9 Inspiring & Best Day Trips from Osaka to Enrich Your Visit

No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow” ~ Lin Yutang. There’s no doubt that Osaka appears on the wish list of many first-time visitors...

9 Inspiring & Best Day Trips from Osaka to Enrich Your Visit

No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow” ~ Lin Yutang.

There’s no doubt that Osaka appears on the wish list of many first-time visitors to Japan. Naturally, the allure of street food, fantastic night life and laid-back vibe are a huge drawcard. If you can manage to pry yourself away from the delicious cuisine in “the Kitchen of Japan”, which day trips from Osaka should you consider?

When piecing together your Osaka itinerary, it’s a great idea to allow some time to take advantage of this former samurai city’s prime location. As the gateway to the greater Kansai region with efficient public transport, Osaka is an ideal base for further exploration throughout the region – and beyond.

If you want to discover the best day trips from Osaka using JR Pass and interesting locations you may not have thought of to enrich your visit, read on for more!

This guide to the best day trips from Osaka will cover:

How to get around Osaka How to order a Japan Rail Pass & IC Card Inspiring day trips from Osaka to enrich your visittimes listed are one way 30 mins and under day trips from Osaka Kyoto (Kansai region) Kobe (Kansai region) Nara (Kansai region) 1 hour and under day trips from Osaka Himeji (Kansai region) Uji (Kansai region) Akashi Kaikyo Bridge & Awajishima (Kansai region) 1.5 hour day trips from Osaka Kurashiki (Chugoku region) Hiroshima & Miyajima (Chugoku region) 2 hour day trips from Osaka Mt Koya (Koyasan) (Kansai region) 2+ hour day trips from Osaka Is Naoshima Island a day trip from Osaka?


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This guide to places to visit from Osaka forms part of my detailed 3 days in Osaka & Nara day trip itinerary, which is also part of my larger 2 weeks in Japan itinerary with focus on destinations along Japan’s Golden Route. Head on over to my full Japan travel blog once you’re done here for more inspiration.

How to get around Osaka

One of the most common questions I see repeatedly in Japan travel forums is potential visitors asking if they should purchase the Japan Rail Pass in advance, with the answers usually overwhelmingly in favour.

Instead of blindly buying the JR Pass thinking all tourists need it, do note that it does not cover all railways in the country. Privately owned railways don’t accept the pass, nor are they accepted on the faster Nozomi and Mizuho bullet trains. The JR Pass only covers journeys on their own lines (with only a small handful of exceptions).

In saying that, the JR Pass can save you a lot of money if you plan to visit 3 or more destinations using shinkansen (bullet train). Throughout this guide, under each destination I’ve listed travel times and if the journey would be covered by the JR Pass for your selected day trips from Osaka.

TIP: Staying within the Kansai region and only visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Nara? The Kintetsu Rail Pass could be for you instead!

For getting around Osaka itself, I’d suggest pre-purchasing a reloadable Suica (IC) card or ICOCA Card (Osaka’s version of Suica) to use on the Metro (subway), buses and some light rail. The IC cards can be used in cities outside Osaka, too. It’s definitely convenient not having to purchase individual train tickets!

Dontonbori, Osaka

Inspiring day trips from Osaka to enrich your trip

To contrast modern experiences such as the dizzying heights of Harukas Observatory 300 and Universal Studios Japan, I highly recommend Osaka day trips that include cities rich in history and tradition when planning a trip to Japan.

While I’ve visited quite a few of these Osaka day trip destinations myself, I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers to share their experiences at places I have on my (seemingly endless) Japan bucket list. To make things easy for you I’ve sorted the destinations below by time to better help you plan your trip. Let’s go!

30 mins and under day trips from Osaka

KYOTO

15 minutes from Shin-Osaka on Nozomi Shinkansen, JR Tokaido-Sanyo line
(other trains on this line are covered by JR Pass)

It could be argued that no visit to Japan would be complete without visiting one of the country’s ancient capital cities, Kyoto. As Japan’s former capital for over 1,000 years, this beautifully preserved city is bursting with history, culture and tradition.

