Family adventures in Japan
Things were so easy when you could just chuck some clothes and a toothbrush in your bag and go.
Now, instead of worrying about whether the closest bar is close enough, we find ourselves wondering: will there be anything the kids will eat? Will this cycling tour be as exciting as it looks online? Will our hotel have connecting rooms? Fast enough Wi-Fi? Big enough beds?
And that’s before we’ve even starting thinking about logistics: dealing with school holidays; booking train tickets; finding that all-important balance between action and relaxation.
One thing we can say is that Japan was made for family holidays. It may be known for its time-honoured traditional culture, but Japan is also a giant playground filled with robots, pirate ships, bizarre fashion and over 200 theme parks – and nowhere is safer or more friendly. Any country where comic books have been elevated to an art form and even the airports have life-sized cartoon mascots to welcome you is going to be a hit with kids.
Wondering where to start? Just leave it to us. We've been doing this 20 years (long enough to have gone from carefree solo travellers to kids in tow!) and we’ll make sure you have the best family holiday ever.
How accommodation works for families in Japan
Pile into your rental car for an unforgettable family adventure around Japan, including the Japan Alps, and the outdoor adventure mecca of Minakami.
Japan has a huge range of amazing theme parks and this twelve-night itinerary ticks off the very best.
Family accommodation across Japan
Shiba Park (Tokyo)
The Shiba Park is located in the centre of Tokyo and has friendly, English-speaking staff who are well used to looking after foreign guests.
With Tokyo Tower and Zojo-ji Temple a short walk to the west and Hamarikyu Gardens a pleasant stroll away to the east, this is a great location right in the heart of the city.
The lobby has plenty of space and seating, and the guest rooms are of a reasonable size for Tokyo. The hotel also has its own restaurants, including a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a bar and café. If you would prefer to eat out, there are plenty of great options within easy walking distance of the hotel - just ask one of the hotel staff for recommendations or to make a reservation.
The Shiba Park is very much a child-friendly hotel. If you are travelling with young children, the hotel can provide a baby cot and pushchair, as well as diapers, child-sized slippers and tooth brushes.
There are several underground and overground stations in the area - the closest being Onarimon, Daimon and Hamamatsucho. A short walk will also bring you to Shibakoen, Akabanebashi, Kamiyacho or Shiodome - so you will be very well connected during your stay.
Keio Plaza Tokyo (Tokyo)
The Keio Plaza is an excellent hotel at the very heart of Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district.
This 170-metre (560 ft) skyscraper has fantastic views of the city, especially at night from the hotel's sky bar – the perfect place for a cocktail after a hard day of sightseeing! There are also no less than 22 restaurants, serving everything from teppanyaki to tempura, kaiseki, sushi, soba, French, Italian, Chinese and Korean.
What's more, the Keio Plaza frequently hosts special exhibitions of art, photography and traditional crafts. The hotel also offers various Japanese cultural experiences such as tea ceremony, trying on kimono, and ikebana flower arranging. If you fancy a little Japanese-style late entertainment, there are four karaoke rooms on the 47th floor, with spectacular panoramic views of the city, while the seventh floor hosts a gym and open-air swimming pool during the summer months for those who want to keep active.
As you would expect from a hotel of this calibre, the staff speak excellent English and the service is impeccable. All guest rooms have free Wi-Fi, in-room dining is available, and there are complimentary shuttle buses to Disneyland and DisneySea – amongst a whole roster of other services.
Mimaru Apartment Hotel (Osaka)
One of our favourite choices for family trips, the Mimaru offers self-catered apartment style accommodation in many of the major cities of Japan.
Mimaru apartments are modern and stylish, and many have elements of traditional Japanese architecture such as sliding doors and tatami flooring. The apartments are furnished with multiple beds, a dining area, and fully equipped kitchenettes.
When staying at a Mimaru you'll feel like a local in no time!
ANA Crowne Plaza (Kyoto)
The ANA Crowne Plaza is a superior grade hotel in a fantastic central location opposite Nijo Castle, one of Kyoto's top attractions.
The hotel offers some lovely traditional touches, with ikebana flower arrangements and front desk staff dressed in kimono. The décor is a little dated, but rooms are clean, comfortable, and generously sized compared to many Japanese hotels. There is a complimentary shuttle service between the hotel and Kyoto Station, a subway stop just around the corner, and bus stops for all the main sites right outside the door.
In your room, you'll find a 'sleep advantage' package including green tea, bath powder, eye pads and different types of pillows to help you get a good night's sleep, which is a thoughtful touch. The hotel offers a range of restaurants, and there's a fitness centre with an indoor swimming pool, gym and sauna, although guests must pay extra to use these facilities.
Nijo Castle, right opposite the hotel, is one of Kyoto's most well-known sights. Quite different in appearance to any other Japanese castle, it is famous for its 'nightingale floors'; a feudal-era burglar alarm system that still works perfectly today!
Located in the upmarket area of Marunouchi, the Peninsula offers spectacular views and luxurious comfort, right next-door to the Imperial Palace and within walking distance of the high-end Ginza shopping district.
Guest rooms are among the largest in Tokyo, and each suite blends traditional Peninsula standards of comfort and technology with elements of Japanese heritage and culture. The hotel offers a wide range of gourmet dining options, including authentic Cantonese cuisine, fine Japanese kaiseki and international dining. For relaxation the hotel features a fitness centre and indoor swimming pool overlooking the Imperial Gardens, while The Peninsula Spa by ESPA offers the ultimate in pure indulgence.