Japan seems to have a reputation of being expensive and indeed it can be but it can also be explored on a budget with some amazing free finds in such a big city. It is without a doubt an amazing family holiday destination so get yourselves there now! Tokyo is a city full of history, culture, food and such a pleasure to explore with young kids.
Here are out top 5 experiences that will cost you nothing!
1.Tokyo Metropolitan Government building
The enormity of Tokyo is best seen from up high and there are a few spots to do this in Tokyo. We love the observation deck here as it is free and the perfect spot for kids to enjoy the view of this great city. The building is 243 metres tall and the observatory levels are at 202 metres. My kids loved seeing the big green Yoyogi park surrounded by all the buildings. They pointed out Helipads and rooftop gardens and it gave a good insight into just how big this city is.
South Observatory 930-1730
North Observatory 930-2300
We got off our train at Shinjuku Station ( west exit) and walked 10 minutes. There is also the Odeo subway line.
They do have some closed days so best to check here for more information when planning your trip.
Wheelchair access: The building is wheelchair accessible with ramped entry points and elevator to the observatory. Staff are very knowledgeable and accommodating.
2. Rooftop gardens.
In such a big city and travelling with kids we often needed to find some green space to run around. On the ground there are parks but we decided to explore above and found some great spaces on top of buildings. Our favourite was on top of the Isetan shopping centre and even though it was raining when we visited it gave a great view of the city and a very different feel to the busy city down below.
Isetan shopping centre is in Shinjuku. We got off the train at Shinjuku Station ( west gate) It took 15 minutes to reach by foot.
Wheelchair access: There is an elevator up to the top floor with priority access for wheelchair users. The outdoor space is a variety of paths, grass and decking.
There are accessible bathrooms on each level.
3. Yoyogi Park
After seeing the big park from above we decided to explore it by foot. Yoyogi park is a huge area and when we visited the park was being used in all different ways. Families were gathered on the lawns having picnics, kids rode their bikes on designated tracks, athletes were training and people were training their dogs in the off leash area.
Extra tip: Local parks are also a great place for kids to play and meet other kids. We enjoyed our local park called which was in Setagaya ( 7 stops from Shinjuku).
We entered the park at the Harajuku gate.
Wheelchair access: The paths are wide and flat around the park and there are many bathroom areas within the park.
4. Meiji Shrine
The Meji Shrine is situated in Yoyogi park and is best visited on a Sunday to catch a glimpse of a traditional wedding. Although it is the busiest time it is beautiful to see people in traditional dress and witness traditional ceremonies.
We followed the traditional ways of entering the shrine by copying what the Japanese people were doing which was really interesting for us and the kids.
Before you enter the shrine you need to cleanse your hands in the water by using the ladel.
We were very lucky to see two weddings taking place and we admired the bridesmaids dresses and Pepper even congratulated the newly married couple.
We also got to write our prayers and wishes on the plaques to hang in the shrine. ( 500Y)
The main entrance is from the Harajuku gate and is the most crowded. We used the exit at the Sangubashi gate ( we needed to travel on the Oadayku line) and it was much more peaceful. There is also a little pony riding place here and the best Nepalise restaurant just by the station with amazing Naan!
Wheelchair access: The paths are a variety of gravel and bitumen so are a little tricky in parts. Accessible bathrooms in each bathroom area. The main parts of the shrine can be accessed by wheelchair users but there are big steps through the doors in some entrances.
5. Street Art
We are big street art fans after visiting Penang in Malaysia. When walking around Tokyo there are great opportunities to discover and explore street art. We found some great art on walls, gates, garage doors and shop fronts.
You can find more tour ideas here and here or just grab a map and wander around yourself!
We spent 12 nights in Tokyo, Japan in late April/early May with our family of 5. Our kids are aged 11,7,4.
We travelled to Tokyo from Melbourne which is a ten hour flight with Qantas’ budget carrier, Jetstar. We were able to get some flights last September during a fly back for free sale. Our flights cost $1500 AUD for the five of us. We travelled carry on only luggage and did not book food or seats.
We stayed in a great Airbnb 2 bedroom apartment located in Setagaya a 10 minute walk to Shimokitawzawa. ( 7 stops from Shinjuku on the Odayku line)
Don’t forget to sometimes just walk and get lost! Often the best surprises come from wandering around. We discovered this great park near Setagaya with an amazing playground built from wood offcuts and watching kids slide, climb, play with dirt and water was great to see within a big concrete city.