumn (September to November) for the autumn foliage. Both periods have pleasant weather and clearer days.

Most family groups choose to travel during the school vacations, such as June, July, August, December, and January. Among these months, June is a better time to travel for families compared with July and August as it offers cooler weather and smaller crowds (the official Japanese summer vacation begins in July).

You're strongly advised to avoid traveling during public holidays in Japan, especially when there is a 3-day break or longer. This is because hotels are expensive and hard to book, and attractions are crowded.

Japanese Public Holiday Date in 2024 Date in 2025
New Year January 1st January 1st
Coming of Age Day January 8th January 13rd
National Foundation Day February 11th February 11th
The Emperor's Birthday February 23rd February 23rd
Golden Week April 29th to May 6th April 29th to May 5th
Marine Day July 15th July 21st
Mountain Day August 11st August 11st
Respect for the Aged Day September 16th September 15th
Autumnal Equinox Day September 22nd September 23rd
Sports Day October 14th October 13th
Culture Day November 3rd November 3rd
Labor Thanksgiving Day November 23rd November 23rd

Some Other Tips You May Find Useful When Planning Your Family Trip

  • There are almost no bins in Japan on the streets. Take a plastic bag out with you to collect rubbish.
  • Eating snacks while walking is not appropriate. No eating is allowed in a car or on the subway.
  • Finding toilets in Japan is a breeze and they are much cleaner than toilets elsewhere. You could easily locate them in subways, malls, and attractions. Some are even equipped with seat warmers, while others feature a built-in toddler seat attached to the wall. Japanese toilet paper is soluble, so you could simply flush it down the toilet.
  • In Japan, it is not customary to give tips. Some high-end restaurants may include a 10% service charge in the final bill.
  • If you take a pram with you, be prepared to carry it up and down lots of stairs in subway stations or other train stations. Most Japanese stations have elevators but they could be challenging to find.
  • English is not widely understood by local Japanese people. However, English signs are clear in public places. In addition, you could download Google Translate in advance to solve the language problem.

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