japan with kids where to go


Japan at its Cutest

Throw on your unicorn onesie – Japan embraces all that is kawaii (cute), making the country a top destination for families with little princes and princesses in tow. From bubblegum-bright cafes to fairytale-esque castles, giant robot unicorn statues and restaurants where diners get the royal treatment, Japan has a whole to offer those with a taste for all things sweet and whimsical. And let’s not forget that this is a nation with its own real-life monarchy, so visitors can take a peek at royal residences, even if they’re unlikely to be invited to dance with Prince (or Princess) Charming at a royal ball. Read on for our guide to harnessing your inner unicorn and enjoying Japan at its whimsical best.  

Dine in Wonderland With Alice

Fans of Lewis Carroll’s rabbit-chasing heroine will be in for a treat in Japan. Alice is so popular in the country that there are not one but five Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurants, four of which are in Tokyo, while Alice in Fantasyland, in Osaka, offers a chance to enjoy the Alice dining experience outside the capital. Each restaurant in the Alice chain has its own take on the classic tale, but running themes are giant book-cover doorways, teacup-shaped seats and tables, waitresses in Alice costumes, and a menu designed to resemble a giant pop up book. The menu has dishes themed around familiar characters such as the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter, and given their sweet design, it’s perhaps no surprise that desserts are a strong suit. Set meals start at around US$20, or roughly 20,000 yen.

Go Unicorn Spotting

Few parents can have failed to notice that unicorns are a big deal with kids right now, and indeed, what’s not to love about these mythical horned beauties? Unicorn-loving families in Japan can check into a Unicorn Hotel in Nagano City. The capital of Nagano Prefecture, known for its snow and skiiing as well as its beautiful palaces and temples and its near-mythical monkeys, Nagano is slightly off  the beaten tourist track but a good option for families, who can opt to stay at the pleasingly affordable (rooms from around $70, or roughly 7.600 yen) Hotel Unicorn. Although the unicorn theme doesn’t extend much beyond the name and the hotel’s logo, this friendly lodge does have cute, traditional Japanese design with some nice colorful touches and comfy family rooms. At Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku (the Tokyo neighborhood famed for its crazily colorful street fashions), the staff flitting between the rainbows and carousels of the uber-kitsch interior are actually dressed as unicorns.

But these mythical beasts don’t have be sweet and girly – fans of classic Japanese anime series Gundam can revel in the sight of a full-scale replica Unicorn Gundam statue – a 19.7 meter unicorn robot in front of DiverCity Tokyo Plaza on the man-made island of Odaiba, which is far from cutesy (and transforms dramatically from ‘Unicorn Mode’ to ‘Destroyer Mode’ several times daily, drawing quite the crowd each time).

Check into a Fairytale Hotel

Even the grownups will feel like teeny tiny fairies or pixies when they check into Aso Farm Land in Kumamoto, (rooms from $200, or roughly 2,600 yen), where the super-cute individual domes are shaped like strawberries, gingerbread houses, dinosaur eggs and other cute-as-a-button designs. There are play areas galore, and hot volcanic springs to soothe away any stresses and strains of family travel in Japan.

Meanwhile, at Yufuin Floral Village Hotel in Oita (rooms from around $38), guests can stroll around streets that look straight out of a fairy tale set in a quaint English village. With a lovely mountain backdrop, stores themed around the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peter Rabbit and the Moomins,this is a sweet and very kawaii place to stay, but – bad news guys – it’s women (and children) only.

Box out: Deserted theme park

Until recently,  explorers in Japan could  make like Scooby Doo and snoop around an abandoned theme park, complete with fairy castles. Nara Dreamland which opened in the 1960s in a bid to emulate the success of Disneyland California, and was almost a carbon copy of the Disney original, transplanted to Nara, the former Japanese capital. Visitor numbers began to drop with the opening of a bone-fide Disneyland Tokyo in the 1980s, however, and the subsequent DisneySea and Universal Studios Japan (in nearby Osaka) were the last nails in the park’s coffin. It closed for business in 2006 but became a favorite haunt of photographers looking for artsy shots. Check out these from French snapper Romain Veillon, taken just before the park was demolished in 2017.


