This once capital city of Japan is a hotbed of Buddhist temples and imperial palaces. You should head here if you want your kids to learn about Shinto shrines, kaiseki dining and traditional geisha performances. Visiting these historic attractions in Kyoto with kids is a hands-on way for little ones to learn about Japanese culture.
Reasons to Visit Kyoto With Kids
Kyoto is one of the most historic cities in Japan—which means it’s the perfect spot to teach kids about the country’s culture. What's more, Kyoto is widely considered the safest city in Japan, which means visitors can feel comfortable walking the streets both day and night.
The local public transit buses and the Kyoto Municipal Subway are relatively easy to use; the subway only has two lines, so deciding which train to take is easy!
Downsides to Visiting Kyoto With Kids
We happen to believe that Kyoto is the perfect city to visit with kids. Yet, there are a few challenges you might face, including:
- Not all restaurants are kid-friendly, so you’ll want to do a little research before getting your heart set on one.
- The ideal time for traveling to Kyoto with kids is during summer break. The only problem? That's when the temperatures rise and the city gets extremely hot.
- Picky eaters might not find Western-style food at many Kyoto restaurants.
- Changing tables, highchairs and private breastfeeding rooms aren’t always the easiest to find.
Kyoto With Kids Dos and Don’ts
- Feel free to breastfeed in public, as it's widely acceptable in Japan.
- Visit Kyoto in the fall and spring to avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures.
- Teach your kids a bit about Japanese food prior to boarding the plane.
- Encourage your kids to learn a few basic Japanese words and phrases.
- Don't hesitate to hire a driver if you're planning on visiting during the summer or winter.
- Don't forget to pack a few non-perishable Western-style foods just in case the kids get tired of Japanese food. (Although remember: Japan is a snack-lover's paradise, so keep those convenience stores in mind!)
- Don't be timid about letting your kids play with other kids in parks, museums and attractions—it's very common!
READ MORE: A Guide To International Travel With Kids
Tips for Visiting Kyoto With Kids
- Head for large department stores and kid-friendly restaurants to find breastfeeding rooms and changing tables.
- Rent a stroller if you don’t want to worry about toting one on a plane.
- Ask a translator to write down any food allergies in Japanese; show the paper to waiters and restaurant staff.
- Highchairs aren’t omnipresent in most restaurants but are available at kid-friendly and western ones.
- Kyoto is full of parks, so you can let little ones expend some energy here for a few hours in the morning.
- Plan as much of your trip in advance as possible—don’t leave anything to chance.
- Hire a taxi or driver to help you get around for a few days—your feet will thank you!
- You can rent a car seat with your rental car, but taxis generally don’t provide them
Eating Out With Kids in Kyoto
Kyoto is known for world-class tofu, ramen and herring soba, so we definitely recommend introducing the kids to a few of these iconic dishes. Keep in mind, though, that in Kyoto (like in many Japanese cities), parents don't typically take their kids out for dinner. Many restaurants don’t allow children (especially fine dining establishments), so if you're in Kyoto to experience kaiseki (multi-course) dining, you’ll need to either plan in advance to find a babysitter or find one that welcomes children—both of which Journy can handle for you when you travel with us.
A great way to teach the little ones about Japanese cuisine is to book a cooking class. It’s a great way to get out of inclement weather for a few hours and learn about traditional preparation techniques.
If you want a few kid-friendly restaurants to tuck away in your back pocket, try these spots:
If you’re worried that each person in your party might want a different style of Japanese food, head to Eat Paradise. This food court is full of local favorites and is located at Kyoto Station, so it’s the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat before or after a long train ride.
If your family is craving sushi during your trip, head to Ganko Sanjo Honten, a family-friendly restaurant that’s super affordable. You might be deterred by the menus that are plastered with photos of the food. But don’t worry: this restaurant isn’t just for tourists. Besides, the photos can give your little ones an idea of the type of food they’re ordering—avoiding the constant Googling for explanations.
Ramen is one of the most kid-friendly Japanese foods, as long as you remember to ask for mild spice levels! Explain to your kids that it’s basically noodles and chicken broth with meats. It’s also a great way to sneak colorful veggies into your kids’ bellies.
READ MORE: The 18 Best Vegetarian Restaurants In Kyoto
Minnano Café is a healthy, veggie-forward restaurant that draws families with small children. You don’t need to worry about little ones crying or running around here; they won’t be alone! The menu is full of steamed noodles, veggies and tofu.
Another affordable option, Inokuma Café offers homestyle food at reasonable prices. You’ll find noodles, rice and tofu dishes on the menu—as well as veggies and soups.
This spot is the perfect place to introduce kids to okonomiyaki, an onion and egg pancake. You can watch the staff cook up your custom meal right in front of you. Top off your savory pancake with a variety of sauces.
Things to Do With Kids in Kyoto
Kyoto is one of the most kid-friendly cities in Asia. There are plenty of activities that appeal to both adults and little ones. We recommend visiting at least a few of the city’s parks, zoos and gardens. We also think that the city is the perfect spot to learn about Japanese history thanks to all the traditional palaces and castles.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama Monkey Park
Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shinto shrine)
Geishas in Gion
Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Kyoto City Zoo
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto International Manga Museum (Japanese Comic Books)
Kyoto Railway Museum
Teramachi Street and Sanjō Street Shopping
Heading to Tokyo as well? Discover our kid-friendly guide to Japan's capital.
For a complete guide to Kyoto complete with attractions, restaurants, neighborhoods, and more, click here.