Kyoto with Kids- Top Places
There is a lot to see and do in Kyoto- there are heaps of Shrines and Temples to visit and it can get a bit overwhelming trying to pick and choose which ones to visit. And, while the historic sites are impressive, modern Japan is just as interesting. Often a trip to Kyoto will be combined with visits to Osaka, Nara, and possibly other parts of Japan, so how do you pack in everything in when you have little ones?
First of all, despite the pictures of ancient Kyoto, it’s also very much a modern city with great public transport.
Next, consider balance- it’s not necessary to visit every single temple and shrine. It’s impossible, so pick a few and enjoy them that way you can also enjoy other aspects of Kyoto.
Japan in the warmer months is very hot and humid and it involves a lot of walking. You may find the kids fading by mid-afternoon. However, there are plenty of places that offer great stops. The multi-story (air-conditioned) Takashimaya and Marui shopping centres offer both shopping, grocery and restaurants. The dining options are usually on the top floor with the food hall in the basement. The food hall does offer great take away items. Freshly made food is prepared on site and then packaged for takeaway. It’s great if you need to have dinner back at your accommodation and it’s a big step up from the convenience store bento boxes and sushi rolls.
Tenryu-Ji Temple & Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama is the name of the mountain in this area of Kyoto and has a heap of places to visit
Tenryu-ji temple is beautifully set with a pond and garden that you can wander around. You can also explore the temple itself. Just so you know, you will need to take your shoes off to go on inside, but it’s a great way to cool down. There are views of the garden from the temple.
Right next to Tenryu-ji temple is the famous Arashiyama bamboo grove. This beautiful walk takes you through tall bamboo and is peaceful - even when there are crowds of people. The walk is cool and shaded.
The monkey park looks fantastic; however, we planned our trip to include it in the afternoon which ended up being when we were all a bit faded. We had underestimated the distance from Arashiyama bamboo grove to the park. We thought that they were quite close together, (they are) it’s only a kilometre apart but that doesn’t include the 20 minute (adult pace) climb up the mountain. Beforehand, it seemed super close; however when everyone is feeling hot, sticky, tired, and hungry it feels like the end of the earth. The uphill climb is a staircase, so I wouldn’t want the pram on that day.
If you want to see and feed the cute monkeys it’s definitely worth it, but I would start the day at the monkey park when everyone is still full of energy and then spend the rest of the time checking out Tenryu-Ji temple and Arashiyama Bamboo grove which are more laid back at your own pace activities.
Kinkaku-Ji Temple (google translate into English)
One of Kyoto’s iconic temples- this stunning golden temple sits in a lake surrounded by a beautiful forest. It’s quite a busy attraction, but worth it as it is very impressive and beautiful. The lake and surroundings gardens look so natural but are well positioned and maintained. There are koi in the lake, so keep a lookout for them. There is also a small man-made waterfall. It’s a peaceful walk as you are surrounded by bonsai trees and the sound of running water. However, there were a lot of mosquitos here, so I would spray the family with repellant- especially if your kids, like mine, react badly to mosquito bites.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is an important Shinto shrine and is dedicated to the God Inari (god of rice). It is actually the head shrine for over 40,000 Inari shrines. The complex sits on Mount Inari and you can walk through those famous vermillion gates up the mountain. There is a trail that continues to lead up the mountain, but it’s not necessary to go that far. You will see statues of foxes everywhere and that is because they are considered the messengers of the god Inari.
This was my favourite place to visit and it’s super popular with other tourists. The iconic red gates are simply an amazing site. Despite the crowds of tourists, it is not just a “tourist place,” but a place of worship with a head priest. Take time to explore the temples there as well.
Gion & Yasaka Shrine & Maruyama Park