Japan’s modern metropolis is packed with Kawaii attractions and activities. Of course, the truly big ticket attractions are Disneyland Tokyo and Tokyo DisneySea and the magic kingdom has all the dreamy palaces and fairy adventures families could wish for. Leaving Disney (and huge crowds) aside, Tokyo has cuteness in spades. There not one but four Alice in Wonderland cafés (the simply-named Alice, in Kabukichu, scores extra parent-pleasing points for its excellent cocktails);  as well as a very Instagrammable Beauty and the Beast Cafe in Yokahoma, designed to resemble the beast’s castle, complete with chandeliers and suits of armour. Upping the cuteness factor, and sure to appeal to young children as well as grown up Beatrix Potter fans is the delightful Peter Rabbit Garden Cafe in Jiyugaoka; whose impressive attention to detail includes abundant stuffed toys, English garden party themed decor, and a menu designed like one of Potter’s classic books. If there’s ever a way to convince young children to eat their greens, surely it’s by telling them that they’re straight from Farmer McGregor’s garden? The dishes even come complete with edible bunny ears.

Leaving the world of fiction behind, families in Tokyo can try to catch a glimpse of real-life royalty at the Imperial Palace, which sits amid large, moated gardens in the center of the city close to Tokyo Station. While the inner gardens are closed to the public most of the year, they are opened on January 2 and December 23, when huge crowds draw to see the Imperial Famil appear on their grand balcony. The rest of the year, visitors to Tokyo can take a guided tour of the outer gardens, or just stroll around admiring the grand architecture and letting the kids burn off some energy racing over the bridges.

Families with cash to splash in Tokyo will find the Cinderella-themed rooms at TokyoDisney every bit as fabulously flamboyant as young princesses could dream of, but if you don’t have tens of thousands of yen to spend on a room, a decent affordable family hotel near ToykoDisney is the unusually-named Family Resort Fifty’s for Maihama (rooms from $37). Although the decor is dated, they’re spacious enough, there’s free WiFi and buffet breakfast, and it’s walking distance from the Magic Kingdom.

Box out: Butler and Maid Cafes

They’re not to everybody’s taste, for sure, but one curiosity about Tokyo’s dining scene is the potential to be waited on like real life princes and princesses at opinion-dividing Maid Cafes and Butler Cafes. At the former, young girls dolled up in cutesy maid costumes pander to client’s dining whims as though they were landed gentry, while at the latter it’s a similar affair, but with smart young men dressed up as butlers. Should you be curious, the pick of the bunch is probably Butler’s Cafe, in Shibuyu, where female diners are addressed as ‘My Princess’ by the uber-attentive ‘butlers’ and  even get to wear a tiara as they enjoy being waited on hand and foot.

Samurais and Superheroes: Prepare the brood for crazy cartoon capers in Japan

Cartoon-loving families will be in for the adventure of a lifetime in Japan. The land of Pokemon, Manga and Studio Ghibli, Japan is all about the anime, and there’s a cartoonish slant to everything from the food (pretty much everything, from cupcakes to dumplings, can be found fashioned into cartoon character form) and the style of dress – Japan is home to some of the craziest and most colorful street fashion in the world. And going comic book crazy is a genuine cultural pursuit in Japan – while there are two Disney theme parks and the odd nod to Minions and Marvel Superheroes, this is a nation with such a rich tradition of animation that it would be a shame (and indeed near-impossible) not to take the opportunity to admire the local version. With all manner of superhero shenanigans to be enjoyed in Japan, here’s our roundup of some of the best.

