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.
Nara with kids – Nara Park Japan
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. There are many things to do in Nara and it’s quite easy to reach from other cities in Kansai
This ancient structure is the recipient of numerous superlatives, including the 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.
Ikoma Amusement Park
No trip to Nara with kids is complete without a visit to Ikoma Amusement Park. This Nara attraction sits high up on a hill, muck like Tibidabo in Barcelona. What makes this Nara for kids attraction unique is that you need to take a cable car up the hill to reach the Amusement Park. The Ikoma amusement park has small rollercoasters, go-carts, miniature golf and indoor games popular for children age three and up. Like most amusement parks these days there are stage shows for Nara kids featuring popular superheroes and anime characters.
You can find more information at the Ikoma Amusement Park Website
Kansai with kids - Things to do in Kyoto Japan
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 in Kyoto with kids
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-kilometre 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.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
When visiting Kyoto with kids the Iwatayama Monkey Park will be a bit hit. The park is home to 120 snow monkeys or otherwise known as the Japanese macaque. The Monkeys are human feed but are still wild animals so all instructions should be followed when interacting with these animals. You can buy food and feed the monkeys chunks of apples. The Monkey park has a path running through it that winds its way around the mountain. Expect to spend 1-2 hours at the park enjoying the monkeys.
To find out more check the Iwatayama Monkey Park Website
Kansai with kids - Things to do in 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. A day trip from Osaka can add many more excellent attractions for your visit to Kansai
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 10 pm or earlier.
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.
A large castle with a history that included intense battles that changed the course of Japanese history. The castle tower is surrounded by gates, stone walls and moats The castle itself is a reconstruction with a modern interior that houses a museum of the castle's history including Samurai artifacts.
All kids know the Samurai and the swords on display are a huge hit. The Nishinomaru Garden is a lawn garden with 600 cherry trees on the site of the castle. The park is one of Osaka's most popular spots in Osaka during the cherry blossom season, which usually takes place in early April. Osaka is amazing, there are many great day trips from Osaka that can be made.
Distances around Kansai region
Nara to Osaka - 30.5 kilometres. Driving time is around 1hour 7 minutes, Train time is around 1 hour 6 minutes.
Kyoto to Nara - 45.5 Kilometers. Driving time is 58 minutes. Train time is around 1 hour 15 minutes.
Osaka to Kyoto - 56.4 Kilometers. Driving time is around 1 Hour 2 Minutes. Train time is around 1 hour 8 minutes.
Accommodation in Japan
Agoda.com has over 2600 properties in the Kansai region including hotels, apartments, and guesthouses. You get free cancellation on most rooms and the best price guarantee.
The Air bnb alternative in Japan
Flights to Japan
Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Tours in Kyoto, Nara & Osaka
Viator has over 541 tours available in the Kansai area for you to experience
Car Rental in Kansai
RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service. RentalCars will trawl all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Europcar to get you the best deals available
Weather in Osaka
August is the hottest month in Osaka with an average temperature of 29°C (84°F) and the coldest is January at 6°C (43°F). If you're looking for the sun, August has the most daily sunshine hours at 6.7. The wettest and rainiest month is June with an average of 230mm of rain. The best month to swim in the sea is in August when the average sea temperature is 28°C
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!
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.
We hope this post on Wyld Family Travel has given you some amazing inspiration for all of the best things to do in Kansai with kids when you visit Japan. For more amazing ideas on where to holiday in Japan click through to our Japan Destination Guide page for more brilliant inspiration.
Some more travel inspiration for your trip to Japan