Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism

 

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism pin

 

Tokyo is a great travel destination for families visiting Japan. Parents looking for an international city that features cultural experiences, natural wonders, and amusement parks should put Tokyo on their bucket list. After having enjoyed the city’s sights on our latest Asian adventure, here are our top autism-friendly spots for traveling families.

7565403988_d507929801_k-001Disneyland Tokyo and Tokyo Disney Sea

Parents looking to incorporate a bit of Mickey Mouse into their Tokyo vacation should visit Disneyland Tokyo and its sister park Tokyo Disney Sea. Filled with thrill rides and shows, these two Disney parks are sure to deliver a fun-filled experience for the entire family.

Though Disneyland Tokyo is similar to its US counterparts, Tokyo Disney Sea is unique. Tokyo Disney Sea boasts an ocean theme with gondola trips and the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism views

Tokyo Sea Life Park

This place is a fantastic way to acquaint children with sea life from different oceans around the world. Kids will marvel at the unique sea creatures indigenous to various bodies of water, colorful fish, sea horses, and sharks. Also, they will be more than likely to get a chuckle out of the bird antics in the penguin exhibit. The Sea Life Park is located just across from Disneyland in the Kasai Rinkai Park so it should not be too hard to find.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism statue
Odaiba

Odaiba is an artificial island rising out of Tokyo Bay. This island is a hub of all things futuristic, as it was originally meant to showcase futuristic living much like Epcot in Florida.

Today, Odaiba features attractions like the Daikanransha Ferris Wheel and Sony Explora Science. Kids will love the arcades with the most up to date games, and parents will savor the views from the Fuji TV building. Everything from state of the art electronics to futuristic architecture will enthrall all family members. Not to be missed is the Rainbow Bridge beautifully lit at nighttime.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism temple

Ginza and the Sony Showroom 

Ginza is a shopping district, the closest thing Japan has to Times Square in New York City. There are numerous upscale boutique shops and posh department stores where children and parents alike can deck themselves out with high-end fashion. Geeks will enjoy a short tour of the Sony ExploraScience building with its interactive activities, and hands-on demonstrations.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism sony

 

Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo-Tokyo Museum gives visitors a walk through the history of Tokyo. Travelers get a rare glimpse the origins of a city from a unique perspective. Here, guests can visit scaled models of buildings that re-create important events in history from the beginnings of Tokyo to the war-torn aftermath of World War II. The museum ends with a modern rendition of Tokyo built to scale. Children will love this up close and personal view of one of the greatest cities in the world.

Families can get English speaking personalized guided tours for free, an excellent feature.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism diorama

 

Sensoji Temple

This location is the city’s most famous Buddhist temple. It is also the oldest. However, the structure that currently stands there is relatively new despite its ancient history. This fact is because WWII bombings nearly destroyed the structure.

Having been rebuilt, Sensoji is a serene space for Buddhists to practice and live out their faith. The street leading up to the temple is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants that families can enjoy. Parents will want to keep their children close to the main gate to avoid crowds. However, once inside, parents can introduce their children to a culture like no other. Those visiting at six pm can hear the regular ringing of the bells.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism lamp

 

Tokyo Tower and Skytree

Parents can explore the Tokyo Tower, a communications hub found in the Shiba-Koen district of Minato. The Tower’s construction was inspired by the Eiffel tower and stands as the second highest structure in all of Japan. Families can ride the escalator to the tower’s observation deck or climb its 600 steps. Just below the Tower is FootTown, a four-story building with museums, eateries, and shopping areas.

The Tower was initially constructed for television and radio in 1961, but when Japan transitioned to digital television, the Tower was not tall enough to support the change. Therefore, the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest structure in all of Japan and the world, was built in 2012 in Sumida.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism wedding

Studio Ghibli 

Founded on June 15, 1985, by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli is the number one Studio for Japanese animation. It is based in Koganei, just outside Tokyo. The studio is best known for its films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke.

Production at Studio Ghibli is currently temporarily halted with Miyazaki’s retirement, but travelers can still visit the Studio. Check out the small cafe ‘s bamboo straws and unique ice cubes.When we went, the lack of commercialization in the studio struck us especially. Studio Ghibli is nothing like US Studios, and visiting is more of a journey into the creation of anime movies and the process behind it. This visit is more recommended for older kids.

Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism ticket

Hama Rikyu

Hama Rikyu is a beautiful garden park at the mouth of the Sumida River. The park was originally the home of a feudal lord in the Edo period but opened as a park officially in April of 1946. A seawater moat circles the entire park. Visitors can enjoy matcha tea and sweets at the teahouse in the garden’s center. During the New Year, travelers can also see falconry and aikido demonstrations at the park.The park is a relaxing spot for kids to run about and enjoy the outdoors in what is a very busy metropolis.


Top Tokyo Spots for Kids with Autism park

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should be aware that landmarks and entertainment venues in Japan are quite autism friendly and will go out of their way to accommodate personal needs.
  • Always ask before purchasing tickets if there are any discounts for disabilities.
  • Japan is a polite society, so advise your kid to say please and thank you and use their inside voice.
    Parents should ask for the complimentary guided tour of the Edo Museum
  • Though the theme parks here don’t  use the same disability pass like in the US, the staff does a superb job of accommodating autism
  • Noise sensitive kids should avoid visiting the Sensoji Temple around six pm when the bells ring quite loudly.

 

Have you taken your child to Tokyo? What are your thoughts?

 

 

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan pin

Japan is a fascinating family-friendly country to experience for all, including children with autism. Before traveling, parents should understand its customs and culture better to help everyone have an enjoyable visit.

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan kitty

 

 The Japanese toilets can be scary

One of the first things travelers will encounter in Japan are the plug-in Japanese toilets. The commode facilities have individual settings for sound and heating which may freak some travelers with autism.
Our son with autism was frightened he might get electrocuted when he saw the toilet plugged into the outlet. Though we tried to reassure him repeatedly that it was safe, his fear never really went away.

Furthermore, visitors may encounter a traditional Japanese squat toilet that looks nothing like the western ones. This ground level commode requires balance that people with autism might not have and presents a challenge to use.

 

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan toilet

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Show your kids pictures or videos of the plug -in Japanese toilets before visiting so they understand they are safe to use.
  • If your kid is uncomfortable with using, the plug-in toilets remember they can be unplugged.
  • Parents should bear in mind that hotels and restaurants have Western toilets to use for free if the traditional Japanese facilities are too scary.

 

The Japanese food is different

Food in Japan is quite different than in other countries, with many dishes either being saltier or sweeter than travelers might be accustomed to in their countries of origin.
Visitors should understand that restaurant portions are smaller than in the US or Europe and that the options of free drink refills and returning food to the kitchen if disliked aren’t offered.

Also, parents should be aware that many of the budget friendly restaurants only provide chopsticks which may be challenging for kids with autism.

 

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan food

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Travelers should always ask the price of the dishes before ordering.
  • Some venues have plastic replicas of the served dishes displayed in the front window, so visitors can see what they are about to order
  • Avoid American chain restaurants as their fare is usually adapted to local taste preferences which could disappoint kids used to particular flavors and textures.
  • Parents should prepare their kids for the possibility they might not find their favorite pizza selection since Japan isn’t big on cheeses (many people in Asian countries are lactose intolerant.)
  • Tourists should check out the local supermarkets for cheaper food and samples of the local dishes.
  • For kids that can’t use chopsticks, parents should pack plastic cutlery to facilitate easy eating.

Mind the trash

Japanese streets are immaculately clean with virtually no litter on the streets. Surprisingly enough, as we discovered during our visit, there weren’t that many public bins to dispose of waste, which made it cumbersome to dispose of any trash after enjoying street grub.

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan street grub

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Carrying a plastic Ziploc bag in one’s pocket for unexpected garbage may be a good idea when touring Japan.

There’s quite a bit of smoking

Japan still allows smoking in public places. Therefore, parents need to request non-smoking hotel rooms and restaurant tables ahead of time to avoid unnecessary snafus.

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan lines

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • As customer service is excellent in Japan, travelers can always ask to change their room or table even at the last minute.

Crossing the road is complicated

The major cities in Japan have intersecting crosswalks that can be downright daunting for tourists from other countries. During our first visit to Tokyo, we stood at a Shinjuku crossing for a few minutes trying to decipher which way we should go. Because of this, parents should reiterate to kids the importance of staying close to them and not darting into traffic which in these cases can come from multiple directions.

