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Kyoto With Young Kids

A trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the ancient capital, Kyoto.  I used to live in Japan and have fond memories of spending a snowy Christmas down in Kyoto on the hunt for a real life geisha.  For my friend Heidi, who will be departing Asia next year, it was a chance to tick one off the neverending bucket list!  She visited Kyoto for 5 nights in May with her husband and two daughters age 3.5 and 1yo.  Here she shares her Kyoto tips

Kyoto - Red Temple

Trip Booking

Booked flights & accommodation through Flightcentre.

Flight

Direct from Hong Kong to Kansai International Airport with Cathay Pacific.

The flight going over is 3 hours and 4 on the return.  The outbound left at 11.30am.  Borrowed a CARES harness for my 1yo but she wasn’t quite big enough for it so didn’t end up using it.  Despite requesting and confirming children’s meals on both legs, the airline claimed they had no record of a meal request.  Tip – make sure you bring your own snacks!

To get from Kansai Airport to Kyoto train station, we got the JR Haruka Express.  We bought tickets at the station in the airport.  The journey took approx. 75 minutes and the train was very clean.  On arrival at JR Kyoto we took a taxi to our hotel (5 minutes)

Hyatt Regency Kyoto

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in the southern Higashiyama-yasui.  I picked the hotel because all the reviews said it was probably the best hotel in Kyoto.  A lot of people recommend the Westin but it was getting dated. I booked the cheapest standard room available. I had requested a King size bed and cot.  However, on arrival was told there as only a twin room available.  We decided to take it as the twin beds were together anyway.  The room was small, clean and reasonable modern.  The bathroom is an open wetroom.

Day 1

Buffet breakfast included. Western and Japanese.  Wasn’t the biggest Hyatt spread but was pretty good.

We decided against going to Universal Studios as it’s a full day and our kids are probably a bit too young.  As the weather was good, the concierge recommended going to Arashiyama/Sagano area where you’ve got the famous bamboo groves and Tenryuji temple.  To get there, take the train from Kyoto station to Saga Arashiyama station – as soon as you exit there are useful information people.

Kyoto - Bamboo Path

After we visited the bamboo and temple, we walked along Katsura River and then went for drinks.

Kyoto - hiking backpack

Travel Tip – It’s worth taking a buggy and a hiking backpack.  Most of Kyoto is pram friendly, footpaths flat and open but you are getting in and out of taxi. Lifts at all the train stations.  For a lot of the temples you have to leave pram at the front because it’s gravel.

For dinner on two nights we went to Ippudo ramen which was quite child friendly. got dumplings, ramen, plain rice and plain noodles, English menus and high chairs.

Day 2

Our taxi dropped us off at a street with markets, near Sannenzaka Slope, southern Higashiyama.  We seemed to be the only ones walking up hill, everyone coming against us.  Walked up souvenir stalls and came to some nice gardens.

Kyoto - Tranquil Path

Day 3

We decided to go to northern Higashiyama and took a taxi from our hotel. 

We got dropped off at Nanzenji Temple and then we walked around it.  

Nanzenji temple and astrid

Next to the temple is the Philosopher’s Path.  Top Tip – if you are going to walk this, do not take a stroller!  It is basically a canal with overhanging trees – not worth the hassle of pushing a stroller over uneven paving.  At the end was a nice cafe where we tasted famous Japanese apple cake with coffee.

The Philosopher’s Path leads you from Nanzenji to the Ginkakuji Temple (silver temple).  This was the best temple we visited during our Kyoto trip.  There is a signposted track to walk around and you have to leave the stroller at the gate. 

Kyoto - Ginkajuji

We then got a taxi back to the hotel and got room service for dinner.

Day 4

We took a taxi to Nijo Castle.  Compared to the Silver Temple this was a bit of a let down.  We had intended to spend the afternoon in Nara but instead we headed to the mall as the kids needed some down time.  

Kyoto - Nijo Castle

Day 5

We were returning back to Hong Kong early in the morning.  On the way to Kyoto we had taken the train from the airport but I decided to check with the hotel about the bus transfer.  They booked us on to the MK Shuttle which was much easier than taking the train.  The MK Shuttle is a van and tickets were 3600Y per person (half price for kids and free for baby on knee).  The journey took 1.5 hours with a pit stop halfway.  We were dropped direct at the door for CX check in.

Heidi’s Tips for Kyoto

  • We did our trip in 5 days/4nights but you could definitely shorten this.  We also would have done a lot more if we didn’t have the kids with us!
  • Would recommend Hyatt Regency
  • Would do the MK Shuttle instead of train for the airport transfer. Even though train is express, some time 75 mins some take 93 mins.
  • Take the hiking backpack if you’re carrying a 1-3yo.  Many temples make you leave the stroller at the entrance so a backpack is indispensable! It can also be hard to push a stroller over gravel.
  • Don’t to philosopher’s path with a stroller and unless you’re there in cherry blossom, better to get dropped off at silver temple.
  • Arashimaya has a monkey park that is supposed to be good although we didn’t have time for it.
  • It is fairly easy to get taxis around the city.  They are impeccable and very helpful.  From the hotel to the station is 800Y and everywhere else the fare ranged from 800 to 1700Y
  • All the public toilets were super clean and would have m/f/disabled which was big for parents. All electronic. Some of them even had a pull out toddler seat.  Always a disabled/parentchild toilet
  • Level of English was good at the hotel but elsewhere was tricky.  We managed to get by in a few of the restaurants and ended up with delicious food
    Kyoto - Food!
  • Don’t go when it’s too hot.  Apparently May and September are the best months. When we were there in May the weather was hot but not humid with blue skies.
  • Could combine with a trip to Osaka and go to universal etc. Would have like to do Nara deer park but the kids were in a foul mood!
  • Didn’t go to the golden pavilion. Nothing else around there, didn’t want to head all the way out and then there to be nothing else there.
  • Couple of temples and a Mcdonalds near the Hyatt! It is also across road from the National Kyoto Museum
  • Inside Kyoto is a brilliant site for tips.  This is the kind of trip that takes a lot of planning.
  • Pack lots of snacks, especially if your kids are used to particular brands from home.

 

For more tips on what to do in Kyoto, the Little Adventurer has a brilliant blog post.  I also find the Japan Guide very useful.

1 comment

  1. Luke Mitchell

    Kyoto looks lovely, and I have to say, Japan is yet unexplored by my family as yet, there’s so many places there we want to see, and we still must make our list smaller, or we’ll end up there for months at this rate. So many blogs focus on a single making the trip there rather than what it takes to go as a family. Big ups for having this out there for the rest of us.

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