The fever of autumn leaves has finished and we are on the verge of winter. As the overall number of tourists in Kyoto decreases in this season, it’s the perfect time to visit Kyoto with your kids! And another good reason to visit in winter is that there are many traditional Japanese events during this season. Enjoy the cool, crisp air as you make memories unique to winter in the old city of Kyoto.
This time we will tell you some of the best places to see or events to go to in Kyoto with your kids in winter!
Kids are surprised at the sight of 1001 statues of different Buddhas lined up in the long hall of Sanjusangendo, so this is a place you don’t want to miss. During the high travel seasons of spring and fall, it is very crowded with visitors, so winter is your best chance! The hall is inside a building, so it isn’t so cold. Once inside, it’s just a straight, very long walk down the hall, looking at the different statues, even kids are excited at the length of the hall. From Kyoto Station, you can get there in 5-10 minutes by taxi.
Around January 15 there is an annual event, “Toshiya” (literally “passing arrow” or arrow which hits the mark), an archery exhibition contest.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Sanjusangendo.
Umekoji Park: Kyoto Aquarium & Kyoto Railway Museum
Both of these places are fun for both kids and parents. As they are indoors you don’t have to worry about the cold. There are play spaces in both Kyoto Aquarium and Kyoto Railway Museum, so after walking around to see the exhibits, your kids can play for a bit while you take a little break! For more on Kyoto Railway Museum and Kyoto Aquarium, see the following articles.
AEON Mall KYOTO
This is the perfect place to experience Japan like the locals. Though you will see many tourists at AEON Mall KYOTO, you will also surely see many local families spending time there. You can walk there from Kyoto Station and as it’s indoors it is warm throughout the cold winter months. There are many restaurants to choose from as well as a food court. You can also have fun doing “gachapon” or going to the game center (arcade).
For more information on AEON Mall KYOTO, see
Kyoto Arashiyama “Hanatouro” – Early to Mid December
“Hanatouro,” the pathway of blossoms and lights is a yearly event that takes place around the Arashiyama area. It is produced by ROHM Co. Ltd. and includes lights and flowers along various pathways around Arashiyama. It takes place on December 13 – 22 and the lights can be seen from 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm. During this time some of the shrines around the area will have special nighttime hours to coincide with the lights. Also, the entire Togetsukyo Bridge and the Bamboo Forest walkways will be illuminated. Look out for information on the spring “Hanatouro” which takes place in Higashiyama.
December 31 – End of Year Events at Yasaka Shrine, Kiyomizu Temple, etc
If you are in Kyoto on New Year’s Eve and can stay up until midnight, you may hear bells being rung at temples around the city. Called “Joya no Kane” it is a sacred bell ringing ceremony that takes place at midnight. The largest temple bell can be found at Chion-in Temple (7 Wonders to Look For with Kids at Chion-in Temple) and you can go to watch it be rung 108 times by the temple monks, but you will want to arrive early to get a good viewing spot. Some temples allow the visitors to ring the bell, so if you want to try you may try visiting Nanzen-ji Temple or Kurodani Temple.
If it Snows…Consider yourself lucky! You can see Kinkakuji and other temples covered in snow
As the amount of snow that falls on Kyoto has decreased over the years and most years only see a few days of snow, if you happen to catch a snowy day then you are lucky!
Some locations, such as Kurama Temple (6 Reasons We Recommend Kurama Temple for Foreign Tourists with Kids), may have snow even if there isn’t much around Kyoto City. Near Kurama Temple is Kurama Onsen (onsen = hot spring) so you can warm your cold body before heading back to your hotel.
If you are lucky and it does snow while you are in Kyoto, by all means, make your way to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Already a beautiful site at any other time of the year, the Golden Pavilion covered with snow is something you don’t want to miss if you have the chance.
Enjoy Ice Skating in Kyoto
The lone ice skating rink in Kyoto city is located within the city limits of Kyoto. Kyoto Aquarena ice skating rink is only open from November through March. It is about a 5-minute walk from the Hankyu Nishikyogoku Station. The hours are 9:00 – 21:00 and they will be closed January 1-2 for the New Year holiday.
So much to do in Kyoto in Winter
With smaller crowds of people, you can truly enjoy the beauty of Kyoto, some may even say it’s the best season to visit. If you get to see the city and temples covered in snow, you are in for a treat. Even if it doesn’t snow, winter in Kyoto offers you some experiences you can’t have other times of the year. As you can see there are lots of places to go and events to see. And if you need advice on planning your trip, you can contact Kyoto with Kids for help. We also have a Kids Club as well as Babysitting Services available if you would like to venture out to see Kyoto in winter without your kids.