Our Top Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

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Things to do in Kyoto with kids — Visiting Japan? Travel in Kyoto with kids will be an amazing experience. There are so many kid-friendly things to do in Kyoto. If you plan on seeing a lot of the most famous sights, make sure that you give yourself enough time for some of what’s listed below, as well. Oh, don’t worry. All of my recommendations are fun for adults, as well.

_Kyoto wagashi Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO WITH KIDS (OR WITHOUT)

When most travelers arrive in Kyoto, they go into full-on tourist mode for 24-48 hours and then burn out, rarely giving themselves the time needed to simply take a walk or bike around. Whether you’re a solo backpacker or a family of five, most people pack too many historical and “touristy” things to do in Kyoto into their first day…and it’s exhausting.

Beware!

If you just hustle from one historic spot to the next, you and/or your kids may develop a subconscious aversion to temples and shrines. The historic monuments of Kyoto are a UNESCO Heritage site, but there is much more to the city than old buildings!

There are man more things to do in Kyoto than temples and architecture. Some of our favorite things to do in Kyoto involve classes and workshops, hiking trails and rafting, amusement parks and aquariums. Then there is simply enjoying the ample gardens and green space.

I hope that after you read this post, your own list of things to do in Kyoto with kids (or on your own) will grow dramatically.

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KYOTO CROWDS

Over the past 10 years, Japan has experienced a travel boom like never before. Part of it is due to the drop in the value of the yen (JPY ¥) over the years. However, it’s mostly due to the rise of China and the rest of Southeast Asian countries and the growing popularity of travel amongst their citizens.

If you visit Kyoto now, you will surely see loads of Chinese tourist groups, as well as travelers from Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and others.

Many of the things to do in Kyoto that we recommend are popular among all tourists. That said, there are ways to avoid the crowds:

  • Go to Kyoto temples early, before the tour buses arrive.
  • Visit popular sites around an hour before closing.
  • If you really want to avoid the crowds, then avoid visiting Kyoto during hanami (cherry blossom) season, “Golden Week” (national holidays in early May) and during changing of the leaves in Fall. The dates are different every year, so check Google for (near) exact dates for when you want to go. For example, Google “hanami season” or “Golden Week” with the year you plan to visit.

KYOTO DEMOGRAPHICS

Also worth noting is that while Kyoto is full of history, it is also (demographically) a very young town. There are a large number of University campuses in the area, and many streets will be full of students.

Depending on your children’s ages and interest levels, there are many more fun things to do in Kyoto with children.

TOKYO *OR* KYOTO WITH KIDS?

Should you go to Tokyo or Kyoto with children? I’ve been asked this question by many families traveling to Japan with kids.

  • “Which city is better for family travel?”
  • “Should we go to Tokyo or Kyoto with kids?”

For your Japan trip, you may have limited time, a small budget or some other limitation. Perhaps you would rather concentrate on one Japanese city for a week or two instead of skimming over more places with the added time and cost of transportation between them. Perhaps you’re looking at several great Japanese cities to visit — usually Tokyo and Kyoto — and you want to choose one.

I get that.

That said, it’s hard for me to tell you if I don’t know you well and what your interests are. That said, here’s a broad generalization. If your family loves history, tradition, nature and a slower pace, then maybe visit Kyoto with kids. If your family wants more action, museums, street life, art, and events, then perhaps choose to go to Tokyo.

Want more information on both cities? Read on to know better about things to do in Kyoto with kids. For things to do in Tokyo, read our other posts on Tokyo with kids.

Check our list of Best Family Hotels in Kyoto!

KYOTO FOR FAMILIES

_fushimi inari Our Top Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

So I’ve broken down my recommendations things to do in Kyoto. There are three main categories:

  1. Best Temples and Shrines in Kyoto for Kids
  2. Where to Walk in Kyoto
  3. More Fun Things to Do in Kyoto

Most people looking for things to do in Kyoto have all of the Kyoto temples and shrines on their bucket list. And indeed, they are certainly worth visiting. But if you have time, or would like to do more than snap a few pics at historic monuments, then I personally think the best activity to do in Kyoto is walking. In fact, walking in Kyoto is one of my favorite activities.

