Kid-Friendly Places to Visit in Japan
These places will get both kids and adults excitedly saying, "Are we there yet?"
Japan has rightfully earned its reputation as a family destination. Safe? First-graders regularly commute to school on their own. Clean? Trains are cleaned in just seven minutes. An abundance of destinations that range from nature experiences to unusual museums? Have we got a list for you.
Ghibli Museum, Tokyo
Photo Studio Ghibli website
As the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki introduced the world to animation apart from the typical Disney fare. Beloved films like My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo showcase heartwarming stories and fanciful imagery.
The whimsy of these films is brought to life through the Ghibli Museum. There is a life-sized robot from Castle in the Sky. Kids under 12 can play with a giant cat-bus plushie. Older kids can enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at the animation process by exploring an art director’s studio. There is also a theater that plays short films, which can only be viewed at the museum.
Studio Ghibli is located at 1-1-83 Simorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo and is open every day except Tuesdays. It is also closed for the holidays from December 27 to January 2. Museum hours are from 10am to 6pm. Tickets are limited so you will have to book early. You can find information on how to purchase tickets here. To get to Studio Ghibli, you can take a shuttle bus from Mitaka Station. Please note that the museum does not offer parking spaces.
Nara Park, Nara
Nara is a small city less than an hour away from Kyoto and Osaka. In it is a public park, which is famous for hundreds of deer roaming around freely. The deer, once seen as messengers from the gods, are used to people and have learned to bow to beg for food. An abundance of green space ensures that kids can enjoy free play and exploration.
Another advantage of Nara Park is its proximity to historical sites. Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital so there are a lot of temples to see. Mix in a little bit of history into the fun by walking to the Todaiji Temple, where its Daibutsuden or Big Buddha Hall is known as the world’s largest wooden building. Find the pillar with the hole in the middle. It is said that children who can squeeze through the hole are enlightened.
Nara Park is located at 469 Zoshicho, Nara. It is a five-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station. From the JR Nara Station, take the East exit and the park is about 20 minutes away by foot. Alternatively, you can take a Loop Line Bus service, which is recognizable by their bright yellow color. From JR Nara Station, ride the No. 2 bus to Nara Park. The park is open 24 hours and entrance is free.
Kids Ninja Village, Nagano
If your kid likes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other action-packed shows, then let them experience the real thing. The Kids Ninja Village has playgrounds and activities that will let visitors feel like they are training to be ninjas. Visitors can rent costumes and play games using a blow dart and the shuriken, or ninja stars.
Most of the activities can be enjoyed by kids as young as four. Older kids can experience the Shinobu Treasure House, a museum that houses artifacts like secret scrolls and weapons used by ninjas. Depending on the month you visit, you can experience different events like a live ninja demonstration or a festival, like the Kagerou or Autumn Festival.
Kids Ninja Village is located at 3193 Togakushi, Nagano. Its operating hours are from 9am to 5pm. It is open daily, except Thursdays. The park also closes from late November to late April. Admission price is \500, but kids under 6 pay \230. Activities are charged separately. To get to Kids Ninja Village by bus, take bus No. 70 from Nagano Station and get down at the Togakushi-Chusha bus stop. You can then take a 15-minute walk to The Ninja Village.