Tokyo-Travel With Kids

In late August 2017, we went to Tokyo.  It’s been on our list of places to visit for quite some time so when a deal showed up in July, we didn’t hesitate to book!  We flew United there and ANA back and both flights were great.  The flight is around 9 hours long and unfortunately being a mid-day flight, Milana didn’t sleep much going there but slept for a few hours coming home.  We used the 1st Class Kid travel pillow on the plane for her, which made the flight comfortable for her. We got to our first hotel around 11pm, went to bed and woke up adjusted to Tokyo time. Coming home, Milana was adjusted from day one. We landed at 11am, she went to bed at her regular time and woke up around 9 am like always.  I don’t know how this kid never experiences jet lag and adjusts to time zones so easily (this was an 8 hour time difference for us) but it makes travel with her a breeze not having to worry about that!

Tip: Get a credit card that gives you lounge access (we use the Chase Sapphire Reserve). Our flight from LAX was delayed (after we boarded and were about to take off, smoke filled the cabin so we had to deplane and wait 3 hours, a first ever delay for us which is shocking given how much we fly!) so the lounge came in useful. There are several lounges you can use with your Priority Pass at LAX, and while some are small, it beats sitting in the waiting area with everyone else.  And the free food/drinks are great if you’re traveling with kids!

IMG_2935

We flew into Narita airport, which means we had to take a train to Shinjuku, where our first hotel was.  The trains are super easy to figure out in Japan.  The fare was around $60 for 2 adults and Milana was free.  The ride was around an hour long, in comfortable assigned seats. You don’t have to purchase tickets ahead of time, you can do so when you get there.  The train wasn’t packed at all and we had a great trip to the hotel.  Just to give you an idea, a taxi ride from Narita would have cost $280 so this was a steal in comparison!

975EA345-E70B-4C7F-A5C1-28E1F990F2D0

HOTELS

Because we wanted to explore different parts of Tokyo, we stayed in several different hotels during our stay. Our first night, we used Priceline because we knew we were arriving late/checking out early so we didn’t care what we got.  It worked out well because we didn’t arrive til nearly 11 due to the delay, basically just sleeping and heading out first thing in the morning.  We got the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel for less than $100 and it was perfect for a quick night.  I know some people mention the area is shady, but we had no issues and didn’t stay long enough to notice.  The rooms here are tiny though, so I don’t recommend staying here for your entire trip. You can’t open your luggage and walk at the same time!

The next day, I used one of my Hyatt award nights at the Park Hyatt. Now we probably should have saved this for the end of our stay because it’s one of the best properties we have ever stayed in and set the bar very high for other hotels! Because of my status, we were able to check in by 10am and out at 4pm the next day, which means we got to enjoy the area and room for much longer than normal.  This property is amazing!  The room was one of the best we have ever had. Huge, great views with some of the best amenities we have ever had in a hotel.  The mini bar was stocked with (free!) drinks and the espresso machine was an awesome addition which we utilized a lot! The bathroom was huge with a huge tub and separate shower and they really cater to families with kids.  They left Milana a small toy and kid friendly toiletries and utensils/cups for her to use.  If you can stay here, do it! It was the best hotel during our stay.

ParkHyatt1ParkHyatt2ParkHyatt3

Since I had two free Hyatt nights, I chose the Andaz as our next property. Again just like the Park Hyatt, our room was ready by 10 am with a 4pm check out.  This is another beautiful property, though the location isn’t as great as the Park Hyatt.  It was perfect for one night because we were able to walk to the Tokyo Tower and Zojoji temple from this hotel.  Our room was great here as well, with a huge bed, roll away bed for Milana and a ton of seating. The bathroom was great with one of the best tubs we’ve had in a hotel. Milana thoroughly enjoyed her bath time here! The mini bar was stocked with (again free) snacks and drinks and it was perfect.

Andaz

After the Andaz, we headed to the Courtyard Tokyo Station.  I used points for this stay, making it another free hotel.  The location was great, just a short walk to Tokyo station.  We went to Disney from this hotel since Tokyo station has a direct train to the parks.  The room was smaller than Marriotts in the US but still nice. And again because of my status, we had a 4pm check out time which was great!  I forgot to take photos of our room here, but it’s a good hotel with a great location for a couple of nights.

Our last hotel was the Keio Plaza hotel, for 4 nights. This (besides the first hotel) is the only portion of the trip where we paid for hotels!  When I found out they had Hello Kitty rooms, I knew we had to stay there. We stayed at their Shinjuku location, which was a really good location. A very quick walk to Shinjuku station and right by a ton of restaurants, shops and other attractions.  A great base for your Tokyo visit!  I have a separate post with lots of photos of our Hello Kitty room which you can see by clicking the link.

