There’s just something about Japan. The culture, the food, the history, the toilets (yes, you heard that right). All great reasons to visit this beautiful country. But there’s also a highly underrated reason to visit – Japan is super family friendly. It’s one of the safest countries in the world with some of the kindest people in the world. And few places can compare to visiting Kyoto with kids.
Kyoto with Kids
Guest Post by Brittany Stretchbery of Family on Standby
Tokyo vs. Kyoto with Kids
For a lot of people visiting Japan, it often comes down to Tokyo or Kyoto. Both are incredible and you truly can’t go wrong either way. But there are a few things that tip the scales for Kyoto. And here’s what makes Kyoto so worth visiting:
- Kyoto is rich in culture, yet modern
- Kyoto has a more laid back feel than Tokyo, which can make it more appealing to families with kids
- Kyoto is moderately less expensive than Tokyo
- Kyoto has many outdoor activities
- Kyoto is smaller and more compact than Tokyo, which could make it less intimidating to a first time traveler
Read More: What to do in Tokyo
Where to stay in Kyoto with Kids
Kyoto is filled with family friendly places to stay. You’ll have no problem finding accommodations with kid friendly amenities like breakfast, pools, cribs, and nearby supermarkets. But one thing some people find surprising when they travel to Japan is that hotel rooms in general tend to be smaller than in places like the U.S.
That’s not to say you can’t find large rooms. 22 Pieces is a great hotel for families – offering bunk beds in some rooms for kids. Kyoto Granbell Hotel is another great choice for its breakfast buffet, double rooms, free wifi, and onsite laundry.
Rent a Traditional Japanese Apartment
If you’re looking to spread out during your stay, renting an Airbnb is a great option for families. You’ll not only have the space you’re looking for, but staying in a traditional Japanese apartment allows you to fully engage in the culture. It’s an experience that can dramatically add to your trip.
For convenience in a safe, quiet area, this Airbnb caters to families. It has two separate bedrooms – one with beds and the other with traditional Japanese floor mattresses. The floor mattresses not only allow you to experience the Japanese lifestyle, but they actually make it so easy with kids (no safety rails needed). The apartment also has a kitchen with appliances, full bathroom, access to a baby crib, free wifi, and a living room.
What to do in Kyoto with Kids
You could spend a month in Kyoto and still not cover everything this city has to offer. There’s no shortage of inspiring sights, but there are some standouts when you’re traveling to Kyoto with kids.
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Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
This is a must for anyone traveling to Kyoto, especially with kids in tow. Arashiyama is an area on the western side of Kyoto, famous for many things, but one of the biggest is the bamboo grove. Pictures don’t entirely do this place justice. When you’re there in person, it’s absolutely breathtaking. And the towering bamboo trees are a memorable experience for kids. The paths are also very walkable for little ones and easy for moving strollers around.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
Another must for kids in Kyoto – the Monkey Park. You’ll find it in Arashiyama close to the bamboo grove, which means you can knock both out at the same time. The Monkey Park Iwatayama is a mountainside area where you can watch and feed wild monkeys. The feeding takes place in an indoor area, but you can also roam around outside and watch the monkeys.
A couple things to note:
- You’ll need to hike up about 20 minutes to get to the monkey park. They don’t allow strollers, so if you have a little one that can’t yet walk (or your own version of a wild monkey), make sure to bring a carrier. We had our 1-year-old in a carrier and our 3-year-old walked it just fine.
- These are wild monkeys, which means some may seem aggressive. There are park staff members to keep any aggressive monkeys away, so we felt completely safe bringing kids, but something to be aware of.
- There is a playground near the monkey park. We used it to draw our 3-year-old away from the monkeys when we wanted to leave.
The Monkey Park still gets rave reviews from our 4-year-old, two years later. If that tells you anything about how magical this place is.
Read More: Things to know before going to Japan
Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion
If wandering around a beautiful pond and getting your picture taken in front of a golden temple appeals to you, this is a stop you can’t miss. It’s also one of the most iconic sights in Kyoto. No matter what season you visit, the views are breathtaking. The walk around the Golden Pavilion doesn’t take a terribly long time, which makes it a kid-friendly activity for Kyoto. Along the path you’ll be treated to beautiful gardens and water features.
One thing to keep in mind – because it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Kyoto, it can get crowded. So plan ahead and try to go as early as you can after it opens. If traveling with a baby, it may be best to bring a carrier. The walk has several steps and stony paths that make it difficult, though not impossible, with a stroller.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Chances are if you’ve seen a picture of Kyoto on Instagram, it features Fushimi Inari Shrine. The famous bright orange columns, known as torii gates, are what most people think of when it comes to Kyoto. There are a lot of can’t miss places when visiting Kyoto, and this is easily one of them.
