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Sasebo-shi, Japan – photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Our Guide to a Family Vacation in Japan

Everything you need to know for a seamless family trip in Japan
Ellie Khoury
Written by
Rachel O'Leary, Kit Wong, Keith Jarman & Ellie Khoury

Japan is an incredibly diverse country with a lot to offer a family on vacation; a delectable food scene, engaging museums, fascinating sightseeing and exciting outdoor pursuits. A country with a world-class infrastructure, you’ll enjoy adventuring in Japan with all the family in tow.

Perhaps you’re keen to lace up your boots and hike Mount Fuji, join a fun sushi-making class or discover the beautiful art of calligraphy in Tokyo. Maybe you’re interested in exploring temples in Kyoto, or learning about samurais and geishas in Kanazawa. Whatever your interests, our team of travel designers can help you create a trip your family will remember for many years to come.

In this curated guide, we’ll show you our favourite family-friendly destinations in Japan, and what they’re best for. We’ll also cover weather, when to travel and explain how our Jacada experts create perfect tailor-made adventures for families.

Tokyo

Best for city experiences and ancient arts

In Tokyo there’s an almost unlimited choice of entertainment and experiences for families, from baseball games to temple touring. Spend your days in captivating museums, tasting street food in bustling markets or adventuring in the city’s green spaces. At night take in neon lights or try karaoke as you wander the illuminated sci-fi cityscape. 

Tokyo, footbridge, ornamental garden, red, Japan, Koishikawa Korakuen garden,

If fine dining gets your family salivating, there are numerous Michelin starred restaurants to visit. Or, why not challenge your loved ones to learn a new skill? Workshops at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace will teach you Calligraphy, one of Japan’s most beautiful art forms. For anyone with an interest in art a visit to Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art can’t be missed with their collection of ancient ukiyo-e – woodblock prints and paintings. 

 

Tokyo Hotels

Our favourite family-friendly hotels in Tokyo

Kyoto

Best for beautiful temples

Kyoto is the city of temples and many of them are well worth exploring. Try and count the famous 1001 golden statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy in the Sanjusangendo temple. See your family dwarfed against the massive main hall that seems to go on forever, seemingly hovering above the ground, in traditional Japanese style. Then there’s Kodaiji Temple, where little ones will love to discover the ‘artificial mountains’ and dry rock gardens. Take a stroll down the bamboo grove that leads to splendid teahouses for some typical Japanese refreshments.

Sanjusangendo kyoto

For a deep-dive into Japanese culture and architecture, we suggest you visit The Silver Pavilion and Golden Pavilions. The Silver Pavilion’s lush green moss gardens, iconic Japanese pine trees, waterways and circular paths are the stuff of picture-perfect fairytales – wonderful for imaginative youngsters to explore. The Golden Pavilion temple, or Kinkakuji’s, top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. The gold reflects in the lake below and there’s a warm glow that appears to be all around – a magical sight.

 

Ginkakuji kyoto with tea houses

Kyoto Hotels

Our favourite family-friendly hotels in Kyoto

Hakone

Best for hot springs and history

Not far from Tokyo, Hakone is famous for its hot springs and is a great place to escape the fast pace of city life. Some of the onsens welcome families and are specifically geared towards making the experience fun for all ages.

Hot Springs in Hokone

The city is also known for its lakes and waterways where you can make-believe your best Captain Hook character and board a mock pirate ship for a spot of sightseeing on the ‘open seas’. Head to Gora Park where you’ll find yourself whisked back to mediaeval times at the ruins of the Sekisho checkpoint. Hakone is also a great place for workshops – woodwork, painting, lampwork (making glass beads) or pottery are a few you can sign up for.

Mock ship boat in Hokone Japan

Hakone Hotels

Our favourite family-friendly hotels in Hakone

Mount Fuji

Best for outdoor fun and nature

The area around Mount Fuji is one of the most serene in the world and it’s an excellent place to spend some quality time as a family. The volcanic activity of 10,000 years ago created an impressive landscape of craters and ice caves, and the area today is ripe for exploring. Spend time canoeing on the lake, go horse riding through the verdant forest or sit back and do some incredible stargazing after sunset. 

Lake Ashinoko, Hakone, Japan - Lake Ashinoko, Hakone, Japan with Mount Fuji in the distance

Climbing Mount Fuji itself might be a little ambitious for a family, but if you are after an adventurous trip and want to learn more about mystical folk tales, then you’ll definitely want to visit the mysterious Aokigahara Forest. Legend tells of ghosts and goblins that imaginative young travellers might keep a lookout for among the trees. You can also venture into one of the area’s many lava caves, discovering underground wonders. 

Mount fuji hiking activity

Kanazawa

Best for cultural experiences

A visit to Kanazawa is all about entering the mystical world of samurais and geishas. Here, you can discover the wooden lattice fronts of old geisha houses in the Higashiyama District and the once prosperous, walled complexes in Nagamachi District, where leading warrior clans once lived. You can also take a step back in time with an immersive experience at Nomura-ke, an ancient samurai house, to see how life would have been for families during the samuri, Edo era.

Geishas enjoy an inside joke

We suggest also visiting the vibrant Omichi fish market which is affectionately known as the Kitchen of Kanazawa. There are over 200 stalls selling an impressive array of seafood. If you want to get a real taste of Japanese culture and its food scene, enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants here. 

Kanazawa fish market

Hiroshima

Best for history

Japan has a fascinating history, and one of the most well known cities in Western Japan is Hiroshima. Destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II, Hiroshima today is a thriving community. This city is filled with poignant reminders of the town’s history, so it’s a must visit for history buffs. Sites of importance and interested are the Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Of course, learning the details of Hiroshima will be thought-provoking. However, the city’s commitment to a future without conflict is explained in detail – a positive message for future generations. 

Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

On nearby Miyajima Island, families can uncover Japan’s ancient history with a visit to the centuries old Itsukushima Shrine. Unusually the gates to the shrine are built over water, giving the impression that they’re magically floating. There’s plenty for a family to explore here; four shrines, some with impressive red pillars and traditional wooden lattice work, others made of simple grey rock, housing golden deities. There’s a prayer hall with polished wooden floors, massive prayer drums and hanging lanterns and an open air theatre on stilts over a lake. There’s much more too, with its walkways over water, main hall and eastern corridor you can easily spend a day here.

hiroshima

Hiroshima Hotels

Our favourite family-friendly hotels in Hiroshima

The best time to visit Japan with kids

The summers in Japan are hot and humid, so travelling with young children between June and mid-September may be rather uncomfortable. Aim instead to visit during spring, from March to May, and during Autumn from September to October. 

Winters in Japan can get very cold (December to February), but it’s a great time of year for skiing families looking to hit the slopes together. Just make sure you wrap up warm!

If your family doesn’t cope well with crowds, you might also consider planning your trip so that it doesn’t coincide with cherry blossom season around April. This time of year is very popular with visitors, but if you don’t mind sharing space with others, it’s a beautiful sight with plenty of stunning photo opportunities. 

The full details of when to travel to Japan can be found in our Japan climate guide.

Family travel with Jacada

At Jacada we know and appreciate how important family is and love to help you create lasting memories, so we do whatever we can to craft a trip that is seamless and enjoyable for every single one of you. We’ll tailor-make your family vacation so that you can go at a pace that is comfortable for you, so there’s no need to worry about fitting nap times into a frantic schedule. Chat to your Travel Designer about your specific needs.

Feeling inspired? Our expert travel designers are always on hand to help you plan your family vacation to Japan.

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