Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto

SinceFive Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto pin

Kyoto, located on the island of Honshu in Japan, was the imperial capital of Japan for over a thousand years. Now known as City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Kyoto is famous for its museums and festivals. We checked out some of these sites on our most recent trip to Kyoto and have created this list of five sensory activities that are perfect for families and travelers with autism.

Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto river


Once in Kyoto, it is relatively easy to get around, since the city has an excellent public transportation system, making it easy to hop on a bus, train, or subway. Kyoto also has taxis, which are reasonably priced, and the city is quite walkable and bike friendly. Any way you choose to get around; it likely to be a safe experience!

Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto pond

Nijo Castle

The building of Nijō Castle began in 1601 and was completed in 1626. It is now one of seventeen historical monuments in Kyoto that are designated by UNESCO as  World Heritage Sites. The Castle boasts an outer wall area and an inner wall area, which demonstrate the social system at the time when only the most notable guests were able to enter the inner area. The inner area consists of the Ninomaru Palace which is built almost entirely of cypress and filled with elaborate gold leaf woodcarvings, as well as gorgeous wall paintings. Visitors should check out the magnificent gardens on the property, where they will see the pond and groves of cherry and Japanese plum trees.There is plenty of room to walk around and explore, and there are English guides available, but it’s not a very interactive place for children.

Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto red

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should prepare their child to remove their shoes at the entrance. If they’re not comfortable with that, they won’t be able to enter the castle.
  • The castle can get crowded and stuffy in some rooms, especially in the summer time. Parents should bring a mini fan and water for kids that are temperature intolerant.
  • Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto gold castle

Iga Ueno, the Ninja Palace

Any kid interested in Ninjas will enjoy the Iga Ueno! The Iga school of Ninjutsu was one of Japan’s most famous Ninja schools in the feudal period. It has since been turned into a Ninja museum. One of Japan’s greatest poets, Basho Matsuo, was born here, so the site includes a museum and his birth home.The interactive aspect of this palace is impressive. The Ninja Experience Hall will show visitors the tools that Ninjas used and a video about how stealthy Ninjas were.

Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto pond

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There is Ninja show that most kids will enjoy. However, parents should bring earplugs along because the show is somewhat noisy.

Tea Ceremony

For those visiting Japan, a must-do is participating in a traditional tea ceremony. This ceremony is a favorite activity in Kyoto, so there are several places to go for a tea ceremony. Most services run relatively the same – a little bit of education before and during the ceremony, and a relaxing experience sipping tea in the traditional Japanese way. The prices are typically around 2000-3000 yen per person.

Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto statue

Autism Travel Tips:

  • As some of the customs may be different than what a child with autism might expect (taking off shoes, sitting on the floor, doing things in a certain order, sitting quietly)attending a  Tea Ceremony is something that parents might want to research the topic ahead of time. Parents should check out our YouTube video below to get an idea of what to expect.

Meet a Geisha

Kyoto is the place to go to meet a traditional geisha. Despite popular urban legends, geishas are NOT prostitutes but entertainers trained in traditional Japanese dance, tea ceremony, and other traditions. It can be quite expensive to attend a geisha (geiko) or maiko show, but since they mostly live in Kyoto, it is possible to spot one on the street.

Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto geisha


Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should make sure children do not make disparaging remarks about the customary costume and heavy makeup.
  • In Japan, there is a higher level of politeness/etiquette observed; parents should help their child be mindful.

Day Trip to Nara

Nara is worth its own post, so be sure to check our separate about it for more information. Nara was Japan’s first capital, designated in 610, and is home to some of Japan’s largest and oldest temples. It is about an hour outside Kyoto, so it is not hard to see some amazing temples and gorgeous gardens. Travelers should tour Naramachi, an old merchant town with some interesting old houses and have fun feeding the wild deer roaming freely around the area.

Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto deer

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Families should bring plenty of hand wipes, as visitors will either touch or be touched by the wild deer.
  • The deer are persistent and can chase, stalk, or nibble on the belongings of guests. Parents should prepare their child for this as it can be frightening.







Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto


Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto (1) pinOne of the highlights for families when visiting Japan is exploring the ancient city of Kyoto. Famous for its iconic Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and royal palaces, the city is a must-see for those interested in history and architecture. Furthermore, the city is well known for its traditional houses on stilts, specialized dining, and the geisha female entertainers. For families wishing to explore the city, the  Westin Miyako Kyoto Hotel is an excellent option.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto red

What Makes it Family Worthy?

This five-star hotel with its luxurious 499 rooms is located at 1 Higashiyama-Ku Awada Chika-cho. Perched up a small hill its somewhat secluded location provides a peaceful refuge for travelers while still relatively close to the city’s subway system.The property runs a complimentary shuttle service to the downtown section of Kyoto for visitors who need it.
Also, the hotel is only a ten-minute walk from the Nanzen-Ji Buddist temple dating all the way back to the 13th century.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto light

Fellow Travelers

Though the venue primarily caters to business travelers, it does an excellent job catering to couples and families as well.

