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A Family Friendly Holiday to Japan
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A Family Friendly Holiday to Japan

Japan is one of the best countries in the world to holiday with families and children. From its theme parks, animals, museums, trains, and more, Japan has it all. 

Table of contents:

Reasons Why Japan Is Great For Families
Top 10 Things To Do for Families in Japan
Family Friendly Bonus Tips


Japan is a special place to visit for people of all ages and has been one of the most sought after travel destinations in the world for many years. You might be surprised, however, to discover that it’s also one of the most family friendly countries. Japan is perfect for family holidays. It’s safe, clean, welcoming, and absolutely packed with fun things to see and do. The transport infrastructure, particularly the country’s world-famous domestic rail network, is also second to none, meaning you can get around safely, easily, and on a budget, thanks to the Japan Rail Pass. From theme parks to luscious green spaces, animal encounters to undersea adventures, quirky museums to unique Japanese sports, castles to computer games, sumo to samurai, and of course, bullet trains, Japan has something for children of all ages - and big kids too! Let’s take a look at why Japan is so great for families, our recommendations for the family friendly activities, and how to get there. Get set for a holiday your family will never forget. 

Reasons Why Japan Is Great For Families

Why is Japan such a family friendly travel destination? Japan is near the top of most people’s dream travel bucket list, and for good reason - it’s an amazing country to visit, offering a host of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Japan truly is beautiful and unique. However, it might not be the most obvious choice for families. Travelling as a family, especially with young children, can be tricky, so it’s important to choose a destination that will make your life easier rather than harder. After all, many of us go away to relax and escape our day-to-day lives. Therefore, when travelling with children, you want somewhere that’s safe, clean, with welcoming, friendly, and polite people, excellent customer service, modern technology, and a ton of activities for all ages to keep everyone entertained. Well, Japan has all of this in abundance! It is every one of those things and more. Japan’s trains for instance are so clean, modern, spacious, safe, and efficient, you’ll be able to sit back and relax as you travel from one amazing place to the next. And with a JR Pass, you’ll enjoy unlimited travel across Japan, free seat reservations, and you’ll get to journey on the world-famous shinkansen bullet trains - a treat for children and adults! The JR Pass is the most cost effective way to travel for families if you want to see more of Japan, and why wouldn’t you, with so much to do? Speaking of which, let’s look at our top recommendations.   

Top 10 Things To Do for Families in Japan

There’s genuinely so much for families to do in Japan that it's hard to narrow down the list of family friendly activities to just 10. The list below is the best of the best and features attractions from across the length and breadth of Japan’s main islands. Whether you’re visiting major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, or more off the beaten track locales like the northernmost island of Hokkaido or subtropical Okinawa in the south, this list has something for you and your family, and it’s all accessible with the JRailPass

1.) Green spaces and the great outdoors

From green spaces in the heart of Japan’s biggest cities like the famous Yoyogi Park in Tokyo (perfect for family picnics), to the country’s 34 national parks, and remote, off-the-beaten-track adventures in dense forests and woodlands, Japan’s unique and unforgettable landscape is perfect for families. Outdoor activities include walking and hiking, boating, and canoeing, swimming, and fishing, paragliding, and windsurfing, cycling, and much more. You can read about cycling in our guide to Japan’s Best Cycle Routes while those interested in the country’s mountainous peaks should check out our Starters Guide to Hiking - a great way to keep the family fit and healthy. Japan’s National Parks are ideal for families who love nature and the great outdoors, while those seeking adventure should look no further than the likes of the epic Kurobe Gorge in the northern Japanese Alps or Yakushima and Shiratani Unsuikyo ravine - the real-life inspiration for the magical fairy-tale forests of Studio Ghibli’s animated masterpiece Princess Mononoke

Meanwhile, for young children, how about strawberry picking at a local farm? The aptly named Mother Farm can be found in Chiba Prefecture and is the perfect destination for families, with lambs, ducks, pigs, cows and even alpacas. It’s so big that cute animal-themed sightseeing buses are needed to help you get around, and as well as petting animals you’ll also get to pick your own fruit, including strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi. There is also a spectacular flower trail including 25,000 petunias. To get there using your Japan Rail Pass, take the JR Uchibo line to JR Kimitsu Station and then the free shuttle bus to the farm itself.

