The most wonderful day trips from Osaka

Osaka in the Kansai region of Japan is famous for being the nation’s kitchen and a grittier, quirkier city to visit than the country’s pristine capital of Tokyo. Osaka is a wonderful destination in itself, particularly if you’re travelling to Osaka with a toddler or kids. Another benefit of basing yourself here for your time in Kansai is that there are so many fabulous day trips from Osaka that you can take by train – without having to lug baggage around every couple of days.

Whilst some of these locations certainly deserve a longer stay, if you’re short on time then it may be worthwhile basing yourself in Osaka and exploring the surrounds by rail during the days.

Where to stay in Osaka

I love staying in the Namba area of Osaka, right near Dotonbori. There’s fabulous food, never ending shops and markets and it is the perfect mix of zany, gritty and fun. we stayed at the Swissotel Nankai Osaka which honestly was near-flawless with stunning views of the city.

It is also located atop Namba station so access to both the railway and the Osaka Metro was a very easy walk. I absolutely recommend staying here – it’s the best hotel I’ve stayed at in my three visits to the city and the proximity to the station makes day trips from Osaka so easy!

How to catch Japanese trains

All of these day trips from Osaka require you to take the train. Honestly, that’s part of the fun as the Japanese rail system is incredibly efficient and reliable. And fortunately, once you’ve done it once or twice, buying tickets from the automated machines is pretty straightforward.

Is it worth getting a JR Rail Pass?

All of these recommended day trips can be done using the JR Rail Pass with the exception of the Arima Onsen Town which is best accessed by direct bus from Osaka. The buses for this trip are not covered by the JR Rail Pass.

If you were to do all of these recommended day trips from Osaka, plus use your JR Pass on the Osaka Loop Line as well as use the JR Pass to travel to Kansai Airport or get the Shinkansen to/from Tokyo or other Japanese cities then you may find you are able to save some money by buying the pass. Alternatively, you can just purchase individual tickets for each journey.

I’ve done Japan both with and without the JR Pass and can definitely vouch for its convenience, though the price has gone up quite a bit in recent years making it a bit more borderline in regard to savings. The JR team have a handy calculator on their site which allows you to check how much (if anything) you’ll save from purchasing the pass vs individual tickets.

The best day trips from Osaka

Day trips less than one hour from Osaka


Whilst Japan’s historic heart Kyoto is worthy of much more than a day trip, it is absolutely possible to get a little taste of this picturesque city’s delights on one of the best day trips from Osaka. A trip on the Shinkansen (bullet train) will take a mere 15 minutes, making this a very easy trip. Alternatively, if you’d like a longer Kyoto itinerary then check out my post on how to spend three days in Kyoto.

Kyoto is bursting at the seams with temples and shrines to visit and whilst you will not be able to see everything in a day, there are a few activities near the town centre that I would recommend whilst you are there.

The Gion District is where you’ll want to start exploring when you arrive in Kyoto and once you’ve wandered the pretty cobblestoned streets to get your bearings, head to the Yasaka Shrine to see local Japanese in traditional dress coming to worship.

Other notable spots to visit all within easy walking distance from Gion and Higashiyama is the tranquil Philospher’s Path, the Silver Pavilion of Ginkaku-ji, the Buddhist Temple of Kodai-ji and the famous temple of Kiyomizu-dera.

If you have time to spare in the evening before heading back to Osaka, then definitely stroll the small alley of Ponto-cho to indulge in some Japanese bar hopping. If you’re lucky, you might spot a geisha – part of the magic of Kyoto.

Time to Kyoto from Osaka: 15 mins by Shinkansen (bullet train)

The beautiful gardens of Yasaka Shrine in winter


Nara is a fabulous day trip from Osaka and whilst there’s plenty to do in this Japanese town to warrant a longer stay, the main tourist drawcards can be seen in a day. The town is most famous for the Nara Deer Park where wild-roaming deer get very friendly with visitors who can feed them.

Right near the deer park is the town’s other most famous sight, the Todai Ji temple. This revered temple contains a 15 metre high statue of Buddha Birushana and is certainly a worthwhile stop on your visit to Nara.

