After our four jam-packed days at Disneyland and DisneySea, we headed into the city for a few days. Ginza, to be exact. We stuck to the Ginza area because I knew I’d be too exhausted to tackle the subway with a stroller. And you know, my arms were basically dead from carrying her for four days. I buried them at Disneyland.
The good news is there’s so much to do with little kids in Ginza. It’s a very walkable part of town and a great introduction to Tokyo. The bad news is you miss out on a lot of the glorious stuff Tokyo has to offer anyone over the age of two: bars, cool exhibits, izakayas etc. But of course if you have toddlers, that’s already your life so you’re golden.
First things first. The best flight from Taipei to Tokyo is with Japan Airlines from Songshan to Haneda airports. You won’t need to trek to Taoyuan on the Taipei side, and Haneda is closer to the city on the Tokyo side. Japan Airlines is so thoughtful about little passengers too.
Where to Stay in Ginza
A kid-friendly hotel was way more suitable for us than an Airbnb for a couple of reasons:
- There’s hotel staff who can help if you need back-up with anything. For me, that was restaurant reservations and communicating with taxi drivers.
- The room is spotlessly clean when you move in, and you get to come back to a clean room every day.
There are hundreds of hotels in Ginza. We stayed at the Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel (Map) which is in a really convenient location and super kid-friendly. I’ve read the Remm Hibiya (Map) is another good option for kids.
Where to Eat with Kids
Truth be told, restaurants in Tokyo are generally not very child-friendly. Some places still allow smoking inside and others aren’t convenient for strollers or, well, kids. But we both needed a good detox after eating a bunch of Mickey Mouse-shaped food at Disneyland, so I picked restaurants that were chill about kids and served simple, healthy-ish food.
These are the toddler-friendly restaurants I really liked in Ginza:
Minoru Diner (Map) is on the 9th floor of the Mitsukoshi Department Store. They have countless Stokke high chairs (fancy!) and a menu that highlights locally grown, seasonal Japanese produce.
It’s super busy there on the weekends with Japanese families (they have a clipboard wait-list) but it’s pretty empty in the evenings. And yay, they’re open til 11pm if you’re having one of those days where the time just runs away from you.
MUJI Diner (Map) on the B1 level of the new MUJI Hotel is almost the exact same type of place. They have a bunch of Stokke high chairs too, plus a great salad bar and easy meals that kids would happy to eat. On the ground floor there’s a grocery section with fridge of pre-packed meals you can pick up and go.
Speaking of pick up and go, a couple of nights we simply ate in our hotel room for an early night. I bought our dinner from the food court of the Mitsukoshi Ginza Store (Map). It’s my absolute favorite place in the world to drool at the pristine and very expensive dessert counters.
If you’re not opposed to eating in the streets, you could even sit on the curb of Chuo Dori Ave. It’s closed to traffic on weekends from 12pm to 6pm, which is when I got the photo at the very top of my girl standing in the middle of the street.
On Saturday night, the two of us had a girls’ dinner at the Tsurutontan (Map) on the 10th floor of the Tokyu Plaza Ginza mall. They’re known for their udon but also have a lot of other dishes. I know this restaurant because I go to the one in Union Square, New York City. It’s really kid-friendly there so I took a chance that this one in Tokyo would be as well.
Reviews on Google Maps said there’s typically a wait, so I asked the front desk staff at our hotel to make a reservation. This was totally the right call because we showed up at 7:30pm to a line of about 20 people waiting outside! Oh, and check out this view.
6th by Oriental Hotel (Map) is like a unicorn of a restaurant. The place has a bustling brasserie atmosphere like Balthazar in New York. Its pancakes have a fantastic reputation. As in, people go there just to have the pancakes. They have a lunch prix fixe that’s very good value. On top of all that, they even have a dedicated kid’s menu, and I actually saw a little boy under five at a nearby table chowing down.
My daughter fell asleep before we arrived (not an accident, haha) so I got to enjoy the strange but very satisfying combination of delicious, fluffy pancakes and beer. Those pancakes are incredible, by the way. They definitely live up to the hype.
