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
How to build the perfect trip for your family
What makes a great family holiday?
Japan has a huge range of amazing theme parks and this twelve-night itinerary ticks off the very best.
Classic Japan is a two-week trip that promises to introduce you to Japan's most iconic destinations and experiences.
Family accommodation across Japan
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.
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.
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!
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.