Throughout Japan you will find smoothly-running public transport, hotels that are on-board with family needs, and a friendly and welcoming atmosphere: perfect ingredients when travelling with children.
Tokyo is an excellent place to start when planning family holidays in Japan, as the efficient infrastructure and kid-friendly set-up makes for minimum stress. The city’s many hands-on museum experiences have great multi-age appeal. The Ghibli Museum, for example, is true imagination-firing stuff – less hectic than Disney, fantastically quirky, and enjoyable by anyone who loves well-told stories.
Younger children will love the trend for kawaii, Japanese for ‘cuteness’. Vending machines, dispensing everything kawaii, from key-rings to unusual sweets, are everywhere! It can be fun to get the kids involved creating their own kawaii bento boxed lunches from ready-made ingredients available in supermarkets, including kamaboko (seafood rolls) with Pokemon or Hello Kitty designs! For the ultimate cute-food experience, you can find ingenious, tasty snacks at the cartoon character-themed cafes, and there are many gaming and anime cafes which make excellent places to combine eating out with keeping teens entertained.
Even the sullenest of teenagers might give an approving nod at the chance to take part in a Samurai swordfighting masterclass. No experience is necessary, and anyone from age 5 upwards can learn from the fight choreographer responsible for the swordfighting in the ‘Kill Bill’ films. If knights and swordfighting is their thing, children will also love a visit to Matsumoto Castle, known as ‘Crow Castle’ due to its black walls and roofs that resemble spreading wings.
Away from the capital, a favourite family activity is wandering among the deer at Nara Park near Kyoto. Though wild, the deer are very used to people and come right up to eat senbei rice crackers from your hand, creating perfect photo opportunities and magical memories.
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