Home >> Itineraries,Japan Travel >> Tokyo vacation with kids (2++ year old and 11 month old)

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

> CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT OUR SELF-DRIVE AROUND HAKONE AND MOUNT FUJI REGION <

 

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.

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Lady Kitty’s House:

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Kiki and Lala’s Starlit Journey:

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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.

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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)]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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It was getting late, so we didn’t let the kids play and went straight for the illumination.

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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.

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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.

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The highlight of the Aqua Museum was the very entertaining live show.

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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.

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Next, we headed for the Dolphin Fantasy. There were so many dolphins swimming around the tunnel!

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Dolphin Fantasy is also home to the biggest fish I have seen in my life.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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We are suckers for Mickey-themed food!

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A month before turning 3 years old, MF went on his first roller coaster ride!

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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.)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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MF also spent some time playing free Dragonball arcade game.

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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.

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And my favourite photos of the day:

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There was also a character walkabout and the staff played their part in cosplaying:

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And there are the shops selling anime-themed food and souvenir store with anime-themed confectionery.

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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.)

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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.

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The kids enjoyed the expensive but comfortable train ride, and the train conductor did not care that MF occupied a seat without a ticket.

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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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That’s it for our action-packed vacation to Tokyo and its vicinity. The kids had tons of fun and you can be assured I will be back in Japan with the kids again!

Planning a trip to Tokyo with Kids?

We have compiled a list of family attractions in Tokyo and grouped them by area for easy planning! Check it out here:

Read about our second visit to Tokyo with kids!

In December 2015, we were back in Tokyo with the kids as part of a 15-Days road trip around Japan.

Visit our Japan Travel Blog!

Get more Japan travel guides & sample itineraries on our Japan travel blog!

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75Comments

  1. marina says:

    great trip, I envy you :-)
    great pics

  2. Judy says:

    Hi I really enjoyed your fun packed trip esp the fact that you had so much fun and activities despite bring your young boys along!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi. Thanks! I really enjoy travelling with the kids.. Too many parents lament about the inconvenience of bringing young kids on vacation, but I think they add a different experience to travelling.. I’ve been to Tokyo close to 10 times before having kids, but this trip was the most fun I had there.. Hopefully by sharing my fun experience I can inspire more parents to try vacationing with their kids.. After all they are only young (and oh-so-cute) once!

      • Ling Tan says:

        Hello Bumblebeemum. I agree with you, that travelling with kids are a wonderful experience. I love seeing how they grow and comprehend things around them, even at a young age!
        I wish your blog was around years earlier when I was breastfeeding my boys! Your blog is wonderful, and you must have touched many lives through it.

  3. […] Hotel rooms in Tokyo are notoriously small and expensive.  So we were pleasantly surprised when we checked into Centurion Hotel Grand Akasaka in November. […]

  4. […] But having two sons has never stopped me from dragging them with me to look for Hello Kitties in Japan, Korea and Johor Bahru.. […]

  5. […] ← Japan Hotel Review: Centurion Hotel Grand Akasaka (Tokyo) Tokyo vacation with kids (2++ year old and 11 month old) → […]

  6. Emma says:

    Hi bumblebee mum, I planning to go Tokyo with my little one in September. She will be 12 months by then. She is my first kid. Do you know if she will be able to go to osen? Any other tips on where i can bring her…not sure if she will be able to enjoy much

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The Japanese do bring their little babies to onsen, something pretty eye-opening for me! Just don’t let her soak too long, even us adults get dizzy after staying in an onsen for too long. And umm.. I don’t know what they do to prevent their babies from peeing or pooing in the onsen frankly. >_< Which onsen are you visiting? If you are headed to Hakone, you may want to bring her to Yunessun. It’s a great place for kids to enjoy onsen. I highly recommend doing a side-trip to Hakone / Mount Fuji region with the kids!
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/12/04/self-drive-holiday-with-kids-to-japan-hakone-and-mount-fuji-region/

      Tokyo is a GREAT place for kids!! I have been to Tokyo countless times and the most fun time was the trip with the kids. Tokyo Disney Resort, Sanrio Puroland, the aquarium at Ikebukuro just to name a few. There are many many more theme parks around Tokyo, your kid will not be bored there.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi bumble bee mum,

    Read your Japan trip with your kids. It looks really fun. I’m deciding to bring my girl, 6yrs n 3 yrs, to Japan this December. However this is the first time to Japan. Would hope that you can recommend some places where kids and adults will enjoy.

    Regards,
    Rachael

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Tokyo Disney Resort? You can spend 3 days there to go around the 2 parks!

