Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens, located in the center of Kyoto, is a tourist spot and a national park where locals gather. Kyoto Imperial Palace is a big part of Japanese history, but did you know that it is actually a recommended spot for sightseeing with children? Although it is located in the center of Kyoto, Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens is a place that can be enjoyed by both adults and children. Children love the wide open space and for parents, feeling the traditional atmosphere of Japan is nice.
Kyoto Gyoen National Park & Imperial Palace
Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens are located in the center of Kyoto about 10 minutes by subway from Kyoto Station. From 1331 to 1869 the emperor lived and performed rituals and public affairs there. Now, it is a national park with a vast site of about 700m from east to west and about 1,300m from north to south, surrounding the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is a traditional place that was only open for a few weeks in the spring and fall, but now it is open all year round without prior application.
Enjoying a Day with Kids at Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens
Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens includes the Imperial Palace as well as a green filled national park and it covers a very large area of 700m x 1,300m. We will show you how you can relax and enjoy with the whole family.
Enjoy Japan’s Four Seasons in the History Filled Imperial Palace Gardens
The seasonal nature is the first thing you see when you enter the large Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens. It is a luxury to feel such a nature in the city. You can get a feel for Japan’s four seasons from the nature you are able to view as you walk through the gardens. You can see the plum and cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves and ginkgo in autumn. Because of its large area, it does not feel crowded even when many people are there. There are even spots within the Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens that are great for viewing cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves later in the year. Check out our blogs on other great viewing spots.
For the best autumn leaves viewing spots, see Best 8 Spots to Enjoy Autumn Leaves with Kids in Kyoto.
And for the best spots for cherry blossoms, see an upcoming article about cherry blossoms.
Enjoy Old Japan at the Majestic Kyoto Imperial Palace
After your walk through nature in the park, head inside the Imperial Palace. You don`t have to apply in advance and can enter after an inspection of your bags. The palace is closed on Mondays. You can see where the emperor lived and feel the most majestic atmosphere you will feel in Japan.
Inside there are dolls depicting the way it would have been when the emperor lived there. Seeing this is interesting for parents, and may even be exciting for kids. You can also see a garment called “Junihitoe” which is a 12-layered robe worn by court women during those times.
There are also guided tours in English and Chinese, and from near the Kiyosho Gate located on the west side, there is a course which takes about 1 hour. There are no admission fees or guide fees, but please be aware that English guided tours are only available from 10:00 or 14:00.
Lunch Time Surrounded by Nature and History
Have lunch in the luxurious Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens. In 2019, a restaurant opened within the garden grounds and you can enjoy an excellent meal of Japanese food while feeling the history of the Imperial Palace Gardens. The rest spot is called Nakadachiuri Rest House and it is located just inside the entrance of the Imperial Palace.
At the end of this article is a link to a map which, please use it as a reference.
As the main selection is Japanese food, if your kids are picky eaters, I recommend purchasing some bread or sandwiches at any of Kyoto’s many bakeries to bring with you.
Within the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens are grassy areas as well as benches and tables where you can enjoy your meal outdoors. If you are there in springtime, there is nothing better than seeing the cherry blossoms while taking a break to eat.
For more on eating in Kyoto with picky kids, see Eat with Picky Kids in Kyoto.
Spend Time at the Park with Local Families
After lunch, it’s time to play in the park with your kids. In the northeast area of the Imperial Palace Gardens grounds, you will find a park called “Mom & Child Forrest.” Made with the goal of giving moms and kids more chances to enjoy nature, there is an outdoor bookshelf complete with various books to read. With a watering hole which birds often play in nearby, this area is sure to be one your kids love.
There are also various things small kids can play on, as well as sandboxes and trees which can be climbed in the northwest area of the garden grounds. There is a bench as well so while the kids play, parents can sit to watch them. On weekends you can see many local families playing there.
Enjoy a Kyoto-esque Atmosphere
Within the grounds of Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens, there are also a shrine and pond. You don`t have to visit a famous shrine or temple to enjoy a Kyoto-esque scene. Also, as it isn’t typically very crowded, you will be able to take all the pictures you want. This is a shrine located in the south part of the grounds. Kids are always happy to see the ducks, koi, and turtles.
Only in Summer! Enjoy Playing in the Water
There is a stream in the southwestern part of Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens. The water is so clear and at its deepest spot, only about 10 centimeters, so it is perfect for kids to play in. It is beautiful anytime, so in seasons other than summer, you can enjoy the scenery without playing in the water. Kyoto temples and shrines often have streams. If you visit in summer, by all means, take a change of clothes for the kids and let them enjoy playing in the water. For information on another shrine with a stream which kids can play in, see 6 Things You Want to do with Kids at Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto, 5 Reasons Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto is a Great Place of Learning for Kids.
3 Tips for Enjoying Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens with Kids
Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens is a spot I recommend going with your kids, but there are a few things to be aware of. If you know in advance, you will have no reason to panic on the day you go.
1. See the Palace and Eat Early
Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens last entry is at 15:20 and the restaurant at the rest house closes quite early (around 15:30) so please be careful. Other than those two places, you can enter the park at anytime, so you can even enjoy a dinner outside while watching the sunset.
2. Get around by foot or bikes, May be hard to use strollers
One attraction of the Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens is that as cars aren’t generally allowed within the grounds, even small kids can walk around safely. However, as is often seen around the temples and shrines in Japan, the walkways are typically gravel and therefore it may be hard to get around using a stroller. You will want to wear clothes and shoes which are good for walking. The grounds cover a spacious area, so even though it may be a bit bumpy, it could be fun for kids if you go by bike. For information on renting electric-assist bicycles, see Visiting Kyoto with Infants and Toddlers? GET ELECTRIC BIKES!.
3. You don’t have to worry about restrooms
There are restrooms located in various locations of the Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens, making it ideal for sightseeing with children. In particular, I recommend the restroom located in the area of the restaurant I introduced above. The spacious and clean rest area is fully equipped with restrooms for those in wheelchairs and restrooms with diaper changing tables. It is a good idea to stop by just after entering the grounds, before visiting the Imperial Palace.
Enjoy a relaxing day in the conveniently located Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is located between the Marutamachi and Imadegawa stops on the Karasuma Line of the subway. It is easily accessible from either of these stations. So it is especially popular with Japanese families on weekends. Enjoy a day at Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens where you can enjoy both traditional Japanese majesty and natural beauty with your child.
Here is a useful map in English. You can use it to check the location ahead of time.