Technology makes Tokyo super fun for kids

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I navigate the crowds of suits, the flashing neon and the smoky smell of yakitori to land at the opening of a brightly lit store.

Two little gamers battle furiously. For what exactly, it is hard to tell. Nevertheless, brother and sister energetically hammer down on dual buttons until she pumps her fist in the air and squeals with delight. Clearly, she’s coming off victorious.

Arcade gaming in Tokyo from Bound Round on Vimeo.

 I peek past them into the clinical white light of the store to see rows and rows of glass cases full of plush toys and pinball machines. I’m not sure what this place is. A gaming arcade? A shopfront? Whatever it is, it’s packed. Not just with kids. Plenty of adults have come here to play games too.

Plush toys in glass cases inside arcade games store Tokyo
An entire store extending two blocks – just for arcade games Picture: Sophie Cullen

Tokyo is often touted as the ultimate fusion of old and new. Right now, I am saturated in the new. For families travelling to Tokyo, what hits you first about this city is just how high tech and crowded it is.

I’m on a side street off Shinjuku’s main drag, trying to ascertain exactly how sprawling this futuristic district is. Even as I get further from Yasukuni-dori, I remain in a surreal dreamscape of enormous billboards, glowing signs and cinema-sized screens playing ads and music videos.

 I pass a restaurant run by robots, catch a glimpse of the famous Godzilla statue on the Hotel Gracery building and lock eyes with a large-scale Miranda Kerr looking down from the top of a skyscraper.

Neon signs and street lights in Tokyo
Shinkuku after dark Picture: Sophie Cullen

Shinjuku was just the beginning. Overlooking the famous Shibuya crossing from the Starbucks window, I got a sense of the sheer weight of Tokyo’s population. Hundreds of umbrellas surged forward when the light turned green, weaving in and out past each other before settling on their desired footpath and dispersing into the streets beyond.

I slept one night in a capsule hotel. It’s not something I would recommend for families. I felt like I was on the film set of Passengers. Or a bee in a hive. My tiny porthole room was just one of hundreds of identical pods, packed in tight, yet completely separate rows.

The rows of pods in a Japanese capsule hotel
Sleeping in pods in a capsule hotel Picture: Sophie Cullen

In an attempt to evade the crowds one afternoon I wandered through a nondescript garden and found a lovely pond. I read a sign saying the fish in the pond had been bred on a space station and were brought back by a group of astronauts.

At Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland I felt like I was glimpsing the future as robots made my lunch. Read more about my Disneyland trip here.

Sculpture in pond in Tokyo Mori gardens
A pond filled with ‘space medaka’ – part of an experiment about vertebrates born in space Picture: Sophie Cullen

Technology really is inescapable in this city. So the best thing to do is to embrace it.

Gadget geeks will adore Akihabara, a dedicated technology district known as ‘Electric Town.’ It is weird and wacky and perhaps a little tamer than Shinjuku for families concerned about navigating crazy crowds.
Start with Yodobashi Akiba, easily the biggest electrics store I’ve ever seen. With the first level the size of a department store, I could not fathom that there were seven more. Take the escalator through if you’re a family who loves the latest and greatest devices. The top two floors are toys.

If the kids love sushi train – you have to go to a Japanese one in Tokyo where you order from a small screen. Simply click on the picture you want and within minutes your meal will zoom along a track to your table. Parents can even order a beer.

One of the best places to visit with kids in this city is the Miraikan Science and Technology Museum. Here you can watch Asimo the robot play soccer, interact with a humanoid robot and delve into questions that could change the earth’s future. Miraikan is unlike any other science museum we’ve ever seen. It’s built on questions – rather than giving definitive answers. The interactive exhibits ask people to find ways to solve problems such as climate change, space exploration and weather mapping.

The grand foyer contains a rotating globe of the world – but not just any globe – this one shows the changing weather patterns.

A huge globe suspended in the staircase of a Tokyo science musem
Miraikan Science and Technology Museum Picture: Alison Godfrey

Everywhere you turn in Tokyo, there is evidence of science and technology at work. This city seems to be fuelled by progress and innovation.

Stretch the kids’ minds, ask them to think and contemplate what kind of future they want to see.

Huge skyscraper rises above rest of Tokyo city
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building juts out in a sea of skyscrapers Picture: Sophie Cullen

Read more about Tokyo’s top 10 for teens[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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