Theme Parks Galore

Japan takes its theme parks seriously, as befits a nation enamored with all things anime, many have a superhero or comic book theme. Top notch theme parks can be found the length and breadth of the country, with one of the best being Toei Studios in Kyoto. This working studio created classic cartoon series such as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, and visitors can visit an extensive cartoon gallery in between samurai shows and white-knuckle rides. Other top theme parks for superhero-loving visitors to Japan include two Disney parks in the capital Tokyo, and   Universal Studios Japan, which is located in the country’s ‘second city’, Osaka, and whose super hero-themed attractions and shows are themed around Western favorites such as SpiderMan, Minions and Superman – if the kids are getting tired of Manga and want to race around in superhero capes, you’ll be in for a whole load of kudos by taking them here. At the other end of the scale, Hello Kitty fans will in there element at Sanrio Puroland, around half an hour’s train ride from central Tokyo in the suburb of Tama. Probably best suited to younger children, the Hello Kitty-themed fun includes an opportunity to visit the famous feline’s house and enjoy some less-than-terrifying Hello Kitty rides.

Hello Kitty Hotel

Hello Kitty Fans can check into a ‘Princess Kitty’ or ‘Kitty Town’ room at Tokyo’s Keio Plaza Hotel, where everything from the wallpaper to the bedspreads and amenities are Kitty-themed. This super-kitsch decor comes at a price – expect to pay around 35,000 yen (roughly $340) for a family room, before taxes.

Tip: Sleeping at Manga Cafes/Kissas

Across Japan’s big cities, Manga tea houses, or Kissas, have evolved from a simple places to flip through Manga magazines and browse the internet, to become a budget-friendly alternative to hostels and hotels. Cafe users can rent private rooms whose large lounge chairs offer the possibility of getting some shut eye, and can be rented in six-hour stints or more. There’s not a lot of room, so this is more for single travelers than for families, but it’s a handy way to while away a wait for an early train, bus or plane.

Visit Kid-pleasing museums

If the word ‘museum’ has your older kids or teens rolling their eyes in anticipation of a tedious cultural pursuit, they’ve probably never been to a Japanese animation museum. Aside from the famous Ghibli Museum in Tokyo (more of which later), there are a whole host of other enticing options such as Kyoto’s International Manga Museum. Fans of the distinctive animation style will be in their element here, and kids can pick a Manga magazine (there are lots in English) and flick through it in the children’s reading room. For something more hands on, the Niigata Animation Museum, an easy trip from the capital, celebrates the surprisingly high number of anime artists to have emerged from the city (notable names include Ghibli animator Yoshifumi Kond; and Takeshi Obata,  creator of Death Note and Bakuman.

Tip: Niigata Animation Museum is a good bet for families with kids that like to get hands on. There are kid-pleasing games involving various manga characters, such as an opportunity to take a run with Lum, hero of the the legendary 1970s comic Urusei Yatsura.  


Japan’s modern capital is packed with an incredible number of attractions to keep those superhero-loving kids happy. Leaving aside the ubiquitous Manga Cafés (some of which double as cheap places to sleep for travelers on super tight budgets) there are museums, galleries and theme parks galore.

The Japanese Capital is home to two big ticket Dey attractions: Tokyo Disney (the first Disney theme park outside the United States, fact fans…) and DisneySea, which has a fun ToyStory ride that’s likely to thrill fans of the films about Woody and hls pals.

Tip: Fans of Studio Ghibli (creators of dreamy works such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away) shouldn’t miss the chance to visit the superb Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, don’t expect to just rock up with the family – tickets must be bought in advance and are only made available at certain days in the month, and with specific ticket agencies. Full information can be found here.

Eat at Anime Cafes

Tokyo is chockablock with cute anime-themed cafes that are sure to be a big hit with the kids. At the Pokemon Cafe in Chuo, kids and grownups can chow down on Pikachu-shaped donuts and dumplings; fans of masked superheroes the Kamen Riders can check out a whole load of memorabilia and Rider-themed food at Kamen Rider the Diner in Toshima, while Gundam Cafe attracts as many grown up comic fans as kids, with its statues, decor and food themed around robots, known as Gundam – arguably Japan’s most enduringly popular anime series.  It’s located in Akihabara, famously a Mecca for anime fans with its many comic book stores and manga cafes.  There’s even affordable Anime accommodation at Anime Station Hostel, which has private rooms, games consoles, and a whole lot of Manga magazines to flick through, with rooms starting at around US$50 (5,400 yen)

