10 Fantastic Day trips from Osaka

When I first moved to Tokyo, one of the things I’ve been looking forward to do the most (aside from actually living in Japan) is travelling around this country of ancient traditions with stark modernity. I wanted to eat, breathe, drink, live it all. Like most people, Tokyo was my starting point. After settling into my apartment and then my job, I ventured on spectacular day trips from Tokyo. Now, I’m on the other side of the country, the western side, or as the locals refer to it as Kansai. Kansai is not only the second most populated area of Japan (encompassing Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe) but has an altogether distinctive difference from the rest of the country too. On this side, Osaka tends to be the counteroffer to Tokyo, and where locals and travellers alike do various trips from. During my time here, these are the places on the western side of Japan that whether taking the train, bus or car, make for fantastic day trips from Osaka. Curious? Follow me on Instagram and YouTube for more adventures!

© Unsplash/ Sorasak

A mere 30-minute train ride away, Kyoto is a destination that needs no introduction. For me, this destination isn’t even a day trip but a WHOLE trip itself. But if you’re on a time crunch or if you know you’ll be back in Japan, then any time in this ancient city would do. As you step into this cultural wonderland, you'll be greeted by meticulously preserved temples, enchanting tea houses, and the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine with its vibrant torii gates. Explore the stunning Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, indulge in matcha treats, and immerse yourself in the serene gardens. Kyoto's timeless charm will captivate your heart and offer an old-world remedy to Osaka’s eclectic energy. If you make your Kyoto trip longer, you can always springboard from it for more day trips from Kyoto.

© Pexels/ Willian Justen de Vasconcellos

This spot is great as a day trip from Kyoto as well! Are you an animal lover? Then hop on a train for about an hour to reach Nara, a city steeped in history and spirituality. Most importantly, Nara is known for is friendly free roaming deers that traverse around Nara Park. You can pet them and offer them little nibbles, which is super adorable because who knew one can be this close to such gentle forest creatures? After, pay a visit to the majestic Todai-ji Temple, home to the Great Buddha – a colossal bronze statue that leaves anyone who sets their sight on it in awe. The traditional streets of Naramachi and serene Isuien Garden are sure to also leave you enchanted. Nara is a small enough city that you can easily do a one day trip to.

© Unsplash/ note thanun

My fellow foodies - this one is for you. Less than an hour away lies the coastal city of Kobe, famous for its delectable Kobe beef. You may have here of wagyu, and Kobe beef is a type of wagyu from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle. Where else to really taste this exquisite delicacy than the city that it’s named after - here, local restaurants are brimming with Kobe beef. You can also soak in the breathtaking views of the harbour, and then take a stroll in the ever-vivacious Chinatown, visit the stunning Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens, and perhaps even ride the Shin-Kobe Ropeway for panoramic vistas.

© Unsplash/ Svetlana Gumerova

It’s unbelievable to think that a 50-minute metro journey in Tokyo would get me from one end of the city to another. But a 50-minute train journey from Osaka and you’re in a whole different world - specifically the feudal Himeji. Here, the main attraction that you must see is the Himeji Castle, a masterpiece of feudal architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The castle's elegant white facade, surrounded by lush gardens, offers a glimpse into Japan's rich history. Oh and don't miss out on exploring the Kokoen Garden and the nearby Engyo-ji Temple for an extra dose of tranquility.

© Unsplash/ Susann Schuster

For a serene escape, travel approximately 1.5 hours to Wakayama and uncover the serenity of Koyasan. This sacred mountaintop town is home to Shingon Buddhism and boasts atmospheric temples, moss-covered graves, and the atmospheric Okunoin Cemetery. It looks like something straight out of a Studio Ghibli film. I would also highly recommend tapping into its unique culture by having a night's stay in a traditional temple lodging (shukubo), which offers a spiritual experience like no other.

© Unsplash/ Hiroshima

While a longer journey at around 2 hours by Shinkansen (bullet train), a day trip to Hiroshima is a deeply moving and educational experience. Out of all the places I’ve travelled to within and outside of Japan, Hiroshima is one of the most sobering spots. It’s a real-life look into the atrocities of World War II, while staring down the barrel into the face of humanity itself. Pay your respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome), and explore the rejuvenated city that stands as a testament to human resilience and hope. If you have time, from Hiroshima, it’s easy to go to Miyajima island, which is famous for its eye-catching red torii gate standing strong in still calm waters.

© Unsplash/ Roméo A.

This is one of my favourite day trips from Osaka! Embark on a Shinkansen journey of around 1 hour from Osaka to Nagoya, a city that seamlessly blends modernity with a deep-rooted historical heritage. Not many people think of Nagoya for day trips, but trust me - this city truly inducts you into the Japanese way of life. Explore the Nagoya Castle, a towering symbol of the city's samurai past, where you can admire intricate architectural details and breathtaking views from its observation deck. Make your way to Osu Shopping District, a vibrant hub of shopping and dining, where traditional shops stand side by side with modern boutiques. You can also discover the allure of Atsuta Shrine, one of Japan's most revered Shinto shrines, surrounded by lush greenery and serenity. If you're an automotive enthusiast, don't miss the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, which offers insights into Japan's industrial prowess and innovations.

© flickr/ Kyle Hasegawa

Ok, this one is better off for a weekend trip but worth the travel! The scenic journey will take you around 2.5 hours from Osaka to Kanazawa, a city renowned for its rich cultural Japanese heritage and artistic craftsmanship. As you step into Kanazawa's well-preserved districts, you'll be transported to a world of traditional beauty. You can start your exploration at Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan's most exquisite landscapes. This meticulously designed garden boasts seasonal beauty, offering stunning vistas year-round. Then wander through the charming streets of the Nagamachi Samurai District, where you can catch a glimpse of the city's samurai history. Oh and definitely don't miss the chance to visit the Nagamachi Bukeyashiki (samurai residences) for a closer look at the lives of these historical figures.

© flickr/ Patrick Vierthaler

For a serene nature retreat, venture about 1.5 hours from Osaka to Kibune, a hidden gem nestled in the lush mountains of Kyoto. This one is for those who just want to truly get into nature and unwind. This quaint village is renowned for its unique dining experience known as "kawadoko," where traditional wooden platforms are set over the Kibune River, allowing diners to mouth-watering take in their meals while the cool water flows beneath. You can also experience the magic of the Kibune Shrine, a sacred site believed to protect against water-related disasters. The vibrant red torii gates leading to the shrine create a striking contrast against the lush green surroundings. Afterward, enjoy a leisurely hike along the Kurama-Kibune Trail, which connects Kibune to the nearby Kurama Village. This trail offers stunning views of the forested landscape and is particularly enchanting during the changing seasons.

© Unsplash/ Yohei Shimomae

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