Should I Bring My Kids to Japan?

Our Family at Fushimi Inari Taisha
© Ana Costa

If you’re a parent like me, you will certainly have lots of questions when planning your trip to Japan. Most parents feel completely lost once they have to decide if their dream trip to Japan should be done with the kids or not, and I understand that. I saw lots of questions in the forums asking for advice on whether they should bring the kids to Japan and sometimes they don’t get the answer they deserve. Since I had to deal with the same questions myself, I wanted to write this post to help you decide if you should take your kids with you to Japan, without judgment.

Bringing kids to Japan is a fantastic idea, offering a blend of cultural enrichment, family-friendly attractions like Disneyland Tokyo, and the chance to explore diverse landscapes. However, parents looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip might want to consider leaving the kids with their grandparents.

I know that some parents might hesitate a lot with this because I felt the same way, and there are good reasons for that. In the next paragraphs, we’re going to see the main concerns of parents and try to answer each one so you can decide what’s best for you.

Advantages of Taking the Kids to Japan

My Son and I at the top of Fushimi Inari Taisha
© Ana Costa

All parents love their kids and want what’s best for them. If you are reading this post, you certainly are a loving parent who is concerned with a long trip overseas and needs help with the decision to take the kids with you or not. Let me help you first with the huge advantages of taking the kids on this amazing trip.

You don’t have to worry about missing your kids

This is the hugest concern of all loving parents, and since you’re reading this post, you are a loving parent who worries about this. Usually, people plan a two-week trip to Japan, and leaving the kids for this long can be a challenge in many ways. I left my little boy once during a two-day business trip and it was awful (maybe because it was the first time I did it, but I certainly did not enjoy the feeling).

I guess this is more or less difficult depending on the age of the kids and how independent they are, but it will always be a little difficult for most parents. If you take the kids with you to Japan, you don’t have to worry about missing them during your stay in Japan, but you will have other worries.

You don’t have to find someone to take of the kids

We saw that it’s hard for most parents to leave their kids for two weeks, but that’s not the only problem. Raising kids needs lots of logistics and finding someone to take care of them might not be that easy, especially when you don’t have family around to help or the grandparents aren’t available. Most parents know how hard it is to find someone responsible to take care of the kids; now imagine finding that person for two whole weeks. This is why, if you choose to take the kids with you, you won’t have to worry about this either.

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Japan is a safe country for kids

Japan is not only a safe country, but it’s also one of the safest countries in the world to take your kids on a trip (if not the safest). For example, kids don’t need to hold your hand and be right beside you all the time; you can let them walk in front of you with no problem. Drivers respect traffic regulations and as long as you teach your kids that they should look first to the right (Japanese drive on the left), you should be ok. A little heads up with some small streets that don’t have sidewalks, but just a line painted on the floor to separate people from cars. Again, if you teach your kids not to cross this line, they will be fine.

Another example, I see people talking about every time, is that Japan is so safe that when you forget your phone on a table or a train, you get it back because the person that finds it, gives it to a lost and found section, and you can go get it. I don’t recommend trying to test that on purpose though 🙂

And if, like me, you might be worried about losing your kid in huge Tokyo, you can put a bracelet with an AirTag on your kid. Luckily, I never had to use it, but I felt better knowing that I could find my son easily thanks to the AirTAg if needed. I bought my 4-pack AirTag from Amazon at a reasonable price and I could even track my luggage transfer easily in Japan. By the way, if you need more information about luggage transfer, feel free to check my article about luggage transfer in Japan.

Kids will be of great help with Japanese people

Japanese people are known to be a little shy regarding foreigners, but this only concerns adults. If you have your kids with you, they will usually break the ice and you can make some friends in Japan. I saw testimonials of tourists who are still friends with Japanese thanks to their kids. If you’re willing to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture with the help of the locals, your kids are going to be of great help.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make any friends in Japan, but I had a few nice talks with some Japanese while waiting for the train or while shopping at the Pokémon Center.

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Disadvantages of Taking the Kids to Japan

You can visit more things in Japan without the kids

My husband and son at Nikko
© Ana Costa

Unfortunately, this is a fact and there’s no way around it. No matter what age your kids are, they will slow down your pace in Japan. You probably have a clear idea of everything you would like to see, but let me tell you that even if you don’t take your kids, you will not have the time to see everything. There’s never enough time in Japan.

