The question we most often get from friends or other parents is: how do you travel in Japan with kids? Is it kid-friendly? Is it safe? The answer is a little nuanced: yes, Japan is a kid-friendly country even for tourists. On the other hand, the other elements of travelling in a new country can be overwhelming. An unknown language and navigating jam-packed cities can often be stressful for new visitors.

Look, travelling with littles is always going to be a challenge, no matter where you go. This is the reality and this is the reason why we created this site. We want to share our experiences and tips on how to make travelling with kids an enjoyable experience.

Is it always easy? Definitely not. But sharing these experiences with children is a wonderful way to enrich their childhoods and make lifelong memories. If you plan on heading to Japan on your dream family trip, we’ve thought of 5 things you should know before you get there!

Is Japan Kid Friendly?

Yes, believe it or not, Japan is an extremely kid-friendly country to visit. A lot of people get intimidated by the large population and complicated train system. It can also be stressful to travel when you don’t understand the language. So perhaps a better way to phrase it is: Japan is an extremely kid-friendly country once you learn how to travel there!

Now, it should be noted that some very important things in Japan are not kid-friendly. Like what? Restaurants can be a challenge for sure (but don’t worry, we’ve got some tips on that too!). Some restaurants still allow smoking which usually means kids aren’t always welcome there. As well, a lot of restaurants in Japan have very limited seating so trying to get a table for four isn’t always possible.

Most tourists will need to take the local trains or subway to get around. Well, so do most locals! We’ll let you know exactly how and when to take the trains while travelling with your littles.

Other than that, most of Japan is very kid-friendly and quite honestly one of the more entertaining places for children. Everywhere you look you’ll find familiar sights like Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Super Mario, and Studio Ghibli. You won’t get very far in Japan without seeing some of these cute, animated characters and our kids love spotting them around town.

Travel in Japan With Kids: 5 Things to Know Before Your Trip

If you are stressed about bringing your kids to Japan, have no fear, we’re here to help! As a family, we’ve taken our children to Japan more than five times over the past few years, most recently in December 2023. You can read about our recent posts with our Pokemon Cafe Review and Ghibli Park Review from our most recent trip!

Before we get started, you are going to want to know the basics. First, get ready for a culture shock when you arrive in Japan. What does this mean? Japan can be a sensory overload for people and it’s easy to have all of your senses overwhelmed. Not only is it bright and loud, but the sheer number of people will also catch you off guard. This gets even more difficult when you have young kids with you!

So what do you need to know before your trip to Japan? After five trips over the past few years, here are the 5 tips we feel will help you the most!

1. Riding Trains with Kids in Japan

If you are visiting and travelling around Japan, chances are you’ll be taking some of its many train lines. Japan has one of the most complex and busiest train systems in the world. Shinjuku Station is the world’s busiest station with an estimated 3.5 million passengers travelling through it each day!

In Japan, there are multiple different train operators which can get a little confusing. There are also local city subway lines and of course, the world-famous Shinkansen bullet trains.

For subways and the everyday rail trains, you are going to want to avoid rush hour if possible. Especially in cities like Tokyo and Osaka where most people are trying to get to work. Waiting just thirty minutes past rush hour can provide a noticeable difference.

This is especially helpful if you are pushing a stroller onto the trains. Most trains have designated areas to park your stroller or stand with it. On the platform, just look out for a family or stroller icon which will indicate where you should board from.

Remember, there is no eating or drinking on most trains in Japan, so refrain from providing your children with snacks. Another tip is to know exactly which stop you will be getting off at and how many stops away that is. Oftentimes, trains will get densely packed, making it difficult to exit with kids or a stroller in tow.

Finally, when entering or exiting the platform you will want to note where the elevators are. Subway stations can have a lot of stairs to the surface and not all of them are equipped with escalators. Most platforms will have clear signs marking where the elevators are to get to the surface or for transferring to a different train.

2. Eating at Restaurants with Kids in Japan

This might just be one of the more stressful parts about travelling in Japan with kids. In North America, we’re used to restaurants with dozens of tables and plenty of seating for big parties. It’s the opposite in Japan. Many of the best, hole-in-the-wall restaurants seat only a few patrons and there certainly isn’t a lot of space for a family.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to sacrifice eating in these restaurants for a few years. One strategy is to go right when the restaurant opens or at off hours. We’ve been able to sneak into some tiny ramen restaurants with kids when nobody else is there!

So what’s the secret to eating at restaurants with kids in Japan? First, eating at most restaurants around mealtime can be a challenge. If you want a better overall experience without needing to wait, then try to eat during off hours. Eating lunch at 2:00 pm or dinner at 5:00 pm can help you beat the rushes. This is especially true if you are eating in an area where there might be a lot of office workers going for lunch or going for an after-work meal together.

Want to know another secret? If you want delicious food with ample space for families, check out the dining floors at the major department stores. These stores usually have two or three floors of dining that are reasonably priced and offer delicious options. Are you wondering which are the major department stores in Japan? Stores like Daimaru, Isetan, Mitsukoshi, Takashimaya, Hanshin, Hankyu, Seibu, and Tobu all have excellent options for family dining.

Finally, you can’t go wrong by going to eat at a local family establishment. Restaurants like Saizeriya and Lotteria have expansive menus and the food is pretty good too!

