Are you planning to visit Osaka and you are trying to figure out what day trips to plan from Osaka? If so, then this guide for the best day trips from Osaka Japan is for you!
About Osaka Japan
Osaka is a popular city to visit in Japan and for a good reason! The city has a vibrant nightlife (especialy in Dotonbori!) with lots of delicious things to try and tons of delicious cheap eats. Not only are there a lot of incredible things to do in Osaka, but the central location makes it an excellent place for day trips in the Kansai region. Aside from the obvious cities like Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nara, the Kansai region has many places to explore.
The great thing about using Osaka as your base is that you don’t need to pack and unpack when visiting different towns and cities. You can use Osaka as your base and travel to many different places in under two hours. Whether you are looking to go to an onsen town or visit mountains, there’s something all within a train ride away.
If you are planning day trips from Osaka, here is a comprehensive list of places for you that will help you with your itinerary!
I noticed after talking to different people that everyone’s Osaka plans are very different, and that’s based on the day trips they chose. I wrote this guide so that you can see all the possible day trips that you can take from Osaka. That way, you can make an informed decision on the best itinerary for you.
Note, this list only covers day trips that you can get to via train. You can find more places to explore in this incredible area if you are driving. If you prefer to sit back, relax and let a tour group handle the logistics, I have suggestions in this blog post as well!
If you are planning on making a lot of day trips from Osaka, it’s a good idea to get the Japan Rail Pass to save money and time when you use the Shinkansen trains.
Where can I go outside of Osaka?
There are many places you can visit in Osaka! This guide will walk you through nine easy day trips to take during your trip. They are:
- Mount Koya
- Naoshima Island
- Kinosaki Onsen
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan Idea #1: Kyoto
Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and holds a lot of historical significance in Japan. The city was initially targeted for the atomic bomb during World War II but later removed because of its rich history.
Now, the city of over 1.5 million people is a favourite tourist destination for travellers from all over the world. From beautiful gardens to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, there is a lot to see and do in Kyoto.
I personally stayed in Kyoto for over a week and recommend spending more time in Kyoto if you can. But, if you are tight on time and you are using Osaka as a base, Kyoto is worth checking out, if only for a day. Those who are travelling on a budget will find that accommodations are cheaper in Osaka compared to Kyoto, so you can save money by staying in Osaka.
Of all the cities I visited while in Japan, Kyoto is the easiest and best place to rent a kimono because of the picturesque scenery and the sheer number of places where you can rent one. I highly recommend you book online in advance instead of walking around like me feeling indecisive about where to book a kimono rental.
Note, it gets very very busy though. Of all the cities I’ve visited in Japan, Kyoto seemed to be the most crowded and touristy.
What to do in Kyoto for a day
- Hike to the top of Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine: This important Shinto shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates. We woke up super early to hike up to the top of the shrine: Definitely worth it because Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine starts to get busy as early as 9 am!
- Visit the Arashiyama Bamboo forest: These bamboo grooves are world famous and are one of the top tourist attractions in Kyoto. Be warned though that it gets very crowded so try to go as early as you can. A rickshaw ride with a tour guide is a great way to see this beautiful site.
- Stroll through the Gion District: See if you can spot a Geisha in this famous district! I tried but did not see any Geishas, unfortunately.
- Visit one of the many temples: Kyoto has many temples, historic buildings, and shrines to visit. The famous sites are the Kinkaku-Ji temple, Ginkaku-Ji temple.
Here are some more ideas if you only have time to spend one day in Kyoto.
Best way to get from Osaka to Kyoto
Osaka Station to Kyoto Station: Head to Osaka station and take the JR Special Rapid Service Line to the Kyoto station. The ride will take about thirty minutes. If you are tight on time, take the Shinkansen bullet train which will take 15 minutes. To see departure times, click here for details.
You should buy your JR Rail Pass before coming to Japan.
Affordable day tours from Osaka to Kyoto
While you can get to Kyoto on your own, you may want to take a day tour from Osaka instead if you are short on time and do not want to worry about the logistics of getting from one place to the next. Here are a few options:
- Kyoto: Full-Day UNESCO and Historical Sites Tour: This full day tour allows you to see all the important historical sites in Kyoto in one day
- Kyoto Temples & Shrines Day Tour from Osaka: If you are a culture lover, you’ll like that this tour focuses mainly on temples and shrines
- Nara and Kyoto 1 Day Bus Tour from Osaka/Kyoto: This tour allows you to kill two stones with one bird and hit Nara at the same time. You get to see two UNESCO world heritage sites and visit the friendly deer at Nara!
