Loaded with historical, yet kid-friendly sites, Kyoto, Japan, is a great place to introduce your family to a new culture, while still enjoying the modern amenities most are accustomed to at home. The list of activities both parents and kids can enjoy together is long. But I think what I enjoy about Kyoto the most is that it offers so many chances to do one of my favorite things when traveling with kids – teach. Great destinations like Kyoto make learning fun, so parents will never hear any complaining.
Things To Do in Kyoto with Kids
Kyoto boasts 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. So how does a family choose which to visit? The good answer is there really isn’t a bad choice. During my three days in Kyoto, I visited seven. Some visits were planned, others I stumbled upon while out wandering. Some of my favorites are conveniently close together, which can be a key to vacation success when you’ve got kids in tow.
The grounds of Kodai-ji Temple are vast and varied. Along with actual structures, the gardens scream for exploration. Pathways lead visitors from one spot the next, and while adults may tend to focus on the views, kids enjoy what is actually creating the scenery. Trees that reflect perfectly in a lake. A forest of bamboo that can have you questioning the time of day and hide, until just the right moment, your next destination. The 80 foot Buddha, Ryozen Kannon, sitting next door. Certain times of year, Kodai-ji opens at night for what’s called Temple Light Ups. Be sure to explore at night if the timing works with your travel schedule.
An open area and parking lot sit between Kodai-ji Temple and Ryozen Kannon, giving little ones a nice space to run off some steam. There’s also a spot to grab a quick snack. But don’t leave without visiting Ryozen Kannon. A tribute to the Unknown Soldier of World War II, walk around as long as the kids will allow, the Buddha’s stone footprint is bound to be a hit.
All you have to do is give them a rub. In the area surrounding Ryozen Kannon and Kodaiji Temple there are assorted small Buddha statues tucked into the neighborhood’s nooks and crannies. Pink signs tell passersby touching the roadside Buddhist statues will bring prosperity and happiness. The instructions are pretty simple. Just touch the statues with your right hand or both hands. Touch the pedestals of the taller statues. Think of it as a Buddha treasure hunt of sorts.
Kyoto International Manga Museum
What was once a Japanese elementary school is now the Kyoto International Manga Museum. The Museum houses nearly 300,000 items related to manga. On weekends, artists give demonstrations on how to draw manga in the Manga Studio. Visiting kids will enjoy the collection of manga and picture books in the Children’s Library. All explanations and descriptions throughout the museum are in both Japanese and English, so no worries about translation.
Sagano Romantic Train
I know what you’re thinking, a romantic train that’s family-friendly? I’d have my doubts too. Riding the rails can be romantic or family-friendly, it just depends on who you’re traveling with. Whether at the window seat of one of the Sagano Romantic Train’s closed cars or on an open air train car, the half-hour or so trip takes you along the Hozu River. With spring comes cherry blossoms, fall brings colorful foliage, summer a scenic landscape, and winter snow and less crowds.
When you get off at the last stop, the Diorama Kyoto Japan will be waiting. It’s like an amusement park for train lovers. This model railroad, with numerous trains, runs through Kyoto’s historic sites on more than a mile and a half of track. Kids and kids at heart can operate select trains in the diorama. The controls are fittingly installed in the front cab of a full-size electric locomotive.
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Best family hotels and things to do in Japan with kids on Ciao Bambino
Exploring Kyoto with Kids on Ciao Bambino
Dana’s trip to Japan was hosted by the city of Kyoto, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos by Dana Rebmann.