Wondering where to take kids in Kyoto? How about learning about the best spots and essential travel trips from two moms who are long-term Japan residents? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Believe it or not, Kyoto is a fairly kid-friendly city! It all comes down to knowing where you can take your kids and what to expect.
I’ve traveled numerous times to Kyoto with my daughter ever since she was a year old. But to provide the most comprehensive information for this article, I’ve also recruited the help of my friend and Kyoto resident, Lisa. Lisa has been living in Kyoto for seven years so far. She also gave birth to her son in Kyoto and has been raising him in the city ever since.
Learning to navigate through Kyoto with a newborn and now a toddler has taught her some valuable lessons that are essential to anyone planning to visit Kyoto with little ones.
Provided this, you’ll find that this article is packed with must-know information for parents visiting Kyoto. And not only one parent in Japan but two — one living in Kyoto city and another who lives nearby and travels frequently to the prefecture!
Think of this guide as asking a good friend their tips about Kyoto travel with kids.
The Best Things to Do in Kyoto with Kids
Kamogawa River with Kids
The Kamogawa River in Kyoto is a place both of us love taking our kids, not to mention it is near popular tourist areas like the Imperial Palace, Gion, and Kawaramachi.
It costs nothing to visit and it is absolutely beautiful all year round, but especially during spring since the river is lined with cherry blossom trees.
You could play in the sand with your little ones, cross the river using the turtle-shaped stones, or just go for a slow walk and enjoy watching the ducks and birds in the river.
There are many delicious cafes and restaurants running alongside the river to choose from as well. Lisa recommends Cafe Planet near Keihan Demachiyanagi Station.
“It’s a vegan and gluten-free cafe, which is great for my son as he is allergic to eggs and wheat. We love to buy the cute Shiba Inu-shaped cookies along with a drink, but they also serve meals like gluten-free pizzas. The staff are very accommodating and some can speak English. There are comfy sofas and also seats that offer a beautiful view of the river. I highly recommend this place even if you don’t have any specific dietary requirements.” -Lisa
Admission Cost: Free!
Kiyomizudera Temple with Kids
Over 1000 years old and perched on a hill, Kiyomizudera Temple is one of the most famous temples in Japan. So it’s unsurprisingly a very popular spot among tourists. It can be quite crowded, especially during peak seasons such as during autumn, but it is still worth visiting.
Lisa recommends using a baby carrier or stroller for little ones if you plan to go as the walk uphill is quite long and can be tiring for a small child. It’s often very congested and cars travel up the same path, so her husband ends up carrying their now three-year-old son most of the way.
My daughter is four and my husband still has to carry her half the time too, but she has enjoyed visiting the temple ever since she was two years old.
Thankfully, there are many shops in the area selling delicious food and drinks along the way to keep you going. Lisa and her husband and I love to buy coffee at Arabica on the way up. They also order an espresso cup-sized milk for their son, which is generally free.
“Going back down is my son’s favourite part as it’s much easier for his little legs. We often go at night to avoid large crowds and it is just as beautiful. Keep in mind though that most of the shops will be closed. The shops generally open from 10 AM to 5 PM, this is when the area is the most crowded.”-Lisa
Admission Cost: 400 yen
Hours: 6 AM to 6 PM
Tip: Consider renting kimono or yukata for your family from Kimono Rental in Kyoto Kiyomizu Temple, Kimono Rental Experience in Kyoto by KANWA, or from Kiyomizudera Temple Kimono Rental Experience by Rental Kimono First.
Fushimi Inari Shrine with Kids
Fushimi Inari Shrine is another famous shrine in Kyoto that you’ve likely seen pictures of. It boasts thousands of orange torii gates that snake their way up Mount Inari.
I’ve visited here several times on my own and once with my family. It’s certainly become busier over the years, likely because it’s a photo-worthy spot, and I found it a little too congested now for my liking. But it’s definitely worthwhile to visit, even if for a little bit.
Lisa’s family visits Fushimi Inari every year for their first shrine visit of the New Year. She recommends going in the morning or early afternoon, especially if you plan on walking all the way to the top. You want to be down before it gets too dark as the path becomes very difficult to see at night and gets a little spooky too.
Use a baby carrier unless you want to carry a stroller since many steps are going up and there are lots of gravel and uneven paths. Lisa carried her then 1-year-old son using a baby carrier, and the walk was relatively easy, although boring for her son.
“On our second yearly visit, my husband ended up carrying our then 2-year-old up to the top, and my son was very bored with the same view of one torii after another (although really beautiful for us). Personally, I feel like just walking around the main shrine is enough, or walking up slightly and turning back.” -Lisa
When I visited with my toddler, I found that we couldn’t go up to the summit with a toddler. At a 40-minute hike one-way, we knew our daughter would get tired and need to be carried.