KeioPlaza

THINGS TO DO

There is so much to do in Tokyo with kids, your days will undoubtedly be full! I highly recommend having at least 10 days to truly explore the city without rushing.  We could have easily spent a few more weeks and still not see it all!

One day, we went to Tokyo Dome City to an awesome indoor playground called Aso Bono.  This is one of the best indoor playgrounds we have been to and a must do with young kids. They have a huge area with a ball pit, slides and a climbing structure.  Then, there are separate rooms with themes. There’s a huge room with trains and cars, another with a restaurants and kitchen, a supermarket, game room, library and many others.  It’s bound to keep your kid busy for hours!  In the summer months and on popular days, they charge by the hour. You pay for the hour and then pay the remaining balance when you leave. On less popular days, you can buy a day pass, which is a much better value!  There are a ton of things to do in this area, including a small amusement park, so you can easily spend half a day here and not run out of things to do.

AsoBono1Asobono2AsoBono3AsoBono4AsoBono5

Another fun place to explore is the Tokyo Character Street, located in the Tokyo Station.  We explored this area while staying at the Marriott, since this hotel was closest to Tokyo Station and we didn’t want to make a special trip just for it.  There are many stores here, each with a different character theme.  Milana loved seeing them all, especially the Hello Kitty store which seems to be everywhere in Tokyo!

CharacterStreet1CharacterStreet2

Also while at the Marriott, we went to Disney Sea.  Tokyo station has a direct train that takes you to the parks, so we decided to go from this hotel.  While it was nice to see, we weren’t impressed. It’s honestly nothing spectacular and I much prefer our parks here in CA.  If you’re a huge Disney fan, by all means go. But we would totally skip it next time we went.   Here in the US parks, the character lines are well controlled and an orderly line is formed. In Tokyo, there is no order and these people will stab you just to get in front of your small child.  The Japanese people are some of the most polite people you will ever encounter on your travels, but all bets are off at Disney! We took one character photo and decided losing a limb wasn’t worth it since we have them here at home!

Disney1Disney2

We spotted these girls walking around in their beautiful kimonos and asked if Milana can take a picture with them. They were really nice and posed with her. I love their outfits!

Disney3

One of the most popular snacks at Disney Sea is the popcorn. Each cart has a different flavor and a different bucket to choose from. We tried a few and gave up, none were good and the lines (like 45 minutes long at each cart, even water carts!) weren’t worth it. We will stick to our traditional popcorn!

Disney4

The best part of Disney Sea is Mermaid Lagoon. It was great because it’s all indoors, away from the heat.  They had some of the same rides we have (though their jumping jellyfish is completely different!) and the mermaid playground was fun for Milana to explore.  We also saw a show here in the theater.

Disney5Disney6

The main snack I wanted to try was the little green men mochi.  I gave up hope after seeing the lines for snacks all over the park, but was delighted to spot a cart with these and no one in line! We got two orders to start with, and ended up ordering 3 more! These are amazing, each one filled with a different flavor (strawberry, vanilla or chocolate).  We also had shaved ice from Sultan’s Oasis.  I chose strawberry and Milana chose Asian pear.  And we also tried the Sultan’s sundae.

Disney7

On your way out of the park, stop by the snack store.  They sell so many different snacks, you’re bound to find something you like!

Disney8Disney9

We took the monorail to the park and the details were so cute! The windows were Mickey shaped and had characters on them and the handles had Mickey ears. Super cute! Though I must say, how tacky of Disney to charge to ride their own monorail from their own hotels to their own parks.  The short monorail ride cost more than the ride from Tokyo station to the parks!

DisneyMonorail

Another must visit is the Tsukiji Fish Market.  Many people go early to see the famous tuna action, but we weren’t about to wake up at 3am so we were happy to go walk around and eat at 9am.  There are a lot of vendors here, selling everything from fruit to snacks and everything in between. Milana loved this place and ate so much food! She is a very adventurous eater at just 5 years old, and will at least try something before declaring she doesn’t like it.  Her favorite was this fish with corn on a stick, she ate the entire thing! She also liked the tamagoyaki, a Japanese omelet. The vendor that sold these had a huge line of locals, so we had to try it. I wasn’t a fan, way too much sugar and something about sugar and eggs just doesn’t seem right!  They also had really good shumai, another thing Milana devoured! And shrimp, head and all, that she loved as well.  But the highlight was trying some fresh sushi. Milana ate the tuna roll all by herself, it’s safe to say it was her favorite! And of course, miso soup.  That’s the first thing she asked for when we landed and had it every morning for breakfast in Tokyo! Fishmarket1Fishmarket2FishMarket3FishMarket4

