Home > Around Osaka > Exploring Kansai: Day Trips from Osaka

Exploring Kansai: Day Trips from Osaka

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Giant Buddha at Todaiji Temple, Nara

So far I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what there is to do in Osaka, but this time I want to give a quick overview of places that can be visited as day trips from Osaka. It is, in fact, the perfect city for this, because of its central location and its function as a transportation hub for the Kansai area.

The obvious destination is Kyoto, which is by far the most popular tourist destination in Japan among both domestic and international tourists. Then is nearby Nara (the imperial capital  from 710-794, before it moved to Kyoto), which like Kyoto is home to a number of famous temples and shrines including Todaiji, Koryuji, and Kasuga Taisha. I prefer Nara over Kyoto because it feels more genuine and is not as crowded. Kobe is known as a pleasant, cosmopolitan city with an international feel–I recommend the waterfront Meriken Park, which is a romantic hot spot at night. Then there’s Himeji, with its soaring castle that is more famous and impressive than any other in the country.


Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine, Wakayama City

If you’re looking for something new, why not try Wakayama City? It has a number of gorgeous old temples, some great food, and lovely beaches and hot spring areas. Iga, one of the two great ninja towns of Japan (the other being Koga in Shiga Prefecture), is located in Nara Prefecture and features a ninja museum that you’re sure to get a kick out of. Kumano Kodo, a pilgrimage route that has been celebrated since ancient times, has recently become popular after being named as Japan’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yoshino is famous for its autumn colors and spring cherry blossoms, and also has a number of lovely old ryokan and baths. Further east is Ise Shrine (in eastern Mie Prefecture), the most important Shinto shrine in Japan. It is connected to the imperial family, and it has been rebuilt every 20 years on alternating lots using the same architecture and materials since the beginning of Japan as a unified civilization.


Ninja train, Iga


Yes, there are even ninjas inside the ninja train.

Heading north from Osaka, you will find Uji, which is famous for it matcha powdered green tea, and also for Byodoin, a graceful temple that is meant to be an earthly re-creation of the Buddhist paradise (you can find it pictured on the ten yen coin). Fushimi-Inari Shrine is a complex winding its way up a mountainside, featuring paths lined with thousands of bright-orange torii gates that create an impressive tunnel-like effect. The Lake Biwa area is also a treasure trove of great places to see and delicious foods to eat (read about my journey around the lake here).

There are more options available, but the places listed above are all great destinations for day or weekend trips out of the city. With the autumn leaves reaching their colorful peak, now is the perfect time to experience the many faces of the Kansai region.

  1. November 19, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Wow, I’m really writing all these down so I’ll know what to do when I get there. Seeing my friend’s pics of her trip in Osaka and your own description makes me really impatient to have my trip. But a few friends told me that since this will be my first trip outside my country it would be better for me to try going to other countries that doesn’t need a visa, like Hongkong. Although I’m thinking about it, but I would really, really prefer to go to Japan first, but since my friend already had her trip, I am still looking for other people who has the time to go with me, especially the experience of travelling, since I’m afraid I might get lost in the airport, LOL!

  2. Caroline
    November 19, 2009 at 11:56 am

    The ninja train looks really fun..a little weird with the random ninjas everywhere…but fun!

  3. December 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Excellent post, great looking website, added it to my favs!

  4. July 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Just found this blog. Awesome advice! I am going to Osaka in August. Do you know of any places not far from Osaka that are very traditional and rural? I’d like to see some of rural Japan.

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