A short walk away from the Deer Park is the Isuien Garden and Neiraku Museum. The beautiful Isuien Garden is a really stunning traditional Japanese Garden that is often slightly removed from the crowds thronging to feed a deer and see the Buddha. The small Neiraku Museum displays many artefacts such as Japanese tea ceremony tools – it won’t take you long to go through and have a look.

Naramachi is also a worthwhile stop on your Nara day trip from Osaka. This picturesque part of town is full of artisinal shops, craft stores and traditional Japanese accommodation called Ryokan.

Finally, if you can squeeze it in, explore the World Heritage listed temples of Nishinokyo and the incredible site of the Heijokyu Imperial Palace.

Time to Nara from Osaka: 55 mins by local train

Day trips from Osaka
A free-roaming deer in Nara Deer Park. Image: CANVA


Kobe is a wonderfully easy day trip from Osaka and a worthwhile stop for foodies given it is the home of the famous Kobe beef. Kobe is a port city and Japan’s seventh largest urban region overall. It is scenic and friendly and a little further off the beaten path, so there’s less crowding from tourists.

When you arrive in Kobe, experience wonderful views of the city by taking the unique and quaint Rokko cable car up Rokko Mountain. You’ll be able to see Osaka Bay and Kobe down below. A return ticket will cost around 1100 JPY per adult and is well worth the price.

It would surely be criminal to visit the home of Kobe beef without sampling some of the country’s famous export. Try Kobe Beef Yamato for a reasonably priced and delicious way to taste the region’s most revered wagyu.

If you’re a sake lover, or just curious about Japan’s national drink then Kobe has a treat in store for you. The Nada district of the city is famous for its sake and there are many breweries in the area for you to go tasting. In addition to tastings, there are a few museums in the area which explain Kobe’s rich history producing sake.

Finally, the Earthquake Museum that memorialises and educates on the imapcts of the devastating 1995 earthquake on the city is a stop you should make. The earthquake of 1995 killed 5000 people and almost levelled the city. Today this museum is a reminder of the imprtance of disaster prevention plans and a reminder of all the lives lost to this destructive event. Admission is around 600 JPY.

Time to Kobe from Osaka: 30 mins by Shinkansen, 40 mins by Hanshin Electric Railway

Day trips from Osaka
Kobe is one of Japan’s prettiest cities (Image: CANVA)

Day trips less than 1.5 hours from Osaka

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Just a little way further out of Kyoto city, the most famous bamboo forest in the world awaits you in Arashiyama. I’ve separated this day trip from Osaka from going to Kyoto city as it is not possible to do both Kyoto and Aarashiyama (and surrounds) in one day – they each deserve their own day trip.

To get out to Arashiyama, from a timing perspective you’re probably best placed to make your way to Kyoto station and then get the train from there to Saga-Arashiyama, though I do think it is very special to take the city’s unique electric railway, the Randen. To do this, you’ll need to take a public bus or walk for 40 mins to Shijō Ōmiya Station. Alternatively a taxi is only 12 mins drive.

Alternatively, you can travel from Osaka Station direct to Shijō Ōmiya Station in around 50 mins on the Hankyu-Kyoto line and then hop on the Randen for Arashiyama. It is about 35 mins on the Randen from Shijō-Ōmiya Station to Arashiyama, so a total of around 90 mins travel time from Osaka.

A day trip to Arashiyama must obviously start with the magical bamboo grove where the trunks whisper in the wind. After strolling through the trees and stopping into the gorgeous little Nonomiya Jinja where you’ll often see kimono-clad visitors purifying their hands with water from the shrine.

Just next door to the bamboo forest is one of the Arashiyama region’s most spectacular Buddhist temples, Tenryu-ji. This temple boasts one of the most picturesque moss gardens situated around a lake and is definitely worth wandering through as you explore the region.

Not technically in Arashiyama, but fairly easily accessible from the area is the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji. This famed pavilion sparkles in the afternoon sun and whilst you are unable to enter the building, the garden and surrounding lake offers wonderful views of the structure from every angle.

Time to Arashiyama from Osaka: 1hr 5mins via Shinkansen and JR San-In line or 1.5 hrs on the local train and Randen.

