Best things to do with children in Tokyo part 1.


I'm a researcher and a planner... it makes me feel comfortable and safe ha.

I spent hours - and hours and days and weeks - on researching and planning our trip to Japan in November. So much so I even had a display folder crammed with itineraries, directions, shortlists of food and restaurants for every occasion - teppanyaki, tempura, sushi, korean bbq, burgers and everything in between - and of course, the best things to do and see with children.
S laughed at the folder but he found it pretty handy while we were there - so who had the last laugh ;)

So to recap, we arrived in Tokyo on a Thursday night, traveled by highway bus to Fuji-kyu and Lake Kawaguchiko for two nights, back to Shinjuku for 1 night then Tokyo Disneyland for 3 nights before back to Shinjuku for our last 3 nights.

While in Tokyo, I wanted to keep the travel minimal for the boys' sake so unlike last time when it was just S and I and we flitted from place to place via metro, unconcerned about times and the number of trains, I actually grouped attractions together and planned our days around neighbouring suburbs. This worked for the most part and the efficiency of the Tokyo rail network was a Godsend.

Our first day in Tokyo was only a few hours in the morning before we headed to Fuji-kyu so we made the most of our apartment surroundings and took a short walk to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building observation deck. S and I had visited it previously so knew it to be a good observation deck to show our friend who was traveling with us - his first time in Japan. We also thought it would be fun for the boys to see the City sprawled out before them.
Entry is free and we were there just before the 9:30am opening on a Friday morning and managed to be first in line. The queue quickly grew at 9:30am and there was a fair wait when we left.
Having visited at dusk previously, it was a beautiful crystal clear sight first thing in the morning and we even spied Mount Fuji afar. The boys enjoyed seeing the tall building all around and E (age 4.5) particularly enjoyed us pointing out landmarks and funny buildings.
We probably spent about 30 minutes here and that was more than enough.
Given it is free, I'd say its a must do with or without children, just try to keep them away from the giftshop/souvenir stand.

After a few days out at the Fuji lakes, we arrived back in Shinjuku on Sunday afternoon, ready to start exploring Tokyo. We spent the afternoon around Shinjuku just taking in the atmosphere and the neon lights before catching the metro to Roppongi.
It was dark early and by the time we got to Roppongi at around 5pm, night had fallen so we walked towards Tokyo Tower to show the boys it all lit up. We didn't want to go up the Tower as we had done so on a previous trip and were planning to visit the Sky Tree the following day.
We grabbed dinner at the very safe TGIFridays as we all felt like burgers and salads after some adventurous eating and the boys were desperate for a milkshake - which proved impossible to get anywhere other than an American eatery.
After dinner, we had a look around at the Winter Illuminations and elaborate Christmas decorations which E really enjoyed - C fell asleep in the pram.

The following day was Monday and our day started with a small earthquake around 6am - E was fascinated and I thankfully kept my cool.
Our local friend we met on our previous travels met us at our apartment to guide us on a day of exploring Sumida, Asakusa and more.
First stop was Sky Tree Town in Sumida and the boys were amazed at how tall the Sky Tree Tower was. We decided S and our friends would go up to the observation deck given wait times, cost and the fact the boys were much more interested in running around the Christmas 'village' set up outside the entrance.

So while we waited, the boys and I played at the entrance which was actually a large rooftop area with gardens and seating, before heading into the shopping complex which featured E's highlight, a dedicated Pokemon store!
It was packed with foreigners frantically grabbing merchandise and filling up carts with stuffed toys and really wasn't that big but the boys happily spent about 45 minutes browsing and exclaiming over the characters.
I then took them over to the Sky Tree lobby and our exploring lead us to an Asahi shop that featured a toy and character section and the boys just loved browsing and exclaiming over everything they saw.
There was plenty to do around the Sky Tree complex if you decide not to take children up to the observation deck or if one of you is going and the other needs to entertain them.
We had planned to take them to the aquarium but we really ran out of time after our browsing.
Note (there is a McDonalds near the Asahi shop if your kids are as fussy as mine).

