Tokyo is a great travel destination for families visiting Japan. Parents looking for an international city that features cultural experiences, natural wonders, and amusement parks should put Tokyo on their bucket list. After having enjoyed the city’s sights on our latest Asian adventure, here are our top autism-friendly spots for traveling families.
Parents looking to incorporate a bit of Mickey Mouse into their Tokyo vacation should visit Disneyland Tokyo and its sister park Tokyo Disney Sea. Filled with thrill rides and shows, these two Disney parks are sure to deliver a fun-filled experience for the entire family.
Though Disneyland Tokyo is similar to its US counterparts, Tokyo Disney Sea is unique. Tokyo Disney Sea boasts an ocean theme with gondola trips and the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.
Tokyo Sea Life Park
This place is a fantastic way to acquaint children with sea life from different oceans around the world. Kids will marvel at the unique sea creatures indigenous to various bodies of water, colorful fish, sea horses, and sharks. Also, they will be more than likely to get a chuckle out of the bird antics in the penguin exhibit. The Sea Life Park is located just across from Disneyland in the Kasai Rinkai Park so it should not be too hard to find.
Odaiba is an artificial island rising out of Tokyo Bay. This island is a hub of all things futuristic, as it was originally meant to showcase futuristic living much like Epcot in Florida.
Today, Odaiba features attractions like the Daikanransha Ferris Wheel and Sony Explora Science. Kids will love the arcades with the most up to date games, and parents will savor the views from the Fuji TV building. Everything from state of the art electronics to futuristic architecture will enthrall all family members. Not to be missed is the Rainbow Bridge beautifully lit at nighttime.
Ginza and the Sony Showroom
Ginza is a shopping district, the closest thing Japan has to Times Square in New York City. There are numerous upscale boutique shops and posh department stores where children and parents alike can deck themselves out with high-end fashion. Geeks will enjoy a short tour of the Sony ExploraScience building with its interactive activities, and hands-on demonstrations.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum gives visitors a walk through the history of Tokyo. Travelers get a rare glimpse the origins of a city from a unique perspective. Here, guests can visit scaled models of buildings that re-create important events in history from the beginnings of Tokyo to the war-torn aftermath of World War II. The museum ends with a modern rendition of Tokyo built to scale. Children will love this up close and personal view of one of the greatest cities in the world.
Families can get English speaking personalized guided tours for free, an excellent feature.
This location is the city’s most famous Buddhist temple. It is also the oldest. However, the structure that currently stands there is relatively new despite its ancient history. This fact is because WWII bombings nearly destroyed the structure.
Having been rebuilt, Sensoji is a serene space for Buddhists to practice and live out their faith. The street leading up to the temple is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants that families can enjoy. Parents will want to keep their children close to the main gate to avoid crowds. However, once inside, parents can introduce their children to a culture like no other. Those visiting at six pm can hear the regular ringing of the bells.
Tokyo Tower and Skytree
Parents can explore the Tokyo Tower, a communications hub found in the Shiba-Koen district of Minato. The Tower’s construction was inspired by the Eiffel tower and stands as the second highest structure in all of Japan. Families can ride the escalator to the tower’s observation deck or climb its 600 steps. Just below the Tower is FootTown, a four-story building with museums, eateries, and shopping areas.
The Tower was initially constructed for television and radio in 1961, but when Japan transitioned to digital television, the Tower was not tall enough to support the change. Therefore, the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest structure in all of Japan and the world, was built in 2012 in Sumida.
Founded on June 15, 1985, by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli is the number one Studio for Japanese animation. It is based in Koganei, just outside Tokyo. The studio is best known for its films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke.
Production at Studio Ghibli is currently temporarily halted with Miyazaki’s retirement, but travelers can still visit the Studio. Check out the small cafe ‘s bamboo straws and unique ice cubes.When we went, the lack of commercialization in the studio struck us especially. Studio Ghibli is nothing like US Studios, and visiting is more of a journey into the creation of anime movies and the process behind it. This visit is more recommended for older kids.
Hama Rikyu is a beautiful garden park at the mouth of the Sumida River. The park was originally the home of a feudal lord in the Edo period but opened as a park officially in April of 1946. A seawater moat circles the entire park. Visitors can enjoy matcha tea and sweets at the teahouse in the garden’s center. During the New Year, travelers can also see falconry and aikido demonstrations at the park.The park is a relaxing spot for kids to run about and enjoy the outdoors in what is a very busy metropolis.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Parents should be aware that landmarks and entertainment venues in Japan are quite autism friendly and will go out of their way to accommodate personal needs.
- Always ask before purchasing tickets if there are any discounts for disabilities.
- Japan is a polite society, so advise your kid to say please and thank you and use their inside voice.
Parents should ask for the complimentary guided tour of the Edo Museum
- Though the theme parks here don’t use the same disability pass like in the US, the staff does a superb job of accommodating autism
- Noise sensitive kids should avoid visiting the Sensoji Temple around six pm when the bells ring quite loudly.
Have you taken your child to Tokyo? What are your thoughts?