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We’ve just finished up our first BIG trip with little Grace, our toddler.
She’s travelled a lot with us before, but having been born in late 2019, the world she got used to in Melbourne was one of lockdowns and 5km limits – certainly not an environment conducive to travel.
But those places all have one (hopefully obvious) things in common.
They’re in Australia…
Japan (or ‘Apan as she’d been calling it) was a chance for us to take her somewhere very different to the one she’d grown up in.
And for 12 days of our 25-day trip, we hung out in and around Tokyo, so got a good sense of what to do with her in this huge city.
ABOUT THIS LIST
We’ve only included places we actually visited and experiences we can comment on with first-hand knowledge in this post. It might be shorter than other versions you’ll see, but it’s not just a round-up of everything.
We’ve also given every one a star rating, based on how much Grace actually enjoyed them, which should help you prioritise which ones to visit if you are short on time.
teamLab Planets ★★★★★
This was the first toddler-specific place we visited, and it turned out to be the best one of the lot.
When I say toddler-specific, it’s the kind of place we probably wouldn’t have gone if we didn’t have her, but teamLab Planets is not just aimed at kids, it’s a sensory experience for everyone, and it was so good it ended up at number two on our overall list of the best things to do in Tokyo.
It’s a bit hard to describe it (and doing so would also be a spoiler to some of the fun), but teamLab Planets involves moving between multiple carefully staged rooms, designed to blast the senses. From knee-deep water, to a room where the floor is pillows, it’s utterly unlike anything we’d done before.
Whether it was the fact she was a bit ill, or that DisneySea was a bit old for her, but Grace really didn’t enjoy DisneySea much.
We’d spent a fair bit of time back in Australia trying to work out which of the two to book, and concluded (after much research), that DisneySea was unique to Tokyo, so it would be better to visit it while we had the chance.
We were wrong, she didn’t enjoy it at all.
The rides felt a bit too old for her and (for a little girl going through a princess stage), none of the recognisable characters such as Elsa or Cinderella were here.
We got this one wrong, but thankfully we gained a day back at the end of the trip, and got to take her to Tokyo Disney as well!
Tokyo Disney ★★★★★
After regretting our decision to go to DisneySea, we ended up with some bonus time at the end of the trip (having decided not to travel to Hiroshima), so Becca took Grace back, but this time to the Tokyo Disney.
What a difference, she loved it!
For the people online who made recommendations of DisneySea for younger kids, you couldn’t be more wrong. If you’ve got a little princess like us, then Tokyo Disney is the right decision.
After nearly over 10 hours of exploring, eating popcorn, watching parades, rides, shopping and general laughter, then came home.
This is the Disney experience they were both looking for.
KidZania is a place where they have created an entire grown-up world for children, and they go around taking on professions such as being fire-fighters or doctors, and earning money which they can put in a bank, and later on spend at the shop.
It was madness!
We made the mistake of thinking it was like a big play centre, but it wasn’t. It is a very structured (would it be rude to say ‘Japanese’?) way of having fun, with every profession needing you to book in advance, turn up at a certain time, and no chance of free play at all.
Grace was completely overwhelmed. Half the professions you could choose were booked out hours in advance, it was complicated to understand exactly what was going on, and it was mostly in Japanese (our problem, not theirs, but worth noting. Go on a Wednesday for a day with extra English speaking), which made it difficult for Grace to enjoy, despite the facilitators working hard to help her.
Either way, she did a small stint as a doctor, looked white as a sheet through fear, then we convinced her to make an ice cream, then we left after less than an hour. A very expensive hour!
Ueno Zoo ★★★
Ueno Zoo is the oldest in Japan, and famous for some of its more rare animals such as Aye-ayes, Polar Bear and the only place in Japan you can see Giant Panda.
We made the mistake of going on a public holiday (in our defence, we didn’t know it was one!), so it was bedlam, but Grace still had a good time here.
We think she would have enjoyed it more on a quieter day,
Tokyo Skytree ★★★★
There is a lot to do at Tokyo Skytree, more than we expected.
Yes, you can head to the top for views across this massive city.
But there’s also an aquarium, tons of shopping (including a Pokémon store) and a planetarium. If you go a block northeast, there’s also a decent playground (Nakanosato Children’s Playground) which is a bonus.
With all these things included, Tokyo Skytree is a great half day out with a toddler.
Sushi Train ★★★
Grace was already a lover of sushi before we arrived in Japan, so a sushi train restaurant was heaven for her!
Whilst they have them across the world, the sushi in Japan is something else, and if your toddler’s never experienced one before, they’ll talk about it for days!
Want to know how to kill an hour with a toddler in Tokyo?