Once S and our friends came down, we walked over to Asakusa - maybe a 25 minute walk over the bridge. It was a pleasant walk and we passed a great looking playground and park just over the bridge on the Asakusa side that we would have stopped at if C wasn't already asleep in the pram.
We entered at Sensoji Temple and took the boys straight to the incense where its believed you will gain wisdom from wafting the smoke over you - here's hoping.
C was still asleep and the area was teeming with tourists and locals alike (late afternoon) so E went with the big boys up into the Temple while I waited below. He loved the small rituals involved, like the money offering and of course seeing the carved Gods and Buddhas everywhere.
We took a walk around the gardens and shrines and E had fun throwing money in the ponds filled with huge Koi.

We strolled the Nakamise shopping street which was filled with kitschy tourist souvenirs before we found a wonderful tiny little place offering just pan fried gyoza and karage chicken so we sat for awhile feasting on delicious food and drinking beer.

After eating our fill, we headed towards Shin-Nakamise shopping street where our Japanese friend arranged for the boys to enjoy a traditional game played in Summer by local children for a small fee.
It involved using rice paper nets to catch as many goldfish as possible from a small pool with extra points for catching the black fish and put them in your bowl filled with water. The nets broke easily so the idea was to be gentle and delicate and once the game was up, the goldfish were put back in the pond. They played for around 25 minutes and the proprietor was very friendly and helpful (but spoke no English).
The boys absolutely loved this game and still talk about it.

S was desperate to visit Tokyo Dome City so we decided to do that on the way back to Shinjuku despite it being around 5pm and dark.
Not great on a cold wet night, I think this would be fun to take children to during the day with Sega World, amusement park rides and a shopping centre. Easily accessible by metro and with lots of food options and restaurants (Japanese and American).
We didn't go on anything as most of the rides were closed due to the rain but the rollercoaster looked fun.

On Tuesday we were due to set out for three nights at Disneyland - and I was more than a little excited! We had booked 3 nights at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel so I will dedicate a whole post to this part of the trip.

After 3 nights at Tokyo Disneyland, it was time to leave the happiest place on earth and return to reality. We got back to Shinjuku around 10:30am on the Friday morning and set out to look around Shinjuku and find a burger place to eat at. We were determined to find one we had eaten at in a back street on our last visit and after a lot of walking, spotting Godzilla peering at us over a building (much to Es delight) and a walk through the amazing Takayama department store basement foodhall, we finally found it - JS Burgers. A great pitstop with kids as they loved the fries and there was a salad bar included with some cold pasta salads the boys enjoyed.
After eating our fill, we caught the metro to Ginza with a promise to the boys of visiting a big big toy store. We arrived and strolled up the streets taking in the sights of Tokyo's answer to Fifth Ave and Rodeo Drive. There wasn't much chance for browsing with the boys in tow so we pretty much headed straight to Hakuhinkan Toy Park. If you get stuck, head to the Tourist Information and they will give you a map with it clearly marked.
As one of the biggest toy stores in Tokyo, we adults were a little underwhelmed simply because the entrance seemed to be for a discount store and while there were some greats toys, different toys and fun displays on offer, the 5 floors are small and cramped - although well laid out by genre/age.
The boys however were in heaven and I'm sure we spent at least an hour and a half there browsing and playing.
We headed back to Shinjuku late afternoon so S could take E to play in a Sega World - E loved the skill testers and the games - while I took C back to rest, play and shower ahead of dinner.
Our local friend met us around 6pma nd we set off for dinner at a well-known Yakiniku Japanese BBQ he had booked. JoJoen was a  highlight for us all with the grown-ups loving the food (I stuck to the sirloin type pieces while S was more adventurous with tongue and offal) and the boys loving 'helping' us cook the food at the table. It kept them entertained and occupied the entire time.
The restaurant itself was beautiful, high up on the 9th floor with private tables and typical amazing Japanese service. The boys were each bought their own child friendly bowl, cutlery and bib and were made most welcome for dinner.
We went with ordering individual plates of meat and vegetables off the menu as most of the sets included offal which I refused to have.

It is on the higher end price was but entirely worth it - this is definitely on the list for a family or date meal on any future visits.
We finished up our night in Shinjuku on the skill testers where our friend won (paid through the nose) for a Ted for CB - that traveled home with us and now sleeps in CBs cot and is affectionately known as 'Club Elaine' which is CBs pronunciation of 'Clubber Lang' (as per the Ted movie).

I'll continue with part 2 in another post...

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