Kyoto is great for kids. The usual worries aren’t an issue in ultra-safe and spotless Japan. Your biggest challenge will be keeping your children entertained. The very things that many adults come to Kyoto to see (temples, gardens and shrines) can be a bit boring for kids.
On a sunny day in Kyoto, local parents of young children tend to congregate in the Okazaki-kōen area. This region of Northern Higashiyama features a park, playing fields, a zoo, a playground and two museums. Best of all, the area is completely flat and has wide pavements, perfect for those with strollers. It can also be accessed by subway (take the Tōzai subway line to Higashiyama Station and walk north along Shira-kawa Canal). The Kamo-gawa riverbank is also great for kids and on hot days they can wade in the river. The area around Demachiyanagi is one of the most popular spots for parents and children to play.
Parks & Gardens
The Imperial Palace Park is the Central Park of Kyoto, and the sprawling expanse of fields, trails, ponds and woods is perfect for a walk or bicycle ride with the kids. For a picnic, a stroll or a Frisbee toss, the Kyoto Botanical Gardens are just the ticket. And the cherry blossoms last longer here than almost anywhere in town.
With vintage steam locomotives, one of which you can ride, the Kyoto Railway Museum is a must for train-crazy kids, young and old. It's a wonderful interactive museum and there's a giant diorama with miniature trains wooshing around that will keep them entertained. The Manga Museum is perfect for kids interested in Japanese comics.
Other Kid-Friendly Attractions
- Fushimi Inari-Taisha
Kids will be entranced by the hypnotic arcades of torii (entrance gates) at this sprawling Shintō shrine. There's plenty of room to run and play and burn off some energy here.
- Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
Both kids and adults will find the antics of the monkeys at this park fascinating, and it’s easy to combine this with a trip to the sights of Arashiyama.
With fortunes to take, holy water to drink and an incredible underground sanctuary, this hands-on temple will keep even the most hyper kids happy for an hour or two.
Eating with Kids
Food can be an issue in Japan if your child is a picky eater. Let’s face it: even adults can be put off by some of the things found in Japanese cuisine – asking a kid to eat sea urchin might simply be too much.
If you’re going to a kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) restaurant, have your lodgings call ahead to see if they can rustle up some kid-friendly dishes. Ditto if you’ll be dining at your ryokan.
You’ll find quite a few so-called ‘family restaurants’ in Kyoto, such as Royal Host and Saizeriya, and these usually serve something that even finicky kids can stomach (pizza, fried chicken, French fries etc). These places often have kids' menus, too.
In addition to family restaurants, you’ll find many of the usual Western fast-food chains represented in Kyoto. And there are supermarkets and convenience stores everywhere where you can self-cater for kids who simply won’t eat what’s on offer in restaurants.
Need to Know
- Changing facilities Located in department stores and some train stations.
- Cots Available in hotels (book in advance) but not ryokan.
- Kids’ menus Usually only in ‘family restaurants’.
- Transport Comfortable and safe; child seats available in rental cars but not taxis.