Skiing and snowboarding in Japan is the hottest winter sports ticket in the world at the moment, and why wouldn’t it be: it consistently records the lightest and driest snow on earth, and it falls in quantities that’ll make your head spin – every time!
If like many Aussies, you punctuate or even book-end you Japan ski holiday with a stop over in Tokyo, then you’ll be interested to know about a few really cool places to visit. Having recently visited Tokyo while transiting to the Madarao Resort in the Nagano Prefecture (see review here), we thought we’d list three activities, all of which can be experienced provided you have at least a day or a day and half up your sleeve (and at least two are kid friendly).
If you’re thinking of taking your family to Tokyo Disney this year, you won’t be disappointed. But at 51 hectares and with 43 attractions, Disneyland Tokyo is enormous. So, don’t try and do it in anything less than a day, as you’ll just leave disappointed.
Tokyo Disneyland is a short 25-30 minute train ride from Tokyo station. Disneyland truly is a magical place, for the building, the gardens (where not a blade of grass is out of place), the enthusiastic and forever smiley staff and of course the rides. Some of the rides are more appropriate for kids than others. Our children loved Big Thunder Mountain, the Inspector Gadget Go-Coaster, the Spinning Cups and the Jungle Cruise. We particularly loved Big Thunder Mountain and it was such a pleasure whooping and laughing with along with the kids as we bolted around the tracks, ducking and weaving as we entered caves and flew over bumps and rollers.
As a once in a lifetime experience, the entry price (JPY 7,400 per adult, JPY 6,400 for children 12-17 and JPY 4,800 for children 4-11) was truly worth it. Remember to take lots of warm clothing. If like us you visited toward the end of winter, the weather during the day was nice (maybe +15 degrees), but when the sun went down it became very cold, very quickly.
Hakuhinkan Toy Park, Ginza (5 story’s of toys, and just toys)
If you’re on a budget and Disney World is is just that little bit expensive, pop into the Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Ginza. At five story’s high Hakuhinkan Toy Park, and with a different toy theme on each of its floors, the Toy Park is a must visit, particularly if you have rug rats in tow.
Our kids had a fantastic time exploring the different floors, their eyes increasing in diameter with every floor they visited. The ground floor is for Lica-chan, dolls, Monsters and Barbies; Level 1 for life style, puppets, action figures, dinosaurs, music boxes and more stuffed animals than you can imagine; Level 3 contains a huge variety of toy trains, RC cars, educations toys, building blocks and Level 4, video games,, puzzles, magic, model kits, trading game cards, slots cars, and the biggest slot car track you’ve ever seen. The slot car track is a working rack and the kids (and big kids) can have a go for just a few yen. Its worth it just to see the overly enthusiastic attendant, looking resplendent in his race out fit and helmet.
Prices are quite reasonable and they offer tax-free purchases for tourists if you spend above 5400Y (which you can do easily). The stairs are steep but there are 2 sets of lifts conveniently located (main entrance & near toilets). Take lift to level 4 and work your way down. Eateries also conveniently located outside building and on top floors. Highly recommend for families with children up to 14 years old.
Mario Carts Tokyo
You’ve just had an amazing time in the mountains. You’ve skied or boarded the best powder snow of your life. Time to head home? The fun’s not over yet! Enter Maricar. Street Go-carting. Due to legal reasons they can’t call themselves Mario Cart…but that’s the idea. Dress up as characters from Yoshie to Donkey Kong…even TMNT get a run. All the carts are street legal with full registration. This is why you MUST have your International Driving Permit and passport with you to register. You have a guide in front and at the back so nobody gets lost. There are basic rules like no overtaking or swerving. But apart from that…got get it! The 3 hour tour takes you over Rainbow Bridge, past Tokyo Tower and the absolute highlight…Shibuya Crossing. You get up to 80 kmph at times while driving next to large trucks and other regular road users so this is no joke. You need to have your head on straight. But it is AMAZING! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.