Tokyo is so sprawling that even the experts argue over its boundaries and the number of people that lie within them. But with more than 35 million inhabitants, we can safely say that Tokyo is big and dense, an utterly urban spectacle, a metropolitan forest of neon sky-scrapers that will delight kids of all ages. Yet the city offers experiences of surprising intimacy: Convince the family to rise in the wee hours to experience the Tsukiji Fish Market, and you’ll have the makings of endless retellings about the time Mom and Dad got everyone up at 4 a.m. to see the world’s largest fish market.
Your hotel can likely arrange a guide, but if not, Tsukiji Guided Tours are brilliant at helping you navigate the handcarts and fishmongers and allowing peeks of the deadly serious auctioneers. Combining the tour with a tuna breakfast at one of the tiny sushi bars that flank the market is a convention not to be missed. Happily, the market is convenient to the Ginza, an epicenter of high-end shopping and sky-high buildings.
The neighborhood’s famed department stores — such as Matsuzakaya, Mitsukoshi, and Takashimaya (of the gloved elevator operators) — are the pride of the city. Along the Ginza’s streets, you’ll find numerous quick and reasonable rice-bowl counters in case the kids get antsy and hungry.
And techies will find the landmark Sony Building a destination unto itself, as the tower’s Showroom and Communication Zone Opus are the spots to sample the latest gadgets and entertainment equipment.
Finally, to show contrast to most of the city’s assertive modernity, plan a day in and around Sensoji Temple, which is traditional, colorful, and adjacent to Nakamise, a festive shopping street where you’ll want to pick up souvenir kimonos and fans. — D.L.
TAKE AWAY: The U.S. is a young country with young cities, so children will gain an understanding of the ways in which a centuries-old culture can maintain itself beneath the strobe lights of a strikingly modern metropolis.
STAY: The 177-room Park Hyatt Tokyo, housed on the top 14 floors of Shinjuku Park Tower, boasts panoramic views that still astound. The Club on the Park offers a glorious respite from the hectic city and features a full-service spa, lap pool, wet and dry saunas, gym, and relaxation areas. Rooms from $398.