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Of course, you probably didn’t come all the way to Japan for a simple stroll — thus the three main sections below.

The first section details specific temples and shrines in Kyoto that I feel are perhaps more kid-friendly than others. The next section is for specific roads, trails, and areas that are great for walking as a family. And thirdly, I list up a few of our other favorite family-friendly things to do in Kyoto with kids.

These are just my opinions of course, and when I say “kid-friendly,” I am speaking to what I believe kids prefer, not necessarily what their parents would choose (although most of these are my personal favorites, as well).

Discover the Many Things to Do in Osaka Too!

BEST TEMPLES AND SHRINES IN KYOTO WITH KIDS

Many volumes have been filled with visitor’s experiences visiting the temples and shrines of Kyoto. Trying to encapsulate that in a blog is a tall order, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just tell you which places I think the kids (and you) will enjoy most.

And as mentioned above, I highly recommend not overloading on these sites day-one. Whether you have toddlers or teens, take it easy if they’re not into it, and spare some time to enjoy some street food, people-watching, and strolling by the Kamogawa river.

Kiyomizu Dera

kiyomizu dera. Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

You’ve probably seen pictures of this place perched on a hillside, and it’s as beautiful as you’ve imagined. It is also one of the most crowded and touristy places in Japan, being one of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto, but one of the main reasons that I recommend visiting Kiyomizu Dera with kids is because walking there is fun on its own.

Route #1: Things to Do in Kyoto — Kiyomizu-Dera

There are two main ways up to the temple entrance. One is to take the steps on Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka.

There’s no worry about cars, so kids can walk freely. It is usually crowded though, so keep your eyes on kids not to lose them. There are lots of little shops along the way, many of which could be of interest to curious kids. A baby carrier is better than a stroller on this route.

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Route #2: Things to Do in Kyoto — Kiyomizu-Dera

The second option is to take the main road. It’s a slow incline, which makes it a better route for strollers, but keep in mind that this road is used by bikes, cars and tour buses. Out fo all the things to do in Kyoto, this can be one of the most crowded mid-day. The path is lined with tea houses, restaurants and souvenir shops, both cheesy and more sophisticated.

Either way, you have plenty of eating, shopping and resting options along the way. Some say that all of the commercialism takes away from the serene temple experience. I wouldn’t argue with that, but I prefer to just go with it, thankful for all the extra stimuli to keep young minds occupied. Also, there’s really a great view of the town from the top.

One extra point to note is that Kiyomizu dera temple actually is more stroller friendly than any other temple. They have “no-step, barrier-free” routes for wheelchairs, which can be used for strollers as well. The only two steps en route are at the wooden stage in front of the main hall where everyone would go for the view of Kyoto city. Here is PDF map for the route.

The Myoshin-ji Temple Complex

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

This large complex of has over 45 Zen temples, but only four are open regularly to the public (for a fee). Others open only for special occasions. But don’t be discouraged!

The grounds are quite nice and car-free for the most part, and gazing upon the dragon painting by Tan’yu Kano alone is worth the trip. There is no through traffic for public vehicles, so just walking around the complex can be peaceful and refreshing.

  1. Read what others have to say about Myoshinji temple complex.
Hatto (Dhama Hall)

This is where you can see the dragon painting. You need to pay for a tour and to go inside ( ¥500 adults, ¥100 for kids).

Tours are available only in Japanese, but the dragon painted on the ceiling needs no explanation. That said, if you’d like to teach kids why it is so significant, you may want to Google it beforehand. You will also see Japan’s oldest bell and bathing room in this 20-minute tour.  Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Taizo-in Temple

This small temple holds one of the oldest ink paintings and Japan’s national treasure: Joesetsu’s Catching Catfish with a Gourd. For ¥500, They offer a tea ceremony experience by their beautiful garden. No booking needed. Just walk in and ask.