If your time in Japan is extremely limited, an Osaka to Kyoto day trip is possible. However this comes with a warning that you’d only scratch the surface of this timeless beauty in one day.

While it may be an obvious choice to day trip to Kyoto from Osaka, it’s important to note the main attractions of Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu-dera and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest are all quite spaced out from one another, meaning rushing around to see them all in a single day could be exhausting. 

As mentioned in my guide to day trips from Tokyo I would suggest allocating more days to your itinerary to give dear old Kyoto the time she deserves. With over 3,000 temples, shrines, hidden gems, cultural experiences, tranquil gardens and more, creating a 4 day Kyoto itinerary would be more realistic!

NOTE: Due to overtourism in Kyoto plaguing the city in the past (mostly from day trippers), to be an invisible tourist I would not recommend a Kyoto tour from Osaka.

TIP: My detailed guide to discovering Japan off the beaten path suggests nearby Lake Biwa is a compact alternative to Kyoto to consider. Featuring temples and shrines nested in forests, Hikone Castle and more, it can easily be covered in one day. The lake itself even features a floating grand torii gate similar to Miyajima (mentioned down the page).

KOBE

15 minutes from Shin-Osaka on Nozomi Shinkansen, JR Tokaido-Sanyo line
Other trains on this line such as the special rapid service are covered by JR Pass

Contributed by: Pam – Directionally Challenged Traveller 

I wanted to do an Osaka to Kobe day trip to try Kobe beef, as it’s one of the rarest (and most expensive) beef in the world. The marbled beef is unlike anything else, a specific strain of Wagyu beef from the prefecture of Hyogo – whose capital city is Kobe. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed being taught the art of cooking Kobe beef, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of things to do in the city. It was less overwhelming than Osaka’s Dotonbori, but just as entertaining. 

Learning about the history of sake at the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery was a unique way to learn about the cultural traditions and history surrounding the drink. After eating and drinking our way full, which I’m definitely not complaining about, a walk around the Fruit Flower Park was exactly what our bodies needed. Whether it’s food, history, or nature you’re looking for, Kobe is one of the great day trips from Osaka.

NARA

35 minutes from Shin-Osaka on Rapid Express Kintetsu Railway line
Covered by the Kintestu Rail Pass

With its history dating back as early as the 8th century, Nara is another former Japanese capital city. I’m sure you’ve heard of the sacred deer that roam freely throughout the temple grounds here as they’re believed to be messengers to the gods!

Nara is home to the world’s largest wooden building, Todai-ji. This impressive UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the country’s most historically significant temples, housing the all important daibutsu (bronze Buddha).

A day trip to Nara from Osaka will allow you to step back in time to this ancient era with its incredibly preserved temples, shrines and tranquil gardens. Make sure you don’t miss Yoshiki-en gardens, Nigatsu-do, Kofuku-ji and Kasuga Taisha. More info about each of these stunning locations in my full Osaka & Nara day trip itinerary

TIP: Consider booking a Nara half day walking tour with a friendly local guide to help you efficiently explore Nara’s must-sees and provide insight into each you may not have learnt on your own!

Todai-ji in Nara is one of the popular day trips from Osaka

1 hour and under day trips from Osaka

HIMEJI

45 minutes from Shin-Osaka on Nozomi Shinkansen, JR Tokaido-Sanyo line
Other trains on this line are covered by JR Pass

Contributed by: Rhonda Krause – Travel? Yes Please!

History buffs and architecture aficionados will enjoy a day trip from Osaka to Himeji to marvel at Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle is one of the most famous of Japan’s original castles, praised for its architectural achievements and admired for its graceful appearance. The castle has long white walls stretching from each side of the 7-story main keep, giving it the appearance of a bird in flight.

The interior of the castle has wooden rooms and steep, narrow staircases. The higher you go inside the keep the better the views get of the castle grounds, defensive walls, and the surrounding city of Himeji.

After touring the castle, it’s worth spending some time exploring the gardens. The castle looks especially pretty in when framed by the pink flowers during cherry blossom season in spring.

Himeji Castle is one of the best day trips from Osaka

TIP: Consider booking a Himeji Castle half day tour with a local guide to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the “White Heron”. Your guide will ensure you don’t miss any essentials! Coated in snow, Himeji also makes one of the most picturesque day trips from Osaka in winter.

