Kyoto & Osaka with kids

After having an absolutely superb time skiing in Hokkaido a few weeks back, we are intending to go to Kyoto and Osaka for a week in July with a 5 and a 7 year old. Tips on sightseeing would be welcome and also experiences eating out - the food is one of the main reasons for the trip (appreciate that there are many michelin restaurants and many online “guides”, but would welcome some direct experience with family friendly restaurants). Staying near Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station and Namba Station. Thanks in advance!

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Boys or girls?
The Bullet Train.

An old boy enjoyed it.

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Himeji-jo is worth a day trip from either. So is Nara.

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When we went to Kyoto, my wife and I had our own guide for a day. Highly recommended - they can tailor it to what you want and steer you away from busier areas. When he discovered we were cyclists we all hired bikes and went round Kyoto by bike on the backstreets - brilliant!


And why not Kobe as well… Do the full Kansai ‘set’…!!

Kyoto is fabulous, on its own - lots to see. Osaka & Kobe are TBH, just big Japanese cities.

Staying nr Kawaramachi means you are slap bang in the middle or Kyoto. Must Do’s - Ginka Kuji & Kinga Kuji. And the Geisha quarter, in Gion. Fushimi Inari maybe…? I may think of more…

Things around - yes, Himeji Castle - which is real, whereas Osaka Castle is Ferro Concrete…!
Hiroshima is further down the same Shinkansen line and well worth seeing, for the Atom Bomb Museum.

(I lived nr Kobe and visited Osaka and Kyoto regularly - 1989 to 1991)

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the girls will love the bullet train!

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Yes, I saw this… and the crowds that are following Phil’s food stops…

Osaka Bay Aquarium is well worth a visit, as is the HEP 5 ferris wheel - it’s on top of a 7 story building not far from Umeda Station.
Kyoto has loads of history and famous sites. Nijo-jo Castle has a nightingale floor which the kids will love, it chirps like birds when you walk on it (so the assassins couldn’t sneak up on anyone!)
There’s a nice small train ride from Kyoto into the hills to the village of Kurama which has an amazing fire festival in October.
Nara has a great park with tame deer you can feed by hand, and the Nakatanidou Mochi Shop is world famous.
Himeji Castle can’t be beat, one of the few original castles left and well worth the trip down the line.
Food everywhere is really good

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Thanks all for the advice. Any issues taking kids into restaurants? Won’t be going to michelin starred places btw.

No…!! There are lots of Children in Japan…!!!

If you go to Family Restaurants (yes they are a thing), there is usually a Children’s Menu. And both proper and Children’s Menus come with pictures…!!!

From the web -

Family Restaurants - Kyoto

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Just be careful - there are sections of Kyoto that are now utterly p*ssed off with tourists and have restaurants that declare ‘no menus in English’. Other than that if it is fine for adults it is fine for children.


Gion, certainly.

I have read that the ‘tourists’ in question are mainly from South Korea or China.

Indeed. One of the best meals I have ever had was a Michelin- starred tempura restaurant in Kyoto. Outrageously good and cheaper than Michelin- starred places in UK/Europe

I lived down the road from Himeji in Okayama for a year when at Uni. So I can highly recommend both Himeji and Nara (the tame dear wandering around are very sweet if somewhat pests).

The renovation of Kiyoumizudera in Kyoto is complete and the walk it to it through the old town is similarly lovely though there are a lot of tourists. For something a bit more tranquil, I might recommend Ryoanji temple instead but probably less exiting through the eyes of a small child. My kids are only a year older and I can hear the whining just thinking about it.

Personally I’m not a fan of Gion district, it seems a bit passe and cliched but I’ve lived here for a quarter century so my view is probably different. I lived in Kyoto for one baking hot summer in a tiny flat with no running water or aircon with my best mate from China in bunk beds while I figured out what to do with my life and he finished his doctorate at the Uni. Seems like a lifetime ago. Good times. The local delicacy is Nama-yatsuhashim which comes is a few forms but the plane one is unfilled strips of rice dough coated in cinnamon sugar.

I hope you had a nice time in Hokkaido. I live there and despite all the years I spent living in Tokyo, I rarely leave the island anymore. There’s no reason to - though I am sure you sensed it is almost like a country unto itself. Kyoto and Osaka will feel extremely different. Osaka really does have better tako-yaki then elsewhere in Japan and the kushi-yaki is also superb.

If little legs are tired of walking around, I highly recommend a tour bus. Yes it is tragically touristy but I think it’s okay to let someone else drive (both figuratively and literally) while you recharge.


Yes - !! To both Kiyomizu-dera and Ryoan-ji.

Highly recommended.

My wife and I were in Japan last month tagging along for a small stretch of our daughters gap year trip there. We met up with her and her friend in Kyoto and Osaka.

Osaka is indeed a big commercial city that may not have a huge amount to offer a young family but the Castle is worth a visit and if you want to tie it in with a meal, the Bluebird Rooftop Terrace is a great spot where you can cook your own BBQ with a great view of the Castle – booking (as with most decent places) is essential.

Bluebird Rooftop Terrace

You will all love the smoothies on offer at JTRRD Café that are served up like works of art. It is tiny, so getting there prior to opening at noon is probably essential unless you want to queue.

When we met up with my daughter and her friend they were getting a bit tired of negotiating Japanese menus as both have dietary restrictions so we treated them to a ‘mostly’ western style dinner buffet at the Hilton, which was vast and excellent.

We also took a day trip to Nara to see and feed the deer, but as it was a Saturday and we didn’t arrive until late morning/midday – the deer were pretty well fed and doing more lazing than bowing for food. Probably best to spend a night there and get to the park early if you want the ‘full on’ deer feeding experience.

Kyoto is an absolute gem with more Temples and Shrines than one could ever hope to visit during a short stay. We stayed east of the river near the Chion-in Temple which is illuminated at night for visitors and was absolutely stunning.

About a 15 minute walk south from the Temple is the Ninen-zaka Path which was very picturesque, as are some other old paths from the link below (Sannen-zaka) which not having known about them at the time, we unfortunately did miss. Beware, most shops don’t stay open late.

Kyoto - Old Streets

Another nice walk was in the Pontocho area – narrow alley by the river on the Train Station side. We were there in late-afternoon so not much was open but still worthwhile. It seemed a very popular place to dine.


We did have a great lunch near one of the covered street malls in a conveyor sushi place – Kura Sushi Plus – incredibly good value. You can pick plates up directly from the conveyor but best to order from the tablet menu and wait for your dish to arrive at speed on a different conveyor and stop right at your table, very cool. They do chips too.

Kura Sushi

We also had pre-arranged an Arashiyama and Bamboo Forest Rickshaw Tour which was a lot of fun with the rickshaw drivers taking excellent pictures of us in the forest.

We can’t wait to go back some day.


Thank you, so very helpful!

Yes, the hop on hop off bus with kids does look to be a good option. We can combine it with a couple of targeted visits to the other places you recommend. I’m carefully choosing places to eat, noting the advice on family restaurants, wanting us to be welcomed but also to allow us to enjoy a great local meal or 10…!