We did a Kyoto & Nara 1-Day Tour offered through Sunrise Tours. They leave right from the New Miyako hotel making it an easy option to see a good chunk of the sites with an easy bus ride for the kids. As I’ve said before, the downside with a group tour is you are experiencing the sites with 30 or more and sometimes it’s hard for kids to go at the pace of the group. I’m not sure though it matters in Japan. It’s busy here regardless.
Our first stop was the Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No pictures allowed indoors, but the details inside and outside the building are stunning. Most beautiful were the 954 wall paintings on the inside.
The Kinkaku-ji Temple, known to most as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion was our next stop and probably the most stunning building I have seen. Definitely worth seeing during your stay in Kyoto. Even my boys were impressed. The Golden Pavilion is a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha and the upper two levels are wrapped in gold foil. You will not be able to go inside the building and be prepared for massive crowds. The grounds were incredibly busy. You are at the mercy of the crowd flow as you snake through the walkways so don’t plan on meandering around here or getting through it faster than the masses. Our last stop in Kyoto before we headed down to Nara was the Imperial Palace. This is a very strict tour. You must stay with your group, no wandering around for pictures because they are watching you. I feel like there should be a better warning for parents with kids. While my boys did fine on the tour, for those of you thinking of bringing young kids on this tour, there isn’t much for them to do or see but there is some great culture to absorb if they are old enough. You will not be able to leave the group if someone needs to use the restroom unexpectedly or if they are mid-tantrum and you just need to leave. They count the group on the way in and the numbers need to match on the way out. I think the majority of the tour is on loose gravel as well so strollers aren’t recommended.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was seeing the Shodaibunoma building. This was the waiting area for courtiers on official visits to the palace. Depending on social rank. you were placed in one of these rooms. The cherry room is the 3rd highest ranked room, followed by the crane room for the 2nd highest and the highest ranked room was the tiger room.
Peeking in towards the Shishinden, which we weren’t allowed in to. It’s used for ceremonies of state such as the enthronement of the Emperor. The Oikeniwa Garden and the Keyakibashi Bridge. This day tour continued on to Nara for the afternoon, which I’ll write about in a separate post. Such a busy day, but we were able to get a good portion of the adult sites we wanted to visit done with in one day, leaving the rest of our time free to explore the kids sights of Osaka. Overall Kyoto is gorgeous with so much history and culture. But travel with young kids is hard here. The sights that the adults want to see don’t always line up with what the kids find exciting and we definitely had to make sacrifices on a few to keep the kids from burning out.