Taking Your Kids to the Movies

by Emily Downey

Whether you are the parent of a newborn, toddler, tween (pre-teenager) or teenager, there is something here for you in Tokyo when it comes to movies. Movies are usually screened in their original languages, as Japanese audiences seem to prefer subtitles to dubbing. This means that all Western movies are screened in English, and while ticket prices (around ¥1,800) may seem higher than at home, the state of the art sound, screen size and cleanliness more than makes up for this.

For the newborn mums and dads there are two fabulous options that ensure you never miss out on the latest blockbusters despite having just given birth. Besides, going to the movies can be a great date with your partner as well as a great way to return to the normalcy of life after giving birth.

If you can’t stand to leave your baby but would still like to see a movie, then Roppongi Hills’ ‘Mama’s Club Theatre’ is for you. Specially dimmed lighting, lowered movie volume, child seats and stroller storage are all on hand to make the experience suitable for newborns right up to toddler and preschool age. (There is no restriction on the child’s age but please bear in mind that the movies are mostly aimed at an adult audience.) Also, be prepared for many other  mums and kids to be at the screening; thus, you can expect a lot of noise and activity. Breast-feeding is welcome, bringing your child’s food into the theater complex is allowed and baby-changing facilities are available. You can check the current screening schedule at the website below.

If you are ready to leave the baby or child for a short time and watch the movie in peace and quiet, then Odaiba’s Mediage is the theater for you. There is a Poppins Babysitting Centre—a well-known babysitting chain with a very high standard of service–located in the shopping and movie complex. The hourly rate starts at ¥1,600 and the center accepts infants to school age children. Poppins is open from 10am until 8pm, leaving enough time for you to see a movie at the state-of-the-art cinema and then fit in some shopping or a meal afterwards. Going to Odaiba can be a fun day out for the whole family, as the area also has a huge Toys-R-Us store, a ship museum and a science exhibition by Sony.

Sitting through a whole movie can be a daunting  task, if you’re with a toddler. A good option for you is to take a trip to the National Children’s Hall (Jidokan) located a short stroll from Shibuya station. Entry is free and there is a small movie theater for kids and parents on the third floor, right near the babies’ play area. Movies are played hourly and are usually some kind of Japanese animation, like the mega-popular Anpanman. You can come and go as you please during the screening, if your toddler is not interested in watching the movie. This is also great for the older brothers and sisters as all children and parents are welcome to attend the screening, free of charge. The children’s hall is a wonderland of crafts, live theater, a library with English books, and various play equipment stations. If you have yet to visit, make it a priority in this New Year season.

Finally, not to forget the teens and tweens, there is an abundance of great cinemas dotted liberally all over Tokyo. Movies usually show a little later in Japan (compared to the US) but some blockbusters have been known to have their world premieres right here in Tokyo. Japan has its own ratings system to classify movies for adult themes and violence, but if you like you can check foreign ratings online by looking up the movie’s website. Mature teens should be able to attend their nearest theater along with friends without parental supervision. For tweens, a good idea is to go  along with them, buy the tickets and wait in a nearby coffee shop or do some nearby shopping before picking  them up when the movie ends. The great thing about Japanese movies tickets is that they specify the exact times the movie starts and ends, so you can be sure to be there when they pour out of the cinema.

A final tip: Nearly all major movie stars visit Japan at one time or another when their movies premiere. They usually have a public red carpet walk in the Roppongi Hills cinema complex, where fans can get a glimpse of their favorite stars. Keeping abreast of when movies are premiering and contacting the relevant movie companies may help you find out when and where the stars will be doing public appearances.

Happy star chasing!