japan with kids


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.

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.


Need more ideas regarding how to travel on a budget with your family? Check out my eBook available for download on Amazon here! In addition, check our top 5 tips for families traveling to Japan!

For a really luxurious vacation, click here and book 🙂


Too often, travelers return home with memories of crowded tourist spots devoid of authentic character, toting mass-produced souvenirs in their suitcases. These overrated destinations (Times Square, anyone?!) and corny knick-knacks (do you really need another overpriced T-shirt?) offer little glimpse into one’s cultural experience. It is vital to engage in the traditions of your destination to make the most of your journey. Read on to find ideas perfect for families to bring home meaningful totems that you can make yourself, all while immersing your loved ones in Japanese culture.


? Sampuru

As soon as you begin your journey in Japan, you will notice that elaborate plastic models of Japanese cuisine flank every restaurant window. Phantom limbs hold chopsticks dangling with soba noodles, mini sushi rolls sit lifelessly on plastic trays, and bowls of synthetic soup gleam from inside display cases. Why? Sampuru, which means “sample,” is the Japanese tradition of creating lifelike plastic models of gastronomic fare. Originally made from wax, sampuru were invented in the early 1900s to craft menus before photography was widely used. Although these phenomena may be curious to travelers, they can actually be of great help. Don’t know Japanese? You can simply point to the plastic version of whatever dish you desire and skip the confusion of attempting to order what you like in Japanese.

Where to go:

North of Nagoya: Gujo Hachiman is the undisputed capital of plastic chow in Japan. Here you can shop for models of your favorite Japanese meals and watch plastic professionals craft shrimp tempura and teriyaki bowls. If you’re feeling creative, you can even make your own sampuru at Shokohin Sample Kobo!

Tokyo: Visit Kappabashi, AKA “Kitchen Town,” to find sampuru ranging from unagi keychains to fried egg phone cases to tuna roe magnets. These (often handcrafted) souvenirs can fetch a hefty price, so shop smartly!   

For more food related experiences, look into our route for food loving families traveling to Japan.


? Origami

Origami, literally translated to “folding paper,” is one Japanese tradition familiar to Westerners. Artisans intricately fold colored paper, called washi, to create 3D objects like animals, tiny boxes, and flowers without scissors or glue. The Japanese have practiced the art has since 1680, but origami became especially popular in the West after the paper crane became the symbol of peace. In fact, many believe that if one crafts 1,000 paper cranes, his or her dream will come true—so get to folding!

Where to go:

Tokyo: Many of use have seen paper cranes dangling delicately, but have you learned how to create your own origami menagerie? Seek out a lesson for your kids to craft their favorite creatures. Try the origami class at Origami Kaikan for a mere $4 USD, or just visit the enormous gallery of art featured there. You can also see artists crafting washi here.


? Kintsugi

We’ve all knocked over heirloom vases and cracked favorite coffee mugs. Luckily, the Japanese developed a brilliant way to fix our beloved broken keepsakes over 500 years ago. Kinstugi is the art of fixing damaged items, especially ceramics, by pasting the pieces together with different kinds of colored glazes. The philosophy behind kintsugi is that by repairing items that are broken, we transform the incurred damage rather than mask it. As a result, the flaws become a part of the story and beauty of the object. Kintsugi often come out so exquisitely that Japanese sometimes intentionally break items just so they can practice the art.

Where to go:

Tokyo: Take a kinstugi lesson in Tokyo! Look for deals online for hour-long lessons that provide both materials and instruction. Try booking a lesson through KUGE Crafts, near Shin Koenji in Tokyo. You’ll learn a new skill and take home a unique souvenir—no more kitschy magnets (unless you’re talking sampuru)!


? Shibori

One of Japan’s lesser-known traditional crafts is called shibori, or indigo dyeing. Shibori comes from the Japanese verb shiboru, which means to twist or squeeze. Artisans utilize dark blue dye and unique folding techniques to create patterns on different kinds of textiles. Kanoko shibori is what many Westerners call tie-dye, while nu shibori involves embroidery to create different designs. The earliest evidence of the practice dates to about 700 AD. Both wealthy and poor Japanese have used shibori methods throughout the centuries, albeit on different textiles (silk for the wealthy and hemp for the poor). Before new kinds of dyes were introduced in the 1900s, Japanese craftspeople used indigo dyes almost exclusively.

Where to go:

Kyoto: If you are interested in learning traditional shibori techniques, there are classes offered all around Japan. Visit the Kyoto Shibori Museum, where you can marvel at countless textiles and take a class to dye your own fabric for $30 USD.