Here are some tips when approaching a restaurant in Japan when you have kids:

  • Always ask if they can seat a large group and specify how many kids you have. It’s always better to be forward and polite about it.
  • Offer to store your stroller outside the restaurant if they allow it. Most of the time they can provide storage of your belongings for you.
  • Ask if there is a kids’ menu. Many restaurants will have a kids’ option which is usually less than 1000 Yen and comes with a drink, a dessert, and often a toy.
  • If you need an English menu, you can ask for Eigo No Menu.

3. Nurseries and Kids’ Washrooms

If you are travelling with really young children, you will certainly want to take advantage of the nurseries in Japan. In North America and most of Europe, it is a chore to change or feed your babies in privacy. You can use a changing table but these are usually out in the open and cumbersome to deal with.

In Japan, most department stores and large train stations will have nurseries for mothers. Here, you can change your baby in peace and privacy, feed them in a private room, and even put them down for a nap. These nurseries are well-heated and often come with hot water kettles, microwaves, vending machines, and even snacks for parents. Many of them also have high chairs to feed older children and a sink to wash your dishes.

Many places will also have kid-specific washrooms which are an excellent way for them to learn some independence. There are child-sized stalls and urinals where parents can stand to help them if needed.

In many adult washroom stalls, there are also little seats that you can strap your young child into. This will keep them safe while you are using the toilet and ensures that they aren’t running around the stall while you do your business.

Japan is well-known for its bidets and musical toilets, but it does not get enough credit for the child-friendly washrooms. What can often be a stressful situation is made much easier by how considerate Japan is to parents of young children.

4. Konbiniya Foods and Children’s Snacks

Another thing Japan is well-known for is its konbiniya or convenience stores. With nearly 60,000 across the country, it’s hard to walk very far without finding a 7-Eleven or Family Mart or Lawson.

All parents know that the best way to keep kids going when travelling is to load them up with snacks or food. Luckily, with a convenience store always within reach, you will never need to wander far to find that food.

Whether it is an onigiri rice ball, a cup of noodles, or one of the many unique ice cream bars, these convenience stores have you covered! Our children love the lemon chicken karaage from Lawson!

If you want to try some more unique offerings, konbiniya also have, e dishes like oden or you can even make your own fruit smoothies. While we personally always grab a couple of onigiri when we can in case someone gets hangry, konbiniya are also good places to re-fuel with a hot coffee or one of Japan’s many different seasonal beverages.

Many konbiniya even have a clean washroom if you need to use one in an emergency! If you are going to travel in Japan with kids, trust us, you will be visiting your fair share of konbiniya during your trip!

5. Tickets and Reservations

One last tip we want to provide you with is to make sure you pre-purchase tickets and make reservations when you can. You have to remember that there are over 122 million people in Japan which makes lining up a regular habit.

But when you are visiting, you only have a limited time to experience things. You don’t want to miss out on something because you didn’t take the time to make a reservation ahead of time.

Visiting any major theme park or attraction usually requires you to make reservations ahead of time. This includes everything from USJ, Disneyland, Pokemon Cafe, and Studio Ghibli Park. Due to the popularity of these attractions, there is almost always a lineup and a long wait to get inside.

You might end up paying a little extra, but reserving tickets for these parks is well worth it. Pre-purchasing can save you an hour of lining up to buy the tickets at the gates. It can also gain you access to premium attractions like the Super Nintendo World at USJ. If you don’t pre-purchase access tickets to Super Nintendo World, you will need to be one of the first visitors inside USJ and reserve a spot with your mobile app. Trust us when we say these reserved times can run out and often you don’t even get a time slot to visit these attractions.

Reserving spots can also be a difficult task. It took us four times to try and get a reservation for the Pokemon Cafe before we went. Tickets go on sale for about thirty days ahead of your reservation date. They also go on sale at 18:00 PM Japan time which for us was 1:00 AM. Tickets sell out instantly so you have to be quick and lucky to get them!

Conclusion: How to Travel in Japan with Kids

We hope that you have found these tips helpful and can use them for your next trip to Japan. Learning how to travel in Japan with kids is an important part of enjoying your family holiday.

We know exactly how stressful travelling with little ones can be. But once you have some tips on how to eat, how to get around town, and even using the bathroom, things can be a lot more enjoyable.

Let’s think of this article as Part 1 in this series. We have plenty of more tips on how to travel in Japan with kids and other countries as well. Stay tuned for more travel tips coming your way!

If you enjoyed this post, leave a comment and let us know about any tips you might have when you pack your littles for a vacation!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Japan Good for Travelling with Kids?

Yes! Japan is safe and orderly and is extremely considerate of parents with young children. Japan has plenty of great restaurants, entertainment, and attractions for both children and adults. If there is one country in the world to take your littles, it should be Japan!

Is Tokyo or Osaka More Kid Friendly?

While both cities should be on your list to visit, we usually find Osaka is a bit slower-paced and laid back than Tokyo. Travelling around Tokyo can be hectic, while Osaka is a smaller city but still offers plenty for families to do.

Which Part of Japan is Kid Friendly?

Nearly every city in Japan is kid-friendly as the Japanese are extremely considerate of parents and young families. You’ll find plenty of kid-friendly attractions in the major cities like Tokyo Disneyland, Disney Sea, Universal Studios Japan, and Studio Ghibli Park.

Will Kids Enjoy Kyoto?

Kyoto is another city that is a must-see for families visiting Japan. It is rich in cultural history and provides a look into traditional Japan. With that being said, younger kids might not appreciate Kyoto until they are a bit older so keep that in mind before planning your trip there.