KidZania began in Mexico City with a mission to give “Kidz” under 14 a chance to build a more ideal world. Here in Japan, Kidzania is a city built to scale complete with buildings, shops, paved streets, and vehicles that look like everyday workplaces in Japan. Kids can feel grown up, learn how society works, and have fun. They can choose from 100 careers and get paid for their efforts in “KidZo” currency to their bank card. They create their own economy, withdraw earnings from an ATM, and shop at the department store and with their Kidzania wallet in hand. Kids can try to work on the factory line of Coca Cola bottling plant, save lives as a doctor, or model in a fashion show. Adults stay behind the scenes to empower kids to take charge as they fulfil their ambitions.
This is a wonderful place for role play and it is highly recommended to arrive early, with locals lining up from 6am. Most popular attractions involve making things you can take home, such as the opticians (sunglasses), sweet factory (candy), and paint factory (your own colours) as well as food making and action roles as an airplane pilot and fire department. English activities are conducted on Wednesdays and check for the English Activities Program.
This October 2021, Kidzania is celebrating 15 years in Japan with additional careers to try out during the anniversary period. Extraordinary events will be broadcast on Kidzania city news and radio. There will be parades and cheerleaders as well as inflight meals that feature special sweets to commemorate. Look out for another location coming to Fukuoka as well as other global options: https://www.kidzania.jp/
2) Teamlab Borderless
Discover the permanent home of teamLab Borderless in Odaiba, a multi-sensory experience created by “ultra-technologists”, the interdisciplinary collective make exploration a part of the experience. There is no map, or numbered order of what works to see first. And artworks can move about the room and even intermingle with other artworks as well as visitors. People enhance the experience as artworks react and respond to human presence and behaviours and create a sense of community. Unlike a traditional museum where it is more of a solo experience, here the digital world is shared with fellow museum goers.
Be mesmerised by brightly coloured digital paintings then turn a corner into a luminescent waterfall. Visitors are encouraged to take photos, so get ready to take some snaps at “Black Waves – Continuous”, or at “Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather”, they will make for great keepsakes. The Athletics Forest on the second floor is the perfect place for children to burn some energy. Children can hand in colouring pages to the staff and see their own creations come to life as a projection on the floor. There can be lizards, butterflies, and even a whale swimming underfoot. https://borderless.teamlab.art/ To see four more exhibit spaces, walk through water and become one with flowers go to teamLab Planets in Toyosu.
3) Fuji-Q Highland
Set against the majestic background of Mt Fuji is Fuji-Q Highland. This dedicated roller coaster park is without question home to the most intense collection of rides in all of Japan. In 1996 the Fujiyama, was the world’s tallest roller coaster 79 metres tall, 130 km/h and holds four more world records. Fuji-Q was featured on TV’s “The Amazing Race” in 2006 when three final teams rode Do-Dodonpa and Fujiyama.
Blink and 1.56 seconds after an explosive launch from a dark tunnel the Do-Dodonpa reaches daylight and its highest acceleration of 180km/h. It proceeds to sweep you up into the largest loop in the world. For the most revolutions board the hyper coaster Eejanaika, and for the steepest fall of 121 degrees take the Takabisha. Operate the giant wings of Tentekomai – Sky Roller for three minutes of acrobatic thrills. Tekkotsubanchou – Sky Tower Swinger will sweep you around floating 50m above the trees. Let all the weight off with Red Drop Tower as it creates a decent at 65km from a height over 50m. Freshen up and go out with a splash from 30m in the Cool Japaan ride, be sure to bring a change of clothes, you will be soaked by the huge water surge 18m high. The real world around Mt. Fuji and imagined world of battle in Evangelion combine in a 4D flight simulation experience.
In 2021 there is a cute Halloween festival celebrated at Thomas Land which features a Thomas the Tank Engine theme. And for braver souls, dare to visit the world’s first and largest haunted attractions, the haunted Jikyu Hospital and a newer AI ruled haunted attraction the Desperation Fortress. And there is much more to see and do, with movies at the Ninja museum- the story of Naruto, a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji from a colourful Ferris wheel, fairy tale carrousels, magic teacups, and row boats, as well as many smaller rides for younger children. A day at Fuji-Q Highland is a unique way to have fun in a spectacular setting with record breaking thrills. Consider height, age restrictions, and plan the various attractions to suit your family at the park. Attraction’s page: https://www.fujiq.jp/en/attraction/
4) Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
In Nagano you can spend time with the snow monkeys as they go about their daily lives in the warm natural springs of the Joshinetsu National Park. In winter, volcanic springs breathe steamy vapour over blankets of soft white snow.