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan crosswalk

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Familiarize your children by showing them pictures and videos of this type of many crosswalks.

Navigating public transportation takes practice

Navigating the subway in the large cities like Tokyo takes a bit of practice. Travelers might find themselves lost or unable to pay the fare the first few times, as the machines aren’t exactly user-friendly. In addition, many subway stations are so large that passengers might easily find themselves walking a mile from one exit to the other. All these factors can lead kids to autism to unnecessary frustration and meltdowns if not planned for in advance.

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan maps

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should pack two pairs of comfortable, broken-in walking shoes for their kids.
  • Travelers should try to get acquainted with using the fare adjustment machines on the subway the very first day.
    If they find it complicated, they should ask for help and videotape the process to help memorize the steps. A budget friendly option when using the subway is purchasing the cheapest ticket and then paying for fare adjustments during the day.

Anime and Manga might not be PG

Japan is famous for its anime and manga comics and characters, translated into many languages around the globe. What many parents don’t realize is that some of the comics easily fall into the soft porn category.
Moreover, those visiting certain neighborhoods like Tokyo’s Akihabara might be taken aback by the young girls in manga uniforms soliciting customers.

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan manga

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Depending on the kid’s level of comprehension parents can decide whether to expose their child to this genre of entertainment.

 

Japan is very Autism Friendly

Many museums and tourist attractions we’ve visited offered disability passes, which helped us with discounted pricing and bypassing long lines.
Moreover, everybody was incredibly respectful and helpful with our son even when he experienced a meltdown.
An excellent example of Japanese hospitality and kindness was when we couldn’t get tickets for Ghibli Studios. Our disappointed son was crying in the middle of the street, and several people approached us offering to help. The person who finally succeeded in calming him down was a gentleman who spent over twenty minutes of his time figuring out a way to order the tickets through an automated machine.

 

Taking Your Child with Autism to Japan train

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Tourists should download apps that show maps and basic words in Japanese.
  • Parents should teach their children to thank people in Japanese when they get help.  (ありがとう Arigatō)

 

Have you visited Japan? Come and share your tips with us!

 

Tokyo Shopping with Family

Tokyo Shopping with Family pin

Shopping in Tokyo is vastly different than the experience most of us are familiar with in the United States. Most of the city’s shopping areas are comprised of walkable streets or portions of streets. Others have grown around areas, with heavy foot traffic such as train stations or temples. When it comes to purchasing souvenirs, the products available run the gambit from cutting-edge electronics to inexpensive tchotchkes. For those traveling to the Japanese capital for the first time, here are our favorite spots to explore.

Tokyo Shopping with Family akihabara

 

Akihabara

The shopping venue enjoys the reputation as the place to go to for anything and everything electronic. Akihabara began as a group of small shops which supplied do-it-yourselfers with specific electronic components. The area later experienced increased demand for consumer-ready, out-of-the-box products.

While the small, very specialized shops continue to thrive, large mainstream stores, such as the massive Yodobashi Camera store, now comprise the majority of the shopping experience.

 

Tokyo Shopping with Family akihabara electronics

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Discuss with your child in advance the items that you are looking for to purchase and how much you are willing to spend. The area is filled with many bargains, and one might find themselves tempted to buy unnecessary things that can’t be returned.
  • Make sure at all times that your child is next to you so they don’t press any buttons or break any items.
  • Parents might want to explain ahead of time to older kids the concept of the Maid cafes since they might ask questions about girls in odd uniforms standing on street corners.

Nakamise-dōri

Nakamise-dōri is one of the oldest shopping areas in the city and continues to be one of the most popular. This shopping area begins at the Kaminari-Mon gate and ends at the foot of Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple. The area is famous for tourist fares such as figurines and T-shirts, along with several shops selling local food. With over ninety shops to explore, this venue is always busy, so parents should be prepared to spend several hours walking around.
Tokyo Shopping with Family fried mochi

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Visitors should arrive early in the morning since it gets mobbed with tourists and school kids in the afternoon.
  • THE food to try is the sweet and fried mochi balls.

Harajuku

The concept of this area is different than anything found in the States. or Europe.
Harajuku is comprised of two parallel streets filled with shops selling  Japanese designer clothing.