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan idea #2: Mount Koya (also known as Koyasan)
If you are looking for a change in scenery and are trying to get away from the bustling cities, Mount Koya is a very tranquil place. Many people do a temple stay to experience the authentic monk lifestyle.
This mountain was first settled in 816 by a monk and was UNESCO designated in 2004. This mountain has a very rich history with beautiful views as it is 800 meters above sea level. A great time to visit Mount Koya is during the autumn when the leaves turn to shades of gold.
The main draw of this place is the graveyard, with over 200,000 monk graves as well as notable figures.
What to do in Mount Koya for the day
- Visit Oku-no-In Temple: Legend has it that the thousands of lanterns for this mausoleum for Kobo Daishi has been lit since his death over 1,000 years ago. Kobo Daishi is a revered person in Japan for founding Shingon Buddhism.
- Hike: There are many different courses on this mountain that you can finish within a few hours. Expect to encounter many lizards and snakes along the way. Once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city and the ocean. Make sure to keep an eye out for the winter as it gets cold and some of the paths are closed.
Best way to get to Mount Koya from Osaka
In Osaka, take the Nankai Railways train from Namba or Shin-Imamiya Station to Gokurakubashi terminal station (80-100 mins). At Gokurakubashi, take the cable car (5 min ride) to travel up the mountain to Koyasan.
Affordable day trips to Mount Koya from Osaka
While you can get to Mount Koya on your own, you may want to take a day tour from Osaka instead. Check out this Mount Koya day trek which has a mix of going at your own pace and a guide. If you are looking to save money, this self-guided tour takes care of your transportation and is a bit cheaper.
Day Trip From Osaka Idea #3: Nara
Nara is the capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture and is known for its friendly deer that walk amongst the beautiful temples. Nara was the old capital of Japan, and for that reason, there are many temples to see and visit.
This city is quite popular with tourists, and you can see why when you meet some of these cute deer. The deer are comfortable around humans and will approach you without reservation. The lovely thing about these animals is that they’ve learned to bow to humans, especially when you have deer senbei (deer food) in hand!
What to do in Nara for the day:
- Chill with one of the 1,200 resident deer in Nara Park! This public park is, and you can easily spend a few hours relaxing and walking around the park.
- Visit Kōfuku-Ji: A beautiful Buddhist temple in Nara.
- Check out Tōdai-Ji temple: This temple contains the largest Buddha statue in the country.
- Visit Kasuga-Taisha Shrine: It is a very well respected Shinto Shrine in Japan.
How do I get from Osaka to Nara Park?
JR Osaka Station to JR Nara Station: The train ride will take 45 minutes. The JR Yamatoji Line runs every hour between the two stations. You buy your JR Rail Pass in advance.
Is Nara Park closer to Osaka or Kyoto?
If you happen to also be staying in Kyoto and you’re not sure when to go to Nara, you’ll be happy to know that Nara is closer to Osaka than it is to Kyoto!
Affordable day tours from Osaka to Nara
While you can get to Nara on your own, you may want to take a tour from Osaka instead. Tours come in handy if you are short on time and do not want to worry about the logistics of getting from one place to the next. Here are a few options:
- Nara Afternoon Tour from Osaka: This tour is great if you want to only visit Nara. This half-day trip frees up your morning and evening so that you can spend more time in Osaka.
- Arashiyama & Nara Park Day Tour from Osaka: Visiting the quaint Arashiyama on the same day as your visit to Nara is great if you don’t want to get “deered-out” if chilling with deer isn’t your top priority.
- Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Bus Tour from Osaka/Kyoto: This day tour allows you to hit Nara and Kyoto on the same day. You get to see two UNESCO world heritage sites and visit the friendly deer at Nara!
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan Idea #4: Kobe
Kobe is one of the ten largest cities in Japan and was one of the first ports that opened for trade during the 19th century. You may have heard of this cosmopolitan city for the world-famous Kobe beef.
But there’s more to the city than eating Kobe beef. Kobe is a great place for sightseeing, as it has a lively waterfront and other places to visit in the area. Kobe is not too big, and you can explore the city on foot since the attractions are close to each other. The city becomes alive at night, with views known to be some of the best in Japan.
What to do in Kobe for a day
- Eat Kobe Beef at one of the many teppanyaki restaurants: This Wagyu beef is world famous for its signature marbled beef. The cattle that provides this beef follow strict rules and traditions. You can try this set meal from Beef Eikichi in Kobe.
- Take the Shin-Kobe Ropeway to see the Nunobiki Waterfall and Nunobiki Herb Garden: You will find beautiful panoramic views of the city. There’s a lot of restaurants and shops at the top to check out as well.
