‘Did you know the tickets to Tokyo are 400 Euros?’ I say to my husband on the phone.
I am met with silence.
‘Are you serious, babe, Tokyo? We can’t afford Tokyo. With the two of them? I don’t know. Let’s talk about it later.’ He hangs up and I admonish myself for being silly.
He’s right. We can’t go to Tokyo. To Tokyo with kids. Let’s be serious. That even sounds weird.
Four hours later.
After extensive research – of Airbnb, blogs, TripAdvisor, etc… we realize Tokyo, Japan is not as expensive as we think. And is very family friendly.
‘We are going to Tokyo. As in Japan. With kids,’ I let the words slowly roll off my tongue, because I want to savor them. I need to let them out or I risk bursting from all the pent up excitement.
Our favorite things to do in Tokyo with kids:
We went. We explored. We fell in love.
Despite its size, there’s no chaos in Tokyo, it’s clean even though we couldn’t find a trash can anywhere. Apparently they removed them after the Tokyo Subway Sarin attack and never brought them back, at least not in such numbers as before.
The transportation runs like clock work, but the city is great for exploring on foot, even if you are pushing a stroller along.
If you are willing you can enjoy it on a budget and with kids in tow.
Catch a glimpse of the Imperial Palace and Gardens
In the center of Tokyo, but hidden from the view behind the moots and walls lies the home of the Japan’s Imperial Family.
The inner grounds of the palace are generally not open to the public, but there are some tours that let you come close enough.
As the title suggests, we didn’t do a tour. We just stole glimpses across the water and the mystery was enough.
Instead we spent more time resting in the shade of perfectly coiffed pine trees in the Imperial Palace East Gardens. Exploring a city as big as Tokyo, is hard work.
Be curious at the Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market is a wholesale market for fish, fruits and vegetables. If you want to observe the interesting tuna auction, then you should come to the market before 5 am and then hope you get the tickets.
5 am. Yes, in the morning.
This could’ve been done, on our first morning in Japan, since the jet leg made us get up at four. I said could’ve. Because we forced ourselves back to sleep.
We visited the market at a less interesting time, but it was still a sight to experience. The hustling and bustling. We walked around the stalls, often curious to try certain foods, sometimes not courageous enough.
Kidz add: It was so crowded we could barely move. I don’t want to try sushi and there were no sweets I could recognize. But Mum loves markets and she was so happy with her sushi, we tried to complain as little as possible.
Take a photo with girls dressed as maiko at the Sensoji Temple
I have learned that there are Geishas and Maikos and then there are girls who dress up like maikos. Even tourists can do it. And if real geishas and maikos are very busy, these fake maikos aren’t.
We spotted at them leisurely walking and enjoying Tokyo’s major sights, such as the incredible Sensoji Temple. They are also friendly and if asked nicely prepared to take a picture with you or let you take a photo of them.
Kidz interupt: Let me, let me. They were so beautiful. I kept pointing them out to Mum and Dad, until they finally realized that we wanted a photo of them. But one wasn’t enough.
And I wanted Mum to buy me a kimono, so I could dress up like this for school.
Oh, yeah the temple was nice too. But right next to it, is a playground.
Cross the street at Shibuja crossing.
Shibuja is one of the many unique districts in Tokyo. It is a vibrant center of youth fashion and culture.
All that aside, we have come there for the scene we have witnessed in many movies – the Shibuja crossing. I believe the many neon ads and video screens surrounding it, make this place visible from space. And we wanted to be among the people who cross it when the light turns green.
Kids add: I didn’t get it at first, walking up and down the same crossing, when we already walked for hours, but it turned to be fun.
Eat, eat and eat some more
Going in, the food was actually my major concern. The rest of the family, except me isn’t too keen on sushi.
What a great chance to realize, that there is more to Japanese food then mere sushi. The food in Japan is delicious – most of it, and the kids love it. Well, let them speak for themselves.
Kids scream: Yeah. The noodles are the best.
But be careful when getting an ice cream – I ended up with a red bean ice cream. That wasn’t good. But there was Mum and she gave me hers. Then she pretended to like mine. She lasted less than a minute.
Here is more on the delicious food.
Be stunned at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
If you want to get an idea on how huge Tokyo is, head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and get to the top. It is free and it offers some of the best views of Tokyo. The view will make you stutter.
And the kids? Well, trust them to spot a playground from up high. One we had to go give it a try as soon as we got down.
Trying out Japanese playgrounds
We basically had to stop at almost every playground we came across. I am not complaining because it gave the two of us a chance to relax and make further plans. Kids, had their fun and were then more willing to do keep exploring.
Learning at Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine next to Yoyogi Park, making a lovely green oasis in the middle of the city. Beside being a beautiful and tranquil place to visit, it was also our first chance to learn about proper behavior.
Kids were fast learners. They especially enjoyed the so called purification fountain located near the shrine’s entrance.
You are supposed: ‘To take one of the ladles provided, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. You are not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth or swallow the water.’ More on the great site: Japan Guide.
Plan to come back for more one day
That one speaks for itself. Tokyo and Japan both stunned us and left us yearning for more. So some day, we are coming back.