Japan may not immediately spring to mind for family holidays, but is actually a great destination for families with kids both young and old, as this hand-picked selection of fun and fascinating family-friendly Japan tours shows.
Japan is a very safe, child-friendly country with a very relaxed and tolerant approach to families with children, as well as plenty of fun and memorable sights and activities - from hearty food and high-speed trains to theme parks and anime/manga galore - to keep both children and parents alike amused and engaged for days at a time.
ViaJapan Holidays: Family Holidays to Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka)
This self-guided, nine-day tour offers oodles of activities for families and their children to enjoy in Japan, from visiting the renowned Tokyo Disney resorts to kimono-wearing and arts and crafts activities.
The tour costs £2,654 pp based on 2 adults and 1 child sharing. The price includes non-direct economy class flights as well as daily breakfasts, bullet train tickets, two-day passes for Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea, a full-day tour to Nikko and Edo Wonderland theme park, and half-day tours of Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara.
The tour strikes a great balance between thrill seekers and culture vultures. While there are sure to be thrills and excitement aplenty for the kids on the days spent at the theme parks, there is no shortage of intellectual stimulation for the parents, with key historical and cultural sites in the three major cities visited ticked off.
For more information and to make an enquiry see www.viajapan.co.uk
Inside Japan: Mountains & Culture Family Activity Holiday
Get stuck into Japanese outdoors and culture with this hands-on family activity holiday, which takes in the must-visit cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka as well as the beautiful alpine scenery of the Japanese Alps. This 12 nights self-guided adventure kicks off among the bright neon lights of Tokyo with a private half-day tour to visit the famous Studio Ghibli Museum, home to hosts of beloved Ghibli characters from animations such as Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and more.
From here the Japanese Alps beckon: follow in the footsteps of the samurai and ninja as you explore Matsumoto’s “Black Crow” castle, one of the best-preserved of Japan’s original castles, and try your hand at soba noodle-making class. A scenic bus ride across the alps brings you to to Hida Takayama, where there is the chance to peruse the town’s traditional merchants’ houses, craft shops, and markets, and venture into the countryside for a leisurely guided bike ride past farms and rice paddies.
The tour concludes with time in Kyoto - traverse the endless tunnels of red shrine gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine and make some noise in a taiko drumming lesson - and Osaka - gawp at the ocean giants in their tanks at the aquarium and swing a sword in a tatedo (wooden sword fighting) lesson. Prices from £7,350 for a family of four (based on two adults, one teenager and one child aged 6-11).
Intrepid Travel - Japan Family Holiday
Grab the family and embark on an intriguing exploration of Japan. The journey starts in Tokyo: feast on market-fresh sushi, belt out a tune at karaoke, try your hand at calligraphy, and cook your own okonomiyaki on a Tokyo Bay boat cruise.
In Hakone, bask in the soothing waters of an onsen (hot spring) - the perfect antidote to a couple of days hot-footing it around the big city - and visit the Karakuri secret box museum for a head-scratching challenge sure to keep the kids entertained (and maybe even quiet!) for a few minutes. From here, grab a bullet train to Kyoto - fast, fun, and futuristic, it’s an unmissable Japan experience, and sure to be a thrilling ride for the whole family.
In Kyoto, many adventures await: go geisha-hunting, meander through Fushimi Inari Shrine’s red shrine gate tunnels, grab a bite to eat at Nishiki Food Market, get pleasantly lost in Arashiyama’s photogenic bamboo grove, visit nearby Hikone Castle, and more. The 11-day tour costs from £2,457 pp.
For more information and to see available tour dates, visit www.intrepidtravel.com
JTB - Anime and Manga World
This is the perfect tour for families with older children or teenagers who have fallen in love with the world of Japanese manga and anime. They’ll get to visit the Studio Ghibli museum in Tokyo as well as see the places outside Tokyo that inspired the stunning scenery and artwork in many of anime film director Hayao Miyazaki’s iconic masterpieces.
After the museums and some all-important shopping time in specialist merchandise shops such as Mandarake and the Pokemon Centre, follow in the footsteps of Miyazaki on a tour of some of the locations that inspired settings in Studio Ghibli animations, such as the family’s house in My Neighbour Totoro, the bathhouse in Spirited Away, and the floating castle in Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
And parents in tow needn’t despair, for there’s plenty too to keep escorting parents engaged and amused, from elegant old temples and shrines such as Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto and beautiful lantern-lit Kasuga Shrine in Nara, to a handful of castles, a traditional handicraft center in Kyoto, and even a pearl gallery in Tokyo. The 10-day costs from £1,665 pp.
