Here are my top 10 reasons to take your tween to Tokyo, inspired by our own family holiday.
The shopping! Shopping is my favourite pastime. It provides relaxation, productivity and education all at once! Every time I plan a trip, I start early and spend hours researching the best areas to shop and eat. But in Tokyo it doesn’t matter! If you are a teenage girl, good shopping is everywhere you turn!!! Squishies, fashion and quirky products were high on my tween girls list and I can tell you their suitcases, plus parts of ours, were filled to the brim with lots of luscious goodies. Japan is the home of all things Kawaii (cute)….every shop...even the corner store has something adorable to purchase.
The food – Mmmmm…Food…I still dream of the tuna sandwiches from the local convenience stores found on nearly every corner in Tokyo. Unlike most Australian convenience stores, the Japanese stock theirs like mini supermarkets full of freshly made healthy food options. I must admit we sampled many of their offerings during our time in Tokyo partly due to ease but also because of deliciousness….sushi, salads, sandwiches, dumplings, eight different types of fried chicken! And then there are the department store basements…I am a big foodie and these basements were like a dream come true. I have never seen so much beautiful fresh produce mixed with homemade delicacies and daily made takeaway meals. The Japanese have quite an interest in western food, so as well as their beautiful traditional dishes, we also experienced some pretty delicious burgers and western offerings during our time there. The girls talk daily of the food they ate in Japan…often dreaming about what they will eat the next time we visit.Choosing accommodation with a kitchenette is ideal when staying in Tokyo with a family, there are so many take home options for dinner after a long day of exploring the Tokyo streets, and sometimes the choices far outweighed the appetites so having refrigeration and reheating options were essential.
The streets – Tokyo is full of the most stunning streets for photographers, or any one to just explore. They are layered with years of history intermixed with modern conveniences and elements. Due to limited available land, stores and restaurants are stacked high above the streets. We had to constantly remind ourselves to look up as we explored. The tweens loved the brightly coloured signage, the clean streets, the vending machines….it only took moments before they became experts at manoeuvring their way through the polite crowds to get to the next exciting building…shop…or restaurant.
The colour – With every turn of the head there is something to draw your attention. My camera was constantly clicking because in Tokyo everything is colourful. Additional memory cards are a must. Even the various company coloured taxis add constant splashes of colour to the streetscape.
Takeshita St – Pre-teen and teenage girl paradise! Giant fairy floss, crepes full of sweet stuff, teenage fashion shops with 100s of different types of socks, shops full of colourful stickers and of the latest craze (squishies), plus Daiso (one of the girls favourite shops in Australia). This long and skinny street only accessible by foot traffic gets packed to the rafters with groups of stylish girls, so when visiting get there early on a week day to check out all the best shops before it gets too crowded.
The vending machines – Our favourite family activity while in Tokyo was to stop and look at the contents of every vending machine…and in Tokyo that’s quite a mean feat. There are twenty on every block! The tweens were taken with the labels on all the different drinks, often choosing their drink by the bottle they most want to look at. We did end up with quite a few versions of vegetable juice because of this….Their coffee in a can is also pretty amazing for us mum and dads.
Disneyland – I must admit I was dubious before I went…I’m a bit of a cynic at times…but Disneyland is truly the happiest place on earth. Everything on the Disneyland site is professional and well thought out. The girls loved staying at one of the Disney hotels and were fascinated by the vintage Disney bus that drove people to and from. The gift stores are unlike any we had ever seen before with stacks of Disney merchandise from all of your favourite movies. The popcorn came in unique Disney containers that you can wear around your neck for the day…each character has its own popcorn flavour. And just like everywhere else in Japan…the food was de-li-cious! We visited during a week day which meant crowds were less of an issue, something I would recommend when planning your trip. It’s worth staying on site at one of the many hotels, the accessibility to Disneyland is amazing.
The subway – We don’t live near much public transport and I must admit have avoided it over the years but in Tokyo it is unlike anything we have ever experienced! It is safe, clean, fast and so easy to use. By the end of the week the girls were turning into professionals at getting around the subways stations, joining the neatly formed queues and following the coloured lines to their desired destination. The girl’s self-confidence sky rocketed as they felt safe and confident learning how to use the Tokyo subway system and navigating their way around such a big city.
The lights – Night time in Tokyo is just dreamy….At night we walked with our tweens looking at lights, buying sweet treats and shopping at kawaii stores late into the evening.
The feeling of safety – Sometimes in big cities my helicopter mum comes out and I worry about my kid’s safety….in Tokyo this was not a concern. From the first day we felt safe in the clean ordered streets, the Japanese people were warm and helpful…and by the end of the first day the girls were leading the way as they wandered the streets…what a wonderful feeling it was!