When planning a trip with kids, you want to get as much information about your destination as you can so you can be prepared for anything. Today we will give you a highlight of Kyoto each month of the year. We will also share links to previous articles for each month. From those articles you can get details of things like weather, what clothes you should bring, and special events to make planning your trip to Kyoto with kids
Kyoto in January
Of course the main event in January is the ringing in of the new year. In Japan most people visit a shrine within the first few days of a new year to pray for the upcoming year. Some businesses are also closed around this time, usually from December 29 – January 3. Shops and restaurants may have shortened hours. There is also a day for celebrating turning 20 years old between the previous April and the upcoming March. It’s called Coming of Age Day and is the second Monday of January. Around that day you are sure to see young ladies and men dressed in traditional clothing like kimono. For more information on Kyoto in January, see this article.
Kyoto with Kids in February
February 3 is Setsubun. Setsubun literally means seasonal division and is the day before the beginning of spring according to the lunar calendar. Shops sell special sushi rolls called eho-maki (lucky direction roll) which people buy and then face that year’s lucky direction as they eat. Another custom of Setsubun is mamemaki (bean throwing). Beans are thrown at an oni (demon or ogre), actually a family member wearing a mask, while chanting, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (Demons out! Luck in!). Many shrines and temples around Kyoto have events for Setsubun. See here for more details on visiting Kyoto with kids in February.
Kyoto in March
With March comes warmer days, but the mornings and nights can still be quite cold. With the warmer weather comes flowers. From plum blossoms in early March to the cherry blossoms toward the end of the month, the feeling of spring is in the air. From around March 23 schools let out for spring vacation which lasts through about the first week of April. During that time you will see more kids out and about and some places may be a bit crowded. If you want a memorable activity for your family in March or early April, check out Kyoto with Kids Cherry Blossom Family Picnic. You can experience the cherry blossoms like a local in a not so crowded spot that only local moms would know about. For everything else you need to know about traveling to Kyoto with kids in March, see this article.
Kyoto with Kids in April
In April Japan is colored in the pink and white of cherry blossoms. The school year begins and companies begin their new fiscal year. You may see brand new first graders walking to school with their large backpacks called randoseru and their yellow hats. You may also see groups enjoying the atmosphere of spring at cherry blossom viewing parties called hanami. For more on what to expect when visiting Japan in April, see here.
Kyoto with Kids in May
From April 29 through May 5 there are four holidays. This often results in a long holiday and is known around Japan as Golden Week. Depending on how the dates fall on the calendar, some years have quite a long break for Golden Week. Because of this it is a popular time for Japanese people to travel and many places can be quite crowded. A big event in Kyoto in May is the Aoi Festival on May 15. It is one of Kyoto’s three main festivals and is a sort of historical parade from the Heian period. If you happen to be in Kyoto on the 15th, you can catch the procession making their way from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. Check this article for Kyoto with Kids in May!
Kyoto in June
June in Japan equals the rainy season. My favorite part about the rainy season is the beautiful hydrangeas that pop up. There are so many different colors and varieties. At Fujinomori Shrine there is a hydrangea garden containing 3500 plants! If your schedule allows it, I recommend going and walking through the garden. Entrance to the shrine is free, but to walk through the garden there may be a fee. For tips of visiting Kyoto in June, see here.
Kyoto with Kids in July
Kyoto in July is hot! The main event in Kyoto in July is the Gion Matsuri. Walking around central Kyoto you feel a sense of excitement during this time. If you want to experience a Japanese festival, then Kyoto in July is perfect! Because it is hot in July, you can enjoy cold noodle dishes or shaved ice. And if you like beer, then nothing beats the first drink of an ice cold beer on a hot Kyoto summer day! You can see restaurants along Kamo River with outside seating and some places even have beer gardens where you can drink all the beer you want for up to two hours! We will be sharing an article with all you need to know about Kyoto in July soon.
Kyoto with Kids in August
Kyoto in August is also hot! The biggest event in Kyoto in August is Gozan no Okuribi also known as the Daimonji Fire Festival. Five mountains around Kyoto with massive kanji characters on them are set ablaze. It stars with Daimonji being lit at 8pm and the others in 15 minute intervals. If you are in Kyoto in mid August, you don’t want to miss this event. Stay tuned for more information about Kyoto in August.
Kyoto with Kids in September
September is a relatively calm month. It is still quite hot, but as summer is winding down, but the maple leaves haven’t quite started changing colors, Kyoto is pretty calm. If you are visiting in September you may consider checking out some of the shrine or temple exhibitions. If you like flea markets, a few big shrines and temples around the city hold markets monthly! Check back soon for our Kyoto in September article!
Kyoto with Kids in October
From mid September through about mid October many schools hold their annual sports festival, or undokai in Japanese. They often take place on Saturday or Sunday and you may hear what sounds like a cannon or gun firing on the morning of the event. Kids practice for several weeks to wow their parents and even grandparents with their speed and agility. Kyoto is famous for its fall foliage. The Japanese maples around the city change to brilliant colors and people come from allover Japan to see the gorgeous leaves. Cherry blossom season and autumn leaves season are probably Kyoto’s busiest times. See this article for details on Kyoto in October from weather to wardrobe to events.
Kyoto in November
November is the peak of the autumn leaves season. Many people come to Kyoto to see the leaves against the backdrop of the city’s ancient temples. From mid November you can visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple at night and see the leaves lit up. Find information about other events in November here.
Kyoto with Kids in December
With December comes cooler days and the excitement of Christmas. You may be surprised to hear Japan celebrates Christmas considering it isn’t a predominantly Christian nation. Not all families participate, but many families do Santa and kids wake up to a gift near their pillow on Christmas morning. It is also common to eat cake on Christmas, you may see some cakes in the stores if you are here in December. One of the larger events in December is Arashiyama Hanatouro. For information on this and other events taking place, see this article.
Visiting Kyoto with Kids Through the Year
I hope this article and the ones we linked to throughout it have been helpful in helping you plan your trip to Kyoto. No matter what time of year you decide to visit you want to make unforgettable memories with your children. At Kyoto with Kids we offer different services to make your trip your most memorable ever! We also want to help parents get out and enjoy a different side of Kyoto if they would like to do so. With services like our Kids Club and Babysitting Service, your kids will enjoy learning about Japanese culture through play while you go out. We hope to hear from you soon!