Emi is co-founder and Head of Asia of global event platform, Peatix.com. She oversees the growth of her platform's Southeast Asian cities, as well as global marketing efforts. Thanks to Peatix, she has to travel around a lot!
You are a working mom….
There are a lot of emotional ups and downs managing start-ups, but having kids and a supportive husband really helps me keep grounded.
Also, having streamlined calendaring preserves my sanity. I used to be horrible at managing my schedule, but I finally found a solution. With Google calendars for each family member (I separate work and private calendars to reduce clutter), a scanner to digitise school and enrichment class announcements, and Evernote to categorise all the information by tagging, I became way more efficient and error-free in managing our hectic lives!
With a hectic work schedule, do you have time to travel with your family?
We have 3 types of holidays: mini weekend getaways, work-and-kids-holiday combined trips, and pure remote getaways to places like Hawaii or Chiang Mai. My kids started traveling across the Pacific when they were just a few months old!
What tips do you have for traveling with kids?
For long haul flights, I make sure they have a variety of activities to do on the plane, so that the iPad is not the only form of entertainment for them. For my older kid, I ask him to pack a few books and a card game, such as UNO. For my younger daughter, I pack some activity books, colouring books and pens, and Origami. Further, I try to bring our own headsets, as it is difficult for small kids to use airline headsets.
For long holidays, it is easy to build up a huge luggage when traveling with kids. Thus, it is pretty important to stay at places where you can do laundry. This, and the lack of a kitchen, are two big reasons to avoid staying at hotels!
Food wise, it can be tough to find food and drinks for our kids at some places. Hence, I make sure that we have some snacks and thermos water bottles. That way, we do not have to rush when we get caught in traffic, etc.
Can you tell us some kid-friendly things to do in Tokyo?
Tokyo is full of places to visit. Here are some of our kids’ favorite places to go:
Tokyo Disney Resort
It is especially fun for girls, as they have a total makeover place called Bibbidi Babbidi Boutique. They dress your daughter up, put on some make-up, and take amazing photos. Pricey, but it will be a once in a lifetime memory for the little ones!
National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation has a wide range of futuristic exhibitions, and you can see real robots like Asimo and Uni-Cab. The Planetarium and 3D Space Trip films are fun to watch as well. In addition, there are some engaging media art exhibits.
Legoland Discovery Center
Legoland is a compact and fun place to go for 2-3 hours. They have a sizable indoor play gym, some rides, build and race track, etc. Good place to have a birthday party as well.
Tama Zoological Park
The Tama Zoological Park is about an hour away from central Tokyo, but is worth a visit. They have animals in more natural habitats, and you can have very close interaction with Koalas, etc. The kids can also get in a bus and watch how lions eat up close.
Ueno Zoo in the central district seems more accessible, but the animals are kept in the more traditional cage style.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari
This is the place to experience Japanese hot spring culture in an urban setting. You can rent a Yukata (a thinner, more robe-like Kimono) and have a dinner there as well.
Tokyo Sky Tree and Sumida Aquarium
Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise
Just about an hour from Tokyo, Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise has a great aquarium with sea animal shows (like dolphins), backyard tours (you can see how they are taken care of), as well as an amusement park with roller coasters.
Are there any tips for visitors with kids on how to get around Tokyo, or local secrets/advice that might make their lives easier?
Getting around Tokyo with public transport is very easy nowadays, as there are clear English signs and Google Maps with train timetables. However, addresses in Japan are not very well organised, so when visiting a new place, it is always good to use Google Maps to orient yourself.
And I would recommend staying near Yamanote Line. It is a circle line, which links most major destinations like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, and Tokyo.
What are some kid-friendly neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are also worth spending some time in for adults?
Tokyo has quite a few big parks, and it is very safe to walk around. Having said that, areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku are really busy. With kids, I would recommend neighbourhoods like Azabu Jyuban, Daikanyama, Suidoubashi/Kagurazaka. They are all central, but slightly off the biggest central stations.
Where do you take your kids on the weekends?
There are a lot of festivals and workshops in Japan, so I will try to find local events and take them to experience culture, crafting, etc. Sometimes, we will take a weekend trip to nearby mountains like Hakone where there is nature (and hot springs).
Pictured above: Hakone (credit: Remote Lands)
What are some of the fun kids stores in Tokyo that are worth visiting?
Roppongi Hills has a section where they have a lot of nice apparel and toy stores for kids, a big place for kids to run around, and a park right next to it. Near Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown also has a big park, green, museums, and nice stores as well. Lots of good food there.
If you are serious about high fashion for kids, Isetan Shinjuku is probably the best place to go. And for stationary, you can visit 100 yen shop like Seria (there is one inside Marui in Shibuya). Lots of cute things for kids and moms! For high end stationary, Ginza Itoya is a great place. They have everything on stationary, and there is a special rice paper shop nearby as well.
What if a family wanted to escape Tokyo for a day or two? What are some places nearby that would be worth visiting?
There are quite a few places to go either by driving or by bullet train.
Karuizawa is an hour's train ride from Tokyo and has a lot of nice places to stay, great restaurants, and full of nature.
The Hakone/Ito area is about 2-3 hours from Tokyo and famous for hot springs. If you want to climb Mt Fuji, it is in the same direction. Atari is closer and can be reached by train, but it is not as quaint as the Hakone/Ito area.
Kamakura is 1-2 hours away from Tokyo, and it was once a capitol of Japan. It has big buddha, temples, and nice Japanese art stores.
What are your travel essentials?
SIM free phone, noise canceling headset, eye mask, compression socks, notebooks, and laptops are my absolute necessities!
Have you stayed in a vacation rental property before? Where was that and did you enjoy it?
We once rented a house in Hakone with running hot spring water inside the house. We had a dinner while enjoying hot spring water foot baths. It was really fun experience for us and kids!
Stylish places to stay in Tokyo for families
This this family-friendly apartment is located in bustling Ikebukuro, facing a quiet, small street.
Visiting Tokyo? Check out more places to stay on Roomorama.