Last updated: September 2013
Giuliettaexpat leads us to discover a playful Tokyo with children, with many ideas to discover this incredible city and never get bored !
After 4 hours spent engaged in several different activities, I get back home full of bags and smaller bags, a little wooden car, a decorated pendant, an airplane of papier-mâché, a thousand colored sheets, a doll in recycled material: I am in Tokyo and I have spent the afternoon at Tokyo Metropolitan Children’s Museum (Tokyo-to jido kaikan), a paradise and dream in Tokyo with children, Japanese or not.
The Museum is organized on 5 different floors, with activities of all kinds, from music to workshops learning how to process wood. Children can jump and at the same time learn computer skills, there is a lot for everyone’s taste and even more. And all this generously offered by the Municipality of Tokyo, free and accessible for everyone, daily, from 9am to 5pm.
This is Tokyo, the huge metropolis that offers much and more to all of its young and younger citizens. The entertaining Tokyo of the Jido Kaikan doesn’t stop here, but passes through the numerous Children’s Halls existing in every neighborhood, providing meeting points for mothers and children and the opportunity to keep the little ones busy, especially during rainy winter days.
The National Children’s Castle (Kodomo non shiro), not far from the Jido Kaikan, near the elegant shopping mall of Omotesando, similarly offers several different workshops and a marvellous playground on the roof, with bicycles and little cars together with a big pathway where the kids can jump and climb and run around during sunny days.
Close to the Tokyo Dome, one of the many amusing areas in town with big attractions like Luna Parks, there is also a structure that welcomes both adults and children, the Toys king dome. This place involves one in different worlds from Lego to the magic little animals of the Sylvanian Family, for long playful afternoons of toys and entertaining games. At the entrance is the toy shop, where more typical Japanese toys are on sale.
Asobono is a fantastic recreation center near Tokyo Dome (nearest station is Akihabara on the Mita line, it has an elevator). Niko Niko Park, at Meiji Jingu Shrine Gaien, has an incredible jungle gym for all ages, and is far less expensive than Asobono (the nearest metro stations are Shinanomachi and Aoyama Itchome). Gymboree isnot just gym for children but also a place of nice music and art lessons, held by age groups.
But Tokyo, this huge metropolis of nearly 30 million inhabitants also has parks and gardens where you can go cycling, as well as vast and well-equipped areas to have fun and relax outdoors.
Shinjuku gyoen Park, not far from the commercial area of Shinjuku, with its wonderful Japanese garden and fabulous roses from its French garden, has a vast meadow constantly invaded by hordes of Japanese who come to enjoy their picnic at the moment of the O-hanami, the cherry blossoming. (Hanami literally means ‘to observe the flowers’, and that’s exactly what the Japanese do while picnicking in a kind of ecstasy under blossoming cherry trees!)
The only drawback is that you cannot play football or ride a bicycle and have to leave your bicycle at the parking lot next to the entrance. But this matters little when children can amuse themselves jumping and running without end!
Yoyogi Koen, close to the Meiji Temple in Harajuku, one of the most renowned temples in Tokyo, offers more beautiful sights and again the possibility of joyful family picnics.
Kitanomaru Koen, a wonderful park close to the imperial park, offers enjoyable cycling pathways and, for those interested, the possibility of going around in a rowing boat, particularly recommended during the O-hanami.
Arisugawa no Miya Kinen Koen, is a beautiful park at the heart of Azabu, with swings, slides, an area to play football and one to go bicycling, and also a nice little lake with ducks and carps.
Hibiya Koen, in the area of Ginza-Hibya, with a playground with big animals avaiable to ride and a nice little lake.
Odaiba Seaside Park, nice artificial beach at Tokyo’s bay, with a view of the spectacular Rainbow bridge, ideal for sand castles and running on the beach (swimming not allowed!!!).
In December, every Saturday at 7 pm, there are wonderful fireworks. In the back there is a beautiful park where you can have fun just looking at the small dogs walking all dressed up; on the other side, 6 floors of shops and restaurants with terraces with a seaview and an indoor recreation park with various attractions.
Another beautiful park with numerous activities is the Showa Memorial Park, very nice with its swimming pool to escape the Summer heat. Here there are various activities as well as the possibility of having a wonderful picnic between games while waiting to take a boat ride on the lake. There are boats and bicycles for rent and it is possible to ice skate. Careful though, heat or not, the outdoor swimming pool in Japan closes on September 30th…
With a wonderful view over Tokyo’s bay and to spend a nice day at the seaside there is the Kasai Rinkai Koen. With its two artificial beaches (Nishi nagisa e Higashi Nagisa) and several well equipped areas for picnic and BBQ (you don’t need to take anything with you as you can even rent the BBQ!) this space offers families a nice area for recreation and relaxation.
