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
Japan has a huge range of amazing theme parks and this twelve-night itinerary ticks off the very best.
The whole family can get stuck in to Japanese culture with this hands-on activity holiday.
Family accommodation across Japan
Machiya Residence (Kyoto)
InsideJapan are delighted to offer self-catering stays in a range of Kyoto machiya: traditional Japanese townhouses.
These machiya, all located in the city centre, have been lovingly restored as comfortable holiday rental cottages that sleep two to eight people. This is your chance to slide back a traditional screen door and live like a real Kyotoite in the comfort of your own space for a few days.
Each machiya has a kitchenette, dining area, bathroom and washroom. Bedrooms may be Western-style with low beds or Japanese-style tatami rooms with futons, or a mixture of both. Facilities include a TV, washing machine and dryer, kitchenware & tableware, microwave, fridge and air conditioning in all rooms. The houses are usually two-storey traditional buildings with lovely Japanese gardens.
Yamaichi Bekkan (Miyajima)
Welcome to the Yamaichi Bekkan, a family-run inn just a short walk from both the pier and Miyajima's famous shrine gate.
Simon and Alastair, our company directors, first visited the Yamaichi Bekkan in the early 2000s, when InsideJapan Tours was only just beginning. Ever since then, its warm hospitality, friendly atmosphere and outstanding food have made it a firm favourite!
The ryokan has just four guest rooms (three traditional Japanese-style and one Western twin), all with en suite bathrooms. Downstairs, the ryokan acts as a restaurant as well, and serves superb food: sashimi, tempura, and the island speciality conger eel. The baked oysters, another local delicacy, are a real treat.
The ryokan is a family affair, and the English-speaking proprietress, Shinko-san, is an absolute delight. She and her family will ensure that you feel welcome, and will do everything they can to fulfil your every need and request. The ryokan lacks its own onsen bathhouse but if you fancy a soak, Shinko-san will arrange for you to visit the baths at the hotel a few doors down. Located on the top floor of the building, they boast great views across the bay.
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.
Mimaru Apartment Hotel (Tokyo)
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!
Cross Hotel Osaka (Osaka)
The Cross is a smart hotel on Dotonbori, one of the liveliest and most famous streets in Japan.
The hotel has recently been refurbished and boasts sleek, modern design both inside and out, giving it something of a boutique feel. Rooms are stylishly decorated and surprisingly generously sized for a city-centre hotel, and each bathroom offers a deep soaking tub, separate shower and a small "powder room".
The Cross has its own restaurant and bar, but its great location also means that there are a plethora of establishments to choose from on your doorstep, making this the perfect place to indulge in one of Osaka's main attractions: fabulous food and drink! A great many of Osaka's attractions are within easy walking distance of the hotel, but if you need to travel further afield, Nanba subway station is only three minutes' walk away, and Shinsaibashi is just five minutes away.
Despite its lively location, the hotel itself is a quiet and peaceful place, so should you be looking for an early night you will not be disturbed.
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.