One-stop from Kyoto Station, or just a 15-minute walk, you can find the “Central Park” of Kyoto, Umekoji Park. Umekoji has a wide, open grassy area, a playground for kids to enjoy, as well as a Japanese style garden. Within the area, you can also find the Kyoto Railway Museum which boasts the most trains on display anywhere in Japan. There is also the Kyoto Aquarium, which is full of things to see. You are sure to find many local to Kyoto families with their kids enjoying this area on weekends.
On nice days you can blend in among the local families and have a picnic. On rainy days or days when it’s too hot to be outside, you can escape the weather by spending the day at the Kyoto Railway Museum or Kyoto Aquarium. Since you can enjoy something here no matter the weather, Umekoji Park is the perfect place to spend an entire day on your family trip to Kyoto. In addition to seeing the traditional sites of Kyoto like shrines and temples, why don’t you spend a leisurely day with your kids at Umekoji Park?
Kids can play to their heart’s content at Umekoji Park in Kyoto
In the wide grassy area of Umekoji Park, you can enjoy just relaxing with your family or playing catch with your kids. But that’s not all! Next to this park, there are a number of railroad tracks for the “Shinkansen” bullet train, freight trains, and passenger trains. Kids who already love trains will be in paradise and for those who don’t, after being here they might start to love them! Even in Kyoto, you can only find this balance of railroads and nature at Umekoji. On the weekends it is crowded with picnicking families and is truly the “Central Park” of Kyoto. It’s not quite as big as New York’s Central Park, but that makes it great for taking a walk with kids.
Playgrounds where you can enjoy a picnic with your kids
There are two spots in Umekoji with playground equipment which kids love. In the playground by the Southeast entrance, you will find a small slide and some other equipment perfect for younger kids.
In the central part of Umekoji is a playground equipped with a long slide and athletic course equipment which is always filled with kids running around. Next to this playground is a cafe which serves kids’ favorites like pizza and fries as well as drinks. The cafe is kids-friendly with special plates which kids will love. There are also restrooms with diaper changing tables. While moms and dads take a break at the cafe, kids can use a lot of energy challenging the athletic course and running around. Many families bring picnic sheets (sold at stores like Daiso) and spend a whole day at this park.
At the cafe next to the park you can get snacks like pizza and fries. There are also restrooms which are nice to have nearby when playing at a park. Parents can take a break at the cafe.
Kids will appreciate the beauty of Japan at Suzakunoniwa – a Japanese style garden in the park
Even though Umekoji Park is located near Kyoto Station, your family can experience nature in the middle of the city. For just two coins (200 yen for kids 12 and under) you can enjoy a Japanese style garden designed by local Kyoto style gardening professionals.
Enter the garden through the restaurant Midori-No-Yakata. At the restaurant, you can dine overlooking the garden area. This is the one restaurant in the Umekoji area which is open for dinner. Although the food is delicious, local families don’t dine here so often. But it is nice to dine with a view of a Japanese style garden now and then. *Be aware, lunch hours on weekends can be quite crowded.
Toward the end of November, they shine lights on the fall colored leaves. Because this location isn’t well known among tourists, you can avoid the more crowded spots and enjoy seeing the fall colored leaves with your kids here instead.
Even small kids can enjoy Kyoto Aquarium without getting bored
In a great location just one station from Kyoto Station, there is an aquarium. It’s not so big, so even if you are short on time, you can rush through and see everything in just over 30 minutes. This makes it great for families with smaller kids because they don’t have to walk so much. Opened in 2012, it is still a fairly new aquarium. They have many interesting ways of showing marine life so even though it isn’t so big, it is quite enjoyable. For families with kids, we recommend Kyoto Aquarium over bigger ones like Osaka’s Kaiyukan and Okinawa’s Churaumi Aquarium. For more information on Kyoto Aquarium.
Heaven in Kyoto for kids who love trains – Kyoto Railway Museum
Local mom, Miho, who traveled around Japan to see different trains when her older son was a bit younger and loved them, says, “Kyoto Railway Museum is the number one spot to take kids to see trains!” With both steam and electric engines, Kyoto Railway Museum has a total of 53 trains on display, the most in the country. It also boasts the only running steam engine in Japan and it runs daily and you can even ride on it. Not only can you look at different trains, but you can also get on them which is exciting for kids and parents alike. There is also a play area which has so many toy trains to play with made by the most famous toy train maker in Japan. https://www.takaratomy.co.jp/products/plarail/.
Kids can spend hours playing with the toy trains here. It’s a perfect place for parents to sit for a bit and plan where they will go next!
Where the locals go to eat with kids when at Umekoji Park
As this area is basically heaven for families, you will find restaurants, shops, vending machines. It means finding food is no problem at all. There is even a cafe inside a real streetcar. The offerings in the area are great, but if you want something a little more gourmet, we recommend purchasing food in the basement floor of Isetan at Kyoto Station and bringing it to Umekoji for a picnic. You could also have something delivered via UBER Eats. A hotel will be opening in the area in 2019, so we are sure the options for food will be even better then.
For dinner, as we mentioned above, the only option is Midori-No-Yakata as the aquarium and railroad museum both close. During longer holidays like summer vacation, the aquarium is open until 8 pm so it is possible to have a light meal there. I recommend enjoying a day in Umekoji Park then moving to either Kyoto Station or Kyoto AEON Mall (about a 15-minute walk or even closer by taxi). Especially at Kyoto AEON Mall, you can have dinner and then enjoy shopping or just looking at stores like Muji or ToysRus.
If the kids finish playing a bit earlier and you’re not quite ready for dinner, you can walk about 10 minutes to the north and see Nishi Hongwanji, a World Heritage Site. It is a temple with a very spread out ground and is nice to walk around. You can almost forget you are in the middle of a city. If you want to have dinner after seeing the temple, we recommend the kids friendly family restaurant with a variety of items to choose from both Western and Japanese, Royal Host. The Horikawa Gojo location is not so far from the temple. With a kids’ menu, it is easy to go here with kids and the food is delicious. You and your kids can enjoy a relaxing dinner here.
Spend time like a Kyoto local in the park
The best thing about Umekoji Park are it’s close proximity to Kyoto Station, it’s kids friendly activities, and that you can be in touch with nature. Kyoto’s “Central Park” (a name I gave it) is loved by local families. We hope that when traveling to Kyoto with your kids you will take a break from visiting all of the temples and shrines and enjoy a day like the locals do with your kids at Umekoji Park. When the weather is good, there are often events in the grassy area which bring a lot of people. So be sure to keep an eye on your kids. Kids sometimes get too excited and just run off without noticing where their mom or dad is. It’s a wide area, so it can be hard to find kids quickly if they runoff.
By all means, spend a day like a Kyoto local relaxing, playing, and dining at Umekoji Park.
More tips for Kyoto with kids from local moms
To make sure families fully enjoy Kyoto’s charm, we, local moms started Kyoto with Kids services. We are continuously developing programs which parents and kids can both enjoy. Please check out our Kyoto with Kids services developed by local moms!