Our final travel snap for 2016 takes us on a counting mission to Kyoto with Alison Ridgway, Product Editor for Lonely Planet. Based in Melbourne, Alison and her husband Jason have travelled extensively with their daughter, Emily, including journeys around Australia, the UK, France and, most recently, road tripping around Canada and the USA.

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What’s the story behind this photo?

We are in Kyoto visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha, famous for its 10,000 red torii gates leading up a mountain path to the Shinto shrine. Emily decided she wanted to count each torii out loud and she got up to about 300 before we stopped for an ice-cream break under the shrine’s big shady trees.

I chose this photo as it captures Emily’s curiosity and the way she discovers fun ways to explore new places. Plus, I just love the bright vermillion torii gates flooding the image with warmth: it reminds me of how we felt on this laid-back Kyoto summer day.

The next day we caught a bullet train to Hiroshima so Emily could hang up her handmade origami paper cranes at the Hiroshima Children’s Peace Memorial.

Kid’s Perspective

In Emily’s own words: ‘It was a really long walk up the mountain path and a hot day outside but nice and cool as we walked under the shade of the big red gates. I took along my little white fluffy Japanese mini Totoro soft toy (he’s only got eyes but no nose or mouth). These two ladies in kimonos asked if they could take their photo posing with me. At night we ate gyoza and yakitori chicken skewers for dinner and I thought they should be called yummy-tori not yucky-tori.’

Alison’s tips for visiting Japan with kids

1) In Kyoto, stay in a machiya (traditional wooden house) to create a little family home away from home.

2) Get a Japan Rail Pass to save money and avoid the station turnstile crowds.

3) If your child loves Studio Ghibli’s fantastical animated films as Emily does, be sure to book tickets to visit Tokyo’s Ghibli Museum before you leave home as tickets are not sold at the museum.

4) Don’t worry if you can’t speak Japanese – we couldn’t, yet still made many new Japanese friends who were so welcoming of children: an elderly lady running a kimono shop made Emily a newspaper Samurai hat and a young waitress in our favourite Tokyo hole-in-the-wall restaurant drew her little cartoons.

Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?

It’s time for summer school holidays here in Australia and we’re keeping our travel local by heading down the coast for sun, sea and sleep!

Lastly, complete the sentence:

When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always make sure we have…

…an empty suitcase to fill with all the fun stuff, gifts and travel souvenirs we collect as we travel.

Follow Alison’s travels on Instagram at @whatalisondidnext.

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