On a bright, sunny day, you can see an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji. Some people, despite having been to Japan several times, have never seen Mount Fuji, because of poor visibility. However, if you’re on a skyscraper in Tokyo, it is easier to see Mount Fuji, but then again, it has to be a sunny day.
Few destinations could be as family-friendly as Japan,
whether you’re travelling with your children or your parents.
STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY
When travelling to Japan, people tend to head for Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea if the kids are tagged along. But there’s more to Japan than just those two, from natural hot springs to scenic views. Whether you’re travelling in August for the summer season in Japan or in December for some snowy experience, Japan will not disappoint you.
TRAVEL WITH MY KIDS
Tokyo is great for families with small children, as it is very convenient to get around, and the roads and buildings are stroller-friendly. The trains are also exciting for bigger children. Ueno is a great place for kids, because there are public parks and museums. One of the best places for kids is National Museum of Nature and Science (Kahaku), where children can learn about nature, animals, and the world. Not far from it is Ueno Zoo, where children can enjoy seeing real animals, including the two pandas, Shin Shin and Ri Ri.
For something more academic, check out National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), where children can learn about Japan’s advanced technology. It is a place that stimulates children’s curiosity.
VIBRANT IN ALL SEASONS
1. At the beginning of fall in October, the leaves change their colour, making it a great time to take your parents to Japan.
2. The bright red Kyushu Odan Tokkyu vintage train runs between Beppu and Kumamoto.
3. Lake Kawaguchi has beautifully decorated boats shuttling passengers around.
4. When visiting small towns in Japan, you will notice that nature and architecture blend harmoniously.
5. This cat loves fishing. Lucky symbols are adapted for more functionality.
6. Paper cats are found at Omori ancient village in Shimane.
7. Kokeshi wooden dolls today come in all shapes and sizes, but some people prefer searching for authentic ones. The ones with the maker’s name written on them have a higher price.
8. At this onsen in Beppu, people in the past came here to cook using the steam from the ground.
For those with a knack for something vintage, head to the Science Museum at Kitanomaru Park, not far from the Imperial Palace. Built in 1964, the building actually has five sides, but one of them is blocked by a building so it seems like a rectangular building.
The Railway Museum in Saitama is also worth visiting, especially for young train lovers. Take the JR train to Omiya Station and take the shuttle bus to Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan Station.
The young-at-hearts will love Ghibli Museum by Studio Ghibli, which appeals to both children and adults. The museum features famous scenes from its creations. No photography is allowed inside the museum, but it is a place that you will always remember.
Most museums have kid-friendly meals for smaller guests, but you can also stop along the way to refuel. Remember that travelling with your children should not be a rushed experience.
9. Seafood steamed at onsen is sweet and a little salty thanks to the minerals in the water.
10. Gourmet cuisine “Jigoku-Mushi” is an onsen, geothermal energy-based cooking without the use of oil. Fresh vegetables, when steamed, taste better than meat.
TRAVEL WITH MY PARENTS
Thai people might not be familiar with onsen, but it is a great activity in winter, especially for older people. Onsen is different from Sentou onsen is a natural hot spring, and each has its own unique property. When taking your parents to an onsen, make sure that the temperature is not too high, because it can cause dizziness.
From Tokyo, you can visit onsen near Lake Kawaguchi, where there are modern ryokan-style hotels with an onsen and the view of Mount Fuji. On snowy days, it is incredibly romantic.
However, some people might not be a big fan of cold weather, so going to Tokyo in summer is also a good option. Even in summer, spending time in an onsen can also be relaxing.
If you’re in Fukuoka, you can take your parents to Beppu, one of the best onsen destinations in the country. The onsens here have different colours, from red to blue. In addition to relaxing in the onsens, the food cooked in the onsens is another attraction. The ingredients are steamed or boiled in the onsens, and the natural saltiness of the water makes the food very delicious.
PATTERNS OF NATURE
11. Shimane Prefecture has terraced rice fields, which can be seen by taking a small plane.
12. In Kyushu, there are many kinds of trains, as well as vintage ones.
THE WINTER’S TALE
13. In winter, snow covers the fish pond in the ryokan, which is a beautiful sight.
14. This is a house in a small village which places oranges from its garden in front of the house for passersby to see.
While in Beppu, don’t forget to enjoy a sand bath in black sand. You will be buried in the warm sand, and the heat from the sand will help promote blood flow. However, it can feel uncomfortable for some people, so make sure your parents do not feel claustrophobic in it.