And once our kids have run and jumped let’s take them to the beautiful Japanese Gardens to appreciate the order and typical oriental harmony that characterize the organization and conception of these oases of peace…
There are so many that you only have to choose where to go
Kyu Shiba-rikyu is my favourite one. An oasis of calm surrounded by a multitude of modern buildings, not far from the bay, a starting point for an amusing day that can take you on a nice boatride to Odaiba or along the Sumida River to the beautiful temple of Asakusa, or just around Tokyo’s Bay (all tours start from the Sea-bus terminal, kaigan 2 Minato-ku).
Also very nice is the Hama-rikyu, a potential stop after an instructive visit at the Fish Market of Tsukiji; the Koishikawa korakuen, close to the above-mentioned Toys king dome; the Rikugien; the Mukojima and the Kiyosumi just to mention a few.
Let’s not forget the big attraction parks, and first of all Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, dive into a fantasy world and not just the kids! The wonderful Disney World and the joyful atmosphere of all Disney parks in the world. I wouldn’t know which one to choose, the dreamy Winnie the Pooh trail or incredible reproduction of Venice at Disney Sea.
For a dive in any season, Tokyo Summerland has different swimming pools, water trails, artificial waves and spectacular slides. Indoor open all year round, while outdoor only open till September 30th.
Not far from there is Sesame place, based on the Sesame Street show. This park is particlarly suitable for children from 3 to 12 years old who learn and play with their parents in the world of the famous TV show.
Characters more typically Japanese like Kitty-chan (Hello kitty) are protagonist at Sanrio Puroland, the attraction park of the toys industry Sanrio where, across various theme trails, you have the chance to get to know Japanese children’s culture better.
Nikko Edomura is a park that focuses on the 1600 -1800 Japan, the Edo period, with the reconstruction of an old small Japanese town and the little houses where children can enter and get a sense of what it was like in those times.
For outdoor activities there is a zoo. If you’d like to see the pandas you have to go to the Ueno Zoo, in the homonymous and beautiful park that also accommodates various museums like the National Museum and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.
This is the biggest zoo in Tokyo, with more than too animals between mammals, reptiles and birds. Inside the zoo there is an area where kids can hug and touch little rabbits and goats.
Tama Zoo, with its 210 animals has several nice attractions, like the little bus one takes to enter the lion and tiger area. Quivers and shivers are guaranteed as big chunks of fresh meet are hung from the bus itself so that lions can come to devour them a few centimeters from your nose!
And then also the tiny entry free of Edogawa Zoo; that of Itabashi, with its farm and ponies to ride; and for those who want more and wish to see the okapi from Central Africa, there is the Zoorasia in Yokohama, where 59 different species live together, each in its own natural habitat.
Let’s also not forget the many Aquariums. The Kasai Rinkai Aquarium, in the homonymous park mentioned above, on Tokyo’s Bay, is one of the biggest in town. Extremely modern, it offers a very interesting observation of tropical marine life.
Very interesting is also Enoshima Aquarium, a center that contains a small aquarium, a special dolphin show area and a marine zoo situated on Fujisawa beach, reachable from Tokyo with Tokaido Line trains in the direction of Kamkura.
Shinagawa Aquarium, has an underwater tunnel from where one can observe marine life ‘online’, with a great variety of fishes and dolphins in various daily shows.
Together with gardens and animals, Tokyo offers its youngest residents several other educational and recreational places to learn about Japanese as well as other cultures.
The Museum of Maritime Science Fune no Kagakukan, located inside a ship takes children on an exciting discovery of the marine world
At the National Museum of Sciences, Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan, in Ueno Park, you can see dinosaur bones together with various other thematic sections from astronomy to botanic.
L’Hachioji-shi kodomo no Kagakukan, is another Museum of Science for children and has a Planetarium.
To get close to Japanese culture, an interesting choice is the Edo Museum, ancient name of the city (that became Tokyo only during the Meiji period), with an interesting reconstruction of a small town (see above) to take you on a journey 400 years into the history of Japan.
The Tako no Hakubutsukan, is the kite Museum, with kites from several Asian countries.
For the fan of cartoons, the Ghibli Museum, tells us all about the cartoon characters from Ghibli Studios.
And for the train fans there is the Shinkansen Museum, the Museum of Japanese high speed trains. All models are on show from the Hikari, the first high speed trains of 1969, to the most rapid and supermodern Nozomi.
Similarly interesting and amusing are the Underground Museum where, thanks to a simulator, kids can pretend and feel the joy of driving a train in Tokyo’s underground; The Firemen Museum, Shobu Hakubutsukan, and the Museum of Trasport, Kotsu Hakubutsukan, with trains, aircraft, automobiles and bicycles.