      Other places in Tokyo that are great for kids include:
      Sanrio Puroland
      Legoland Discovery Centre
      Doraemon Museum
      Ghilbi Museum
      Tokyo Sea Life Park
      Sunshine Aquarium
      Ueno Zoo
      Tama Zoo
      Tokyo Fire Museum
      Tokyo Subway Museum

      In addition, because it’s winter, there are some great illuminations going on. I particularly like those at theme parks. You can go for rides among the illumintaion. The ones I know of reachable from Tokyo include:
      Sagamiko Illumillion
      Toshimaen
      Yomiuriland Jewellumination

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi ,
        Thanks for the suggestions. Will check out your recommended place for kids. However, plan changed. Beside the two kids, my hubby and I, my parents in laws will be going too. So need to factor in some shopping, onsen and Disneyland. Do you think a 6 days trip will be sufficient to cover all these? I heard that hotels are not cheap in Tokyo. Any recommended budget family hotels that are conveinent in terms of traveling?

        Thanks
        Rachael

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I guess in 6 days, you can spend 3 days at Disneyland and 3 days at Mount Fuji region for onsen. But you won’t have time for shopping then. Not sure what kind of shopping you are interested in? Shopping in Tokyo is not that cheap.

          Recently I read about this value for money hotel in Tokyo, APA Hotel & Resort Tokyo Bay Makuhari, by The Kam Family. You may want to check it out:
          http://www.thekamfamily.com/2015/07/best-value-hotel-in-tokyo.html

          • Anonymous says:

            Hi Bumblebee mum,

            Thanks for the advice. Will look into it and draft out an itinerary. Once it’s done, will need your feedback on it.

            Thanks again.

            Rachael

            • Rachael says:

              Hi Bumblebee Mum,

              I’ve drafted out my itinerary as follow:

              Day 1
              – Arrived at Tokyo, head for hotel (looking at Keio Plaza hotel), walk around the area

              Day 2
              – headed to Disneyland by hotel shuttle bus

              Day 3/4
              – check out hotel and head for Hakone(is it better to get those tour package for this or free n easy? If free n easy, how should I get there? If by tour package, any suggested one?).

              – Stay for 1 night. (Any suggested place to stay where it’s conveinent and has onsen? Any minmum age for onsen? Was thinking about my girls, aged 3 and 6)

              Day 4.
              – Head back to Tokyo. (would like to try out Shingansen. is it expensive??)

              – Check in hotel (Any suggested hotel in Shinjuku or shinuya?)

              – walk around the area nearby coz can’t estimate the time.

              Day 5
              – Visit Ueno fish market and the shrine at Asakusa and maybe shop around that area. (Any recommended kids place around this area??)

              Day 6
              – Shopping in Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harjuku

              Day 7
              – Depart for Singapore (depends on the flight)

              Hope this will work. Would appreciate if you could give me some feedback or input.

              Thanks.
              Rachael

              • bumblebeemum says:

                Firstly, it sounds like a lot of effort to go all the way to Hakone and just stay for 1 night. Hakone / Mount Fuji region is extremely beautiful (provided weather is on your side!) and I usually recommend spending at least 2 nights to increase your chances of seeing Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is often blocked by clouds and not visible, the longer your stay, the higher your chance of catching a non-cloudy day and seeing Mount Fuji. But I guess if you want to spend more time shopping and just want to spend a night to experience an onsen, 1 night would do.

                Joining a package tour may be a bit pricey for large groups. Would you be keen to self-drive? Self-drive would be cheaper for large groups. But if you want to self-drive, I would advise you to stay in the same hotel in Tokyo before and after your Hakone trip. Because 6 of you would not be able to fit into a single car with all your luggage. What you need to do is to just pack a small bag (one that you can just place on your lap if necessary) with 1 night’s worth of stuff for the side-trip, while leaving your large luggage cases with the hotel in Tokyo. This way you all can fit into a car.

                However if you still prefer to use the shinkansen, the price of shinkansen from Tokyo to Odawara is 3220 Yen per pax per way.

                As for minimum age for onsen, it’s really up to you. The Japanese bring their young BABIES into the onsen. No kidding, I saw it more than once. I personally only let my boy go when he was 3 years old and toilet-trained. I wouldn’t let my non toilet-trained kid into an onsen for obvious reasons.. LOL!

                Kids-friendly stuff at Ueno would be the Ueno Zoo. Btw, is there a fish market at Ueno? Or are you thinking of visiting Tsukiji fish market?

