We recently ventured out of our comfort zone and took our two young boys to Japan for a family holiday. Japan is approximately an 8 hour flight from Cairns, 9 hours from Brisbane, 12.5 hours from Sydney, 13 hours from Melbourne, and 15 hours from Perth.

No one in our family speaks any Japanese, we had never been to Japan before, and we really didn’t know what to expect. The most experience we have had with Japan is Sushi Train for dinner. But I can honestly say we had the best time, felt very safe and loved every minute of our trip.

Plan your Trip

Japan isn’t a country that you can just “wing it” and this is mainly due to the language barrier. That said, we did try to wing some of it and it made for a few laughs. If you look lost, someone will usually stop and help you so they can practice their English.

Japan has four distinct seasons. To really enjoy you need to take advantage of the seasons. Your itinerary and the things you do will vary from season to season.

Spring (March to May) is one of Japan’s most famous times – Cherry Blossom season. Summer (June to August) is warm so you will need less clothing, meaning more room for shopping. Plus the days are longer in summer. With its beautiful colours, autumn (September to November) rivals spring as the best time to visit Japan. And winter (December to February) is all about the snow and skiing!

Choose your location

Osaka was a great central location for us. We flew into the Osaka airport and happily based ourselves in a hotel for the week. We then moved onto Tokyo for five days, and spent our last two days back in Osaka before flying home. There are other options near Osaka like Kyoto and Nara; however, we found doing day trips from Osaka out to these locations was no problem.


Choose your accommodation:

I would definitely book accommodation well in advance as family rooms do book out and can be quite hard to find. We chose to stay at the Osaka Castle Hotel which as reasonable priced. Our room was small but sufficient with four single beds and a small bathroom. Best of all, it was right near the train station and in a great location. The main thing with Japan is that you don’t spend much time in your hotel, you are out and about seeing the sites every day. So pick somewhere close to a train station if you can.

Your accommodation options include:

Japanese Style

Ryokan – Traditional Japanese style inns with Japanese style rooms whereby you sleep on rollout futons on the floor, giving you the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese lifestyle. They have large rooms where you can fit the whole family, no problem.

Minshuku – Japanese style “bed and breakfast” lodgings. They are usually family run, and offer Japanese style rooms.

Japanese Apartments and Houses – Increasingly popular, but this is still a relatively rare type of accommodation to find for a family. They are entire apartments or houses offered to foreign tourists for short term stays to experience a true everyday lifestyle.

Western Style

Western Style Hotels – If booking a twin room for a family you need to be careful that it is an interconnecting room. Otherwise you may find yourselves on two separate floors.

Hostels and Dormitories – Offer lodging and meals at the lowest budget level. These have bunk beds and sometimes a private or shared bathroom. These suit a family on tight a budget.

Weekly and Monthly Apartments – Apartments and shared apartments, rented on a weekly or monthly basis (sometimes even on a daily basis), are among the most inexpensive ways of staying in Japan for an extended period.

House Sitting or Swapping – House sits don’t come up in Japan very often, but there are many websites for house swapping. Free accommodation is just one of the benefits.

Plan your Transportation

Train is by far the fastest and most cost effective way to get around Japan. It is recommended that you buy a Japan Rail Pass. It is an investment and only available for tourists to pre-purchase, but we used it to travel to Tokyo and it was available to use on many of the trains we had to catch, covering 70% of the trains in Japan.

There is also the subway as well as buses and taxis. However, we found the trains and subways worked well for us and after two days we were familiar with how the system worked.