In Japan, Tokyo has long been the city most people flock to but in recent times, as independent travel around Japan has become far easier, other cities have been attracting a fair share of visitors. One such city that is growing in popularity is Osaka, which is a smaller city with plenty to do and easy access to a number of day trips from Osaka too.
If you’re planning your Osaka itinerary and would like to add some day trips from Osaka, here are three fantastic places to visit. All can be reached from Osaka by train.
A day trip from Osaka will give you a taste of the best of Japan including mystical shrines and temples.
Kyoto, Nara and Kobe are our top three places to visit as a day trip from Osaka as you’ll be able to tick off many landmarks in Japan by visiting these three cities. Even if you’re planning an extended Japan itinerary, these places are definitely worth visiting.
- Day trips from Osaka
- 1- Kyoto
- 2- Kobe
- 3- Nara
Day trips from Osaka
Japan’s former capital, Kyoto was a royal city and home to the Japanese Emperor between 794 and 1868.
Compared to Japan’s megacities, Kyoto is small (1.5 million people) and is packed with beautiful gardens, shrines and temples.
Although Kyoto can easily be visited as a day trip from Osaka, once you’re there, you’ll most probably want to stay longer.
A great way to explore Kyoto is to stay away from hotel chains and live like a local.
How to get to Kyoto
- If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can use it to travel between Osaka and Kyoto on the Shinkansen (15 minutes). A bullet train ticket from Osaka to Kyoto costs ¥1420.
- The Hankyu, Kintetsu and Kansai Through passes can also reduce the cost of travelling between the two cities. The Osaka to Kyoto JR special rapid train costs ¥560 yen and takes 30 minutes.
- If you just want to sit back and have someone else take you around Kyoto, check out these Kyoto day tours from Osaka.
Kyoto attractions at a glance
- Admire the beautiful Kinkaku-ji Temple
- Be wowed by the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine
- Immerse yourself in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- Soak in the views at the Tenryu-ji Temple
- Visit the spectacular Nijo-jo Castle
Attraction #1: Kinkaku-ji Temple
No visit to Kyoto from Osaka, even as a day trip, would be complete without seeing the spectacular zen Buddhist temple, Kinkaku-ji.
Clad in gold and floating above a serene lake, the 14th-century temple is serenely beautiful and one of the most iconic sights of Kyoto.
Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan | Phone Number: +81 461-0013 | Entry Fee: ¥400
Attraction #2: Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine
This shrine is one of the most beautiful in Kyoto and all of Japan.
It is most famous for thousands of majestic red doors which lead the way up to the shrine.
Each has been left by a devotee.
The shrine itself is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, sake and prosperity – you’ll want to bring a little something as an offering (we can all use some extra luck!).
Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan | Phone Number: +81 75-641-7331 | Entry Fee: free
Attraction #3: Arishiyama Bamboo Grove
Many of Kyoto’s most beautiful sights are man-made, but this place is sure to blow you away with its immense natural beauty.
You can stand amongst the incredible bamboo stalks that tower dozens of metres above you.
It is truly an amazing experience and well worth putting on your Osaka day trip itinerary!
Address: Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8385, Japan | Phone Number: N/A | Entry Fee: free, ¥1000 for the nearby Samurai gardens and temple.
Attraction #4: Tenryu-ji Temple
Not far from the Bamboo Grove you’ll find the Tenryu-ji Temple, another must-see site on your Osaka day trip.
This 14th-century temple has a beautiful garden with lush trees (they’re especially beautiful in autumn) and a zen pool.
It really is a magical experience just to soak in the atmosphere.
Address: 6-8 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8385, Japan | Phone Number: +81 75-881-1235 | Entry Fee: ¥500 (adults) or ¥300 (children) for the garden + ¥300 (all) for the temple.
Attraction #5: Nijo-jo Castle
This 17th-century castle, which is one of the well-known buildings in Kyoto, was built for the first shogun of the Edo period.
It is lavishly decorated to be fit for royalty and an amazing example of Japanese architecture.
The rich dark wood looks so beautiful against the stark white exterior – don’t miss it!
Address: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan | Phone Number: +81 841-0096 | Entry Fee: ¥600, plus ¥400 to visit the other, Ninomaru, Palace.
What to eat in Kyoto
If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll love Kyoto!
Due to the influence of Buddhism, Kyoto is famous for its delicious vegetarian cuisine and tofu that is so delicious even meat-eaters should give it a try!
One of the most famous tofu restaurants is Tousuiro. The tofu is prepared using traditional cooking methods and absolutely delicious!
Kobe is one of the most popular day trips from Osaka. Helpfully, there’s a direct Osaka to Kobe train, so it’s easy to get there.
Kobe attractions at a glance
- Take the Shin-Kobe Cablecar
- Hike the mountains to see the Nunobiki Waterfall
- Soak at the Arima Onsen
- Sample sake
Attraction #1: Shin-Kobe Cablecar
On the Shin-Kobe cablecar, you’ll get great views out over the beautiful landscape of Kobe, from the top of Mount Rokko.
