Tokyo has some great places for little ones to learn while playing, and KidZania is one of the most popular. The concept is simple: children roam throughout a miniature city, stopping in at different businesses to try their hands at various jobs. The idea is that, by providing a unique and realistic educational environment, kids will do what comes naturally to them: role-playing by mimicking traditionally adult activities.
The realistic part is clear right from when you walk in: the KidZania at LaLaport Toyosu has been built exactly as a real city—although at two-thirds of normal size—with incredible attention paid to the most minute of details. Multi-story buildings are bustling with people and businesses, and the streets have traffic on them and are lined with real-life restaurants, bakeries and confectionery stands that cook and prepare food for sale just like in a real city—except everything is prepared by and for kids.
Children can sign up for work at any place of business. After putting their names on a list, they are given a start time to report to work. Each job can last up to 30 minutes. After being trained by the adult staff, they are then given a chance to don a uniform and try the job out for themselves. There are over 80 activities at Tokyo KidZania, which vary in difficulty and suitability for each age group.
The real key to the success of the Mexican-born franchise is its ability to empower children: there is a real sense of purpose mixed with fun, which the kids really respond to. Firstly, whether it be a firefighter, flight attendant or ice cream parlor worker, the children do their jobs entirely on their own (parents can view from the outside viewing pavilion, but are not allowed inside the employee-only areas). And secondly, kids get paid in KidZania’s own currency, KidZos. They can then spend their hard-earned cash on other goods and services within the KidZania city. They can even open a bank account at the KidZania bank (SMBC), where they can deposit their KidZos, get a bank book and ATM card, and then withdraw their money from real ATM machines dotted around the KidZania city.
The level of sponsorship from companies present at KidZania is very impressive, showing that businesses recognize the fact that today’s little ones are their customers and employees of tomorrow. Among the most popular from the 60 or so jobs available are that of an ANA cabin attendant, pilot or navigator; firefighters (who get to put out a fire with hoses); hospital staff (doctors, nurses, surgeons and ambulance crews); veterinary surgeons; recording musicians and sound engineers in a music studio; and those of the many restaurants and bakeries.
Address: Urban Dock LaLaport Toyosu, North Port 3rd floor 2-4-9 Toyosu, Koto-ku Tokyo
Open: There are two shifts, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Weekends and public holidays can get a little busy, particularly when it’s hot outside.
Admission: The entry cost varies depending on the age of the child and day and time of the shift. But, for example, a 6-year-old going on a Saturday morning shift would pay ¥4,600. Accompanying adults pay ¥1,900 at all times and days.
English/Japanese ability: English guided tours are available and are actually a much better and more organized way to visit Kidzania, particularly when it’s busy. These must be pre-booked for groups of up to 14 people. One drawback to the tour is the work positions the kids can try are set, so they can’t pick which jobs they would like to do. However, having a schedule for the day is a much better option particulary when your kids are under seven, and get tired of waiting easily. Also, every second and fourth Wednesday of the month is English Wednesday, when over half of the center’s activities are conducted entirely in English. For more information, check the official website.