Photo:Ippei Ogiwara

How to Travel in Japan With a Large Family

Traveling is always a great way to spend time and knit better bonds with the people you love. However, vacationing in another country will always have its challenges. In Japan, for instance, being in a small group of two to four isn’t much of a problem. It will always be easy to find places to eat and rest. But what if you’ve got a much larger family of perhaps six to ten people? For a vacation that’s more fun than stressful, it’s important to think things through and take a couple of things into consideration. This is especially important when you’re off to a country where lots of walking is unavoidable and most places to eat aren’t built for accommodating large groups.


Steve McFarland on Flickr

1. Create a thoughtful itinerary

Whether you’re traveling on your own or with a small group, it’ll probably be okay to do everything spontaneously. But when you have a bigger family, particularly one with various age groups, it’s important to give thought to what everyone would like to see and what everyone could do. For example, while younger adults and children can probably survive an entire day walking through all of Odaiba without getting bored or tired, older adults─particularly those with problems walking long distances─might appreciate it more if the itinerary covered only a few selected attractions in the area.


Danny Choo on Flickr

On the other hand, if you’re a group of two families with children, it’s important to carefully choose what places to visit so both you and your children will enjoy the trip. Major cities in Japan can get incredibly crowded, too. So it’s equally important to think about which attractions and what times will allow you to keep your children safe. For example, taking your children to Takeshita Street in Harajuku during its peak hours may be the worst idea, as they’re likely to get lost in the mass of people that traverse it. Choosing to walk through the wider main road or explore the less crowded Cat Street may be a safer option that will also allow you and other adults on the trip to experience Tokyo’s vibrant fashion culture. Alternatively, you can plan to visit these popular places on days where there is less likely to be a crowd, such as a weekday.


Kevin Yank on Flickr

2. Know where to eat when you’re hungry

Japan, in general, is a country where small establishments are more common than larger ones. So, finding good places to eat may be tricky. While interesting places that welcome large groups can be found if you look hard enough, there are a few sure places to go to when your group is getting hungry and you aren’t feeling like hunting for some new foodie venture or waiting in a long line for something potentially great.

Family restaurants such as Jonathan’s, Gusto, and Saizeriya are made to seat whole groups of people. They all also have menus with pictures and English writing, which makes them very convenient for tourists. As their name implies, they also have kid-friendly options.

If you’re traveling with a family of mixed adults, you can also try going to an izakaya. As a lot of after-work drinking parties are done at izakayas, you can certainly find space in one for a large family. Popular chains found in most major cities include Wara-Wara, Uotami, and Tengu. As with the family restaurants, big izakaya chains also have menus with pictures and English writing.


Shinichi Higashi on Flickr

3. Have a buddy system

Especially in big cities where the crowds in trains can get dense, it’s important to stay safe and know where all your companions are. Having a buddy system will also help if your group gets separated for any reason (for example, when seating the entire group at a single table can’t be done). Even more importantly, it’s good to have easy access to communication, especially on days when the different members of your family would like to visit different places.


gordontour on Flickr

Since international texts and calls can get very pricey and it may be too difficult or impractical to secure a prepaid sim card in Japan, messaging through internet services such as LINE or Viber is a better option. So, when you’re able to get into a free WiFi zone such as a Tokyo Metro station or one of Japan’s major convenience stores, you can easily get in touch with the rest of the family without the added cost.

Japan is an amazing country to visit and will certainly have all kinds of things for people of all ages. With a few tips to keep your travel hassle-free, you can certainly have fun during your stay in the country, no matter how large or small your group may be.

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