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.







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Margalit Sturm Francus
A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Margalit Sturm Francus

Margalit Sturm Francus

A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook

One thought on “Five Sensory Activities for Families in Kyoto

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