Offering ancient traditions and futuristic fun, Japan is filled with one-of-a-kind attractions for the young — and the young at heart. This two-week family-friendly itinerary features a great mix of cultural sightseeing and hands-on activities, like a sushi class and a samurai sword-fighting course. You'll explore the character cafés and comic book shops of Tokyo, boat on a lake near Mount Fuji, and wander through towering groves of bamboo in Arashiyama, taking time to learn about history in Hiroshima and Kyoto. Rounding out the trip are day trips to two world-class theme parks: Disney Sea and Universal Studios Japan. This action-packed journey is sure to be a hit with the whole family.

Highlights

  • Interact with digital art in futuristic Odaiba
  • Learn how to make sushi in a class with a local chef
  • Visit a ninja-themed park for children at the base of Mount Fuji
  • Travel back in time to Edo-era Japan at Edo Wonderland
  • Discover Japan's historic tea ceremony and sweets-making traditions
  • Explore the popular theme parks of Disney Sea and Universal Studios Japan

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Tokyo! Tokyo
Day 2 Explore Futuristic Odaiba & Learn to Cook Japanese Food Tokyo
Day 3 Have Fun at a Cultural Theme Park in Nikko Tokyo
Day 4 Check Out Manga, Anime & Kawaii Character Cafés Tokyo
Day 5 Enjoy a Free Day in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 6 Get Up Close to Mount Fuji Fujikawaguchiko
Day 7 Explore Mount Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi Fujikawaguchiko
Day 8 Sample Tea & Sweets in Kyoto Kyoto
Day 9 Discover Bamboo Groves & Temples at Arashiyama Kyoto
Day 10 Day-trip to Nara Kyoto
Day 11 Have Fun at Universal Studios Japan Kyoto
Day 12 Sightsee in Historic Hiroshima Hiroshima
Day 13 Boat to Miyajima Island Hiroshima
Day 14 Depart Japan - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Tokyo!

Tokyo Skyline and Sensoji Temple
Tokyo Skyline and Sensoji Temple

Welcome to Japan! Get oriented in Tokyo with a visit to the world’s tallest tower. At 2,080 feet (634 meters), the Tokyo Skytree offers spectacular views as far as Mount Fuji from its 360-degree observation deck. Afterward, take a walk through the grounds of Sensoji, the city's oldest and most historically significant temple. Legends say it was founded when two brothers fished a statue of the goddess Kannon out of the Sumida River. The neighboring Asakusa Shrine also highlights the stark differences between Shinto and Buddhist belief systems. As night falls, make your way to Shibuya, home to the vibrant Shibuya Crossing. The area is packed with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, perfect for a night out on the town.

Day 2: Explore Futuristic Odaiba & Learn to Cook Japanese Food

A night view of Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, and Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo

Today you'll explore the artificial island of Odaiba, a hot spot for futuristic fun. The trip to this shopping and entertainment district is enjoyable, whether you arrive by taking a cruise through Tokyo Bay or by crossing the colorful Rainbow Bridge. Start at TeamLab, a permanent interactive art exhibition on the island that gives new meaning to the term "modern art" — be prepared to follow art as it moves along the walls. Car enthusiasts can also visit the nearby Toyota City Showcase. Check out the latest innovations in the technology zone, reminisce about the old days in the vintage car collection rooms, or test-drive a favorite car on their private track (an international driving license is required). The nearby Miraikan Museum (officially the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) is a fantastic place to learn about everything future-tech in a fun and interactive way.

You'll finish your day with a cooking lesson. Roll up your sleeves as you learn how to make some of the country's most famous dishes from scratch. Choose from dishes like soba noodles, ramen, gyoza, and sushi, to name but a few! Your skilled teacher will take you through all the steps to creating your own delicious meal.

Day 3: Have Fun at a Cultural Theme Park in Nikko

Toshogu Shrine, Nikko, Japan
Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

Today you’ll head north to Nikko, home of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Toshogu Shrine. The ornate shrine, which contains the mausoleum to Japan’s last shogun, is one of the most beautiful in Japan. A short walk south will take you to Rinnoji, Nikko's most famous temple. Explore the grounds at your leisure, visiting a charming Japanese garden and a shrine that’s said to house Nikko's three mountain gods.

