I am Miho, the founder of the Kyoto with Kids project. I am a mother of two: an eight year old son, and a four year old son. For seventeen years, I worked for a company where I experienced jobs in the finance, M&A and corporate planning divisions. In the latter half of 2018, I came up with the Kyoto with Kids project with some of my mom friends, and decided to start it.
So why did I start a project on tourism business, which was completely out of my field? In this article, I would like to share how it all started, and my feelings towards this business.
How “Kyoto with Kids” popped into my mind
Kyoto, Tokyo, New York, and back to Kyoto
From kindergarten to university, I was raised in Kyoto. After graduating from university, I worked for Nintendo (a game company in Kyoto loved by both children and adults) in the international business division. Later on, to stay with my then-boyfriend (now husband) who was transferred to Tokyo, I got a US CPA certificate and developed my career in M&A and finance. At that time, I was crazy about my work. My work was based in Tokyo and New York and going on business trips to Hong Kong, China, and other parts of the United States was very exciting. On holidays, I enjoyed visiting onsens (Japanese hot springs) with my husband. We even went to what is called “hidden onsens” which are poor in accessibility but surrounded by beautiful nature.
Change in lifestyle after having two baby boys
My lifestyle completely changed when I became pregnant 9 years ago. To this day, Japan does not have enough child care services parents can easily depend on. In Tokyo, where I lived, there were not enough day care centers to support the number of children in need. Many female workers gave up their work because they were denied entry to day care centers.
Luckily for me, my parents and my parents-in-law were both living in Kyoto, and were healthy. Therefore, to seek their help, I quit my job in Tokyo and went back to Kyoto. During my pregnancy, I took the MBA program of Kyoto University.
After my first son was born, I joined discussions and group work via Skype while holding him in my arms. In the second year of my MBA, when my child was 6 months old, I started to take part in global M&A and corporate planning jobs in one of the biggest confectionery manufacturers.
Travelling after childbirth
Kyoto had changed a lot over the ten years that I had been away. The number of foreign tourists had increased drastically, and many of them were families travelling with kids.
Meanwhile, travelling for my husband and I changed completely after we had children. When we tried to take our son to an onsen, we faced reality; at the onsen, our son complained that the temperature was too hot, and while walking outside, he easily became tired and started fussing. Thus, we gave up and decided to just relax at the hotel.
Multi-destination trips were unrealistic with children, so a single destination trip became the norm for us. There was a change in the types of destinations too. Instead of cultural experiences, we chose places where our children would enjoy, such as Lego Land, train museums and beach resorts.
Spreading the charms of Kyoto to family travelers with “Kyoto with Kids”
Raising my children in Kyoto, I realized that Kyoto was not only a great tourism site, but also a great place for children. Here are some reasons why.
(1) Full of historical sites — With a long history of over 1000 years, Kyoto is full of historical sites. Children can learn from the ancient temples and shrines that are basically everywhere in Kyoto. For example, my son’s kindergarten is in a World Heritage temple, Nishihonganji.
(2) Rich in nature— Believe it or not, Kyoto is also full of nature. Just a short train ride from central Kyoto and you will be surrounded by beautiful nature, such as Ujitawara.
And last but not least…
(3) Unique culture—Kyoto has a unique culture, a mixture of both the old and the new. Kyoto is open to new challenges, so there are many startup companies (Nintendo was one too) and universities like Kyoto University that supports this.
From these reasons, I came to think that Kyoto is a perfect place for children to learn, and that I want families who visit Kyoto from all over the world to fully enjoy and get the most out of their visit.
Making use of moms’ power to help create a more joyful experience for family travelers
I have had opportunities to meet hundreds of powerful moms, because after my second child was born I started and managed a study session for moms. Many of these moms were fluent in English and used to have a professional career, but so many of them had given up their career because they could not keep a good balance between work and childcare.
So I began to think, “If we can make use of the moms’ powers, maybe we can help family travelers from around the world spend a more enjoyable time in Kyoto.”
When I proposed this idea to my friends, dozens of moms who live in either Kyoto or Osaka, who love kids and travelling, joined me as starting members of this project.
Making Kyoto the world’s best city for family travelers with “Kyoto with Kids”
Many tourists come all the way from their countries to visit Kyoto. In our project, we hope to create interaction between these tourist families and the locals. Kyoto has always been open to the new, and it is not unusual that both mothers and children are learning foreign languages.
By the interaction of these locals and tourist families from around the world, I hope they have a unique and unforgettable experience, something that is only possible, here in Kyoto.We aim to make Kyoto the world’s best destination for family travelers, and we believe this can be achieved by creating “a new style of family travel” in Kyoto.
The first step to a “family-traveler-friendly” Kyoto
In 2019, our business was elected as “New Tourism Contents Incubator Project 2019” by the Japan Tourism Agency under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. As a part of this project, we are working to provide families traveling from abroad with an even better Kyoto experience supported by Kyoto City Tourism Association and Kyoto Yamashiro DMO. We just launched Family Tours which parents and kids can both enjoy and Kids Club where children can experience a different culture through playing while parents go out on their own. Also, we are trying to expand and offer Babysitting services for travelers to give parents traveling with kids more choices.
We are moving forward in our business both for world travelers and our local communities to create a peaceful world (About us）.