Perhaps surprisingly given the Tokyo weather, where it is dangerous to go out during typhoons and where it can rain for days on end during the rainy season (and other seasons too), there are few indoor playgrounds. Perhaps the high property rates makes it uneconomical to dedicate large indoor areas to play.
Whatever the explanation, there are only a few indoor play areas in central Tokyo. There are several more in the near suburbs, mostly run by Börnelund, a company that started out selling pedagogical toys, but found that giving children the opportunity to play is more profitable than giving them things to play with.
In addition to these play areas, some department stores offer play areas. The Keio department store in Shinjuku has a small play area where kids can tumble around on the 9 floor.
No Babysitting Service
The indoor playgrounds are different from the IKEA Småland, which is more like daycare for an hour. The IKEA stores have them in Japan too, but they are even less centrally located than the Börnelund centers. One parent has to stay with the kids, but if you want to go shopping, you have to count on your kids playing for more than an hour. Even if you go to Odaiba, where the shopping is in the same building as the playground.
That play area is free, but other play centers cost money to use. Most charge per hour, the prices vary. So does the equipment. Usually they have a ball pool, inflated jumping castle, and lots of regular toys. Like everything in Japan, you will be amazed at how the Japanese designers can squeeze in so much in such a small space. Many of the indoor playgrounds are hardly bigger than an average apartment.
Most of the playgrounds charge about 1000 yen per hour, both for kids and adults. There are often day passes available, which makes it easy to pop out for a little while and get lunch or some snacks. Although many play centers offer seating areas for adults, they typically do not have restaurants.
Tokyo Dome Asobono
This is the biggest of the indoor play areas in Tokyo, located in the Tokyo Dome entertainment complex, also home to an amusement park, the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Yomiuri Gigants baseball team.
You will not notice in Asobono, which has several themed play areas, the biggest ball pool in Tokyo, and toys for kids from age zero up. Parents are expected to enjoy it with their kids, but it is not hard to guess the kids will enjoy it more.
A tip is to get a one-day pass is 1650 yen, which is a great deal since you can leave to get snacks and lunch.
Bornelund play centers are located in the Tokyo suburbs. If you happen to be staying near one, this is a great way to let your kids play with others. Check out the repective store websites. Information is unfortunately only available in Japanese.
Legoland Discovery Center
The only Legoland park in Japan so far is in Nagoya, halfway between Tokyo and Osaka. But Tokyo has a Legoland Discovery Center in Odaiba, which is like a Legoland indoors. With Lego model cities, rides, a 4D cinema and a Lego factory where kids can make their own Lego bricks. The feeling is less the models of the original Legoland and more the stop-motion adventure of the Lego movie.
Tokyo Toy Museum
The Tokyo Toy Museum is more about teaching visitors the value of pedagogical play with natural materials than displaying vintage toy collections. The foundation that runs it have several other stores around Tokyo, but it is only at the Tokyo Toy Museum that you get to play with all the toys.
Aneby Trim Park
To be fit in Norwegian is to be trim, in the same sense as you trim the sails of a sailboat. It is about physical fitness as well as mental, although the latter is expected to happen as a consequence of the former. That is the inspiration behind Aneby Trim Park (although Aneby is in Sweden, so the vibe is more generally Scandinavian).
Playground 4 Kids
Squeezed into a game center, you will be amazed at how much the creators of Playground 4 Kids have been able to fit into a small area and still give kids room to play with it. The centerpiece is a jumping castle in the shape of a locomotive that kids will love.
Getting There In The Rain
Depending on where you are staying, you may be able to get to the indoor playground without seeing a drop of rain. If you go to the Odaiba play centers (Aneby Trim Park and Legoland Dicovery Center), it is possible to stay under one roof all the way from your hotel (at least some of the Shinjuku hotels).
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning six - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.