“Oh, you’re going to Japan? Are you going skiing?”

This seems to be the first thing anyone asked when we told them we were heading to Japan for a family holiday. With two energetic boys, aged three and six, it is something that we would love to do one day, but not this time.

This time we were taking the boys to check out the sites of Japan.

Even if you are not a fan of skiing, there are plenty of snow-free activities to do with kids of all ages. Our holiday started and finished in Osaka and I couldn’t help but share our top 12 things to do:

1. Check out the Osaka Castle Museum

Time: Allow 2 -3 hours

Location: Osaka

More info: www.osakacastle.net/english/

We stayed at the Hotel Osaka Castle and thus the Osaka Castle was a leisurely 15 minute walk from our hotel. Walking into the gardens and then over the bridge to the base of the castle was breathtaking. This amazing castle has a rich ancient history and learning about the building’s past and seeing it firsthand had us filled with awe.

There was also a lovely pond filled with turtles but our boys couldn’t look past the martial arts building where we got to see, as our boys put it, “the ninja’s” performing martial arts.

2. Spot Deer at Nara Park

Time: A full day

Location: Nara

More info: www.visitnara.jp/destinations/area/nara-park/

Nara Park is a beautiful and idyllic park about 40 minutes outside of Osaka. Along the tracks to the temple you will see gorgeous deer that are more than comfortable with people and happy to feed from your hands.

3. Visit Universal Studios Osaka

Time: All day

Location: Osaka

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y4cxmtlh

Universal Studios Osaka is the official Hollywood theme park in Japan. There are attractions a plenty with literally hundreds of things to do. My advice – be strategic. Take a good look at the park map and circle all the things you want to see and do.

Snoopy’s Great Race Rollercoaster was a firm favourite and our boys also loved the Spiderman and Jurassic Park boat ride, as well as the Universal Wonderland, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street themed areas. At the end of the night there is a parade with all your favourite characters – Minions, Elmo, Shrek and many more.

Most ride waits are 60 minutes for the popular ones. But there are ticket options available such as a “child switch” and “timed ride” ticket where you can book a ride with long line ups for a certain time and return to it later instead of waiting. You can also buy express passes which allow you to hop in an express line. As a lot of people buy these, you still have to wait, but only half the time.

4. Ride the World’s Fastest Train

Time: Approximately 3 hours from Tokyo to Osaka but can vary

Location: Across Japan

More info: www.acprail.com/rail-passes/japan-rail/bullet-train

Prepare for a heart-pounding journey with the “Shinkansen” or Bullet Train. The train is very luxurious and spacious and a great way to travel and still see the sights such as Mount Fuji. You can’t buy hot food on the train but they do sell ice-creams, drinks, chips and other items.

5. Do a Family Karaoke Session in Tokyo

Time: 2 hours

Location: Tokyo

You can’t go to Tokyo and not try out a karaoke booth! You pay by the hour, and if you are going early (around 6.00pm) some of them are more than happy to let you take your kids in. It is a private booth where you can order food and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and sing your heart out in you private sound proofed room.

6. Uncover the Incredible Awesomeness of Legoland on Odaiba Island

Time: Allow 2-3 hours

Location: Odaiba Island, Tokyo

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y5emzvkr

Odaiba Island is a monorail ride from Tokyo. There is lots to do here but the Legoland Discovery Centre was our favourite. There are over 3 million Lego bricks inside, plus a Master Builders workshop area, indoor play centre, Mini Land where you can see a Lego version of the city of Japan (amazing!), and lots more.

7. Explore the Sony Explora Science Museum on Odaiba Island

Time: Allow 1-2 hours

Location: Odaiba Island, Tokyo

More info: www.sonyexplorascience.jp/english/sony e

The Sony Explora Science Museum focuses on teaching children about light and sound. See how your voice works as a visual, try the motion-censored puppet where a character on screen will do the same moves and facial expressions as you, and even have a “smile fight” with Mum or Dad to see who has the best smile.

8. Meet Ri Ri and Shin Shin, the Panda Pair at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo

Time: Allow 4 – 5 hours

Location: Tokyo

More Info: http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ueno/

As Japan’s oldest zoo, Ueno Zoo is a must-see for families. There are plenty of animals from penguins to tigers, but the highlight had to be the pandas. It is pram friendly and I would suggest taking some snacks.

9. Take in the Tokyo Toy Museum

Time: Allow 3-4 hours

Location: Tokyo

More info http://goodtoy.org/ttm/

The Tokyo Toy Museum was amazing. Our kids LOVED all the traditional Japanese wooden toys. There are three levels, and each will encourage your children to play, create, and learn.

There is a Toy Factory where we paid a little extra ($10) to participate in a workshop and paint a Babushka doll. There is also a wooden baby room especially designed for kids under two, a games salon with amazing analogue games that will make your children think, and the Toy Red Square where the boys loved playing make believe with the Japanese wooden kitchen. Our boys didn’t want to leave, but they were getting hungry!

10. Visit Tokyo DisneySea

Time: All day

Location: Tokyo

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yyx4rt57

DisneySea is one part of Disneyland and has a more rustic and Mediterranean feel to it. The best area for youngsters was the Mermaid Lagoon. This amazing replication of Under the Sea is amazing, and the kids loved hanging out here for some downtime. These rides suit children of all ages and there is a great roller-coaster for kids 90cm and over.

There are plenty of places to rest, relax and change bub, with fantastic parenting, stroller and various ride passes to cut down on the waiting times.

11. Take in Tokyo Disneyland

Time: All day

Location: Tokyo

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yyx4rt57

Disneyland is everything Disney you can imagine, but in Japanese of course. We loved every moment here and 90% of the rides were suitable for our kids. We decided to have a buffet for our dinner and then watched the Grand Parade with all the Disney characters. It was as magical as you would expect and our children had stars in their eyes for days after.

12. Visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Time: Allow 2-3 hours

Location: Tokyo

Stop at a bakery and grab some yummy food and head to the gardens to have a picnic. This park has the biggest gardens in Tokyo and they were beautiful. We saw a traditional Japanese garden and if you are there in early spring you will see the 65 varieties of Cherry Blossom bloom.