Keishun-in Temple

This is another small temple in the complex with four gorgeous gardens of different styles. Macha tea is served for ¥400.

Daishin-in Temple

This is a small temple with a karesansui (dry landscape) garden, but it’s more known as a shukubo (temple lodging). Booking is required and could be somewhat challenging unless you speak good Japanese. The Shunko-in temple (listed below) is more English-friendly.

Shunko-in Temple

Not open for public viewing. However, you can go in when you take their Zen meditation class in English (check details here). Possibly one of the only English meditation classes offered in Kyoto. If you think your children can handle the quietness for 1.5hrs, it might be a “one of a kind” Kyoto experience. It was one of the things to do in Kyoto that I wanted to do, but I didn’t on my own.

Shunko-in temple also has Shukubo (temple lodging). The rooms are small, clean and simple, but include wifi, bathroom/shower, and a communal kitchen. With an additional ¥500, you get a tour of the grounds and a short lesson on Zen meditation in English (I’ve done this one). They also offer Buddhist wedding services in English, regardless of faith or sexual orientation.

Ryoanji Temple

This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the most well-known temples in Kyoto and is part of the Myoshinji Zen school.

This temple is NOT located in the huge complex, but about a 5-min walk from the complex. The zen rock garden here is often quite crowded, so expect more people here than in the complex itself.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

One of the most photogenic places in Japan, Fushimi Inari is one of the best temples in Kyoto to let the kids loose in. Be respectful, of course, but the kids can be active here.

You can spend several hours here, walking under the bright orange torii (archways) on their pathways up and down the hillside. They simply beckon to be explored. Unlike some shrines and sacred spaces in Japan, there is plenty of room to run, which makes it one of the best things to do in Kyoto, and one of the best temples to wander and photograph.

We told our kids that many of the kanji (Japanese characters) written on each tori are the names of whoever donated money to the shrine: the bigger/thicker the tori columns, the more money was donated. Some names on the poles are families or individuals, while other names are companies, restaurants, hair salons, etc. The kids enjoyed making up stories for these names and there are hundreds upon hundreds of them.

You can walk with a stroller up to the main shrine from the station. However, if you plan to see the renowned thousand Torii (which you should!), be reminded that there are lots of stairs. Strollers are technically allowed, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Another thing worth noting is that Kyoto’s summer can be very humid and hot. When hiking up the mountain through torii, you want to have a bottle of water or two.

Many More Temples in Kyoto

Of course, there are many, many more temples to visit in Kyoto with kids, but if time is tight, those are the main ones I’d recommend.

Traveling to Tokyo? Read our MEGA Guide for Tokyo with Kids

FUN WALKS IN KYOTO

One of the best things to do in Kyoto with kids or on your own is to go for a walk. It may be a stroll by the river, or it may be a hike up a hill. Hell, even trudging up or down a sidewalk to the next temple is often quite enjoyable for us. So below, I’m listing a few walking areas for your consideration.

The Philosopher’s Path

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

This lovely tree-lined path is enjoyable any time of year and is one of the best things to do in Kyoto. The Philosopher’s Path is about two kilometers and has lots of little shrines, shops, and cafes along the way.

To be clear, you don’t come here to have your mind blown. Instead, you come here just for a meandering stroll. But a word of warning to parents of little kids: much of the path follows a small canal and there is no guardrail (see above picture). It’s not treacherous or anything, but toddlers might want to be monitored near the edge.

Hike between Kibune and Kurama

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

These two small villages are about 90 minutes north of Kyoto station. If the weather is good and your family enjoys light-to-moderate hikes, I can’t recommend this enough. It’s easily one of my favorite things to do in Kyoto: on my own or with the kids.

Kids as young as six or seven are capable of this hike, but it’s not stroller-friendly, as there are many steps as well as the occasional large tree roots to step over.

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

My recommendation is to take the train to Kibune-guchi station, eat lunch there (or bring your own), and then hike over to Kurama and plop down in the Kurama onsen. You’ll thank me later.

