From teenagers to toddlers and 20-somethings, Japan is a playground for young travellers and those who are young at heart.
While it is a well-established dream destination for people of all ages, Japan is an absolute playground for young travellers (and those who are young at heart!) After all, this is the country of manga, anime, and computer games, castles and samurai, robot restaurants and karaoke, sumo, sushi, theme parks, futuristic cities and neon night clubs, teenage street fashion, cosplay, robots, and much more. Japan is F-U-N, but importantly, it’s also safe, clean, the food is incredible, and it has a perfect balance between zany fun and cultural experiences. We’re going to take a closer look at the reasons why Japan is ideal for young people, including our recommendations for top 10 activities and our tips for getting from A to B with the Japan Rail Pass - the best value way to explore this amazing country. Okay, let’s get started.
Why Japan Is Perfect for Young People
Japan is consistently ranked as one of the top ten safest countries in the world - a key priority for young travellers (and their protective parents back at home!).
The country’s streets and public spaces are exceptionally clean. Japan places a huge importance on cleanliness. It is central to both Shinto and Buddhist religions, and taught in schools and homes from a young age. The benefit for visitors is a super clean country.
- Polite, friendly, and welcoming
Famously polite, friendly, and welcoming, the people of Japan are good-natured and hospitable. Japan’s etiquette may appear daunting, but it’s very easy to follow, especially if you do a little research beforehand. Read our guides on Japanese Etiquette and Table Manners for more.
- Excellent public transport
Japan’s domestic rail network is arguably the safest, most efficient, and fastest in the world - ideal for young travellers making their way around. It’s also incredibly good value if you buy a JR Pass for unlimited travel, which is perfect for budget conscious youngsters and families.
- Green spaces
While Japan is famous for its huge, futuristic cities, it is also packed with beautiful green spaces, both within urban centres and throughout the country’s plentiful rural areas. From city parks like Yoyogi in Tokyo to national parks, tranquil lakes to wild, mountainous forests, Japan is much greener than you might think and perfect for young travellers to explore.
- Japan is F-U-N!
From theme parks and anime for children and teenagers to neon nightclubs, arcades, street fashion, cosplay, and unique restaurants for 20-somethings and beyond, Japan is a fun-filled country for the young and young at heart.
Top 10 Activities For Young Travellers
1. Fun Futuristic Cities
The excitement and buzz of a big city is hard to beat and Japan has some of the biggest and best cities in the world. They’re also fun, safe, spectacular, varied, clean, and offer unique and unforgettable sights, sounds, and experiences you won’t find anywhere else. As futuristic as they are, they’re also packed with history, tradition, and culture, and a surprising amount of green spaces and parks. There’s literally nowhere else on the planet where you can explore an ancient Buddhist temple one moment and drive real-life Mario Karts around the streets the next. From mega cities like Tokyo and Osaka to the culture and tradition of Kyoto and lesser-known gems such as Kanozawa, Nikko, Beppu, Nagano, Kagoshima, Fukuoka, and Yokohama, Japan’s cities are among the best and biggest in the world and a dazzling attraction for young travellers.
Japan’s incredible cities are the place to go for unique experiences like racing a real-life Mario Kart around the streets of Tokyo, visiting a robot restaurant, checking out the view at, or getting lost in the crowds (in a good way) in the famous Shibuya Scramble. You can read more about the Cities of Japan here and discover more Weird and Wonderful Japan experiences in our guide to the subject.
2. Traditional Japanese Culture
Japanese culture is unlike any other. People around the world are fascinated by it and it can be especially captivating for children. From sushi to samurai, Japan is like another world for young minds. Japanese culture is fun, exciting, and educational all at the same time, ticking boxes for young people and their parents! From attending a traditional matsuri festival to watching a sumo match, going to see a kabuki performance or taking an origami class, there are endless ways for young travellers to immerse themselves in Japanese culture while visiting Japan. The country’s beautiful and historic temples, shrines, and castles are also a must-see.
3. Japan’s Theme Parks
From the newly opened Ghibli Park to Super Nintendo World, Japan has a number of unique theme park experiences for young travellers. It’s also home to some of the world’s biggest and best theme parks such as Tokyo DisneySea and Universal Studios. 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 and home to the world’s first Super Nintendo World, which opened recently. Read our story about Super Nintendo World opening at Universal Studios Japan for more. It’s already become one of Japan’s leading attractions for young travellers.
4. Amazing Aquariums
As an island nation (or series of islands to be exact), Japan is surrounded by seas and sea life. This means Japan has some of the world’s most spectacular aquariums. 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.
5. Shopping - Japanese style!
Young travellers love to shop, right? And they’ll be right at home in Japan, which has some of the best shopping malls and shopping districts in the world! From quirky independent retailers in back alleyways to huge, sprawling malls filled with luxury goods to distinctly Japanese arcades and covered markets, Japan has it all! Shotengai means ‘shopping street’ in Japanese and is typically used to refer to a traditional covered street lined with local shops. Read our Guide to Shotengai for a list of locations where you can find these famous shopping streets across Japan, including in Tokyo and Osaka. Meanwhile, for high-end luxury shopping, read our comprehensive guide to Omotesando: Tokyo’s Fifth Avenue.