The uniqueness of Harajuku is the choice of the fashion genre. Though the area may look awkwardly designed is an efficient way for parents and children to shop together. Omotesando street is famous for its upscale apparel boutiques while counterculture and youth apparel dominate Takeshita Don.

 

Tokyo Shopping with Family clothes

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This place caters mostly to fashion oriented young people, especially teenagers.
  • If your child is not particularly interested in fashion, then make sure they have adequate electronic entertainment while other family members shop.

Shinjuku

Travelers can find the Shinjuku shopping area around Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train stop. Flagship stores of many major electronic and fashion retailers can be found here. Also, there are additional shopping opportunities in the underground areas.

Shinjuku is also one of the largest entertainment districts in Tokyo, with a huge selection of clubs and restaurants to enjoy. With such a diverse array of shopping, entertainment, and dining options, anyone is sure to have an enjoyable experience.

Tokyo Shopping with Family shoes

Autism Travel Tips:

  • One of the worst intersections in Tokyo is in Shinjuku, where pedestrians can cross in eight different directions simultaneously.
  • For families with kids that are not interested in shopping, there are several cat cafes in the neighborhood that will delight all members of the family.

100-Yen Store

The 100-Yen store is Japan’s version of the Dollar Store. There are many of these stores around Japan, and more are opening every year. The concept is the same like in the US; the company buys in bulk and can sell their products at a reduced price. As in the United States, it is not the best place to purchase electronics, but the 100-Yen store is perfect for T-shirts, souvenirs, and sundries.
Tokyo Shopping with Family city

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should set a fixed budget when shopping since one might be tempted to buy things that are not necessary.
  • The store sells toys and souvenirs that are great to use as budget friendly rewards for kids with autism.

Have you visited Tokyo with your children? What are your shopping tips?

 

Taking the Kids to Tokyo’s Edo Museum

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum

The famous Ueno Park in Tokyo, Japan is home to several major museums. Among these is the Edo Museum, a national icon for Japan and prized building in Tokyo. This museum is easy to spot while walking because of its unique elevated structure and shape modeled after an old storehouse in the Kurazukuri style.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum building

Located at 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida, the Museum focuses on Tokyo history during the Edo period from 1603 to 1868. The venue opened in March of 1993 with the purpose of passing on the history and culture of Edo-Tokyo to future generations through interactive exhibitions and preservation of their collection of over 590,000 items. When visiting the museum, visitors can learn more about the 400-year history of the city; from the time  Tokugawa Ieyasu, established his government in Edo to present day Tokyo.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum structure

The concept behind the  Museum was that it would become a center for the creation of a new future for the city as well as a place to educate tourists. However, we discovered the best part about the venue is how it encourages interaction between the locals and visitors.

Getting There

Travelers can get to the Museum by bus, taxi, train or walking depending on from where they are arriving. The most common mode of transportation is the subway. The subway in Tokyo is relatively easy to navigate so families should have no issues in figuring out how to get around. Visitors can either take the  JR Sobu Line to Ryogoku Station and exit out of the West exit or take the Oedo Line to the Ryogoku Station and get off at the A4 exit.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum street

Museum Highlights

The museum offers a permanent exhibition that showcases original objects and replicas dating back  400-years. The exhibit is interactive; featuring videos in multiple languages, performances, and activities for all ages. Furthermore, various dioramas and life-sized displays show the city of Edo through the different centuries. Several times a year the museum hosts special exhibitions on its first-floor. Furthermore, offers hands-on classes, traditional Edo Haku theater, and a traditional culture experience program for foreigners.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum side

Edo

We enjoyed a private tour led by a museum volunteer docent. He took time explaining the different areas to us and answering all our questions.

We started by crossing a full sized replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge back to 1590. That year, Tokugawa Ieyasu entered the Kanto area and established Edo as his home base.
Ieyasu, who became the ruling shogun, worked diligently to turn Edo into a capital worthy of the shogunate. He commissioned moats, roads, temples, shrines, and permanent living quarters for the building of his army. Our sons admired the detailed scale model replicas of the chain district and the Edo Castle.