Arimatsu: Eight Japanese families that specialized in shibori founded Arimatsu in the early 1600s, and the town has been known for the craft ever since. There is even a shibori festival there in June!


? Make Your Own Ramen

You won’t be in Japan long until you notice the ubiquity of steamy noodle dishes. Originating in China, ramen has become one of the most popular eats in Japan during the recent decades. Cheap, delicious, and made to order, ramen is a stupendous choice for families traveling with children. Although sampuru might help you figure out what you are actually ordering from the menu, chances are you might end up with a mystery dish or two. From pork belly to fermented bamboo shoots to fried eggs, there are countless concoctions for every palate, even the fussiest eaters!

Where to go:

Outside of Kyoto: Visit the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum (the same company that makes the famous Cup o’ Noodles), where you can design your own flavor of ramen and take it home with you! For around $3 USD, you can invent your own ramen recipe by combining different noodles, spices, and toppings.


? Shabu Shabu

After you wrap up your signature ramen dish at the Momofuku Museum, beeline straight to the closest shabu shabu joint you can find. There, you and yours will cook different kinds of vegetables and meats in a pot of boiling water heated on your table. The sound of the boiling eats is the origin of the name shabu shabu. The most traditional shabu shabu meal includes beef, seaweed, and mushrooms garnished with soy sauce and pickled carrots. Like ramen, shabu shabu has Chinese origins but has become increasingly popular in Japan over the last century. Dining in the shabu shabu style offers an interactive culinary experience perfect for families desiring an immersive experience in Japanese culture.

Where to go:

Tokyo: there are endless options for shabu shabu in Tokyo (and all around the country!). Try Nabe-zo, an all-you-can-eat shabu shabu smorgasbord, complete with dumplings and ice cream, for about $25 USD. They even give discount for children! There is a catch: Nabe-zo is all you can eat… in 100 minutes! Another similar all-you-can-eat option is called Mo-mo Paradise. For those with a higher budget, try the upscale Imafuku restaurant.


? Chakai and Chaji

Tea is a focal point in many Asian countries, and Japan is no exception. Your Japanese excursion will be incomplete until you experience an authentic tea ceremony. Based on Zen Buddhist tenets, the custom of tea ceremonies began during the 16th century. Since then, many different kinds of rituals have evolved, although every ceremony involves drinking green matcha (powdered) tea and nibbling on sweets. Chakai are informal, which chaji are elaborate rituals that can take hours. The ceremonies will also differ depending on the season. Those officiating the ceremonies will teach you how to stir, smell, and ultimately drink the tea.

Where to go:

Tokyo: Tea ceremonies can last anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours, so be sure to pick the ritual based on your family’s preferences.  Try Kyoto-kan, which offers quick and cheap ($4 USD) ceremonies between Friday-Sunday from 12:30-16:30. Make sure you secure reservations for groups larger than five. For a more elaborate ceremony, try Nadeshiko, where they’ll deck you out in an authentic kimono for $38 USD.


? Onsen

One of the most popular traditional pastimes in Japan is relaxing in one of the 3,000 of the country’s onsen, or natural hot springs. Located on the border of two shifting tectonic plates, Japan contains a collection of over 110 active volcanoes (including the famous Mount Fuji), creating the plethora of geothermal activity which heat onsen. Visiting onsen is a traditional Japanese activity (akin to human ramen soup?), prescribing certain practices Westerners should follow: always bathe before entering the pools, keep the onsen quiet and relaxed (no belly flops!) and never take photographs. Tattoos were traditionally banned in most onsen, but with the onset of increased Western tourism, many onsen operators will allow visitors with ink—so do not fear if you have some residual adolescent tats.

Where to go:

Okuhida: Okuhida is well-known for its high concentration of geothermal activity, which allows travelers to visit many different kinds of onsen in a small area. Okuhida also offers access to the Japanese Alps, so many like to hike and then relax afterwards in onsen.

Tokyo: For a traditional onsen experience, try Myojin no Yu in eastern Tokyo. Need a midnight soak? Try Kodai no Yu, which is open 24 hours a day—you can even rent an entire room for your brood.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.


Japan can be overwhelming and overcrowded, especially at high-season. Travelers in Japan often find themselves confused and lost, and so they miss so much of what this incredible country has to offer. These tips will help you cope better as a family, and save a lot of time, effort, ragged nerves, and frustration:

 – Book everything in advance- Large parts of Japan are overcrowded a lot of the time, so many establishments are completely booked out. That extends to more than just the obvious hotels and flights, but also to museums (such as the Hayao Miyazgi/Ghibli museum in Tokyo), other theme/amusement parks, and trains.

