Osaka Day Trips
Located in the heart of western Japan, Osaka is the country’s second-largest city and one of its most vibrant. The bustling Namba district and iconic Dotonbori street are great places to start exploring and are easily reached via Shinkansen from Tokyo or other major cities. For those traveling on a JR Pass, the journey will be even cheaper.
Once in Osaka, visitors can take full advantage of the city’s thriving food scene and activities. There are plenty of local eateries serving up delicious dishes, as well as famous nightlife spots that make Osaka an excellent base for exploring the area.
Thanks to its convenient location, you can reach many fascinating destinations with easy day trips from Osaka. From ancient shrines to stunning natural wonders, there’s something for everyone to discover beyond the busy city center. Whether you choose to stay in Osaka itself or head out into nearby prefectures such as Hyogo and Kyoto, you’re sure to find an adventure that suits your taste.
During my backpacking trip in Japan, I decided to make Osaka my base for exploring the west of the country. As a holder of a JR Pass, I found that I could easily reach destinations up to 400 kilometers away from Osaka in under two hours. This allowed me to take convenient day trips out from Osaka and return by nightfall, without having to stress about packing, unpacking, waiting for check-in times, and other similar issues.
Many other backpackers choose to do the same, as the west of Japan offers a wealth of interesting sights and activities. Visit the art island of Naoshima, explore the historically significant monuments in Himeji, or spend an afternoon on the beaches of Teshima – whatever your interests are, there is sure to be something that will pique your curiosity and delight you.
In short, Osaka serves as an ideal home base when traveling around the west of Japan. With its excellent connection to cities far and wide during the day and a myriad of experiences at night, Osaka is the perfect place to experience the best of Japan’s western side.
Day Trips from Osaka – Kinosaki Onsen
Just a few hours away from Osaka, lies the enchanting town of Kinosaki Onsen. Renowned for its traditional hot springs, this hidden gem offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Stepping into Kinosaki Onsen is like stepping back in time. The town exudes a quaint and nostalgic charm, with its streets lined with beautifully preserved wooden ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and picturesque willow trees swaying gently in the breeze. Strolling along the streets, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered a world that is untouched by modernity.
But it’s the hot springs that truly make Kinosaki Onsen a must-visit destination. Known for their therapeutic properties, these natural hot springs offer a rejuvenating experience for both body and mind. Slip into the warm, mineral-rich waters and feel your worries melt away as you soak in the serene surroundings.
One of the unique features of Kinosaki Onsen is its tradition of “sotoyu meguri,” which involves visiting several public bathhouses scattered throughout the town. Dressed in a yukata (a lightweight kimono), visitors can leisurely stroll from one bathhouse to another, immersing themselves in the healing waters of each one. The experience is not only relaxing but also provides a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.
Day Trips from Osaka – Mount Koya
Amidst the lush green mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, Mount Koya stands as a serene and spiritual retreat, offering a soul-stirring getaway from the bustling city of Osaka. This hidden gem is a must-visit destination for those seeking a tranquil escape and a deeper understanding of Japanese culture.
As you ascend the mountain, a sense of calmness envelops you, leaving behind the chaos of the modern world. Mount Koya, also known as Koyasan, is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an ancient Buddhist sect founded over 1,200 years ago by the revered monk Kobo Daishi. This sacred site is home to over 100 temples, each exuding its own unique aura of spirituality and serenity.
One of the highlights of a visit to Mount Koya is an overnight stay in one of the temple lodgings, known as shukubo. This immersive experience allows visitors to witness the daily rituals of the monks, participate in meditation sessions, and savor traditional vegetarian meals known as shojin ryori. The simple yet flavorful dishes, prepared with utmost care and mindfulness, nourish not only the body but also the soul.
A hike along the ancient pilgrimage trails is a must. The paths lead to sacred spots and hidden temples, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The Okunoin Cemetery, the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, is a particularly awe-inspiring sight, with thousands of moss-covered gravestones stretching as far as the eye can see.
Day Trips from Osaka – Toji Temple
A popular day trip from Osaka is a visit to the ancient Kyoto Toji Temple. Located in the heart of the city, this impressive historic site is a must-see for those wishing to experience some of Japan’s ancient culture and spirituality.
Kyoto is the old capital of Japan famous for its shrines and temples. It’s merely 30 minutes train ride from Osaka. Whether you take a local train or a Shinkansen, this is the most convenient and truly must-see destination for a day trip from Osaka.