Continue your day with some lighthearted fun at Edo Wonderland, a cultural theme park where you’ll step back in time to the 15th century. Sit back and experience a traditional magic show, or try your hand at Hariko doll painting or makeup artistry. You'll also have the chance to take a samurai sword-fighting class. When you’re ready to return to the 21st century, you’ll head back to your accommodation in Tokyo for the evening.

Day 4: Check Out Manga, Anime & Kawaii Character Cafés

Neon lights in Akihabara

Today, get ready to delve into the anime, manga, virtual reality, and electronic mecca that is Akihabara with a guided tour of this part of Tokyo. Packed with gaming arcades, comic book shops, and anime stores, plus dozens of otaku (die-hard anime fans) roaming the streets, Akihabara offers a look into this quirky side of Japanese culture. Akihabara is also a great place to stock up on any electronics you may need, as every corner boasts some kind of new or used electronics store. Have lunch at a "maid-café" (think singing waitresses with cat ears) — it's an experience you won't forget any time soon!

In the afternoon, you’ll head to the trendy fashion hub of Harajuku. As you walk down Takeshita Street, be sure to stop by the rainbow cotton candy and crepe stands as well as the fascinating costume galleries and character cafés. Visit the famous Kawaii Monster Café, famous for its brightly colored food, vibrant decor, and live performances from waitresses dressed like cartoon characters.

Day 5: Enjoy a Free Day in Tokyo

Tokyo Tower amidst a Sea of Buildings
Tokyo Tower and the city skyline

Tokyo is packed with both fast-paced and leisurely pursuits. Today is yours to explore at our own pace. One family-friendly activity is a visit to Disney Sea, Tokyo's very own Disney theme park. Spend the day exploring hidden volcanic islands, riding gondolas in Mediterranean harbors, and discovering mermaid lagoons in the fantastical world of Disney. Simpler options are just as nice, like a picnic in Yoyogi Park. All you need is a few bento (lunch boxes) from a nearby store, a ball or frisbee, and some refreshing drinks to enjoy the vast lawns, ponds, and forests of Tokyo's largest park. It's uniquely beautiful in autumn, when hundreds of trees turn red, orange, and yellow.

Another fun option is a hike up Mount Takao, one of the closest mountains to the city. The park offers numerous hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts, and if the day is clear, you may be able to see the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji in the distance. If you're traveling with teenagers, consider an adventure in Shimokitazawa. A super-trendy suburb of Tokyo, this district is popular with the younger demographic and filled to the brim with vintage clothing stores, live music venues, and dozens of izakaya (bars that serve snacks).

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Day 6: Get Up Close to Mount Fuji

Sunset on Lake Kawaguchi
Sunset on Lake Kawaguchi
Get away from the busy downtown today and take a break to explore the Lake Kawaguchi area. Visit the
Narusawa Ice Caves, a lava tunnel formed when Mount Fuji erupted centuries ago. The caves are filled with ice pillars all year long. Then head to Chureito Pagoda, from where you can enjoy one of the most iconic views of Mt. Fuji. The pagoda is especially stunning during the spring and autumn months when the trees turn pink and gold, respectively. Overnight in Fujikawaguchiko before spending more time enjoying this peaceful region on day seven.

Day 7: Explore Mount Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi

Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi
Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi

Adventure awaits today! Go on a trip to Fujikyu Highland, one of Japan's most popular theme parks. It features roller coasters (one of which is the steepest in the world) as well as several anime-themed attractions based on popular films and TV series. Alternatively, at Shinobi no Sato Ninja Village, you'll get the chance to learn about ninjas. The park is like a ninja-themed town designed for children, offering ninja shows and the opportunity to perform stunts, throw ninja weapons, and take a training course to turn into a stealthy ninja warrior. For a quieter activity, go on a boat ride on the lake. Several outfitters offer rides on the lake, ranging from swan-shaped pedal boats to private party crafts with onboard barbecues.

Day 8: Sample Tea & Sweets in Kyoto

The 10,000 Red Gates of Fushimi Inari
The 10,000 red torii gates of Fushimi Inari

Japan's former capital, Kyoto, is bursting with history. While here, a visit to what is arguably the most famous shrine in Japan – Fushimi Inari – is an absolute must. Featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, this shrine has more than 10,000 picturesque red torii gates. They were all donated by Japanese individuals and businesses as a sign of appreciation to the god Inari for blessings received. 