Next, we were off to checking out how the ordinary people lived in the 1600s. Most people lived in houses called “Na Gaya,” which resembled a tenement type of row of houses. We found it interesting that as early as the 1600s Japan already had an established printing and publishing industry to distribute information. We also learned about the economic patterns that emerged in Edo; from migrant workers seeking work to the transportation of goods from Japan’s various regions. It was at that time that the city’s main thoroughfares (still in use today) Shinagawa, Itabashi, Senju, and Naito Shinjuku stations were established. Furthermore, it surprised us to discover that though Japan was mostly closed to foreigners during its Edo period, it still maintained connections with the Netherlands, China, and Korea.

Tokyo

The museum charts the gradual decline of the Edo shogunate and rise of Meiji Restoration after Matthew Perry’s fleet arrival in Uraga.
The exhibit has several sections describing Japan’s transition from isolation to the westernized country we know today.

According to the displays, the city experienced two catastrophic events that shaped it for decades to come.
After the 1872 fire, the first of these events, they reconstructed the neighborhood  Ginza as a westernized fireproof city.
The second was the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The quake that killed 70,000 people triggered a large-scale reconstruction project that transformed the city’s streetscape and helped develop Tokyo’s suburbs.

For us, as Americans, the sections of Tokyo during the war and post-war were most memorable.
Our sons learned what it was like for Tokyo’s citizens to not only survive the WW2 air raids but the severe shortages under the Allies occupation after the war. The last area of the exhibit traces the recovery of the city that by 1955 had built multiple cooperative housing complexes and had its citizens saving up for the “three sacred treasures” – black and white TV, washing machine, and refrigerator.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum ship

On a Personal Note

Our English speaking guide, Mr Iohiro Yamamoto, was a polite and eloquent man in his 80’s. He walked us through the exhibits, describing Japanese history throughout the ages as we looked at the beautiful dioramas.

When we finally reached the WWII section, our guide sat down and said he wanted to apologize.
When we asked why he said he felt the need to apologize to us as Americans for what his country did to ours over 70 years ago.

He proceeded to tell us he had witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki as a young boy but bears the U.S. no ill feelings.
We were brought to tears.

Needless to say, it was one of the most powerful moments in travel we have ever experienced as a family.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum shoes

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The museum does provide wheelchair accessibility. Those with wheelchairs will come in on the ground floor and take the elevator to the sixth-floor exhibition. If the wheelchair does not fit in the museum (Japan has smaller walkways than other countries), visitors can borrow one from the museum on the first or sixth floor.
  • A downside of the museum’s design is that while a majority of displays are easy to see from a wheelchair, one cannot access the screens due to the small walkways.
  • The museum does not provide raised guide blocks for the visually impaired.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum roof

  • This museum takes anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours to walk. Even though the venue is air conditioned, parents need to prepare kids for extensive walking.
  • Families can request a complimentary English speaking guide at short notice.
  • .While some of the exhibits can be touched, most are untouchable. Parents should make sure their kids are mindful of what is ok to touch.
  • It is best to visit later in the day because the museum often hosts school tours.

Taking the Kids to Tokyo's Edo Museum dress

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo

The Family Friendly

 

Any family wanting to explore Japan and expose their children to Japanese culture will want to visit Tokyo. When staying over in the city, travelers have some quality options. We decided to stay at the  Westin Tokyo, and we were pleased with our decision.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo GATE

What Makes it Family Worthy?

Travelers can find the Westin at 1-4-1 Mita Street in the Meguro-Ku area of Tokyo. Though the location may not be in the more popular and touristy areas of the city, its main advantage is the peaceful neighborhood it is in along with the fact it has a giant mall and Ebisu subway station nearby.

Families will appreciate the location of this hotel, about 30 minutes away from the local airport as well as the city center. This five-star hotel contains approximately 438 rooms, with 20 suites.

Fellow Travelers

This hotel caters to business travelers as well as couples and families on vacation.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo LOBBY

Decor

The lobby, decorated in opulent dark blues, reds, and hues of brown and black had an understated elegance. From the massive marble pillars to the shiny floors and the plush seating, the luxurious feel of the hotel was evident. These colors complimented the neutral tones throughout the building.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo PIANO

Our Room

Our rooms 1616 and 1617 on the 16th floor had lovely city views.The boys’ room had two twin beds, each with an adequate number of pillows, and a nightstand between them. A cabinet containing complimentary kimonos and a sizable flat screened television faced the beds. There was also a well-equipped vanity area in their room, as well as small sitting area with two armchairs and a table. In addition, the room’s furnishings included a work desk with all the usual paraphernalia.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo BED

The well-lit, large closet in the boys’ room had an excellent array of amenities including a clothes brush, iron, and an ironing board. Plentiful tea and coffee making supplies were provided in the room as well. There was a mini fridge for guests to use, which we found very convenient for holding leftovers and other edibles. In one of the drawers beside the mini fridge, we found drinks and snacks available for purchase. Directly below that particular drawer was the in-room safe, a feature which always comes in handy for storing valuables.

