If you want to experience modern Japanese culture, Osaka is a must-see destination. It features a thriving nightlife scene and mouth-watering street food.
You could easily spend an entire week in the city and still not see everything. However, all the excitement of the Osaka metro area may wear you down.
The best day trips from Osaka can help you get away from the city and catch some fresh air. From the ancient city of Nara to the tranquil beaches of Naoshima Island, there are many great spots close to the bustling city.
Need help choosing a destination? Use this guide to the best Osaka day trips to complement your Osaka travel plans…
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Best day trips from Osaka: The 7 top side excursions
Nara is just a short trip from Osaka and is a necessary part of any trip to Japan. It’s the original capital of the country and is only a forty-minute train ride away.
There are several amazing places to visit in Nara that you need to check out, including the sprawling Nara Park. The park is home to a large population of free-roaming deer that are considered considered Shinto messengers from God and love being fed by tourists.
The park also houses a thousand-year-old temple, botanical gardens, and plenty of vendors selling sticky, sweet treats.
Nara also has several shopping districts and many cocktail bars. You can tour the sites in the morning, go shopping in the afternoon, and finish your one day in Nara with a couple of drinks. You can fit a full day into your itinerary before hopping back on the train to Osaka.
How to get to Nara
The easiest way to travel between Osaka and Nara is via the Kintetsu Nara Line. You can travel from Osaka Namba Station on the Rapid Express train and arrive at Kintetsu Nara Station about 40 minutes later. You’ll also get dropped off within walking distance of the Nara Park.
For a shorter commute, you can use the limited express services that run between the two stations. Be aware that this train costs about twice the price compared to the rapid express train and only saves you about ten minutes.
Kobe is even a shorter trip from Osaka compared to Nara. You can get there in a half an hour and enjoy one of the biggest port cities in the country.
The best part of the city is the food. The crowded streets near the harbor are full of vendors offering everything from steamed buns to yakitori, which is skewered chicken seasoned with tare sauce.
Of course, the city is also home to world-renowned Kobe beef. While visiting the city, make sure that you stop into a restaurant and to indulge in a steak or a Kobe beef burger.
Besides street food and Kobe beef, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Sorakuen Gardens or visit any of the cultural museums in the area.
In the evening, the city really starts to come to life.
The nighttime cityscape is an impressive sight full of lights. You can get a great panoramic view by visiting the Shin-Kobe ropeway, which is accessible via the top of the station at Mount Maya. Besides offering a great view of Kobe, Osaka is also visible in the distance.
How to get to Kobe
Getting to Kobe is incredibly easy. You can get on the JR Rapid Service or JR Kobe Line and travel directly to Kobe in just 30 minutes. The direct trip costs ¥640.
Arima Onsen Town
While Arima Onsen Town is technically within the city limits of Kobe, it’s located on the other side of Mount Rokko. It takes about an hour to travel from Osaka to this natural hot springs escape.
If you’re not familiar with onsen towns, they are centres built around onsen, which are bubbling hot springs. These towns often attract a many Japanese tourists and contain a wide array of hotels and resorts that have their own individual access to the hot springs.
You can spend your day soaking your bones and muscles in the hot water, which also contains trace elements of iron (believed to aid muscle aches).
You don’t need to stay in one of the resorts or hotels to enjoy the hot springs. Many of these spots gladly welcome day visitors, as they know most tourists are simply coming for the water.
Besides bathing, there are other things to do in the town. You can walk along charming alleyways and explore the winding paths that lead you to a variety of temples and shrines.
How to get to Arima Onsen Town
Travelling by train from Osaka to Arima is not a direct trip. You need to take several trains to get there, but it typically only takes a little over an hour.
Hop on a train from Osaka to Sanad and then to Arimaguchi. From there, you can transfer to Arima Onsen Town.
If you want a direct route, you need to get on a bus. There are several direct bus routes that travel from Osaka to Arima Onsen. They tend to cost more than the trains, however, due to their convenience.
With so much to do in Osaka and the surrounding area, it’s easy to overlook some of the nearby islands, such as Awaji.