One of our favorite things to do when we travel is visit children’s museums. While Tokyo didn’t have the traditional one, they had something better-Kidzania!  This is one of our favorite places ever. Milana has been to the Bangkok and London one, and now Tokyo.  The premise here is really cool.  Kids get to try out real jobs and earn money while doing so.  Unlike others we have been to, Tokyo is really organized. You make appointments for places you want to try instead of wasting all day waiting in line.  Wednesday is English day but we went on a Sunday and she had no issue with the language barrier.  She is not phased by foreign languages (Bangkok wasn’t English speaking either) and jumped right into the activities without hesitation.  You have to reserve your time slot online for this location (they have morning and afternoon sessions), unlike other places we’ve been to. And you can use your Kidzania currency from other locations if you happen to have some left over, which we did from London. I highly recommend this if you have kids between 4-12 or so. It’s Milana’s favorite place and we are looking forward to the 3 upcoming US locations.

Kidzania1Kidzania2Kidzania3

As you can see from this video, the language barrier was no issue for her!

Of course, no trip with small kids is complete without checking out local playgrounds. Our Park Hyatt was located directly across Shinjuku’s Central Park, which had an awesome playground. They also have a splash pad area, but it wasn’t open when we went early in the morning.  If you only visit one park, check this one out!

Park1Park2

Another playground we stumbled upon was near the Andaz. Nothing spectacular, but enough to get some kid energy out!

Playground-2.jpg

One of the places that was a must on our list was Sanrio Puroland.  This is an indoor amusement park, about a 30 minute train ride from Shinjuku.  As you can guess by the name, it’s filled with Sanrio characters including Hello Kitty.  If you know the day you are going, you can buy cheaper tickets on deal sites online but we didn’t want to plan ahead so we just paid when we got there.  This place is great! They have rides, shows and an awesome restaurant with themed foods. I highly recommend it for Hello Kitty fans!  We honestly enjoyed this much more than Disney.

Puroland1Puroland2Puroland3Puroland4

While in Tokyo, we walked a ton! There are so many places to explore.  About a 20 minute walk from the Andaz hotel is the Tokyo Tower.  We walked over one morning to check it out.

TokyoTower

And just a few minutes from here, is the Zojoji Temple. We loved seeing this and exploring the grounds.  It’s not the most popular temple in Tokyo, but that didn’t bother us. We still enjoyed seeing it!  You can see the Tokyo Tower in the background, making for some great photos.

Zojoji2Zojoji3ZojojiTemple1

One thing you will notice when walking around Tokyo is the vending machines.  They are everywhere and you can buy pretty much everything in them, from water and soda to coffee and tea (hot and cold, red labels means it’s hot and blue cold), snacks and pretty much everything in between.

IMG_2937VendingMachine

One of the most popular areas of Tokyo is Takeshita Street.  It’s super crowded pretty much all the time, so keep that in mind before you drag a stroller here!  It’s in the famous Harajuku district, so you may see some dressed up girls while here.

Takeshita1

After seeing picture on Instagram of the famous cotton candy at the Totti Candy Factory, I knew we had to go! Just as expected, the line was out the door but moving fast. The cotton candy is huge and definitely photo worthy!

Takeshita2

Takeshita street is fun to walk around in, eat some yummy food and shop. This is a must see while in Tokyo!

Takeshita3Takeshita4

The Shibuya crossing is another must see while in Tokyo! Head to the 2nd floor of Starbucks for the best view.  This is the busiest crosswalk in the world, where all 5 sides cross at the same time. I’ve seen it on tv, but it was really cool to see in person!

ShibuyaCrossing

Malls are very popular in Tokyo and while we didn’t visit many, we did go to the Skytree one.  It had several levels, each one with a different theme.  It was fun to see and the best part was the train, which dropped you off in front of it so you don’t have to walk far to get to it.  This is a great place for a rainy day!

Skytree1Skytree2

Our favorite section of the city was Shinjuku, which was good because most of our hotels happened to be in or very near it! We walked so much around this section.  At night, you can see all the lights and they have some great dining and shopping options here!