At the top, head down the hill to see the Nunobiki Herb Garden Ropeway, which as you’d expect, it’s a fragrant place to visit!
Address: 1 Chome-4-３ Kitanochō, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 650-0002, Japan | Phone Number: +81 78-27 1 160 | Entry Fee: ¥1500 adults, ¥750 children (includes cablecar and entrance to the herb garden)
Attraction #2: Nunokibi Waterfall
Do a bit more walking through the Rokko mountain range to find the beautiful Nunokibi Waterfall.
It is one of three waterfalls in Japan considered the “divine falls” and divine they are.
It’s definitely worth the effort to get there and when planning your Osaka day trips, do include the waterfall.
It takes about 20 minutes to reach it from Shin Kobe station or you can also reach it via the cable car.
Address: Ukiaicho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture 651-0058, Japan | Entry Fee: free
Attraction #3: Arima Onsen
You’ve got to add an onsen to your Osaka day trip plans and we have a great one.
Arima Onsen in Kobe is the perfect place to rest your legs after a hike.
Onsens are natural hot springs that are said to be perfect for healing muscles and skin.
Within Arima town, you’ll find several public bathhouses as well as traditional ryokans with onsens.
Address: Arimacho, Kita-ku, Kobe 651-1401, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan | Entry Fee: depends on the treatment, they typically range from ¥500 – ¥3,500
Attraction #4: Sake brewery in Nada
It’s no secret that sake is Japan’s most famous spirit, and Kobe’s Nada district is famous all over the country for their rice liquor.
It’s well worth visiting a brewery such as Kobe Shushinkan Brewery so as to find out more about the process to make sake, and, of course, to taste some!
Address: Kobe Shushinkan – Chome-8-1-7 Mikagetsukamachi, Higashinada Ward, Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture 658-0044, Japan | Phone Number: +81 78-841-1121 | Entry Fee: free
What to eat in Kobe
Kobe is world-famous for one food – beef! So, after enjoying the vegetarian delights of Kyoto, it’s all about the carnivores in Kobe.
As it’s considered some of the best steaks in the world, it doesn’t come cheap but your tastebuds are sure to be delighted! One famous place is the Kobe Steak Restaurant Royal Mouriya while another option is a wagyu teppanyaki barbeque.
If you’re on an extended trip to Osaka, we recommend heading out for a day trip to Japan’s former capital of Nara.
Nara is often overlooked as a destination to visit but most people who end up going there are amazed at how beautiful this city is.
Nara attractions at a glance
- Todaiji Temple
- Horyuji Temple
- Isuien Garden
- Nara Park
Attraction #1: Tadaiji Temple
Tadaiji Temple is one of the most famous and beautiful temples in all of Japan, and a true highlight of Nara.
The most impressive parts of the temple include the Daibutsudden, which is Japan’s largest wooden building, and the large bronze Buddha inside.
At more than 15 metres tall, it is one of the largest Buddha statues in the country.
Address: 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, 630-8211, Japan | Phone Number: +81 0742-22-5511 | Entry Fee: ¥600 (adults), ¥300 (primary school children)
Attraction #2: Horyuji Temple
The strikingly beautiful Horyuji Temple has an impressive claim to fame – it is the oldest wooden building in the world.
The oldest section of the temple dates way back from the year 600 – meaning it is about 1400 years old.
Don’t miss the chance to see it for yourself during your Osaka day trip!
Address: 1-1 Horyuji Sannai, Ikaruga, Ikoma District, Nara Prefecture 636-0115, Japan | Phone Number: +81-0745-2555 | Entry Fee: ¥1500 (adult), ¥750 (concession)
Attraction #3: Isuein Garden
If you are looking for a beautiful example of a Japanese garden, then you’ll love the peaceful and picturesque Isuein Garden.
Less than a ten-minute walk from Todaiji temple, the garden is fed by a nearby river, meaning it has flourished.
As well as the gardens, there is also a small museum devoted to Japanese and Chinese art.
Address: 74 Suimoncho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8208, Japan | Phone Number: +81 742-25-0781 | Entry Fee: ¥900
Attraction #4: Nara Park
Lying right next to the Tadaiji Temple, you can’t leave Nara without stopping by the beautiful Nara Park!
It’s a big open green space that is most famous for its resident deer.
It’s hard not to crack a big smile as you come face-to-face with these adorable animals!
Address: Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan | Phone Number: +81 742-22-0375 | Entry Fee: free
What to eat in Nara
There are a number of unique foods that originated in Nara, such as narazuke (traditional pickles) and asuka nabe (a hot pot with milk, miso and chicken broth).
As a result, it’s a great place to enjoy a banquet of traditional dishes, so you can sample a little of everything.
We love the traditional decor and menu at Kura on Komyoincho Street.