Bullet Trains and Beautiful Scenery: Here’s Why Japan is a Dream Destination For Train Loving Families

If there’s one country that’s virtually guaranteed to thrill anyone with even a passing interest in railways and rail travel, it’s Japan. The national pride in its trains is such that there’s even a term  densha otaku – ‘train nerd’- for those with a passion for rail travel. Japan’s superfast bullet trains are famous worldwide, luxury sleepers ply some seriously scenic routes, and forget hanging around on drafty platforms waiting for delayed or cancelled trains – even regular rail services in Japan run punctually every.single.time. The country is justifiably proud if its trains, and families in Japan can visit any number of railway-related museums, most of which are designed with younger visitors in mind. We’ve cherry-picked some of the best reasons for train lovers to visit this fascinating country.

TIP: Buy before you fly

To save time, money and hassle, buy a Japan Rail Pass ahead of your trip. Valid for travel on almost all of Japan’s public rail networks (check the website for exceptions), including the bullet trains, the passes are valid for periods of one, two or  three weeks, are available only for those living outside Japan, and should be bought online BEFORE arrival in Japan. Leave plenty of time, as you’ll need to wait for an exchange order to arrive by post – once you arrive in Japan, this exchange order can be validated at dedicated exchange offices – most major rail stations in Japan have them, but again,  check the website for exceptions.

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

You don’t need to be a rail buff to have heard of Japan’s bullet trains. These ultra-speedy railroad superstars are famous the world over, and can zip families in Japan from one destination to the next in no time flat. As well as being fun to ride, the speedy bullet trains, also known as Shinkansen, reach speeds of up to 320km/hour and are a practical way of cramming a lot of sightseeing into a short trip. Shinkansen trains serve much of the country, from Kagoshima in the south to the island of Hokkaido in the north. There are some notable gaps, but most major tourist sites in Japan have a Shinkansen stop relatively nearby.  Some of the most popular routes are from Tokyo to Osaka and Tokyo to Nagano, with the opportunity to hop on and off at cities such as Kyoto and Yokohama. The needle-nosed trains can turn a 10-hour epic intercity journey by regular train into a hop of under three hours, and feel satisfyingly futuristic. If you weren’t a train nerd before coming to Japan, the bullet trains might well be enough to convert you.

Epic Overnight Journeys

Sleeper trains in Japan aren’t just for getting from A to B, they can be fun alternatives to a hotel bed for the night, and a near-essential experience for train fans in Tokyo. At the top luxury end of the spectrum, the ultra-exclusive Shiki-Shima, which launched in 2017 and whose 10 carriages have everything from chandeliers and piano lounges to a kitchen with Michelin-starred chefs. With prices ranging from around $2000-$10,000 per person for 2-4 day itineraries around Eastern Japan, a ride on Shiki-Shima may be more fantasy than reality for most visitors to Japan, but there are plenty of more affordable sleeper car experiences – the good news for visitors on a budget is that the Japan Rail Card is valid on sleeper trains. There are extra charges for beds (as opposed to seats) and for private cabins, but sleeper trains are generally clean, well-staffed and a great way to see the Japanese countryside roll by.

A Whole Heap of Railway Museums to Choose From

The national obsession with trains and train travel means there’s very little chance of train-loving families running out of rainy day options in Japan. The country has more railway-related museums than you could shake a stick at, and these kid-friendly educational establishments are dotted across the country. Aside from those of the capital Tokyo (more on that later), some of the standouts include Kyoto Railway Museum, which has the country’s largest collection of retired railway vehicles, from historic steam trains to super-modern shinkansen, and the forward-looking, SCMaglev Museum and Railway Park, which allows visitors to take a peek at futuristic maglev ‘levitating trains’, as well as being a  virtual train conductor on a fun simulator. At the other end of the modernity spectrum, the Usui Pass Railway Culture Village, near the popular tourist destination of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture, is a hands-on attraction dedicated to the Usui Toge Railway, which was the steepest railway line in Japan during its 1893-1997 lifespan.