- Visit Nankinmachi: This Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in the Kansai region and dates back to 1868. Kobe’s Chinatown is a great place to see shops, restaurants, and food stands with lots of excellent street food to try.
- Stroll along Kobe Meriken Park: This waterfront park sits on reclaimed land and has some of the city’s iconic architecture. The park was damaged during the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and had a small memorial to commemorate the victims.
Best way to get to Kobe from Osaka
Osaka station to Sannomiya Station in Kobe: You can take the Special Rapid Service, making the trip just 20 minutes away from Osaka.
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan Idea #5: Hiroshima
Hiroshima is a must-visit, and for very good reason. This city was hit with the atomic bomb during World War II and is a reminder of the tragedy that comes with war. Be prepared for the somber visit with tearful eyes as you pay respect to the lives lost from this tragic event.
What to do in Hiroshima for a day
- Walk around the Peace Memorial Park: This park commemorates the lost lives from this terrible event. Make sure also to visit the Children’s Peace Monument in the park, which commemorates Sadako Sasaki and the child victims of the atomic bombing.
- Visit the A-Bomb Dome: This dome is a powerful reminder of the tragedies of war. You will most likely come across volunteers who will answer questions. Some of these volunteers are survivors of the atomic bombing. There are also binders in many different languages that you can pick up and read in front of the A-Bomb Dome.
- See the Hiroshima Castle: This castle was reconstructed to reflect the original fortress from the 16th-century. Many cherry blossom trees surround the castle.
- Visit the Peace Memorial Museum: This museum will bring tears to your eyes as you read painful stories of the lives lost from the atomic bomb. It is a powerful reminder that the world does not need nuclear weapons
Eat okonomiyaki pancakes: While you can try okonomiyaki in Osaka, Hiroshima cooks it differently. The restaurants in Hiroshima cook the cabbage on top of the batter instead of backing it into the mixture.
How do I get from Osaka to Hiroshima?
Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station by JR Sanyo Shinkansen: The trip will take about 80 minutes for one way.
Affordable day tours to Hiroshima from Osaka
If you are looking to visit Miyajima on the same day as your visit to Hiroshima (read more about this beautiful destination below), you might want to do a day tour to maximize your time in these two places. Be prepared for early days but it will be worth it! This Hiroshima & Miyajima group day tour allows you to book your tour with or without lunch. Also, this Hiroshima & Miyajima UNESCO Tour is very similar but worth using to check for the best price on your departure date.
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan Idea #6: Miyajima
Miyajima is one of the top three scenic spots in Japan and is a must-do! In fact, this island was the highlight of my Japan trip during our year of travel! This island is called the Islands of Gods on the Seto Inland Sea, and once you visit this place, you’ll understand why. The island is an excellent getaway with tons of hiking trails. It’s famous for the red floating Torii gate in the Hiroshima Bay and its friendly deer. It is a very magical place and one of my favourite things to do in Japan.
I highly recommend spending a day in Miyajima or even staying overnight. If you are tight on time, you can spend the day in Hiroshima and catch the sunset in Miyajima or arrive at 2 pm.
What to do in Miyajima for a day
- See the Great Torii Gate: Seeing the Itsukushima shrine is a great place for sunset. This gate acts as a gate between the spirit and the human world. During high tide, the gate looks like it is floating in the Hiroshima Bay. If you wait until sunset, the water, and you can walk right up to the Great Torii gate.
- Chill with the adorable deer on the island: Nara park isn’t the only place where you can make friends with cute deer. These deer are easier to make friends with as they are more chill than the ones in Nara Park.
- Hike up to Mount Misen: you can have lunch once you’re at the top of the mountain. You can also use the ropeway if hiking isn’t your thing.
- Dress up in a kimono and participate in a tea ceremony: If you plan on spending the day in Miyajima, consider doing this fun tea ceremony where you also get to learn how to do Japanese calligraphy. The whole duration takes less than two hours, so it makes for a good break between seeing the Great Torii Gate during high tide and low tide.
Best way to get to Miyajima from Osaka
Take the bullet train from Osaka. Leaving from Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station will take you 1.5 hours.
Once you arrive at Hiroshima, take the local train to Miyajimaguchi Station for 25 minutes. From there, it is a short walk to the ferry pier, from where 10-minute ride ferries frequently depart for Miyajima.
Affordable day tours to Miyajima from Osaka
There are no direct tours to visit only Miyajima from Osaka as it’s often combined with Hiroshima. If you are tight on time and want to visit both destinations, consider these two tours to help you with your logistics. ThisHiroshima & Miyajima group day tour allows you to book your tour with or without lunch. This Hiroshima & Miyajima UNESCO Tour is very similar but worth using to check for the best price on your departure date.
