Japan family holidays
The ever-compelling contrast between its ancient and modern culture makes Japan an outstanding destination for unique family travel adventures.
Watch kids’ minds whirl as you jump from sugar-rush theme parks to magical walks in the forest. Explore boundary-pushing digital worlds and exquisite works of art. Dine in fine kaiseki style and snack on Pokemon bento. Wander past shinto shrines and look out over high-rise rooftops.
With exciting new experiences always on the horizon, Japan remains a firm favourite family holiday destination; even the transfers feel pretty epic when they’re via bullet train.
Highlights of a family holiday in Japan
- Get dazzled by the neon showtime extravaganza at Tokyo’s Robot Cafe
- Wander between the warmly-lit wooden houses along Takayama’s winding streets
- Create your favourite cartoon character in edible bento box form.
- Set the cute-o-meter to maximum at the Disneyland Tokyo and Ghibli kawaii wonderlands
- Taste tongue-tingling flavours from Osaka’s world-famous foodie scene - baby octopus on a stick, anyone?
- Share the sense of hope and poignancy at Hiroshima’s historic Peace Park
With a UK based team of Destination Specialists with offices and partners across Asia, ensuring we focus on staying really local in our approach. Our specialists have travelled extensively in Japan and throughout Asia, many having also lived in the region.
Along with enjoying great travels, the team regularly inspect the best hotels, seek out new activities and design new routes – for inspiration we’d suggest taking a look through some of their Favourite Journeys. The weather during any of the school holidays is always an important consideration and we have that covered with our best time to visit Japan section.
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How to spend your time...
Three of our favourite family-friendly itineraries in Japan
...and where to rest your head
Three of our favourite family-friendly hotels in Japan
Japan with your kids - what to expect
Tokyo gets your family holiday in Japan started in style. From manga comics and animation, to computer gaming, kawaii kitsch and cutting edge fashion, kids are bound to recognise a lot of contemporary Japanese culture, and Tokyo is the place to explore it.
Get hands-on with cutting edge innovation at the Miraikan museum, or spend a day of candy-coloured craziness at Tokyo Disney. Enjoy a subtler anime experience at the charming Ghibli Museum, or while away the hours in underwater magic at one of the city’s aquariums. Channel your inner warrior at a samurai sword fighting class, or watch the action ringside at a sumo wrestling match. Fulfill kids’ gaming dreams in the city’s arcades, and immerse yourselves in kawaii culture at character themed cafes.
Kyoto balances out Tokyo’s intensity, and is an ideal place to discover a more traditional side to Japan. Kids can create their own cartoon bento lunch at a kyaraben masterclass - great for fussier eaters who need a little encouragement to try something new. Let your mini-historian’s imagination run wild within the walls of Nijo castle, and take an enchanting wander among deer at Nara Park. Feel the rhythm, and get a full-on arm workout, at a part-dance, part martial art taiko drumming lesson.
Make a petrolhead pleasing pit-stop at the Suzuka motorsport circuit, en route to Osaka, then spend leisurely days introducing the kids to new flavors from the famous foodie scene, and squeeze in a little Hollywood glam at Universal Studios.
In Hiroshima, you can gently explore the extraordinary sense of hope now evident at the scene of such tragedy. Kayak out to Miyajima island’s striking red torii gate, and spend quiet time together in the Peace Park.
Give children a glimpse of Japan’s cosy rural side in Takayama, high in the Japanese Alps. Stay in a traditional ryokan, cycle and trek into the surrounding countryside, and watch the Old Town lights twinkle at twilight.
Things you’ll all love in Japan
What to do in Japan: Discover more with our hand-picked experiences & highlights
Get hands-on with this exhilarating Taiko drumming experience, which will teach you and the kids the ancient art of Japanese war drumming, with a demonstration by one of Japan’s leading drumming troupes. Ideal for kids and adults alike, the drum lesson can take place in Kyoto or Tokyo, and its grand finale will be you joining the kumi-daiko ensemble for a spine-tingling group drumming session
Be immersed in Samurai Japan with this traditional swordfighting lesson - taught by Tetsuro Shimaguchi, head fight choreographer of Kill Bill Vol I - that will plunge you right into the action and discipline you’ve admired from afar.
Being welcomed into a typical Japanese home gives you the chance to spend time with remarkable people and experience what everyday life in Japan is really like. No two visits will ever be the same, which shows just how extraordinary the ordinary can be.