Lunch in Kibune

My favorite place for lunch in Kibune is Hirobun. It is one of many Kawadoko (“river floor”) restaurants in the area with generously priced Kaiseki lunch. When I say “river floor,” I mean you quite literally eat on platforms built next to or just above the river, which adds a refreshing breeze and natural beauty to your meal.

Between May and September, they have nagashi-somen (flowing noodle) service which would be fun for you and your kids. Or it might be frustrating, as you need to be able to use a pair of chopsticks well in order to catch the noodles as they slide past. Be warned you might need to wait for 1-2 hours or more unless you arrive before they open at 11:00 am.

If you’d rather enjoy lunch peacefully (at a higher price), here’s a few other Kawadoko restaurants.

Kurama Onsen

At Kurama onsen, you get to choose to just dip yourself in the rotenburo (outdoor bath, towel rental NOT included) or utilize the whole facility (including towels, outdoor bath, indoor bath, and lounge for resting) for a bit more.

I usually just buy a small towel and go to the outdoor bath. It feels so good to wash and then soak after a 1.5hr hike. The ride back to the city is so much more refreshing after a dip in the onsen.

Arashiyama

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Strolling through this beautiful part of the city is one of the most popular things to do in Kyoto. And for good reason. You’ve probably heard about the bamboo groves here, and they’re very photogenic.

In order to avoid the crowd, you need to get up early and go there before the tour buses arrive. Just have a walk around, or perhaps a rickshaw ride if you want, as this area is more scenic than the pavement of downtown Kyoto.

The bamboo grove isn’t that large, so don’t go to Arashiyama just for that stroll. There are several things to do in Arashiyama and nearby, such as Tenryu ji temple and Toei Eigamura (mentioned below).

You can also take Sagano Romantic Train to Kameoka and then a boat ride back on the Hozugawa-river to Arashiyama. Many people recommend the Monkey Park up the hill, and that’s fine, but we are not fans.

Pontocho Alley

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

This narrow downtown road follows the Kamogawa River, and many restaurants along this alley have large Kawadoko (riverside seating as mentioned earlier) that face the river. Many are only open for dinner, but some offer lunch as well.

This alley is a great place to wander and explore. You may be lucky to spot some maiko (apprentice geisha) or geiko (fully-fledged geisha) walking to their appointments, especially in the hours just around dusk.

The Kamogawa Riverbank

Just 50 meters to the east of Pontocho Alley is the water that cuts through downtown Kyoto. This is one of the best places in Kyoto to hang out. You’ll see lots of people here: families, first dates, and pensioners, as well as a few tipsy college students and maybe a busker or two.

This place alone can occupy a few hours, especially if you walk north, where space opens up and there’s more grass to sprawl out on. The river has plenty of ducks, And at certain times of the year, you’ll see lots of swooping kites — not the string-and-paper kind of kites but the birds.  They look like small, scrappy hawks.

Grabbing a snack or drink and just sitting near the riverside one of the best things to do in Kyoto in my opinion, but there are plenty of nice restaurants overlooking the water (see Pontocho Alley above) if you’re ready to eat/drink something more substantial.

Shin Kyogoku Shotengai Shopping Street

This covered shopping street is good for a quick bite, people watching, and some tacky souvenir shopping.

This and Nishiki Market (see below) are perfect rainy day options. You will see many school groups in uniform wandering around because this is one of the places they go on school trips to Kyoto.

Check Here for Fun Osaka with Kids!

MORE FUN THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO WITH KIDS

Temples and shrines visited? Check. Taken a walk? Check. Now what? Don’t worry. There are many more things to do in Kyoto with kids. In fact, if yours are like ours, then they might enjoy some of below recommendations more than anything UNESCO can throw at them.

When we’re in Kyoto with kids, we usually combine some of the activities below with any of the above-mentioned sightseeing.

Make Traditional Japanese Sweets

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Japanese sweets are basically just rice, sugar and beans. That’s it. And yet, for centuries, these little delicacies have been an art form that takes years to master. But you know what? They’re fun for us beginners to make, too.