Super-scenic journeys

Rail travel in Japan can be an opportunity to admire some glorious panoramas and, again, many of these journeys can be made using the yen-stretching Japan Rail Pass The Tokaido Shinkansen line, for example, runs between Tokyo and Kyoto and has terrific views of Mount Fuji. More dramatic still is the Gono Line, which runs from Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture in the far north of Japan, taking in raging seas , inland snowscapes and Mount Iwaki, on a journey that has been hailed as offering some of the best coastal scenery in the world. Luxury Resort Shirakami trains offer an opulent way to see the scenery, but it’s just as incredible when seen from the window of a regular local train (yes you can use your pass!)

Boxout: Ninja Trains

Kids not interested in trains? Throw in the word ‘Ninja’ and see if that changes their mind! The Iga Railway, in Mie Prefecture visits Iga-Ueno village (famed as the birthplace of ninjas), and ninja-themed trains designed by Manga artist Leiji Matsumoto make the 16km trip between Iga-Ueno Station and Kintetsu Iga-Kambe, and families can have fun spotting the ‘ninjas’ hiding out in strategic locations at the stations.  


Japan’s capital is a modern metropolis served by speeding bullet trains and a comprehensive metro system, and there are further treats in store for train enthusiasts in the big city.

Visitors can enjoy sake and fusion food with a super-close view of speeding trains at Platinum Fish in Manseibashi. This glass-walled restaurant has undergone various incarnations – until recently it was N3331 (named for a celebratory hand-clapping motion from the Edo era)- and is sandwiched on the site of an old train station platform slap bang in the middle of  two fast train lines. Manseibashi Station was open between 1912 and 1943, and many original features have been preserved at this one-of-a-kind restaurant.

Stay in a Stationary Sleeper Train

Fixtures and fittings from a retired sleeper train make for a quirky accommodation experience at Train Hostel Hokutosei. The entire lodging experience – from the reception to the cabin-style dorms and the ‘onboard’ cafe bar – recreates the experience of being aboard one of the popular overnight trains that traveled between Tokyo and Sapporo for nearly 30 years, before being taken out of service in 2015. With dorm beds from around 2,500 yen (around US$23) the hostel welcomes families with children aged 4 and up. For something a bit more luxe, the Tokyo Station Hotel has upmarket,if predictably pricy, lodgings (family rooms from around $400, or 43,000 yen) right next to the  Marunouchi South exit of Tokyo Station.

In a country with so many railway museums, it’s no surprise to find a couple in the capital. Beneath the elevated tracks at Kasai Station, on the Tozai Line, the Tokyo Metro Museum is aimed squarely at kids, with tons of hands-on exhibits, but is also an illuminating experience for adults interested in the history of the city and its transport system. The smaller, Japanese-only Tobu Museum right next to Sumida train station, is similarly kid-friendly with plenty of interactive exhibits and visual depictions of Japanese transportation throughout the ages.

Japan is known for its high-tech bullet trains, delectable sushi offerings, and traditional samurai and geisha culture; however, there are endless opportunities to explore the natural phenomena peppering the islands. From sakura (cherry blossoms) to geothermal hot springs to the snowy peak of Mount Fuji, families seeking to explore the great outdoors will have no shortage of options in Japan.

Quick layout of Japan:

There are four main islands in Japan—along with over 6,000 smaller ones!

∴ Hokkaido is in the northernmost main island. The most famous city on Hokkaido is Sapporo.
∴ Honshu is the largest island. The famous metro areas of Tokyo and Kyoto are here.
∴ Shikoku is south of Honshu.
∴ Kyushu is the southernmost main island. The main city here is called Fukuoka.