2.) Trains

Kids love trains (including big kids), and Japan’s trains are believed to be the best in the world. Just travelling from A to B on one of these futuristic trains is an attraction in itself, especially in a country as spectacular and different as Japan. Whether it’s the country’s newest and fastest bullet train, the N700S Shinkansen, or something more colourful like the Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty trains, the country’s rail network will delight families. You can even get special Japanese lunch boxes called Ekiben to enjoy on your journeys. As well as state-of-the-art trains, Japan also offers some of the world’s most scenic and spectacular rail journeys for you and your family to enjoy. For more on Japanese trains, read our Visitors Guide to Trains and Railways in Japan - it’s indispensable for families travelling by train in the country.

3.) Theme parks

Japan adores theme parks and boasts some of the best in the world. As well as traditional Japanese theme parks, funfairs, and arcades, Japan offers big names like Disney, Universal Studios, and more. Tokyo Disney resort is home to the twin theme parks of Disneyland, and completely unique to Japan – DisneySea.  Tokyo Disney resort is closely located to JR Haihama station, located on the JR Keiyo and JR Musashino Lines, and directly reachable from Tokyo station. The trip is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, normal fares cost 220 yen/one way. Our detailed guide to Visiting Tokyo Disney Resort has everything you need to know. Alongside Disney, the Universal Studios theme park in Osaka is also a huge international attraction. It’s soon to open the world’s first Super Nintendo World, which is sure to prove enormously popular with Japanese people and visitors from around the world. Read our story about Super Nintendo World opening at Universal Studios Japan for more information. It’s almost certain to become one of Japan’s leading attractions for families.

4.) Nara Deer Park

Nara Park offers families a number of great activities rolled into one. First off, Nara is a beautiful historic destination, with temples and shrines. It’s the ‘old Japan’ of your imagination. Nara is also known for its green spaces, in particular Nara Park - a 660 hectare that’s home to some of Nara’s most prestigious attractions, including Todaiji, Kofukuji and the Nara National Museum. And finally, Nara is famous for something else that’s sure to prove popular with families - free-roaming deer. While these deer are not necessarily to be petted by small children, they do make an adorable sight for families enjoying Nara’s greenery and serenity. You can even feed them! Specially baked senbei cookies are sold for 200yen per pack by locals, and the deer absolutely love them. They’re actually so good that they are good for human consumption too. We have a specific guide on Nara Deer Park and a blog about taking a Day Trip to Nara, which we highly recommend. This beautiful small town is located in the Kansai Region, and makes for a great day trip from Kyoto or Osaka with your JR Pass.

5.) Sports

From winter sports to water sports, Japan has sports and activities for the whole family. If you’re visiting in winter then the country is renowned for its skiing and snowboarding, while sun worshippers will find some of the world’s Best Beaches and Watersports Destinations in Japan. The country is also a hidden gem for surfers. However, if you prefer to watch sports, then Japan really has some unique sights - your family will never forget attending a traditional Japanese sumo tournament. Read our Guide to Sumo in Japan for everything you need to know. And while baseball did not originate in Japan, it has become one of the country’s favourite and most enjoyed sports. If you want to see the Japanese people having fun and letting their hair down, then attending a baseball game is a great way to do it. Find out more in our Beginners Guide to Japanese Baseball.

