Japan is known for its rich culinary culture. While you might enjoy having a meal at an upscale restaurant or even casual izakaya, you may not want to do this with small kids. Fortunately, there are many family-friendly restaurants (with an English menu available!) across the country where you can eat affordably and comfortably with children. Let’s take a look at some of the best family restaurants in Japan.
Our Favorite Family Restaurants in Japan
Go to any corner of Japan and you’ll likely find a Saizeriya. Why? The food is good, the portions are generous, and the prices are INSANELY good. This beloved budget-friendly family restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine.
Our kids literally beg to go to Saizeriya all the time. Before we moved to Japan, they never wanted to go anywhere. It’s hilarious. Since the prices are so good, we can order a huge variety of foods for them to try without breaking the bank.
Best things about Saizeriya:
- Ordering is easy. Even if you don’t speak or read Japanese. Simply look for the codes for each dish on the menu, write the ones you want (and the quantity) on the provided sheet, ring the bell, and wait for your food. That’s it!
- The variety of foods is incredible. There’s a wide selection of pasta, pizza, salads, and more. There’s a children’s menu and our kids love the corn potage soup and spaghetti. We love the pasta and Doria, a dish featuring seasoned rice smothered in cheese and a meat sauce. It’s almost like a rice lasagna and it’s amazing.
- The food is always hot and fresh. We’ve always had to wait for our food to cool down before we could start eating. It comes to the table piping hot!
- The service is excellent but minimal. No one hovers around your table which is a huge perk. Please go away and let me enjoy this stressful meal with three small kids!
Ultimately, Saizeriya is our first go-to family restaurant in Japan because our kids love it (and our wallets do too). Your meal won’t earn any Michelin stars but it’s tasty and gets the job done!
Another well-known family restaurant in Japan is Gusto. If you don’t read Japanese, you can still recognize them because they usually say “Cafe” in a big red circle. While we don’t love it with as much…eh…gusto…as we love Saizeriya, it’s still a solid family restaurant in Japan.
Best things about Gusto:
- Extensive menu. They serve a variety of dishes, from hamburgers and pasta to Japanese-style curry and rice bowls.
- Easy ordering. Simply use the tablet on the table to scroll through the menu and place your order!
- Cat robot servers! Many have shared the chain’s robot cat servers on social media — they bring your order to the table. As you can imagine, this is a hit with kids!
We have only been to Gusto a few times, but we can say that the menu is great for kids, including picky eaters. It’s also well within a reasonable price range so it definitely belongs on a list of the best restaurants for families!
One of the most popular curry house chains in Japan is Coco Ichibanya, or just “Coco Ichi.” It feels like I’ve loved this chain for a million years, but in reality, I probably ate my first Coco curry in 1995. Either way, it’s become a favorite for our family. In fact, outside of Japan, we’ve even eaten at locations in Hawaii and California!
Best things about Coco Ichibanya:
- Curry. We love every type of curry, and Japanese curry is no exception. It’s delicious and Coco Ichi does it right. You can get various toppings and levels of spiciness to customize your meal.
- Stewed chicken. Adding the stewed chicken to the curry is amazing. The meat is tender and adds just enough texture to enhance the curry.
- Katsu and meat offerings. We love adding chicken katsu to our curry rice. At Coco Ichi, it’s crunchy and juicy at the same time. Josh sometimes gets the pork and it’s just as good! You can also add sausage, fried chicken, and other types of meat.
While many Coco Ichibanya locations offer spacious seating (some even have high chairs for younger children), sometimes things can be a bit cramped. There have been times when only counter seating is available (you can always wait, of course!). So, be sure to scope out the location ahead of time to make sure the tables can accommodate your family.
You may spot the family Denny’s logo around Japan, but if you’re dreaming of the fat stacks of pancakes and waffles you’d expect at an American location, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re open to something new, this could be a fun experience!
Best things about Denny’s in Japan:
- Unique menu. There’s a cool mix of Japanese and Western-style dishes on Denny’s menu in Japan. We love the garlic fried rice and beef, and noodle bowls for example.
