If you want to have a more insightful family travel experience, choosing Japan as a go-to destination is the perfect fit for a family. Why? Mostly because Japan is a very safe country, even for children. Most of Japan’s infrastructure and amenities are kid-friendly, plus the country is very organized, clean, and efficient. The country of Nippon is a great family destination. Pretty much there is nowhere else like Japan because it is ultra-modern yet traditional. The country is also highly urbanized yet filled with nature.
If you want to pick your children in your travels, you will find out that Japan is a great destination for kids. As a family, you can experience the psychedelic neon cities, bizarre themed cafes, and ancient towns. The country has such an excellent infrastructure that you can easily get around and explore without worrying about the safety of your children.
Where Can You Start?
You will soon notice that ryokans or traditional Japanese inns are a great place to stay with children. Because the tatami rooms have plenty of space, you will also get to sleep on futons laid on the floors, which for adults may be a back-breaking experience, however, for the kids, it is a fun experience. Many inns also have their own onsens, and these hot springs can create a relaxing and fun activity for both children and adults.
However, if you plan to visit Tokyo, it is best to avoid it mostly because izakayas (bars) are tiny and not suitable for children. Besides, most subways don’t have elevators and the Tokyo subways is maybe the deepest underground subway around the country. But don’t worry, almost everywhere else in Japan is easy and superb for traveling with children.
The best time to travel to Japan with your children is in spring during March-May and autumn during September-October. Why? Because these months are the most popular months to travel in Japan because of the mild weather and moderate humidity. However, some spots can become overcrowded, especially during the cherry blossom season.
Even if you travel in late September, there are still some quite crowded places, especially in Kyoto. However, most days are warm, between 21-25 deg C, with some rainy days. If you plan to go to the mountains areas like Takayama and Nagano, temperatures there range between 10-15 deg C, but if you have a light jacket, it is enough. In winter during December-February the temperatures are pretty low, mostly dipping to the freezing point, however, Japan has great ski stations, and it is a good time to see snow monkeys in Nagano.
What Can You See?
Even though Japan sits on many islands, the country is pretty big and there is a lot to see and do. It doesn’t matter what your family prefers, Japan has everything, nature, cities, culture, and food. If you want to experience the best of Japan, two weeks seem enough, but if you want to explore Japan, then you need at least three or four weeks. For example, here is a summary of how much time you need to explore Japan:
- Tokyo: to experience all the wacky fun side of Tokyo, you need at least three days.
- Hakone: here, you need at least two days if you want to stay at a hot spring and water park.
- Okuhida: you need two days to experience nature in the Japanese Alps.
- Kyoto: the city is all about traditions and geisha, plus you have to take a trip to Nara to see all the deers. This needs at least three days.
- Shibu Onsen: one day seems enough to see the snow monkeys in Jigokudani.
To get around in Japan you can use the car, the intercity train, and public transport. Japanese public transportation has an impressive coverage across the country, however, there are still some places that are only accessible by car or foot. Besides, it is actually faster to travel to Japan by bullet trains than by car. For example, if you want to go to Kyoto from Tokyo, by car it can take seven hours, however by train, four hours.
But if you decide to travel to Japan for more than a week, it is best to get a JR Pass which is a pass for unlimited travel on JR transportation. Getting the pass will save money than choosing to go with individual trains because they are expensive. Kids that are under 6 can travel for free. Also because Japan is such a friendly country, don’t forget to buy some souvenirs too.
Japan is a country with many faces, which means that Japanese souvenirs are also equally diverse. For example, many Japanese shelves are stacked with a vast array of sweets and snacks and you and your kid can also experience the Japanese Kit Kats. If you want to buy some toys for your child you can get a kendama which is a ball and string toy that was introduced in Japan in the 1700s. A simple wooden kendama can promise hours of fun for children and adults alike. You can also get another wooden toy, the Koma which are spinning toys.
Besides if your child is used to Lego you will be surprised to find out that Japan has its own type of brick toys, the nanoblock, which is smaller than LEGO but promises the same fun. Talking about Japanese souvenirs can take a very long list, however, I hope you can find something that you can take it home because there are many, many, many souvenirs that you can choose from…. And this may be challenging because souvenirs vary from ceramics to chopsticks, Japanese charms, Neko Cat Goods, and many others.
Communication around Japan seems to be much easier than one decade ago. English isn’t commonly spoken in Japan, however, today you can see that most signs are now in English as well. This means that Japan has also become a more travel-friendly place. Besides, there is also free WiFi in many public places where you can use Google Translator to translate signs and many others. It is also affordable to rent a pocket WiFi router that can provide unlimited WiFi for two weeks.