Osaka is the best city to base yourself in Kansai, in my opinion, to explore other places in the area and here I’ll explain the best day trips from Osaka you can do having lived in the area for several weeks.
Osaka is known as the “nations kitchen” and some of the best Japanese food can be found there and it’s the second-largest city in Japan.
Although Osaka doesn’t have the big draw of the temples in nearby Kyoto, it certainly has plenty of things to see and do in itself.
The Osaka Castle, many museums, and the busy district of Dotonbori which is best seen at night, amongst many others.
Another great thing about Osaka for travellers is that many budget airlines from all over Southeast-Asia use it as their base. So it can be an excellent alternative to Tokyo for flying into the country.
This post is to give you some advice from my own experiences of staying in Osaka and doing day trips from there.
Transportation for day trips from Osaka
If you plan on doing lots of day trips from Osaka by train (the best way) and travelling to other areas of Japan further away like Tokyo then it’s best to get a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) to save money on train travel.
Then you can use the Shinkansen trains where available as they are quicker, especially when going to further places such as Hiroshima.
If you don’t have the Japan Rail Pass for day trips from Osaka then use the Special Rapid Service trains that are cheaper than the Shinkansen, but take longer.
Another good option is to get a Kansai Thru Pass if you don’t plan to travel further away like to Hiroshima.
The pass will allow you unlimited travel on transport and travel to places like Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and also to the international Kansai Airport.
The main Osaka train stations for getting your transport for day trips are Umeda, Namba, Shinsaibashi, and Yodoyabashi, and maybe some others depending on where you go.
This is the website for the West Japan Railway Company to check the timetables for the trains.
Trains are definitely the best transport option to use.
There is rough transport advice for the specific day trip in the day trip mentioned.
Osaka travel tip: get a Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass (1 Day/2 Days, Kyoto Pick Up) which will help you a lot with getting around and sightseeing in Osaka and Kyoto,
I’ve done separate posts for some of these trips which I have linked to that give a more in-depth look at the destination.
Also, there are some external links to other travel sites for more info on places.
You will also find links to useful Japan travel recommendations and tours associated with some of the destinations.
This is what I recommend to do for day trips from Osaka.
They’re in no particular order as one thing will appeal more to you than maybe another.
Although Kyoto is number one as that’s what I regard as an essential day trip or even two or three days.
Note: This post contains affiliate links to help you plan your trip with site seeing tickets etc and are covered in my disclaimer.
Kyoto Day Trip From Osaka
Pretty much a no-brainer. If you’re basing yourself in Osaka to explore the region then at least a day trip from Osaka to Kyoto must be done.
Of all the day trips from Osaka if there was only one to do then this would probably be it.
It’s the cultural capital of Japan.
This is the ultimate place to see temples, traditional Japanese gardens, the geisha district, and so much more.
There is a shinkansen train to Kyoto from Osaka that only takes 15 minutes but is 3 times more expensive than the special rapid service which takes 25 minutes and only costs 560 yen.
The other day trips in this post make for some of the best places to visit near Kyoto if you plan to base yourself there instead of Osaka.
See what you can do in a day in Kyoto in this post.
Kyoto tours from Osaka like mentioned are easy to do.
You can join small tours to see things such as –
A Kyoto tea ceremony (recommended)
A 5-hour walking tour of Kyoto to get to know places with an English speaking guide.
Nara Day Trip From Osaka
Nara is an easy local train journey from Osaka and takes around half an hour to reach. It costs an average of 740 yen each way depending on the time of day.
Nara was the old capital of Japan and as such has many temples to see.
It’s the main reason to visit Nara on a day trip. Plan at least 4 hours to explore the old temple area and its peaceful parks full of roaming friendly deer.
If you’re lucky and in Nara, in mid-December, you can see the Nara Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri Festival which lasts for 4 days and is Japans oldest cultural arts festival.
Nara is an essential day trip for history lovers.
Koyasan Day Trip From Osaka
One of the most peaceful and ethereal places I have visited in all of Japan. Located near Mount Koya there’s a large temple complex to visit but the main draw is its graveyard.