Built in 796 AD, this temple is renowned as one of Japan’s most influential religious sites. It is home to towering five-story pagodas, engravings at the entranceway, and a vast garden that includes a pond and waterfall. Among the most impressive features is the Grand Gate, which has sixteen life-sized statues of Kongorikishi guardian deities – said to ward off evil – on either side.
Tip: Get a bus ticket pass for 1 day. Most of the places to visit in Kyoto are conveniently reachable by their bus system. It’s cheap and reliable. If you’re planning to see Kyoto for a few days, accommodation is more expensive here compared to nearby cities, I would suggest that you stay in a hotel in Osaka and just take the train back to Kyoto on succeeding days.
Visitors can explore both the outdoors and the inner shrine area, where they can observe the grand monument dedicated to Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and a venerated monk who established the temple. Those who visit during spring or autumn can also take part in several traditional festivals held onsite throughout the year.
When visiting Kyoto Toji Temple, be sure to check out the nearby Toji market, famous for its diverse selection of antiques and souvenirs. This vibrant outdoor shopping area has been operating since the 17th century and remains a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs or simply soaking in the atmosphere, it’s an experience not to be missed.
Day Trips from Osaka – Nara Deer Park
Nara is the capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture, in south-central Honshu famous for its deer in Nara Park. Two train lines connect the cities of Osaka and Nara: the JR Yamatoji Line, and the Kintetsu Nara Line. The JR line is covered by the Japan Rail Pass, but the Kintetsu Line is not.
Located just outside of the city, Nara Deer Park is one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations and home to over 1,200 wild deer. The deer are seen as messengers from the gods, making them highly revered by locals and visitors alike.
Tip: For 200 Yen, you can take a bus from JR Station with a few stops on the way to Nara Park.
At Nara Deer Park, you’ll be able to feed and interact with the friendly deer and capture some beautiful photos in the process. Be sure to bring along some crackers or senbei to feed them – they love snacks! You can also purchase deer-shaped desserts and souvenirs at nearby shops, so don’t forget to check those out while you’re there.
If you’re looking to learn more about the deer’s history, drop by the Todai-ji Temple in the park. Founded in 752 AD, it is one of Japan’s oldest and grandest temples and home to one of the world’s largest bronze Buddha statues. Here, you can marvel at the ornate architecture and get a better understanding of the significance of the park’s iconic animals.
Day Trips from Osaka – Kobe
Kobe is the perfect day trip from Osaka for those looking to explore the rich history and culture of Japan. Just a short train ride away, Kobe is an enchanting city full of ancient temples, traditional gardens, and lively markets.
Kobe is a city on Osaka Bay in central Japan. It is known for its signature marbled beef and scenic setting of mountains framing the harbor. Where else is the best place to eat the famous Kobe beef than Kobe itself? It’s just 25 minutes away from Osaka Station through the Special Rapid Service on the JR Kobe Line which provides the fastest service between Osaka Station and Kobe. The fare costs 410 Yen but also fully covered by JR Pass.
Begin your visit in the old district of Nankin Machi where you can wander through the cobblestone streets lined with traditional Japanese houses and shops. Make sure to visit Ikuta Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Japan which stands proudly on the mountainside and offers stunning views of the city below. Afterward, stop by Kitano-chō – Kobe’s oldest foreign settlement area – to take in its charming atmosphere. Here, you can explore quaint boutiques, sample Kobe beef, or simply admire the beautifully preserved merchant homes.
Tip: Head down to Nankin-machi (Chinatown) and taste the different varieties of the best Kobe beef in town.
Kobe is also renowned for its hot springs and several natural baths are within easy reach of Osaka. Experience the benefits of a traditional hot spring at Arima Onsen or Suma-Awa Hot Springs. Both offer a unique chance to soak in mineral-rich waters whilst enjoying magnificent views of the surrounding landscape.
No visit to Kobe would be complete without a trip to Mount Rokko. The mountain is covered in lush greenery and offers breathtaking views of Kobe City and its surroundings. Be sure to catch the iconic Rokko Cable Car on your way up and visit Yumesaki Forest Park – an enchanting location known for its serene atmosphere.
Kobe truly has something for everyone – why not make it your day trip from Osaka?
Day Trips from Osaka – Himeji Castle
Himeji is a city in the Kansai region of Japan. It’s known for the sprawling, centuries-old, white Himeji Castle, one of the few original castles from Japan’s feudal period. Hands down to Himeji Castle, this is the best castle in Japan in my humble opinion. Himeji is 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Osaka Station through the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line.