                As for Asakua, the shops leading up to the shrine are pretty interesting. I recently read this blog post by another blogger who visited Asakusa with her kids, the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre and the Good Will Guides.
                http://www.lifestinymiracles.com/2015/07/asakusa-sumida-and-odaiba-tokyo-japan/

  8. Soph says:

    Hello Bumble bee mummy,

    Thank you for your very detailed blog and I’m truly impressed by your knowledge (at your finger tips) and patience in answering everyone’s questions.

    I was tasked to plan a trip for our family to Japan next year (husband, myself and our 2 boys aged 9 and 6).

    And this is our 1st major trip overseas with our children.

    Disney land and maybe sea will be a must and I really would like to bring our boys to the Thomas Land as well.

    We have not really decided on how many days to spend in Japan. Would 8 or 9 days including flying from Singapore and back be sufficient? And other then the themed parks, we don’t really know what else to do with our boys in Japan since we can’t spend too long a duration in Japan.

    Do you think end November or early December is a good time to visit those theme parks mentioned above? Reason being, our older boy is already in Primary school therefore, travelling needs to follow the school holidays timings.

    If yes, should I get all the winter wear locally or just get some locally and some in japan?

    Apologies for my so many questions and we are not even discussing the itinerary yet.

    Looking forward to your good advise!

    Kind regards,
    csdb

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Haha.. I’ve been googling and devouring online information about Japan for more than 10 years now, I know exactly where to the answers. 😉

      The things about overseas vacations is, no matter how many days you have, they are never enough. You just got to work with the duration you have. Let’s say you have 8 days. You should spend 3 days at Tokyo Disney Resort. If you want to go Thomas Land, you should spend another 4 days in the Hakone / Mount Fuji Region. That pretty much leaves you with 1 day to explore something else in Tokyo. You can choose to go shopping, or visit a zoo, or visit a shrine, visit a rail museum, visit another theme park, depending on your interest. Let me know what you are interested in and I can share with you some places I know of.

      End November is an excellent time for Hakone / Mount Fuji region. Because it is autumn foliage season and the region is extremely scenic. I visited Hakone / Mount Fuji twice in late November. You can read more here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/12/04/self-drive-holiday-with-kids-to-japan-hakone-and-mount-fuji-region/
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2008/11/27/self-drive-holiday-to-hakone-mount-fuji-region-kawaguchiko-fuji-five-lakes-autumn-foliage-season/

      I like visiting theme parks in Winter because I don’t like standing in the heat while queueing for rides. (And boy, those queues at Tokyo Disney are crazy LONG!) You can read more about maximizing your time at Disney from these 2 posts by Life’s Tiny Miracles:
      http://www.lifestinymiracles.com/2015/07/diy-japan-maximising-your-day-at-tokyo-disneyland/
      http://www.lifestinymiracles.com/2015/07/tokyo-disneysea/

      The winter in Tokyo / Mount Fuji region is not as harsh as, say, Hokkaido. You are looking at 0 degrees at night around Mount Fuji. The winter wear in Singapore should suffice. You should get them in Singapore so that you don’t waste time in Japan going around looking for winter wear and struggling with language barrier.

      • Soph says:

        Thank you so much for your prompt reply.

        I will check out the links you have provided and also discuss with my husband on what else he would like to do and perhaps decide on how many days we really want to commit to this trip and come back for your good advise again!!

        Till then have a very good day ahead and hope to talk to you soon.

        Kind regards,
        csdb =)

  9. lina says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,
    If i have to catch a flight in Narita International airport on Saturday morning at 10, is it better to stay the night in Narita? Are there hotels in Tokyo (reasonable priced) nearby station where i can get a direct ride to Narita early morning?
    i was thinking that if i stay the night in Narita, i would not be able to sightsee more places before i leave

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yeah, it’s a choice between whether you want to see more things and wake up super early the next morning, or see less so that you can sleep a bit more the next morning. If you want to continue sightseeing in Tokyo, you can stay near Ueno station. Accommodation in that area tend to be cheaper than Tokyo / Shinjuku / Shibuya etc stations. The main keisei line gets you directly from Ueno to Narita Airport in about 1.5 hours while the faster (but more expensive) Skyliner gets you there in 45 minutes.

      You can try Super Hotel Ueno-Iriyaguchi for a budget option near Ueno station:
      http://www.superhoteljapan.com/en/s-hotels/ueno-iriyaguchi/

      • lina says:

        thanks. will check it out

      • lina says:

        Dear Bumblebee mum,
        Am going tokyo on 9 November for 5 nights (flights confirmed)
        my tentative itenery as below

        Day 1 arrival in the evening
        Day 2 Tokyo
        Day 3 Hakone (day trip) via Odawara Romancecar
        evening to Kyoto via Hikari
        Day 4 Kyoto – Tokyo via Nozomi
        Day 5 Tokyo
        Day 6 Tokyo-Narita

        My itenery is a bit rush but was initially thinking of staying around in Japan only.
        but later my friends wanted to visit Kyoto as well….

