top of page

Kyoto with Kids: Rediscovering Japan's Heart Through Our Family's Eyes

If you've been journeying with us through our travel tales, you know there's a special place in our hearts for Japan. Its blend of ancient tradition and cutting-edge modernity has always fascinated us, drawing us back time and again to explore more of its wonders. Not long ago , we found ourselves once more in the Land of the Rising Sun, this time diving deeper into the enchanting city of Kyoto. And what a journey it was!

Kyoto, with its serene temples, vibrant streets, and lush gardens, was a revelation, offering a perfect playground for families. Our days were filled with laughter, awe, and the joy of discovery, as we navigated through this city that beautifully marries the old with the new. It was such a magical experience that I felt inspired to share it with all of you.

Through this blog, I aim to guide you through the treasures of Kyoto, especially if you're planning to explore this beautiful city with your little ones in tow. From our favorite spots that captivated the kids, to the delicious treats that delighted our palates, and the unexpected corners that took our breath away, I'll share the insights we gathered on this unforgettable journey. So, whether you've been to Kyoto before or are dreaming of your first visit, join us as we revisit the charm and wonder of exploring Kyoto with kids. Let's make your family's adventure as memorable as ours!

@ Toji temple in Kyoto

Discovering Kyoto: A Blend of Old and New

Top Family-Friendly Attractions

  • Fushimi Inari Shrine: Beyond the Instagram-famous torii gates, the shrine offers a peaceful hike up Mount Inari, which can be a great adventure for older kids. Along the way, there are smaller shrines and fox statues to discover, symbolizing the messenger of Inari, the god of rice. Tip: Start early to avoid crowds and enjoy a quieter experience.

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: This magical forest is not just about the bamboo. The area also boasts the Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site with beautiful gardens. For a unique experience, take a rickshaw ride through the grove. Family Tip: Visit the nearby Monkey Park Iwatayama, where you can see monkeys in their natural habitat and enjoy panoramic views of Kyoto.

  • Kyoto Railway Museum: This museum is a hit for its interactive exhibits, including simulators where kids can experience driving a train. The extensive collection showcases the evolution of Japanese railways, from steam engines to bullet trains. Tip: Check for special events or workshops that often take place during school holidays.

  • Kyoto Aquarium: It's a fantastic place to learn about Japan's river and sea life, with touch pools and feeding times that children will love. The aquarium's conservation message is also a great educational takeaway for the whole family. Tip: Look out for the dolphin and seal shows, which are entertaining and informative.

Experiencing Culture First-Hand

  • Tea Ceremony Experience: Opt for a family-friendly session where the intricacies of the tea ceremony are explained in a fun and accessible manner. Some places offer ceremonies in English, making it easier for kids to follow along and learn about this important Japanese tradition. Kyoto Maikoya is our favorite venue for Tea ceremony experience in Kyoto: Ask if you can choose your own kimono to wear during the ceremony for a memorable photo opportunity.

  • Samurai & Ninja Museum with Experience: Here, families can enjoy interactive exhibits, try on samurai armor, and even learn basic ninja techniques. It's not only fun but an immersive way to learn about Japanese history. Tip: Book the ninja training session in advance, as it's a popular attraction.

  • Gion District Walking Tour Stroll through the historic streets of Gion, Kyoto's most famous geisha district. This walking tour is an excellent way for families to experience the traditional side of Japan. You'll learn about the fascinating world of geishas (or "geiko" as they're known in Kyoto) and maikos (apprentice geishas), including their training, lifestyle, and the art forms they practice. The tour guides often share intriguing stories and facts that keep children engaged. Keep your eyes peeled for a rare sight of geishas adorned in exquisite kimonos. The evening tours are particularly magical, as the lantern-lit streets and wooden teahouses transport you back in time

@my kiddo exploring Kyoto

@Zaka street,Kyoto

For those who revel in the whispers of the past and wish to add a touch of historical exploration to their Kyoto journey, here are 6 more historical sites that promise an enriching experience for families:

Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple that is one of Kyoto's most iconic and photographed landmarks. The top two floors of this stunning structure are completely covered in gold leaf, shimmering in the sunlight and reflecting beautifully on the pond below. It's a sight that fascinates visitors of all ages. While the interior of the temple is not open to the public, walking around the tranquil gardens and capturing the beauty of the pavilion from various angles makes for a memorable family outing. The site also offers a glimpse into the Muromachi period's garden design and architectural style, making it a living history lesson.


Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a vivid glimpse into Japan's feudal era. Built in the 17th century as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period, this historical landmark allows visitors to step back in time and imagine the splendor of the shogunate's power. The castle is renowned for its magnificent gates, intricate interiors, and "nightingale floors," designed to chirp like birds when walked upon, serving as a security measure against intruders. The expansive gardens surrounding the castle are equally impressive, showcasing traditional Japanese landscape design. A visit here is both educational and enjoyable, providing insights into the samurai culture and architectural achievements of the period.

@Nijo Castle

Perched on the side of Otowa Mountain, Kiyomizu-dera is a historic temple that dates back to 778, long before Kyoto became the imperial capital of Japan. This UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its wooden stage that juts out from the main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below, offering breathtaking views of the cherry and maple trees that explode in a riot of color in spring and fall, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance. The temple's name, Kiyomizu, means "pure water," derived from the Otowa Waterfall running beneath the complex. Visitors can drink from its waters, which are believed to have wish-granting powers. The approach to the temple is lined with shops selling souvenirs and snacks, making the visit both a spiritual and enjoyable family experience.

@ Kiyomizu-dera

Ryoan-ji Temple is renowned for its karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, considered one of the finest examples of this type of garden in Japan. The simplicity of the garden, featuring fifteen rocks set in white gravel, encourages contemplation and interpretation. Interestingly, the garden is designed so that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from view. The temple itself is a beautiful example of Zen Buddhist architecture and offers a tranquil atmosphere for visitors. The surrounding park, with its pond and beautifully landscaped areas, is also worth exploring. Visiting Ryoan-ji provides a unique opportunity to experience Zen philosophy through the art of garden design, making it a profound visit for families interested in Japanese culture and aesthetics.

@Ryoan-ji Temple

is a remarkable temple known for its 120-meter-long hall, which is Japan's longest wooden structure. Inside, you're greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of 1,001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, in a display that's both spiritual and artistic. The central statue is a giant seated Kannon, flanked by rows of 1,000 life-size statues, each with a unique face and pose. This temple offers a serene atmosphere where families can appreciate the craftsmanship and devotion evident in every detail of the statues. It's a place that encourages reflection and offers a peaceful break from the bustling city, making it an ideal stop for those interested in art, history, and spirituality.

The Heian Shrine is a relatively modern shrine, built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the capital's foundation in Kyoto. Despite its newer origins, the shrine is designed in the style of the ancient Heian Period, offering a glimpse into the architectural styles of a bygone era. The shrine's main attraction for families is its expansive garden, which features a variety of plants and flowers that change with the seasons, offering a stunning display of natural beauty year-round. The large, bright orange torii gate that marks the entrance to the shrine is one of the largest in Japan and provides a fantastic photo opportunity. The Heian Shrine and its gardens are a peaceful haven for families, allowing for a leisurely exploration of Kyoto's cultural heritage amidst a picturesque setting.

@ Heian Shrine

These sites are not just tourist destinations; they are pillars of Japanese culture and history, offering families a deep dive into the spiritual, aesthetic, and architectural traditions of Kyoto. Visiting these sites allows for a blend of education, reflection, and unforgettable scenic beauty, making them indispensable stops on your journey through Kyoto.

Kyoto's Culinary Delights: Where to Eat with Kids

  • Nishiki Market: This food market is a great place to introduce kids to Japanese food culture. From takoyaki (octopus balls) to fresh sushi and Kyoto sweets, there's something for every palate. Tip: Many vendors offer free samples, so it's a chance for kids to try something new without committing to a full portion.

  • Okonomiyaki Chibo: Located in downtown Kyoto, this restaurant is perfect for families craving something hearty. Watching the food being cooked right in front of you is entertaining and adds to the dining experience. Family Tip: Let the kids help choose the ingredients for a customized okonomiyaki.

  • Kawaii Monster Café: For a whimsical dining experience, this café offers imaginative dishes in a fantasy-like setting. While the original is in Tokyo, Kyoto has its share of themed cafes that offer a similarly playful atmosphere. Tip: These cafes are popular, so booking in advance is recommended.

@Traditional japanese Koi Pond.

Hidden Gems: Off the Beaten Path with Kids

  • Philosopher's Path: Best enjoyed during cherry blossom season, this path offers a quieter side of Kyoto. The route is lined with cafes and small shops, perfect for taking breaks with kids. Tip: Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit, offering pleasant weather and scenic beauty.

@ Philosopher's Path

  • Kyoto International Manga Museum: A paradise for manga fans, this museum has a vast collection that includes many English titles. It's a great place to relax and read, with a lawn where families can picnic. Tip: The museum holds workshops and events, especially during school holidays, which are fun for kids interested in drawing or manga creation.

