Located in Western Japan or Kansai region is Osaka, a fascinating city rich in culture and history, a wealth of attractions and unique experiences. You can’t just get enough of Osaka, but the Kansai region has so much to offer, and it prides itself as being worlds apart from Tokyo in the east.
Visit the country’s most beautiful castle, an island connected by a bridge, mystical castle ruins and a city that seems trapped in time. Leave Osaka for a day and you’ll see another side of Japan. Here are some of the best places you can acquaint yourself with, all just a train ride away from Osaka.
9 Best Day Trips From Osaka, Japan
About 25 miles northeast of Osaka, Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan and a must-visit destination. The bullet train from Osaka reaches Kyoto in 14 minutes, or 25 minutes if you take the rapid service rail. Head off early and prepare for a jam-packed but unforgettable day of exploring Kyoto’s unique attractions and sampling the local cuisine.
Kyoto’s 1,600 temples and Shinto shrines are an important part of the city and its culture, and it’s a must to visit at least a few of these.
There’s also the rich history associated with Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace, the food at Nishiki market, the geisha culture, the impressive gardens and parks, and the traditional arts. And a trip to Kyoto isn’t n complete without visiting the breathtaking Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
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2. Himeji Castle
The magnificent Himeji Castle, also known as Shirasagi, is one of the prettiest castles in the country and is regarded as a national treasure. Also called the White Heron Castle, this is one day tour from Osaka that’s not to be missed. To reach Himeji from Osaka, either hop on the Shinkansen which takes around 35 minutes, or the local train which takes roughly an hour.
The stunning castle that we see now has been through a lot – fires, wars and earthquakes, and a significant restoration before re-opening in 2015. The towers built in traditional Japanese feudal style is quite stunning, and the building is like a Japanese version of a fairytale castle.
The massive complex has over 80 buildings and many acres of parkland surrounding it. It also has a massive garden that you can explore at your own leisure.
Still, a lenghty trip even via high-speed rail at almost three hours, a trip to Hiroshima is still worth the time. A rather sobering, but inspiring day trip from Osaka, it’s hard to believe now that this beautiful city had a dark history. It will forever be remembered as being where the first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6th, 1945.
Today, Hiroshima is known as the world’s “peace capital” because of the many attractions focusing on this devastating historic event, and the need to ensure it never happens again.
A must visit is the picturesque Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the Peace Memorial Museum; the Memorial Cenotaph; the Flame of Peace; and the famous Atom Bomb Dome, with its ruins of the old Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Make sure you also try the city’s version of the Okonomiyaki, which has quite a unique twist on its ingredients.
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4. Awaji Island
Awaji Island is attached to Akashi City by the world’s longest suspension bridge: the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. An hour via a combined train ride train from Osaka and ferry from Akashi, this small island provides visitors with so much to see and do.
There are the natural hot springs and centuries-old castle in Sumoto, the main city. You can also explore the Awaji Yumebutai which has the largest greenhouse in Japan, built on the excavation sites for the Kansai International Airport.
Down south is the town of Fukura where you can catch a ferry to see the Naruto whirlpools and Naruto Bridge. Another must-see is the Awaji Joruri Puppet Theater which displays the island’s tradition of Ningyo Joruri puppet theater.
Usually a stop-off for people on the way to hike the Kumano Kodo or view the Nachi Falls, Wakayama is a city that also deserves a day of exploration. It is a unique day tour from Osaka that showcases another side of Japan, an hour and a half away by rail. Make sure you see the castle tower at the city center, then stroll through Oda Park which has plenty of temples and shrines to visit.
Have lunch and some unusual entertainment by checking out the tuna-filleting displays which happen three times a day at Kuroshio Market. Try out some fresh seafood at the many restaurants there and take home some.
If you want to head out of town for the afternoon, hop on a short train ride to Kada to see its National Park which has a free shuttle bus that will tour you around to see onsen that’s set against picture-perfect scenery.
Or you may take the train to Kishi to meet the world-famous train station cat Nitama. This takes 35 minutes from Wakayama and has some picture perfect views on the way.
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Over two hours via shinkansen might be lengthy, but Tokyo is a worthwhile day trip from Osaka. Set out early and get ready for a long day. Tokyo is a colorful, friendly city, and a lovely mix of fascinating history, architecture, culture, technology, and great food. Only a whole day in here sounds like it’s impossible to fully experience it, but it can be done.
When you arrive, get a hearty breakfast at Tsukiji Market, which is also a great place for a morning stroll. Get a glimpse of history and culture in the Sensoji temple and the vibrant nNakimase Dori street. Head up the Tokyo Skytree for stunning views of the city, or just a good distance away to get a nice photo. Walk around the Yoyogi Park and Meiji Temple, where you might even catch a wedding procession.
Make sure you try some bento lunch, which you can even get from a convenience store. Tokyo streets and districts have their own distinct personality so it’s a must to see them.
Akihabara for all things techie, Ginza for shopping, Shibuya to witness the mad scramble during rush hour and Takeshita Street for the animé vibe. As evening comes, buy some Tokyo souvenirs or have dinner in Shinjuku then marvel at the vibrant neon signs along the street. That’s got to be the best way to end your day, something that’s undeniably Tokyo.
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Relatively remote by Japanese standards, Nara is a historic city that’s less than an hour by train from Osaka. Looking as if untouched by time, Nara’s many fine old buildings and streets makes it a unique day trip from Osaka. It’s home to the historic Nijo Castle, as well as many temples and shrines.
Another must visit is the Todai-ji temple, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. Todai-ji is home to the Big Buddha Hall, and the largest bronze Great Buddha statues ever built. The area around Todai-ji is flourishing with museums, monuments, and temples, all of which are worth the visit. Take a break and enjoy some snacks at the massive Nara Park, which you can share with one or two of its 200 deers. If you’re into some strange adventure, check out the desolate Nara amusement park, a popular destination for those into abandoned places.
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8. Takeda Castle ruins
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An ideal excursion for the more active types who want to go somewhere different is a hike into the mystical remains of Takeda Castle. Constructed in 1411, it was abandoned during the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. It eventually fell into disrepair before it was restored during the 1980s.
It is now open to the public and one of the most magical Osaka day trips. Often surrounded by mist and known as the “castle in the sky”, it is especially beautiful when the mist appears. There are no actual buildings still in the site, but you can see the layout of the fortress and surrounding wings.
Getting to the castle ruins involves 40 minutes of intense hiking, but well worth it once you reach the top. From March to November you can catch a bus that will take you to a point 20 minutes from the castle, so make sure you check the schedules. Takeda castle ruins are reached via rail from Osaka which takes around a couple of hours so make sure you go early.
A port town that’s best known for its beef and sake, Kobe has long been a melting pot of cultures and culinary marvels. About 15 minutes via shinkansen or 30 minutes via private rail, this is one exciting Osaka day tour you shouldn’t miss. Kobe is a small city where most attractions are within walking distance from one another.
Make sure to visit Kobe Maritime Museum, which has a great collection of amazing quality model ships. There’s also the Kobe City Hall where you can enjoy some great views of the city, completely free of charge.
Check out the Animal Kingdom in Kobe, which is a modern version of wildlife in the city where animals walk free (excluding lions, bears, elephants, etc.). Kobe also has a thriving China Town, which is so developed due to Kobe being a key Japanese port.