And beyond the parks, gardens and museums, Tokyo offers its citizens various other sports and recreational activities, with clean and well-equipped swimming pools in every neighborhood, offering very good level swimming lessons.
Japanese swimming pools are extremely clean. Swimmers are even kindly asked to leave the pool every 50 minutes or so to measure and analyse the water while the guests have a rest: it is not rare in fact for the pool to have special hydro massage tubs and saunas.
For good sports activities, you can find courses of gymnastics, dance, tennis and martial arts at Kodokan, 1-16-30 Kasuga, Bunkyo-Ku, 03-3818-417; for Judo you can call the Japanese Federation of Judo at Kodokan, 1-16-30 Kasuga, Bunkyo-Ku, 03-3818-417; for Karate, the federation is at Toranomon, 03-3503-6640; for Kendo, contact the Tokyo Kendo Federation at Maronuchi 03-3211-5967)
Courses are everywhere; the only problem is the language barrier as they are offered in Japanese and it is very rare that teachers speak English. But I can say from my own experience that after the first few moments, kids can get on easily and integrate very well with their little mates.
As for family sporting activities in Tokyo you can go ice skating, for example at the Meiji Jungo Skating ring, open all year round, or rock climbing and horse riding at the Avalon riding Club and Shinozaki Riding Accademy among others, with lessons starting in January, Match, May, September and November.
There are mountains not far from Tokyo so you can easily go skiing by train. Beaches are also not more than 1 hour drive, like the Kamakura beaches offering various activities like fishing, sailing, whilst surfing with coaches is also available for children. Around Tokyo’s bay, beaches are artificial and swimming is not allowed.
For art & music the choice is very wide and varies from district to district.
As for sport, the language is again an issue but there are music teachers who can speak English, French or even Italian and, as for sport, various course are organized in the different international schools.
European schools in Tokyo are the British School and that does not provide English coaching lessons, so children have to have a perfect knowledge of Japanese; the French-Japanese Lyceum, from elementary to secondary school; and the Deutsche Schule in Yokohama.
In Japan and especially in Tokyo you can find everything you need for your children, from clothes to shoes and of course… toys!
Be careful though when buying table games and other elaborate toys, the instruction are very often only in Japanese. Children’s books in English and French are available in many bookstores.
One of the best Toy Shops is definetely Kiddy land, in the nice commercial district of Omotesando, but also Hakuinkan at Ginza, 5 floors of toys of all kind and for all tastes. And for very young kids, the mecca is Hakachan Honpo, with dresses, toys and other stuff for little children and parents. And of course, all big commercial centers have playgrounds available at kids departments, where you can get clothes and shoes etc.
As for clothes, you can pretty much find everything and in all possible brands, although not very cheap. Usually, nice things are expensive, especially shoes. If you like Benetton, it is here, although prices are normally more expensive than in Europe; same for Petit Bateau, Gap (perhaps the best in terms of quality/price), Ralph Lauren and so on, plus of course lots of Japanese brands.
Below you’ll find a list of schools, shops, museums, parks and other activities. This list however is not exhaustive: after two and more years of living in this beautiful city I have simply searched my memory for those places and things that occupy a special role in my children’s and my own life. But it is undeniable that in a metropolis of 30 million like Tokyo, one never stops discovering new places to go and spend a pleasant day.
And most of all, whether it rains or not, one never gets bored in Tokyo !!!
Translated by Silviaexpat
Tokyo-to Jido kaikan 1-18-24 Shibuya -ku, Shibuya, Tokyo
National Children Castle 5-53 Jungu-mae, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo, from Tuesday to Friday 12:30 to 17:30; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10 to 17:30
Shinjuku gyoen 11 Naito-cho, Shinjuku- ku, Tokyo, from 9 to 16:30. Closed on Monday
Yoyogi-koen 2-1 Yoyogi-kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, from 10 to 16. Closed on Tuesday
Kitanomaru Koen 1-1 Kitanomaru Koen, Chiyoda ku, Tokyo
Arisugawa no Miya Kinen Koen 5-7-29 Minami Azabu, Minato – ku Tokyo
Hibiya Koen, 1 Hibya koen, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
Showa Memorial Park, 3173 Midori-cho, Tashikawa -shi, Tokyo open from 9:30 to 17 (from November to february untill 16:30)
Kasai Rinkai Koen (see Acquarius)
Kyu Shiba-rikyu 1-4-1 Kaigan, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, closed from December 29th untill January 3rd . Open from 9:00 to 17:00
Hama-rikyu , 1-1 Hama-rikyu Teien, Chuo- ku, closed from December 29th untill January 1st . Open from 9:00 to 17:00
Koishikawa korakuen , 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, closed from December 29th untill January 1st . Open from 9:00 to 17:00
Rikugien , 6-16-3 Hon-komagome, Bunkyo-ku, closed from December 29th untill January 1st . Open from 9:00 to 17:00
Edo museum 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, open from 9:30 to 17:30; Sunday till 19:30
Mukojima gardens, 3-18-3 Higashi-Mukojima, Sumida-ku, closed from December 29th untill January 3rd . Open from 9:00 to 17:00
Kiyosumi gardens, 3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku closed from December 29th untill January 1st . Open from 9:00 to 17:00
Tokyo Disenyland e Tokyo Disney sea, 1-1 Mayama, Urayasu-chi, chiba. You can buy tickets in advance in all Disney’s shops and once there a system allows you to reserve tickets for all various attractions so to avoid very long lines.
