When planning a family vacation, especially with young children, the first and foremost consideration is safety. This is a big plus for Japan, as it is recognised as one of the safest countries in the world to visit, the public infrastructure is excellent thanks to ultra-modern transportation systems and it enjoys highly-advanced healthcare facilities.
The Japanese take hygiene and cleanliness very seriously, which means no matter which part of the country you are in, public places and accommodations are very clean, tap water is safe to drink and eating in local restaurants and street food outlets is completely safe.
Having had the good fortune of visiting Japan on many occasions, here are my top reasons why everyone should consider doing the same and what makes Japan such an incredible destination for young and active families:
1. Incredible Arts and Crafts
The Japanese are known for their creativity and attention to detail. Their pursuit for excellence has earned them a stellar reputation world over and this is exemplified in traditional as well as contemporary arts and crafts. From origami to manga, calligraphy to pottery, and Taiko drumming to theatre; Japan is one of the most engaging places for children.
2. Stunning Nature and Landscapes
Nature is worshiped in Japan and its pristine and often dramatic landscapes lend themselves beautifully to outdoor adventures like trekking, hiking, skiing, kayaking, horseback riding and paragliding.
The highlights include:
3. Fashion and Sports
Tokyo is one of the fashion capitals of the world and it is particularly interesting for teenagers. Maid cafes are pretty weird and wonderful for those interested in manga, anime and cosplay! They have become such a phenomenon that they are now opening in other parts of the world including Australia, Europe, Canada and the US.
Harajuku, Aoyama, Shibuya and Shinkuju areas are incredible for high-end as well as local street fashion. In terms of sports, Japan offers a huge variety including sumo wrestling, baseball and martial arts. Watching a sumo wrestling match or training at a real-life ninja school would definitely make a memorable and exhilarating experience!
4. Science and Technology
When it comes to science and technology, Japan is one of the most advanced and innovative nations in the world. Besides mind-boggling museums and innovation centres, the society’s futuristic vision and ambitions shine through many ordinary facets including superfast bullet trains, super cool automatic vending machines that can pick a drink for you based on the weather, a café staffed by robots, and incredibly smart toilets!
Highlights include the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Sony Explorascience Museum and TeNQ in Tokyo. There are also fascinating theme parks including Ghibli Museum, which is one of our favourites and a must-visit for the fans of Ghibli animation movies.
5. Amazing Food and Markets
Food is often one of the most important factors on family holidays and again Japan will not disappoint you. Being an island nation, it is naturally amazing for seafood. Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, the largest wholesale fish market in the world, is not only awe-inspiring, but also one of the best places to sample some of the best and freshest sushi!
Large upscale department stores in Ginza and Shinjuku areas of Tokyo have some of the most incredible basement-level food courts called ‘depachika’ selling an incredible array of traditional foods and bakery.
For chocolate-lovers, a visit to Kit Kat Chocolatory is highly recommended! Similarly, Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto is superb for traditional local foods. Meeting the legendary Ama divers and sampling their catch of the day including abalone, lobster, other shellfish and sea vegetables in Ise-Shima area.
Alternatively enjoying a simple yet delicious vegetarian breakfast prepared by Buddhist monks at a temple in Mount Koya; visiting a wasabi farm in Matsumoto; relishing a multi-course traditional kaiseki dinner in a charming traditional ryokan after a refreshing dip in your private hot-spring bath; or participating in a traditional tea ceremony with a local master in Kyoto; these are just some of the many unique and rich gourmet experiences to be had in Japan.