Known for its exotic dishes and beautiful flowering cherry trees, Osaka is a fantastic place to visit when you’re in Japan. It’s smaller than Tokyo, but there is lots to see and do, accommodation is cheaper, and it’s a little less crowded than Japan’s capital! We’ve put together a list of Osaka day trips so you know what to do and where to go when planning your trips from this central hub.
Best Osaka Day Trips
Take a train to visit Himeji Castle
This Japanese hilltop castle is one of the most extraordinary and best-preserved castles in the country, with a white exterior and soaring rooves, which gave it its other name, the ‘White Heron Castle.
The castle is Japan’s finest surviving example of classic Japanese castle architecture! So much of Japan’s history has been destroyed in wars, making this site special for its beautiful preservation – it is well worth a trip to experience the grandeur and culture of 14th century Japan.
This trip is extra special in spring when the flowering sakura are out in full force!
The trip there takes 40 minutes to an hour, depending on whether you have a Japan Rail Pass or not – we suggest you get one if you’re staying more than a week! The ultra-modern transit system is the best way to get around Japan and can be accessed from most places. Check out our post on train etiquette in Japan!
It’s free to see the exterior grounds, but if you’ve made the trip you may as well do it properly! There are over 80 buildings, with unique defensive systems and artifacts to marvel at (they are very marvel-worthy). This costs ~1000 yen ($8.97) and will take you a good part of the day.
Stroll to the beautiful Kokoen Garden
While you’re here, you should definitely take a walk to the nearby Kokoen Garden. It’s a lovely Japanese-style garden (large, manicured and very impressive), and the perfect place to stop and have a picnic! You can also have green tea in their tea ceremony house.
Make a pilgrimage to Mount Koya
The mountain, known as Koyo-san in Japanese, is the headquarters of the Shingon school of Buddhism, an important sect of this ancient religion, and home to over 100 temples and monasteries!
One of Japan’s most sacred sites, this small mountain-top Buddhist community is a great place to get lost for the day, exploring the ancient Okunoin cemetery, the architecture and the still fully-functioning places of prayer. All while winding through the trees that contribute to its beauty. There is something magical about the whole area – no one comes away unaffected!
You can even stay overnight at temple lodgings where you can experience something of the monks’ lifestyle. This includes vegetarian eating and morning prayers, which pilgrims and visitors may join! It’s a once in a lifetime experience. But even a day trip is phenomenal, and one of the greatest Osaka trips.
Mount Koya is a 2-hour trip from Osaka. It’s not a trip covered by the rail pass, but you can get the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket at the station, which is 2,860 yen ($25.64) and gives you access to all transport on the site!
Visit the quaint town of Kinosaki Onsen
If you’re looking to break away from the city for a bit, take a 2.5-hour train trip from Osaka and visit the town of hot springs! One of the most delightful side trips from Osaka, this mesmerizing coastal town is the perfect place to lean back and relax. Enjoy the warm waters of the public baths or a private spa!
Stroll along the willow-lined river, get a massage and enjoy lunch at one of the charming old-style restaurants. You can also partake in a traditional tea ceremony, and visit the unusual museum of wood culture (a surprisingly interesting stop, which commemorates the Japanese forests lost during WW2).
It’s a great place to visit, and a sublime town to people-watch at your leisure!
Experience the different city life in Kobe
If you aren’t planning a multi-day trip to Kobe, you should definitely include a day trip! With its very climbable mountain, its own unique temples and shrines, and its famed beef, it’s well worth the half-hour trip from Osaka.
Go for a cruise around the bay, do a little shopping, hike the mountain (or catch the cable car if you prefer!), get lunch, and stroll around the Motomachi area, Kobe’s compact Chinatown.
Sheltered by Rokko mountain, the city is a really scenic place, and a very fun visit!
Cycle through the historic village of Asuka
This village is off the beaten track, but it’s beautiful! A fantastic day trip from Osaka.
Cycle the village and the rice-paddies around it – and remember to bring your camera! It’s gorgeous, and a totally unique Asian village. Much of it is lost to WW2, but it was home of the first emperor and the roots of Buddhism! It still has some remnants of its past, a fantastically historical site.
Stop at some of the major temples, like the colorfully-garnished mountain temple of Oka-Dera, and the archaeological site of Asuka-Dera. Not forgetting the Takamatsuzuka Tomb, a burial mound with ancient fresco-paintings! It’s a really great way to spend the day.
Take an Osaka day trip and go hiking in Gojo
For those looking for a little more nature and adventure, go to Gojo! This retro little town is a lot of fun to explore at a leisurely pace.
Have lunch in town and try their sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves – it’s weird and wonderful, and something they’re famous for! Or take it to go and have a picnic on the top of the mountain – picnics are always fun, and this one is with quite a view. You can observe the production process of soya at the quaint family-run production Nakako Shoyu, and find lots of old shrines and places of interest in the quaint old town.
Got anything to add?
These are the greatest places to visit when you’re spending a few days in Osaka! Japan has so much to offer, with a beautiful ancient culture, fantastic food, and lovely people. Not to mention the flowering sakura, making everything magical! It’s a great place to explore.
If you have any other suggestions on where to go, leave a comment. We’d always love to extend our list!