japan for families

Japan for families
December 15/January 16
by Caroline Wilkinson

Japan is one of the most popular travel hot-spots right now and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a wonderful family holiday destination. It’s not too far from home – only around 10 hours on a direct flight and right now there’s only a one hour time difference between Sydney and Tokyo, so no jet lag! There’s plenty to keep all ages happy and in winter time it’s a great skiing destination.

Some highlights from our travels :

While in Tokyo, take a diversion off the main streets and discover the “old” side. Try visiting Omoide Yokocho at Shinjuku, a narrow laneway filled with lanterns, smoke from cooking yakitori (skewers of all types of interesting meat and internal organs) and tiny restaurants seating no more than 10 people. It’s a cheap traditional culinary experience that takes you back in time-but be aware that many Japanese smoke, and the rules are very different in Japan to here in Australia..
Myoko Kogen is an easy 3 hours travelling from Tokyo on the shinkansen and local train. It’s a more local ski experience than Niseiko or Hakuba – although there are some great businesses that have been set up by westerners (mostly from Australia) that cater for non Japanese speakers. After a hard days skiing soak in the local onsen – but be prepared – men and women will be segregated and you will need to bathe naked.
You could easily spend a week and still not cover everything you would like to see in Kyoto. Wander the streets of Gion at early evening and with some luck you may spot geisha on their way to their appointments. For a break for the kids from culture try Iwatayama Monkey Park, at Arashiyama on the outskirts. It is quite a long walk up so not for young kids but teens and reasonably fit adults can easily manage. You can get up really close, feed the monkeys and you also get a great view! While there you can also visit the bamboo forest and Tenryuji Temple at the same time..
When in Osaka make sure you visit Dotonbori at night time for an incredible neon light display. Wander the streets for some local delicacies like takoyaki (octopus balls) or okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancakes). Remember to look up when you are wandering around to see some amazing restaurant signs.
Some tips :

Japan is still very much a cash society. While you will find that major hotels, shops and restaurants will usually accept credit card payments there are still plenty of places that you will need to pay in cash. One of the simplest ways to access cash is by using the ATMs in Seven Eleven shops – easy to find & open long hours. If travelling outside the big cities make sure you take enough cash with you.
Travel on the subway. Once you get the hang of the ticketing and the lines, it’s really easy, cheap, clean and amazingly punctual and will take you pretty much anywhere you need to go.
A trip on the shinkansen is an absolute must do. A Japan Rail pass is a cost effective way to travel if you are travelling around Japan. It covers most shinkansens – but not all, so check before you get on. Try to book your seats before you travel, especially if travelling in peak times. The carriages can get very busy and it’s standing room only for some – not much fun on long journeys at 300km/hr.
Try the buttons on the Toto washlet at least once during your stay…