The room that we, the parents, stayed in had similar furnishing but a much larger sitting area, as well as a king-sized bed. Our room also featured a tea and coffee making area with ample amounts of counter space.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo CHAIR

The Bathrooms

Both suites had bathrooms with black granite counter-tops and white porcelain sinks. The bathrooms both had separate tub and shower units, each with raised sides so that the bathwater didn’t splash out and cause the floors to become slippery. In both bathrooms, there were water glasses, fresh towels, and all the usual toiletry supplies such as soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Additional useful items, including toothbrushes and makeup sponges, could be found in the kits that were provided in each bathroom. Extra bath supplies were provided in the tub and shower areas, so travelers won’t find themselves hopping out of the tub and soaking the floors while they hunt around for the toiletry items. An excellent privacy feature in both bathrooms was the frosted glass shower door that obscured bathers from view.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo SINK

Our master bathroom somewhat differed from the boy’s bathroom. The tub and shower area in our room was paneled in black marble, adding a touch of elegance. Our bathroom also contained a linen basket for wet towels, which we thought was a very good idea.

The kids’ bathtub had a shelf behind it to hold extra towels and their toilet area was sectioned off from where the bathtub was, lending extra privacy to those who needed it.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo CHEESE

Our Breakfast

The breakfast area was a beautiful room decorated with red carpeting and white chairs around set tables. We noted an outside area where travelers could eat if they desired.

The breakfast buffet had the typical American fare of scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage, with a pancake and build your own omelet station. In the pancake station, guests could top their pancakes with chocolate and banana sauces. There were several options for vegetarians and vegans, including tofu and a salad buffet.

There was a section dedicated to Japanese foods, which included rice, wontons, boiled fish paste, smoked salmon and soybeans. Visitors looking for drinks could choose from fresh grapefruit or orange juice.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo PLANT

Dining

The hotel featured several onsite restaurants. Diners had the option of selecting from French, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines without leaving the building, or even their rooms with the Westin’s 24-hour room service.

Those dining at the Compass Rose on the 22nd floor could experience stunning city views with dark wood decor. There, diners could enjoy live jazz with a nice alcoholic beverage and even a Cuban cigar. Guests who ordered a cocktail could watch the unique method the bartenders employed for spinning ice in a glass.

Also on the 22nd floor, travelers could enjoy the Teppanyaki grill of the Yebisu. Diners could watch their meal be prepared right in front of them. The Yebisu offered three private rooms that could seat up to 10 people for a quieter dining experience.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo FLOWERS

The hotel’s Ryutenmon, a Cantonese restaurant, received a Michelin Star in the Michelin Tokyo 2010. This restaurant on the second floor boasted Chinese inspired decor. Parents should be aware that this restaurant had a smoking and nonsmoking sections in the restaurant as well as five private dining rooms. Noteworthy is the restaurant’s Shark Fin Soup which, though controversial, some travelers might like.

Also, the Westin had an onsite sushi restaurant, Mai, where guests could experience a Japanese Afternoon Tea with traditional tea cakes. Diners could sit next to each other at the sushi bar, or a family with up to four members could enjoy their meal on a private counter. The restaurant also offered a weekend Japanese Buffet.

Even all the way in Tokyo, visitors could enjoy authentic French dining at Victor’s. Executive Chef Toshio Numajiri, using local produce and meats, was able to create delicious French dishes such as bouillabaisse. While dining in the restaurant, patrons could enjoy fantastic views of the city in the main dining hall or the “Rococo” private room.

Travelers looking for a quick meal on the go could try out the Westin Deli, where they could get coffee, croissants, and even banana bread.
The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo APPETIZERS

Amenities

The hotel had a spa, a beauty salon, and concierge services available for guests. The reception desk was open at all hours as well. We had to purchase In-room wifi. However, public areas of the hotel had complimentary wifi.