Jigokudani Monkey Park will appeal to families that enjoy a short hike up the mountainside to discover the natual habitat of this community of interesting simians. Get to know each monkey and their own unique personality, cheeky or obedient as you observe their facial expressions and how they interact with each other.
Playing The Nutcracker this autumn see their determination to open hard shelled black walnuts or locally named, Devil’s nut. Here in Jigokudani, or Hell’s Valley, insects are another type of food group, see them scouring cliffs for stink bugs, stag beetles, and more. Watch them streaming live https://en.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/livecam2/video_en.php
5) Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli Museum, Tokyo replicates the style of Ghibli. The animated universe of Studio Ghibli is responsible for many iconic films. Popular characters can be found here in life-sized statues and large plush toys. Exhibitions look at the history and techniques of animation, a cinema hosts special screenings of exclusive Ghibli short movies. Spend time in Ghibli magical spaces on the rooftop garden, bookshop café, and playground. Always a sell-out, get tickets a month in advance.
Hiyao Miyazaki is an icon in Japan and his animated movies are well known around the world having been distributed by Disney up to recently. Miyazaki is celebrated in Los Angeles this October 2021 when his enchanting worlds and protagonists’ stories are at the inaugural exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Considering Studio Ghibli has almost matched Disney status, it is clearly time for a dedicated Studio Ghibli Themepark. This is set to open in late 2022 in Nagoya Expo Park. The Expo in 2005 already featured a replica house from My Neighbor Totoro, it is still standing and will be connected to Dodonko Forest. Natural surroundings will be respected, and no trees removed to create the five themed areas. A dining area will be based on Spirited Away. Plans to create a Mononoke Village and Valley of the Witches from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howls Moving Castle are to come in 2023.
Created in 2001 by the Japanese Science and Technology Agency to consider science, technology, and the future is Miraikan (Mirai means future). This National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology purpose built exhibits are on three main floors, starting off with “Symbol Zone” Geo Cosmos.
See scale models of the International Space Station, a neutrino detector, a drilling ship, and the Subaru telescope. Experiments, dialogue, and a play area encourage kids to explore robots, biology, geography, space exploration, technology, and innovation. The Earth, Lab, Life, and The Universe are alongside a family friendly cafe on the 5th floor, a restaurant is also on the 7th with top floor views. Bring your budding innovator to consider global disasters, ocean and space exploration, and new research on stem cells. Shop for souvenirs of Asimo, the walking robot, and discover dynamic images in the 6th floor Dome Theatre GAIA.
The Miraikan is currently hosting award winning works for the 24th Japan Media Festival, and it is also online https://www.online24th.j-mediaarts.jp/en/about
The festival attracts over three thousand entrants from more than a hundred countries. It has added new awards for Under 18s, and Social Impact with existing awards in four divisions of Art, Animation, Manga and Entertainment. One award winner is Anju Moriya who created a VR physical exercise program Flight Fit VR, to combat our sedentary lifestyles. Another is Anca Damian from Romania, who won with a colourful story, Marona’s Fantastic Tale, about a little dog with a heart shaped nose who considers, “What is most important to me?”
Another current Miraikan exhibit features an impressive movie Akira first released in 1988, that put Japanese cyberpunk animation on an international level. In this setting you can feel the powerful soundtrack to the movie with a unique sound system equipped with speakers producing frequencies up to 96kHz. Both the soundtrack and the exhibit were created by Shoji Yamashiro, who is also a scientist. To amplify the sonic experience of a futuristic setting in a dystopian Neo Tokyo, set in 2019 he incorporated scientific sounds into the movie soundtrack.
7) Universal Studios Japan
Osaka Universal Studios Japan opened in 2001. There are 62 attractions featuring characters from Sesame Street, Curious George, Hello Kitty, Minions, Shrek, Sing, and more. Explore various worlds such as Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland and most popular The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Enter the detailed replicas of Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade village. See students of wizardry and witchcraft in streets and in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom or singing outside in the Frog Choir.
