Japanese culture boasts so much for kids to love. But where can you find Japan-related things to do and see for children, in London? Here, we’ve rounded up some family-friendly ideas for you to explore.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington has an incredible collection of objects in the The Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art. The carefully-curated objects are so fascinating and varied, from rice-cookers to samurai swords, there’s bound to be something to capture your little one’s imagination. Personally, I remember being captivated by the tiny, exquisitely detailed ‘netsuke’ carvings when I was a child. For an overview of the collection, visit this page to watch a video about the V&A’s Japanese collection.
After the V&A, you can shake the kids up by taking them across the road to the Natural History Museum. The ‘Earthquake’ section features a simulated earthquake in a replica Japanese supermarket!
Also in South Kensington, Kulu Kulu sushi offers conveyor-belt sushi (there are also branches in Covent Garden & Soho – do check the opening hours of locations carefully before you go). It’s great fun for kids to see all the varieties of sushi trundle past, and you might even be able to convince them to try something other than the eternal kids’ favourite ‘kappa maki’ (cucumber rolls)!
The Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries at the British Museum are sadly temporarily closed – until late September 2018. We’ll be excited to see what’s changed when they re-open. Will it still have the life-size Japanese tea-house with Japanese tea ceremony demonstrations on Fridays? In the meantime, why not read ‘Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure‘? The perfect intro to manga, as well as the treasures of The British Museum, the fictional super sleuth ethnologist unravels a dastardly criminal plot. Written by Hoshino Yukinobo, one of Japan’s leading manga artists, the gorgeously rendered black and white manga illustrations make the book suitable for older kids – and adults.
The Japan Centre is not a cultural centre, but a large shop with a focus on Japanese food and books. It has recently opened a new and improved location on Panton Street, in Soho, whilst keeping their previous Shaftesbury Avenue location open as a ‘Ceramics and Sushi’ shop. Kids will love discovering weird and wonderful Japanese snacks. Sweet potato flavoured KitKats? Totoro bread? Anpanman snacks? There’s also on onsite restaurant that seats 100. Recognising the growing interest in meaningful items with links to Japanese culture, take a look at Japan Centre’s ‘Japan Fan’ section (it’s not referrring to ‘fans’ that cool you in the summer, but rather, fans of Japan or ‘Japanophiles’!).
Hello Kitty fan on your hands? Art Box, located near Covent Garden, has a wide collection of Japanese stationary and plush toys, all bedecked with the classic Hello Kitty, as well as the latest popular characters, such as ‘Gudetama’ (a depressed, lethargic fried egg). This type of stationary shop can be very addictive!
Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square, often shows popular films for children, such as their ‘Studio Ghibli Forever’ series. Catch anime favourites such as ‘Akira’, ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Princess Mononoke’. Some films are dubbed into English, some aren’t, depending on whether you prefer to hear the Japanese language or not. If the kids are too young to read the subtitles, it’s best to go for dubbed.
In Japan, all children are encouraged to learn origami – the art of folding paper into an endless variety of shapes. It’s great for improving fine motor skills – and patience! You can find lots of info, as well as Uk-wide local meetings on the British Origami Society website. London area meetings are held on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 14:00 to 17:00 The Festival Hall , Southbank – 1st Floor Foyer. Anyone interested in joining in is more than welcome! Contact: Sharon Turvey.
Festivals can be entertaining (if hectic!) family fun. Hyper Japan festival is usually held twice a year, in July and November (the ‘Christmas’ show), and celebrates Japanese culture of all kinds, from traditional to modern, with a variety of shows and live music, food stalls, competitions, exhibitions, displays and workshops.
MCM Comic Con London is usually held in May, and is an exciting destination for fans of manga comics and anime films, and is very popular with ‘cosplayers’ (people who dress up in costumes like their favourite characters).
The Japan Matsuri has been held annually in Trafalgar Square in September for quite a few years running. This busy festival is better for older children than younger, due to the crowds. It features food stalls with long queues and an enormous main stage.
Parks are always a good option with children, and there are a variety of parks with Japanese gardens, in London and all over the UK. Read our article ‘Explore Britain’s Best Japanese Gardens‘ here for more info.