My kids and I have had taken a few lessons over the years, and it’s one of their favorite things to do in Kyoto. The best part is that no matter what the results look like, they still taste good!

The classes are usually in group form, and the instructor is trying to keep many people on task, so keep that in mind if younger kids want to try. Some instructors move too fast, so if kiddo falls behind, help them catch up!

Kameya Yoshinaga: 5-min walk from the east exit of Omiya station on the Hankyu line. Classes are 70 minutes and start at 2:00 pm every day. ¥2,700 per person (¥2,160 up to 18 yrs). Reservation required at [email protected] 

ShichiJyo Kanshundo (recommended): 5-min walk from Shichijyo station on the Keihan line. There are 5 classes a day and each class is 60-min long. I recommend this one because of the place where the class is held, in an upper room of the store, which is a Machiya-style housing. Reservations needed at [email protected]

Fight a Samurai at Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (Kyoto Studio Park)

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Over a hundred movies a year are filmed at this place, mostly sword-and-samurai period dramas that my mother-in-law grew up watching as a child. The Edo-era sets are fun, but the shows are what make the place worth the price of admission.

They show how they film the sword fights and action stunts, as well as how the camera can trick the eye.

Don’t be like us and time your visit poorly, and miss the shows, especially since they’re included in the price of admission. We were stupid and paid for other minor attractions and ran out of time. See the shows, then use whatever time is left for everything else. Also: sorry, but everything is in Japanese.

Toei Edo Studio Park is located a 5-min walk from Uzumasa station on the JR Sagano line. Entrance fee is ¥2,200 yen for adults, ¥1,300 yen for 13-18 yrs, ¥1,000 for 3-12 yrs. Some attractions inside require additional fees.

Snack away at Nishiki Market

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

This place serves more tourists than locals nowadays, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or appetizing. Fabulous displays of tea, sweets, and seafood stand side-by-side restaurants and other shops down a street sheltered by colored glass.

Lots of small snacks are readily available from stands all the way down the street. If you walk from the west end of the strip, you will end at Shin Kyogoku Shotengai shopping street (see above).

Relax at a Hot Spring and/or Ryokan

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

Having a nice dip in Kurama onsen is super refreshing, even if you don’t hike over the mountain. If you have the budget for it, then you should definitely stay at a traditional ryokan (Japanese hot spring hotel). Few experiences are more Japanese than this, and it is much more than a bed and a night’s sleep.

Kurama onsen offers overnight stays, as well. Arashiyama, where the bamboo grove mentioned above is located, is another great spot for hot springs, and there are several ryokan there.

Traveling to Kyoto with kids is a treat itself, but staying at a nice onsen ryokan with your family is even better. First of all, dinner is usually included in the price (check to be sure).

Most people traveling to Kyoto with kids have all of its temples and shrines on their bucket list. They are certainly worth visiting, but there is much more in Kyoto than old buildings! In my list, you’ll find sweets making classes, hiking trails, rafting, amusement parks, aquariums, and plenty of green space. | What to do in Kyoto | Arashiyama | Fushimi Inari | Nishiki Market| Hot Springs | Kurama | Where to stay in Kyoto | Kyoto Family Travel | Kyoto Aquarium |

Most people traveling to Kyoto with kids have all of its temples and shrines on their bucket list. They are certainly worth visiting, but there is much more in Kyoto than old buildings! In my list, you’ll find sweets making classes, hiking trails, rafting, amusement parks, aquariums, and plenty of green space. | What to do in Kyoto | Arashiyama | Fushimi Inari | Nishiki Market| Hot Springs | Kurama | Where to stay in Kyoto | Kyoto Family Travel | Kyoto Aquarium |

Tips for Your Onsen Experience

Most importantly, you have awesome and relaxing tubs filled with hot mineral spring water to hang out in. It’s best to check in early enough in the evening to have a nice soak before dinner. Go ahead and change into the yukata (robe) provided, and walk to dinner in that. Trust me.