Our Japan Specialists' top tips for families
With quite a few parents among our well-travelled Destination Specialists, we know how important it is to get the finer details sorted before travelling with kids, and we always go the extra mile to make sure they are. We want everyone to enjoy each moment without sweating the small stuff.
If you have any questions, or want to have a chat about planning your family holiday to Japan, we'd love to have a chat. In the meantime, here are a few FAQs to help you get started…
- Don't overpack
Leave room for souvenirs. From game-themed merchandise to eccentric vending machine prizes, you’re likely to accumulate a fair few bits and pieces during your trip, so make sure you’ve got plenty of space in your luggage to get it all home.
- Be prepared for the weather
Don’t underestimate the heat! Japan is often left out of the ‘hot country’ bracket, but in the height of summer, temperatures in some parts can regularly push 40°C plus. Make sure you’re prepared, and drink plenty of water while wandering.
- When is the best time of year for a family holiday to Japan?
Japan is a wonderful place to visit all year round, and has the familiar benefit of four distinct seasons with different highlights in each. Visit in spring to see the famous sakura cherry blossom, or in autumn for the koyo leaf-falling festivals. Winter trips are crisp and cool with the possibility of snow, while hot summer visits fill up Kyushu’s southern beaches. The best times to visit Japan are from March to April (spring), or October to November (autumn), when the days are often sunny without being too hot or humid.
- How do our guides work in Japan?
Having our experienced, knowledgeable and welcoming local guides on hand during your trip can be invaluable. They’ll meet you upon arrival, and can help make everything go as smoothly as possible. In Japan, much of your trip will be self-guided, thanks to the country’s fantastically smooth transport and infrastructure, with guides on-hand as much or as little as you like in each destination. We pride ourselves on using only the best guides in a given region. All our guides are trained to the highest level, and fully certified and licensed. Find out more about our brilliant guides here
- Is Japan safe for families?
Japan is one of Asia’s most up-and-coming destinations for family holidays, and has a comforting familiarity to many aspects of daily life. It combines a warm welcome with an efficient infrastructure and seamlessly-smooth travel, making family holidays a breeze. It’s a safe, supportive and reassuring destination with plenty of kid-focused culture. Within that seeming familiarity, however, some things will still feel strikingly different from what you’re used to, as in every new destination. If you’re unsure of anything at any time, our guides and local contacts are always on hand to offer help and advice.
- What vaccinations do I need for Japan?
When planning a trip to Asia, it’s important to consider the possible requirements for vaccinations and immunisations. Most importantly, we stress that you should contact your doctor or medical practitioner well before you depart to get their advice on any vaccinations you may need for your trip. If you’ve travelled recently and believe that you are already up-to-date, it’s still worth checking as vaccinations have a varying life span. Japan has been designated as ‘not at risk’ for malaria on the NHS Fit For Travel map, and it’s worth checking out the NHS Travel Vaccinations site for extra health travel information.
- Do I need a visa to go to Japan?
Citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and most European countries do not require a visa to visit Japan for up to 90 days. Notable exceptions are citizens from Russia, China and the Philippines who have to apply for a visa directly with the Japanese Embassy in their country of residence. All other nationalities should check with the Japanese Embassy in their country of residence for the most up-to-date information.
- What should I pack for a trip to Japan?
Just the essentials! On the whole, Japan is a surprisingly casual nation. Smart business suits aside, formal dress isn’t very common in everyday circumstances, and there’s not usually a need to ‘dress for dinner’. Make sure you take appropriate clothing for the season, though, as temperatures can vary hugely depending on the time of year you travel; think scarves and thermals for winter, loose cottons and sun hats for summer. As you might expect, you can buy more or less everything you might need in Japan, so if you forget something it’s not usually a problem. Many areas do have midges and mosquitoes during the summer, so make sure you take a good repellent. If you’re travelling with tinies, consider taking a really good baby carrier, as push-chairs might be a pain to get around with.
- What’s the best currency to take to Japan?
Japan is, perhaps surprisingly, still a cash-dependent society and some shops and restaurants do not accept debit and credit cards. Therefore you’ll need to carry some Japanese Yen in cash whilst visiting Japan. It is possible to obtain Yen in advance of your arrival but ATM machines are widely available throughout the country. It is also possible to exchange US dollars, GB pounds and Euros cash upon arrival at the airport.
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