Hotel Decor

The hotel’s public areas were decorated in neutral hues with light wooden furnishing giving its lobby and dining halls a classic ‘Old World’ vibe. Plush and ample seating, as well as various spots to work on laptops, helped create a welcoming feel for all travelers.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto bus

Our Suite

We received a complimentary upgrade to a two bedroom suite, which was greatly appreciated.
The views overlooked the nearby gardens, decorated in the Zen style an iconic Japanese tradition. The spacious quarters decorated in muted greens and grays had a full living room area with a velvet plush sofa, two armchairs, two tables along with a flat-screen television. Furthermore, it boasted a separate station with tea and coffee supplies and clean glasses provided.
We thought that the video doorbell at the entrance to the suite was a great safety feature.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto dining

Our bedroom, the parents’ room, boasted a large king sized bed with two nightstands on each side and a modest sitting area with a desk and chair for furnishings. Furthermore, it had a dresser with large drawers with a TV set on top and a separate closet.

Our sons’ room featured two single beds with accompanying nightstands bolted to the wall. This feature was apparently because of all the earthquakes in Japan. Just like in our room, they had a velour lounge chair, a work desk, and a flat-screen TV sitting atop a large chest of drawers.
The only difference between the two rooms was that our sitting area had two live plants as is typical of most Japanese hotel rooms.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto TV

Complimentary kimonos, pajamas, slippers, and bathrobes were provided in each room.

Another important feature of the suite was that each of the room had a separate thermostat prominently displayed on the wall. This feature allowed us to adjust the temperature to suit our tastes and needs.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto bed

Our Bathroom

The suite featured two separate marble tiled bathrooms, one for our sons and one for us parents.

Our bathroom was slightly bigger than our kids’. It included a tan speckled granite countertop vanity, a full tub, and a separate enclosed shower with a handheld showerhead. The room also had a Japanese-style plug-in commode separated by a glass door.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto tub

Our kids’ bathroom had a similar set up with the granite countertop, tub, and separate Japanese-style toilet, as well as a similar shower enclosure.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto plant

Both bathrooms offered top of the line Bulgari amenity kits that included soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. Besides the main amenity kit, the also hotel provided a box that contained some much-needed travel essentials, from toothbrushes and combs to shaving razors. We appreciated the metal baskets in each of the bathrooms where we could place wet towels instead of leaving them lying on the floor.

Executive Lounge

We found the executive lounge in this hotel somewhat lacking.
The actual room was on the small side and had little seating available, which made it quite unpleasant to relax after a day of touring. Moreover, it seemed that the staff only allowed a strict number of appetizers to be sampled each visit, a restriction we had never experienced before.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto sauce


Our Breakfast

While disappointed by the executive lounge, we did find comfort in the lavish daily breakfast buffet, which we considered an excellent value.

A wide variety of fruits, juices, cereals, yogurt, and meats were available. Travelers could help themselves to scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables, or even fish stew from the buffet. Numerous condiments were provided for buffet goers to enhance the various entrees.

We saw separate stations set up for rice, soup, homemade tofu, and dim sum. A basic salad bar was likewise available, and guests could choose from several different dressings. There also was a superb selection of meats, bread, some cheeses,  cakes and various types of jams to accompany them.

Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto food

The only thing that we found uncomfortable was the fact that the breakfast buffet was hugely popular and often too crowded the days we were visiting.


The hotel had a full spa and skin care salon available as well as an indoor and outdoor pool. For the active travelers, there was an outdoor tennis court to practice their swings.
Guests seeking a quieter past time could walk the picturesque 40-minute walking the trail and explore its wild bird sanctuary or find tranquility in the hotel’s three Japanese style gardens.Experience Japanese Hospitality at the Westin Miyako Kyoto tree

Families with little kids will be excited to discover that the hotel provided a small separate room close to the lobby with a play area for the younger kids to enjoy.

The free WiFi available throughout the entire facility was reliable and fast.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • We found the Japanese gardens, as well as the walking trail,  perfect to help kids with autism relax during their stay.
  • Both rooms had tubs with safety bars so that disabled persons will have no trouble entering or exiting the bath.
  • Due to the large size of the suite with multiple doors, parents to kids with autism that wander off should bring stick on alarms to alert them if the main door to the suite is opened.
  • Parents of children with autism that suffer from pica should inform the front desk and request the live plants be taken out for the duration of the stay.
  • Parents should pack night lights to help everybody navigate the room in the dark.
  • It is advisable to bring bath mats for the shower area to prevent kids from slipping.
  • Parents should explain to their children the plug-in Japanese toilets, so they won’t unnecessarily press buttons and break them.

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