6.) Snow Monkeys

Animal attractions abound in Japan thanks to its diverse wildlife, but arguably the most famous animal in Japan is the snow monkey, or Japanese macaque. And one of the best places to see these beautiful creatures is when they’re taking a bath at the world-famous Jigokudani Monkey Park! Known as the ‘Paradise of the Monkeys’, this unique park is located in the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park in Yamanouchi, northern Nagano. It is a large park that is best known for its open-air hot spring bath, which was built for the snow monkeys to bathe in. Each year, millions of people travel to Japan just to see this incredible sight. The monkeys are used to human visitors and interaction, so they can come quite close. Even the park’s sometimes large crowds (up to 500 visitors-a-day during peak season) don’t faze these confident and fun-loving creatures. You’ll have a great time, just remember not to touch or feed the monkeys. Jigokudani Monkey Park opens at 9am daily and closes at 4pm with extended hours from 8.30a to 5pm seasonally. It’s easy to reach Jigokudani using your JRailPass. If you’re travelling from Tokyo, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Kanazawa. From Kyoto, take a Hikari train on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto station to Nagoya then switch to the JR Shinano express to Nagano. Once at Nagano, from whichever direction you’ve travelled, you’ll need to take a shuttle bus to the monkey park. For another fun animal attraction for families, check our guide to Okunoshima, Japan’s Mysterious Rabbit Island!

7.) Aquariums

Thanks to its amazing location, Japan is surrounded by seas. This gives the country an incredible diversity of sea life and this is reflected in the country’s aquariums, which are arguably the best in the world. Aquariums make a great day out for children and families - it’s educational and exciting - with the chance to come face to face with sea creatures you would never get to meet in the wild. One of the biggest and most spectacular aquariums in Japan is Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which is home to an incredible 30,000 marine animals from across the Pacific Ocean. Our guide on What To See When Visiting Osaka Aquarium has everything you need to know. If Osaka isn’t in your itinerary, then you have plenty of other amazing aquariums across Japan too. Read our guide to Japan’s Best Aquariums for our definitive list. 

8.) Studio Ghibli Museum

Studio Ghibli’s incredible animated films have become one of Japan’s most famous and celebrated exports over the last 30 years. Located in Mitaka, Japan, the museum opened in 2001 and quickly became an integral part of any anime tour through Japan. To find the Ghibli Museum by rail, take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station to Mitaka Station. From the south exit of JR Mitaka Station, it’s a 15-minute walk to the museum. A community bus runs from JR Mitaka Station to the museum. Travelers can purchase bus tickets at the vending machine by bus stop No. 9. For a detailed guide to the museum and ticket information, read our guide to Visiting the Studio Ghibli Museum.

9.) Computer Games, Manga and Anime

Teenagers and adults with a taste for gaming, manga, and anime will be in heaven in Japan. Whether you’re a fan of Sony, Nintendo, or Sega, Japan is the spiritual home of computer games, from the latest cutting-edge consoles and gaming technology to old-school arcades, gaming is a way of life here. Similarly, Japan is also the birthplace of manga and anime - storytelling art forms that have become popular all over the world over the last few decades. For fans and readers of manga and anime series, Japan offers a dazzling array of wonders - ideal for imaginative teens and big kids who still love games and comics. You can find out more in our guide to Japan for Gamers, Otaku, and J-Culture fans.

10.) Castles and samurai

Japan’s ancient warriors, the samurai, have captured the imagination of people the world over, children and adults alike. The country’s castles - so different to those in the west - are among the most spectacular in the world too. These historic structures are the perfect place for curious and imaginative families to step back in time to ‘old Japan’. Visiting castles and looking at preserved samurai relics is an activity that will entertain and inspire both the young and old. Our guide to Five Incredible Japanese Castles is a great place to start. Fans of the samurai might also want to check out Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo, which has a breath-taking story to tell - the 47 Ronin who avenged their master. For a similar experience, we also recommend our guides to Visiting Japanese Palaces and the country’s Most Beautiful Pagodas. Meanwhile, for those interested in   

Family Friendly Bonus Tips

  • If you’re travelling with your family and it’s your first time in Japan, why not get a helping hand with our Meet and Greet Service - it’s like having a personal assistant to help on your holiday. We’ll take care of you from the moment you and your family arrive in Japan.
  • Need language tips? Directions to the nearest family friendly amenities? Or to check the train timetables? Whatever you need, modern technology can help, but only if you stay connected. Thankfully, PocketWifi offers unlimited internet 24/7 across Japan, ensuring you can get the information you need, when you need it. PocketWifi supports up to 10 devices simultaneously - enough for all the family.
  • Get your family excited for their future trip to Japan by reading classic manga and anime. Our guide to the Top 10 Manga and Anime to read before you visit Japan is the ideal introduction.  

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