Head to your nearest Taito Station and get rid of all your change!
There are hundreds of these games arcades around Japan, some just having small vending machines, others the bigger games where you can win prizes.
I’m not sure how good it was for her (Daddy, can I have a toy became a phrase that got asked almost hourly by the end of the trip), but it certainly was fun.
I remember my Godmother taking me to the penny arcades at Stourport as a kid, and I know Grace will remember these stores more than any of the historic places we’ve taken her over the last few weeks.
Whilst Sensoji itself is something more for the adults, there is a lot around Asakusa which is perfect for toddlers.
We stayed right beside the temple on our first trip to Tokyo, here are some of the best things to do with toddlers in the area:
- Go window (or real) shopping at the historic Nakamise-dori shopping street.
- See the carp in Yogodo Hall gardens.
- Eat glazed strawberries on a stick (the latest Japanese craze)
- See the huge eels that guard the doors of the local Don Quijote.
- Go to the play park by Benten-do temple (Bentenyama Children’s Park).
- For an alternative and kid-friendly way of exploring the Asakusa area, why not take a rickshaw tour?
Pokemon Centres ★★★
Grace is probably still a bit too little for Pokémon, but she’s got some slightly older friends who love it, and she got quite excited by the big Pokémon centres we visited near Shibuya and Tokyo Station.
Local Parks ★★★★
Yep, we brought her 13 hours across the world, to one of the greatest cities on earth, and still a humble slide and swings was her preferred spot most mornings.
I’ve listed a few of them above, but they seem to be fairly few and far between in Tokyo, so try and book accommodation near to one.
General Tips for Toddler Travel in Tokyo
Let Them Help
There is so much new for a toddler to experience on a trip to Tokyo, but we found it wasn’t so much the big things she latched onto, but lots of smaller ones.
Buying tickets for the metro (and collecting the change), using the buttons in the lift, entering the keypad on hotel doors, we found getting her involved in the functional parts of the trip, get her engaged.
Get Them Something To Collect
Tokyo is full of small trinkets, giving Grace something to collect as we travelled around the city (and around Japan more widely), got her little eyes peeking for things at every destination.
For us, it was pin badges (her bag is now covered in them), but there are lots of other options (how about collecting stamps from Japanese stations as an example).
Have a Carrier or Stroller
It might not surprise you that Tokyo is big.
We averaged around 15,000 steps a day, which Grace was able to walk some of, but not all.
Thankfully we brought our trusty Lillebaby carrier that we’ve had since birth (and thankfully Becca is an incredibly strong and resilient Mumma, as she refused to go on Dad!), which is small enough to pack in a rucksack without taking up all the space, but also strong enough to carrier a toddler up to 20kg.
- Six Positions: The LÍLLÉbaby Complete baby carrier features 6 ergonomic carry styles for 360-degree babywearing including front, backpack and hip styles.
- Superior Airflow: Ultra soft, 3-D mesh fabrics offer cool comfort and breathability.
Other Toddler Highlights From Japan
If you’re carrying on to other places in Japan, then here are some of our biggest highlights from other places we visited.
We visited Nara for Dad, as it’s a UNESCO site and filled with incredible temples, but it ended up being Grace’s strongest memory of the trip (feeding the ‘donkeys’!).
There are hundreds of deer that live around Nara, and are looked after by the locals.
And not only that, they bow to you (yes, really)!
Grace had a fantastic time, it’s well worth a day-trip if you’re in Kyoto or Osaka.
If, like me, you’re not so fond of deep water, the chances of seeing a whale shark in your lifetime are pretty limited.
Step in Osaka Aquarium, which has HUGE tanks, and had the world’s biggest fish in them.
It’s in a great part of Osaka for toddlers, with a big ferris wheel, Universal Studios, a food market and Lego Land.
Osaka Kids Plaza
As the first dedicated childrens museum in Japan, and it being just around the corner from where we were staying we decided to take Grace.
The museum was spread over three floors, with a free play kids town section in the middle (designed by famous Friedensreich Hundertwasser)
Grace loved this place, she was able to stand in a bubble, create a recorded tv program in a real life tv studio and become a skeleton. Aimed at providing hands on experiences to encourage learning it was a lot of fun for children and adults alike.
Before You Go
We travelled for 25 days across Japan, and have lots of posts which will help you plan a similar trip.
Head over to our Japan Travel Guide, for links to all the main articles.
Oh, and don’t forget to leave us a comment below (it take 20 seconds), if you have any other suggestions that should go on this list of best thigns to do with toddlers in Tokyo.
AUTHOR – BEN REEVE
Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.
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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie