Our Guide to a Family Vacation in Japan
Published on: April 17th, 2019
Last modified: July 27th, 2023
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.
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.
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.
Four Seasons TokyoNestled in the heart of the central business district of Marunouchi, the Four Seasons Tokyo is a luxurious bolthole from which to explore this exciting and vibrant capital. 57 rooms and suites and bright and spacious and feature contemporary design and slick modern furnishings. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the room with light and offers views out across the city skyline. The hotel restaurant, Motif, serves French-inspired cuisine and adopts a ‘farm to table’ concept to offer exceptional freshness and quality. If it’s light
bites you’re after then you can enjoy tapas, a sumptuous afternoon tea or cocktails and nibbles at the bar. When you’re not out sightseeing, relax and unwind at the spa which features jet showers, a sauna and a traditional onsen hot spring bath. There is also a fitness centre.
Palace Hotel TokyoOpposite the Imperial Palace gardens, bordered by a serene moat, the Palace Hotel Tokyo offers one of the best city views of any hotel here. 278 rooms and 12 suites take inspiration from the neighbouring gardens, with leafy carpet motifs, earthy tones and contemporary lines. Floor to ceiling windows, some with private balconies, make the most of the surrounding panorama. The brand of luxury is innate but restrained, a modern take and tribute to omotenashi – Japanese hospitality. There are ten restaurants and bars here, with something for everyone, whether it’s French fine dining at Crown, authentic Japanese at Wadakura or refined Chinese at Amber Palace. Bars include the brooding Royal Bar, chic Lounge Bar Prive and the exclusive Club Lounge. Also on site is an Evian spa for a range of French savoir-faire and Asian wellness therapies after a day out in the city.
Mandarin Oriental TokyoRelax in contemporary luxury at the Mandarin Oriental. Located in the heart of Tokyo, this hotel offers serenity above a ever-growing metropolis. When you arrive in the 38th floor lobby, you’ll find yourself stunned by the dramatic views over the city’s skyline. The 157 guest rooms and 21 suites are heavily inspired by the Japanese aesthetic, blending futuristic luxury with a typical Japanese understanding of sense of space, aesthetically capturing the country’s rich culture within the modern luxury that Mandarin Oriental are renowned for. Step out of your hotel and you’ll be in the middle of Tokyo’s metropolis, just a five minute walk from Ginza shopping district. After a busy day enjoying the buzz of Tokyo, relax in the Sense Tea Room or head to the Mandarin Bar and enjoy a signature cocktail by their award-winning chief bartender whilst listening to live jazz.
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.
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.
The Hyatt Regency KyotoLocated in the heart of Kyoto, the stylish Hyatt Regency offers spacious rooms and excellent hospitality. This hotel is perfect for those looking for a relaxed atmosphere whilst exploring the rich culture of Kyoto. Each of the elegant 189 guest rooms and suites are decorated in light neutral tones combining the aesthetics that Japan is famed for with the style and comfort of western living. During your stay marvel in the culinary excellence offered by the Hyatt, from authentic Italian cuisine to a French grill to flavourful Japanese dishes, there is something for everyone at this luxury hotel. Explore the wonders of Kyoto, with countless temples and shrines and other historical structures, marvel in this city’s fascinating culture. After a busy day of exploring why not visit the hotel’s spa for a relaxing massage or visit The Touzan Bar to taste the hotel’s boutique sake collection.
The Ritz-Carlton KyotoWith 134 guest rooms, the Ritz-Carlton is Kyoto’s first urban luxury resort. Sitting on the banks Kamogawa river, the hotel boasts astounding views of the famous Higashiyama mountains. The hotel has four restaurants and you can take your pick from traditional Japanese dishes, Italian cuisine or go for the seafood private dining option. Enjoy brunch or sweet treats by the French patisserie Pierre Hermé Paris next to a cascading waterfall in the terrace, or retire to the library where a range of Japanese art and architecture books are available for you to thumb through at your leisure. Situated in close proximity to Kyoto’s popular downtown areas, retail and entertainment districts, this hotel will allow you to enjoy the rich culture of Japan’s ancient capital within modern luxury. Explore the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle or the atmospheric dining of Pontocho, all of which will be on your doorstep.
Four Seasons KyotoTraditional Japanese aesthetics can be found throughout the luxury Four Seasons in the centre of historic Kyoto. Lanterns brighten interiors filled with artisanal furnishing and sleek hardwood floors while fusuma screens and urushi lacquerware create an engaging cultural experience. The guest rooms enjoy balconies with incredible views overlooking the fascinating cityscape, Shakusuien Pond Garden or the distant Higashiyama Mountains. Upon imperial purple carpets, a custom Four Seasons bed waits after freshening up in a private rain shower oasis. The suites contain spacious living areas with sofas, coffee tables and marble-topped desks, natural light streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Special touches such as shoji paper lamps and tatami-inspired wall panels contributes to a rich and contemporary residence. Savouring views of the beautiful 12th-century Myoho-in Temple, the Presidential Suite consists of Asa-no-ha hexagonal patterns and an approach to artisanal décor that authentically and intimately captures the essence of Japan. The Four Seasons has two restaurants. Brasserie boasts a relaxed atmosphere and a simple yet delicious menu. Locally-sourced ingredients combined with modern cooking techniques contribute to seasonal dishes throughout the day and into the evening. Sushi Wakon operates under the skilled hand of Michelin-starred Chef Rei Masuda, preparing a fine-dining extravaganza at the 200-year-old, 10-seat Hinoki counter. Drink tea while relaxing beside the 800-year-old pond garden, taking in the true essence and mystery of the Land of the Rising Sun. Additionally, the Spa is a haven of healing, restoring your mind and body to a state of blissful serenity.