        1. is my choice of Hikari to Kyoto and Nozomi to Tokyo the right option?
        2. is it true i can’t use JR pass for my rides above?
        3. should i purchase the train tickets online before arrival?
        4. for my stay in Kyoto, is it advisable to stay near Kyoto station? have you heard of Dozen Ryokan? any recomandations for a traditonal ryokan?
        5. is it true that we should stay near the stations especially if we need to catch the train to Hakone early morning?

        Appreciate your kind advice / comments :)

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah, your itinerary looks way too rushed. If you want to visit Kyoto, why not just give Hakone a miss?

          1. If you are going to Hakone, then yes, you should take Hikari from Odawara to Kyoto and and Nozomi from Kyoto to Tokyo. If you’re just going Tokyo – Kyoto – Tokyo, then you should take Nozomi which is faster.

          2. JR Pass cannot be used on Odawara Romance Car nor Nozomi. It can be used on Hikari and Kodomo trains. If you want to use JR Pass, you can opt to take Kodomo / Hikari for all the rides between Tokyo / Odawara / Kyoto. It will be a bit slower than Nozomi.

          3. You can purchase your tickets at the train stations when you are there. But if you decide to use the JR Pass, the JR Pass needs to be purchased before going Japan.

          4. For transport by train, it is preferable to stay near Kyoto station to minimize movement with luggage. However, if you do not have a lot of luggage, then it makes little difference and you can just stay at any preferred choice of accommodation. (I usually leave my big luggage case in Tokyo and just pack a small bag when I go for side-trips.) I have never stayed in any ryokan in Kyoto though, so can’t really recommend anything.

          5. Yes, if you want to catch an early morning train, it is definitely preferable to stay near the station. Please note that Tokyo rush hours are madness. So you should stay near Shinjuku station if you want to take the Odawara line and Tokyo or Shinagawa if you want to take Nozomi. Avoid having to transfer train during morning rush hour (e.g. if you stay say 1 metro stop from Shinjuku, you may think you can easily just catch a metro train for a 3 min train ride to Shinjuku without much delay. But trying to squeeze onto the metro train in Tokyo during morning rush hour is exactly like what you watch on TV – with conductors on the platform pushing people in through the door. Please avoid that.)

          • LINA says:

            Thanks for the great tips !
            Looks like its not so feasible to take the JR pass (5 days @ 22,00 yen).
            Should i then get a Suica to get around Tokyo? or will the Metro and Toei day pass covers all lines in Tokyo inc the JR Yamanatoe Line (since i’m only in Tokyo for 2 days)

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I wouldn’t say it is entirely infeasible to take the JR Pass. Let’s say I use the JR Pass from Day 2 to 6, and take Kodama / Hikari trains.

              Tokyo – Odawara via Kodama = 3,940
              Odawara – Kyoto via Hikari = 12,280
              Kyoto – Tokyo via Hikari = 13,800
              Tokyo – Narita via Narita Express = 3,220

              The JR Pass still saves me some money. And I can use it for my Tokyo sightseeing on Day 2 (sticking to the JR lines as much as possible since Tokyo Metro and Toei lines are not covered under JR Pass).

              • LINA says:

                Oh, does JR pass covers reserved seats surcharge as well?
                For my 2D in Tokyo, i was planning to visit Imperial Palace, Asakusa, Akihabara, Ikebukhoro Giza – should i then buy the 1Day pass for Metro & Toei?
                and if i were to fly in from Haneda and out from Narita can i use the JR 5 day pass as well?

  10. Mabel says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    My family is flying to Narita in September school holiday period with 3 kids aged 11,8 and less than 2.

    We will visit Saitama area to catch up with a relative, and plan to drive up to Nagano for the beautiful sightseeing. Not sure if lucky enough the snow monkeys will dip themselves in the Onsen though.

    After reading your blogs on Hakone and Mt Fuji, I intend to stay that area for 3 days as well.

    Now my question is whether it will be good option to start renting the car right from the airport? I personally feel the train tickets are not cheap as well.

    P/S: only second trip to Japan.

    Thanks for your time.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You are right, with 5 people, I would just rent a car and go. Even if driving is more expensive than train, the price difference will not be that much and the convenience will more than make up for it. Once out of major cities, public transport is not that great in Japan, and it seems to me you will be spending time out of major cities. So I would recommend self-drive.