So we just hiked up a little past the washrooms (where it reads, “Now Here” on the map above). We looked at the pond and went to an area with smaller torii gates, and then headed back down.
Just like Kiyomizu Dera Temple, there are many shops and stalls along the walk from Fushimi Inari Station to Fushimi Inari Shrine. I recommend trying some of the food from the many stalls or sitting down for a quick and affordable meal at Hanaya, a restaurant that serves bowls of udon and soba as well as inari sushi and maki sushi. Their Kitsune Udon (udon topped with deep-fried tofu) is amazing!
Arashiyama with Kids
This is another popular tourist spot that can be crowded but is a nice place to take kids.
Lisa and I both first took our children before the borders opened to tourists, so it was more peaceful walking through the bamboo forests since it was less crowded. However, we think it’s still worth going, if only for a quick visit The best time to visit is likely the early morning when there are fewer people. (I recommend staying at a ryokan in the area.)
“This is personally another favourite spot to visit with my son. The first time we went, he was 7 months old. As soon as we entered the bamboo forest, he fell into a deep sleep. At first, I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get to see the bamboo, but now that walk is one of my fondest memories. The air is really fresh and a sense of calm comes over you when visiting. There is nothing more refreshing after a long day than walking through this forest.” -Lisa
The cherry blossoms in spring are quite beautiful and it’s a nice place to let children run around and let off some energy.
Walking along Arashiyama River is also very beautiful, especially in autumn. There are boat rides available and lots of good cafes dotted here and there along the river.
I recommend visiting Arashiyama Yoshimura, a soba restaurant where if you’re lucky, you can have a seat overlooking the river. I visited when my daughter was 1.5 years old and she loved the soba. They provide small bowls so you can share your meals with your child if they can’t have a full set.
Keep in mind that summer is plagued with mosquitoes, so bring along lots of repellant if you happen to visit in the summer.
It’s important to bring along sunscreen and a portable fan or cloth as well if possible. Lisa thought her baby was protected from the shade of the bamboo trees, but he still ended up with sunburn.
“I wish someone had told me this so I hope it helps anyone reading now. Japan can get very humid and the sun is very strong. Even in the spring when we visited, my son developed a heat rash and got sunburnt. After that, I used baby sunscreen every day and brought wet wipes and a cloth to wipe sweat with me wherever we went.” -Lisa
Tip: If you want to save time, consider booking a tour to see Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kiyomizudera, and Kinkakuji in one day!
Chionin Temple with Kids
One hidden gem in Kyoto that is not often talked about is Chionin Temple.
It’s very peaceful and never crowded. In the afternoons you can hear the monks chanting in the temple.
Lisa says, “My son is always walking up quietly and watching them. I think it’s a great eye-opener and a small way to show your child a different culture. It’s absolutely stunning during the autumn season too and only a short walk from Four Seasons Hotel.”
Hours: 9 AM to 4 PM
I loved bringing my daughter to the Kyoto Railway Museum and I think it’s an excellent place to visit when it’s raining out or the weather is too hot or cold.
There are tons of different trains, interactive exhibits, as well as an area for kids to play with toy trains! We spent an afternoon here and I feel like my daughter would have happily stayed longer if she had the chance.
Kids can also ride on an old-fashioned steam locomotive train outside for free (adults have to pay a small fee). There’s a small playground as well with train-shaped equipment.
The roof of the museum has a spot where kids can see trains passing by as well. How amazing is that?
Cost: 1500 yen for guests 18 years and up, 1300 yen for high school and university students, 500 yen for elementary and junior high school students, 200 yen for children three to five years old, and free for children 2 years and younger
Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (last entry at 4:30 PM)
Kyoto Aquarium is located right next to Kyoto Railway Museum so definitely set a day aside to do both.
Built in 2012, this is a relatively new and beautiful aquarium with features local marine life in Kyoto as well as creatures from around the world such as dolphins, seals, and penguins.
Cost: 2400 yen for guests 19 years and up, 1800 yen for high school students, 1200 yen for elementary and junior high school students, 800 yen for children three to five years old, and free for children 2 years and younger
Hours: Varies but typically from 10 AM to 5 PM
Tip: Kyoto Railway Museum and Kyoto Aquarium are located near a really fun outdoor playground that has beautiful Kyoto-style decor. I highly recommend visiting it!
Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a great place to visit if your child is a fan of popular Japanese children’s shows like Pretty Cure (Precure), Kamen Rider, and Super Sentai (Power Rangers) as they have life-size displays of the main characters. My daughter loves Pretty Cure so she loved seeing all the main heroines from all the shows and taking photos with them.
