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The former Imperial capital of Japan for over 1000 years, Kyoto is world-famous for its Buddhist temples, gardens and geisha. But did you also know that it’s a wonderful place to go for a walk with your baby? Kyoto’s combination of a deep and fascinating history, along with the Japanese love for the beauty of nature, ensures you enjoy many of these amazing walks.
These walks are great for families travelling with an infant, baby, toddler or even preschoolers. The length of these walks can be modified to fit your family and your energy level. They also give an important opportunity to let the little ones who are walking get out and burn some energy.
For our trip to Kyoto we had a 14 month old baby (not yet walking) and a 3 year old toddler. We travelled throughout Japan with our kids in two backpack carriers, which we enjoyed very much. They enabled us to go virtually everywhere with our kids at our own pace. You don’t see many strollers used in Japan as most of the locals use a carrier like an Ergo or a Baby Bjorn. If you plan on bringing your stroller, read the descriptions below as not all of these walks are stroller friendly.
Here are our favorite family-friendly walks in Kyoto:
Ginkaku-ji Temple and The Philosopher’s Path
Feel the need to be enlightened? Then this family-friendly walk is for you! This walk took us 1 hour and 20 minutes and measured 1.7mi / 2.7km
The monks at this temple maintain a perfectly sculpted cone of sand meant to symbolize Mt Fuji. It is approximately 5 feet tall and not a single grain of sand out of place - amazing!
The temple gardens are amongst the most beautiful we've seen in Kyoto and even the hordes of school groups couldn’t ruin the zen-like feeling. The gardens are visited by following a dedicated path which goes up into the mountain-side forest. Note that this path is not stroller friendly.
Our visit to the temple and gardens took approximately a half-hour and we walked 2,880 ft / 845m.
If you are looking for a bigger challenge, you can also hike up Diamoniyama (the mountain behind the temple) to an excellent viewpoint of Kyoto. More details are found in our Family Friendly Hikes in Kyoto blog post.
Following our visit to Ginkaku-ji, we stopped for some matcha (green tea) ice cream then continued on to the Philosopher’s Path. The Philosopher’s Path is a walking trail which parallels a serene water canal. It earned its name as Nishida Kitaro, one Japan’s most famous philosophers, used it to meditate during his daily commute. Alongside the canal are trees that would be stunning during cherry blossom viewing or when the fall colors are in full swing. This is a perfect family-friendly walk and is a must-do while in Kyoto.
You’ll find plenty of benches to stop at if you need to feed your baby. The surface of the trail is mostly stepping stones, so we don’t recommend a stroller. If you really need a stroller, you could walk a little further away from the canal on the adjacent road, but it wouldn’t have the same effect.
The start of this walk begins approximately 650ft / 200m east of Ginkaku-ji. Our pleasant stroll along the Philospher’s Path took approximately 40 minutes and we walked 1mi / 1.6km.
The Golden Pavilion is a Zen temple which gets its name from the top two floors which are completely covered in gold leaf. It’s an amazing sight and it is no wonder this is one of Kyoto’s top attractions.
Upon entering the temple, you will be herded (yes, literally herded) into a viewing area. Unless you are there very early, this area will be jam-packed with other visitors trying to get the perfect selfie of themselves with the temple – and their effort is justified, this temple is jaw dropping!
Once you get your fill of family pictures with the temple, you can take a nice walk through the temple gardens. It’s a reasonably quick walk, but it’s quite nice and you get a few different views of the temple along the way. The path through is not great for strollers because of the stairs and crowds, but if you do bring one make sure it is a lightweight one.
There are toilets and benches to feed your baby near the entrance & exit. Our visit to the temple was pretty quick (we don’t love crowds); we were there for a half-hour and the walk was around 2800ft / 850m.
RELATED: Feeding Your Baby in Japan
If you love nature, then a trip to the Arashiyama District is for you. A walk through the famous bamboo grove and then onwards into the park will fill you with calm and recharge your batteries! From end-to-end, this walk took us an hour and was 1.1 mi / 1.7km in length.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a must-see in Kyoto. Start your walk at the eastern side of the grove as it allows you to continue on to the park when you are done. To be honest, we didn’t think the eastern half of the grove was that great, likely as the bamboo wasn’t deep enough and you could see through to the other side – somewhat ruining the effect. But the western side was awesome; truly a special place. This is a flat and easy family walk which is stroller accessible. It measures 2350 ft / 725m in length and took us about 30 minutes.
Once the path through the Bamboo Grove ends most people turn back, but it’s worth continuing on and turning south into Arashiyama Park. The park is beautiful and lush, with an amazing viewpoint of the Katsura River running through a mountain valley. The park also has a large kid’s play area and little covered areas with benches (good for stopping to feed your baby). This park is great for a family walk and plenty of spots to let babies crawl around or let small kids burn off some steam.
At the southern-most end of the park you meet up with a beautiful, stroller friendly river walk. The river itself is stunning with its blue colour and the maple covered mountain on the opposite side.
The park has lots of steps and rock – so not all areas of the park are stroller friendly. We spent about a half an hour in the park and walked 3,280 ft / 1km.
RELATED: 6 Playgrounds for Visitors to Kyoto
Monkey Park Iwatayama
If you are feeling up to it, the Monkey Park Iwatayama can be reached on foot simply by crossing the river. Due to its steep climb, we classify this one as a short hike, so if you’d like more details, please visit our Family Friendly Kyoto Hikes blog post.