6. Visit Harajuku - home of teenage street fashion and cute ‘kawaii’
Speaking of shopping streets, the one and only Harajuku (specifically the famous Takeshita Dori street in Tokyo) is a must-see for young travellers visiting Japan. Harajuku is the quirky, colourful capital of 21st Century Japanese fashion. It’s much more than a place, it’s an entire culture. From hip-hop Harajuku teens to street-style fashionistas, Japanese school girls to pink-haired princesses, this famous district is the place to go to experience contemporary Japan’s creative, theatrical, and sometimes outrageous youth culture and unique street fashions. Harajuku is an area of Tokyo between Shinjuku and Shibuya. When people talk about Harajuku they are often referring to Takeshita Dori - a 400 metre long street of shops, cafes, fast food restaurants, and fashion boutiques that is hugely popular with Japanese teenagers seven days a week and particularly on weekends - and its surrounding alleyways, both of which exploded onto the world stage as an icon for teenage fashion and culture in the 1980s.
Harajuku is the area around Harajuku station which sits between Shinjuku and Shibuya. The station can be easily reached using the Yamanote rail line, which is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The JR Yamanote line, or Yamanote loop line, runs in a circle around Tokyo, stopping at important stations like Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya & Tokyo stations. Read our comprehensive Guide to Tokyo’s Yamanote Line to find out more. For much more on Harajuku, read our in-depth Guide to Harajuku for everything you need to know.
7. Manga and Anime
As far as contemporary Japanese culture goes, manga and anime are definitely two of Japan’s most successful exports. They’re also hugely popular among children and young people. In Japan, people who stay home all day reading manga are called otaku - a word that has become an umbrella term for the country’s geek culture. While not all manga and anime is suitable for children, there are lots of family friendly series too such as Pokemon. To find out more, take a look at our guide to the Top Manga and Anime to Read Before You Visit Japan.
Even if your children aren’t familiar with Japanese manga and anime, they probably know Studio Ghibli’s world-famous and completely enchanting animated films. The Studio Ghibli Museum is perfect for children and there are other destinations across Japan, including the town of Tomonoura and the forests of Yakushima which have their own Ghibli connections. Finally, there’s the brand-new Ghibli Park - a unique theme park that’s not a theme park (it’s more of an immersive experience) - that is newly opened in Japan and a famous new attraction for young people everywhere. Read Ghibli Park: The Ultimate Guide for everything you need to know.
8. Computer Games and Arcades
For young gamers, visiting Japan is practically a pilgrimage to the promised land. The country is home to Nintendo, Sony and Sega, as well as hundreds of arcades, and is the indisputable centre of today’s global computer games industry. It’s a dream destination for young travellers who happen to be gamers. Who could resist a train journey to Nintendo’s original headquarters in Kyoto, a visit to Kawasaki Warehouse themed games arcade, an afternoon in Sega’s Joypolis in Odaiba, or a trip to Sony showroom in Tokyo? All of this is possible with a JRailPass to explore Japan by train.
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.
Japanese food is arguably the best in the world and young travellers will have the adventure of a lifetime expanding their culinary tastes. From sushi to ramen, streetfood to Michelin-starred, Japan’s food has it all. Read our Beginners Guide to Japanese Food and Regional Dishes if you want to discover more. Also, look out for cooking classes, taster sessions, and more suitable for children and young people while visiting Japan. Young travellers using a Japan Rail Pass to navigate the country can also enjoy the fun experience of dining on Japan’s famous Ekiben packed lunch boxes for train journeys on their travels.
10. Japan’s Outdoor Experiences
Young travellers who enjoy the outdoors will be spoilt for choice in Japan. Want to adventure off the beaten track and get away from the city? Done! What to explore dense forests and hike breathtaking mountains? Done! Want to swim in crystal blue waters and lounge on white-sand beaches? Done! Japan’s diverse 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.
Young travellers are understandably drawn to Japan from its futuristic cities to epic countryside. Japan also has a huge amount of youth-focussed and family-friendly attractions (for all ages). Here are a few bonus recommendations:
- A bonus top tip for young travellers: Alongside the JRailPass for travelling from city to city, we also recommend prepaid travel cards for shorter journeys within Japan’s major cities. A prepaid travel card such as an ICOCA, PASMO or Suica card is essential for inner city public transport. Check out our Top 30 Tips for Using Japan’s Metros for advice and guidance on using the city’s subway network.
- If you’re a young traveller, you’re going to want to stay connected so you can post photos of your adventures on social media and keep in touch with your friends and family back home. A Pocket Wifi device gives you unlimited internet on up to 10 devices wherever you go in Japan. It’s indispensable when travelling with children.
- Take a walk on the wild side! Arguably Japan’s most famous animal, the Japanese macaque or snow monkey is a firm favourite among young people and can be seen bathing in hot springs at various parks across the country including world-famous Jigokudani Monkey Park.
- We all know how important it is to keep young people active, so why not head out on a family bike ride? Japan has some of the Best Cycling Routes in the world.
- If the thought of visiting Japan for the first time as a young traveller seems daunting, why not use our special Meet and Greet Service to give you a helping hand on arrival? It’s like having an expert on Japan as a personal assistant for your holiday.