Visiting Tokyo without knowing Japanese can seem scary. Luckily their hospitality coupled with most people speaking English makes getting around easier. There are so many things to do in Tokyo for adults and children. Many things on this list will be child-friendly since a six-year-old was my travel buddy. Tokyo is of course one of the most popular destinations in Japan and you’ll easily find it as part of many Japan tour packages.
1. Ueno Zoo
Before you skip over the zoo idea because you’ve been to zoos in other cities, I’ll urge you to reconsider. Ueno Zoo is home to over 400 different animal species including the rare Giant Panda. The zoo itself is enormous in size, spanning almost 27 football fields. Casually exploring all the different paths and sections will take at least half a day. There is food, benches to take a break, and shade if you’re concerned about any of that.
However, the reason Ueno Zoo needs to be on your list of things to do in Tokyo is because of the activity level of the animals. Having been to a dozen zoos around the world, I can say confidently these are the most active animals I have ever seen. At most zoos, the animals just lay around. In Tokyo, the tiger and lion enclosures are directly next to each other, and that creates a lot of roaring and jumping around. The polar bears were exploring their area as if it was a new habitat, the monkeys were cleaning each other, and the red pandas looked like they were playing tag. All the animals looked delightfully happy, something I had never seen in a zoo.
2. Harajuku Fashion District
Known for its outrageous cosplay adorned clientele you’ll certainly have a lot to look at in Harajuku. Harajuku is a neighborhood, the main street you need to find is Takeshita Street. Spend your day in vintage clothing stores, themed shops, and trendy cafes. You’ll see platform shoes so high it will make you nervous and hair that matches every color of the rainbow.
3. Kawaii Monster Cafe
Creepy cuteness exploded into a bizarre restaurant that can’t be missed. You’ll pay a cover charge just to enter this wildly popular restaurant. Do not be shy about taking some time to walk around. You paid for the experience, by all means, enjoy it.
At some point during your meal, there will be a massive rush to the rotating stage. Grab your purse and head over to see the show. If you are traveling with a child encourage them to volunteer to go on stage. During the performance, I attended there were 2 children chosen, one of which was my daughter Jefri. The dancing left a lot to be desired, but the memory was priceless.
If you are traveling with a child or have a child at home anxiously awaiting a gift, KiddyLand is your answer. Floor after floor is filled with original Hello Kitty items, classic Peanut memorabilia, practical lunchboxes, and everything in between. The Harajuku location is the largest, but there are multiple KiddyLand throughout the city for your shopping pleasure.
Kidzania is a chain of child-centered cities around the world. Children earn money when they participate in different employment activities. My daughter and her friend worked at a radio station, served up soft serve ice cream, practiced some veterinary medicine, and became laboratory technicians. They are able to deposit their earnings into a bank or spend the money in the gift shop.
My daughter attends a full-time Japanese language immersion school and is fairly fluent. If your child is not familiar with Japanese than Kidzania would be difficult for them to participate in. It is an extraordinarily well-organized activity and I highly recommend any parent find a Kidzania on their next travel adventure.
6. Tsukiji Fish Market
Early morning is hopping with activity at the Tsukiji fish market. Deliveries of exotic fish are super fun for kids to watch. Interspersed between fresh food vendors you will find clothing, decorations, and souvenirs for sale. Virtually any restaurant you come across will be serving the freshest seafood you’ll ever consume. Be careful when crossing streets because forklifts are quiet and do not give pedestrians the right of way.
7. Hamarikyu Gardens
A trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without visiting a real-life Japanese Garden. Hamarikyu Gardens needs to be on your list of things to do in Japan. Aside from being a large classic Japanese garden it is also perfectly situated between the fish market and Tokyo Sky Tree. Just a short walk from the fish market you will arrive at the beautiful Hamarikyu Garden. As you walk around you’ll find wild felines, graceful cranes, and happily chirping birds. Inside the garden, there is a pier with a water taxi that without delay transports you to Tokyo Sky Tree.
