With close to 38 million inhabitants, Tokyo is the most populous city in the world. It's a place of many things to many people and, happily, families with young children will find plenty of things to see and do there. From taking a day trip to trekking or tobogganing in the mountains to ordering fun and interesting food that will entice even the fussiest eaters, entertaining the kids is as easy as T-O-K-Y-O.
Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn't take long to get out of the city and into nature, where you can trek in summer or toboggan in winter. Many places can be enjoyed as a day trip from Tokyo, however, an overnight stay will allow you time to relax and explore the surrounding area.
Gala Yuzawa is one of the closest ski fields to Tokyo. It is open from December to May and is a short bullet train ride (1 hour and 17 minutes) from central Tokyo.
Other day trip ideas include the Fuji Go-Ko Area (two hours south west of Tokyo at the base of Mount Fuji), the Kusatsu Area (three hours north of Tokyo), the Hakone Area (two hours west of Tokyo), and the Nikko Area (two hours north of Tokyo). At these places, as well as walks and other outdoor activities, you'll find hot springs, temples, shrines, and historical sites.
Experience the culture and traditions of Tokyo at these family-friendly festivals and events.
Tokyo Marathon In what is the world's most costumed marathon, 36 000 runners, 10 000 volunteers and 1.7 million spectators take to the streets of metropolitan Tokyo. Cheer runners dressed as vegetables, cartoon characters, celebrities, and post boxes as they battle the chill, and sometimes the snow, over a 42.195 kilometre course. When: Late February Where: Throughout Tokyo Cost: Free
Jindaiji Temple Daruma Doll Fair Surround your family with street stalls, performances, and praying ceremonies. Buy a daruma doll and have a Buddhist monk write your wish in Sanscrit characters on the doll's left eye. A little weird. Memorable. When: Early March Where: Jindaiji Temple, The Eastern Tama Area Cost: Free admission
Sanja Matsuri (Three Shrine Festival) Enjoy a long weekend of parades, traditional music, dancing, chanting, and performances. This festival celebrates Buddhism and the spirits of the three men who founded the ancient Buddhist temple Senso-ji. When: Mid-May Where: Asakusa Shrine, Asakusa Cost: Free admission
Bon-Odori Dance Festivals
Bon-Odori dances are performed to traditional Japanese music by groups of people, often in circles. The dances are fun and easy to learn. Around 200 Bon-Odori festivals are held in Tokyo each summer. A popular Bon-Odori event, which attracts locals, business people and tourists, is held in mid-August at Hibiya Park. When: July to September Where: Various locations around Tokyo Cost: Free
Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony Experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Children can learn the Japanese art of taking tea in the beginner's and children's tea ceremony classrooms. When: Early to mid-October Where: Hama-rikyu Gardens, Ginza Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, The Eastern Tama Area Cost: 200 to 1000 yen
Theme park wise, your family will be spoiled for choice in Tokyo. The big names are Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea and Sanrio Puroland (Hello Kitty World). A visit to one of these parks is guaranteed to keep your little people happy. However, if the mere thought of a mega-theme park gives you a headache, then a lower key and slightly cheaper alternative is DECKS Tokyo Beach. This is Tokyo's version of a beachside broadwalk and there you'll find attractions including Madame Tussauds, Legoland Discovery Center, and Joypolis.
When, where, cost: Opening hours, locations and admission fees vary. Visit the park's websites at the links above for details.
You can enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo from many vantage points. An obvious place is Tokyo Tower in the centre of Tokyo. This fire engine red broadcasting tower offers impressive views from its two observatories, which are 150 metres and 250 metres above street level.
Another standout viewing platform is the Tokyo Skytree, which at 634 metres is the tallest freestanding broadcasting tower in the world. From here you'll see the Kanto region, including Mount Fuji on clear days. The two observation decks are 350 metres and 450 metres above street level.
Many restaurants in Tokyo are family friendly. Of course, you'll find the usual suspects in terms of international chain restaurants, but frankly these are just boring. For the most part, Japanese food is delicious, healthy, and beautifully presented, often in super cute little bento boxes or sets. Child-friendly options include sushi, rice bowls, tempura vegetables or seafood, soba noodles served either hot or cold, and beef bowls. You might even be inspired to create your own bento boxes for lunches and snacks when you return home.