Exploring Kyoto When Your Kids Are Along

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By Ted Taylor

Kyoto has earned a solid reputation as one of the world’s most attractive travel destinations. Hundreds of temples and shrines dotted around the city not only dazzle travelers with their profound sense of peace, but the warren of wooden paths and ponds provide a safe place for kid’s exploration. Here is a list of our ten favorite things to do in Kyoto when the kids are along for the adventure.

#1. Walk Along the Kamo River

Kyoto’s narrow streets are ripe for discovery, making it a walker’s delight for people of all ages. The iconic Kamo River is a great place to start, boasting a five mile walking track which cuts right through the city center. Passersby can catch a glimpse of the Kyoto-ites who take their hobbies outside and make the riverbanks come alive with dancing, music, sports and other activities.

#2. Visit the Temples

Another great way to experience Kyoto’s cultural charm is to explore the chain of temples along Kyoto’s eastern hills on foot. Enjoy the scenery at your own pace whether you’re traveling along the canal of the Path of Philosophy, through Maruyama Park with its cherry trees, or up the cobblestone alleys to Kiyomizu Temple.

#3. See the Monkeys

The Arashiyama Monkey Park on the city’s west side is another option that is always a hit with the kids. Feed a few of its 170 macaques and follow it up with a walk through the nearby enchanted bamboo forest.

#4. Explore a Castle

Everyone will enjoy a visit to Nijo Castle, the Shogun’s residence at the center of town. The kids will have fun walking along the squeaking ‘Nightingale’ hallways which were devised as a security mechanism back in the 1600s. Legend has it that the floors were designed to detect ninjas walking along the corridors, but it is still unknown if the story rings true. These spacious grounds are separated by western and Japanese stroll gardens and connected by a series of bridges and gates that invoke the age of the samurai.

#5. Wander the Fushimi Inari Shrine

Perhaps one of Kyoto’s greatest sites lies just south of the city. Fushimi Inari spans the entire mountain top, its paths moving beneath thousands of vermillion arches. It’s easy to spend an entire day here strolling between cultural structures, which provide a glimpse into the spiritual heart of the Japanese.

#6. Experience a Train Museum

Rainy days bring out the best of Kyoto’s gardens and architecture, but it’s a sentiment that’s rarely shared by the young ones. Luckily, Kyoto has many indoor activities to keep the kids occupied. Among them is the Umekoji Steam Locomotive museum which has a variety of exhibits, a working locomotive, and plenty of trains to explore.

A trip to Studio Park will be etched in the kids’ memory for years to come, with comical performances, samurai in period dress and even an energetic ninja show.

#7. See the Ninja Show

Toei Kyoto Studio Park is another favorite, featuring a working movie set where most of today’s period films are shot. A trip to Studio Park will be etched in the kids’ memory for years to come, with comical performances, samurai in period dress and even an energetic ninja show.

#8. Read a Book or 50,000 of them

The Kyoto International Manga Museum is also a crowd pleaser, offering a revolving schedule of workshops and events, as well as a cozy reading nook to enjoy one of the museum’s 50,000 books.

#9. Go Shopping for Souvenirs

If you’re keen to check out Kyoto’s youth culture, the Teramachi/ Shinkyogoku shopping arcade is worth a look. Its game arcades, flashy stores and array of coffee shops make it an ideal choice for souvenir shopping. The 400-year old Nishiki Market, colloquially known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, is also a must. You will catch traditionally-clad restaurant workers shopping for ingredients at over 130 shops along narrow alleyways. A treat for the nose, as well as the eye.

#10. Eat at the Ninja Kyoto Restaurant

A stone’s throw from the market is the Ninja Kyoto restaurant, where staff perform magic when not serving up creative and delicious meals (not to mention a surprisingly good selection of sake). But first you’ll need to venture through the restaurant’s labyrinth in order to find your table. Enjoy!

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