Most travelers begin their Japanese jaunt from the international airports in Tokyo. Although this city isn’t famous among nature-lovers, it is worth spending the first few days recovering from jet lag in Japan’s capital. There are even a few spots to escape from the concrete jungle within Tokyo. Firstly, no trip to Tokyo is complete without exploring Ueno Park, conveniently located right next to a metro station. In the spring, the park offers a stunning view of sakura (over 800 trees!), while those traveling in autumn have a chance to bask in fall colors. Here, children can climb all kinds of native Japanese trees and listen for birdcalls. Shinobazu Pond is a lake full of lotus flowers in the center of the park. Next, try Todoroki Valley, another special nature retreat within Tokyo, only minutes from Todoroki metro station. Enjoy a stroll through the scenic, lush park on the cobblestone paths and make countless stops for tea! Finally, check out the Imperial Palace, where you can rent bikes for free (!) on Sundays between 10 AM and 3 PM at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace. There are tandem bikes available as well! The closest subway station is Nijubashi off the Chiyoda Line.

Transportation: Traveling within Tokyo is simple on the Tokyo metro. A 24-hour ticket costs about $6 USD, or you can pay per trip if you are traveling short distances.

Day Trip from Tokyo: Oshima Island

Take a sleeper ferry from Tokyo to Oshima Island to see volcanoes. The active volcano Mount Mihara crowns Oshima island, which is also known for its snorkeling and hot springs. If you’re visiting between January and March, look out for gorgeous camellia flowers! You can also camp overnight if you wish to visit to more remote locales like the Ogasawara Islands. Of course, there are onsen (hot springs) here as well to relax after hiking.

Transportation: Catch a ferry from Takeshiba Ferry Terminal in Tokyo. Tickets cost $60 USD each way—just make sure to check schedules as departures can be limited depending on the season.


Once you’ve gotten settled in Japan, venture outside of Tokyo to soak in some greenery! Take a trip to Okutama and leave the frenetic energy of the city to bask in the serenity of Mount Mitake, Lake Okutama, and Mount Kumotori. From Hantosu station, stroll around the Tama River and over the bridge. Hantosu Valley is a great introduction to the Okutama area. Then, head to the Nippara Limestone Cave. Hop on a bus from Okutama to reach these natural limestone caves and pay $7 USD for admission. Teach your little ones about stalactites and stalagmites in the cool cavern air. You can also try fishing for your lunch on the Tama River. You can rent fishing equipment in Hikawa and cooks can grill trout to your delight.

Transportation: The train will cost $9 USD from Shinjuku Station and take two hours to reach Okutama. Make sure to check schedule, as this route isn’t traveled as much as some other destinations outside of Tokyo.


Mount Fuji

To experience Japan’s most impressive natural sight, take your family to visit 3,776 meter-tall Mount Fuji. The best time to visit Mount Fuji for hikers is July to early September. The most famous trail is the Yoshida trail, but there are three other trails that are often less crowded (Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya). The most popular week is the first week in August, so traveling to Mount Fuji at the beginning and end of the season will offer the most solitude on the trails. Even if you are not planning on hiking, the view of the mountain alone makes the trip a must for nature enthusiasts. Many people travel to Mount Fuji to celebrate Shogatsu, or New Year in early January. During this time, family and friends exchange gifts and enjoy endless bowls of soba noodles. From March to May, rosy pink sakura are on display during the Hanami festival.

Transportation: This snow-capped peak is 130 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, and easily reached by train or bus–Mount Fuji is only about 2.5 hours from Tokyo by bus. Buses leave regularly during hiking season, but if you are traveling at other times you may need to transfer. There are also numerous Japan Railway (JR) trains that go to Mount Fuji. However, trains are not recommended because they cost much more than buses.

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Okuhida: Hot Springs

After a grueling visit to Mount Fuji, it is imperative to relax in some nearby onsen. Okuhida offers views of the Japanese Alps along with countless spots for soaking in onsen after hiking around Mount Fuji. There are five towns around Okuhida, each complete with a natural hot spring. Let the family unwind in a myriad of natural geothermal waters. The popular dish to try here is mountain vegetables with beef. There are also numerous multi-day backpacking trips that begin in the foothills of the Japanese Alps.

