Tokyo, a metropolis of nearly 14 million residents, is bubbling over with diverse experiences for families. From robots that entertain you while you eat, to stunning natural temple-laden gardens, to Taiko drumming masters that will teach you their moves, this vibrant city offers adventures for nature and animal lovers, tech savvy enthusiasts, fish foodies, and culture seekers. Get your passports ready and read below to learn about the top 15 things to do with kids in Tokyo.
See the City From New Heights
Visit the Tokyo Skytree, a broadcasting and observation tower in Sumida, for panoramic views and to get a lay of the land. Stretching 2,080 feet into the sky, this is Tokyo’s tallest structure. There’s a restaurant in the tower as well, where you can enjoy Hello Kitty coffee art, snacks, and full meals. Pop in the Sumida Aquarium, located in the Solamachi shopping complex attached to the Skytree, where kids can see over 5,000 different sea creatures. The aquarium is popular with locals and tourists so try to visit early and purchase your tickets in advance.
Experience Sensory Overload at Robot Restaurant
Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku is one of the coolest dining experiences your family will ever have. Crowds of people sit in stadium seating in a basement while giant robots battle, rave, and move around to pop music while surrounded by strobe lights and lasers. Dancers jockey atop these behemoths adding to the show’s wild ride. Sushi bento boxes are served, along with drinks, but the food isn’t the draw here—it’s all about the entertainment. Book your tickets in advance as this is one of the biggest attractions in Tokyo and seats sell out fast.
Pro Tip: Stay the night around the corner at Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. There’s an enormous Godzilla head visible on top of the building. Families can book the Godzilla Room, which has moving wallpaper, Godzilla cutouts, a large monster footprint over the bed, and special amenities.
Have a Karaoke Night
Karaoke is a time honored tradition among folks in Tokyo and your family will have a blast participating in this cringe-worthy activity. You’ll rent a private room, order food and drinks, and sing to your heart’s content. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera and memorialize this experience.
Retreat to Nature
One of the best things about Tokyo is how easy it is to access nature—even though there are millions of people traveling here to there, you’re never too far from green spaces. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is full of winding paths, towering trees, wildlife and three vast gardens: the Japanese Garden, English Garden, and French Garden. Your family can easily spend a half day here, relaxing in the grass and soaking in the landscape.
Shop till you Drop
If your kids have allowance money burning a hole in their pockets, then LOFT Shibuya is the place to go for a memorable shopping experience. Each floor of the high-rise building has specialty goods including stationary, Japanese gifts (tea sets, fans, figurines, tchotchkes), housewares, electronics, toys, and more. Allow yourself plenty of time to browse the busy-yet-organized floors.
Bump Elbows with Tokyo’s Brightest in the Harajuku District
The Harajuku District is a fun family-friendly experience. It’s here that you’ll see colorful fashion—think pink wigs, Rainbow Bright leggings, colorful makeup, plastic purses—and interesting sweets. Walk down Takeshita Dori, looking for hidden alleys bursting with shops and eateries; stroll across the Harajuku Bridge; eat at the Kawaii Monster Café and get photos with a Harajuku girl; and watch your kids’ eyes pop when you hand them a curly-cue potato on a stick from Long! Longer!! Longest!!! or a colorful cotton candy pouf that’s bigger than their heads.
Learn About the Culture
Seemingly around every corner, and in every neighborhood, you’ll find either a temple or a shrine to visit, each with their own theme or introspective sentiment. The Meiji-Jingu Temple, located in Yoyogi in central west Tokyo close to the 1964 Olympic complex, is a breath of fresh air in Tokyo’s concrete jungle. This Shinto shrine, built in 1920, has two 40-foot wooden Torii Gates. Inside you’ll see soaring cedar trees, a stunning Inner Garden, and a Treasure House. Multiple festivals and Japanese weddings are held here throughout the year. It’s free to enter, but there are fees associated with entrance into special buildings and gardens.
See a Palace
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, 10 minutes from Tokyo Station, is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan, located in a park-like setting in the Chiyoda ward. You can see the main palace, the private residences of the Imperial family, and a museum through a guided tour. Walk through the East Gardens, the Kokyo Gaien National Garden, and Kitanomaru Park.
See a Bustling Tokyo Fish Market
There’s nothing like the experience of walking through an inner wet market to see and smell vendors schlepp fish and sell their fresh catches. The world’s biggest and most popular fish and seafood market, Tsukiji wholesale fish market, has recently shut its doors, however, you can visit the new facility in Eastern Tokyo. Sure to offer surprises, cultural awakening, and family fun, the Toyosu Fish Market, accessible via the Shijo-mae Station.
Pro Tip: Arrive before 8 a.m. to see the market at its liveliest.
Visit an Animal Café
Tokyo is home to many animal cafes, and, in fact, these cafes have spread all over Japan. Visit a shop that fits into your itinerary—you won’t have a difficult time finding one and it’s best to visit when you need a little breather from exploring outside. You’ll pay a nominal entrance fee, purchase a cup of hot cocoa or coffee (either from a barista or a vending machine), and spend time with either an owl, hedgehog, or cat. Some of these cafes are timed, limiting the amount of time you can spend with a new furry friend, and others let you stay as long as you like. Kids are advised to be gentle, of course, and pay attention to the animal’s reactions, however, they’ll find that the creatures are temperate and use to being handled.
Experience a Traditional Japanese Tea Service
You can’t go to Japan without experiencing a traditional tea service. It’s worth exposing your children to the formality and tradition of it all. They’ll learn a bit about the culture and propriety of Japan through this ancient ceremony. Some tea services are held privately for families or situated in the outdoors, which may be easier for little kids to enjoy.
The Hamarikyu Gardens offers a tea ceremony, set in a lovely garden, and exploring the grounds afterward is a treat.
The Ritz-Carlton properties, for example, are family-friendly and have special programming for kids and The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo is no different. Another great option for a special private tea ceremony is the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, which can cater to families.
Have a Little Fun at the Ghibli Museum
Honoring the art and animation of the Studio Ghibli, the Ghibli Museum is a must-see for fans of the films. Located in Inokashira Park in Mitaka, in western Tokyo, this whimsical museum showcases Japan’s most treasured animated films like “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away,” and “Ponyo.” You’ll see fanciful exhibits, art work, sculptures, and more.
Pro Tip: You’ll have to purchase your tickets well in advance as this popular attraction sells out fast. Show up on time or, better yet, early as you’ll be slotted a specific date and time.
Maybe you’ve visited Disney World or Disneyland in the United States, and you want to check out an international Mickey experience. Tokyo Disneyland is easy to get to and super fun for families. Ride Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and see a show or a parade. Of course, there are attractions and things to do for all ages and abilities here and you’ll find lots of dining options as well. Buy your tickets in advance online and remember that kids ages 3 and under are admitted for free.
Pet Hachiko, the Loyal Dog
Hachiko was a dog that would wait for his owner every day at Shibuya Station. He became legend when, for 10 years after his owner's death, Hachiko would still return to the station every day. Now, you can visit a large statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog, positioned in front of Shibuya Station, and greet the famous dog in person.