Three Days In Kyoto
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arima Onsen

Whilst Arima Onsen town is technically part of Kobe, it needs its own day trip from Osaka for you to fully enjoy all the wonders of Japanese Onsen. This town has long been revered as one of Japan’s oldest onsen regions and its compact size and beauty makes it nice and straightforward to explore.

The best way to get to Arima Onsen is to catch the public Hankyu bus from Shin-Osaka to Arima. Buses go around every hour. Not all buses will take IC cards, so have cash handy in case. Buses cost around 1250 JPY for a one-way ticket.

Of course, when you arrive in Arima Onsen, you will be eager to experience the magical waters of the town. There are two types of hot spring waters here: gold and silver both with their own unique healing properties.

There are two public onsen available for your use. Kin no Yu is the largest and features two indoor gold onsen water baths per gender. And if you’re unfamiliar with Japanese onsen culture: yes, men and women traditionally bathe separately in onsen as you go in completely nude.

Gin no Yu is the other publlic bathouse which uses the silver water. So theoretically, you could sample both the gold and silver onsen water in the one day if you really wanted to.

Time to Arima Onsen from Osaka: 1hr 4mins via public bus

Arima Onsen Town (Image: CANVA)


Just over an hour away from Osaka Station by Shinkansen is the fabulous city of Nagoya. This is Japan’s fourth most populated city and home to the beautiful Nagoya Castle. Most of the city was destroyed in the 1945 WWII air raids and had to be rebuilt, but this is a city hell bent on preserving and re-creating its history.

If you arrive early in the morning then you’ll want to stop in at the uniquely tempting Yanagibashi Central Market for a breakfast sushi treat. You’ll be able to wander the market throughout the day, but really this place is most alive in the morning where vendors sell seafoods to their customers and small restaurants serve up the freshest fish of the day.

Next, a visit to the city’s famous castle, originally built in 1615 and rebuilt after the air raids destroyed it. The palace is a fabulous exploration, but my favourite activity has to be wandering the picturesque gardens of the castle and enjoying the beauty of this perfectly designed garden for all seasons.

Nagoya’s food scene is fantastic, and I definitely recommend trying the food on Kinschachi Yokocho after visiting the castle. This area is both historic and full of yummy food restaurants that will send your tastebuds into overdrive. Keep an eye out for local dish, the miso katsu!

Time to Nagoya from Osaka: 1hr 7mins via the Shinkansen

The Nagoya Castle is definitely the city’s most famous historic site. Image: CANVA

Himeji Castle

Arguably Japan’s most beautiful castle, world renowned Himeji Castle is the perfect day trip from Osaka. Easily accessible on the special rapid Tokaido-Sanyo line, this 90 minute one-way journey is well worth the time and effort spent.

The site of this magnificent castle has been in existence since 1333, however the castle as it stands today dates back to around 1618. The castle is one of the few Japanese castles to have survived the 1945 Air Raids and the earthquake of 1995. The castle received UNESCO world heritage status back in 1993 and retains this status today.

Himeji Castle costs around 1050 JPY to enter and the castle offers many wonderful surprises, such as the shrine that allows visitors to obtain a fantastic view of the castle grounds and surrounds.

Time to Himeji Castle from Osaka: 1hr 25mins via the Shinkansen

Himeji Castle. Image: CANVA


Fukuyama is Hiroshima prefecture’s second city, so it is often overlooked by tourists wanting to see the region’s capital. But Fukuyama itself is certainly worth a visit, even on a day trip.

Fukuyama features its very own Edo era castle which is the perfect place to start your day trip as it is located right next to the station. Inside the castle is a museum and from the top of the castle’s tower is a fantastic view of the region from above.

One of the best things to do in Fukuyama is to visit the fishing village of Tomonoura by taking a bus from Fukuyama station to Tomo Port. This small port offers quite a different perspective on Japanese life away from the madness of the big cities. There are many beautiful sights in this area of Fukuyama including the Edo-period Joyato Lighthouse, the pier and the Fukuzenji Temple. Honestly, there’s enough in Tomonoura to spend your entire day trip here.

If you have time, pop into the city’s lovely Zen temple Shinshoji with its beautiful grounds and tea houses. Finally, make sure you sample some of the city’s fresh seafood and dishes like tai somen noodles with fresh sea bream.

