3 Days in Kyoto with a toddler

Kiyomizu temple, Kyoto, Japan

For the last part of the Kaisai trip with our 2Y7M daughter, we took the train to Kyoto after 3 days in Osaka and half a day in Nara. We had 3 full days in Kyoto, and my personal highlights were the kimono experience at Kiyomizu temple and staying at a renovated machiya near Kyoto train station.

Lodging at a machiya

Even though we prefer apartment hotels with our daughter, they were not easy to find near Kyoto station. It was even difficult to find hotels with a crib or tatami on international booking platforms. During the hotel search, we accidentally spotted a less-reviewed accommodation kuon hotel kyoto shichijo that was run by a hotel group that converted a few private machiya’s (traditional wooden houses popular in Kyoto) into a hotel with a washer and kitchenette. The check-in was at another of their hotel Rinn near Kyoto station, and they offered a taxi to the machiya. It was a unique experience, living in a renovated traditional 2-floor house with 2 bedrooms on the second floor and a toilet. The bath was on the first floor with automatic filling functionality at a specific temperature like the one at our Osaka apartment hotel. The washer in the bathroom was helpful for our 3-night stay. They provided a crib or futon in the tatami room for kids, we opted for the crib. The stairs could be inconvenient for certain situations with a small child and the space was a bit limited, but we had a great time and would come back again. It was about a 10-minute walk to Kyoto station, and we were able to walk to lots of places. Having a kitchenette was nice to prepare some simple treats like fruit from the grocery store.

kuon hotel kyoto shichijo, Kyoto, Japan kuon hotel kyoto shichijo, Kyoto, Japan

Airport Transportation

With the HARUKA train, it only took 1 hour and 15-20 minutes from Kyoto station to Kansai airport with very few stops. We booked the tickets on the JR West official website with foreign visitor deals (2200 yen one-way), and picked up the tickets in person at a green JR West machine at Kyoto station with passport scanning functionality. We chose the train that arrived 3 hours before the flight time so that we could take our time at the airport.

HARUKA train between Kansai airport and Kyoto

Day 1: Kyoto railway museum & shopping

Umekoji park

The park is right next to two popular museums, the Railway Museum and the Kyoto Aquarium. We decided to skip the aquarium because we just went to Kaiyukan in Osaka, and our daughter wasn’t the most fond of fish from that visit. We spent about half an hour at the playground before going to the museum, with a fun roller slide and a few climbing parts.

Umekoji park, Kyoto, Japan Umekoji park, Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto Railway museum

The only part that required an online reservation was for the simulator, 10 minutes for 100 yen. We couldn’t get a reservation for the Shinkansen, and opted for the local line. The simulated drive was interesting for our daughter, and she dressed up as a train conductor. The museum had 54 railway vehicles on display, and some of them were open for visitors to see the inside. There was also an SL Steam train running regularly outside of the museum. We didn’t have time for this, but will certainly check it out when we come back in the future. They also kept the roundhouse from 1914 and it was fun to walk through the circular tracks.

Kyoto Railway museum, Kyoto, Japan Kyoto Railway museum, Kyoto, Japan

Lunch at Kyo-Yasai Restaurant

The restaurant is located right in Umekoji Park, and it was one of my favorite meals in Kyoto. It was very child-friendly with a high chair and kids’ utensils. The interior has a high ceiling, and tall glass windows with a view of the garden and natural light filling the room. We both got lunch specials and shared them with our daughter. The dishes had a few local vegetables and came with a little dessert at the end.

Kyo-Yasai Restaurant, Kyoto, Japan Kyo-Yasai Restaurant, Kyoto, Japan

Shopping at Yodobashi & Don Quite

After lunch, we walked about half an hour to Yodobashi near the hotel for our daughter to fall asleep in the stroller. Yodobashi was our favorite shopping destination, with a great selection of cameras, toys, and cosmetics, plus it was tax-free for visitors. Gathering items across multiple floors to reach the tax-free threshold was a bit tricky. I communicated poorly with my very basic Japanese, but eventually, I got to group items across 2 floors with a few staff’s help (I didn’t attempt the third floor). Don Quite was just on the next block from Yodobashi and we also browsed a little.

Katsu dinner at Katsukura

We are fans of katsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurants, and planned our only katsu restaurant this trip in Porta in the Kyoto station. We arrived around 5 PM and waited for a few minutes. The space was limited, and we shared a long and narrow table with other groups. They had a high chair, and we left the stroller folded outside. We got the kid’s meal for our daughter, and mostly gave her the healthy parts.