This year sees the newly opened Super Nintendo World (Orlando will have to wait until 2025). Power up bands store virtual coins gained by punching question marks in this life-sized video game. Mushroom Kingdom has plenty of piranha plants and toadstools, as well as Bowser and Princess Peaches Castles. Yoshi’s adventure is not to be missed with Super Mario Kart rides for all the family. For lunch enjoy a green turtle shell calzone and question block tiramisu at Kinopio’s Cafe.
Warner Bros Harry Potter Attraction in Tokyo is coming soon… By 2023 there will be more magic in Japan as we can expect to explore film sets and backstage areas of Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter in the former Toshimaen amusement parks 30,000sqm area in Tokyo. This Warner Bros Studio tour is akin to the first in London, and only the second of the kind in the world.
Potter fans who cannot wait will have the chance to view the British Library “Harry Potter: A history of magic” exhibit in Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum until November 2021, and at Tokyo station up to February 2022. This incredible exhibit reveals how to study like a wizard and that the word “muggle” came from Egypt and is in medieval fortune telling records. Discover the exhibit online: https://artsandculture.google.com/project/harry-potter-a-history-of-magic
8) Sanrio Puroland
Join Hello Kitty or, “Kitty-chan” in her own amusement park purrfect place Puroland which has attracted 50 million visitors in 30 years. This cute character is not alone as Sanrio, the parent company also hosts My Melody, Cinnamoroll, Badtz Kuromi, Jewelpet and more. Descend into the heart of Puroland where the Sanrio characters come to life, and you can stop to say hello and take a picture. Catch the Kitty show which encourages good etiquette for kids and entertains a few times each day.
Get the urge to shop in the Sanrio store. Discover the Gotochi Kitty figures that have reached epic level popularity since they began twenty years ago as a collaboration with local authorities. Hokkaido was first, then all Japanese prefectures were kitted out with their own unique Hello Kitty merchandise. There are over 3,000 types and now feature locations abroad in US, China and more. Hello Kitty appears in a special costume or something indicative of a specific place. Many people collect figures each time they enter a new prefecture. Netsuke, a key chain with string, are most popular and can be found at train stations, motorway stops and souvenir stalls.
All essentials are adorned with Sanrio characters on stationary, small towels, plushie toys and candy. Join the children by being tempted to purchase a handbag, or clothing for adults, or begin your Kitty collection. Indulge in the cute atmosphere and take sweet breaks at the themed cafes and ice cream stalls. From early November to December 25, digital projections and illuminations make the visit even more magical with the “Puro White Christmas”. https://en.puroland.jp/
9) Tokyo Disneyland & Tokyo Disney Sea
Tokyo Disneyland is the first Disney Park to be built outside the United States and it opened on April 15, 1983. Tokyo Disney has the expected Fantasyland and Tomorrowland but here it is an experience unlike anywhere else, with exceptional customer service, professional cast members, and incredible dining options.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Disney Sea, one of a kind and one of the most visited theme parks in the world. Inspired by sea myths and legends, the park is built around seven themed ports. Mysterious island thrill rides to the centre of the earth, Mermaid Lagoon has acrobatic shows, and Port Discovery simulates hurricanes. In addition, there are the geographically inspired Mediterranean Harbour, Arabian Coast, American Waterfront and Lost River Delta with courageous Indiana Jones adventures.
Transportation is front and centre with many options to take; a gondola, elevated trolley or skim the water’s surface. The enthusiasm for youthful fantasy world knows no limits. Food counters cater to kids of all ages and with butter soy sauce popcorn and can serve alcohol to over 21s. You may accept this park as a real world and forget you are in Japan until you hear a story, or song sung in Japanese. By 2023 how can this experience become more amazing? The answer is Fantasy Springs, currently under construction and said to mix elements from Arendelle, Peter Pan and Tangled. Plans are revealed in this video The Exciting Future of Tokyo DisneySea – Fantasy Springs by theme park enthusiasts ReviewTyme.
10) Museum of Maritime Science
Trace the history of sea exploration in a building modelled after the QE2 ocean liner. Greeted by sub marines and ice breakers outside the museum we can appreciate the adventures and discoveries brave sea farers have made. Inside trace the history in design and building, protecting, and sailing the Japanese seas.
Uncover the story of the Soya, starting as an ice breaker and cargo ship, to museum exhibit moored here having seen war and exploring Antartica. Other types of vessels appear in models and videos as we discover the culture of ocean and ships in the Japanese sea and beyond. If you want to get closer to the skills of sea farers, learn to canoe and join a class in the actual swimming pool in the museum.