- Spacious seating. We’ve sat in booths and large tables at Denny’s. These restaurants tend to be more spacious than Coco Ichibanya.
- Easy ordering. Like Gusto, you can order at Denny’s using a tablet on your table.
- Extended hours. We tend to go to Denny’s with our teen and not the younger kids. This can be after a movie or a concert which is perfect because Denny’s stays open later than a lot of other restaurants in Japan.
This restaurant can get very, very busy so we’ve had to wait a while at Denny’s. You’ll also run into a lot of foreigners/tourists which can be a good or a bad thing. Just a heads up!
This extremely popular fast-food chain specializes in beef bowls, known as gyudon. They offer a range of affordable and tasty rice bowls with different toppings. Sukiya is a popular choice for families looking for a quick and satisfying meal.
Best things about Sukiya:
- Simple menu. When you order from Sukiya, you know exactly what you’re getting. The menu is very straightforward so if you’re looking for meat and rice, this is the spot.
- Excellent prices. It’s hard to imagine beating the prices at Sukiya for the quality of food you’re getting.
- Seasonal specials. Right now, Sukiya has a curry made with beef stock that we all love way too much.
We don’t go to eat at Sukiya ever (I’m not even sure our store has seating…), but we tend to get takeout every Friday night from our nearest location.
When we first moved to Japan, we grabbed takeout from Hotto Motto all the time. It’s affordable, hot, and fresh plus there’s a store nearby. It was a no-brainer. We haven’t ordered from them recently, but I think we all needed a break after overdoing it for a few months!
Best things about Hotto Motto:
- Curry & Katsu. This is what we typically order from Hotto Motto but there’s a great menu to explore. We also love the Chicken Nanban pieces!
- Doraemon kids meals. If you order a kid’s meal from Hotto Motto it comes in a really cute package.
- Evolving menu. It feels like they add something new to the menu often so you’ll never get bored. Definitely keep an eye out for any promotional or seasonal items.
- Great points program. It’s easy to rack up points at Hotto Motto, so if you love the food, make sure you’re registered for their loyalty program!
As I mentioned, we haven’t had Hotto Motto in a while but now I’m craving it. I guess I know what we’re having for dinner tonight!
Fast Food Chains
We all want our kids to be healthy, but the occasional fast-food meal is probably okay, right? Besides, due to regulations and local preferences, the ingredients used at chain restaurants are a lot better than at the same chains outside of Japan.
- McDonald’s. The Japanese version of McDonald’s has inspired many social media posts because the menu is cool and the food is delicious. They have Happy Meals, but if you have a child who doesn’t like beef, they can get mini pancakes, for example. The Shaka Shaka Chicken? A must-try! The fries won’t be as crispy as in the States and you won’t find Quarter Pounders on the menu, but there’s a lot to love. Go for it!
- Pizza Hut. My kids HATED Pizza Hut in the States but they love it here. In fact, our non-meat eater suddenly loves double pepperoni pizza. There are so many cool varieties and things you’ve never heard of, so be adventurous!
- KFC. There’s no extra crispy on the menu and you can’t choose the pieces you’ll get, so that may be frustrating. That said, KFC here is top-notch and is a common meal for Christmas in Japan. We’ve done it and plan to do it again every year!
- You can also choose from other popular chains such as Burger King (one of my favorites), Taco Bell, Mos Burger, and Freshness Burger.
Our kids are young and even they’ve noticed that the fast food in Japan tastes fresher. Foods they wouldn’t have eaten before are suddenly delicious here. I’m not trying to start a food war, but I will say that the lack of preservatives and additives has made me enjoy fast food a lot more in Japan.
A Word About Sushi
I’m so sorry, but due to my fish and seafood allergy, I don’t have any recommendations for a sushi bar or sushi restaurant. I know there are plenty of kids who enjoy everything from affordable sushi to the best high-end sushi restaurant but we’ve never been to any of them.
These are just a few examples of family restaurants in Japan. Keep in mind that many restaurants in Japan are accommodating to families, so it’s worth exploring local eateries in the areas you plan to live or visit as well.