It is a common misconception that Tokyo is expensive and more geared towards adults than for children. However, this is not the case whatsoever. There is plenty to see and do in Tokyo with your family. All of these activities depend on your individual budget of course, but do not think twice about taking your kids to Tokyo. You will be surprised at how much they can learn and all the fun to be had.
Theme parks and attractions
The first that comes to any mind is of course, Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland has reached cult status in the last few years, not only with children but with adults too. It has to be said that although Tokyo Disneyland does come with a rather hefty price tag (from 4,100 to 6,200 yen, around USD$40-60), it may well be worth it. For constant entertainment, you cannot do better than Disney. There are regular performances, bundles of rides and plenty of characters to keep children occupied. There are of course enough attractions for adults, including rollercoasters and some pretty unique restaurants. With Disney, what you see is what you get and the quality never varies. So, for something that you know will leave kids happy, it might be worth paying the entrance fee.
There is also the famous Legoland Discovery Centre, located in Odaiba. There is a fabulous 4D cinema, virtual reality games and plenty of Lego for kids to play with. There are the usual thrills and spills rides, which range from tame to nail-biting, of course. The entrance is around half the price of that at Disney, and there are often discounts if you book online. The opening hours are also shorter than at Disney, so take that into account when planning your trip.
If you prefer something educational, look no further than Kidzania. This is a simulation-based theme park where children ‘play’ at adult jobs and can then spend their ‘pay’ in various stores or on entertainment. This is a great chance for kids to learn as well as play, and it is the perfect place to make new friends. It may appear that this aimed towards younger children but that is not the case. The upper age limit is fifteen years old, so you may even be able to entertain teenagers. The only downside is that the park is only open from 9.15-2.30 and then from 4.15-8.30pm.
Beyond theme parks
One Tokyo attraction which comes highly recommended is Ueno Zoo. The zoo is actually the oldest in Japan and it has been beautifully preserved over the years. There are over three thousand animals in residence here, including rare polar bears and giant pandas. Entrance fee is remarkably cheap and the dining options inside are perfect for children, with plenty of options for even fussy eaters. There is also a charming monorail from one side of the park to the other.
If your children love animals, another option is the Sunshine Aquarium in Ikebukuro. This is located on the top floor of a shopping mall and has some fabulous displays of marine life. Due to it’s slightly smaller size, it is probably better for younger children. Entrance fee is moderate, costing around USD$20 and there is a cafeteria inside for snacks and some cute, marine themed soft drinks.
It goes without saying that Tokyo is the world capital for animated characters, with anime and manga lining every street. It may sound like a bad idea but the Pokemon Center does have a lot to offer to families. These are less like a theme park and more like a giant shop, but there are often animatronic characters that children can take photos with. Some of the merchandise is quite reasonably priced and some of the centers have game booths where you can try your hand at catching some Pokemon yourself.
If after all that walking and shopping, you need some time to relax, there is no better place in Tokyo than Studio Ghibli Museum. This is located in the suburbs of Mataka, but the location of the museum next to large park and tranquil river makes the journey worth it. Entrance must be pre-booked but is very cheap (around USD$10). The museum has a short movie, previously unreleased, shown in a very quaint cinema and the Ghibli Museum itself is housed in a very whimsical building, complete with hidden staircases. The exterior has an enchanting terrace, full of characters from some of the studio’s famous movies. The most spectacular part of the museum is seeing how the creative process has been developed, using both art and technology. A truly unforgettable experience for all the family.