Katsukura at Porta, Kyoto, Japan Katsukura at Porta, Kyoto, Japan

Day 2: Kiyomizu temple

Okamoto kimono rental

I looked at a few options, including the 180-year-old brand Okamoto, Okimono House on Klook, and Sensho Kitamura. We ended up choosing Okamoto because the Kiyomizu location was just a 5-minute walk away from the Kiyomizu temple, and they had kimonos for kids from 85cm / 33in. For small kids, wearing their own shoes would be a much more comfortable choice. Knowing this, we packed the shoes that matched the popular kimono colors more.

The first Kimono experience

It was the first kimono experience for both our daughter and me. The whole process was pretty easy and took about 50 minutes, all the staff was very friendly and nice to us. We first picked our daughter’s kimono, she was ~90cm at an awkward size and the options were limited. On the other hand, women’s kimonos had way too many options. I picked one that also had the plum patterns on my daughter’s kimono, with some recommendations from the staff. We were led upstairs to the changing room, it was pretty quick and we put the normal clothes in their big bags. Then, we had hairdo from a few options (girls had 7, I had short hair at the time just 4 options). Thankfully, she was very patient and cooperated throughout the whole dress-up process (maybe because the staff talked to her gently).

Kimono experience, Kyoto, Japan

Kiyomizu temple

It was easy to navigate through the temple by following the crowd. There was an entrance fee of 400 yen, and the walk was all stroller-friendly on the accessible path. The temple was first built in the year 778 and solely on a wooden structure without a nail on a hill. The view was impressive, and it was very crowded on a Monday morning. We stopped by Otowa-no-taki to use a long metal spoon to fill water for health, longevity, and success in studies.

Kiyomizu temple, Kyoto, Japan Kiyomizu temple, Kyoto, Japan

Colorful balls at Yasaka Koshin-do Temple

Before lunch, we stopped by a temple with colorful balls connected together in pillars. Each ball has wishes written on it by the worshiper. We didn’t get to write one, but our daughter loved the vibrant colors all around.


Ramen lunch at Ramen Miyako

With a bunch of restaurant research in the Kiyomizu temple area, it wasn’t easy to find a toddler-friendly restaurant. Ramen shop Miyako was a rare find that had ramen and also a high chair. After visiting the Kiyomizu temple, we walked down to Gion area to the restaurant before noon. We got a mini ramen and a rice & gyoza lunch add-on for our daughter.

Ramen Miyako, Kyoto, Japan

Walking through traditional paths

Due to the nap schedule, we passed by Yasaka Shrine briefly near the ramen restaurant before returning the kimono to the shop. We walked through the scenic Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka roads along the way. Then, we took a stroller-friendly road to exit the temple area and walk about half an hour for our daughter to fall asleep and head to our next area.

Traditional paths in Kyoto, Japan

Coffee & waffle at Blue Bottle

As we previously lived in San Francisco, Blue Bottle Coffee is one place we missed a lot and would visit whenever the city has one. The Kyoto Kiyamachi location is in a compound with a library, a hotel, and a few other small cafes around. The outside has a lawn area to sit on as our backup plan in case the seats are taken inside. The interior was nicely decorated, and we enjoyed a break with some drinks (NOLA is our must-have) and a warm waffle.

Blue Bottle Coffee Kiyamachi location, Kyoto, Japan

Second-hand shopping at Bookoff Plus OPA

We like browsing second-hand selections at Bookoff when we are close to one in Japan, and the Bookoff in this area is a bigger one with apparel. My husband enjoyed browsing video games, and acquired a Zelda game. I got myself a manga to learn Japanese and two books for our daughter, the books were in very good condition even for the Annpanman flip book that our daughter loved.

Sushi dinner at Daiki Suisan

Daiki is a conveyor belt sushi chain only in the Kansai region at the time of writing. It wasn’t clear whether all locations had toddler-friendly seating, we had to make the best judgment we could from the photos and the Kawaramachi Sanjo location felt like the best option. We didn’t see a way to reserve online, and waited in line at 5 PM for quite a while. Eventually, we were seated on the second floor for tables but it was all table service without the conveyor belt. The overall experience was okay compared to the Toriton restaurant in Tokyo.