The Studio Park also has a huge Edo-style area outside where you can see old-style shops and houses. Kids can see a ninja show for free or dress up as ninjas for an additional fee. There are also attractions like mazes, a haunted house, and samurai sword fighting lessons.
For my husband, the best part was the Evangelion Kyoto Base, which has a huge life-size EVA that you can “pilot” (my husband was very impressed with it, and that made his day!).
Cost: 2400 yen for adults, 1400 yen for junior high school and high school students, 1200 yen for children ages 3 to 12
Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM
Kyoto Botanical Gardens with Kids
I loved bringing my daughter to the Kyoto Botanical Gardens and she had a lot of fun.
There are so many plant species and beautiful seasonal flowers, not to mention 450 gorgeous cherry blossom trees that bloom in spring. The greenhouse is also one of the nicest I’ve visited in Japan.
Near the entrance, there’s a park for kids to play at and a forest library where kids can look at various picture books (make sure to put them back after reading)!
Lisa recommends avoiding the Kyoto Botanical Gardens in summer, though, because of the Asian tiger mosquitos.
Cost: 200 yen for adults, 150 yen for high school students
Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM
Tip: Klook has a cherry blossom tour in spring that takes you from Kamogawa to the Kyoto Botanical Gardens and then a ride on the Keifuku Electric Railway through a cherry blossom tunnel.
Yatsuhashi Class with Kids
One of Kyoto’s most famous souvenirs is yatsuhashi, which is a thin piece of mochi folded into a triangle with a filling in the middle. The filling is typically red bean paste but can also include chestnut paste or chocolate.
If you want hands-on experience making yatsuhashi, Otabe offers two different classes. Their one-hour class is suited for children ages 10 and up and they can make mochi from scratch. The shorter, 30-minute class is more suited for younger kids and is one that my family participated in.
My 4-year-old had fun deciding what fillings to put inside her mochi and made three different yatsuhashi on her own. You can’t eat your creations there but they give you a take-away box. You also get three
Cost: 800 yen per person for the 30-minute class, 1200 yen for the 1-hour class
Hours: 2 PM and 3 PM for the 30-minute class, 10:30 AM for the 1-hour class
Pottery Class with Kids
Another fun activity to do with kids in Kyoto is to book a family pottery class.
Lisa booked a class at Zuiko Pottery near Kiyomizudera recently as a goodbye gift for friends leaving Japan soon. Her 3-year-old had lots of fun watching but was not so interested in touching the clay.
“I think older children would have more fun with this class. It takes up to 2 months for the pottery to be delivered, but you can ask for it to be delivered to your country if you are only visiting for a short time.” -Lisa
Cost: Varies according to plan
Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM (last entry at 4:30 PM)
Kyoto with Kids Travel Tips
Here are some essential tips that every parent should know when planning a trip to Kyoto with kids.
Try to Avoid Taking Buses
Our biggest tip for traveling in Kyoto with children is to avoid the buses if at all possible. This might be easier said than done because Google Maps likes to recommend buses.
Opting for the train or walking to your destination is generally better. If you are a family, getting a taxi can sometimes save you money and hassle as well.
Buses can get extremely crowded, especially in peak season. Trying to get a stroller on or off a bus is almost impossible and people are often packed into buses like sardines.
Lisa says, “I once took my 2-year-old on a crowded bus and within minutes he started breathing fast and crying to get off. Honestly, I started to feel sick too with the lack of air circulating and being squished against the door. I have seen many other children cry or almost fall over as well. This is mainly the 207 city bus so please be warned.
If it’s unavoidable then remember you may be lining up for a long time or have to wait for the next bus. To help with the crowded buses, the government is no longer issuing one-day pass tickets. They are also asking tourists to avoid bringing large luggage onto the bus.”
Not all buses are this busy though and if you are lucky to get on a quiet one, it’s good to know that children under 6 years old are free to ride the bus. Children over 6 generally have to pay half the amount of the adult fare. Buses will have the price fare on the screen displayed at the front of the bus.
Note Food and Allergies
If your child has allergies, please keep in mind that not a lot of places are allergy-friendly in Kyoto.
Lisa’s son had a wheat, egg, milk, and nut allergy as a baby, and she was shocked to find just how many food items had wheat hidden inside them, for example, soy sauce.
Luckily there are a lot of pre-made baby and toddler foods with clear images showing if they contain the 28 allergy foods or not. You can use the Google Translate app on your phone to scan the package and translate the Japanese text into your desired language.
Know Where to Find Baby Food, Diapers, and Other Products
They also sell diapers, clothes, bath products, and anything else you may need on your trip. Another place to try would be Nishimatsuya, also located near Kyoto Station in the Kyoto Yodobashi Building.
Try Not to Use Strollers in Kyoto
A lot of roads are very narrow and uneven, so we recommend using a baby carrier if possible.