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan Idea #7: Himeji
Himeji city is famous for its white Himeji Castle for its beautiful and white architecture. The castle is a UNESCO world heritage site and known as Japan’s national treasure. The most popular time to visit Himeji Castle is during the cherry blossom season.
Watch this video to see the beauty of Himeji castle.
There are over 80 buildings across the ground, and it is free to explore up to the third bailey.
It is worth combining with another side trip from Osaka if you only want to see Himeji castle. You can try visiting Himeji castle in the daytime and visit Kobe at night, although it will be a tight schedule.
What to do in Himeji for a day:
- Visit the beautiful Himeji Castle: This castle is one of the few originals left from Japan’s feudal period. That’s the only thing to see and do here.
- Check out the famous Koko-en garden: It’s right next to the castle and can quickly be done within 30 minutes if you are not stopping for breaks.
- Walk up Mount Shosha: If you have a few extra hours, you can walk up and down the hill within a few hours. Or, you can take the ropeway to the top. Interesting fact: The Last Samurai was filmed here!
How do I get from Osaka to Himeji?
Osaka Station to Himeji station: Use your JR Rail Pass and take the JR Special Rapid train to arrive at the JR Himeji station. The trip will take about one hour each way.
Affordable day trips to Himeji from Osaka
This Himeji Castle and Akashi Kaikyo Bridge tour takes care of your logistics so you can sit back and relax. This tour also includes lunch.
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan Idea #8: Naoshima Island
Naoshima Island was once an industrial site before its transformation into a modern and contemporary art island. If you’ve seen those famous photos of a giant polka dot pumpkin by the seaside, then it is likely from this island. This remote island is full of artwork, art museums, unique architecture, and sculptures.
It’s not as easy to get to compared to other locations since you have to catch a train and ferry to get to this island.
What to do in Naoshima Island for a day:
- Wander the streets and coastline: You’ll see many beautiful sculptures and murals. The best one is the Art House project where abandoned homes and temples are now public art installations. There are interesting structures like giant-sized white grapes for you to park your bikes.
- Visit the Chichu museum: Designed by Tadao Ando, this art museum is considered the world’s best museum. The unique composition of architecture and art makes it a popular attraction, so expect lineups.
- Unwind at the I Love Yu Bathhouse: This bathhouse is located near the port and is a great way to unwind after spending the day walking around town. What makes this onsen different from the rest is that the bathhouse represents art itself.
How do you get to Naoshima Island from Osaka?
Take the Shinkansen from Osaka to the Okayama station (45mins). From there, take the JR Uno Line to Uno Station (45-60 minutes). Once you get off Uno Station, take the ferry from the terminal across the street to get to the island.
Best Day Trip From Osaka Japan Idea #9: Kinosaki Onsen
Kinosaki Onsen is a charming onsen town where you can walk around and visit the different public bathhouses. This town was founded back in the 8th century, so there is a lot of history as you walk around the town. What I love most about this town is that everything is so quaint and picturesque and everyone is wearing a yukata around the town.
Unlike other onsen towns where it is mostly concrete, Kinosaki Onsen has photogenic bridges and lots of narrow streets to explore.
The travel time is almost three hours from Osaka, so I recommend staying overnight if possible. However, a day trip to Kinosaki Onsen is still possible.
What to do for a day in Kinosaki Onsen
- Relax in the public bathhouses: You can buy a day pass to visit any of the public onsens. There are quite a few in the town.
- Shop along the small streets: There are great souvenir shops and of course, food to snack on along the way.
- Take photos around the town in a yukata and geta: With willow trees and old buildings lining the banks, this town is excellent for taking pictures.
Best way to get to Kinosaki Onsen from Osaka
Osaka station to Kinosaki Station: Take the JR limited express train, and it takes almost three hours one way.
Other great day trips from Osaka
Of course, this list is not exhaustive and there are plenty of other great places to visit when you use Osaka as your base:
- Iga: This place is known as the home of the ninja!
- Nagoya: Here’s a great post that covers all the different things you can do in Nagoya
As well, there are other great locations to visit too, such as the Awaji Islands, the Arima Onsen Town, Wakayama City, Tokushima City, and Takeda Castle Ruins
There are plenty of day trips that you can take from Osaka, making this city a great base to explore the area without having to move between hotels. Whether it’s chilling with deer or spending time in nature, you can experience it all by staying in Osaka.
Osaka vacation checklist
- Book your hotel
- Buy a Japan SIM card online
- Or rent unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Book travel insurance!
- Buy the Japan Rail Pass
- Consider buying the ICOCA card in Osaka (it’s like the Octopus card in Hong Kong)
- Buy the JR Pass to save money and time