Executive Lounge

The lounge featured elaborate decor with dark blue carpet and beautiful furniture. We loved the fantastic city views as we sipped our morning coffee in the lounge.An assortment of teas, coffees, and sodas were available throughout the day. In the morning, the lounge served breakfast for guests. During Happy Hour, the Lounge had a plethora of hot and cold appetizers as well as a variety of libations.

The Family Friendly Westin Tokyo SALMO

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The bathtubs at this hotel have safety handles, but bathmats are not provided, so travelers should plan accordingly.
  • There is a handheld head in the shower, which makes bathing easier for disabled persons.

 

The 100 Yen Store: A Japanese Phenomenon

 

I remember hearing about the 100 Yen store from a friend who had visited Japan several years back. The first store opened in 1991, and now there are around 1,300 stores throughout Japan and Asia.The largest is a five story gargantuan store in front of Tokyo’s Machida Station while the second smaller version is the Daiso flagship store in the city’s Harajuku neighborhood.During one of our stays in Tokyo, we ended up staying at the Sheraton Miyako right next door to one of the stores, so we naturally wondered in.

And I confess we were hooked!

The 100 Yen Store: A Japanese PhenomenonNot only did we end up visiting it several times to purchase multiple items but started recommending the experience to all our friends. And here are ten good reasons why:

Replenish Sundries

If your luggage is delayed or lost, this is the place to come and replace your missing sundries and cosmetic items. From toothbrushes, slippers, razors, hairbrushes and even packing bags –it is all there at a fraction of the cost that a local drugstore would charge you.

Weather related accessories

Forgot to pack your umbrella or flip-flops?
No problem.The store carries umbrellas and ponchos for the frequent Tokyo’s rainy days as well as sunglasses, fans, flip-flops, and hats for the sunny ones.
If you need a flashlight, luggage tags, lanyards, carabiners, velcro strips, duct tape, or electronic adapters; the store carries it.

Cheap extra clothing items

If your family is anything like ours, then it is always short on socks no matter how many additional pairs are initially packed. But don’t worry-you can find men, women, and kids’ socks, as well as t-shirts and underwear in the store for a buck each.

Snacks!

One of the things we’ve learned over our decade of travel is to have some snacks in the hotel room for those midnight munchies. If you travel across time zones, chances are you and your family members might suffer from jetlag and be hungry at odd hours of the night when regular stores and eateries are not open. The store carries everything from potatoes chips and popcorn to sweets and microwavable noodles.

Bottled water

Hotels tend to charge an arm and a leg for bottled water, and when you travel with a family, this expense can add up. The 100 Yen Store can help you stock up and bring the water bottles back to your room for a  fraction of the cost you’d expect to pay at a local grocery store.
The 100 Yen Store: A Japanese Phenomenon

Disposables

As frequent travelers we’ve learned to carry a first aid kit, tissues, and wipes everywhere we go, but it was only last year we realized we also needed to lug plastic utensils, and straws as well when traveling to Asian countries where Western eating utensils might not be readily available in some restaurants.Luckily, we found a dozen forks and knives packages for a hundred yen each.

Toys to fill a travel goodie bag

The 100 Yen Store is a shopper’s paradise when it comes to finding cheap art supplies and sensory toys. Parents can stock up on play -doh, squishy balls, balloons, colorful markers and stickers for years to come without going broke!

Kitchen and Laundry supplies

Travelers choosing to stay in rented apartments instead of hotel rooms may need cheap kitchen items like food storage boxes or utensils as well as laundry items like soap or clips all of which the 100 yen store stocks and has available in every store.

Souvenirs

If your child has his or her heart set on buying a few souvenirs for his friends, the 100 yen store is the place to pick up cute headphones, little charms, phone covers, tablet covers and even some licensed Disney merchandise.

Daily rewards

We discovered a long time ago that small daily rewards help as incentives for our son with autism to get him to behave during travel; so we were thrilled to discover this store is the crowned emporium of mini rewards.
Our son was very excited to go and comb the aisles for his daily reward. In fact, one of his prized possessions to this day is an anime cartoon DVD he’s watched, again and again, enjoying the animation even though he doesn’t understand any of the Japanese dialogue.