The graveyard is home to over 200,000 monks grave as well as warlords and important figures.
It really is a serene place to be in and if you stay until it gets dark it gets very eerie.
Koyasan is set up in the mountains and is a one and a half hours train ride away which slowly winds up through the hills. The last train back is 21.30 at night.
Himeji Castle Day Trip From Osaka
Himeji is mainly known for its castle and for a good reason.
This castle is one of the biggest and best-preserved castles in Japan. The castle grounds are fascinating with a labyrinth of paths and alleys but the castle keep is the best part.
It’s kept in its original state with low ceilings and narrow stairways.
The woodwork is spectacular and extremely well preserved. Make sure to arrive early in the day as the castle becomes crowded with tourists very quickly.
The castle grounds are also a great spot for watching cherry blossoms.
Himeji castle is easy to find as it is clearly visible from the station entrance. It will take around one hour and forty-five minutes to reach there by train.
You could squeeze in Himeji castle in the morning with an afternoon/evening in Kobe (see below) on the way back to Osaka to get both done on the same day. They are not that far from each other.
A shinkansen takes around 35 minutes to get to Himeji and roughly an hour by local train. You can walk to Himeji Castle from the station.
Kobe Day Trip From Osaka
Kobe is just 25 minutes by train from Osaka so it serves as an excellent day trip and there are plenty of things to do in Kobe.
The city is a nice mix of newly developed areas that were built after the earthquake of 1995 and old districts like Nankinmachi.
Nankinmachi or Chinatown is a collection of small streets and alleys lined with restaurants, food stalls and shops.
There is a small plaza in the centre where you can find people playing Go.
If you are looking for a more quiet and tranquil attraction, Sorakuen garden might be a good choice. This is a typical Japanese garden with several ponds, a boathouse and some nice walking paths.
The garden is located in downtown Kobe but has some beautiful scenic spots which is why you’ll have a good chance of seeing newlywed having their wedding photos taken there.
Of course, a visit to Kobe would not be complete without enjoying a good Kobe beef steak or Wagyu as it is locally known. Exceptionally tender and juicy meat.
Not cheap, expect to pay around 50 to 60 euro for an average-sized steak, but worth it if you like a good piece of meat.
You’ll find plenty of wagyu restaurants around Kobe and Sannomiya stations.
The shinkansen train only takes around 15 minutes to reach Kobe but like Kyoto, you can take the normal special rapid service for less than half the price at 640 yen and only takes 15 minutes longer.
Okayama (With Naoshima Below) Day Trip
This is a long day trip so start very early. If you are using the shinkansen trains then this will help you a lot for this one.
Okayama has some things to do with one of the main reasons for stopping being to see its large Japanese garden, the Korakuen Garden, which is one of the three best landscape gardens in Japan.
Okayama Castle is near the garden and worth a look as well.
But Okayama is the gateway down to Naoshima Island and the two work perfectly together for a combined long day trip from Osaka.
It takes around one hour on a shinkansen to reach Okayama from Osaka costing around 5,500 yen, or two and a half hours by regular train (but almost half the price).
Naoshima Island Day Trip From Osaka
This day trip should be done with Okayama.
Naoshima Island(known as Japan’s art island) is a funky little place covered in random outdoor art sculptures everywhere. The Art House and museum on the east coast is a must-see.
The best way to see it is by bicycle costing 500 yen a day to rent. There are also buses that go around, but a bicycle is way more fun.
You will want to concentrate on the southern part the most and it’s not a huge island.
Allow several hours so you don’t need to rush.
You’ll discover little art cafes scattered around to stop in for a drink as you go. It’s a very relaxed place.
Take the local JR line train from Okayama to Uno Station, you might have to transfer trains on the way (takes around maybe 2 hours).
Then go to the ferry terminal a few minutes walk away. It takes 20 minutes by boat to reach Naoshima. There are 2 ferry terminals on the island, most people (including myself) arrive at the port on the west side.
This is my article on Naoshima Island Art.