This small island is attached to the city of Akashi by the longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge itself is a site to see. It even has its own tourist center.
There are several cities on the island that you can visit, depending on how early you arrive. Start with Awaji Yumebutai, which contains long walking paths, gardens, and the largest garden greenhouse in the country.
After walking through the parks, visit the main city. Sumoto is the biggest city on the island, and offers natural hot springs and is home to the famous Sumoto Castle.
How to get to Awaji Island
If you have your own vehicle or choose to take a taxi, you can cross the suspension bridge to reach the island. However, taking a taxi can be costly.
The easiest option is to take a ferry. You can take a train from the city to Akashi. This should take about 40 minutes. You can then walk a few minutes to the port and ride a ferry to the island. The total trip takes just over an hour.
Wakayama City is a little further from Osaka than the previous destinations, but still close enough for a short, fun trip.
Wakayama is a bit of a one-stop shop, as it includes many onsens, parks, temples, and a towering castle.
In fact, you should start in the centre of the city to get a closer look at the castle tower. You can then spend the rest of the day exploring the old stone streets and winding pathways that lead to various shops, restaurants, and residential areas.
If you’re a fan of temple sightseeing, you’ll love this city. There are several temples and shrines that will surely take your breath away with their tranquil architecture and setting.
How to get to Wakayama
You can take a direct route from Osaka to Wakayama. You just need to take the JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service. The trip takes about an hour and a half, so you’ll want to start early.
When you think of a canal city, Venice likely enters your mind. However, Japan has a few of its own canal cities, including Kurashiki.
Several hundred years ago, this city was essential to transportation in the area. While it is no longer a center of commerce, many of the old concrete warehouses are still intact and well-preserved.
Of course, you’ll need to take a boat ride through the canals. You can sit back and relax as your guide takes through the waterways under drooping willow trees and past ancient buildings.
You can also take in a bit of culture during your day trip. The city has its own museums, including a toy museum that is dedicated to Japanese toys.
How to get to Kurashiki
Kurashiki is a bit of a trek from Osaka. The fastest trip is by train. You can get there in just over an hour and a half by getting on the train at the Yodoyabashi Station.
At Shin-Osaka Station, you’ll transfer to the Okayama route, which is the longest leg of the journey. From there, you can take a train to Kurashiki.
Most of the Osaka day trips discussed provide opportunities for shopping, dining, and sightseeing. If you prefer to relax on a beach instead, Naoshima Island is a great destination.
This beautiful oceanside town is a quaint place to get away from the busy streets of Osaka and the neighbouring region. You can spend all day on the beach and fill up on snacks and meals from nearby resorts.
Besides dipping your toes in the water and walking the white sand beaches, you can experience original and unique art. Naoshima Island is also called Naoshima Art Island, due to the variety of unique museums and art pieces, including “Yellow Pumpkin,” by internationally celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama which is a large colored pumpkin installed near the beach.
How to get to Naoshima Island
Get on the train at Shin-Osaka Station and head toward Okayama. Like travelling to Kurashiki, this is the longest part of the journey. From Okayama Station, take a train or bus to Uno Port, which is the main gateway to the island.
Where to stay in Osaka: The best hotels for day-trippers
With the immense size of Japan’s third-largest city, figuring out where to stay in Osaka can sometimes present a challenge. Although I’d normally suggest staying in the Namba area, day-trippers may find staying around Osaka Station or Shin-Osaka Station more convenient. Here are a few recommended hotels…
- ibis Osaka Umeda: One of the better picks in Umeda for those on a tighter budget, this stylish chain hotel offers spacious rooms in a fantastic location connected to the train station and metro.
- Hilton Osaka Hotel: This superb pick in the mid-range/luxury segment of the market is located right around the corner from Umeda Station and delivers large rooms with spectacular city views. Extra amenities like a swimming pool, fitness centre, hot tub, and sauna add to the experience.
- The Ritz-Carlton Osaka: One of the top luxury hotels in Osaka, this 5-star gem offers an accommodations like none other in the city with luxurious suites & rooms along with world-class amenities including a Michelin-starred on-site French restaurant, sauna, hot tub, swimming pools, and a spa.