      I read that the snow monkeys will be around Jigokudani snow monkey park all year round. Just that probably won’t have that snowy feel that you are hoping for.

  11. Milk says:

    Hi,
    I’m planning a trip to Tokyo & Osaka in late February 16 for about 8 days with my 4 yo girl & hubby. What do you recommend? Will definitely want to go universal studio for the Harry Potter ride, can give Disneyland a miss this time round as we have been there twice already. Wanted to try the Seibuen amusement park after reading your blog on this. Looking forward to your advice!

    Thanks,
    Milk

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi bumblebee mum, will be going Japan for 9 days in Mar 2016 with 2 children. do u recommend Hokkaido for 3 days?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hi,

    We are planning to travel to Japan (mainly Tokyo) on November 18 and I read that temperature may go as low as 8degrees. Is it safe for us to travel with our 11 month old baby? Can you suggest ways or tips for us to enjoy this travel more without worrying about our baby’s safety and health (baby has no illness, allergy or any asthma of some sort anyway, just worrying that he might feel cold since we are coming from a tropical country, Philippines).

    TIA

    Roms

    • bumblebeemum says:

      To be very honest, there is a high chance your baby will catch cold no matter what you do, since he is not used to cold temperatures. I would just try to dress baby warmly and bring along medication for cough, runny nose, fever and constipation / diarrhea (probiotics basically).

      Safety wise, Japan is really one of the safest countries you can be with a baby in tow. Nevertheless, just keep baby close, preferably using a baby carrier since your baby will probably want to be carried anyway in the cold (carrying in a baby carrier helps to keep them warm). Usually what I observe the locals doing with young babies is, they will carry the baby in a carrier, and wrap a blanket over the baby and carrier.

  14. Libra says:

    Hi,

    We are family planning a trip to Japan (mainly Tokyo) in Dec. May I check, how usually you book the ticket and hotels? Through internet or tour agency?

    Thanks for replying.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I usually book my air tickets and hotels online. Sometimes through the airline or hotels direct, sometimes through Expedia, Agoda, Hotels.com etc. Depends on who is having a better promotion. For Japanese ryokan, I usually book direct with the hotel.

  15. Lina says:

    Hi,

    Would you know if the owakudani is till closed due to volcanic activities?

  16. Jas says:

    Hi BUMBLEBEEMUM,

    Am searching all over the web for Japan Trip Tips and end up reading almost your entire blog as it was so well written and informative! So firstly, a big THANK YOU! :)

    I am planning a trip this late Nov – Dec to Tokyo for the very first time, 2 adults and 2 kids (9yr old boy and 10 yr old gal) for 12 days. I am thinking following most of your guides will not go wrong… but not sure which order should I go first if for easier transport/ transit between hotels etc… assuming the following:

    3 days 2 nights at the Disney Theme park/ staying in Disney Hotel

    2 days shopping at Tokyo we all love Manga / Anime and cute/ kawaii stuffs! Enough? 😛

    1 -2 days to visit to nearby Famous Temples/ sight seeing for photography while still staying in Tokyo!

    4 days 3 nights to try your Self-Drive Holiday with kids to Hakone and Mount Fuji region, love your the mount fuji views, hot spring outdoors and safari drive! 😀

    Rest of days hope to cover:
    – Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium *
    – Sanrio Puroland
    – Legoland Discovery Centre
    – Doraemon Museum *
    – Ghibli Museum *
    – Tokyo Sea Life Park *
    – Sunshine Aquarium *
    – Ueno Zoo
    – Tama Zoo
    – Tokyo Fire Museum
    – Tokyo Subway Museum

    * hope would not be missed.

    Any other recommendations?

    Also, a budget of S$1K per person for entire trip would it be enough or need more?

    Thanks :)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Firstly, the budget of $1K per person needs to be relooked at. Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Hotels are expensive. Train rides are expensive. Admission to attractions are expensive. The 3-Day Disney Resort pass alone will cost almost $200 per adult. So nope, $1K is definitely not enough.

      You will probably have to group the places you want to visit by areas:

      If you go shopping at Akihabara (lots of anime stuff there), you can group it together with a visit to Ueno Zoo or Asakusa Temple. You can pop by Gundam Cafe at Akihabara if you are into anime.

      Then if you want to visit Shibuya and Harajuku for shopping, you can visit Meiji Jingu and the lovely shrine at Akasaka Mitsuke together. And if you have time (it really depends on how long you spend shopping), Tokyo Fire Museum is not far from Meiji Jingu.

