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Whilst many people are considering where to take their families on holiday this summer, many of them will not have even considered Japan as a family destination. As the Organ family (James, Susana, Daniel and Anna) discovered when they travelled to Japan back in May, Japan is safe, nowhere near as expensive as they had imagined, an education and above everything else, fun for families! James Organ has been kind enough to put a little blog together about his family trip to Japan, so here is what he had to say;
For our last non school holiday trip we wanted something that was different, interesting, out of the ordinary but also somewhere that a 4 1/2 year old and a 2 year old would enjoy and would be easy to enjoy with. Ideas came and went, but I am so glad we ended up choosing Japan.
Despite how easy InsideJapan made it to organise hotels and travel, I have to admit there was still a slight sense of trepidation as we set off. How would the children cope with such a long plane journey, would they like the food, how would they react to a country so different from home, how would the Japanese react to them, and most of all would they enjoy the places we had chosen to visit and stay in.
The reason I am writing this is that the holiday was fantastic and stays long in my and certainly Daniel’s (my 4 1/2yr old) memory. Most of the time it felt a little like travelling with celebrities and we were the overlooked security team. ‘Ooh isn’t he/she cute’ we heard every day from teenagers, adults, pensioners as they politely stopped us to say hello and admire the children – once or twice an older lady asking if she could take a photo. Children seem to be specially welcome everywhere, viewed as a bonus not an inconvenience. Our two aren’t the quietest, but I don’t remember even a raised eyebrow whether running down a hotel corridor or raising their voices in a bus. When they were behaving well they were worshipped and we were always helped.
The eclectic mix of highlights Daniel mentions, include taking their shoes off at every restaurant and hotel, visiting the castle in Matsumoto, sleeping on the futon mattresses, slurping noodles, bathing their feet in outdoor onsen, the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, eating octopus balls, the cartoon character Anpanman and the pirate ships in Hakone, and the water fountains in the gardens of Kanazawa, amongst many other things. There were so many things to enjoy that were quirky or different or just fun.
You always feel safe and welcome in Japan, which is a great start for anyone with children. Travelling around the country was made easy with the Info Pack and there is so much to see on Honshu, that our longest trip was 2.5 hours. Trains are fast, comfortable and reliable, as you would expect, and buses likewise. Destinations are flashed up in English as well as Japanese so it is hard to get lost – we manage it once though which resulted in a lady making origami toys for the children and inviting us to lunch!
Staying at a Minshuku, was their highlight. The airy tatami mat rooms and family run atmosphere, were ideal hotels to stay at with children. The rooms had a bit more space so we could easily sit and enjoy a drink at the end of the day. Sleeping on mattresses on the floor was a novelty for the children at bedtime and a place to play in the day. These hotels also had the wonderful hot baths for parents to relax in. First time I remember hoping there would be no one there, and there wasn’t, and it was days before someone else turned up while I was bathing. By then I barely noticed.
Traditional Japanese food is often uncomplicated and unfussy, meat skewers, noodles, tempura, making it ideal for children, and the huge range of food makes it easy to cater for all tastes, and at a reasonable cost. The Izakaya’s were a good choice because of their relaxed atmosphere and wide ranging menu, noodle bars are a good budget option and markets often had good snack stalls. Our best evening meals, a couple of times with 9 courses, were those in the Minshuku. Often preparing slightly more western food for the children, a meal at the Minshuku was an excellent way of enjoying a quality Japanese dinner without needing to search for a restaurant and be out late.
The biggest test of the holiday was the plane journey back home. On the way out was easy – we made sure we had bulkhead seats for play space and bags and Daniel was happy with the Disney channel – not so easy on the way back as Ana decided not to sleep for nearly 12 hours. A minor problem, but all in all, Japan is fascinating to visit and a great place to spend time as a family.
There is so much to see that engaged the children and when asked, Daniel says that he would like to go back to Japan. A relief for me, as I will be going back as soon as I can.
James Organ & family (Liverpool, UK)
The Organ’s spent more than two weeks in Japan visiting Tokyo and Kyoto as well as travelling through the Japan Alps stopping off in Matsumoto, Takayama and Kanazawa. They also stayed in a ryokan in the hot spring region of Hakone close to Mt Fuji. Sounds like we have a whole family of new Japan fans there!