nara with kids


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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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).

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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.