8. Tokyo Skytree
Since 2010 Skytree has been the tallest tower in the world. Seeing an architectural marvel in person is unquestionably breathtaking. While you are there you should, in fact, take the time to ride up to the observation deck. Views from the observation deck are in truth, one of a kind.
There are multiple activities and most importantly photo opportunities on the observation level. As a very busy tourist destination, you will need to be patient while you try and capture a lifelong memory photograph. Make sure your lighting isn’t creating shadows over your face not to mention your rushing isn’t capturing blurry photos. You will be thankful in the long run that you took your time for once in a lifetime photographs.
One thing I like to do in foreign countries is test out American chain restaurants so as to compare how they are different. Like most foreign countries I have visited the Japanese Starbucks do not accept the mobile application for payment. Additionally, they have far fewer syrup options, such as no peppermint flavoring. They way they handle ordering soy milk in your coffee is quite unique. While they are taking your order for a soy drink you are handed a coaster size piece of cardboard indicating soy milk. Once your drink is completed you hand the coaster to the barista so as to ensure they did, in fact, make your drink with soy milk. The barista verbally confirms that without a doubt they did indeed make that drink with soy milk. All in all it is a great check and balance to ensure your coffee drink is made correctly.
I would never suggest a tourist to America waste a meal time at McDonald’s while visiting. However, American tourists in other countries probably find it fun to give international McDonalds a try. Can you taste the difference? Absolutely. Meat quality is in fact so plainly obvious that it makes you never want to eat at an American McDonalds again. Food standards in every civilized nation are indeed more strict than America. Happy Meal toys are equally low-quality compared to the American versions. For the ultra-adventurous, you can order the Korokke burger which has breaded mashed potatoes filled with shrimp, macaroni, shredded cabbage, and katsu sauce.
11. Eat at 7-11
In America, we equate 7-11 with 24/7 availability of packaged snacks and lottery tickets. Shockingly in Japan, you can pick up a variety of delicious food-on-the-go options. Try a teriyaki platter or musubi rice ball filled with tuna. Being a tourist means sometimes having to catch a train or do back to back activities thus not having time to sit down for a meal. In Japan surprisingly you can make 7-11 a real contender for lunch.
12. Nara Deer Park
Day trip alert! The Nara Deep Park is actually a two and a half train ride outside Tokyo, but it is a must see. These free roaming deer are hungry. Make sure you don’t wear any loose clothing or carry too many personal objects such as large purses or backpacks. Bring yen to purchase deer crackers from vendors to hand feed the deer. As you hold out a cracker the deer will bow their heads to you before accepting the cracker. This is undeniably worth the train ride outside of things to do in Tokyo.
The deer can get quite aggressive so the first thing to remember is to be vigilant if you are bringing children. There is a dinner bell that rings around 5pm. The bell causes thousands of deer to stampede through the grassy areas up to the mountain sanctuary. The stampede is loud and happens in an instant. Don’t be in the middle of the field when the dinner bell is sounded.
13. Todaiji Temple
As long as you are visiting Nara you may as well walk over to the Todaiji Temple. Stop for soft cream during your stroll. Visiting historic buildings can give you an especially unique perspective about a location. The construction of the Todaiji Temple in the 8th century was to honor Buddha in the hope that he would protect Japan from disasters. In total, more than 2.6 million people contributed to the construction of this massive temple.
Inside the temple is a giant Buddha statue. A supporting beam of the temple has a hole in the base that is evidently the same size as the nostril of the Buddha. Tourists stand in line to wiggle themselves through the hole in the hope that doing so will bring enlightenment in their next life.
There are countless other attractions to visit in Tokyo. This list comprises the best things to do in Tokyo if you have a child traveling with you. Have you traveled to Tokyo? What were your favorite things to do in Tokyo?
About the Author: Veronica
Veronica is married and has two daughters. Her family currently resides in Oregon but is hoping for an international living experience soon. For 13 years her primary income has been through direct sales as a Pure Romance consultant. In recent years she has added in a vacation rental property, created an e-course, and began freelance writing. Follow
Veronica at her site Vacay Visionary and on Facebook & Instagram.