If you’re traveling with a baby, you will have to stop to change diapers, to feed, to calm the baby, etc; with a toddler, it’s almost the same plus you will have to stop to rest; and teenagers…well, teenagers are complicated. And even if you have a teenager who’s passionate about Japan, your teenager’s tastes aren’t the same as yours.

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The best thing you can do is to optimize your itinerary by visiting places that are close to one another, like the amazing area around Nara Park, for example, and it is a great place for kids too. You can check my other article about visiting Nara to get a better idea.

On my last trip to Japan, I had to make a few changes to the itinerary along the way, because my son was getting bored or tired, and needed some extra kids activities to get better. The key to traveling with kids is to adapt, but you will be missing some activities where kids are not allowed, for example.

Your trip will cost you more money with kids

This is also an inevitable inconvenience, even if small kids usually pay half price in general. Flights are usually a little pricey and most hotel rooms are small, so if you want to save on accommodation, you’ll have to choose an Airbnb which is a less expensive option for families (check my article about Airbnb too).

Transportation is generally half the price until 12 years old, but even a half-price Japan Rail Pass can be a considerable amount on your budget. (You can check the current Japan Rail Pass prices on Klook, for example).

Attraction tickets can add up a lot to the expenses, so look out for some places where kids under 12 years old benefit from free admission. That’s usually a good thing for parents with small kids. And regarding food, if you go to chain restaurants, you should be fine; convenience stores are also great for saving money on food. Unless you’re eating at traditional restaurants every day, you should manage to keep the expenses under control even with kids.

Long flights can be challenging with kids

My son sleeping on the airplane
© Ana Costa

Flying to Japan can take lots of time depending on your departure city. Unless you’re flying from nearby countries like Korea or East China, you will likely have several hours of flight. (If you want to learn more about how much time does it take to fly to Japan, check my post on the subject)

I’m not going to lie to you, this overseas flight will be challenging even if you don’t have kids with you. It takes lots of time, but you can plan some things to do while on board. However, it is uncomfortable to be seated on an airplane for hours, and you get very little rest since you can’t lie down to sleep. With all these hours of flight, jet lag will probably hit you, so I recommend taking a look at my other post about what causes jet lag, how to recover from it, and most importantly, what you can do to try to avoid it.

In a long flight with kids, you can have different scenarios, depending on how long your flight is and if you are traveling overnight or not. If you’re lucky, your kids will probably sleep during a huge part of the flight (I know that mine could sleep for a few hours on an eleven-hour flight, for example). Planes usually have the same effect on kids as cars; they’re excited in the beginning, but get bored fast and eventually fall asleep, but you will have to leave them space for sleeping (not that obvious on an airplane).

For those parents who will have several hours of flight, your secret weapon will be planning. You know your kids better than anyone else, so as a general rule I would say that how your kids behave in a car is how they will behave in a plane. And be careful if they have never gone on a plane before because I am not sure that a long overseas flight is the best first-flight experience. You might want to see how it goes on a domestic flight for example.

Anyway, the best you can do to have a good flight with kids is to keep them entertained with quiet activities that will get them to relax (and you too).

My son reading on the airplane
© Ana Costa

Transportation in Japan can be a little challenging too

Most of the time, kids love trains, planes, and any transportation, especially when they’re little. This is a good thing because you will be moving around a lot in general, but remember that in Japan you should stay quiet on trains, buses, etc or you will probably get some weird looks.

Most parents know how hard it is to keep the kids quiet, so plan some games for the rides especially if you’re taking the Shinkansen – Japan’s bullet train. (If you want to know more about this amazing bullet train, take a look at my post about it)

My son had a hard time keeping his voice down in public transportation and I spent a lot of time repeating the rules in Japan. Luckily, this was manageable, but it all depends on how excited the kids are.

Small kids might not remember their travel to Japan

My son and I dressed in Japanese style in Kyoto
© Ana Costa

This is a fact, not a fatality. If your kids are under 6 years old, they probably won’t remember much. Small kids usually just remember theme parks, but they aren’t cheap. As a general rule, they don’t care about temples since they don’t understand them yet, but the kimono experience is amazing for little ones because they look super cute in it. Plus you can do the kimono experience with the family and take some nice photos.

