The Top 10 Day Trips from Osaka

Shinkansen (bullet train) at Shin-Osaka Station
Shinkansen (bullet train) at Shin-Osaka Station | © Oleg Shpyrko / Flickr
Christine Bagarino

Osaka is the central city and beating heart of Kansai, the western region of Japan, which has its own unique character and atmosphere vastly different from Tokyo and the Kanto region in the east. The city can be accessed from overseas by Kansai International Airport (KIX) or via shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo. There’s plenty to see and do and to eat in Osaka, and even more in the wider Kansai region outside the city. Here are ten spots that can be visited from Osaka in a day.

Kyoto

With shrines, temples, and UNESCO World Heritage sites galore, Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital of Japan, is a must-visit if you’re in the Kansai region. It’s also extremely easy to reach from Osaka — just a 15-minute train ride by shinkansen.

The torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine

Nara

The city of Nara is even older capital of Japan than Kyoto and is home to historic treasures like the Todaiji Temple, which houses the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. It’s located about 30 minutes from Osaka by express train on the Kintetsu Nara Line.

Todaiji Temple, 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara City, Nara prefecture, Japan

The Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple

Shirahama Beach, Wakayama prefecture

This hot spring resort town about a two-hour drive from Osaka is the locals’ closest taste to paradise. Shirahama Onsen is ranked among the oldest in Japan, and the seashore offers open-air hot springs, white sandy beaches (with sand imported from Australia — go figure), and nightly fireworks during the summer.

To get there by train, take the ‘Kuroshio’ limited express from JR Shin-Osaka to Shirahama Station and catch a bus to the beach.

Shirahama Beach, Nishimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan

Shirahama seashore

Himeji Castle, Hyogo prefecture

Himeji Castle is a national treasure and renowned as one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. To get there, take the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka 30-45 minutes to JR Himeji Station. The castle is a 20-minute walk from the north exit of the station. You can also take the shopping arcade Miyuki Dori just east of the north exit to Honmachi Shotengai, which ends a block away from the castle gate.

Himeji Castle, 68 Honmachi, Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan

Himeji Castle in spring

Hiroshima and Miyajima

Hiroshima is a necessary destination for anyone visiting the Kansai region, if only for the culturally important Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, but also for Hiroshima’s fantastic local cuisine and the stunning views of Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima. If you only have a day to do both Hiroshima and Miyajima, it’s possible to save time by taking the Miyajima High Speed Ship to go directly between the island and city center.

To get there, take the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima Station. Travel times range from 1 hour 25 minutes to 2 hours 13 minutes depending on which shinkansen train you take.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, 1-2 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima City, Hiroshima, Japan

The floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima

Ise Grand Shrine, Mie prefecture

The most important Shinto shrine in Japan, Ise Grand Shrine is believed to enshrine the sun goddess Amaterasu. The shrine dates back to the 3rd century, and while the inner sanctums are off limits to public access, the surrounding forest is extremely popular among both casual tourists and more serious visitors on pilgrimage.

Ise is a bit far from Osaka, but still possible to visit in one day with careful planning. To get there, take the express train from Kintetsu Osaka Namba station bound for Kashikojima to Ujiyamada Station (about 1 hour 50 minutes). From Ujiyamada, Ise Grand Shrine is about 15 minutes by bus.

Ise Grand Shrine, 1 Ujitachicho, Ise City, Mie Prefecture, Japan

Lanterns and chimes at Ise Grand Shrine

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