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Family holiday in Japan advice/questions.

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ReLoad

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Hi AFF brains trust!

We have decided that in 2015 our family vacation will be in Japan, probably in the June/July or Sep/Oct school holidays.
At this stage it will be about 10 days give or take, and we have some questions!

Last time I was in japan was about 15 years ago and kids were certainly not part of my holiday back then.

So we have two 7 year olds who study Japanese at school and who their best friends from school are also Japanese and have taught them a lot of Japanese (We on the other hand know about 10 words at best!)
Anyway we figure its a great opportunity to get them over there and to enjoy another culture.

We are looking for tips on things which are great for kids and of course good for us too!

The things on our must see list are:
Akihabara (yeah im a tech nerd junkie!)
Japanese gardens (Kenroku-en) - but that may not be feasible/easy to get to with only 10 days of our trip.
Bullet train past mt Fuji
Id like to do a hot springs stay as well, but I don't think the wife is too keen on the whole nudity in front of others thing. - im also not sure how children are accepted.

Anyway looking for tips and must see family things to do from the always reliable AFF

thanks in advance
 

Denali

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Loved Japan, looking forward to going back.

For the hot springs, some now offer private/family rooms/springs because most are segregated.

Also check out and see if there is sumo on during your stay and if yes, get a box because I thought it was a lot of fun.

I also rented a mobile wifi and it was at our hotel on check in and www.hyperdia.com was such a huge help for getting us around.

If you are staying in/near Kyoto, the kids might like visiting the Golden Pavilion, Fushimi and Nara so they can walk off lot of that kiddy energy while you get to look at some beautiful sights.
 

moa999

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Kenroku-en might be a toughie given where it is... and lots of other gardens in Japan.

Assuming flying in/out of Tokyo I would be thinking something along the lines of
Tokyo - 4-5 days (maybe with Tokyo Disney for the kids)
Hakone/Lake Ashi - 2 days - Closish to Tokyo - has the onsens, and even closer to Mt Fuji
(see Hakone Free Pass)
Bullet train to Kyoto
Kyoto - 2-3 days
Then Osaka/ Hiroshima
Fly back to Narita and connect out

Note if doing this kind of 1-way trip, probably no need for JRail pass - just buy tickets on day giving you the quicker trains
 

eastwest101

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Another vote for Tokyo Disneyland for the kids, or if too busy I highly recommend Nagashima Spa Land.

Just remember that some parts of Japan can be very hot if you go in July.

Moa999's suggestions all look good to me.
 

jsimmo11

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If you are going to the bottom island, Beppu is pretty cool. Good aqaurium, monkey park, safari park and amusment park. Plus its filled with onsens. It was an area with alot of hells which are interesting.

Plus the town is only 100,000 people so its a nice change from tokyo/osaka.
 

Daver6

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There was no issue with children in the onsen I visited. Obviously, children are children, and running around being noisy would not be appreciated.

I regret not going, but the aquarium in Osaka is meant to be spectacular. Osaka and Kyoto are 10 minutes apart on the shinkansen.

If a sumo tournament is on, its worth a visit. I found it fascinating. I went stadium over box seating as the thought of sitting on the ground for a few hours doesn't appeal to my back. You need to book well in advance for the sumo tournaments. I wonder though if kids might get a little bored after seeing a few matches though.

The Tokyo Sky Tree might be of interest to kids. Or just head to the Tokyo metropolitan government building in Shinjuki for free access to the observation deck. Not quite as high, but if in the area and its a clearish day, I'd do it.

If in Kyoto the Fushima Inari shrine is pretty cool with thousands of Tori gates. A walk to the top gives you a great view across Kyoto.

A quick Google of these suggestions should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
 
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Warks

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Good topic I have been thinking about taking the teens there in 2016. I haven't been there since about 2003 though. I found just wandering around the streets of the cities is amazing enough, so many things to see. Just find a toy shop - so many things you never see anywhere else.