My last restaurant recommendation is another non-Japanese one. It’s the Ginza location of the Australian cafe, bills (Map). This might sound odd, but I really wanted to have breakfast there. Specifically, their scones. I made a reservation through their website for 8:30am, which is ridiculously early for us normally, but we made it thanks to the travel gods.
The restaurant is on the 12th floor of an unassuming building with no lobby or entry hall, so it’s pretty easy to miss. But even at 8:30am on a Saturday morning we walked in and saw four other families dining with their little kids. The space is simply gorgeous with amazing morning light. Absolutely worth getting us out of bed so early. The scone and ricotta pancakes were good too. One confession: at 900¥, the flat white is an investment.
What’s Fun for Toddlers in Ginza
We had so much fun exploring Ginza together, but it has to be said that little kids are very easy to entertain! One of the places my daughter loved to death was the Sanrio World Ginza (Map) where she got to explode with happiness at all the Hello Kitty stuff everywhere. Myself though, I’m a fan of Kerokerokeroppi.
There are two floors to Sanrio World, however the mall doesn’t have an elevator, so I asked the staff downstairs to keep an eye out on our stroller when we went up. I bet you five bucks won’t be able to walk out of there without buying something, even if it’s just a card or a cute pen. We weren’t too bad. We left with a stack of pop-up Hello Kitty cards and that tiny pink umbrella in the Tsururutontan photo.
When you’re in that part of Ginza, go check out Tokyu Hands Ginza Store (Map). The kids can go crazy for all the stationery, stickers and all sorts of knick knacks, while you can pick up a brand new, very affordable and lightweight suitcase from their house brand, Hands Plus. And you can get it tax free too! I was super lucky it didn’t start raining when I walked the suitcase back to the hotel with the stroller.
Another toy store that a lot of people talk about is Hakuhinkan Toy Park (Map). There are four floors and there’s a lot going on, but I’d say the fourth floor with stuffed animals and the train set is probably the only one that’s suitable for little ones, so take the elevator straight there if you can.
My daughter literally burst into dramatic tears when I signaled we were leaving. They must see that a lot because a staff member rushed over with one of their Hello Kitty plastic bags. It actually comforted her, that plastic bag. But of course she forgot about it 20 minutes later.
One of the best kept secrets is that the department stores have fantastic rooftop gardens where anyone can chill, run and play. Ginza Six (Map) is the newest, shiniest mall in town and it’s got an incredible rooftop with stunning 360 degree views.
Another lovely rooftop is on the 9F of Mitsukoshi Ginza. Yes, that department store really is the bomb. There’s lots of outdoor seating for spontaneous picnics with the goodies you get from the B2 food court level. We picked up scones from the Ginza Tea booth. If it’s raining, head to 10F where there’s a covered outdoor play area for kids.
Back at Ginza Six, make sure you visit the Ginza Tsutaya Book Store (Map) on 6F. Even without a big kid’s section, she spent about 40 minutes exploring. And if you’re in need of coffee, there’s a Starbucks on the same floor.
The last place we hit during our 3-day stay in Ginza was the MUJI Hotel Ginza (Map). The first six floors of the building is standard MUJI retail, plus a grocery section on the first floor and the aforementioned MUJI Diner on the B1 level.
I’d recommend taking the elevator to 4F and leaving your stroller in the parking section by the nursing/family room, then heading off to browse the other floors. You’ll come back to 4F later for the kid’s play area anyway.
What I loved about these little public play areas is my daughter got to play and interact a little bit with local Japanese kids. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about traveling with her. Seeing her be curious about and adapt to her surroundings. Hopefully that didn’t sound too much like National Geographic.
If you’re concerned about diaper changing rooms or breastfeeding rooms, don’t be. Trust me, you guys will be fine. Just look at these two rooms below. The top photo is of the Stokke-sponsored family feeding room at Mitsukoshi. The second pic is of changing tables at Ginza Six. I’ve never seen changing rooms so nice.
One last thing: if it’s raining or you guys just need a half-day inside to regroup, hey, there’s no shame it that and definitely no judgment from me.
The weekday morning shows for kids on NHK, Japan’s public television channel, are so creative and adorable it’s a legit reason to lay in bed with your feet up. Even I was watching!