Sakura season in Japan is legendary. We decided to take the family there for the kids’ Spring Break and hoped to catch the cherry blossoms in their prime. We were not disappointed.
After figuring out the complicated Tokyo train system, we made it to our first stop, Tokyo Imperial Palace. It is located on the site of the former Edo Castle. It is currently the home of the Japanese Imperial family. Although most of the inner palace grounds are inaccessible to the public except for a couple of times each year, the outside grounds were beautiful and the large stone walls and moats impressed us.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Our favorite stop was the gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen. Crowds dominated the sidewalks but the views merited the long waits.
While waiting in the entrance line, we met some expats who had relocated to Tokyo about the same time we moved to Singapore. Like us, they were from Texas (Austin…it’s weird). We enjoyed visiting with them and sharing stories about our first year abroad.
Jonathan, Michael and Ariana enjoyed running in the green spaces when they tired of scenic views. Chris and I meandered, savoring each gorgeous vista. Here are some of our favorite pics:
We Found Ninjas!
Before we left, I researched places to take teens in Tokyo. While Jonathan, Michael and Ariana enjoy historical and cultural sites, mixing it up with fun helps our trips go smoothly. Ninja Akasaka was highly recommended. I booked us a reservation in advance.
After the gardens, we rushed to make it to dinner. What awaited us was a wonderful experience the whole family enjoyed.
First, you have to undergo “ninja training.” This consists of entering the restaurant through a series of hidden doors, obstacles, and fun illusions I don’t want to ruin for you. It’s amusing, safe, and sets the stage for a unique dining experience.
This fun lady was our host and chef. Some friends from high school asked us to bring Flat Stanley along with us for their son’s school project. Our host happily posed for this picture and provided a great experience for us.
At Ninja Akasaka, meals are served in courses at tableside. We purchased the tasting course for each of us (around $60 USD) for each person. This gave us an 8-course sampling of Japanese cuisine. The meal took around 2 hours and each guest group enjoys a private room.
A ninja magic show is provided during the meal but we weren’t allowed to take digital images or videos of it. You’ll have to imagine it yourself. We enjoyed it immensely. If you have older kids/teens who want a fun, unusual experience in Tokyo, visit Ninja Akasaka!
Tokyo Skytree offers great views of this city of 38 million people. Unfortunately, it is very crowded and may not be an attraction that appeals to everyone. Our family enjoyed it, but the cost and the crowded experience made all of us say we could have enjoyed another activity more.
Still, the views are impressive and the Skytree offers international travelers an expedited experience if you purchase tickets in advance online. We failed to do this and that affected our enjoyment.
Tokyo provides diverse opportunities for cultural exploration, entertainment and nightlife. While we typically enjoy rural, outdoor getaways, Tokyo was one of our favorite experiences so far. We want to visit again and see less touristy places.
If you are interested in visiting Japan, look for our other blogs on Kyoto and Nagano coming soon!