So you’re planning to do some day trips from Osaka? Great! It’s the best city to base yourself in the Kansai region for just that.
I have spent several months travelling in Japan (as of writing this) and several weeks of that was in Osaka. It’s the perfect city for Japan, location wise, budget wise, fun wise and more.
What it lacks in tourist attractions it makes up for with it’s vibe and easy access to other places.
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.
If you plan on doing lots of day trips it’s best to get a Japan Rail Pass (you can get one with that link) to save you money. Then you can use the shinkansen trains where available as they are quicker, especially when going to further places.
If you don’t have the Japan Rail Pass for day trips from Osaka then use the Special Rapid Service trains that are cheaper, but take longer.
I’ve done separate posts for some of these trips which I have linked into that give a more in-depth look at the destination.
This is what I recommend to do for day trips from Osaka.
The Best Day Trips From Osaka
Nara Day Trip
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 it’s peaceful parks full of roaming friendly deer.
Another reason to visit for the more adventurous is an abandoned theme park that you can visit (at the time of writing). Please notify in the comments if this has changed.
Nara is an essential day trip for history lovers.
Koyasan Day Trip
One of the most peaceful and ethereal places I have visited in all of Japan. There’s a large temple complex to visit but the main draw is it’s 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. You can read more about the day trip to Koyasan here.
Kyoto Day Trip
Pretty much a non-brainer. If you’re basing yourself in Osaka to explore the region then at least a 1 day trip from Osaka to Kyoto must be done.
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.
See what you can do in a day in Kyoto in this post.
Himeji Castle Day Trip
Himeji is mainly known for it’s 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 it’s 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 on the way back to Osaka but it would be a rush.
A shinkansen take 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
Kobe is just 25 minutes by train from Osaka so it serves as an excellent day trip.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 center 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 beautifully 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 Day Trip (With Naoshima Below)
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 itself doesn’t have to much to do so you only need to spend a few hours there. The main reason for stopping is to see it’s 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
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 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.
Hiroshima and Miyajima Day Trip
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 Holocaust Memorial Museum.
But it’s also good to see the new city today and there’s 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 is 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.
Cycling From Osaka to Nara
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.
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.
Take the train from Nara back to Osaka at the end of the day. Here’s a post I did about cycling from Osaka to Nara.
The Best 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.
I recommend taking the Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) for your trip.
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.
A friend of mine Patrick who is an expert on travels in Japan contributed the Kobe and Himeji castle recommendations.
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The Best Day Trips From Osaka
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