The Perfect Overnight Trip Itinerary to Kyoto with Kids!
Living in the Kobe area of Japan gives us access to several cities nearby that make up the "Kansai" region. Kyoto is the former capital of Japan, and is only a one hour drive from our house. I have heard cool things about the city, and wanted to check it out myself! Since the kids are off of school because of the COVID-19 closures, we made this trip kid friendly and they did great!!
Originally I was obsessing over staying at the Four Seasons Kyoto because I was craving a luxurious experience and a spa day. After realizing the weekend that we were going was the peak, peak week of the entire year due to the cherry blossoms being in full bloom, I refused to pay those peak season prices. The not too shabby, 5-star, Hyatt Regency had a great location, a two bedroom suite and extra room for two nights that came in for less than the price of the suite at FS for one night!!! Boom! The room was clean, there was a huge bathtub, and the staff was incredibly helpful and kind (Shout out GM Robert Hamer with the hand written welcome letter). We would definitely stay there again!
Location wise, the hotel is directly next door to Sanjusangendo, which is a temple that is famous for its 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. I saw this place on instagram and couldn't believe how many incredible statues this temple had! So, we dropped our bags, and headed over there right away because they let the last people in at 4:30, and we arrived around 4 to the hotel. Once we got there we saw so many signs prohibiting people from taking pictures of the statues and of the big Buddha. I'm not typically a big rule follower, but something felt like the reasoning behind it was that it was disrespectful to the Buddha or something along those lines, and I wasn't risking some kind of bad karma or a curse. Here is a picture of the statues that I took off of google just so you get the point:
From there, Fushimi Inari Taisha is a short car ride away. It is open 24 hours, and has a parking lot right in front of the entrance, which was super convenient!
The most well-know part of this shrine is the Torii gates known as Senbon Torii. It became popular for businesses and people to donate Torii gates to shrines when you wanted a wish to come true, or to give thanks for a wish thtat came true. Today there are 1,000 Torii gates. Since it was getting late, we only did the first circle of Torii gates and returned to the start. But if we had more time, we would have definitely done the whole thing. Apparently it takes about two hours to walk the entire path. We will definitely go back next time because it was spectacular!
After that the kids had enough. We went back to the hotel and had the concierge recommend a Yakiniku restaurant for dinner (Japanese BBQ). They called and got us a private room at a restaurant in the Gion district. The Gion District seems like the gastro hub, with lots of cute restaurants and cocktail bars, and even night clubs (none of which we would go to because of social distancing of course)
The boys were so well behaved (of course they were watching their ipads while we waited for the food at dinner ;) but it was so nice that they are starting to be able to "hang" with the grown ups! After that we retired back to our room for the night cap :)
We started the morning off with a delicious breakfast that was included with our rooms at the hotel. (When you let me book your hotel, free breakfast is a typical added amenity that i'm able to negotiate). French toast, eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, salads, croissants, muffins, pastries, juices, the works. Before we left Kobe, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on snacks. One thing I learned about doing long outings with kids is that they are food motivated (kinda like dogs :). So I packed up our backpack with Ritz crackers, Oreos, chips, marshmallows, chocolates, lemonade, and an apple. The first stop of the day was Arashiyama Monkey Mountain, which was a 25 minute drive from our hotel.
We found a free parking lot close by which was a score, and walked 5 minutes to the foot of the mountain. Luckily there are public restrooms all over Japan! So we started with making the kids use the restroom before we began our hike. We paid the fee to hike, and started our hike up that took about 20 minutes.
A map shows there are two ways up, and we chose to stay to the right, which seemed to be the less steep path. Once you are close to the top, you reach a "playground" which wasn't much of a playground at all, but it had a long slide that the kids loved. It was under a beautiful cherry blossom tree which made it much better.
Once at the top, the view of Kyoto is breath taking! Of course pictures do not do it justice, but it was cute seeing the monkeys hanging out, enjoying the view as well.
To feed the monkeys, you go inside a little hut/cage building. You can buy food in little bags for 100 yen (approx 1USD) and feed the monkeys through the fence. The kids LOVED this part! There are several signs and warnings about not having or showing food outside of the cage because I can imagine that the monkey could get pretty aggressive around food! (We even saw them fighting with each other a little over who gets to be fed through the fence) but it was surely entertaining!
This was definitely the highlight of the day for the kids :)
Once we hiked back down the mountain, at the bottom is a place to take a nice little 35 minute boat ride on a wooden boat powered by one Japanese captain and a long stick :) The kids loved this too! On google you can look this up by searching "Hoshinoya Kyoto Boat Waiting room" and that seems to give the best location of where the boating entrance was. You also cant miss it at the bottom of the entrance to the hike.
The coolest part about the boat was that there is a "beverage and food boat" that comes out and meets you while you're on the water. Think "cart girl" on a golf course. It pulled up beside us, and attached themselves. Allowed the guys to get beers for the men, coffee for me, and oranges for the boys.
We asked the boat driver to drop us off at the entrance to the bamboo forest, which saved us a 20 minute walk probably (the kids walk slow). The walk through the forest only takes about 10 minutes or so, but its definitely beautiful and worth it! We kept it short since I figured the kids may get tired, but there were other areas of the forest where you could go inside and take pictures. We just saw one of the pathways through the middle of the forest, but it was still worth it.
From there we decided to head to the car to drive to our last destination of the day. On the way back, you pass through a cute little street with shops, so of course we stopped for snacks.
After all this, Adam started getting cranky and tired (haha) but he allowed me to make a stop at one last landmark. From there we went to Kinkaku-ji, or the "Golden Pavillion". This is about a 25 minute drive from Monkey Mountain, and you also have to pay a fee to get in. There is a parking lot in front that also charges a small fee. This place was very serene and very beautiful. The kids probably didn't appreciate it as much, but I thought it was beautiful and impeccably manicured with lots of bonsai trees and a pond with koi fish.
From here, we went back to the hotel, ordered carry out from a Mexican place called "Que Pasa" that made a special delivery for Adam, and I ordered room service. We took it easy, and reflected on the fun packed two day trip we had!!!!