Most people will be doing the same, and it’s extremely relaxing. Don’t forget to have another soak before bed, and yet another in the morning before you check out. Be reminded, though, if you have any obvious tattoos, you will probably be asked not to get in the public tub.

I would recommend Kadensho for an onsen ryokan in Kyoto. It is conveniently located in front of Arashiyama station on the Hankyu line. They have five different private baths, and no extra charge or sign up needed — unlike many other onsen ryokan. You can certainly enjoy other large public baths as well, but anyone uncomfortable being naked in front of others, take heed. That’s where the five private tubs come in.

Soak in a Sento

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

If you’re on a budget, then just hit a sento, which is another way to have a soak. Some people get onsen and sento confused, so to clarify: an onsen is a natural hot spring, while a sento uses tap water like you’d use at home.

Most sento are essentially no-frills bathhouses for the public, and kids can go with parents of either gender up to primary school age. They’re not fancy, but still, a cheap and fun way to relax (or if in the winter, to warm up) after a long day of walking around. As with onsens, make sure to wash completely at the shower stalls before getting in the tubs.

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

My favorite is Nishiki-yu (opened in 1927), just around the corner from the Nishiki Market, only 2 min from exit 13 or 14 of Karasuma station on the Hankyu line (see this map), but this one might be too “local” for some travelers.

If so, try Public Bath House Yuu (Daiyokujo Yuu) on B3F in Kyoto Tower, or Funaoka Onsen (called an onsen but actually a sento opened in 1923), which is about a 20-min walk from Kinkaku-Ji Temple (see this map).

Go Whitewater Rafting

Most people traveling to Kyoto with kids have all of its temples and shrines on their bucket list. They are certainly worth visiting, but there is much more in Kyoto than old buildings! In my list, you’ll find sweets making classes, hiking trails, rafting, amusement parks, aquariums, and plenty of green space. | What to do in Kyoto | Arashiyama | Fushimi Inari | Nishiki Market| Hot Springs | Kurama | Where to stay in Kyoto | Kyoto Family Travel | Kyoto Aquarium |

Kyoto city is surrounded by mountains, so you can jump on a train downtown and be in a beautiful forest or by an ice-blue river in 30 minutes. If you and your brood are up for some action, then look into some of the rafting outlets.

We certainly enjoyed our time with Big Smile Rafting, and it was interesting to see so many non-Japanese raft guides (Brazilians, Nepalese, etc). Your young ones have to be at least 10 years old, but if you take responsibility, they might be flexible. Our girl had just turned nine when we last went.

Go “Choo-Choo” at the Kyoto Railway Museum

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

You don’t have to be a trainspotter to enjoy this remarkably comprehensive museum. But if your little ones are train fans, they’ll happily spend the entire day here.

There are trains from every era: from steam to shinkansen.  Lots of hands-on activities and detailed explanations of the history and machinations of trains, as well. Unlike many museums in Kyoto and Japan in general, the Kyoto Railway Museum has plenty of English signage.

Turn a Few Pages at the Kyoto Manga Museum

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

If you’re in Kyoto with kids who love manga, then this place might be of significant interest. The Kyoto International Manga Museum is built inside a former elementary school and is four floors of manga. The name “Museum” is, in my opinion, a bit misleading. It’s more like a library only for manga. There are manga in a number of languages — including English — but the vast majority are in Japanese.

Discuss Japanese Monsters on Yokai Street

Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids or Without: Japan Family Travel Tips

This cute little diversion is not for everyone. That said, if you’re in Kyoto with kids, like Japanese monsters and care to enjoy a little local kitsch, then Yokai Street is for you.

There’s not much to it: just a quiet shopping street with a dozen or so small makeshift statues (if that’s the right word) fitted onto traffic cones in front of shops. Most statues represent a yokai (monster) from Japanese lore.

Float down the Hozugawa River

If you’d prefer less physical labor, then you could sign up for a riverboat ride down the Hozugawa River. Boatmen do the paddling for you on these trips but don’t expect it to be tranquil, as many of these outfits have a comedy shtick to entertain the local tourists — in Japanese.