The location of Fushimi Inari is pretty central to most places in Kyoto. It’s only a 5 minute train ride from Kyoto Station (one of the biggest rail stations in Kyoto). And the hike through Fushimi Inari is great because you can do as much or as little as you want. If you want to hike to the summit and back, it may take you 2-3 hours (depending on how many times your little one stops on the way). But you can also hike part of the way and turn back, which makes this walk great for kids of all ages. The paths are very kid-friendly. This is another that falls into the category of “it gets crowded so come early”.
Pontocho Alley is one of the most charming streets in all of Kyoto. You won’t see cars and modern buildings here. Instead you can take in the traditional shops, tea houses, and restaurants that line the streets. It’s one of the best places to really get a feel for the Japanese culture and history. If you come in the evening, there’s also a good chance you’ll spot a geisha heading off to an appointment.
In addition to strolling around and admiring the culture, Pontocho is a good place to take kids because it borders the Kamo River. Kids will love walking alongside the water and you can even dine at restaurants with outdoor deck seating to take in the views. It’s absolutely worth the visit for the architecture alone.
Read More: Japan with Kids
Where to eat in Kyoto with Kids
For a lot of people, experiencing the famed Japanese cuisine is one of the biggest draws when visiting Kyoto. And when considering a visit with kids, there can be a lot of uncertainty around whether they will find things to eat. I promise – there are things to meet the needs of even the pickiest of eaters. It’s a common misconception that all food in Japan revolves around seafood and sushi. Here are some of the most kid-friendly foods to try in Kyoto:
- Yakitori (meat skewers)
- Okonomiyaki (savory pancake)
- Tamago sushi (egg and rice)
- Japanese Curry
- Tonkatsu (breaded pork)
A couple popular kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto are Coco Curry and Ganko Sushi. And the Kyoto food tour doesn’t end there. What kid can resist dessert? Kyoto is filled with all kinds of unique treats. Try some matcha ice cream, mochi, or freshly baked melonpan.
Kyoto is truly a great city to introduce new foods to your kids without fear that they won’t find anything they like.
If you want to immerse yourself and your kids in the Japanese culture, there’s no better place than a local market. Nishiki Market is one of the biggest in Kyoto. Here you can find all kinds of local delicacies for the adventurous, but also kid-friendly options.
Sushi, tea, ice cream, noodles. There’s something for everyone here that will give you a taste for the local culture. And when you really want to go above and beyond for your kids, I cannot recommend the soymilk doughnuts enough.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the 7-Eleven culture throughout Japan. It’s very real and something everyone should experience in their lifetime. And we’re not talking American 7-Eleven. In Japan, 7-Eleven is an experience. There are egg sandwiches, bento boxes, ramen, cakes, chips of every flavor imaginable, and even spaghetti. Spend some time watching 7-Eleven videos on Youtube and you’ll see what I mean. It’s one of the most memorable experiences when you visit Japan.
And kids will not be disappointed. Pop in for a snack and watch their eyes light up. Some of the most popular items for kids include pancakes pre-filled with syrup, fried chicken, ice cream, and sausages. You can even get what can only be described as a Japanese hot pocket.
Hint: Japanese Kit Kats make great souvenirs.
A Family Friendly Food Tour
If you aren’t sure where to start when planning a trip to Kyoto with kids, try out a tour. Magical Trips is one of the best tour companies throughout Japan with local English speaking guides. The best part – they have kid-friendly tours.
To slowly work your way into the Japanese food scene, try the Kyoto Night Foodie Tour. They take you to 3 different restaurants and introduce you to a variety of local specialties. Each place caters to kids and will leave you feeling full. Your guide will also teach you about the history and culture, which makes this tour very authentic.
You can even try a traditional tea ceremony – an incredibly memorable experience. These tours are an awesome way to kick off your Japan trip while getting you familiar with the local culture.
How much time should you spend in Kyoto?
Give yourself at least 4 days to completely immerse yourself in the city. There is a lot to see and do in Kyoto. And when traveling with kids, it’s best to take your time. Running from place to place trying to squeeze everything in can take from the experience.
If you have the time, spend a week here (or more!). You could also split part of your time here and part in Tokyo, which is what a lot of families tend to do.
Kyoto is one of the friendliest cities in the world. And the perfect destination to introduce kids to a new culture. I can think of few places that truly compare to this city in terms of how it caters to kids. It’s one of those vacations where you just can’t wait to go back.
About the Author of Kyoto with Kids
Brittany Stretchbery works full-time for an airline while traveling with her husband and two young kids. At Family on Standby, she encourages parents to break from the routines and embrace travel with kids. You can find more of her work on her blog, Family on Standby, and follow her family’s travel adventures on YouTube.