1. The people
Politeness is Japan’s national pastime and people everywhere in Tokyo are both generous and helpful. All you need to do is hold a map and look confused and you’ll be rescued by the nearest random stranger who will not only point you in the right direction but also virtually piggyback you to your destination, even if it’s three blocks out of their way.
2. The food
While it would take me a day to write up a definitive list of must-try offerings in Tokyo, most kids are happy to start with plump porky gyoza, bathtub-size bowls of ramen, delicate sashimi and sushi, crispy ka’arage chicken, golden tempura and anything on a stick!
3. The quirky cafes
If you’re looking for bizarre experiences, try some of Tokyo’s themed restaurants. At a cat cafe, you pay a surcharge for cat hair in your coffee. The candy-hued Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku is another family-friendly winner. Visit an eatery serviced by ninjas, or line up for the mind-bending Robot Restaurant.
4. The confectionary
Tokyo has a serious sweet tooth. You’ll find bakeries and dessert stores purveying delicate mochi and daifuku (sweet rice cakes), sensational soft-serve ice-creams and more flavours of Kit Kat than is imaginable. Seriously, anyone for toast- or wasabi-infused chocolate?
5. The toilets
Tokyo’s elaborate and intuitive commodes come with a dizzying variety of features, such as bottom-warming seats, auto flushing and dryers. Some even produce music or white noise to protect the modesty. Most cars don’t even have that many features.
6. Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty, the kawaii cat, is almost inescapable in Japan. She ranges from themed snacks and plush, kimono-clad kitties in every other store to Hello Kitty theme parks and hotel rooms. Your little ones will be in a pastel-hued Hello Kitty paradise.
7. The transport
Tokyo’s public transport sees upwards of 3,500,000 people passing through a single train station in a single day … with ease. They are also clean, fast and punctual to the second. The whole system interconnects with local funicular railways, cable cars, buses and even ferries. Genius.
8. The toy shops
From Hello Kitty and Snoopy (who is insanely popular in Japan) to Gundam and Pokémon, you’ll find a store slavishly devoted to it in Tokyo. But the ultimate destination for kids is the multi-level toy Mecca, Kiddy Land.
9. The theme parks
You’ll find parks devoted to everything from the samurai era and ninjas to Hello Kitty, but Tokyo Disney Resort is the go-to destination for theme park aficionados. Mickey, Minnie and the gang may speak Japanese, but fun needs no translation at the beloved theme park, which is turning 35 in 2018. Both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea will be spending 12 months celebrating with awesome events from 15 April 2018.
10. The fun hotels
While location and price are what most families look for in a hotel, in Japan it’s quirky pop culture references. With themed hotel suites dedicated to everything from Godzilla to Hello Kitty, they certainly can’t be accused of being beige or boring.