Lisa solely used a baby carrier for the first two years of her son’s life in Kyoto to help make navigating through crowds of people, small uneven roads, and up lots of steps much easier. Personally, I used a stroller only once to Kyoto with my daughter and couldn’t visit many spots because of all the stairs!
If you have a child who is too big for a carrier but doesn’t have the stamina to walk a lot, then I would recommend a light baby stroller with good wheels. A lot of tourist spots often require a lot of walking and little ones could get tired easily.
There are also collapsable strollers as well as light ones, so make sure it’s something you can carry up a flight of stairs because you will likely come across some.
Book a Tour
If you’re limited on time, I highly suggest booking a guided tour.
For instance, through Klook you can book a tour to see Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kiyomizudera, and Kinkakuji in one day! This saves not only time but avoids all the hassle when it comes to figuring out transport.
Rent Kimono or Yukata
No Kyoto experience is complete without renting a kimono or yukata! Here are some kimono and yukata rental experiences that you might be interested in, and they provide kimono and yukata for the whole family!
I’ve rented kimono before in Kyoto (in fact, the photo is my author bio!) and was a great experience, not to mention the photos we took were gorgeous. I highly recommend trying it out!
Kimono Rental Experience in Kyoto by KANWA
Located near Yasaka Shrine, Yasaka Tower, Ninenzaka, and Kiyomizudera Temple.
Kimono and Yukata Rental at Kimono Miyabi Kyoto
Located in Gion.
Kimono Rental Experience by Wakana Kimono in Kyoto
Located in Gion.
Kimono Rental in Kyoto Kiyomizu Temple
Located near Kiyomizudera Temple.
Kiyomizudera Temple Kimono Rental Experience by Rental Kimono First
Located near Kiyomizudera Temple.
When to Travel to Kyoto with Kids
Kyoto is beautiful throughout the year, but your experience will vastly differ depending on when you go. Here’s a rough guide about what to expect when visiting during different seasons.
Kyoto with Kids in Spring (March to May)
This is likely the busiest season, especially when cherry blossoms are in bloom from the end of March to the beginning of April. Although the cherry blossom trees are undoubtedly magical, major tourist spots will be crowded.
Try to avoid traveling to Kyoto during Golden Week as well, which is a public holiday in Japan that runs from the end of April to the first week of May. In 2024, Golden Week will be from April 29th to May 6th.
In spring, the average temperature is around 10°C/50°F in March, 17°C/62°F in April, and 21°C/70°F in May.
Kyoto with Kids in Summer (June to August)
The average temperature in summer is around 30ºC. But don’t let that fool you, Kyoto gets very hot during the summer, likely because it’s surrounded by mountains. I spent a summer studying at Kyoto University in July back in the day and I spent most of the time feeling sick from the heat and humidity. I could barely go out and sightsee.
For this reason, I do not recommend visiting Kyoto with children in July or August. Lately, it has been hot in September as well (30°C/86°F on average), so try to avoid July to September.
June is probably the best time to visit in summer but it is also the rainy season in Japan, so be prepared for that.
Kyoto with Kids in Autumn (September to November)
Autumn is hands-down the best season to visit Kyoto. I find it’s less crowded than during spring and the stunning fiery autumn foliage lasts longer than cherry blossoms. Expect the maple leaves (momiji) to start changing color from the end of October to November. Keep in mind, though, that this is a rough estimation and may change depending on the weather.
The weather in autumn is also nicer, with less rain. On average, the temperature ranges from 10ºC to 29ºC (50ºF to 84ºF).
As mentioned above, September can be very hot despite it being autumn. September is also typhoon season and there’s also a national holiday called Silver Week that is usually a popular time for people in Japan to travel. However, the holidays fall on different weeks in 2024, so I don’t expect it to be busy.
Kyoto with Kids in Winter (December to February)
Winter is probably the second least busy season, with summer taking first place. It gets fairly cold in Japan, sometimes dipping below 0 degrees but the temperature in Kyoto usually hovers at around 10ºC. It can feel colder due to the wind, though.
This is my least favorite time to travel, especially since trees are barren, but sometimes you might be able to see it snow in Kyoto! Temples and shrines covered in snow are quite the sight. The plum blossoms in mid-February are also lovely.
Day Trips from Kyoto with Kids
If you’re visiting Kyoto, you might be wondering where else nearby to visit with your kids.
Wrap-up: Kyoto with Kids
Kyoto is a great place to visit with kids, especially if you don’t spend all your time at temples and shrines and do some fun, child-friendly activities. Making sure you know when to travel and what to expect as well is important to help make your trip as enjoyable and smooth as possible.
We hope this ultimate guide to Kyoto with kids has been useful for you, whether you live in Japan or are just visiting. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!