ShinjukuShinjuku2Shinjuku3Shinjuku4

GETTING AROUND

Trains are the obvious choice of transportation. They are super easy to use (if you have google maps, it will tell you which train to take, where to transfer, fare, etc making it super easy) and conveniently located throughout the city.  We’ve seen the photos of people crammed into the trains, but we didn’t experience that at all. In fact, most of the time we took a train, it looked like this. Barely anyone in it (and we rode during rush hour from popular stations like Shinjuku and Tokyo).  Some people will tell you to buy the rail pass, but it made zero sense for us. The cost of the pass would have been so much higher than what we spent on trains in the days we were there! So keep that in mind before you buy a pass, the train rides are super cheap and kids are free (not sure how old but they never charged for our 5 year old) so the pass made no sense.

Train

We also used cabs quite a bit. Unlike in the US, cabs are regulated and the drivers are all professionals (dressed in suits!) and the cabs very clean.  But, you pay a hefty price for them though the convenience in many instance was worth it for us. In some train stations, you have to walk at least 20 minutes before you get to the actual train, so the cabs were a much better choice for us when we were going somewhere that was 10 minutes away.  Uber does exist in Tokyo, however they only have Uber black and their rates make the cabs look cheap so it’s not an option I recommend.

FOOD

Let’s face it, one of the huge reasons we travel is to eat some local food! Thankfully Milana is right on board with trying pretty much anything, so it makes traveling with her super easy.   In Shinjuku, there is a Din Tai Fung. We have one right by our house, but most of the Asian markets have different menus and Bangkok had the best mushroom dumplings I’ve ever had, so I was hoping for the same here. Sadly, Tokyo’s menu was different than the other Asian places and they didn’t have any mushroom ones. Still great though, one of Milana’s favorite restaurants! DinTaiFung

The Japanese love their sweets! You’ll find huge lines of locals at the bakeries and donut shops.  One place we went to had these cute cream/chocolate filled treats.

Bakery

And donut shops are pretty much everywhere.

Donut

IMG_2938

Taiyaki is also a must try. These are filled with all sorts of things from red bean to custard, but we chose the matcha one since we all love matcha.

Taiyaki.JPG

Some of the best shumai we had was in Tokyo. It’s one of Milana’s favorite foods and she ate most of them herself!

ShuMai

We also stumbled upon a dumpling place that was super cheap (less than $3/order!) and really good.

Dumplings

All restaurants have kid plates that are set menus, you can’t choose what you get.  Some were good (like the one at the dumping place) but some had chicken nuggets and other things she didn’t want so we stopped ordering them and she just ate what we ate.

KidPlate

Sushi is a must try in Tokyo! Super fresh and really good. Milana loved the tuna rolls, we were surprised to see her eat so much of it!

Sushi

One of the first things she asked for when we landed was miso soup.  She ended up eating it every day for breakfast!

Miso

For a really cool experience, you have to try Fu-unji for some great ramen.  This was a short walk from the Keio Plaza hotel, located in an alley.  You will see a line of locals (mostly business men) waiting to go in. Once you enter, you will see a vending machine where you purchase your food tickets.  When a seat opens up, you sit and hand them your tickets and get your ramen. Great concept and good food. I highly recommend it though be aware the wait can be long, especially if you are waiting for 2 or more chairs next to each other.

Ramen1Ramen2

Many restaurants are not located at street level, so you have to search for them.  Next to Keio Plaza, there are a ton of dining options inside the various office buildings. And, unlike other parts of Tokyo, these places are very reasonably priced! We found this awesome place where each plate was under $10. And it was one of our best meals in the city!

Steak

Starbucks in Tokyo is similar in many ways, but they do offer some different things.  This grape tea became available in their market September 1st and it was really good! They also have a lot of matcha sweets, unlike here in the US.

Starbucks2Starbucks

And, when you are tired of sushi and ramen, there are other options as well! Again, right next to Keio Plaza in an office building was one of the best Italian restaurants we’ve ever been to! Salvatore serves Italian food, great pizza included! After eating ramen, sushi and fish for a week, we were ready for some carbs and cheese and this place didn’t disappoint!

PizzaSalvatore

CHARACTER DINING

Tokyo is filled with themed cafes, so I made a list of ones to visit and off we went! One of the must sees on our list was Cafe de Miki which was Hello Kitty themed. It wasn’t as great as the official Hello Kitty Cafe in Bangkok, but still really cute and Milana loved it!

CafedeMiki1CafedeMiki2CafedeMiki3

The Keio Plaza is offering a mermaid themed sweets buffet until September 31st, so I knew we had to try it!

MermaidBuffet1MermaidBuffet2MermaidBuffet3MermaidBuffet4MermaidBuffet5

On Takeshita Street is the PomPomPurin cafe.  Expect a long line to get in! It’s super cute, with food that actually tastes good. Many themed cafes have cute food but it’s usually bland, but this one was surprisingly good!