I was at a conference in Nara, near Kyoto, and it had some of the most beautiful temples and gardens.

I wouldn't visit Disney as for us that's a peculiarly American thing and can't really translate to other cultures. Plenty may disagree though and young kids certainly wouldn't know the difference.

I do recall eating out wasn't as expensive as I was expecting but will leave it to others with more recent experience to elaborate if so.
 

drron

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There are lots of Japanese gardens to visit.Most are spectacular.Here is a list for Tokyo(though by no means all)-
Tokyo Travel: Parks and Gardens of Tokyo

I would think about a JR pass even if only going to Osaka or Kyoto.Actually very easy to get the Shinkansen back to Tokyo then the NEX to get you right into the NRT terminals.As well you can do day trips even to Kenrokuen from Kyoto-
Kanazawa Travel: Kenrokuen Garden
Kanazawa Travel: Access, Orientation and Transportation.

From Kyoto you must visit Nara.Nagoya is a fascinating place between Tokyo and Kyoto.

But we just enjoy walking around.The Japanese people are in general friendly and helpful.
 

Skyring

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Just walking around any Japanese city is an experience. As is browsing through a supermarket.

My favorite bits of Japan.

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo (between Shinjuku and Shibuya, an easy walk from either). So majestic in its own forest amidst the bustle and jumble of the metropolis.

Osaka Castle. Corny but fun.

Hiroshima. I never expected to be so moved, but I was. Elegant and restrained. Seeing those paper cranes from all over the world was almost too much to bear.

Kyoto market. A fabulous experience just wandering along looking at the displays of produce. I enjoy markets anywhere, but this one stands out for me.

The Philosophers Walk in Kyoto. Best in Sakura season, but a pleasant walk any time. The views from the heights are splendid. There's also that photogenic bamboo forest a bus ride away.

The crossing at Shinjuku - grab a Starbucks and watch the waves of people surge. Check out the dog statue while you're there.

Eating. Oh boy. Food is good and cheap. Some of the best can be had in tiny "hole in the wall" joints where you are almost knocking elbows with the cook. Can be a struggle to get exactly what you want, but if you don't, hey it's all good. Sometimes there's a vending machine arrangement near the door - buy the tickets for the dishes you want, give them to the smiling waitress and your food will arrive a few minutes later.

If those kids are good at Japanese, give them some responsibility for translating stuff. It's not too hard to do things in Japan, and many speak English, but a few words and characters might speed things along. So many times I've come across something that has left me totally bewildered. The Japanese are friendly and helpful people and will do their best, but still...

Oh yeah. If the Imperial Palace in Kyoto is open while you are there, go have a look. It's definitely worthwhile.
 

yohy?!

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I'd second going in September ...it will still be oppressively hot so keep cool with streetside snowcones

Have a great time I think Japan is one of the most welcoming and friendly countries I've ever visited and should a breeze for a family holiday whether or not you speak any Japanese
 

ReLoad

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Thanks for all the replies so far, lots of great stuff!

I did forget one thing, Mrs Reload has asked that we either dine at an iron chef restaurant or at least attempt to track down kitchen Stadium. Anyone have any iron chef ideas?
 

amaroo

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We really enjoyed our trip (with 2 x kids in Sept/Oct) we stayed for 5 nights + HKG. Day trip to Kyoto is a must IMHO .... you can see more in my TR - look for the link below this post.
 

Sprucegoose

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The train pass provides so many options, we often ate in a different city. Check that out as well.

Universal studios in Osaka.
 

Jeffrey O'Neill

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I found Japan pretty easy to navigate. Plenty of signs in English. Just spend a bit of time plannign where you want to go and working out the best stations to get off at since the Tokyo metro system is pretty dazzling when you view the map.

While not cheap, I always rent an iphone while there. It's a great help for showing you the best way to get to your next destination - buses can often be more convenient than trains.

Depending on when you think you'll head to Kyoto / Osaka the JR pass might still be worth it. It will save you the NEX from the airport into the city fare and you can use while in Tokyo on the Yamoto circle line which has plenty of sites to see.

