The theme park aficionados out there will tell you that Japan is home to some of the greatest theme parks in the world, with some of the best record holding rides. But what about if you want to visit a Japanese theme park with young kids? Are there any options for you? Here family travel bloggers give you the low down on some of Japan’s best theme parks and how family friendly they are!
One of the things we wanted to do when we visited Japan was to take our little one to Disney but at 18months we were worried that it wouldn’t be suitable. What we discovered was that we actually couldn’t have picked a better place for baby’s first theme park experience. Disney Tokyo has loads of rides that were toddler friendly, i.e. no height restriction and not to scary and lots of chances for character meetings. But our favorite thing was the parades. Like all Disney parades, it was a spectacle watch but given the politeness of the Japanese people everybody sat down to watch it which meant even toddlers were guaranteed a great view!
Hanayashiki Park with young children by Bavarian Sojourn
The Panda above? It might look like some kind of giant cuddly toy, but don’t be fooled. This is a giant Panda Robot, and you can ride him around Hanayashiki Park, Japan’s oldest amusement park, right in the centre of Tokyo. Opened as a flower park in 1949, it’s not going to win any prizes for size – like lots of things in Japan, it’s quite compact – but (like lots of things in Japan), it’s jam packed full of weird and wonderful things. It makes a great afternoon out for families when everyone’s feeling a little “templed out” and parents will enjoy seeing this side of Tokyo life, and experiencing this little chunk of history for themselves. We really enjoyed the Sky Ship that lifts you up above the park and has great views across the city, plodding around the park on the Panda Robots, and a couple of faster rides for the roller coaster aficionados (don’t miss the bizarre Surprise House either!). It’s a great park for an afternoon away from the usual Tokyo attractions, and you can find something for almost every age and height to enjoy. There are only around 20 rides here (and a few shops and places for something to eat), but I would suggest buying an unlimited ride bracelet to save money (admission is extra). After investigating everything Hanayashiki Park has to offer, do not miss the opportunity to fish for crayfish. Our children adored fishing for prizes, and we got to relax in the sun for over an hour!! Emma – A Bavarian Sojourn Hanayashiki Park, 2-28-1 Asakusa, Taito 111-0032, Tokyo Prefecture (Ueno, Asakusa)
Not situated in Tokyo proper, this is nevertheless an amusement park where you want to schedule a visit if you have even a smattering of interest in traditional Japanese culture. Thanks to the many indoor shows this is not a bad experience when it rains, and the park is small enough (and the streets are paved) to be very walkable. There are restrooms (three of them with changing tables for babies, spread out through the park), and smoking areas located next to them.
Edo Wonderland used to be known as Nikko Edo Mura, and is located closer to the train station before Nikko, Kinugawa Onsen, than the world heritage site at Nikko, 15 minutes by bus and two hours by train from Tokyo. It is a perfect addition to a daytrip to Nikko, since the hotels in Kinugawa Onsen are much cheaper than in Nikko, and feature hot springs to boot (“onsen” means hot spring in Japanese).
The park was built to be a backdrop in historic films, so there are no actual rides like you would find in another amusement park. But there are plenty of activites for children, geared towards experiencing life during the Edo period, or at least part of it. There is both a ninja house and a ninja maze, and dressing up as a ninja and practicing ninjitsu in the street is extremely popular among visiting kids. But so are the firefighters exhibitions – Japanese firefighters have always been celebrated for their bravery and acrobatic stunts, and even today you can see real firefighters climbing to the top of free-standing ladders. Just like the exhibition fire fighters in Edo Wonderland.
But you can also try an Edo-era prison (not quite as gruesome as the real thing), play at being a samurai or an Edo-era policeman, visit a swordsmith, or go to a haunted temple. There is a culture museum for all activities which they were not able to squeeze in under other headings, showing how people actually lived in those days. There is shuriken throwing for the would-be ninjas, and (more historically accurate) places where you can try throwing heavy iron darts or shooting a bow at a target. The park is surrounded and criss-crossed by canals, and there are boats which you can take to get around or just enjoy the cruise. Tokyo today is actually full of canals as well, although most of them have been paved over and moved underground.
Just like would have been true in the densely populated Edo, the streets of Edo Wonderland are full of itinerant entertainers, showing off traditional Japanese juggling (making a wooden sake drinking cube roll and dance on an umbrella, for instance), and there are several processions and shows in the outdoor and indoor theatres of the park. One of the most impressive is the daily Oiran procession, sure to make your daughters want to be courtesans, until you try to explain what that is.
The twenty-minute drumming and acrobatics performance at the Hinomi open air theatre (just below the fire watch tower, something you would find in any Japanese city of the day) is much easier to explain, and somewhat bigger children are likely to enjoy the ninja theatre, where the producers have managed to leverage the dark room and the acrobatics of the actors to create a really enjoyable performance.
The park is open every day from 9 AM to 7 PM, a one-day pass is 4700yen for adults and 2400 yen for children between 6 and 12 (there are also discounts and slightly cheaper afternoon passes), and you can find out more on http://edowonderland.net/en/
Tokyo DisneySea is located next to Disneyland Tokyo in Urayusa, Chiba and is easily accessible from Tokyo. The Tokyo Disney Resort encompasses both Disneyland and DisneySea and is easily accessible from Tokyo on public transport. DisneySea is totally different and its the only one of it’s kind in the world and even the American’s think its special.
DisneySea has a nautical exploration theme and is split into 7 themed areas including Mediterranean Harbour, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and American Waterfront. I think it is aimed at a slightly older age group even though it still has the Disney characters and feel to it. If you are looking for something Disney and original, this is a great park to visit.
I feel that DisneySea is great for people that have previously experienced a Disney park or know that they will be visiting a Disney park. I think if this was the only Disney park you visited, you wouldn’t have the Disney magical experience. It has the characters and the merchandise but it didn’t have the same Disney in your face feel that we all know and love. Although some people might be happy with that!!
Have you been to a theme park in Japan? What do you think is the best Japanese theme park for kids?