 


Have you been to the 100 Yen Store?
What items did you buy?

 

 

Family Stay at The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo

 

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo is located in the Shirokanedai district in Tokyo, which is well known for it’s lush greenery.

The hotel is also located within walking distance of famous landmarks such as Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, The Institute for Nature Study, and Platinum Street.

It is also within minutes from Shirokanedai Station (Nanboku Line/Toei Mita Line) and the Shinagawa railroad station. The hotel provides a morning shuttle to Shinagawa until 10 am and then to a subway station that you can go to Shinagawa from via a subway line.

The website describes the hotel as a “Japanese and modern Asian-sensibilities fused with modern Western-style” and promises the familiar comforts of a Sheraton experience.
The hotel offers suites, non-smoking, and Japanese style rooms, all of which come with complimentary high-speed internet and the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed.

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo front

General Thoughts:

The architecture was pleasant, and the hotel was geared more towards the business traveler than families, although it does not have an executive level.

The Sheraton has three restaurants; a sit -down Chinese venue, a fancy Japanese/French Fusion one that was quite pricey for our American budget and a sandwich and coffee shop in the lobby, where we ended up dining several times. The hotel also featured a spa, gym, and mini Japanese garden to walk through, which is a great attraction for antsy kids.

Location:

The hotel is in a more residential area, but a  convenient location, nonetheless. It is minutes away from many public transportation stations, two 7-11 convenience stores,  three major grocery stores where you could get meals to go and five minutes away from the 100 Yen store (a major favorite with us.)

Families staying at the hotel who want budget friendly meals, with unlimited sodas like in the U.S., should try a food chain called Jonathan’s right around the corner.

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo lobby

There is a kid-friendly park five minutes away if your child needs to let out some  steam or is just profusely jet lagged and wakes up at ungodly hours,
(Note: the park is locked at night).

Price:

The hotel offers specials from time to time, so be sure to check the website first. Otherwise, the standard rate is around $147.00/night and goes up from there depending on the particular dates.

Parking:

Covered self-parking – JPY 1,500 per day

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo entrance

 

Rooms:

The Sheraton has several rooms types available: Suites, Japanese-Style Room, Garden View Room, Starwood Preferred Guest Room, Balcony, and Connecting Rooms.

Be sure to mention allergies especially feathers at booking since Starwood has the “heavenly bed,” which is feather-based (down comforter and pillows).
Also, Make sure you request a non-smoking room at booking if any of your family members suffers from asthma as. Japan, unlike the US, still both smoking and non-smoking rooms available.

Our connecting rooms were spacious for Tokyo standards, and we were upgraded to the 11th floor, with a view of the city.

Our rooms, decorated with dark wood furniture  had comfortable beds.

 

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo beds

The sitting area, with a lounge chair and ottoman had a huge plant that was taking up much-needed space.Also, each room had a desk with a comfortable chair, perfect for anyone who needed to work.

The A/C system and windows were excellent: we did not feel the heat outside, and windows the city sounds out while keeping the chilled air in.

The bathrooms were a decent size and featured japanese (electric ) commodes which we had to unplug after our son with autism became apprehensive thinking he would be electrocuted when using it.

Like many Japanese hotels ,the property supplies slippers, bathrobes, and even kimonos for guests, so guests don’t need to pack any from home.

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo amenity kit

Front Desk/Concierge:


Both the front desk and concierge were fluent in English and provided excellent customer service support.
The front desk volunteered to call the next two hotels on our itinerary and remind them we needed connecting rooms with hypoallergenic bedding while the concierge skillfully arranged our day trips and advised us how to get from place to place using the exceptional Tokyo public transportation system.

Housekeeping:

We benefitted from Impeccable housekeeping, and always received our requested items within 5 minutes.

Special Perks:

  • Great breakfast buffet spread! Our family enjoyed the different dishes offered and liked trying the Japanese breakfast delicacies.
  • Excellent bathroom amenity kit that included not only the regular shampoo and soaps but hair brush, comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste.The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo breakfast


    Autism Travel Tips:

    We found the neighborhood setting calmer and less overwhelming than other neighborhoods for the autistic traveler.
    The hotel is within walking distance to a large train station with the quintessential Mcdonald’s, Starbucks, and Baskin Robbins that will make most kids feel right at home!.

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