To learn more or make an enquiry see www.japanspecialist.co.uk/
The Dragon Trip - Family Tours of Japan
Plenty of stamina is needed for this fast-paced and wide-ranging 13-day family tour, which loops west from Tokyo and back again, passing through Kamakura, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka. On the way it not only covers the countless sights of all the major cities it passes through, but also includes something for all ages, allowing for energetic activity sessions as well as much-needed downtime (for the parents, if not for the kids!).
In Tokyo, in includes sushi-making and visits to teen culture havens Harajuku and Shibuya, a sumo wrestling school, and a cat cafe as well as a free day at Tokyo Disneyland. Then enjoy the giant Buddha and the temple trail in former medieval capital Kamakura and views of Mt Fuji and a scenic lake cruise on a pirate boat in Hakone before heading west to Kyoto.
Here, catch a glimpse of a geisha and get to know the local nightlife with an evening meal in lantern-lit Pontocho, visit Kyoto manga museum, and undertake a morning meditation session at a local temple. Then get active with hiking in the hills surrounding the town, a cycling tour of the Imperial Palace, and an okonomiyaki cooking class.
There is also a day-trip to riverside Arashiyama, where families can roam the paths of the Sagano bamboo forest, marvel at Tenryuji Temple’s stunning dragon ceiling, and get wet on a rafting adventure tour down the Hozu River. Finally, sample the food, entertainment and nightlife options in mega-city Osaka before heading back to Tokyo for flights home.
Japan Journeys - Japan Family Holidays Package
This package provides the holiday of a lifetime that parents and children alike will surely remember fondly for the rest of their lives. Its 12-night itinerary includes visits to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and the nearby island of Miyajima. The tour starts off in the ultra modern, buzzing metropolis of Tokyo with visits to traditional sites such as temples and shrines as well as the adrenaline-packed Tokyo Disneyland and the cute-filled Studio Ghibli Museum.
Then, using the Japan Rail Pass, take the lightning-fast bullet train to the west of Japan. Here families will visit Miyajima, home to the famous “floating” torii (shrine gate), considered one of Japan’s “three best views”. Make the most of the peace and quiet to explore the island after the day-trippers have gone home by staying overnight in a traditional ryokan (inn) with a delicious multi-course dinner included.
Finally, head to Kyoto, the classical former capital and cultural heartland of Japan, and spend a few days exploring the thousands of temples, shrines and gardens and dining on kyo-ryori, Kyoto’s famous haute cuisine. Prices start at £6,575 per family (2 adults and 2 children).
Responsible Travel - Japan Family Tour, Rural Adventure
This family holiday in rural Japan offers a deep insight into the culture and communities of the central Kansai region, from urban cultural delights in Kyoto to rural immersion in the village communities of Asuka and Sasayama.
It’s no secret that parents are happy when their kids are happy, and parents will enjoy watching their kids discover the many sides of Japan as they get hands-on with local culture, people (and animals!). There are plenty of family-friendly activities packed into the tour for both children and adults to enjoy, from feeding the free-roaming deer in Nara and Wadaiko drumming lessons to an outdoor cookery class with a local farming family using vegetables harvested together from their farm.
And that’s not all - families will also get to pedal round the picturesque countryside by bicycle, hike the tunnel-clad hills at Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, craft their own pottery and paper lanterns, hunt for Totoro in the whispering bamboo forests of Arashiyama, and imagine themselves transported back in time among the samurai houses in Sasayama. The tour is accompanied by a professional English-speaking local guide and costs from £2,080 pp.
For more information about travelling in Japan with kids and family-focused Japan activity ideas, visit www.responsibletravel.com
Imagine Asia - Family Holiday Ideas
Imagine Asia arrange 100% tailor-made itineraries for enthralling family holidays in the land of the rising sun, but offer ideas for several family tour ideas to get the imagination started, such as their “Japan in Depth” or “Great Cities &Mountains of Japan” tours.
"Japan in Depth" takes families on an exhilarating journey through the diverse and sometimes extreme contrasts of Japan’s many highlights, visiting Tokyo, Hakone, Takayama, Kanazawa, Hiroshima and Kyoto over 14 nights and costing from £4,000 pp.
Meanwhile, "Cities & Mountains" spends 14 nights touring Tokyo, Tsumago, Kyoto, Miyajima and the Japan Alps, with prices from £3,800 pp. It offers the perfect balance between the hustle and bustle of Japan’s populous cities, and the peace and quiet of some of its most picturesque old towns including Tsumago, Japan’s best-preserved Edo period post town.
Highlights of both tours include stop-offs at mountain town Takayama and coastal castle town Kanawaza, two of Japan’s most intact old towns, untouched over the centuries by either war or natural disaster. Enjoy cultural gem Kanazawa’s tea houses, samurai homes, gardens and art museums, and Takayama’s charming streets and merchants’ houses with its morning markets, sake breweries, and festival floats museum.
For more family Japan ideas see www.imaginetravel.com/