      Then you can spend a day at Ikebukuro. To satisfy you anime / manga interest, you can also find J-World Tokyo, Pokemon Centre and Animate main store there. At the same time, Sunshine Aquarium is also there.

      Tokyo Sea Life Park and Tokyo Subway Museum are near to each other, so I would do these 2 in a day.

      You can do a day trip to Odaiba where Legoland Discover Centre. Since you are into Anime, you can visit Gundam Front Tokyo which is at Odaiba.

      Doraemon and Ghilbi are half-day trips, so you can plan to visit these in the morning, followed by visiting an illumination site in the evening.

      Sanrio Puroland is a day trip on its own.

      Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is at Okinawa, not Tokyo, so you got to strike it off.

      • Jas says:

        Hi bumblebee mum,

        Thanks for your prompt reply, appreciated!

        Sorry, I meant to say budget of S$1K per DAY, not per person haha 😛 (It’s for entire trip)

        Base on your wonderful advice I have a more concrete plan, and had fixed the dates which will be from late Nov to December, total of 15 days.

        After tons of corrections, here’s the itinerary summary, hope you can give tips of the super complex transport system:

        DAY 1 – Morning flight and Arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport late evening > Take Take N’EX TOKYO Round Trip Ticket to Shibuya > checkin evening at nearby hotel within walking distance to Shibuya Crossing to look see > Dinner and night wondering at Shibuya > rest

        DAY 2 – 3 hour Shibuya Day shopping > 3 hour Harajuku 3 hour shopping > back hotel if required to put down stuffs hopefully not a lot 😛 > late lunch somewhere > rest of day: Meiji Jingu & Akasaka Mitsuke Shrine photo taking > Tokyo Fire Museum > Dinner & back

        DAY 3 – Akihabara food/ shopping / > Gundam Cafe > Tsukiji Market > Asakusa Temple / Ueno Zoo

        DAY 4 – ( Maybe Check out to another Hotel to be nearer to the next 2 days? ) Whole day Ikebukuro > J-World Tokyo, Pokemon Centre, Animate main store and Sunshine 60

        DAY 5 – 1/2 day Tsukiji Market (i think must be very very early, so maybe day 5 the kids should still have the energy) > Lunch > Tokyo Subway Museum / Early rest and prep for HAKONE Trip

        If you would’ve noticed, we skipped aquariums because we the kids had been complaining after we had countless visiting Sentosa’s because of annual passes won in a contest… XD

        – START HAKONE –

        DAY 6 – Will follow most of your tips/ locations on self drive on Hakone and explore, however wonder if it is wise to stay in one of these guesthouses? https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-search-results/?area=Mt+Fuji

        Check out early > ODAWARA -> HAKONE OPEN AIR MUSEUM -> YUNESSUN -> Checkin Guesthouse

        DAY 7 – > LAKE ASHI SIGHTSEEING CRUISE -> HAKONE ROPEWAY -> FUJI SAFARI PARK -> Guesthouse

        DAY 8 -> FUJI Q HIGHLAND -> SAGAMIKO -> Guesthouse

        DAY 9 – LAKE SHOJI -> ASAGIRI HIGHLAND -> ODAWARA > Return Car > Back to Tokyo late evening to checkin another Hotel near the other planned location

        – END OF HAKONE –
        – BACK TO TOKYO –

        DAY 10 – Sanrio Euroland (Need 1 day?) / illumination sites visit

        DAY 11 – Odaiba > Legoland Discover Centre > Gundam Front Tokyo / illumination sites vis

        DAY 12 – Doraemon and Ghibli > illumination best place for photos/ kids and family any advice?

        Any chance we can slot in quick photo taking for IMPERIAL PALACE, TOKYO TOWER and any nice autumn/ traditional Japanese kimono?

        DAY 13 – Check out Hotel early > Arrive at Disneyland to put luggage at Disney Ambassador Hotel > Visit Park morning > checkin noon and back to park until night parade

        DAY 14 – Breakfast > Check out Early > To DisneySEA visit > Dinner back at hotel > Take luggage > To Tokyo late checkin Keio Plaza Hotel

        DAY 15 > Last min shopping around Keio Plaza Hotel > Check out 12pm > To Tokyo Narita Airport for 6pm flight> Checkin early and wonder around Airport > Back to SG 1am

        End of (Possible?) Trip at Japan for the first time whole family, challenging the complex transportation & hoping for OSAKA/ KYOTO/ HOKKAIDO etc many many more places next trip! 😛

        Are there anything besides the hotels, like tickets, that must be booked in advance?

