With its excellent luxury hotel scene, superb family-friendly dining, and flashily modern cities, Japan is a great choice for an unforgettable family holiday.
Our two-week itinerary allows families to see the very best of this fascinating country without skimping on the creature comforts. From soaking in hot springs to spending cash at super modern malls to riding the world-famous bullet train, this article is your ticket to a dream family break in Japan.
Day 1-4: Tokyo
Tokyo offers so many family-friendly activities, it can be hard to know where to start. Families on a luxury break in Tokyo may find it’s worth booking a private driver or guide to whizz them around the city. Artisans of Leisure is a good bet for bespoke trips that can take kids’ ages and families’ travel style into account. Don’t miss the Akihabara shopping district, where older kids’ eyes will pop at the insane amount of gadgets and parents can browse for the most modern electronics on the market. The Ginza neighborhood, meanwhile, is the place to come for luxury brands and jewelry.
Shopping aside, your family’s visit to Tokyo should also include a tour of the Imperial Palace District, the Ueno neighborhood, with its panda-filled zoo and its impressive Science Museum, and a hands-on experience at the Origami museum. Foodie families on a luxury holiday in Tokyo should be sure to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market (the largest fish market in the world!). Here, visitors can feast on sushi and tuna steaks for breakfast, should they be so inclined. Tokyo has over 220 Michelin-starred restaurants (making it a record breaker), a dozen of them with double or triple stars. Make sure the kids are primed on their table manners, and take them out for their first taste of Wagyu beef at Aragawa, in the Ginza upscale shopping district. For a more relaxing experience, head to one of the many conveyor belt sushi spots, which are fun for kids and usually serve a very high standard of sushi and sashimi.
To see the city from the water, take one of the several luxury river cruises that glide out from Tokyo Bay, taking in major sites while noshing on high-end cuisine. Visitors should also pay a visit to the famous Harajuku neighborhood, where you showcase your trademark style and kids can shop for fabulous fashion. A wealth of toy stores here will appeal to the littlest ones, too.
Where to stay: When you touch down in this super-modern city, take a cab (or, for an extra luxe touch, a limo transfer service–there are several companies offering this service in Tokyo) to your hotel. There are some stellar boutique options in the city, but for luxury family breaks in Tokyo we recommend Mandarin Oriental, in the well-heeled Nihonbashi district. Occupying the upper floors of a Cesar-Pelli-designed skyscraper, the hotel has jaw-dropping views that sweep right out to Mount Fuji (even little ones might be impressed!). The top-notch spa is a worthy place to soak up the view, and parent-child massages and other treatments can help the whole family relax and let any traces of jet-lag fall away. Michelin-starred dining on site means families arriving in Tokyo may be tempted to spend their entire first day and night at the hotel.
?Tip: The hotel’s rather ritzy restaurants are perhaps a little formal for families (children’s menus and half-portions of adult meals are available, though), but a babysitting service means parents can get dressed up for a kid-free meal if the mood strikes).
Day 5-8: Hakone
Should you be able to pry yourself away from your luxurious lodgings, visitors to Hakone with kids will find a whole lot of family-friendly things to do. The famous Owakudani Ropeway is unmissable, and the Hakone Open Air Museum was the first outdoor museum to open in the country, impressing kids and their parents since 1969. A luxury trip to Hakone should also include a car and driver to take you to off-the-beaten track beauty spots by nearby lakes and mountains. Bring a picnic of bubbly and other goodies to make it extra special.
Where to stay: There are direct bullet trains (around one hour) to the lovely Japanese lake town of Hakone, but with luggage and family in tow it may be more comfortable to have the airport arrange a transfer. However you arrive, families in Hakone should be sure to check into on of the famously fabulous ryokans here. Offering a uniquely Japanese experience, these inns range from super-simple to high end, and Hakone is home to some of the best in the country. One top option for families in Hakone is Gora Hanaougi a luxury Ryokan where guests can soak in hot spring baths in their own rooms, as they admire stunning views of Mount Fuji and take part in traditional tea ceremonies.
?Box out: Hot Springs
The famous hot springs of Hakone will soothe any stresses, aches, and/or pains. Japanese have been flocking to this hot spring resort for centuries, and with good reason. There are dozens here, supplying the ryokan with water for their all-natural hot tubs, and there are also some lovely public baths that merit a visit. Families on a luxury trip might want to dodge the crowds and take a guided tour out to the several hot springs dotted around the nearby valleys.
Day 9-13: Kyoto
The shinkansen bullet train is an integral part of any trip to Japan, and kids will thrill at the speediness (200 miles per hour!) of the experience. Take the train from Hakone to Kyoto (around 2 hours). Your luxury family vacation in Kyoto should also include kid-pleasing trips to the Ryoanji Rock Garden and samurai headquarters at Nijo Castle. In addition, a luxury cruise down the river is a wonderfully relaxing way to see the sights, gliding past riverbanks covered in sakura (cherry blossom) trees and stopping off to walk through bamboo-lined paths to hidden temples. The Kaiukan Aquarium, one of the largest in the world, is another must-visit, and afterwards see if you can tempt the kids to try octopus dumplings, a popular Japanese snack.
Where to stay: There are a wealth of good ryokan in Kyoto, but families may wish to return to the more familiar surrounds of a large hotel. One excellent option for a luxury family stay in Kyoto is the Four Seasons, where beautiful landscaped gardens provide plenty of opportunity for younger travelers to race around imitating the bullet train. The central location and on-site fine dining means guests are well-placed for visiting the many UNESCO-designated temples here.
?Box Out: Taking Tea in Kyoto
The ritual of preparing matcha green tea is considered by the Japanese to be one of the highest art forms around. The ancient art of the tea ceremony has its roots in Kyoto, and there are many places in the city that welcome visitors to join in the ritual. The serenity of the situation makes it a little unsuitable for very young children, but those aged four and over tend to find it fascinating, and parents may find that the promise of wagashi (colorful rice flour sweets) at the end of the ceremony helps keep them on their best behavior.
Day 14: Nara
Take a side trip to Nara (50-minute drive), famed for its enormous Deer Park, where thousands of the animals roam freely through beautiful grounds that spread for miles. Be careful about feeding them though, they can be a little forceful! From here, it’s back to Tokyo (possibly with a side trip to Tokyo Disney to end things on a high note for young ones!) and time to bid goodbye to enchanting Japan.
Where to stay: Nara has a beautiful setting, and families looking to overnight here can find some excellent high-end ryokan. Highlights include the welcoming Matsumae which prides itself on serving wholesome, locally-sourced food in its excellent restaurant, and where comic theater performances and workshops provide entertainment for kids and parents alike.
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