Places to travel – Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi-inari, Tofuku-ji, Nara, Nanzen-ji)

This is the last post in my short blog series on our week long holiday in Kyoto last September. It really is a beautiful place and well worth a visit if you’re able. In the first post I covered the practicalities of visiting Kyoto, and the next post outlined the things we saw and did on our first three days there. Now for the final three days!

Day 4

On this day we wanted to hit some of the main tourist attractions in Kyoto so we started with Kiyomizu-dera. We took the 207 bus from Omiya to the bottom of the hill up to the temple (I think this was the Kiyomizu-michi stop) and then followed the crowds up the hill to the temple. It’s actually quite a climb, especially when you are carrying children! We had left the stroller at home for ease, but there is a disabled route within the temple grounds so you could bring yours.

This was possibly the busiest place that we visited in Kyoto, even though the weather was not good that day. We found the crowds a bit much, although the bad weather did mean that our children got free run of the main verandah of the temple for a bit while it was raining!

Verandah at Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

The temple comprises a few outer buildings, the main temple, the view of the temple from the opposite path, and a few extra attractions such as a waterfall with healing water. The main view of the temple is quite nice (apparently it’s pretty spectacular in spring and autumn – imagine the trees below covered in blossom or bright red leaves) but otherwise we found the temple too busy and didn’t bother exploring much of it.

Main view of Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

We then walked back down the hill and caught the bus back to Gion where we had lunch (in an Indian restaurant on Shijo Dori) and had a little wander down nearby Hanamikoji Dori, a beautifully restored traditional Japanese street.

Next we took the metro south from Gion-Shijo to Fushimi-Inari and followed the signs from the station to Fushimi Inari-taisha. This is one of the most distinctive attractions in Kyoto with its thousands of orange prayer gates.

Orange prayer gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

Again it was pretty busy despite the terrible weather (it rained the whole time we were there!) but we felt that this was a bit more unique than Kioymizu-dera and enjoyed it a bit more. I would say that this is a definite must-see in Kyoto. And the further you go along the path of prayer gates, the quieter it gets. We got some cute photos of my daughter running along the path :)

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N.B. Fushimi-Inari is not at all stroller friendly! There are lots of steps on the path, so I would suggest you leave the stroller at home when you go here.

After spending about an hour at Fushimi-Inari, we went back to the metro and headed a couple of stops north to Tofukuji where we walked to the temple of the same name. It was a little hard to find the temple so our offline maps app was useful here. We were glad we made the effort though because it was lovely and quiet after the previous two places we visited! We started off in the gardens but in the end we didn’t make it into the temple itself because it was closing time. The gardens were so lovely though, and because it was quiet our children could run about freely and enjoy the space.

Gardens at Tofuku-ji Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

Temple view at Tofuku-ji Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

Day 5

On this day we took a day trip to nearby Nara. After some research we found that the quickest way to get there was to take the Kintetsu Ltd. Express train from Kyoto Central Station to Kintetsunara Station, which is very close to Nara-Koen park. The first temple that you come to in the park is Kofuku-ji, which we didn’t go in because there was a lot of construction going on, due to be completed in 2018. Instead we headed to nearby Isui-En gardens (again, I’d suggest you take a map to find your way round the park as it’s a little bit hard to navigate). Given the size of the gardens, we thought it cost a little more than other attractions to enter, but the gardens are absolutely beautiful (not stroller friendly though, but you can leave your stroller outside). Just look at this view!

Isui-En gardens Nara - The Little Koo Blog

For lunch, we tried to find a restaurant called Silk Road, in Yume-Kaze Plaza (near to Todai-ji), which was recommended in our guide book as a great restaurant for children, but we failed – I’m not sure if it is still open? Anyway, whilst in Yume-Kaze Plaza we chose Ten Ten Cafe instead, and we were very glad we did! It was very child friendly, with a specific area for families, high chairs and benches with toys on. The menu was small but all three main dishes that we ordered were very yummy, and they do delicious waffles too! (which of course we also had to try…)

After lunch we headed round the corner to Todai-ji, possibly the largest wooden structure in the world (which impressed my engineer husband!), which houses a very large Buddha inside. The temple is very impressive and well worth a visit, although it doesn’t take very long to go round. It has good stroller access, but (as the guard told us) you need to go into the ticket office, buy your ticket and then come out again to the disabled entrance on the side. It was quite busy but the temple is large so the amount of people wasn’t overwhelming.

Todai-ji Nara - The Little Koo Blog

Big Buddha at Todai-ji Nara - The Little Koo Blog

An imposing sight inside Todai-ji Nara - The Little Koo Blog

After visiting the temple we wandered around Nara-koen a bit more. It is a very extensive and beautiful park and you could spend a long time exploring. Deer roam freely everywhere, and there are many people selling biscuits to feed the deer. I bought some biscuits and was immediately mobbed by some deer who were loitering nearby and keeping an eye out for people with biscuits! They were a little aggressive so it wasn’t quite the beautiful experience I hoped it would be!

Feeding the deer at Nara-koen - The Little Koo Blog

But I was very pleased to get this photo of the deer (below). They were so tame and not at all bothered by all the people walking around.

Deer in Nara-koen park - The Little Koo Blog

Day 6

On our last day we had initially planned to go to Himeji to see the castle, which only takes 45 minutes from Kyoto on the bullet train. The castle is apparently the most impressive castle in Japan, but some research suggested that it would be likely that we’d have to queue for an hour to get in (as it was a Saturday and it gets very busy at weekends) and by that point we were quite tired and the thought of travelling there and queuing with our small children was too much!

So instead we stayed in Kyoto, and took the metro from Omiya to Keage. From there it was a short, stroller-friendly walk to Nanzen-ji. We enjoyed the grounds of the temple, although we didn’t go in the temple itself. We did go up the sanmon gate instead, which has nice views over the temple complex and further afield over Kyoto.

View from the Sanmon gate at Nanzen-ji Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

Nanzen-ji from the Sanmon gate Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

From there it was a short a walk to the Philosopher’s Path. This was a very quiet and pleasant stroll along by a river (but for those of you with strollers please note that there is quite a bit of gravel which was a bit hard to push the stroller through!). A nice getaway from the busy-ness of some of the tourist attractions.

Philosophers Walk Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

For lunch, we went to Omen restaurant which was near to the end of the Philosopher’s Path. This was surprisingly busy, given how quiet the area was, but once we put our name on the list we didn’t have to wait too long for a table since the restaurant is quite large. It’s a noodle restaurant and is very delicious, a little more pricey than most but worth it in my opinion.

After lunch we took a bus to the top of Kyoto Imperial Palace Park and quickly found a children’s playground within the park. This had a sandpit filled with toys to play with and kept our children occupied for quite a long time! A nice bit of respite for those of us with young children.

Playing in the sandpit at the Imperial Palace Park Kyoto - The Little Koo Blog

After that, we wandered through the rest of the park (LOTS of gravel, not good with a stroller!) and then east along Marutamachi-dori to the Kyoto Handicraft Center where we purchased some souvenirs (this is not the place for tourist tat, but a lovely place to visit if you want some beautiful handmade items) and had dinner at an Italian restaurant on the same road. All in all, a nice way to end our holiday!

As you can see, we managed to fit a fair amount into our time in Kyoto, despite being limited by what we could do with our young children. And we only scratched the surface – there were many attractions we didn’t visit! We loved the city, it was so quiet and peaceful and there was so much to see. I’d totally recommend that you head over there for a visit!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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