For years Alex Pizel (11) and his brothers Sean (8) and Joshua (5) have been asking their parents Jo and Mike to take them to Disneyland. Over Easter Jo agreed, planning a cultural immersion of Japan for kids with 4 days split between Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea and 3 days staying in a traditional ryokan (guest house) in Hakone. Did Hakone pale in comparison to Disneyland for the kids? Actually, not necessarily. suitcases&strollers chatted to Alex about his recommendations for family vacations in Japan and the pros and cons of a theme park for kids versus historical cultural experiences.
Which did you like better, Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea?
Hmmmm...that's tough. Disneyland...no, DisneySea...no, Disneyland...no, DisneySea. They both had great rides but I think DisneySea was best.
[Theme Park expert Stefan Zwanzger agrees that Tokyo DisneySea is the best amusement park for kids in the world. To find out why, see the suitcases&strollers story Theme Park Guy.]
What was your favourite thing to do at Tokyo Disney?
The rides definitely. My favourite rides were Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Raging Spirits, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Big Thunder Mountain.
Was there anything you didn't like about Tokyo Disney?
I didn't like The Tower of Terror that much. It was so scary. I thought I was going to die.
Why is Disneyland for kids so awesome? Why should parents take their kids there?
It's super fun because there are lots of exciting rides to go on. If parents want their kids to be so happy then they should bring them there.
[For more travel tips on Disney with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Why Disneyland?]
How was going to Hakone and seeing the traditional parts of Japan different to your normal life?
They have these big baths [onsen] that have really hot water and everyone goes naked together. They wear strange clothes and we all wore them when we stayed in Hakone. They sleep on mats on the floor too and we did that as well!
They eat sushi every day as well as Japanese curry. At home we only have that once a week or sometimes less.
Which was your favourite part of going to Hakone? Why would other kids enjoy it?
The Japanese hotel we stayed in [a traditional ryokan guest house] was so great. We could see Mount Fuji from the room! Kids would love it because you get to sleep on the floor and go into the really hot bath [onsen].
I really loved the Hakone Open Air Museum too. There was this big maze which was cool and this big plastic structure you could climb inside really high up.
Was there anything you didn't like about Hakone and experiencing the traditional culture in Japan?
I liked it all. I even liked that it was cold.
Should other parents take their kids to try a traditional Japanese experience?
Yes I think so because it is really interesting seeing how people in different countries live. I thought it might be a bit boring compared to Disney but it was really good.
[For more travel tips on visiting other parts of Japan with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Kyushu Insider.]
Which did you like better, the traditional parts of Japan in Hakone or the Disney parts?
Disney but I also really Hakone.
If kids were going to Japan and they could only do one activity there, what is the one thing you would recommend and why?
Disney because kids love rides. But I think they should go back another time and go to the Ninja restaurant [in Tokyo] and go to Hakone and stay in a traditional Japanese hotel!
[For more travel tips on things to do in Tokyo with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Japan With Kids: Tokyo Insider.]
To read more about the travel adventures of the Pizel family, see the suitcases&strollers story Little Globetrotter: Sean Pizel