Hiroshima and Miyajima Day Trip From Osaka
Hiroshima and Miyajima Island can be done as a day trip from Osaka but I personally wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re rushed for time.
It’s best to spend the night in Hiroshima or a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) on Miyajima.
I’m only mentioning this here as I’ve been asked about this as a day trip a bunch of times.
Hiroshima makes a more solemn visit as the main reason to go is to see the peace park and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
But it’s also good to see the new city today and there are also some great food options to try. Make sure to track down a good okonomiyaki place (Hiroshima is famous for it, as well as Osaka). It’s considered Japanese soul food.
Miyajima Island is fun to explore. You can hike to it’s highest point or take a cable car up there for the views, and there are the old temples and shrines to see.
You would really need to use the shinkansen trains for this trip, time-wise. It takes around one and a half hours on the fastest shinkansen each way.
To get to Miyajima-guchi from Hiroshima there is a local train every 15 minutes from the same train station and takes around 30 minutes. Get out on the 9th stop.
From there, there are 2 ferries that leave for the island. One is a JR ferry so take that one if you have a JR pass. The boats run every 15 minutes and take 10 minutes.
This is my post on the day trip from Osaka to Hiroshima and Miyajima.
You can also take a recommended group day tour from Osaka to Hiroshima and Miyajima.
Cycling From Osaka to Nara Day Trip
Believe it or not, this is not only one of my favourite day trips from Osaka, but also one of my favourite experiences in Japan.
Cycling Osaka itself is how I got around in my one month living there, and it was too tempting not to go cycling from Osaka to Nara!
First of all the going is tough in parts as you will be going along Japans steepest highway, but what goes up must come down, and it’s a lot of fun riding down.
On the way, you will pass rural villages, remote shrines, rice paddy fields, and a bamboo grove with mini-shrines with almost no-one there at all, unlike the busy one in Kyoto.
It will take you all day and will be a workout in parts but it’s so rewarding, if anything because you get away from the main touristed places.
Be aware though that it is hard work so if you are out of shape, or with young children, then this is probably not the best choice for you.
Take the train from Nara to Osaka at the end of the day. Here’s a post I did about cycling from Osaka to Nara.
Kanazawa Day Trip From Osaka
This is a long day trip as it’s not close to Osaka.
It takes around 3 hours by train from Yodoyabashia station so you would need an early start.
In the Edo Period of Japan Kanazawa was a town as powerful, if not more so than Kyoto and Tokyo and survived World War 2 with being destroyed.
Therefore it has many old buildings to see such as the castle area, the Higashi Chaya District with its teahouses and geisha, and more.
The main attraction though is the Kenrokuen Gardens, known as one of, if not the best Japanese landscape gardens in the country.
Kurashiki Day Trip From Osaka
Kurashiki is a popular place for Japanese tourists, who tend to outnumber foreigners. It’s a very chilled place with an old canal that runs through the centre.
This is a great place for some culture as a day trip from Osaka. Old wooden buildings line the streets and it has a great ambience of the Edo Period of Japan.
A Shinkansen train will take around one hour to get there from Osaka.
Nagoya Day Trip From Osaka
This is a great day trip from Osaka if you’re especially interested in the more modern technological things in Japan.
You can do a 2-hour tour of Toyota Motor Corporations main factory, or take a look at the JR Scmaglev and railway park where the worlds fastest train resides.
If you want the more cultural things then there is Nagoya Castle, and one of the most respected Shinto shrines in Japan. Add on to that the open-air Meiji era (1868 – 1912) museum with its outdoor exhibits, and it’s worth your time.
Just be aware that some of those places are not in the centre of Nagoya and would take an extra 20 minutes to an hour or so to get to.
Nagoya is around 1 hour from Osaka by shinkansen and costs around 6500 yen. Or take the local JR trains for around 4000 but taking around 2 and a half hours.
Skip this day trip for others though if you want more Japanese culture day trips such as Nara, Koyasan as at the end of the day it is a modern city.
Universal Studios Japan Day Trip From Osaka
I wasn’t sure whether to add Universal Studios Japan onto the list simply due to it not being a uniquely Japanese experience, but it’s nearby Osaka and is very popular and recommended from other travellers, and if travelling with children makes a good choice.