Your next activity is a traditional Japanese tea ceremony paired with a wagashi sweets-making lesson. Learn the art of preparing and serving matcha tea, as well as the meaning behind certain words and actions used in the tea ceremony. Not only an art but also a spiritual discipline, this time-honored tradition provides great insight into some important aspects of Japanese culture. You'll also witness and emulate your teacher's meticulous attention to detail as you create your own seasonal sweets. You might find your creations too pretty to eat! In the evening, take a walk through the bustling streets of Pontocho, an area along the Kamogawa River that’s packed with restaurants and bars.

Day 9: Discover Bamboo Groves and Temples at Arashiyama

Arashiyama's Dense Bamboo Groves.
Arashiyama's towering bamboo groves

Just outside Kyoto is the tranquil area of Arashiyama. You will start your day with a ride on an open-air train that offers amazing views of the river and the surrounding forest. (Note: This train does not operate in the winter months.) You’ll then travel down the Hozugawa River on a traditional Japanese boat. This activity is often the highlight of the trip, and depending on the season, you’ll be floating past white and pink cherry blossoms (in March), the deep green leaves of a warm summer (in July), or the brilliant and fiery colors of autumn trees (in November).

Then you will embark on a tour of some of the area's well-known sites. Tenryuji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses one of the most picturesque and ancient landscape gardens in the entire country. Behind it, you will find its world-famous bamboo grove, which transports visitors into another realm — or at least appears to. Also in the area, you will find the Nonomiya shrine and the Iwatayama Monkey Park where macaques roam freely. If you're up for a walk, there's a lovely temple that houses hundreds of statues. If you look closely, you'll find some of these Buddhist statues sporting glasses and carrying cellphones, a reflection of how modern life has also affected spiritual practices.

Day 10: Day-trip to Nara

Deer and a Torii in a Nara Park
Deer amid autumn leaves in Nara

Today you'll side-trip to the city of Nara, famous for its traditional sites and resident herds of peaceful deer. With scenic gardens, parks, temples, and shrines, it's a quiet place that you'll enjoy exploring at your own pace. Nara also has some stunning walking trails, one of which will take you through the Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest. The Todaiji Temple, home to the giant Daibutsu Buddha statue, is a must-see before you head back to Kyoto for the evening.

Day 11: Have Fun at Universal Studios Japan

A Diner at Universal Studios
A diner at Universal Studios in Osaka

Immerse yourself in the world of Universal Studios Japan at one of the world's most popular theme parks! Spend the entire day enjoying thrilling rides, spectacular shows, and gourmet restaurants, all based on Hollywood blockbusters and Japanese pop culture. Themed areas of the park include Super Nintendo World, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Minion Park, plus sections that recreate the atmosphere of cities like San Francisco and New York.

Day 12: Sightsee in Historic Hiroshima

Hiroshima skyline and the monument of the Atomic Dome Museum.
Hiroshima's skyline and the monument of the Atomic Dome Museum

Day nine takes you to Hiroshima, a place of sobering history, inspiring regeneration, and important learning opportunities for future generations. Start at the Atomic Dome Museum and Hiroshima Peace Park, where you'll learn about the events of World War II and the city's slow process of rebirth and rebuilding. Next, head to Hiroshima Castle, a magnificent landmark overlooking the Otawaga River. A principal seat of power in the 16th century, the original castle was destroyed during the war. An excellent recreation now stands in its place, offering panoramic views of the city from its top floor. Finish your evening with a meal of okonomiyaki, a regional savory pancake topped with shredded cabbage, noodles, and pork belly.

Day 13: Boat to Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island's Great Torii
Miyajima Island's great red torii

Today you'll visit the magical island of Miyajima via a short ferry ride. Be sure to stand outside on the deck to get a good view of Miyajima's famous giant red torii gate — at high tide, it looks like it's rising out of the sea. Miyajima holds a rare distinction in Japan: it's never experienced an earthquake. Many of the island's centuries-old temples are entirely original. Be sure to visit Daisho Temple and Itsukushima Shrine. For a superb view of the Seto Inland Sea, ascend Mount Misen via its scenic ropeway or a picturesque hike. The island is home to herds of friendly deer, which only add to Miyajima's fairytale-like setting.

Day 14: Depart Japan - End of Trip

Waiting for the bullet train to Tokyo

Today you'll bid farewell to Japan. After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Family Adventure in Japan - 14 Days
Map of Family Adventure in Japan - 14 Days