Tokyo is a great city to visit with kids as it has lots of child-friendly attractions, but at the same time a horror to move around with kids because of the crowd and complicated train system. Transfers between different train lines within a station sometimes require a walk of more than 600m and climbs up and down stairs, which is pretty tiring with kids and strollers involved. Hubby and I have been to Tokyo so many times I lost count before we had kids, so we felt confident to bring the kids to Tokyo free & easy.
As usual, I prepared a list of places to visit before the trip and decided to play by ear when we reached. Free & easy travel to Tokyo requires a lot of preparation beforehand, you need to figure out the train route between places, particularly between your accommodation and the place you want to visit, and Hyperdia is your best friend.
For this trip, we stayed at the brand new hotel, Centurion Hotel Grand Akasaka. It turned out to be a fantastic choice!
Here is our itinerary:
Day 1: Narita Airport -> Asakusa -> Tokyo SkyTree -> Hotel (near Tokyo station)
From Narita airport, we used the cheapest way to get to central Tokyo via the Keisei main line (1000 yen). It took about 80 min to get to Ueno.
After dropping our luggage off at our hotel, we took the metro (Ginza Line) to Asakusa. Note that at Asakusa station, there is no escalator/elevator from the platform and you need to climb stairs, carrying any luggage and stroller etc.
The first place we visited was the famous Asakusa Kannon Temple.
Then we went for some yummy sushi at our favourite sushi joint, Maguro Bito (まぐろ人）, located along Shin-Nakamise shopping street (the covered walkway of shops perpendicular to the row of souvenir shops leading to Asakusa Kannon Temple).
The sushi chefs were so friendly and kept playing with MF, putting our orders on the conveyor belt and asking him to grab them when they came along, and MF thoroughly enjoyed his sushi meal!
After dinner, we proceeded to the Tokyo SkyTree. It was a short train ride from Asakusa via the Toei Asakusa Line, but because we were so full from dinner, we decided to walk there. The walk was long and boring, I think taking the train would have been a much better idea. We did not go up to the observation deck because it was freaking expensive (2000 yen per adult). We just walked around to see the winter illumination and did some shopping.
To get back to our hotel near Nihombashi station, we took the Hanzomon Line from Oshiage to Mitsukoshimae and transferred to the Ginza Line. The transfer between the lines at Mitsukoshimae was a looooong walk (about 600m).
We stayed at Pearl Hotel Yaesu, as it was the cheapest hotel we could find within a short walk to Tokyo station. However, the rooms were tiny and not meant for families. Anyway it was just for one night, so we beared with it. We were going to take a train out of Tokyo station the next morning and wanted to be near the station because we knew having to take a train to Tokyo station in the morning, with kids and luggage in tow, would be a nightmare.
Day 2: Tokyo -> Odawara
We were going to Odawara to get our rental car for the self-drive part of our vacation to visit Hakone and Mount Fuji region. From Tokyo station, we contemplated whether to take the shinkansen (bullet train) which took 35min and costs 3440yen, or local train which took about 80 min and costs 1450yen. We were not in a hurry so we opted for the latter.
Day 5: Odawara -> Machida -> Sanrio Puroland
From Odawara, we took the Odakyu line to Machida. We chose to stay here for one night because it was somewhere mid-point between Odawara and central Tokyo and a short train ride to Sanrio Puroland.
Our original plan was to reach Sanrio Puroland at 3pm as they had a special discount coupon for entry after 3pm on weekends. But moving around with the kids and luggage took much longer than expected and we only arrived at 4pm. The park closed at 6pm, and with long queues for attractions (it was a public holiday when we were there), we did not do much. We only went for the Sanrio Character boat ride, My Melody car ride, Lady Kitty’s House, Kiki & Lala’s Starlight Journey and watched a little bit of the parade.
Lady Kitty’s House:
Kiki and Lala’s Starlit Journey:
After the park closed, we went for dinner at one of the many restaurants above Mitsukoshi department store nearby.
Our hotel was Hotel Resol Machida. It was a short walk from Machida station, which was a bustling place, with department stores, 24 hour supermarket and many eateries.
Day 6: Machida -> Odaiba
We continued on the Odakyu line to Shinjuku, dropped our luggage off at our hotel, and went to Odaiba. To get to Odaiba, we took the Ginza Line to Shimbashi and transferred to the Yurikamome Line. If we did not have to drop off our luggage, we could have taken the Rinkai Line from Shinjuku to Odaiba direct.