Can’t decide between onsen and sand bath? You can do both at Takegawara Onsen, which is located right at the Beppu Station. The building is the landmark of Beppu, built in 1879. It is Japanese architecture with some Western influence. On one side is onsen and on the other is sand bath pit. The onsens for men and women are separated, but the sand pit is not.
There are other cities for onsen lover in Oita (where Beppu is located). Oita women are said to have the most beautiful skin in the country, perhaps because there are so many natural onsens. You can enjoy an herbal steam bath before going into the onsen. This is a great way to relieve muscle tension, and it feels incredibly relaxing.
For first-timers, going to an onsen might feel a little awkward, so if it is a new experience for your parents, they might need a bit of guidance to help them get settled in. But most people find it enjoyable, because the body feels relaxed, and there are usually healthy and delicious food served. Making a visit to a ryokan or an onsen is a healthy and happy experience for your parents.
15. A famous ryokan which has been around for over a century, this place has been adapted to suit the modern lifestyle. In winter, you can see the ancient garden covered in snow.
16. Robai or yellow plum blossoms are yellow and have waxy petals.
WHERE TO SEE
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE (KAHAKU)
(5-21-5, Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0071. Tel: +81-(0)3-3441-7176 www.kahaku.go.jp)
Here, you can learn about nature and scienceat the same time. The exhibition is interesting and appeals to small explorers.
UENO ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS
(Ueno Zoo, 9-83, Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo110-8711. Tel: 03-3828-5171 www.tokyo-zoo.net)
Children will love the animals here, especially the two pandas. It is also a popular zoo among the Japanese because it is located inside a large public park.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF EMERGING SCIENCE AND INNOVATION (MIRAIKAN)
(2-3-6 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo.Tel: +81-3-3570-9151 www.miraikan.jst.go.jp)
This science museum is entertaining, and children can enjoy robot performances.
Despite its vintage look, the exhibition inside is modern and technologically advanced, as it is supported by the Japan Science Foundation. It is open from 9:30am to 4:50pm.
JR East built this museum to celebrate its 20th anniversary. It features various Japanese trains from the past as well as new technology.
If you love Studio Ghibli characters, you will love this museum, where you can see Totoro, The Cat Bus, and many more. Tickets must be bought online only.
TOKYO DOME CITY
A concert venue with a small amusement park, if your little ones want some excitement without a long queue, this is the place to be.
MT. FUJI LAKE KAWAGUCHI HOT SPRING
(10 Asagawa, Minamitsuru-gun, Fujikawaguchiko-machi 401-0303, Yamanashi Prefecture.)
One of the best ryokans in Japan, this place comes with a private onsen on the terrace, with the view of the lake and Mount Fuji. The breakfast is also incredibly delicious.
(207 Asagawa, Minamitsuru-gun, Fujikawaguchiko-machi 401-0303, Yamanashi Prefecture)
This is the only non-ryokan hotel on the northeastern side of Lake Kawaguchi with a beautiful view of Mount Fuji. Non hotel guests can access the onsen during daytime only (1:30-8pm).
(401-0320 Yamanashi Prefecture, Minamitsuru District, Narusawa, 8532-5. Tel: +81 555-85-3126)
This modern onsen comes with a glorious view of Mount Fuji. Private onsen rooms with Mount Fuji view are also available. (10am-10pm)
YAMANAKAKO BENI FUJI NO YU HOT SPRING
(401-0501 Yamanashi Prefecture, Minamitsuru District, Yamanakako, Yamanaka, 865-776. Tel: +81 555-20-2700)
With the view of Mount Fuji, this hot spring is a perfect spot to enjoy watching Mount Fuji turn red in winter. The hot spring is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
BEPPU HOT SPRING
BEPPU ONSEN HOYO LAND
(5 Myoban, Beppu 874-0843, Oita Prefecture. Tel: 0977-66-2221)
The outdoor mud onsen nourishes the skin more effectively than typical hot spring water.
(1 Kannawakami, Beppu City, Oita Prefecture.Tel: 0977-67-3880)
You can take an herbal steam bath here to flush out toxins before relaxing in the onsen.
(16-23 Motomachi, Beppu City, Oita Prefecture. Tel: 0977-23-1585)
This old onsen is the icon of Beppu. The architecture is beautiful and many visitors like to come take pictures of the building.