Transportation: There are buses between the many onsen in Okuhida.  You can buy bus passes for unlimited travel during your multi-day stay in Okuhida. There is a bus from Tokyo to Hirayu, near Okuhida, which takes about 4.5 hours and costs $50 USD. You can spend several days in Okuhida before heading to Nagoya on your way to Kyoto.



Kyoto is well-known for its iconic golden palace (Kinkaku-ji) and whizzing bullet trains. Just like Tokyo, however, Kyoto has a few natural havens within its bounds. It is worth seeing a few temples because they are often surrounded by impeccable gardens, and below are a few more destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. Firstly, invite your family to marvel at the impressive bamboo grove in the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, which is complete with its own gang of monkeys. Children will love peering at the Japanese macaques monkeying around in Arashiyama! You can even witness park officials feeding monkeys throughout the day—a sure favorite with kids. A short hike along the Hozu River here offers views of Japanese macaques along with panoramic views of nearby Kyoto.

Transportation: You can take an express bus from Hirayu station near Okuhida to Nagoya, a city in the southern part of Honshu. From there, hop on another bus to Kyoto. There are many bus lines, but this trip will cost $50 USD. From Kyoto, take the Hankyu line to Arashiyama station. Make sure you reserve your bus tickets in advance if possible.


? Box out: Hokkaido: Daisetsuzan National Park

Hokkaido is the wildest and least-populated of the major Japanese islands. The entire island is studded with bike paths, hiking trails, and untouched wilderness. Here you will also find the best skiing in Japan—not to mention the best ramen. The national park is the optimal beginning to an expedition through Hokkaido’s natural wonders. From Tokyo, you can travel north to the island of Hokkaido to visit Daisetsuzan National Park. Search for deer and brown bears here in the park along numerous hikes that meander through pines. The park boasts numerous onsen and mountains to climb, and offers some of Japan’s most impressive displays of fall colors—plenty of leaf-crunching for the little ones!

Transportation: Since Hokkaido is so far north, the best way reach the national park is by plane from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) to Asahikawa Airport (AKJ). From there it is a short ride to the national park where you can stay for a week exploring the acres of trails and wildlife watching. You can also travel by road from Tokyo to Sendai, in northern Honshu, where you can catch a ferry to Tomakomai in Hokkaido, and then travel by road again to reach the national park. Either way, it will cost at least $150 USD to reach the park from Tokyo.

Travel Options in Japan:

Travelling in Japan is quite different than in other parts of Asia. Countries like Nepal, India, and Thailand are notorious for lengthy, bumpy bus rides that can often take hours to cover just a few kilometers. On the other hand, traveling in Japan is flawless, clean, and speedy. Japan is one of the most expensive countries in Asia. Transportation is the most budget-busting aspect of travel in Japan, so if you can think of the bullet trains and ferry rides as integral parts of your journey you can appreciate them more and accept the high costs more readily. Although traveling in Japan might be simpler than in other Asian countries, it can be difficult to find competent English speakers in Japan. Police officers and train agents can often only speak a few English phrases. It is important to have a good idea where you are going before you begin your intra-national journeys.

Rail: Bullet trains are the easiest, cleanest, and fastest way to travel in Japan; however, ticket prices can be high. For weeks of travel, consider investing in a rail pass that will offer unlimited travel for certain periods of time.
Boat: Although ferries are not a cheap way to travel between islands in Japan, they do offer a unique chance to see the Japanese archipelago from the ocean. One of the most scenic routes is between Osaka to Hiroshima, costing about $85 USD.
Plane: All four major islands in Japan have domestic airports. There are also two international airports in Tokyo, along with international airports in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. There are many smaller airports in Japan that offer flights between China or Korea and Japan.
Bus: You can also buy multi-day bus passes if you prefer traveling on the highway. Japan Railways, the same company that operates trains, has a bus company that links most major cities in Japan.