Time to Fukuyama from Osaka: 1hr 26 mins by Shinkansen

Day trips less than 2 hours from Osaka

Awaji Island

Awaji Island is a very easy day trip from Osaka, though it does involve a bus ride of around 1hr 7 mins from Sannomiya Station. That’s OK because the Akashi-Kaikyo suspension bridge to get to the island itself is an absolute work of art and driving over it is all part of the fun. The island is well-known for its gourmet food and hot springs.

But it isn’t all luxe eperiences here on Awaji. Start your sightseeing at the zany Nijigen-no-Mori which features a huge Godzilla exhibit. Then move onto the kitschy world of Hello Kitty at Hello Kitty Smile, about 30 mins away by bus. Another 30 mins walk or 10 mins bus ride further up the coast is the Hello Kitty Showbox where you can watch performances by Hello Kitty. This should more than hit the spot for any anime or Hello Kitty fans out there.

In the afternoon, take a whirlpool boat cruise to see the naturally ocurring Naruto whirlpools in the Naruto Strait. You can either take this cruise from Awaji Island itself, or I recommend crossing the bridge and getting the cheaper cruise from Naruto City.

Time to Awaji Island from Osaka: 1hr 47 mins by Shinkansen and bus

Day trips from Osaka
The Naruto Whirlpools. Image: CANVA


Hiroshima is one of my favourite cities in Japan. It’s modern, peaceful and whilst it is a little further to get to, it is one of the most fantastic day trips from Osaka, filled with things to do. Of course, Hiroshima became infamous when the entire city was levelled by the atomic bomb dropped on the area at the end of World War II and there are many reminders of this tragic event throughout the city.

The Hiroshima Peace Park is where most people will want to start their day trip in Hiroshima as it is the epicentre for memorialising the events of 1945. The Peace Memorial Museum is fantasticly moving, with exhibits such as a watch that stopped at the time the bomb was dropped. The Museum also details the city’s activism against nuclear arms, given the lasting impacts on the people affected.

In the park there is also the A-Bomb dome, a rare building that wasn’t levelled by the events of August 6th 1945. The shell of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall remains, a stark reminder of the shadows of the past. The A-Bomb dome is also on the UNESCO World Heritage register.

Another very poignant memorial within the park is the Children’s Peace Monument, which is easily spotted by the many colourful origami cranes folded and displayed on the monument. This memorial in particular is a very stark reminder of the devastating and lasting impacts of the atomic bomb on innocent children.

Once you’ve explored the Peace Park, then head into town to visit Hondori Street, Hiroshima’s downtown area which is full of life, food and shops. You’ll want to make sure you try Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki and the best place to do this is at Okonomimura, located at the end of Hondori Street (toward the east).

Time to Hiroshima from Osaka: 1hr 35 mins by Shinkansen

Day trips from Osaka

Day trips less than 2.5 hours from Osaka

Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island can be squeezed into a one day trip from Osaka where you visit the Peace Park in the morning and then Miyajima in the afternoon. However, there is so much to see at the Peace Park and in Hiroshima city, that it may warrant a separate day trip to explore the lovely Miyajima Island, famous for its roaming deer and floating torii gates.

To visit Miyajima Island, the best way is via Shinkansen to Hiroshima Station and then get a local line train for Miyajima-guchi station. This will take you within 5 mins walk of the Miyajima ferry port and if you are a JR Rail Pass holder, then you’ll be pleased to know that the ferry with the big JR sign is also included in your pass so there’s nothing extra to pay. The ferry takes around 10 mins.

Miyajima is a UNESCO World Heritage site and though it now feels quite touristy, it is a lovely day out. The main shrine on the island is called Itsukushima Shrine and it features stunning red torii gates that at certain tide levels appear to be floating on the water.

The island is also home to many beautiful walking trails and you can experience wonderful views from Mount Misen, the island’s highest point. There is a ropeway to get to the peak and also many hiking trails for the more adventurous.

Time to Miyajima Island from Osaka: 2hrs 15 mins by Shinkansen, local rail and ferry

Free roaming deer and the floating torii gates of Miyajima. Image: CANVA

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The Best Day Trips from Osaka - Emma Jane Explores
The Best Day Trips from Osaka - Emma Jane Explores

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