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.
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.
Gora Kadan RyokanImmerse yourself into the ancient Japanese way of life at Gora Kadan, the former retreat of the Imperial Family. Situated in the heart of Hakone National Park, this traditional Japanese ryokan – meaning inn – echoes the country’s longstanding cultural emphasis on beauty and purity of form, and was designed to exist in harmony with the nearby mountain range. With just 39 guest rooms and suites, this luxury ryokan provides a retreat from the often-hectic pace of city life through the use of Japanese Zen minimalism. You’ll find sliding walls made of rice paper, fragrant floral incense and modern luxury commodities. This calming retreat is located in an area known for its hot springs from which mineral rich water flows into the open-air baths. During your stay enjoy the traditional Kaiseki cuisine, consisting of a variety of small dishes, which will be served in your room for complete tranquility.
Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and SpaRelax in this onsen – meaning ‘hot spring’ – resort and spa located in the central region of Honshu. Explore the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and enjoy its natural beauty, colourful flowers and scenic views. With 80 guest rooms and suites, this Hyatt Regency hotel is the epitome of east meets west. The decor has a minimalist western feel that’s been augmented with Japanese zen features throughout from beamed windows to the chic rich toned throws. During your stay, dine in one of the three restaurants serving a large range of dishes from traditional French cuisine to Japanese sushi. After a busy day exploring the National Park, make sure you take a dip in the onsen. The waters are rich in calcium and magnesium and you’ll feel all trace of fatigue melt away.
Yoshimatsu RyokanUnwind in this idyllic traditional Japanese ryokan, overlooking Mount Fuji, with a soak in the hotel’s onsen for a Japanese experience like no other. With just 19 guest rooms and suites, this exclusive ryokan has been built in a traditional Sukiya style, an architectural form based on constructing rooms used for tea ceremonies. The hotel has combined cultural accents, such as tatami-mat flooring and washi paper sliding doors, with western conveniences in order to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Breakfast and dinner will be served in your room, offering a variety of small dishes known as Kaiseki. This ryokan is famed for its delicious cuisine and praised for their use of fresh, local produce. During your stay explore the national park, Lake Ashinoko and Onshi Hakone Park to experience the beauty of the Japanese landscape. After a busy day, take a dip in the hotel’s famous onsen surrounded by the magnificent nature of Hakone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Sheraton HiroshimaConveniently located in the centre of Hiroshima city, whilst staying at the Sheraton find yourself in the middle of the energy and excitement of this city, surrounded by its historic sites and rich culture. The 238 spacious guest rooms are designed with comfort in mind, decorated with contemporary furnishings, perfect to unwind after a busy day exploring Japan’s largest island. During your stay experience the culinary delights of the Sheraton, from the international food at Bridges to the contemporary Japanese cuisine at Miyabi-Tei, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Hiroshima is overloaded with historical sites and impressive architecture. During your stay makes sure to visit the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is just a short ferry ride away. For stunning city views visit Hiroshima Castle. After a busy day exploring why not treat yourself to a massage at the Shine Spa or enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail in the Miyabi-Tei Bar.
SekiteiNestled on a hillside overlooking Japan’s Inland Sea and the famous red floating gates of the Miyajima Shrine, you will find yourself in the relaxing Sekitei Ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn. Allow yourself to unwind in this unique retreat. There are just 12 rooms at this exclusive ryokan, cascading down the terraced hillside and beautifully manicured gardens. The guest rooms differ in design and arrangement, however, all are designed with Japanese minimalism in mind, creating a light, calming atmosphere. During your stay a traditional meal will be served in the comfort of your own room, allowing you to experience the astounding flavours of the local cuisine. To submerge yourself in the true tranquility of this luxury resort, take a dip in the onsen. Known for its healing properties, allowing you to unwind and relax during your stay at this secluded inn.
Iwaso Miyajama RyokanLocated at the heart of the World Heritage Miyajima Island, relax in this luxury ryokan. Located in the woods of Momijidani, this inn offers a serene, flawless service ensuring authentic Japanese hospitality throughout your stay. Built in 1893, Iwaso was the first ryokan built on this island. The 38 rooms merge into the stunning nature that surrounds them. The Japanese concept of light and space is clear throughout, from the floor to ceiling windows, to the tatami-mat floor to the sliding partitions. Nature’s influence is echoed in the cuisine provided at this ryokan. During your stay, dine in your room and taste the local delicacies in a traditional Japanese feast. Relax in the peaceful library or tea lounge; unwind in the hotel’s hot spring onsen and sample the beautiful surroundings of this magnificent island. Make sure to visit the Itsukushima Shrine just moments away from your hotel.
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.