There are some Japanese orientated things having said that, especially involving around Japanese animation.
The Universal Studios Japan opening hours are usually around 8.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. until 7 – 9 p.m. It depends sometimes if there are special holidays on.
You can take a direct train from Osaka station that takes around 10-15 minutes to get there.
Miyama Village and Amanohashidate Day Trip From Osaka
Miyama Village is just north of Kyoto and is the quintessential rural village experience of Japan.
Nestled in the mountains it has a very chilled out atmosphere and is the perfect escape from the cities.
the main reason for visiting is to see the rural life of Japan. There is a folk museum worth visiting as well.
Add on an onward trip to Amanohashidate which is known as ‘one of Japans 3 scenic views’ where a sandbar covered in pine trees spans across the bay where you can also take boats out to see it from the sea.
There are some temples and shrines scattered around as well.
You can do this trip with public transport if you leave early otherwise a highly recommended tour to take is this one:
Kumano Kodo Day Trip From Osaka (To Nachi Taisha Shrine)
The Kumano Kodo is a bunch of hiking trails that are old pilgrimage routes still used today.
You can see some of the ’Three Grand Shrines’ of Kumano in the area if you have more time, but realistically the Kumano Kodo should be done for multiple days to experience the area properly.
Having said that to get a feel for the peaceful and serene place you can visit one of the Three Grand Shrines, the Nachi Taisha Shrine, on a day trip.
It’s one of the best shrines to photograph in all of Japan and has a waterfall nearby.
Lake Biwa Day Trip From Osaka
Ok, a lake doesn’t sound super exciting compared with some of the other day trips from Osaka on the list, but this is Japans largest freshwater lake.
It will take you around 40-50 minutes on a fast Shinkansen train.
At Chikubushima Island in the north of the lake, you can see old shrines and temples dating back over millennia which can be reached by a local ferry.
You can get active and cycle around the lake itself or take it easy on a boat, or on one of the beaches.
There’s also a 17th-century castle to see(Hikone Castle)
Good option if you feel like having a relaxing day on the lake with some history thrown in.
Awaji Island Day Trip From Osaka
Awaji Island is home to the largest suspension bridge in the world, over 4km long, that connects Kobe and Awaji which is worth seeing in itself, but there is much more than that.
Sumoto City is the biggest city there and you can see Sumoto Castle and other historical sites, so it’s not just about the suspension bridge.
Given its location not so far from Osaka, it makes for a good day trip from Osaka.
I won’t say ‘best day trip’ for this post as I would choose some of the others over this first.
But it’s a good option if you have more time and this is your kind of thing.
You can’t reach it by train so you will have to take a bus from Kobe, or if you have your own car drive there.
Day Trips From Osaka
So that’s just a glimpse into some of the things to do on day trips from Osaka.
There are many other places to see but I would recommend those for longer than just a day trip. The ones mentioned here are generally the best and most popular day trips from Osaka.
Of course, all these day trips can be done from Kyoto as well if you use that as a base instead and you will end up doing an Osaka day trip from Kyoto.
I’m sure you will have a great time in Osaka and on your Osaka Kyoto trip.
Useful Osaka Links
Take a Japan Rail Pass to save money on train travel for the fast Shinkansen trains which would be essential for some of these day trips, such as the Hiroshima one.
Get a Japan Rail Pass here for travelling in Japan by train (the best way).
Also if coming from Tokyo to Osaka for example and back again, or continuing onwards to Hiroshima, then the Japan Rail Pass will definitely help.
While in Osaka take a look at what I recommend for the best things to do in Osaka.
If you’re wondering whether to stay in Osaka or Kyoto as a base to explore the area then have a read of my post on why I think Osaka is a better city to stay than Kyoto.
My post where I compare Tokyo and Osaka.
A friend Patrick, who is a regular visitor to Japan and an expert on the country, contributed the Kobe and Himeji sections.
If you liked this article about the best day trips from Osaka a share would be appreciated!