For trains, even if you a railway pass (which is highly recommended to buy online before you even get to Japan), you should still book you place in advance. The general rule is that when you get to a new city, if you know how many days you’ll be there, go and book your place on the train to the next city that same day. If you don’t know how long you’ll stay, or where you’ll go to next, do it once you decide.

 – Carry a few plastic bags with you- In Tokyo there are no trash cans in the street, so travelers often find themselves with nowhere for their trash.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 – Have raincoats with you always- You never know when it’ll start drizzling in Japan, you you don’t your sushi to get wet.

 – Don’t worry about food- If one of your kids is a picky eater- have no fear! in Japan you can always find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks nearby

 – One Samurai castle is enough.

 – Ta-Q-Bin – Is a service that ship your suitcases for you! You go into a convenience store (like 7/11), ask if they have this service (most do), fill a form and pay a small fee, and they’ll ship your suitcases for you to your next destination, straight to your hotel or Airbnb. They’ll even carry it up the stairs for you! This way you don’t have to drag those huge suitcases around the train station.

They will also hold your suitcases for up to a week before shipping them, so you can pack a small bag and stop in a few fun spots on the way to your destination without having to carry a huge bag with you everywhere.

Ta-Q-Bin also operates in many other Asian countries and even carries packages internationally.



This article was written with the help of Gily Avishay who spent a long time in Japan.


High-tech, colorful, and safe, Japan is an enticing option for a month-long family break, and it really impresses o n the food front, too. There’s a lot more to this dazzling country than ramen and raw fish (although noodle-loving kids will be in their element) and the super-speedy bullet trains mean it’s fast and easy to zip between foodie destinations on a trip to Japan with kids. Follow our 30-day itinerary for the perfect foodie family break in Japan.

Tip: Get yourself a Japan Rail Pass before your trip, this is the most cost and time-effective way for families to get around the country

For more tips- please check  our 5 best japan tips for traveling families

Day 1-8 Tokyo

Foodie families coming to Japan with kids should set aside at least a week to explore all that Tokyo has to offer. The ultra-modern capital city is big, busy and packed with family attractions so allow time to do it justice. Most high-end restaurants in Tokyo are aimed squarely at grown-up diners, but there are plenty of family-oriented options, as well as simple local spots that are happy to cater to kids. Tokyo has a reputation for being pricey, but there are some surprisingly budget-friendly ways to eat out with kids in Tokyo, from department store dinners to hole-in-the-wall noodle joints.

Of course, you can’t come to Tokyo without eating sushi, and the best sushi spots for kids tend to be those with conveyor belts (Kaiten Sushi) where younger members of the family are sure to enjoy the spectacle of food whizzing along, and being able to grab the dishes they want is helpful for families with fussy eaters (and neatly avoids language barrier issues). One good option is Nemuro Hanamaru, whose location at Marunouchi is handy for both Tokyo train station and the Imperial Palace.

Sweet-toothed kids (and their parents) should make a point of visiting the Jiyugaoka neighborhood, which has a mouth-wateringly large number of fancy patisseries. Be sure to check out Sweets Forests, which brings together several high-end pastry shops under one roof, showcasing the culinary talents of award-winning pastry chefs who create dazzling and delicious sweet treats.

A real treat for fans of the Studio Ghibli animated films is the Straw Hat Cafe, at Mitaka’s Ghibli Museum. Set in a pretty park, the cafe recreates dishes that are memorably enjoyed in Ghibli films such as Spirited Away (rice balls) and Howl’s Moving Castle (bacon and eggs). The whole place has a wonderfully whimsical vibe that Ghibli-lovers will lap up.


? Tsukji Fish Market
Another spectacle for foodie visitors in Tokyo with kids is the world’s largest fish market, at Tsukiji – get here at dawn for super-fresh catches and a chance to catch the famous ‘tuna auction’ – it’s so popular that admission is limited to two lots of 60 potential tuna-buyers, keen to snap up the freshest fish of the day.


Day 9-10: Yokohama

From Tokyo, it’s only a half-hour ride on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Yokahoma, using your Japan Rail Pass. This cosmopolitan seafront city has a large Chinatown, where some 200 or so traditional restaurants offer a chance to try fiery Sichuan dishes, Taiwanese cuisine or huka-ryori (the Japanese take on Chinese food). It’s a fun city to explore, too, and kids are sure to appreciate a day on the beach at Kamakura. As one might expect, there’s some good seafood to be enjoyed here.

