So you’re planning to do some day trips from Osaka? Great! It’s the best city to base yourself in the Kansai region and further afield 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 and is known as the “nations kitchen”.
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 then 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, but not by much.
The main stations that you will find in Osaka 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 timetables.
Trains are definitely the best transport option to use.
There is rough transport advice for the specific day trip in the day trip mentioned.
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.
The Best Day Trips From Osaka
1 – Kyoto Day Trip From Osaka
Pretty much a non-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.
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, have a night walk in Kyotos geisha district, or have a 5 hour walking tour of Kyoto to get to know places with an English speaking guide.
2 – 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 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. You can join a tour of Nara and Kyoto if you want to have a guide and maybe are more short on time.
3 – 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. You can read more about the day trip to Koyasan here.
4 – Himeji Castle Day Trip From Osaka
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.
5 – Kobe Day Trip From Osaka
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.
6 – 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 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).
7 – 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 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.
8 – 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 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.
9 – 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 to tempting not to go cycling 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.
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.
10 – 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 thee best Japanese landscape gardens in the country.
11 – Kurashiki Day Trip From Osaka
Kurashiki is a popular place for Japanese tourists, who tend to outnumber the 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.
12 – 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.
13 – Universal Studios Japan Day Trip From Osaka
Not sure whether to add Universal Studios Japan onto the list, simply due to it not being a unique Japanese experience, but in the end it’s nearby Osaka and is very popular and recommended from other travellers, so on the list it goes.
There are some Japanese orientated things having said that, especially involving around Japanese anime.
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. If you want to make things easy you can book a ticket with round trip transportation from your hotel and skip the lines.
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.
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.
I’m sure you will have a great time in Osaka and all the great things to do around there on day trips!
Useful Japan links:
If you want to have mobile internet for your phone when in Japan then consider getting a unlimited pocket wi-fi router for Japan. It’s very convenient to have.
Pick up the Lonely Planet Pocket Kyoto & Osaka (Travel Guide) for your trip.
Be sure to take some travel insurance before going as Japan is an expensive place for medical treatment if something goes wrong. I use World Nomads Travel Insurance.
A friend Patrick, who is a regular visitor to Japan and an expert on the country, contributed the Kobe and Himeji sections.
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The Best Day Trips From Osaka