Picnic in Maruyama Park

This is a nice big park that’s perfect for a stroll on the weekend or a picnic any day of the week. The maple trees here are stunning in autumn and cherry blossom trees exquisite in spring. Recommended picnic spot is near Yasaka shrine. If you come during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season, then expect huge crowds of partiers (young and old, night and day).

Use your hands at the Kyoto Handicraft Center

This place is mainly a large and (fairly) sophisticated souvenir shop, but if you sign up ahead of time, you can join a variety of workshops to make traditional objects, such as fans, bags, woodblock prints and others.

See what others have to say about the Kyoto Handicraft Center

Ogle sharks at Kyoto Aquarium

I know, I know: you didn’t come to Kyoto to see fish. I include the aquarium, however, because some families need an indoor activity and have kids who love sea life.

The aquarium is close to Kyoto station and very nice and modern, but I wouldn’t consider it required viewing. Also, it can be very, very crowded with locals on weekends/holidays.

Don’t Miss Our MEGA-post on Tokyo for Kids!

Where to Stay in Kyoto with Kids?

Kyoto offers lots of great accommodation options — from traditional ryokan to luxury suites to budget guesthouses. If you’re coming to Kyoto with children and looking for a place to stay, read my post on best family hotels in Kyoto.

CONCLUSION: KYOTO WITH KIDS

Kyoto is still one of my favorite cities in Japan. Of course, I haven’t covered everything to do in Kyoto with kids, but I hope you can find something you like here. If you have been to Kyoto with your family and want to share your best things to do in Kyoto with kids, please leave a comment below. Have questions? I would be happy to help with your trip to Japan!

Don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book a hotel in Kyoto using our links while you plan your trip to Kyoto with kids. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you find fun things to do in Kyoto with kids. Do you know of great things to do in Kyoto with children? Or do you have advice on things to do in Kyoto for solo travelers or couples travel? Let us know! We want this page to be a useful resource for Kyoto travel tips, so if you know of great things to do in Kyoto that aren’t on this list, let us know!

 

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Comments

  1. Hi Jason,

    Your website is fabulous. I am so glad I found it. I am leaving on the 22nd of August for 12 days with my husband and three kids aged 11, 11 and 6. We will spend 4 days in Tokyo,, 3 days in Kyoto and 2 days in Takayama and Shirakawa-go.
    In Kyoto, I really like your recommendations. I am concerned about the heat. Do you think the following itinerary is doable? Should I leave something out?
    Kiyomzu Dera, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Nijyojyo castle, Higashi Honganji Temple, Arashiyama Area, Bamboo Forest, Tenryu Temple,
    I love your idea of the hike between Kibune and Karama can this be combined or done with any of the above?
    We also wanted to go to Osaka one night for dinner. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • Hi Kelly,

      Glad to hear that our posts are helpful. And apologies for the late reply. Somehow it went in the wrong folder and I just found your comment! Hope you are enjoying Japan now. I know a typhoon is currently closing in on the Kansai area. Hope you avoid bad weather troubles and have a great time.

      Your itinerary in Kyoto sounds just about perfect to me. Are you aiming for two spots a day I suppose? It’s a good plan especially for kids who need rest and cool-down time more often than adults. Kibune and Kurama are, unfortunately, pretty far north of Kyoto city area so it can’t really be combined with any of your other ideas unless you are willing to have a very long day outing with an early start. I wouldn’t recommend that with kids.

      Osaka offers lots of good eats. One I recommend with younger kids is trying okonomiyaki. There are loads of places in Osaka and greater Kansai for this, but a fancier version that we like is the Chibo chain. There’s one in Dotonbori, and a few others, I think. If you need an idea of what to eat, check out our post on Japanese food. Have a wonderful time in Japan!