UJI

1 hour from Shin-Osaka via Kyoto, JR Tokaido-Sanyo line and JR Nara Line
Covered by the JR Pass

Contributed by: Jackie Szeto & Justin Huynh – Life Of Doing

For travellers who love drinking and eating matcha green tea foods, head to Uji. Located south of the main Kyoto area, it’s only a one hour train ride from Osaka Station to Uji Station. 

The first thing that you’ll notice on your Uji day trip is that the city is small compared to Kyoto and Osaka. It’s the perfect ambiance to wander through Omotesando Street to shop for tea and souvenirs and explore the Buddhist temple, Byodoin, without the crowds.

At the temple, check out the Phoenix Hall, which has a tall statue of Buddha and mystical phoenix birds. Uji also has smaller shrines and a botanical garden that you can visit. 

Trying the matcha foods is a main highlight of the trip. From the savoury foods of soba and ramen to the sweets of soft-serve ice cream, mochi, pancakes, and parfaits, you’ll enjoy your share of eating green foods for the day.

Uji makes a perfect day trip from Osaka

TIP: Consider booking an Uji Matcha & Byodo-in Temple walking tour with a local guide. This includes a traditional tea ceremony experience and lunch. Learn about the history of Uji, the role of matcha in Japanese religion and visit two significant UNESCO World Heritage sites while you’re there!

AKASHI KAIKYO BRIDGE & AWAJISHIMA

1 hour from Shin-Osaka, JR Tokaido-Sanyo line
Covered by the JR Pass

Contributed by: Kenny – Knycx Journeying

Osaka is one of my favourite destinations in Japan because of its unique and delicious food; it is also the hub of cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe – which the nearby Awaji Island may fall out of many tourists’ radar. 

Located in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea, Awaji Island connects Honshu and Shikoku with the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, which is officially the longest suspension bridge of any kind in the world! 

The bridge straddles across the Akashi Strait with an impressive length of four kilometers. It was impressive but also thrilling to walk on the glass-floor walkway in the Maiko Marine Promenade to truly experience the height and scale of this man-made wonder. 

Go across the bridge by bus afterward to visit another architectural masterpiece: Awaji Yumebutai, a convention complex designed by Tadao Ando. It has many modern architectural designs, including a stepped garden of one hundred flower beds, overlooking the Seto Inland sea. 

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge & Awajima Day Trip from Osaka

Awajima Day Trip from Osaka

1.5 hours and under day trips from Osaka

KURASHIKI

1 hour 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka on Nozomi Shinkansen via Okayama, JR Tokaido-Sanyo line
Other trains on this line are covered by JR Pass

While its more famous neighbour Okayama is home to Korakuen (one of Japan’s top 3 gardens), the Edo-era town of Kurashiki is often overlooked by many foreign tourists. With its glistening canals lined with weeping willows, preserved architecture and old-world charm, it’s easy to see why Kurashiki is affectionately known as “The Venice of Japan!”

Take a relaxing canal boat ride beneath the willows and spend time exploring the many kominka (traditional warehouses) now converted into boutiques, quirky museums and eateries. As the birthplace of denim in Japan, you can even make your own jeans as a souvenir. 

Perhaps the most surprising gem in Kurashiki is the Ohara Museum of Art. Dedicated to an impressive private collection of Western masterpieces by Picasso, Cézanne, Monet and more, the story on how these artworks made it to this compact town in the middle of Japan is an amazing one.

TIP: Be sure to check my detailed guide to Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter for more!

HIROSHIMA & MIYAJIMA

1 hour 30 minutes from Osaka on Nozomi Shinkansen to Hiroshima, JR Tokaido-Sanyo line
Other trains on this line are covered by JR Pass

Hiroshima is one such place I firmly believe everyone should visit at least once during their lifetime if given the chance. There is nowhere else quite like it on our planet that will leave you feeling so humbled, yet inspired at the same time.

Aside from the haunting remains of the Atomic Bomb Dome, you’d be forgiven for thinking the city was not the recipient of the world’s first nuclear bomb on August 6, 1945. While Hiroshima is a vibrant, buzzing city on the surface, there are remnants and even nuclear shadows from that fateful day dotted throughout if you know where to look.