It will also let you do a day or overnight trip to Hakone - do overnight if you can as it's a bit of a rushed experience otherwise.

Food is pretty cheap. I just pick a place with lots of locals. The food is sure to be tasty and reasonably priced.

If you can get up early then head to the tzusiki fish markets for amazing sushi.

June will be stinking hot. I was there late august a few years back and it was still oppressively hot. I think most days I could only stand being out till mid afternoon. My room had a wonderful japanese bath and it was so nice to have a soak.

I'd suggest keep luggage to a minimum as the bullet trains don't really have any space for large bags. If you can book the seats near the carriage door you do get a bit of space for luggage, otherwise you'll have to store it next to you. Shoudn't be a problem most of the time as the non reserved cars were always relatively empty when I travelled on them.
 

Himeno

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Just remember access to money. While many places take cards, many more don't.
Most Japanese ATMs are not attached to the global network and Japanese banks won't give you cash without a Japanese bank account.
To access your overseas card, you'll need one of the ATMs at the major international airports, or an ATM owned by 7&i Holdings (7/11) or JapanPost Bank (Post office).
 
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If you are going to Hiroshima, you should go to Miyajima, which has the iconic red torii gate sitting in the middle of the inland sea. The island has one of the most famous temples in Japan and the parks are full of deer, which you can feed. There is a cable car which takes you to the top of the island, from which you get a panoramic view of the inland sea. Another spot nearby is the little town of Iwakuni, which has one of the most famous bridges in Japan - Kintai bridge, which consists of 5 wooden arches. Nearby there is another cable car which takes you to Iwakuni castle, which has a lot of samurai artefacts etc.
 

ALH

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All of above - plus Ghibli Museum in Mitaka (while in Tokyo). From memory kids need to be under 10 years old to go in the Cat Bus. Tickets must be purchased in Australia before you go. ......and NEVER EVER get caught in a smoking carriage on the Shinkanzen.
 
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Atleastonce

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We will be there in 2 weeks with our 17 year old. Of course we will do Disneyland and we will be doing the bullet train to Nagano to see the snow monkeys. I can't wait.
 

Cynicor

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I found Japan pretty easy to navigate. Plenty of signs in English. Just spend a bit of time plannign where you want to go and working out the best stations to get off at since the Tokyo metro system is pretty dazzling when you view the map.

While not cheap, I always rent an iphone while there. It's a great help for showing you the best way to get to your next destination - buses can often be more convenient than trains.

Depending on when you think you'll head to Kyoto / Osaka the JR pass might still be worth it. It will save you the NEX from the airport into the city fare and you can use while in Tokyo on the Yamoto circle line which has plenty of sites to see.

It will also let you do a day or overnight trip to Hakone - do overnight if you can as it's a bit of a rushed experience otherwise.

Food is pretty cheap. I just pick a place with lots of locals. The food is sure to be tasty and reasonably priced.

If you can get up early then head to the tzusiki fish markets for amazing sushi.

June will be stinking hot. I was there late august a few years back and it was still oppressively hot. I think most days I could only stand being out till mid afternoon. My room had a wonderful japanese bath and it was so nice to have a soak.

I'd suggest keep luggage to a minimum as the bullet trains don't really have any space for large bags. If you can book the seats near the carriage door you do get a bit of space for luggage, otherwise you'll have to store it next to you. Shoudn't be a problem most of the time as the non reserved cars were always relatively empty when I travelled on them.
You can ship your luggage ahead of you. We had no issues with 3 suitcases, but shipped the skis and snowboards.
 

yo yo ma

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I'd suggest keep luggage to a minimum as the bullet trains don't really have any space for large bags. If you can book the seats near the carriage door you do get a bit of space for luggage, otherwise you'll have to store it next to you.
Agreed... there are laundromats around to do washing (buy the powder at Family Mart). This helps keeping your luggage down.
 
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