Tokyo Station with the Kids
We usually find ourselves near Tokyo station in the winter months. The illuminations and the festive trees pitted against the cosy street market are often enough of a drawcard to get us there, but what kept us there this year was a mix of kid-friendly interactive displays, the wholesome food and informative exhibits. When outside became a little too chilly and the lines for Christmas tree photos a little too long, we had a couple of free nearby escapes to keep the children in the festive mood.
Eco-friendly Initiative at the Mitsubishi Building
With the intention of taking a tour bus to see some of Tokyo’s recommended tourist spots, we changed plans after we had missed the cutoff times. Instead, we made our way to the Mitsubishi building wherein the adults were greeted with an art display and the children made a dash for the interactive rainforest contraption.
Simply put, the child collects a wooden palm-sized ball and drops it into the designated slot in the circuit. From here the ball is followed by eager eyes as it twists and turns, then elevates and descends its way through the jungle-gym maze. Upon reaching the final post, the ticker-timer clocks the 40 meter journey and Mitsubishi declares that they will plant a tree to help sustain rainforests. The wait time here will probably depend on the time you visit. We were lucky not to wait at all for the kids to have a few rounds, before we moved on to the Kitte Building.
Tokyo Natural History Museum in the Kitte Building
Photo: Festival ARTONOV via Facebook
The Kitte Building is usually bustling with festivity in the winter months. There was a beautiful white tree that was illuminated in kaleidoscopic colours, much to the awe of many a photographer. With the obligatory festive photos taken and the grumbling of tummies leading the way, we stopped in at Muji for some Japanese snacks, before proceeding to the natural history museum known as Intermediatheque.
I soon realized that it was not as interactive as the previous Mitsubishi display, but what it lacked in things for young children to touch, it made up for with a variety of specimens to see. From Egyptian mummies and taxidermy, to glass cabinets filled with exotic insects and animals, the children were fascinated by the exhibition for longer than I had initially anticipated. We spent about a half hour inspecting the displays on the second floor before making our way up to the third floor. The time spent wandering what feels like a private collection passed quickly, until it was time to move on. We were not able to take pictures, but we had plans to return to see the impressive rock display and other worldly delights that we missed. As a free resource, it is a wonderful space to enjoy the eclectic selection of oddities in the summer months as well, when the heat of Tokyo and the crowds at the station become all too much.
Tokyo Station Views from the Kitte Sky Garden
From the museum, we navigated our way up the escalators in Kitte (taking gorgeous tree pictures along the way) and through a few of the shops. Kitte means postage stamp in Japanese and the building itself is an old post office building that has been turned into a modern shopping mall. There are a variety of design stores like Good Design and Muji where you can find Japanese lifestyle goods as well as a variety of postcards and other Tokyo souvenirs.
If you bypass the busy restaurant level and continue to the sixth floor you will see the Sky Garden. While more of an observation deck than a garden, it provides spectacular views of Tokyo station. I would love to view the station by night as the illumination of Tokyo station in the colder months must be fantastic. Although it was an icy day, the crowds were enjoying the crisp air and kids ran about stretching their legs, and admittedly their voices, while I watched the trains come into Tokyo station. The quiet museum atmosphere had all but caught up with the kids by then and they were ready for lunch. We kept the ball rolling in the direction of an eatery outside of Kitte and found some possible restaurant options a short walk from Tokyo station, but opted for one within the station itself.
Kid-friendly Restaurants Near Tokyo Station
T’s Tan Tan
Photo: T’s たんたん via Facebook
A clean, spacious vegan restaurant can be found inside the JR ticket gates. However there is no need to buy a ticket to enter. Instead approach one of the staffed ticket counters and ask for a platform-pass. The staff will issue you with a free ticket for 2 hours so that your group can go to the restaurant. T’s Tan Tan is located on the left-hand side of Ecute Keiyo Street, at the top of the long escalator taking you down towards the Tokyo Disney Line.
Recommended dishes include the golden sesame vegan ramen, the vegetarian gyoza and a variety of healthy sandwiches which hit the spot. The atmosphere was bright, lively and kid-friendly, while the English menu made it easy to navigate. We would most definitely return for the tonkatsu and would like to try the black sesame ramen the next time.
Address: Keiyo Street first floor, Tokyo Station, 1−9−1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Sushi Go Round Kantaro
Photo: Youhei Raychel Satoh via Facebook
Had we followed the children’s cries for sushi and tamagoyaki (a sweetened Japanese egg omelette), we would have ended up here. I do love a sushi conveyer belt and being able to order in English with the tablet device is useful. It is a popular restaurant from Hakodate in Hokkaido and can be found on the basement floor (B1F) of Tokyo Station.
Address: Tokyo Station's Ichibangai area, 1−9−1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Hana No Babaroa (花のババロア havaro)
We found this speciality dessert shop on the recommendation of one of my friends. Knowing that I love flowers, she said it was impossible to go to Tokyo station without sampling some of the beautiful flower-inspired delights from this famous shop.
What we hadn’t anticipated was to get silly-stuffed at a ramen restaurant beforehand, but indeed we followed her advice and instead ordered some small desserts to take back as souvenirs. With obvious attention paid to the presentation, I was not sure I had actually expected the edible flower desserts to taste as delicious as they looked, but I would love to visit the shop again in another season to enjoy some of their other seasonal goods. Swing by the dessert display to be amazed!
Address: 1−9−1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo