The Greater Tokyo Area isn’t just for grown-ups: A high concentration of museums and places to play makes it an excellent spot to entertain the smaller set. Consider the following as a starting point—a mere drop in the entertainment bucket.
The wonderful world of indoor playgrounds provides hours of frolicking fun, a treasure trove of toys, and plenty of new otomodachi.
Your local jidoukan (children’s play hall) should be first on the list when seeking a change of scenery. In addition to having a lot of toys and activities, they’re the perfect place to meet other young families in your area, both widening your little ones’ social circles and adding to your support system. What’s even better is that they’re usually free.
Ask at your city hall for locations.
For something a little fancier, Aneby Trimpark, a relative newcomer to the Tokyo entertainment scene, aims to entertain ankle biters to adolescents. Boasting all the usual playground equipment—plus trampolines, a gymnastics area, and pedal scooter track—it also holds lessons throughout the day for more structured play. Nearest station: Aomi. http://anebytrimpark.com
Kid-o-Kid knows child’s play; it’s operated by Tokyo-based toy company BørneLund, after all. Bouncy surfaces, dress-up and make-believe areas, toys, and—of course—ball pits abound. And with 12 facilities in the Tokyo-Kanagawa-Chiba area, there’s sure to be one not too far away. See website for locations: www.bornelund.co.jp/kidokid
Drop in to Kodomo no Yu, a hot-spring-themed play area at Tokyo Skytree, for a unique take on indoor play. “Soak” in the onsen ball pit, get your matsuri on in the festival area, or try your hand at seasonal crafts and activities. Nearest station: Tokyo Skytree.
Sure, kids learn when they play, but sometimes it’s nice to make learning the focus. Don’t fret about forcing dull days on your darlings; museums are about amusement as much as they are about academics.
Make a beeline for Odaiba’s Miraikan before May 10 to catch the tail end of teamLab’s special exhibition. Parents and progeny alike will be spellbound by the digital art on display, and kids will have a field day seeing their colored pictures come alive on a giant screen. The upper floors of the Miraikan are also overflowing with interactive exhibits. Nearest station: Fune-no-Kagakukan or Telecom Center. www.miraikan.jst.go.jp/en
The Tokyo Toy Museum leans more toward entertainment than edification. It’s housed in an old elementary school, and each room features a different set of toys and games. On the third floor, a spacious classroom is reserved for instructor-led crafting. Nearest station: Yotsuya-sanchōme. http://goodtoy.org/ttm
Your kids need not be fire engine-crazy to enjoy the Tokyo Fire Museum. With a collection of historic equipment, kid-sized uniforms, and helmets—and even a few vehicles for the kids to hop into (including a helicopter!)—the Fire Museum keeps halflings happy while giving Mom and Dad a peek into Edo’s curious firefighting culture. Nearest station: Yotsuya-sanchōme. www.tfd.metro.tokyo.jp/ts/museum.html
The National Museum of Nature and Science (Kahaku) brings Tokyo Dome-sized amounts of … well … nature and science to inquisitive youngsters. Though it’s under partial renovation until roughly July, there’s still more than enough on display to fill a day—not to mention Theater 360, a 360-degree theater that screens short documentaries all day. Stargazers should check out the museum’s nighttime astronomical observations on the first and third Friday of each month. Nearest station: Ueno. www.kahaku.go.jp/english
Parents of solar-system aficionados in the western Tokyo area need look no further than Fuchu’s Kyodo no Mori Planetarium, where several daily shows let kids reach their cosmos quota. Part of a museum/planetarium/park complex, where both terrestrial and extraterrestrial entertainment abound. Nearest station: Fuchū-Hommachi. www.fuchu-cpf.or.jp/museum
Older kiddos will enjoy the Cup Noodle Museum down Minato-Mirai way. Though it’s brimming with the history of the instant snack, the hands-on-noodle-making areas are sure to take top spot where kids are concerned. Little siblings (3 years and above, and at least 90cm tall) can “make like a noodle” in the museum’s Cup Noodles manufacturing process park. Nearest station: Minato-Mirai or Bashamichi. www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/english