Travel Tips for the Family

  • Stay in a Ryokan: This traditional Japanese inn offers a unique lodging experience. Many ryokans cater to families, providing spacious rooms and kid-friendly meals. Tip: Check if the ryokan has private family baths for a more intimate onsen experience.

  • Transportation: The Kyoto sightseeing pass is invaluable for families, offering unlimited travel on buses and subways. It comes with a map and guide, making it easier to navigate the city's attractions. Tip: Many attractions offer discounts or free entry for children, so always ask when purchasing tickets.

  • Seasonal Highlights: Kyoto is famous for its seasonal beauty, from cherry blossoms in spring to the vibrant colors of autumn. Each season offers unique festivals and events, such as the Gion Matsuri in summer, which can be a highlight of your trip. Planning Tip: Accommodation can book up quickly during peak seasons, so plan well in advance.

Here are 10 fun facts to get you and the kids excited about a trip to Kyoto:

  1. Former Capital of Japan: For over a millennium, until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1868, Kyoto served as the heart and soul of Japan, which explains its rich cultural heritage.

  2. A City of Temples: Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, including the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine with its iconic red torii gates that snake up the mountain—perfect for a family hike with a view.

  3. Kyoto's Cuisine: Known for kaiseki (a traditional multi-course meal) and vegetarian temple cuisine, Kyoto is a foodie paradise. Don’t miss trying yudofu, a simple but delicious tofu hot pot.

  4. Kyoto International Manga Museum: If your family enjoys comics like us, this museum offers a vast collection of manga from Japan and around the world, including some you can read on the spot.

  5. Philosopher's Path: Named after a famous Japanese philosopher who was said to meditate while walking this path, it's a beautiful stone path lined with cherry trees and is especially stunning in spring.

  6. A City of Festivals: Kyoto hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, with one of the most famous being the Gion Matsuri in July. It’s a month-long festival that includes massive floats, traditional music, and parades.

  7. Textile Capital: Kyoto is renowned for its traditional crafts, including kimonos. The city has a rich history of textile production, and families can visit workshops to see artisans at work or even try their hand at making their own textiles in a workshop designed for visitors.

  8. Nijo Castle: Unlike many of Japan's historical castles, Nijo Castle is unique for its "nightingale floors" that chirp like birds when walked upon, designed to alert occupants to the presence of intruders—a fun, audible experience for kids and adults alike!

  9. Kyoto Imperial Palace: Once the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family, the Kyoto Imperial Palace is now open to the public. Its spacious grounds, traditional gardens, and architecture offer a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city.

  10. Kyoto’s Geisha Culture in Gion: Kyoto is the heart of Japan's geisha culture, especially in the historic Gion district, known for its traditional wooden houses and as the primary area where geisha (geiko) and apprentice geisha (maiko) entertain. Originating in the Edo period to serve shrine visitors, this tradition showcases Kyoto's cultural depth through arts like dance, music, and the tea ceremony. Walking through Gion offers a glimpse into a living history where ancient customs meet the modern world.

@Kifume shrine

Kyoto: Where Family Memories Are Made

As our journey through Kyoto comes to a close, it's clear that this city is more than just a destination; it's a gateway to a world of discovery, learning, and unforgettable memories for families. From the enchanting streets of Gion, where the ancient world seems to come alive, to the interactive and educational experiences that await at every turn, Kyoto offers a unique blend of adventure and tranquility that is hard to find elsewhere.

Embracing Kyoto with kids is not just about seeing the sights; it's about connecting with the heart of Japan, understanding its traditions, and making memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you're feeding the monkeys at Arashiyama, learning the art of the tea ceremony, or simply enjoying a moment of peace in a Zen garden, Kyoto has a way of enchanting visitors of all ages.

As you plan your family's journey to Kyoto, remember to leave room for the unexpected. The true magic of Kyoto often lies in the unplanned moments: a smile from a kindly shopkeeper, the taste of a new dish, or the serene beauty of a hidden garden. These are the experiences that will stay with you, long after you've returned home.

Just back from another unforgettable family adventure in Kyoto, and let me tell you, the magic of Japan never fades! It was a joy to wander those historic streets with my loved ones, laughing and learning at every turn. So, why not pack those bags, round up the family, and dive into the heart of Kyoto yourselves? Each alley whispers secrets of the past, every temple visit offers a lesson in beauty and tranquility. Kyoto is more than a destination; it’s a journey that brings families together, weaving memories that will last a lifetime. Here’s to safe travels and a trip filled with discovery, connection, and joy. Trust me, your hearts will be fuller, and your bond stronger with every step you take in Kyoto. Can’t wait for you to experience it too !

Do you have a favorite place to explore while in Kyoto ? Please share in the comments below and spread the Traveler Butterfly love !


bottom of page