Short trips around Japan with the kids
by Karin Ling
It’s back to school for the children but that doesn’t A need to spell the end of family vacations for the year. Short trips out of town are the ideal escape from the hectic pace of the city while giving your kids that ever appreciated break from routine. If you chose your activities carefully, you might be able to take your children on a trip with educational value without them ever knowing the difference.
Read on for a selection of easy day trips from Tokyo and weekend trips around Japan. You’d be surprised to find just how far you can go without going very far at all…
Travel back in time
Formally known as Nikko Edo Mura, Edo Wonderland will give you the opportunity to compare the exoticism of present day Japan with its Edo period version. Stroll the ancient streets alongside samurais and courtesans, sit in on gruesome court tortures, but make sure you don’t miss the ninja show of acrobatic sword fighting. For full immersion, children and adults can sign up for the Cultural Tour for the chance to don period costume and participate in Edo period games, www.edowonderland.net.
Explore under the sea
Get to know the fascinating world just below the sea surface at the Enoshima Acquarium, situated on the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. The modern facilities here include a tank reproducing the environment of Sagami Bay and a gathering of diabolically beautiful jellyfishes. The Dolphin Show pairs hoop jumping aquatic talents with singing and dancing (human) performers but it will the shark-petting exhibition that your child will brag about in class Monday morning, www.enosui.com.
Return to nature
Kodomo no kuni (Children’s Land) was designed to be a natural playground for children. Natural, in this case, is interpreted as a return to nature, farms, even cow-milking. At this one million square meter park (stroller rental available), kids are encouraged to interact with their surroundings to develop “sound minds and sound bodies.” At the lake, the entire family can participate in rowing, pedal boats, and fishing. Children of all ages can develop their gentler instincts with the sheep, rabbits, and other furry friends in the petting zoo. www.welcome.city.yokohama.jp/eng/travel/ or www.kodomonokuni.org(Japanese only).
Join the animal kingdom
The beauty of Zoorasia is its lack of cages. Instead of watching the animals in a concrete space, your family will get to view the 60 species of animals (many, near extinction) in their natural habitat. Zoorasia is divided into six zones, each recreating the natural habitat and climate of the animals’ home. Besides elephants and lions, this zoo is home to endangered species, Kagu and Bali Mynah, and the intriguingly named Mongolian Wild Ass. The abundant greenery of this park makes for an idyllic afternoon of strolling and picnicking, www2.zoorasia.org.
Lose yourself in Europe
Huis Ten Bosch is a resort in Nagasaki for those who want to escape the chaos of the city…in a 17th century Dutch town. The concept might sound cheesy but what makes Huis Ten Bosch a winner is its elaborate and completely tasteful recreation of the Netherlands with all its romantic European charm. As you lose yourself in the fields of tulips and cobblestone streets of quaint houses, your kids can have their fun at the Kindergym, the floating ride Flight of Wonder, the Teddy Bear Museum…yes, you will definitely need to make a long weekend out of this trip. You’ll find accommodation information on the website, english.huistenbosch.co.jp/index.html.
Journey into space
Fukuoka is quite a trek from Tokyo but a great blast off point for outer space exploration. Space World, the world’s first space-oriented theme park, will hold the attention of both the science-minded and the adrenaline-addicted. Older kids can scream their way through the black hole on a roller coaster or head for a more thoughtful exploration of the moon’s surface on the Planetary Investigation Machine. Meanwhile, let your little ones run wild around the space jungle or splash about at the water slides. Adults wanting to rest their feet will be sure to find a comfortable seat before the 7-story IMAX screen of the Galaxy Theatre. Check out the website for accommodation suggestions, www.spaceworld.co.jp/english.
To ask other parents about their traveling experiences and to compare notes, the forum of the Japan With Kids website (www.tokyowithkids.com) is a good place to start. One thing’s for sure, in this country, you will never run short of creative and surprising activities to test out with your kids. With all the education, er…vacation possibilities within easy access around Japan, there’s no need for the back to school blues!