Daiki Suisan, Kyoto, Japan Daiki Suisan, Kyoto, Japan

Day 3: Torokko train to walk in the bamboo grove

There were several ways to explore the Arashiyama area, with or without the Torokko romantic train, or the boat along the river.

We went with the Torokko train one way to Arashiyama station before heading back to Kyoto station for dinner. Either direction for the one-way train is fine, we chose to take a JR train (platform 31-33) from Kyoto station to Kameoka station for about 24 minutes, then walk 7 minutes to the Torokko Sagano station to take the romantic train to Arashiyama station. Tickets for the “rich cart” (number 5) were sold out quickly when they became available a month before, and this is the only train we bought tickets beforehand. The rich cart had no windows, thus the view was better at the risk of rain. In case of rain, umbrellas are not allowed on the train, and ponchos or raincoats are recommended. It’s worth checking the train schedule ahead of time, as the schedule runs differently throughout the year with off days in the winter and certain days.

Torokko train ride

The whole ride was pretty short, just 20 minutes, but it was scenic and a unique train experience. Along the ride, we saw the river cutting through the mountain. Both sides got the river view at different times, I’d say the left side of the train (even numbers) had a bit longer time of the view.

Torokko train ride, Kyoto, Japan Torokko train ride, Kyoto, Japan

Walking through the Arashiyama bamboo path

The entrance of the bamboo forest was very close to the Torokko Arashiyaya station where we got off. The whole path wasn’t long either, about 500 meters and it took us roughly 15-20 minutes with our daughter walking herself plus photo time. The crowd felt less than when we came almost ten years ago, there were even taxis driving through the path at that time. It felt refreshing strolling through the tall bamboo groves in the breeze. After the bamboo path, we walked to the lunch restaurant and spent the afternoon in the Togetsukyo Bridge area.https://maps.app.goo.gl/GNqy2kaVmCmfWaWW6

Kyoto, Japan Kyoto, Japan

Soba noodles at Arashiyama Yoshimura

Kyoto is known for tofu restaurants and there are quite a few in this area, we tried one on the last trip with all dishes made of tofu. With our daughter this time, we decided to have lunch at a more casual place. When we arrived at early 11 AM, there was already a waitlist and we waited about 15 minutes. It was right by the bridge, and it was easy to pass the waiting time walking around and sitting briefly with a sticker book. We were seated at a table with a booster chair, some window seats had a view of the Katsura River. I shared a seasonal set meal and soba tempura set with our daughter, and it was one of the most memorable meals this trip with fresh ingredients and small bites of new flavors.

Arashiyama Yoshimura, Kyoto, Japan Arashiyama Yoshimura, Kyoto, Japan

Afternoon in the Togetsukyo Bridge area with % Arabica coffee

After lunch, we walked a bit trying to find a diaper-changing table and finally found one at a public bathroom across the bridge. After some time of walking with the stroller, our daughter started her nap and we placed an online order at the % Arabica coffee with a long line at the store. We enjoyed our drinks on a bench across the bridge, taking in the calm river view in the cool sunny weather. There was also a monkey park up the trail nearby, but we decided to save it for the next trip since it might not be stroller-friendly. Near the end of the nap time, we grabbed a soft serve at Cremia and walked to Saga-Arashiyama Station to take a JR train back.

Kyoto, Japan Kyoto, Japan

Western dinner at Grill Capital Touyoutei (東洋亭)

Founded in 1897 in Kyoto, Touyoutei is one of the most well-known Western-style restaurants with fewer than 10 locations in Kyoto and Osaka at the time of writing. We saw a line when we passed by one location the other day, but we didn’t wait at all by coming early right before 5 PM at the JR Kyoto Isetan location. Because of our arrival time, we even got the lunch combo deal. The most unique dish was their tomato salad as an appetizer, it was very fresh (the restaurant had boxes of tomatoes near the counter) and our daughter loved it. Three of us shared two hamburger steaks (one with Japanese taste) as combo sets and a pizza. The ambiance was also very cozy, and this meal marked a perfect ending to our Kansai trip.

Kyoto, Japan Kyoto, Japan


Even though there were more tourists in Kyoto than Osaka, we enjoyed the more traditional and calmer feel of the historical city a lot. The kimono experience was certainly memorable, and we hope to come back to visit other temples when our daughter can walk longer.

Here is the full itinerary and lists of places that we considered for our Kansai trip, including Osaka and Nara:

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