There are some nice offers online that you can book in advance like a Kimono Rental in Kyoto with Optional Photoshoot from Klook, for example. They have afternoon discounts and prices for families so it might be worth taking a look when planning what to do in Japan. I missed the opportunity to book a photograph, and my pictures weren’t that good, but next time I won’t make the same mistake.

In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind is that even if the kids don’t remember much, you will, and you will have the pictures to recall this amazing trip to Japan. There will never be an ideal time to travel with kids so go for it anyway, and don’t wait until their older because travelling with teens is not easy either.

You will have to pack extra things

Depending on your itinerary, you might change your hotel often. On my last 14-day trip to Japan, we stayed in 7 different hotels. This means you will have to pack and repack several times for you and the kids. If they’re little ones, they will probably need some special items that you’ll have to bring from home. I’m thinking mainly about babies because some have special needs, and you might want to bring what they need in case you don’t find the same thing in Japan.

Packing and repacking don’t have to be a huge problem because it is likely the same thing when you go for a day on the beach. What can help you a little with that is training your kids to do it by themselves or to start organizing their things before you put them in the baggage. Of course, this doesn’t work for babies, but my son was always willing to help me somehow.

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You will have to make an itinerary for the kids

My son with Toad at Universal Studios Japan
© Ana Costa

If you decide to travel to Japan with your kids, you can’t expect to make your itinerary without taking into account the kids. This could turn your trip into a nightmare. You will need to schedule some rest time because kids usually can’t keep up with your pace, but you will also need to schedule good time for kids.

Theme parks are a good option, so plan one full day at an amusement park like DisneySea or Universal Studios Japan. Zoos are also great experiences for kids and you have several options in Japan. We did Ueno Zoo, Nara Park, and Arashiyama Monkey Park in Kyoto, and my son loved every single one.

Just remember that these are crowded places, so you might want to go during the week as it will be packed with people during weekends.

You will be more tired if you travel with kids

Yes, traveling with kids can add extra work because you will have to manage them too instead of only managing yourself, but it’s like your everyday life since you had kids, right? If you want to go to Japan to relax and charge your batteries, you probably shouldn’t take the kids, but if you see it as a family trip, it shouldn’t be much more difficult than your everyday life, especially if you plan almost everything in advance.

Honestly, I felt a little more tired than expected when I had to repeat the instructions over again and the few times I had to carry my 6-year-old boy at the end of the day.

Eating in Japan can be difficult for some kids

My son eating Konbini food at the hotel
© Ana Costa

Japanese food can be hard for picky kids. As you probably know, Japanese food is a lot different from what you find in the United States and several other countries in the world. If you have picky kids, it might be hard to even get them to taste it. My son didn’t want to try most things and it ruined a little our food experience.

I found that you can easily get away with the food you find in convenience stores because they have a huge variety at lower prices. I know it won’t be the awesome culinary experience of a traditional Japanese restaurant, but it is certainly a good option to get the kids to eat. Most tourists use convenience stores on low-budget travel, so why don’t you give them a try?

We also ate a few times at the usual fast-food restaurants like McDonalds or KFC, for example. Not the food experience we had in mind, but at least my son could eat something. Street food stalls were also good for him, but only the ones with food that looked like the one in our country.


I guess that for most parents, Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that they want to enjoy to the fullest. From a practical point of view, it is easy to make the trip without kids, but emotionally, not all parents can stay away from their kids for one or two weeks.

Traveling with kids (no matter what age they are) is always a compromise, and, in the end, it all comes down to how much money you want to spend and how much are you willing to compromise on what you want to do in Japan. Taking the kids to Japan is not for everyone, but is perfectly doable if you plan and keep in mind the kids’ needs at all times when preparing your itinerary.

Some parents might worry about what other people think if they go to Japan without their kids, but no one has anything to do with that. You have to do what is best for your family and hopefully now you have a much clearer idea of what awaits you in Japan if you take the kids.

This post was written to help parents with their trip with kids, but if deep inside you don’t feel like taking them with you, don’t let the famous “parent’s guilt” stop you from enjoying your trip. Sometimes, parents just need time for themselves, and going to Japan might be your best chance to do it.

Hope you enjoyed this post and remember, don’t let anyone judge you, no matter what decision you make.

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