Rob Goss knows where hands-on fun for children is found in Tokyo - from picnic spots to theme parks to high-tech hangouts.
Keeping children happy on holiday in a city as hectic as Tokyo can seem a daunting prospect. But if you know where to go, the city has loads of great attractions that don't come at the expense of a parent's sanity.
Here are suggestions to excite children of all ages.
Hanayashiki Amusement Park, Asakusa
As the oldest amusement park in the country, Hanayashiki's retro rides probably won't do much for teens, but most of its 20 or so attractions are perfect for little ones. The favourites with my family on trips here have been the surprisingly eerie haunted house and the rickety four-seater pirate ships that trundle on rails high above the park. Little adrenalin junkies could try the park's star attraction, a 60-year-old roller-coaster that weaves its way around and over Hanayashiki at a fairly sedate 40km/h, in the process giving great views of nearby Sensoji temple and the new Tokyo Skytree tower.
Admission: over 13s, ¥900 ($11.20); 5-12s, ¥400; under 5s, free . Nearest metro is Asakusa Station. See hanayashiki.net/e.
The home of Hello Kitty, Sanrio Puroland is the place to go to overdose on all things pink and sparkly. Inside the park's several theatres, Kitty struts her stuff in daily musical revues inspired by The Wizard of Oz and all manner of other song and dance extravaganzas. Away from the theatres, there are rides that are ideal for preschoolers, plus the chance to explore Kitty's rather decadent mansion. My flatulence-obsessed five-year-old son would no doubt be appalled, but for children who are into cute (or adults who are into kitsch), Puroland is wonderfully over the top.
Day pass covering all attractions: adults, ¥4400; 12-17s, ¥4000; 4-11s, ¥3300. Nearest metro is Tama Center Station, Keio line. See puroland.co.jp/english.
Tokyo Disney Resort, Maihama
If you've been forced to sit through a Hannah Montana Forever omnibus, the Magic Kingdom might have understandably lost some of its allure. Nevertheless, Tokyo Disney Resort, which includes the separate Disneyland and DisneySea parks, is a cracking good day out for families. There are parades, white-knuckle rides for older children, lavish stage shows, and plenty of attractions featuring Disney characters. It has everything Disney should, and the chances are high that you will have to bribe the children to leave. To avoid the worst of the crowds, make sure you go on a weekday outside the school holidays.
One-day tickets: adults, ¥6200; children, ¥4100. Nearest metro is Maihama. See tokyodisneyresort.co.jp.
With the crowds, noise and so many new things to take in, Tokyo can overwhelm the senses. That's where Tokyo's parks can be a godsend. Two of the best for families are Shinjuku Gyoen (near Shinjuku Station; admission for adults ¥200; children ¥50) and Yoyogi Koen (near Harajuku Station; free). Both are in the heart of the city and yet have hectares of open space that's ideal for running about, kicking a ball and burning off energy. They also make great spots for a calming picnic and one of Tokyo's better free pastimes: people watching. Head to Yoyogi Park on a Sunday when the rockabillies, cosplayers and buskers are often out in force and you'll see what I mean.
Whether you are five years old or 50, the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (aka Miraikan) is brilliant. Spread across this five-floor museum are hundreds of hands-on exhibits suitable for all ages. The museum also puts on regular demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies that include a dancing and soccer-playing ASIMO humanoid robot, as well as the occasional science-fiction-inspired prototype vehicle. While young ones are free to bash about and make as much noise as they like, older children can become absorbed in cool high-tech areas that educate by stealth. Even better, the exhibits and activities have English guidance.
Adults, ¥600; under 18s, ¥200; under 6s, free. Nearest metro is Telecom Center, Yurikamome line. See miraikan.jst.go.jp/en.
Japan's developers may no longer rule the gaming world but it still has "game centres" (arcades) that will blow a teen gamer's mind. The most cutting-edge of the lot is Sega's three-storey Joypolis indoor amusement park in Odaiba where, alongside Japanese arcade staples such as cute Purikura photo-sticker booths, there are car-racing cabinets, loud and frenetic shoot-'em-ups and (best of all) slick virtual-reality attractions that include hang-gliding and half-pipe simulators. Joypolis is only two stations away from the Miraikan, so you could easily combine the two with a walk around the rest of the entertainment-focused Odaiba area for a great day out.
Day pass: adults, ¥3900; under 14s, ¥2900. All attractions have English instructions. See tokyo-joypolis.com.
This article produced with support from Japan National Tourism Organisation.