Tots in Tokyo: How to Navigate the Japanese Capital with the Whole Family

The Japanese capital is a fantastic travel destination, but there are some things to consider when travelling with the fam.
Alec Jones
April 02, 2024

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So you've decided to visit Tokyo, good for you. Here at Concrete Playground, we're firm believers that it's one of the best cities in the world for travel — even with little ones in tow. It is easily accessible with numerous flights available from Australia and a digestible drop of many things Japan has to offer. So, we reckon it should be on every Aussie traveller's bucket list.

If you're planning your family's first visit to this sprawling metropolitan kingdom, then there are a few important things you should know. We've teamed up with Apartment Hotel MIMARU to tell you.

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Book Easy and Family-Friendly Accommodation

Obviously, accommodation is one of the most important elements of any holiday, and that decision can be tricky when you've got kids to cater for, too. The important elements to consider are numerous and can make or break the family spirit. The last thing you want is an unhappy group and an unsatisfying stay. That's where Apartment Hotel MIMARU enters the picture, focusing on comfort and convenience for travellers big and small. Every apartment hotel is spacious (40 square metres or more) and stocked with kitchens, cooking utensils and small appliances.

With 28 locations spread across Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and 15 in Tokyo alone you have your pick of the perfect spots. Shinjuku West sets you up in a busy commercial district with plenty of stores and sights nearby; Asakusa Station is a central base for a range of luxurious experiences in one of Tokyo's most scenic and historical districts; the quiet Hatchobori puts you close to speciality shops and hidden culinary gems; all a stone's throw from one of the city's largest transport hubs.

No matter the location, MIMARU Hotels all include spacious and well-equipped rooms, themed or traditional, catered for by staff who are fluent in English to help you get the most out of your Tokyo trip.

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Davlens Photography via iStock

Organise Tokyo Tourist Essentials

Tokyo is a big city. The population density is over 6,000 people per square kilometre, so it's easy to get overwhelmed. Thankfully, we have tips to help you make sense of this sprawling urban kingdom.

Japan Travel by Navitime is a fantastic online resource, both a website and app with itineraries, area guides and an in-built trip planner that incorporates the buzzing Tokyo public transport network. There's also the government-operated Safety Tips app, a resource for tourists that covers transport, medical aid, communication help and resources to use in case of natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

Something you might be unsure about is clothes to pack. Tokyo has a reputation for fashion and colour, but we'd recommend you keep a practical mindset and pack for the weather. Summer humidity can be oppressive, and the winter chill cuts through you. Additionally, be prepared for cultural customs. Research the customs surrounding any specific activities you have planned to be certain. All that said, don't be afraid to pack something extravagant if you're planning on visiting pop-culture hotspots like Harajuku and Akihabara.

Finally, any Japan trip should involve organising transport cards. How else are you supposed to enjoy the world-class public transport and the famous Shinkansen? Like the transport cards of home, Japan offers Welcome Suica cards for purchase at Haneda airport, which will cover the cost of train travel within Tokyo.

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Font84 via iStock

Stock up on Some Local Snacks

As any parent knows, kids need a decent snack supply for nutrition, peace of mind, and, in some cases, added entertainment value. We have some suggestions for you.

If you're near Asakusa, make a beeline for Marugoto Nippon Shopping Centre. Here, you'll find four glorious stories of shops that sell almost everything from all across the 47 prefectures of Japan. Marugoto Nippon translates to "the whole of Japan".

Otherwise, Tokyo is blessed with more convenience stores than you can shake a hungry toddler at, with chains like 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson spread all over the city, each with its own range of snacks.

At 7-Eleven, you can find sugar butter sand trees (white chocolate sandwiches in cereal cookies), macadamia cookies and bite-sized chocolate cakes. Family Mart offers treats like cheese taras (a stick of cheese covered in dried fish paste), cheesecake pudding and salty daifuku (savoury balls of bean mochi). Meanwhile, in Lawson, you can find premium roll cakes (doughy whipped cream tarts), calamari fries and matcha and brown sugar donuts. Hot tip: every MIMARU hotel has at least one of these stores nearby.

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Junjie Xia via iStock

Plan a Visit to Attractions That All Ages Can Enjoy

Now that the essentials are sorted, it's time actually to plan out the itinerary. We'd be here for 1000 pages if we were to describe everything on offer in terms of activities in Tokyo, even just for the whole family, so we've narrowed it down to three recommendations to get you started.

For history lovers (and if you're planning a visit in the autumn), there's an annual festival that dates back centuries, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Reitaisai Festival. It's a mouthful, we know, but the TL;DR is a three-day festival that takes place in Kamakura from September 14–16 and is centred around a competition of horseback archery — a complicated military skill turned equestrian sport. There's the archery itself, plus traditional tea ceremonies, dance performances and parades.

A less time-sensitive option is Hitachi Seaside Park, a sprawling outdoor park on the coast of the Ibaraki Prefecture northeast of Tokyo. There are tens of thousands of flowers that shift colour every season, making for a beautiful and relaxing walk or bike ride through the park. You can also visit a range of outdoor game areas and an amusement park with a panoramic ferris wheel.

Finally, there's a more dynamic explosion of colour alongside music and festivities at the Asakusa Samba Carnival. Typically, it takes place in late August or early September, very close to Asakusa station, with floats, musicians and dancers in extravagant costumes taking over the streets from 1pm until almost 6pm. With a history of giant balloons and robots in attendance, you never really know what you might see.

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You have everything you need to start planning the rest of your Tokyo adventure. Head to the MIMARU Hotels website to make a booking.

Published on April 02, 2024 by Alec Jones
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