Kansai with Kids
Today’s guest post comes from Jason Jenkins who hosts the greatly popular Epic Education family Podcasts and blogs at Epic Education. Jason is a great bloke who i have chatted with regularly, we have appeared as his guest on his podcast which you can listen to here. Jason and his family spent many years living in Asia.
Any trip to Japan should include some time in Kansai with kids. The entire archipelago is an amazing place to explore with children, but many of its most interesting corners are missed. The streets of Tokyo, the shrines of Kyoto and the memorial in Hiroshima should all be seen first-hand. However, Japan has much more for travelling families.
A full list of recommendations is beyond the scale of one post, so instead I’ll just touch on a few of my favourite things to do in Kansai with kids. Home to cities such as Kyoto, Nara and Osaka, the Kansai region of Japan is a fascinating place full of family fun.
Kansai with kids – Nara
Japan’s first capital doesn’t get the attention bestowed on its neighbours to the north. However, no visit to Kansai with kids would be complete without an afternoon in Nara, and it’s quite easy to reach from other cities in Kansai
This ancient structure is the recipient of numerous superlatives, including world’s oldest wooden building and home to a 500-ton bronze Buddha. The Todaji Temple is also one of the most interesting temple grounds to visit with kids. Its gargantuan interior is populated with other massive objects, such as larger-than-life wooden gods and a specific wooden pillar with a hole in its base. Those who can fit through the hole, it is said, receive enlightenment, but don’t expect to go through yourself: Only children can really fit.
In Nara Park surrounding Todaiji temple, you’ll find deer so tame and confident that they’ll grab the snacks right out of your hands. Seriously. These creatures are basically harmless and the kids will enjoy feeding them, but it can be a little scary for little ones. Make sure to keep all food stored in your packs or you may find it in a deer’s mouth before you know it.
Kansai with kids – Kyoto
Any visit to Kansai with kids includes a day or two in Kyoto, but don’t just stick to the temples and shrines. Kyoto offers families much more than heritage sites.
Traditional Sweets Class
The flavours and textures of traditional Japanese sweets may be new to your kids. Whether you like it or not (my kids LOVE them) it’s hard to deny their beauty. They’re also a lot of fun to make. You and the kids can learn to make these sweet little jewels at a variety of confectionaries around the city.
Kyoto is a town made for long, pondering walks. This two-kilometer stretch north of the city isn’t to be traversed for its “wow” factor, but more because of the peaceful calm and quirky shops encountered along the way. For parents of small children, keep in mind that there are long stretches of the path near the creek without a guardrail.
Hiking from Kibune to Kurama
Less than an hour north of Kyoto by train is one of my favourite family hikes. The trail from the village Kibune to its counterpart on the other side of Kurama mountain takes only a few hours at the most leisurely of paces and is easily navigable by even primary schoolers. Just be careful on the Kurama side. The stone steps there are more civilised, but occasionally slippery.
Kansai with kids – Osaka
On its surface, Osaka isn’t a particularly beautiful city. Many of its citizens don’t come across as poised or sophisticated, and the drinking and dining scene can be quite loud and uncouth. Yet despite this rough exterior, Osaka is an amazing place to eat, drink, explore, and make friends.
This interactive science museum is right downtown and will keep little ones busy for hours. The English explanations on exhibits are spotty, but the scientific principles being demonstrated are easy to follow regardless of the language. It’s quite a big place, so make sure to divide your time in order to see it all. Our kids really enjoy the TV Studio exhibit and the amazing indoor playground.
You know this one — you’ve seen the pictures. This vibrant shopping and nightlife district is even more vivid than any image that a Google search can pull up. Just keep in mind that many of the restaurants close at 10pm or earlier.
Spa world / Shinsekai
The Japanese onsen (hot spring) experience can be a soothing and almost sacred affair. A trip to Spa World is something completely different. Wild, loud and garishly decorated, this 5-floor indoor waterpark has gender-specific floors to explore regional-themed tubs, while the roof has glassed-in waterslides and a lazy river. It’s all heated in winter, which has made it part of our family’s New Year tradition. Classy it ain’t, but hey, neither are we.
Have you been to Kansai with kids?
Where did you go? What fun did you find? Visiting Kansai with kids is much more than Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. There are other major cities like Kobe and Wakayama, but there are also amazing mountains, beaches and other natural surroundings to explore. Tell us where you enjoyed!
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A full-time worker in Disability support and part time traveller when time, money and kids schooling allow.
Next up for Wyld Family Travel is 10 weeks in Europe from November 2016 till January 2017. We will be visiting Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, France, Poland, Iceland, Denmark, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia
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