Tokyo Summerland, 600 Shiraiwa, Kamiyotsugi, Akiruno-shi, Tokyo, from 10:00 to 17:00, closed on Thursday
Sesame Place, 403 Ajiro, Akiruno-shi, Tokyo, from 10:00 to 17:00
Sanrio Puroland, 1-31 Ochiai, Tama-shi, Tokyo
Nikko Edomura, 470-2 Karakura, Fujiwara-cho, Shioga-gun, Tochigi, from 9:00 to 17:00, out from Tokyo, reachable by train with the Tokyo Kinugawaline.
Zoo di Ueno 9-83 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo, open from 9:30 to 16:00, closed on Monday
Zoo di Tama 7-chome, Hodokubo, Hino-shi, Tokyo, open everyday from 9:30 to 17:00, except Mondays and January 1st
Zoo di Edogawa, 3-2-1 Edogawa-ku, Tokyo, entry free and open everyday from 10:00 to 16:00, except on Mondays and January 1st
Zoo d’Itabashi, Higashi hitabashi Koen, 3-50-1 Itabashi, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, from March to November from 10:00 to 16:30; from November to February from 10:00 to 16:00, except on Mondays and January 1st
Zoorasia, 1175-1 Kamishirane-cho, Asahi-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa, closed on Tuesday ; from 9:30 to 16:30; in summer till 18:00
Kasai Rinkai Aquarium 6-2-3 Rinkai-cho, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo from 9:30 to 17:00 closed on Monday
Enoshima Acquarium, 2-17-25 Katase Kaigan, Fujisawa, Kanagawa, open everyday from 9:30 to 17:00
Shinagawa Acquarium, Shinagawa Kumin Koen, 3-2-1 Katsushima, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, open everyday except on Tuesday, from 10:00 to 17:00
Fune no Kagakukan, Higashi Yashio, Shinagawa, open Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 17:00 and on week ends untill 18:00.
Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan, 7-20 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku , Tokyo, open everyday except Monday, from 9:00 to 16:30
Kagaku Gijustukan, 2-1 Kitanomaru Koen, chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, open everyday from 9:30 to 16:50
Hachioji-shi kodomo no Kagakukan, 9-13 Oyoko-machi, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo, open everyday except Monday, from 9:30 to 16:30
Museo Edo 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, open everyday except Monday, from 9:30 to 17:30, Sundays till 19:30
Museo Ghibli Mitaka Inokashira Park, 1-1-83 Shimo-renjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo
Tako no Hakubutsukan 1-12-10 Nihonbashi, Chuoh-ku, Tokyo, open Monday to Saturday from 11:00 to 17:00
Museum of Underground , 6-3-1 Higashi Kasai, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo, open everyday except Monday, from 10:00 to 17:00
Shobu Hakubutsukan 3-10 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, open everyday except Monday, from 9:30 to17:30, last entrance allowed: 16:30
Kotsu Hakubutsukan, 1-25 Kanda Sudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, open everyday except Monday, from 9:00 17:00
Meiji Jungo Skating ring, 5 Kasumigaoka-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, open from 10:00 to 18:30 ; Sundays and holidays only untill 15:00
Avalon riding Club, 3-19-2 Noge, Setagaya-ku, tokyo
Shinozaki riding Accademy, 3-12-17 Shinozaki-cho, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
Deutsche Schule 2-4-1 Chigasaki MinamiTsuzuki-ku Yokohama 224-0037
British School 1-21-18 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
Lycée franco-japonais, Kindergarten and Primary 1-2-43 Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Media e liceo, 5-1-35 Asakusabashi, Taito-Ku, Tokyo
Sacro Cuore 4-3-1 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku
Nishimashi international School, 2-14-7 Moto Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
St Mary international School, 1-6-19 Seta, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Tokyo international School 3-4-22 Mita, Minato-Ku, Tokyo
Kiddyland, 5-7-20 Jungu Mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hakuhinkan, 8-8-11 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Akachan Honpo, toc bldg 5F, 7-22-17, Nishi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-k