Close to major cities like Kyoto and Kobe, and with buses running hourly to nearby attractions, Osaka is ideally situated for day trips. Whether you're up for a taste of traditional Japanese culture in Kinosaki and Kyoto or more interested in the scenic landscapes of Tottori's coastal sand dunes and Awaji Island's swirling whirlpools, these day trips from Osaka are less than three hours away by bus or train so you can spend more time enjoying and waste less time in transit.
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10 Easy Daytrips You Can Take From Osaka
Kinosaki Onsen Town
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Kinosaki is one of the most picturesque traditional hot spring towns in Japan. Established around 1,300 years ago, the town views itself as one large ryokan (traditional inn), and guests are invited to stroll up and down the main street in their yukata trying out as many baths as they like. This gives Kinosaki a historic charm that sets it apart from other hot springs destinations. Buses headed for Kinosaki depart from Osaka Station a few times a day.
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Himeji Castle is the pride of Hyogo Prefecture, and the largest, most beautiful and most complete historic castle in Japan. Also known as Shirasagijo, the White Heron Castle, this wonderfully preserved and restored feudal castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Treasure of Japan. The sprawling castle grounds and structures are over four hundred years old, and visitors are invited to explore to learn about the history of the castle, its architecture and take in the views from the top of its six-story keep.
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Kobe is a busy port town on Osaka Bay and the capital of Hyogo Prefecture. Besides being famous for its namesake beef, the city is known for its picturesque night time scenery as viewed from the nearby mountains, one of the so-called 'Three Major Night Views of Japan'. Kobe is also known for being rather chic and international, known as the 'Paris of Japan' among locals. Head to downtown Sannomiya District and the harborfront promenades for shopping, nightlife and picturesque cityscape scenery.
Tottori Sand Dunes
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Inside the Sanin Kaigan National Park, the Tottori Sand Dunes or Tottori Sakyu are a 16-kilometer stretch of sprawling sand dunes on the coast of the Sea of Japan. With several of the ever-shifting forms reaching up to 50 meters high, they are the largest in Japan and the number one attraction in Tottori Prefecture. The indigo Sea of Japan is the backdrop of the desert-like shore, making the dunes one of Japan's most unique and beautiful sights. Buses headed directly for the Tottori Sand Dunes leave Osaka Station several times a day.
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Nara is an old and beautiful city, the first ancient capital of Japan and home to Heijokyu, the former Imperial Palace. Nara is also known for its traditional architecture, and just a short train trip from Nara City will take you to Imaicho, one of the largest groups of old traditional buildings in Japan. The iconic symbol of Nara is the sika deer, the native deer who were once believed to be messengers of the gods, and who now roam freely throughout Nara Park and parts of the city. Inside Nara Park are Todai-ji Temple and Kasugataisha Shrine, the prefecture's largest and most important religious sites.
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The ancient city of Kyoto is very close to Osaka, just over an hour away by train or bus. Many parts of Kyoto are built up from well-preserved, old wooden districts and buildings, and the large number of scenic Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are evidence of the city's historic relevance as the former capital of Japan. Kyoto is the ideal destination for those looking to experience traditional Japanese culture, including kaiseki (high-class) cuisine, kimono tourism and temple tours.
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Awaji is a large island in Osaka Bay and part of Hyogo Prefecture, connected to land via one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. According to Japanese creation mythology, this island was the first of Japan's islands to come into being, and is still a place where traditional Japanese culture is valued. Awaji Island is known for its scenic gardens and parks, hot springs baths with unrivaled views over the bay, and the Awaji Whirlpools, great vortexes which can reach up to 20 meters in diameter.
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Nagoya, also known as Chukyo (central capital), is the capital of Aichi Prefecture. The city's strategic location next to Ise Bay allowed it to flourish since its inception during the Edo Period. Today its greater metropolitan area is the third most populous in Japan. Nagoya is a thriving urban center great for shopping, dining and nightlife. It's also a cultural hub, home to the historic Nagoya Castle, and is the birthplace of the Nagoya Obi, the most popular type of kimono belt in use today.
Yumura Onsen Town
Yumura is a quaint little hot spring town in the northwestern region of Hyogo Prefecture, surrounded by lush mountains and wilderness, and famous for its high-temperature spring waters. In fact the spring water is so hot that a local specialty is eggs cooked directly at the source, an activity guests are invited to try for themselves. There are several free-to-use foot baths located along the river, and most of the resorts allow day use of their facilities for a fee.
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Wakayama City lies on the western side of the Kii Peninsula just south of Osaka. The city is just one hour away by bus, making it the ideal day trip destination for those who don't want to go too far. Wakayama's attractions include the picturesque gardens and stately structures of Wakayama Castle, the scenic coastal area and beaches known as Saikaizaki, the elegant Awashima Shrine and Motoderamachi, the lively, ramshackle dining district located just south of the river.
Make this bustling city your base for exploring the Kansai region and beyond. Osaka's location on the bay puts it right between the Kii Peninsula to the south where Mie, Wakayama and Nara are located, while Kyoto, Shiga and Hyogo Prefectures border the north, east and west sides. A quick bus trip of three hours or less from Osaka Station will bring you to any of these fun and exciting day trip destinations from Osaka.