        Cheers!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          DAY 2: I would start the day with sightseeing and leave the shopping in the evening / night. That way I don’t need to go back to the hotel to put down my shopping.

          DAY 3: Why are you going Tsukiji market on this day when you are going on Day 5? Furthermore it is a detour. If you go first to Akihabara then to Asakusa / Ueno, it makes sense. But slotting in Tsukiji in between doesn’t make sense because you are detouring back.

          DAY 4: There is no need to change hotel. Shibuya to Ikebukuro is one straight train (Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line if you are using Metro pass, or JR Yamanote line).

          The guesthouses in the website you showed me are NOT at Hakone – most of them are at Kawaguchiko. You should be looking for accommodation in Hakone for Day 6. Then for Day 7 and 8, you can stay at one of those guesthouses are Kawaguchiko.

          Day 10: If you are going to Sanrio Puroland in the day, I recommend you visit the illumination at Yomiuriland after that. They are very near each other.

          Day 11: For illumination near Odaiba, there is a Christmas tree light-up at Odaiba itself. Then you can go to Shiodome’s Caretta Illumination which is nearby.
          http://tokyocheapo.com/events/shiodome-caretta-illumination/

          DAY 12: Going to Doraemon and Ghilbi sounds tiring enough for a day. I wouldn’t rush another illumination site. I recommend you stay near Shinjuku for the last few days, and for this evening, you can just enjoy the illumination around Shinjuku itself.

          Never tried photo taking with kimono in Tokyo before. But if you really want to visit Tokyo Tower, you can do it on Day 12 night. If you want to visit Imperial Palace, you can do it on the last day. You should have enough time to do so since your flight is in the evening.

          Day 15: No need to go Narita Airport so early – Narita Airport is boring. I would just hang around Tokyo and catch the train to get to the airport by 4pm. Use Hyperdia to check what time you need to catch the train.

          Tickets to Doraemon and Ghilbi are by fixed time slots and must be pre-booked. You can book them via bridge.jpn. Imperial Palace guided tour also needs to be pre-booked.

          • Jas says:

            Thanks for your reply! =)

            Got confused on the Tsukiji market & noted for advice!

            I’ve booked the flight and AirBNB stay as most cheaper hotels are fully booked! Have yet top book Hokan/ Mt Fuji stay and is searching high and low now haha

            PS: I just realised 1K per day seems not really enough either, so may get lots of instant noodles back to SG for 2016 meals after this spending spree trip… 😛

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I used to spend not sure how many K just on anime shopping every time I as in Tokyo.. Quite glad I quit my addiction and now the thing I spend the most money on is food. Usually to keep within budget, I buy some buns from Lawson convenience store for breakfast. Then if for lunch if I decide to eat something expensive (e.g. sushi), then dinner go for something cheap like Yoshinoya / Matsuya / Sukiya or any one of the those order food through vending machine kind of shops.

              • Jas says:

                Wah… that’s real addiction there haha… I also heard from a fren he say she spent can spend 5k a single day buying Kotaku stuffs! Scary! To maximise our shopping budget, I had opt for AIRBNB for some days 😀

                Btw, I am still wondering if we should book a car in Tokyo and drive all the way to Hokane! Is it too ambitious?

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  The moment you step into an Animate shop or Jump shop – it’s just crazy. You’ll feel like buying down the entire shop! I will never forget the feeling when I stepped into an Animate store in Japan for the very first time. It’s like a dream come true.

                  I don’t think driving from Tokyo to Hakone is too ambitious. I consider it a pretty short drive by Japan standards.

                  • Sabrina says:

                    Hi, I’m planning to self-drive from Tokyo to Hakuba, followed by Hakuba to Osaka during the New Year Winter season. Do you have any idea how the roads will be? Im aware of the long drive but i’m just worried about the road conditions in winter.

                  • James says:

                    Hi, I do not read and speak Japanese, only English. Will there be problem if I drive. Do the rented car provide GPS? Do I need to apply International Driving License? Do i need to book a car in Tokyo before going? Advise

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Yes, rental cars in Japan come with GPS. Though you will need to put in a request if you want an English language one. Otherwise the default is a Japanese GPS.

                      Yes, you need to apply for International driving licence and bring BOTH IDP and Singapore driving licence with you to Japan to rent a car there.

                      Yes, it is advisable to reserve a car in advance. It can be done online through the car rental companys’ websites, or websites like Tocoo or japan-experience.com.

  17. Christine says:

    Hihi.. I’ve been to Tokyo 3 times, brought my 2yrs old and then another year later 3 yrs old son with me, but I stayed with friend and she practically bring me everywhere by car. I’m now going by myself and bringing 2nd child with me who is 1 yr old, can u recommend me where do I go for toys shopping? Odaiba? I’m staying at Ikebukoru, is it far? Thk u!