To understand more about what happened here, a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum is a must. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the Children’s Peace Monument, Peace Arch and Hypocentre Plaque are just a small handful of World Heritage sites to include on your visit.

Although I would recommend spending at least 2 days here to take the time to see all the significant Hiroshima attractions, a day trip from Osaka to Hiroshima is possible, albeit a little rushed if you wish to spend half a day in Miyajima as well.

With even more sacred deer, the most photographed torii gate in the country, beautiful temples and shrines as well as incredible natural scenery, Miyajima is a great addition to your Hiroshima visit! Read my detailed guide to enjoying a Miyajima day trip.

TIP: If it’s your only shot to see both cities in one day, I’d recommend this combo Hiroshima & Miyajima World Heritage walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide to help you visit the must-sees smoothly.

TIP: While you could easily spend 2 days in Miyajima itself, to see this sacred island efficiently I’d recommend a Miyajima half day tour with a local guide. They’ll be able to teach you more about Japanese religion and history of the island with lots of local foods to try along the way!

2 hour day trips from Osaka

MT KOYA (KOYASAN)

2 hours from Osaka-Namba on Nankai Koya Railway line
Covered by the
Kansai Thru Pass

Contributed by: Shandos Cleaver – Travelnuity

One of the most interesting day trips from Osaka is to Koyasan, or Mount Koya, a sacred mountain in the Kii Mountain Range. While under 2 hours from the centre of Osaka, this village is a world away from the bustling city.

The centre of a Buddhist sect and a major pilgrimage site, the temple town was built up around the Kongobuji Temple, the head monastery of Shingon Buddhism and home to the largest rock garden in Japan, but there’s plenty of other temples dotted around the town. 

Don’t miss the atmospheric tombstone-lined walk through the forest to Okunoin, the mausoleum of the sect’s founder.

To get to Koyasan, take the train from Osaka’s Namba Station to Gokurakubashi Station. Then transfer to a cable car (JPY 500), which lifts you up into the mountains, before a final short bus trip into the town (JPY 300). With an altitude of 900m, the town offers a refreshing respite from the summer heat. If you’d like to stay longer, many temples offer a temple stay program. 

Day Trip from Osaka to Koyasan

2+ hour day trips from Osaka

Is Naoshima Island a day trip from Osaka?

Naoshima, known as Japan’s “Art Island” is located almost 3 hours one way from Osaka via train and ferry. Situated within the Seto Inland Sea between Okayama and Takamatsu, the compact island is dotted with art museums, sculptures and and interesting architecture.

The most famous and unofficial icons of the island are Yayoi Kusama’s giant spotted pumpkins! 

While morning people may enjoy getting up at the crack of dawn to ensure the most of the day trip there, realistically a Naoshima day trip from Osaka will mean up to six hours in travel time alone – an incredibly long day.

Considering the lengthy time and planning it takes, I personally would not recommend an Osaka to Naoshima day trip. Instead, I’d plan a future visit separately and spend the prior night in Okayama where a one way journey only takes 1.5 hours. But of course, you do you!

TIP: As I am yet to visit myself, this guide to Naoshima Island details exactly how to plan a future visit and what to expect.

Is Naoshima Island a day trip from Osaka?(Credit: Pixabay)

Concluding the best Osaka day trips

That’s a wrap for popular and lesser-known Osaka day trips! I hope this guide has inspired you to look beyond the obvious locations and dispelled some myths about whether it’s really realistic to visit some in only one day. 

If you’re looking for more things to do in Osaka and where to stay, don’t forget to take a look at my detailed Osaka itinerary to cover all the bases. For guided day trips, check these tours out of Osaka  to get even more ideas. 

Which of these day trip destinations will you add to your Osaka bucket list someday? Let me know in the comments below!

While you’re here, why not take a look at all my articles for travel in Japan, ideas for responsible itinerary planning, how to be an “invisible” tourist around the globe and much more? If you found this helpful, I’d love for you to join me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok for more travel inspiration!

Until next time, 

The Invisible Tourist


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