Want to escape the buzz of Japan’s third-biggest city? Set your compass for some of these must-do day trips from Osaka. Within close reach of this bustling Japanese city lie some of Japan’s most popular destinations. From ancient cities like Nara and Kyoto to the tranquil beaches of Naoshima Island, explore all the great spots surrounding Osaka with this quick & easy guide for travelers!
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The original Japanese capital, Nara is a must-see destination on any trip to Japan. And since it’s only a 40-minute train ride away, it’s an easy fit for your travel plans when you’ve got more than one day in Osaka.
Nara Park is home to a large population of free-roaming deer. The deer are considered Shinto messengers from God. Scattered around the park, they’re friendly and majestic and love being fed by tourists.
There’s more to Nara Park than deer, though. The park also houses a thousand-year-old temple, shrines, and botanical gardens. You’ll also find vendors selling sticky, sweet treats here.
Start your visit by walking through the park to Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Spend time wandering around the forest pathways of the complex to admire its beautiful moss-covered lanterns and striking buildings.
If you’re tight for time, venture back into the heart of the park to catch another major attraction in action: Todai-ji Temple. Built in 752, the temple is home to the Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden), the world’s largest wooden building. Head inside the building to see one of Japan’s most famous relics: A 16-meter-tall statue that’s the world’s largest bronze depiction of Buddha.
On your way back into the city, try to save time for a visit to Isui-en Garden. Located west of the Todai-ji Temple, the garden is expansive and includes well-manicured lawns and ponds peppered with beautiful flowers and trees. As you’re wandering through the garden’s two sections, you’ll also spot several traditional teahouses for a quick afternoon break.
Nara also has several shopping districts and many cocktail bars. After you’re done with the cultural sightseeing, head down to the Naramachi shopping district, located southwest of the park. The area teems with traditional Japanese merchant houses (machiya) that have been converted into museums, shops, restaurants, and cafes. Finish your day with some souvenir shopping and a couple of drinks 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 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.
Just 30 km west of Osaka, Kobe is an even shorter trip than Nara. The journey to Kobe from Osaka is less than half an hour, and once you arrive, you’ll get to enjoy one of the biggest port cities in Japan.
For most travelers, the biggest reason to visit Kobe is for the food. The crowded streets near the harbor are full of vendors offering everything from steamed buns to yakitori (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 at a restaurant to indulge in a steak or a Kobe beef burger. There are several popular choices close to Kobe-Sannomiya Station, including Tor Road Steak Aoyama (Shimoyamatedori, 2 Chome−14−5) and Kobe Beef Steak Restaurant Royal Mouriya (Kitanagasadori, 1 Chome−9−9 2F)
Besides street food and Kobe beef, enjoy a stroll through the Sorakuen Gardens or visit cultural museums in the area, like the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art or Kobe City Museum.
In the evening, the city really starts to come to life. The nighttime Kobe cityscape is an impressive sight full of lights. You can get a great panoramic view by visiting the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, accessible via the top of the station at Mount Maya. Besides a great view of Kobe, you’ll also see Osaka off 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 as little as 20 minutes. The direct trip costs ¥410.
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.
Onsen towns like Arima are built around bubbling hot springs and often attract tons of Japanese tourists. These popular destinations feature a wide array of hotels and resorts, each with its own access to the hot springs.
You can spend your day in Arima Onsen Town soaking your bones and muscles in the hot water. The onsen’s waters contain 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. Most know that most tourists visit for a soak in the water. There are also two main public baths—Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu—that tourists are welcome to check out.
Besides bathing, there are other things to do in Arima Onsen Town. You can walk along charming alleyways and explore the winding paths that lead to temples & shrines.
How to get to Arima Onsen Town
Traveling by train from Osaka to Arima isn’t a direct trip. You need to take several trains to get there, but it typically only takes a little under two hours. 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’ll need to get on a bus. Several direct bus routes travel from Osaka to Arima Onsen. The journey is usually about an hour. (NOTE: The buses tend to cost more than the trains 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. Case in point: Awaji Island. 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—even sporting 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. It’s home to long walking paths, gardens, and the largest garden greenhouse in Japan.
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After walking through the parks, visit Sumoto, the biggest city on the island. Sumoto offers natural hot springs and is home to the famous Sumoto Castle. Although not one of Japan’s most impressive castles, Sumoto Castle is located on a rocky crag that offers beautiful views of the city and sea toward Kobe and Osaka.
How to get to Awaji Island
If you have your own vehicle or take a taxi, you can cross the suspension bridge to reach Awaji Island.
The easiest option for most travelers, however, is to take a ferry. You can take a train from Osaka 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 should take just over an hour.
Wakayama City is a little further from Osaka than the previous destinations, but it’s still close enough for a short, fun trip. Wakayama is a one-stop shop for sightseeing and is home to many onsens, parks, temples, and a towering castle.
Should start your day trip in the center of the city to get a closer look at Wakayama Castle, the city’s most famous landmark. Fans of Japanese culture should pop into the castle’s museum, featuring some interesting samurai exhibits. If you’re visiting in spring, Wakayama Castle is one of the coolest places in the region to admire the spring cherry blossoms. In the fall, the autumn colours are equally beguiling.
After checking out the castle grounds, you can spend the rest of the day exploring the city’s old stone streets and winding pathways. On the way, you’ll stumble upon shops, restaurants, and old residential areas. There are also several temples and shrines here that’ll 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. Start out early.
When you think of a canal city, Venice likely enters your mind. Unexpectedly, Japan also has a few of its own beautiful canal cities. One of the finest is Kurashiki. Several hundred years ago, Kurashiki was essential to transportation in the area. While it’s no longer a center of commerce, many of the old concrete warehouses are still intact and well-preserved.
Of course, one of the most popular things to do in Kurashiki is to take a boat ride through the canals. Sit back and relax as your guide takes you through the tranquil waterways under drooping willow trees and past ancient buildings.
You can also take in a bit of culture during your day trip. Kurashiki is home to several interesting museums, including the Ohara Museum of Art, featuring works by several European masters; the Kurashiki Museum of Natural History; and Gangukan, a museum dedicated to Japanese folk 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, the longest leg of the journey. From there, take a train to Kurashiki.
Prefer to relax on a beach on your escape from Osaka? Set your sights on Naoshima Island. This beautiful oceanside town is a quaint place to get away from the busy streets of Osaka and the neighboring region. On the popular Japanese island, 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, Naoshima Island lets you experience original and unique art. Also known as Naoshima Art Island, the island is home to a variety of unique museums and art pieces. The most famous is Yellow Pumpkin by celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The sculpture, installed near the beach, depicts a large and colorful spotted pumpkin.
Other museums for art lovers to check out on Naoshima Island include Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum.
How to get to Naoshima Island
Get on the train at Shin-Osaka Station and head toward Okayama. Like traveling to Kurashiki, this ride is the longest part of the journey (about 50 minutes). From Okayama Station, take a train or bus to Uno Port (about 50 minutes), the main gateway to the island. From here, you can catch either a ferry (20 minutes) or a speed boat (15 minutes) to the island.