  2. Cynthia Yeiser says:

    Hi Jason-
    Your website has been SO helpful as we plan our 11 day trip to Japan this summer with 3 kids ages 6,5 and 3 (!!!). Daunting to say the least. We are trying to decide upon a hiking backpack with either an umbrella stroller or jogging stroller (in which another kid could sit on the front). The jogging stroller is bigger, much easier to push and holds misc items underneath – pluses in my opinion.
    Second: do we need car seats or boosters for public taxis or rental cars? Is this something we can get there?
    Thank you

    • Hi Cynthia. Personally, we preferred a jogging stroller for the reasons you mentioned: carries more kids and stuff, plus they’re easier to get on/off train platforms. The downside is that when there aren’t elevators, you have to lug those things up the stairs yourself, and they’re big and heavy. Still worth it for us, but some people prefer umbrella strollers. As for car seats/boosters, I’m sure that you could get one there if you wanted. Stores like Akachan Honpo would be the place to look.

  3. Hi Jason
    We (3 adults) and 1 year old and a pair of 20 months twinswill be spending 11 days in Osaka and Kyoto in total in oct.
    We are thinking of renting a car as our mode of transportation. Is that recommended?
    How many days should I allocate to Osaka / Kyoto. And to get to Nara, I should just do a day trip out from Osaka?

    • Hi Angie,

      I understand why you’re thinking car rental (lots to carry with little ones!), but I usually recommend taxis and public transportation in the cities. If you go to Hokkaido or other rural parts of the country, then a car rental works because local transportation is limited, but in cities, public transportation works best. Besides, you’d need a larger car for the 6 of you. That would be at least US $120 per day before insurance, gas, highway fees, and parking. Most importantly, depending on the time of your travel, traffic on the highways can be bad (weekends, festival times, and such).

      As for time allotted in each city, I’d say around 4 days in Osaka and 7 days in Kyoto. Nara is easily accessed via train from either Osaka or Kyoto.
      I’m not sure exactly which dates you plan to be there, but in Kyoto, there’s the Jidai Matsuri in Oct. Enjoy!

  4. We are going to Japan in January and are going to be there for 14 days…is it too ambitious of me to plan 5 days in Tokyo – Disneyland, Harajuku, Imperial Palace (going to be there the one day they are open Jan 2nd), Legoland etc … then stay in Osaka for 5 days with a trip to Universal, Kyoto and Hiroshima (day trips) THEN back to Tokyo where we will go to a ski resort an hour train ride from Tokyo for a day or two (if we enjoy it ). Anything you would suggest I drop out of the plan because of time? Our kids are older 8 and 11 and being the first family trip we are bursting with excitement and want to do sooo much! THANKS for the info!

    • That’s a pretty ambitious schedule, Mariana! It’s certainly possible. Just depends on how you like to travel. Disneyland is an ALL-DAY thing. Harajuku and Imperial Palace can be done on the same day, although they’re in different parts of town. You may want to spend one entire day in Harajuku/Yoyogi/Omotesando area, but that’s up to you. Keep in mind that the Legoland in Tokyo is not a full-on amusement park like in California, Malaysia, etc. It’s an indoor space in Odaiba. But then again a day in Odaiba is recommended. A Kyoto day trip from Osaka is totally doable, but the Hiroshima day trip is a long one: about 2 hours one way on the Shinkansen if I remember correctly. Not impossible, but a LONG day with kids. You can do everything you’ve listed. Just depends if you want a full schedule with no “wander around” time.

  5. re: Toei Studio Park

    Due to your reminder, I grabbed an English map (with time table for shows) and caught nearly all the shows the kids would want to see, which translated to a 4+ hour that bushwacked my kids who love power rangers, ninjas and all things swords/anime. For us, getting off at Hanazono Park + a 600 yen cab ride seemed far quicker/less tiring than the Uzumasa station.

    Despite watching so many shows, I still ended up forking out 2400 yen for additional attraction. But hey, it’s sorta like Universal Studios: you go once every 10 years, do all the silly rides, buy all the silly souvenirs and won’t have to do it again til everyone turns 18

  6. I am traveling to Japan in a couple of weeks with my husband and 4 year old twin girls. I am so glad I “ran” into your blog.
    Thank you for the awesome information!!

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