  18. Michelle says:

    Hi, is the parking expensive in area like Takayama, Shirakawa and Hakone? Would like to try self-drive trip to Central Japan.
    Many thanks!

  19. Stephanie says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    I will be going to Tokyo with a 3yr old and a 8 mth old in May. We will be taking the morning flight to Narita and heading to Disneyland the next day before heading back to the city centre on Day 4. Where would you suggest we stay for Day1 overnight (landing at 5.30pm). Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      When I fly Narita, I like to stay near Ueno station. There is a direct Keisei local train (NOT the skyliner) from Narita Airport to Ueno which is cheaper than the Narita Express. But if you don’t mind paying for Narita Express, you can try staying near Tokyo station so that it is easier to access Tokyo Disneyland. Because from Ueno, to get to Tokyo Disneyland, you need to change train at Tokyo station.

      • Stephanie says:

        Thanks much! Just thinking that by the time we get to the city centre it will be almost close to 8pm. Wonder what is there to do at that time…

  20. Bern says:

    Thinking to bring my baby to Tokyo this coming July. However, all of my family members asked us not to go due to the radiation although have been over 5 years. I saw u always bringing ur sons over Japan for travel and many people do that do. Sigh. Caught in dilemma. Do u have some good advice?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If the radiation concerns you, then don’t go. We try to give our kids bottled water instead of tap water. And we do not travel to the region near Fukushima. Also, I didn’t travel to Japan while I was pregnant or trying to conceive. I only resumed travelling there after I was done having kids. Personally, I feel pregnant (or intending to be pregnant) women and babies are the most high-risk. If it concerns your family members, you can either choose to go somewhere further from Fukushima (e.g. Kyoto / Osaka) or just wait till your baby is older. Ultimately, it is your choice and everyone has different comfort levels on this issue and nobody can say for certain what are the risks of radiation from short-term travels. My best advice is, if it worries you, don’t go.

  21. Paul says:

    Hi and thanks for the cool info!
    We have a trip planned for our girls who will be 10 months and 2.5 years in Nov this year. My wife is nervous about the trip due to jetlag from the NYC to Tokyo and being stuck in the hotel due to the kids needing to nap. We have 5 days in tokyo, then 4 days in kyoto, finishing with 2 final days in tokyo before our flight home. is this feasible? Can we still have a fun trip and enjoy Japan with two young babies travelling from the US?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I think it’s feasible, probably just need to keep the itinerary loose and close to your accommodation for the first two days to allow some time for the girls to adapt to the time difference.

  22. Haha! The children seem to have appreciated ^^

  23. kiwibery says:

    Hi Bumble Bee mum,
    Thanks for your very informative blog. Enjoy reading about your trips and your advice.

    I am planning a trip to catch the Cherry Blossoms with my 3 and 6yo next end March/early April.
    Initially didn’t plan Hakone in as hubs and I have been to Mt. Fuji before, but totally changed my mind after reading your self-drive trip…especially when I have a little boy who loves Thomas trains and I think he would love the Fuji Safari that you visited…Btw, is it easy to self drive within the safari? I think my 6yo girl might freak out too haha…

    Please help me look through and see if it’s do-able and do recommend other places if possible. Do suggest which way i should go first as i intend to end the trip with Disneyland before flying back to Sg.

    1.Kyoto (Haven’t planned anything yet but read that it was the most beautiful Cherry Blossom sites)
    – Nara Deer park?

    2. Hakone and Mt Fuji
    – Thomas Land
    – Fuji Safari
    – Ropeway to see Mt. Fuji

    3. Tokyo
    – Asakusa Kannon Temple
    – Odaiba
    – 3 day Disneyland/sea
    – Puroland
    – Ueno park/zoo

    Planning to spend about 2 weeks in all to soak in the Cherry Blossom season and a little treat for the little ones to Disneyland.
    Any other suggestions on where else to go please? Which way should I start the trip? From Tokyo?

    Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Haha.. My hubby and I visited Hakone before and after kids and it was very different. The before trip was more scenic while the after trip was more fun. Fuji Safari Park is very easy to drive – only one road for you to follow, and there are rangers in every section.

      Kyoto is very beautiful in cherry blossom season. Just that it’ll be mad crowded. :p

      I would plan my trip based on cherry blossom forecast.
      http://www.kyuhoshi.com/japan-cherry-blossom-forecast/
      So depending on the exact dates of your flight, I would plan to be in Kyoto maybe first week of April?

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