PomPomPurin1PomPomPurin2

And two blocks from Takeshita Street is the Owl Cafe.  Now this isn’t a typical character dining place as their food options are slim, but it’s really the experience you’re going for. They have several owls you can see and hold. They’re very well taken care of and friendly. Milana loved seeing them!

OwlCafe

As you can see, Tokyo is an excellent destination with young kids! There is so much to see and do here. We love big cities and Tokyo is one of our favorites.  My best tip is to not rush through it. I know people try to cram several cities into a 2 week trip but Tokyo deserves at least 10 days on its own.  You will barely scratch the surface in that time!

Advertisements

19 comments

  1. I always love reading your posts just to see little Milana! Her t-shirt on the plane is so cool, and it’s obvious she had an amazing time in Japan. Did she enjoy the mochi? Some kids don’t like the taste. Park Hyatt looks fab, and with a free mini bar! I’ll remember to book here when I visit.

    Like

  2. Wow, Tokyo looks really fun! I guess I never really looked into all the things to do! There really is a lot for kids, but I would enjoy the Hello Kitty places as much as my daughter. And I would love to do Disney, even if I had to fight to see the characters. I’d have to try it! The food and treats look good, too. I need to give Tokyo a try!

    Like

  3. Isn’t Tokyo just incredible! We went there for the first time in February and totally fell in love! The ease of getting around was awesome – such an efficient train system. We also did Tokyo DisneySea and had an absolute blast! Your hotels looked beautiful to stay at. Can’t wait to go back to Tokyo one day to explore!

    Like

  4. I have always to go to Tokyo, it has been on my bucketlist for ages. I don’t have children but a lot of your ideas, look like a lot of fun and I would definitely try some of these as an Adult. The hello kitty soup looks crazy bit fun to eat.

    Like

  5. This is honestly the first blog post I’ve read about Japan that makes me REALLY want to go! We have three girls and they would absolutely LOVE the Hello Kitty room! The hotels sound amazing too- little things like early check in and late check out, and free minibar (say what?!) make such a huge difference when travelling with kids. Milana is a complete doll too, bet people in Japan loved her blonde hair!

    Like

  6. You seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed your visit to Tokyo. Your daughter looks so thrilled!! I would love to spend some time at the Tsukiji Fish Market and take a look at all the Hello Kitty themes, while licking some soft serve, of course. Cheers!!

    Like

  7. I also travel with kids and loved to read that there is so much to do with kids in Tokyo. I loved your hotel stay in Andaz and it is very great that you got 2 free nights in Hyatt. Lucky you! I loved the Tokyo Dome City as it is so colorful and kids would love to explore this place. Thanks for sharing and giving tips!

    Like

  8. All that yummy food and all those fun places to dine, Japan sure has a lot of unique things to do. I love Milanas endless enthusiasm, she’s so lovely! Bookmarking this post for future reference, definitely one of the best guide on Japan I have come across.

    Like

  9. Looks like you guys had an amazing trip to Tokyo! I had no idea there was so much to do for kids there. Makes me want to take my niece in a few years time when she’s old enough to travel

    Like

  10. To be honest, your trip looks like a great itinerary for adults too! I stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel but had no idea they had Hello Kitty rooms. So jealous!
    Looks like you had a great family trip 😊

    Like

  11. Very detailed indeed! I am sure Milana had loads of fun.

    Hey, you literally stayed for free in amazing places! How did you manage to have so many points? I saw that these hotels were way too expensive when compared to their branches in other countries! Just to add, we will be there in November. Although, I am an HH Honor Member, I don’t have enough for free stays now- Sad, I have used them up all!! ..
    Regarding the Shibuya crossing, I am going crazy just thinking about it.. haha.. Cant wait for November.. lol :D..

    Did you go to Kyoto too?

    Like

    • I have a ton of points for all hotels from credit cards. We don’t like paying for hotels so we find ways to travel for free! Marriott is the best redemption wise but I had two free Hyatt certificates and it would have been a shame to not use them at places that cost as much as the ones in Tokyo.

      And no, we wanted to focus on Tokyo instead of rushing around from place to place so we just stayed there for this trip. Still not enough time, we missed so much!

      Like

  12. We loved Tokyo and I definetly need to go back there soon! The Shinjuku hotel for under $100 sounds like a great bargain! We found it so hard to get anywhere decent so will definitely check this hotel out!! The Park Hyatt looks fantastic too! As a big kid, I will be heading back and visiting Disneyland and DisneySea!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s