The first place we visited at Odaiba was Venus Fort.
We went to the Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise, where MF went for a ride on the Hello Kitty train.
[Update: Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise at Venus Fort Odaiba is no longer in operation. It closed on 23 March 2014. (Information souce)]
Besides the train, there were some smaller Hello Kitty kiddy rides and a play area. The play area had a ball pit with some costumes for dress-up but I doubted there were anything for boys, so we passed.
There was a small rest area next to the play area with drink and crepes sold, if you want to sit back and have a snack while watching the kids play.
We continued shopping around Venus Fort and found a super fun Lego shop. They had a Duplo play area for babies and toddlers, and tables with Lego bricks for older kids. MF and MY had so much fun at the Duplo play area.
Next, we walked over to Decks Tokyo Beach to visit the Tokyo Trick Art Museum. The museum was much smaller than the one we visited in Jeju, but we had fun posing around (and making the kids pose around) anyway.
There were other interesting places to visit at Decks, such as Legoland Discovery Centre (this shall be KIVed until the kids are older and our Legoland Malaysia annual pass has expired) and an indoor playground similar to Singkids (it was located right outside the Trick Art Museum and costs 400 yen for 20 min or 700 yen for unlimited play).
It was getting late, so we didn’t let the kids play and went straight for the illumination.
We wanted to go to Diver City to see their illumination and the giant Gundam, but when we got stuck at a long flight of stairs and couldn’t find any escalator or elevator at the exit of Decks going towards Diver City, we gave up.
On the Yurikamome line back, we dropped off at Shiodome station to check out the illumination at Caretta Shiodome.
Then we walked from there to Shimbashi station to catch the metro back to our hotel.
Day 7: Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise
We took a side trip from Tokyo to Yokohama to visit the Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise. Getting to Hakkeijima from central Tokyo was pretty challenging as Hyperdia churned out results based on the shortest travelling time, but with many transfers. Since we were not in a hurry, we took the slower route via JR Keishin-Tohoku/Negishi Line which can be boarded at Ueno / Akihabara / Tokyo / Shinagawa (just to name a few major stations) and goes to Shin-Sugita in about an hour without any transfers. At Shin-Sugita, we transferred to the Seaside Line for Hakkeijima.
Hakkeijima is an island that houses the Pleasure Land (an amusement park), the Aqua Resorts (consisting of the Aqua Museum, Dolphin Fantasy, Umi Farm and Fureal Lagoon), a hotel, shops and restaurants. It is free of charge to walk around the island, but if you want to take the rides of Pleasure Land or visit the Aqua Resorts, you need tickets. There were combination tickets available, but since we were not planning to take any rides, we only bought the Aqua Resorts Pass.
First, we visited the Aqua Museum. It is a typical aquarium, nothing to really shout about.
The highlight of the Aqua Museum was the very entertaining live show.
For lunch, we went to the restaurant right outside the Aqua Museum which served pretty cute kids meals. MF picked a crab-shaped pancake from the menu.
Next, we headed for the Dolphin Fantasy. There were so many dolphins swimming around the tunnel!
Dolphin Fantasy is also home to the biggest fish I have seen in my life.
Then we went to Umi Farm, which is an area for kids to do fishing. We weren’t interested in fishing, so we just walked one round to see people fishing and left. Just outside the Umi Farm was a Sea Boat attraction where you could take a dolphin-shaped boat out to the water and ride it among swimming dolphins. MF kept requesting to ride on it, but there was a minimum age requirement of 3 years old to ride, so we passed. (Didn’t take a photo of it, here is a picture from the brochure.) It is not part of the Aqua Resorts and hence not included in our Aqua Resorts pass, but it is part of Pleasure Land.
We headed for the Fureal Lagoon, which was open air (in contrast to the Aqua Museum which was indoors). Here, you are able to get close enough to the dolphins to touch them. However when we were there, the dolphins did not swim up to the edge so we couldn’t touch them.. Bummer. But MF got to touch a penguin.