This impressive fortress is a must-see for any history buff. It was originally built in 1346 and stands as one of Japan’s oldest surviving castles. Himeji Castle is renowned for its immaculate white outer walls and beautiful gardens. Its appearance is like nothing else in the world and it leaves visitors spellbound. Despite being over 600 years old, the castle has been meticulously maintained and no expense has been spared to ensure that the structure remains intact. The grounds also house several ancient artifacts and provide a fascinating insight into Japan’s feudal past.
Tip: The last entry to the castle is at 4pm, otherwise, the sprawling castle grounds is open for public until night and worth a stroll.
It’s easy to get to Himeji Castle from Osaka by either train or car. The journey takes little over an hour, making it a perfect day trip destination. There are several parking lots situated around the entrance of the castle, but you may also purchase tickets to ride the buses that depart regularly from the station near Havematsui.
With its grand stature and awe-inspiring architecture, Himeji Castle should be at the top of your list when visiting Osaka. It’s sure to leave you with an unforgettable experience!
Day Trips from Osaka – The Great Torii
Who doesn’t know Hiroshima? This progressive city impressively recovered from the devastation of the Atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. A museum dedicated to the victims of the bombing is a tear-jerker and a must-visit. You must visit the nearby island of Miyajima and its famous Great Torii which seems to be floating in the waters of Hiroshima Bay during high tide. From JR Hiroshima station, make a transfer to Line and take a ferry to Miyajima. The train and ferries are all covered by JR Pass. Hiroshima is 2 hours away from Osaka through the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen.
One of the must-see sights when visiting Osaka is The Great Torii. Located in Izumo City, this iconic red Shinto gateway stands at an impressive 20-meter height—making it one of the tallest Torii gates in all of Japan. Built from Japanese cypress and designed to ward off evil spirits, The Great Torii has become a symbol of Shinto faith and national pride; it is believed that those who pass through the gate will be blessed with protection and good fortune.
Tip: There’s also a ferry that can directly take you to Hiroshima Peace Park. This is not covered by the JR pass but is more convenient.
As you approach the ancient structure, take time to admire its beauty and sense of grandeur. Be sure to also stop by the nearby Kumano Shrine, which is dedicated to the gods of Mizuho mountain and features several fascinating artifacts. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a memorable day trip, The Great Torii and Kumano Shrine are well worth checking out.
Day Trips from Osaka – Nachi Falls
Nachi Falls is one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring sights in all of Japan. Located in the picturesque town of Nachikatsuura, it’s just a short drive from Osaka and makes for an excellent day trip option. With its breathtaking height of 133 meters, Nachi Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall in Japan. It also holds special spiritual significance given its ties to the Kumano Sanzan Shrines, making it a popular pilgrimage site.
You have probably seen the picture of the Seigantoji temple with Nachi Falls on its backdrop in many Japanese travel advertisements. This majestic place is located in Wakayama Prefecture and is reachable by a high-speed train from Osaka. The travel time to go to Kii-Katsuura Station is 4 hours, and the nearest train station to make your way to Nachi Falls. It’s a long journey but worth your time. From Kii-Katsuura, you can take a bus directly to the site or do a bit of hiking starting from the Daimonzaka bus stop.
Tip: Get a return bus ticket from Kii-Katsuura station for just 1000 Yen. One way ticket is 620 Yen. The trail to Nachi Falls is well marked and completely a different paradise, no trekking experience is required, I highly recommend taking this route rather than going directly to the falls by bus.
Nachi Falls is more than just a beautiful natural wonder – it has great historical and cultural value too. In addition to its religious importance, the falls are part of the historic Kii Mountain Range, which is one of the oldest parts of Japan. The region is also home to some of Japan’s oldest temples, including Kogakuji Temple and Nachi Taisha Shrine. A visit to this majestic waterfall is sure to leave you with a deeper appreciation not just for nature, but also for Japan’s rich history and culture.
We hope you enjoyed our blog post on the unforgettable day trips you can take from Osaka. Osaka is a vibrant city with so much to offer, but sometimes it’s nice to escape the hustle and bustle and explore the hidden gems that surround it. From the serene beauty of Mount Koya to the historic charm of Nara, there is something for everyone just a short distance away. We hope our suggestions inspire you to embark on your own day trip adventure and create cherished memories. Safe travels, and don’t forget to share your experiences with us!