This is an updated version of a post I originally contributed for YummyMummyClub.
I grew up in a small town in Japan. It’s been almost 20 years since we moved to Canada, so my children were pretty much raised as Canadians. We try to go back to Japan as often as possible, and it’s great to see my kids get so fascinated with my home country. Here are 5 Must-Do Things in Japan with your children.
1. Visit a Family Restaurant
Family restaurants(FAMIRESU for short) are everywhere in Japan. They are reasonably priced and kid friendly. For some reason, Kids Meals are called “OKOSAMA(Child) LUNCH” And yes, they are served all day, not just at lunch time. It usually consists of little bit of everything (spaghetti, meatballs, etc.) and a little mountain of rice with a flag on top. When my son first saw it, he thought that was the greatest thing! Make sure you take a photo.
2. Visit a Shrine or Temple
Every city has a shrine, big or small. These are good places to enjoy beautiful traditional buildings and take photos (best of all, free admission!) Most shrine will have a water area with a scoop where you can cleanse your hands. You are to purify your hands before talking to the God. Just rinse your hands with water. At the main hall, you’ll see a bell with a big rope attached to it. You tug the rope to “wake up the God.” There should be a trunk in front of you, so throw in some small change and clap your hands twice, close your eyes and make a wish.
3. Check Out a Festival or Two
Some festivals are huge and happen annually, so be sure to check the local event schedule of where you are headed. But if you are lucky, you might just come across a small fair near the shrine. Unlike North American fairs, there won’t be any rides, but usually a strip is lined with all kinds of different vendors selling snacks (candy apple, cotton candy, OKONOMIYAKI savory pancakes, etc.), toys and masks, or have a game booth. My favourite is KINGYO SUKUI -“scoop the goldfish” game!
4. Character Goods Store
If you have a daughter, (no, scratch that, boys will love it too) you must go to “Character Goods Store”—such as Sanrio and Kiddy Land. You’ll be overwhelmed by the number of character goods (most famous of all is Hello Kitty). From underwear, handkerchief, hair clips, note books, bento boxes,stationery,stuffed animals to chopsticks, you can find all kinds of wacky fun things with your favourite character on it. There are plenty of fun things for boys as well (my son loved Cup Noodle shaped erasers), and these tiny things make great souvenirs for friends back home.
5. Ride on a Bullet Train