Day 11: Nagoya

It’s all about the bullet train again for the 2.40 minute trip to Nagoya, where the family friendly attractions include an impressive car museum and a beautiful hilltop castle. Foodie treats for families in Nagoya include the vegan offerings at Nangoku Kitchen Puca Puca, whose parent-pleasing attributes include all-natural ingredients, age-tailored baby food, a kids’ space and the opportunity to have an organic herb facial while the kids are distracted by books and toys. (Shh, don’t tell the kids it’s vegan if that’s likely to put them off, the dishes are so yummy they won’t notice).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 12-17: Kyoto

It’s less than 40 minutes on the Shinkansen to the big ticket tourist attractions of Kyoto, famously home to some of Japan’s most picture-perfect temples and shrines. Visitors in Kyoto with kids may find that seeing the city by bike is a fun way to get around, and there are plenty of foodie adventures to be had here. Amid the sushi and ramen joints are a surprisingly large number of Italian restaurants, which may be something of a sanctuary for picky kids after a few hours spent goggling at the curious foodstuffs on offer at Nishiki Market, which sprawls over 5 downtown blocks and sells everything from insanely expensive Matsutake mushrooms to dried and fresh seafood.


? Often known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’, Nishiki market is over 700 years old, and is the shopping destination of choice for the city’s top chefs. Adventurous eaters will be in their element – sample weird and wonderful fruits, or treats such as baby octopus on a stick. Many vendors hand out samples for free, so it’s a good opportunity to try out new tastes.

Tip: Before booking a hotel for your vacation, read this post. It might save you some money.

Day 16-20 Osaka

Packed with kid-friendly attractions and just 15 minutes from Kyoto by bullet train, Osaka is a must-visit for families in Japan, and there are some top culinary draws here too, not least of which is Dotunburi, a bright and bustling hotbed of streetfood activity, where must-eat treats include takoyaki (battered, seasoned octopus chunks) and Yamaimo-yaki (yam-flour pancakes filled with pork, fish or other savory treats). This bustling street can be something of an assault on the senses, but children tend to enjoy the bright colors and food-as-theater. Prices start low, at about 400 yen for a plate of street snacks.

Day 20-22: Nara

It’s roughly 40 minutes on the bullet train to Nara, and the big draw for people coming to Nara with kids is the famous deer park, where some 1500 of the handsome creatures stroll around, and there are some instagram-fabulous temples, too. Foodwise, it’s something of a big deal too. The first capital of Japan, Nara has long been a powerhouse of Japanese cuisine. Local specialties include eel and fermented fish, but kids in Nara might be more interested in the Nara nyumen – a soothing somen noodle soup.

Tip: Street vendors sell ‘deer biscuits’ near Nara Deer Park – be careful if you’re carrying them though, as many of the deer aren’t shy about quite aggressively helping themselves.

Day 22-25: Himeji

Beef lovers, welcome to your culinary heaven. Himeji (roughly two hours by train, or 1 hour 30 by car) is all about the Kobe, which is sizzled over a hot plate in front of hungry customers at grill restaurants across the city. While it’s not super-cheap, the revered Wagyu beef is much more affordable here in its homeland than elsewhere in the world). For quality meat, set meals and English speaking staff, try the popular Steak Land, where a small steak with sides will cost around 4000 yen. The other big appeal here is the beautiful castle, which is sure to fire younger kids’ imagination.

Day 24-29: Okinawa

Foodie families can round off their Japanese adventure in style with a few days on the gorgeous white sand beaches of Okinawa Island. Flights leave from Kobe airport (Himeji’s neighboring town, less than 15 minutes by train), and there are inexpensive flights with Skymark (best prices around 5,500 yen) to the capital, Naha. Along with breathtaking beaches and excellent swimming and snorkelling potential, with tropical fish galore.

An important trade link between China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia, Okinawa cuisine incorporates influences from all these places, and the local diet – rich in tofu, vegetables and seafood – is said to contribute to the locals’ extremely high life expectancy. Elsewhere, visitors in Okinawa with kids will find lots of easy eats such as ice cream and French fries, should the kids not be enticed by the freshest grilled fish imaginable.

Day 30 Tokyo

Several low-cost operators make the flight (around 2.30 hours) from Naha back to Tokyo, where you can jump on your return flight back, or spend an extra day and night tucking into some last delicious ramen bowls and other foodie delights.

One thing to remember: Eating or drinking (or talking on the phone) is actually not allowed on the train.