RELATED: Kyoto - 5 Family Friendly Hikes
Save this fun family outing for a rainy day. This covered market is so much fun and there is so much fun stuff to see; delicious food stalls, vegetable stores, souvenir shops, stalls with live fish, octopus, etc. It is stroller friendly, but you may not enjoy having one if it’s a crowded rainy day or lunchtime.
From end-to-end, this market is 1,400ft / 425m long. We were there over an hour, but how long you stay depends on how much you like to shop!
INSIDER'S TIP: While in the market, be sure to try some Takoyaki, which are octopus egg balls served with tempura scraps, pickled onions, green onions, cheese and teriyaki sauce. OMG, they are so good!
Kamo River Walk
When we travel, we love to walk to our daily destination if at all possible. In Kyoto, the Kamo river walk made our destination walks very enjoyable. There are walking paths along this river for miles and makes getting from one place to another by foot very enjoyable.
Even crossing the river can be fun as there are several spots where you can cross by using a path of stepping stones. Our toddler loved it and even our one year old thought it was a lot of fun! It’s a fun Kyoto experience which you should try if you are ever in the area.
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A Walking Tour of Higashiyama Ward
Many of the Higashiyama Ward’s top attractions are shorter walks which can be combined and seen in a single outing. We started in Shinbashi Dori and continued on to the Gion Geisha District, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and then finished at Maruyama Park. We did this loop in a single morning; taking us approximately 3 hours to complete this 4.3mi/6.9km walk. Feel free to customize it to meet your needs.
More of a leisurely stroll than a walk, Shinbashi Dori is a fun place to go for a walk. Shinbashi Dori is a beautiful walk alongside a tree-lined canal, with many traditional wooden buildings. Some claim it is the most attractive street in all of Asia, and we can attest to its beauty. We were there just as the fall colors were starting to turn; we can imagine how beautiful it would be with the spring cherry blossoms or the full fall colors.
From end-to-end, the walk along this beautiful street is only 985 ft / 300m. It took us approximately 15 minutes, including stopping for pictures. This walk is stroller friendly.
Gion (Geisha District)
Gion is Kyoto’s famous geisha district and can be walked via Hanamikoiji Dori. This charming street has maintained the feel of medieval Kyoto and due to the presence of geishas it comes with its own set of rules (look for the signs). If you want to see a geisha, your best bet is in the early evening at dusk, but be prepared for massive crowds, vying to get a picture.
Knowing we likely wouldn’t be able to experience it in the evening (due to early bedtimes) and get to see a geisha, we were content to walk through it very early in the morning, when we had it pretty much to ourselves. We have accepted the fact that we won’t be able to experience everything when travelling with small children – but we don’t mind, knowing we will likely return someday!
From end-to-end, this walk is only 900 ft / 275m. It took us approximately 10 minutes, including stopping for pictures. We had the street to ourselves, so it will likely take longer during the day when there are crowds. This walk is stroller friendly.
Next up was Kiyomizu-dera, one of Kyoto’s most popular temples. We started our walk there through the temple-filled park which begins at Hiroshiyama Temple. The walk began nicely enough, but halfway up we were forced to turn back due to a recent landslide in the area (be sure to check if it has reopened before going this way).
We took a detour through a neighborhood just north of the park, which was less appealing. Nonetheless, as you approach the temple complex, you are greeted by a lot of stairs. Beyond this, you are rewarded with beautiful buildings, including a three storied pagoda. With the delay from the unexpected detour, we opted to admire the buildings outside the Kiyomizu-dera Temple (pictured below), but we didn’t actually go in as we’d be too rushed.
If you wish to go inside, most of the temple complex is stroller friendly. Once you are finished admiring the city views from the wooden stage, there is a nice walk through the forest to go to another three storied pagoda south of the main temple. The walk is a reasonably short 650ft / 200m. To get to this walk, you must go down a large set of stairs.
For a taste of historical Kyoto, leave the temple via Matsubara Dori and then turn right (north) at your first opportunity onto a pedestrian only street with stairs leading downward. The buildings within this district are built in the traditional wooden style and it’s worth a walk through it.
Most of the buildings are now retail stores selling their wares to tourists, so this is a good place to buy souvenirs. As a bonus, many of the shops sell sweets and they are generous with their free samples! Be prepared for large crowds as this is a very popular attraction.
From the temple exit to the end of the shopping district is approximately 2200ft / 675m and took us 20 minutes. Due to the crowds and stairs along this route, a stroller isn’t ideal.
Maruyama Park is one of the most popular spots in Kyoto for cherry blossom viewing in the spring. It’s a beautiful park where little kids can burn off some energy chasing pigeons and watching the carp swim in the pond. There are plenty of spots to stop for a snack or feed your baby. Several walking paths criss-cross the park; we randomly wandered throughout the park for around 40 minutes. In this time we covered 2425ft / 740m.
By the time we left the park, it was nap time for our little guy. If you still have the time and energy, you can continue north to visit two more important Kyoto temples in close proximity to the park: Chion-in and Shoren-in.
This 13th century temple is a great place to take the kids for a short walk through nature. The temple visit is split into two parts. Before going on the nature walk, you take your shoes off and explore the temple’s buildings.
Once complete, you can explore the temple’s garden via a small trail that winds through the property. The garden is really nice with a pond and a small bamboo forest. If you have a toddler with you, they will love to ring the large bell at the end of the walk using a battering ram on ropes (with your help of course!)
There are steps throughout the garden path, so a stroller is not ideal. We spent around a half-hour at this temple and walked 2200 ft / 660m.
That's it! We hope you enjoy your family trip to Kyoto. If you discover any other family friendly walks, please share with us below...
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