Japan is fun, fascinating, and safe, making it one of the world’s best destinations for family travel.
Whether you’re traveling with young children or teenagers (or both!), Japan’s dynamic and eclectic culture has something for everybody. Bullet trains, medieval castles, neon and robots, temples and gardens, colorful art and fashion – and incredibly helpful people.
(See our full list of 25 family-friendly Japan activities below.)
While not as off the beaten path as it was in the past, most families still overlook Japan in favor of more “conventional” family travel destinations. So if you are thinking of a special family trip, full of unique experiences together, Japan is an amazing destination for kids and adults.
Originally written in 2014, this post was updated and republished on August 13, 2020.
Why Families Love Japan
Japan is an outstanding family destination for many of the same reasons we so love Japan.
It’s Safe and Convenient
Japan is perhaps the safest large country in the world, making the US and Europe look quite dangerous in comparison.
It’s also surprisingly easy to get around, even if you don’t speak the Japanese language (keep in mind that most visitors to Japan don’t speak a lick of Japanese).
One of the surprise highlights for so many travelers to Japan is how beautifully and efficiently things tend to work:
- Japanese trains are spotless, and depart and arrive on time
- Japanese customer service is wonderful, and people are astoundingly helpful
- And of course your kids (and you) will love riding the shinkansen (bullet train)
On top of all this, Japanese people cater extremely well to children and love family travelers!
Kids Love Japan
Many of you are well are of this already. In fact, many of you had no more than a passing interest in Japan until your children told you they wanted to visit. (Some of you are being dragged by your kids.)
Why do kids love Japan so much?
Japan is the home of so many things that kids love: fast trains and robots, ninjas and samurai, anime (animation) and manga (comic books), Nintendo and Hello Kitty.
It goes well beyond the surface. Japan is an intellectually curious child’s dream, with a beguiling modern yet traditional culture, and fascinating recent and ancient history.
Adults Love Japan
A key to a successful family vacation is making sure everyone — parents included — feels included and engaged.
Along with ensuring your kids have a great time, it’s a much better experience for all if the adults are really enjoying themselves as well.
If you are an adult, we think you’ll find several things you’ll want to do on our list of bucket list-worthy Japan experiences. Most are also great with kids!
25 Family-Friendly Activities in Japan
Japan has something for everyone, and our trip-planning process entails making personalized recommendations based on your and your kids’ priorities.
If you’re quite flexible and enjoy a fair amount of unstructured time, there is nothing like “aimless” wandering around cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, both of which are brimming with unique things to see and do (not to mention extremely safe).
But most families are also interested in some high-quality structured activities, where their kids will enjoy themselves, be engaged, and come away with a valuable memorable experience.
So to help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a brief but comprehensive list of our favorite family-friendly activities in Japan.
1. Ride world-famous shinkansen (bullet train)
2. Visit the Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani, Nagano Prefecture
3. Attend a sumo basho (tournament)
4. Participate in a fun and highly active taiko drumming class
5. Mingle with deer in Nara (near Kyoto) or Miyajima Island (near Hiroshima)
6. Stay overnight in a Buddhist temple on Mount Koya
7. Explore the whimsical Ghibli Museum in Tokyo
8. Experience the world-class aquariums of Osaka and Okinawa
9. Climb Mount Fuji
10. Walk through the the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto
11. Immerse yourself in the colorful digital art of teamLab Borderless
12. Dress up like a samurai, geisha, or ninja
13. Learn to play a traditional Japanese instrument
14. Explore an amazing Japanese castle in Himeji, Hikone, or Matsumoto
15. Ski or snowboard in Hokkaido, the Japanese Alps, or the Tohoku region
16. Soak in Akihabara’s neon and video game arcades
17. Cycle across the Shimanami Kaido in Japan’s rural Setouchi region
18. Visit theme parks such as Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea, Universal Studios Japan, Sanrio Puroland, and Fuji-Q Highland
19. Hike along the Nakasendo Way or the Kumano Kodo
20. Attend a Japanese matsuri (festival)
21. Experience an authentic tea ceremony
22. Stroll through the colorful Nishiki Market in Kyoto, and Tsukiji Market in Tokyo
23. Visit the art island of Naoshima
24. Stay in a traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn) in the countryside
25. Learn to make sushi from a master chef
Embark on a Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip to Japan
We believe your trip should be a reflection of your personal sense of adventure and style, and that no two families (or itineraries!) are alike.