Japan is a wonderful place to travel and enjoy delicious cuisine that might not be available in your neck of the woods. Food is a beautiful and delicious way to push us out of our comfort zones and experience a new culture. That being said, food is tied tightly to our emotions, and if you are travelling with children or particularly picky-eaters, it can cause a rift in your travelling party and unneeded stress for everyone.
Having a few options in your back pocket can be useful in case everyone is getting ‘hangry’ after a long day of exploring Japan and you need a place that can make everyone happy. Japan has many different dining experiences available, and I want to explore ones that can keep the little ones happy so you know what is available for them in Japan.
‘Family Restaurants’, as they are called in Japan, are specifically tailored to familial needs. Here are some of the most popular family restaurants for you to sample on your next trip! Even though some of the offerings seem quite “western” actually it is interesting to try the Japan-ified version of these dishes.
1. Gusto (ガスト)
Gusto is one of those ‘family restaurants’ that aims it’s menu to a more western pallet. As is typical Japanese fashion, however, the dishes tend to be a delightful blend of both International and Japanese. Some of these items include a cheese filled burger, oven baked edamame (soy beans) with bacon and a delicious Japanese tonkatsu (fried cutlet) dinner set. None of these options are above ￥1,000 yen do taking the whole family there will not break the budget. Gusto boasts having at least one location in every prefecture in Japan, so it’s worth a quick search to see if one is accessible to you and your family. They also have two other types of restaurants ’Steak Gusto’ and ‘S Gusto’, which boast casual dining experiences that are both quick and inexpensive.
2. 76 Cafe in Tokyo
One thing that can cause real problems when travelling with little ones is the second hand smoke that is still prevalent across Japan. Though the impending 2020 Olympics has done a bit to shame the tobacco smokers into the deepest, darkest corners of Tokyo, it’s still common to have a smoking and non-smoking section in many restaurants, without a physical divider (and let’s face it, that doesn’t do much of anything.) Not only does 76 Cafe offer a casual dining experience, and a basement with additional seating, but they have recently switched over to no smoking. The only concern is there is no elevator, so strollers might be a little cumbersome. Still, if you’re in the Omotesando area, it’s certainly a family-friendly option.
3. Kaiten Sushi Restaurants
Kaiten Sushi is a must have experience for anyone visiting Japan. However, just because you might be eager to try all the different seafood options, doesn’t mean the kiddies are. Rest at easy, most Kaiten Sushi places don’t only offer a plethora of delicious rolls and sashimi, but every restaurant I have been to offers veggie sushi, french fries, chicken or soups for the non-sushi lovers sometimes even mini frankfurters. This way if the kids want to try something you pick out, they can, but they can also be given some safer options as well. Maybe just avoid the high end sushi places, as the kids might get a eye-full of super fresh fish getting chopped up.
4. Umami burger
Umami burger may have originally started in L.A., but they opened in the land of their namesake back in 2017. Adults can revel in delicious, “Japan-only” exclusive burgers, but the children can enjoy the easy (and English friendly) kid menu. Sure Japanese food is fantastic, but sometimes you just want a gourmet burger!
Coco’s has a lot of options on their menu, which can be a big bonus for kiddies who might be wanting something specific. Burgers, pasta, pizza and a huge (all you can eat) breakfast buffet is offered at over five hundred locations in the country. Coco’s is a laid back restaurant chain and offers an affordable eating experience… and free refills on drinks!
6. ‘Family Restaurants’ in General
There are tons of family restaurants peppered across Japan, and their entire purpose is to offer accessible and affordable eats to larger groups and people with children. Jonathan’s, Saizeriya and more Denny’s than I have ever seen in Canada or America. (Be aware that Japan Denny’s Menu is not at all like the USA or Canada.) In moments when you are tired from travel and the kids are pooped from all the excitement, let these be shining beacons for your family to have a little reprieve and a blend of the familiar and the new. They are all very affordable and a great place to get lots of food without any hassle, and are virtually all tourist and English friendly.
I hope these suggestions help make navigating Japan just a little bit easier when you are hungry. It can always be an exhilarating, yet daunting experience eating in a foreign country. Remember that there are usually always options, be it a sit down establishment, fast food or pizza with a Japanese flare. Never let a fear of picky-eaters stop your family from the cultural experience of a lifetime. Japan is a culinary cornucopia and has something for everyone!