With that, we completed our visit of all 4 attractions of Aqua Resorts and started the long travel back to Tokyo. Frankly, I didn’t think it was worth the time and money to make this side trip from Tokyo. It took about 1.5 hours to get there, which meant 3 hours in total on the train for the return trip. The transport itself cost about 1000yen per way, so for 2 adults, the return trip cost about 4000yen in total. And that didn’t even include the entrance tickets yet. I would rather have spent the day at DisneySea, or if it was an aquarium we were after, the Sunshine Aquarium at Ikebukuro would have saved us a lot of time and money on transport.
The Seaside Line is worth a little mention. There were posters on the train boasting beautiful scenery in spring, with views of cherry blossoms, and views of Mount Fuji from certain points of the ride on clear days. We were there in autumn and there were beautiful autumn colours along the way.
If you complete your visit of the Sea Paradise early, you can also drop by Mitsui Outlet Park Yokohama Bayside for shopping. It is 5 minutes walk from Torihama station along the Seaside Line, between Shin-Sugita and Hakkeijima.
Day 8: Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland needs no introduction, and a quick google will produce tons of photos of what to expect, so I shall keep this short and let pictures do the talking.
The only thing I want to mention, is if you are taking the Marunouchi Line to Tokyo station to transfer to JR Keiyo Line for Maihama, during the transfer at Tokyo station, the walk is crazy long. When you exit Marunouchi line and walk towards the entrance for JR lines, there is a direction sign that asks you to turn right for Keiyo Line before entering the JR gates. If you have a stroller or luggage with you, don’t follow that sign, because there is a long flight of stairs ahead. Plus the walk is via a long corridor of nothingness. Instead, get your JR ticket and go through the JR gates first, then follow the signs inside for Keiyo Line. This way, you can avoid climbing stairs and there are tons to shop and eat along the way.
And presenting, Tokyo Disneyland.. The most awesome and happiest place in Japan!! (At least for the kids.)
We are suckers for Mickey-themed food!
A month before turning 3 years old, MF went on his first roller coaster ride!
If you are there on your own and not restricted by tour group timings, make sure you stay for the night parade and fireworks! (The fireworks was cancelled because of bad weather when we were there.)
Day 9: J-World Tokyo
This was an unplanned part of our visit. We were actually planning to visit Tsukiji market in the morning, but while we were in Tokyo, we saw a variety show on TV introducing the newly opened J-World Tokyo, an anime theme park. MF and MY knew nothing about Japanese anime, it was more for the parents. I am a huge anime fan and it was what got me interested in Japan and travelling to Japan so often in the first place. J-World was located at Sunshine City near Ikebukuro station, an area I knew well enough since I have been there umpteen times to shop at the Animate main store. So off we went!
If you are a fan of One Piece, Dragon Ball and Naruto, this is the place for you. The attractions were not suitable for young toddlers and babies, so I only bought admission ticket while hubby bought a passport to go and try out all the attractions (which he says were kind of boring). I found a nice little play area to keep the kids entertained while waiting for hubby.
There was a One Piece carousel and a boat ride that MF could ride. The carousel did not require MF to have a ticket of his own, but the boat ride did. So we only let MF ride on the carousel.
MF also spent some time playing free Dragonball arcade game.
And then it was all about taking photos. There were carnival games at each anime’s booth, where you could win prizes of anime-related character goods. I am way past the age of collecting anime character goods, so we just went around taking photos. Even though they knew nothing about these anime, the kids had fun posing along anyway.
And my favourite photos of the day:
There was also a character walkabout and the staff played their part in cosplaying:
And there are the shops selling anime-themed food and souvenir store with anime-themed confectionery.
After the visit, it was back to our hotel to collect our luggage and to the airport for our flight back to Singapore. We wanted to take the cheap Keisei train back to Narita Airport, but once again, moving around with the kids and luggage had its delays. At Ueno station, we stopped for MF to grab some panda bread. (MF is fan of all things panda.)
By the time we got to the Keisei Ueno station, we were running late. So we paid for the expensive Skyliner to get us to the airport quickly as we did not want to risk missing our flight. It was a blessing in disguise, because MF decided he needed to pee and MY decided to poo while on the train. The Skyliner train was equipped with a toilet that had baby seat and diaper-changing table.
The kids enjoyed the expensive but comfortable train ride, and the train conductor did not care that MF occupied a seat without a ticket.
At Narita Airport, after checking in and clearing customs, the kids played at the Children’s Playroom while hubby did some last minute shopping until it was time to board the plane.
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Read about our second visit to Tokyo with kids!
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