9 Day Trips From Kyoto City - From Less Than 1 to 3 Hours Away!
Aside from being one of the historic capitals of Japan, Kyoto City serves as an excellent base to go on day trips and explore the rest of Kansai due to its strategic location. Did you know that iconic cities like Osaka, Nara, and Kobe are only a stone's throw away from Kyoto City? Learn about all the easily accessible destinations in this article to get the most out of your Kansai trip!
May 27 2020 (Aug 04 2020)
Kyoto as the Gateway to Kansai
Kyoto is home to many historic and cultural gems that appeal to travelers who wish to experience a refined and elegant side of Japan. However, one way to fully appreciate its nostalgic charm is to venture to other cities in the Kansai area so that you can feel the unique vibes that each city has to offer. These places have cultures and lifestyles that are distinctly different from that of Kyoto City, each of them offering unique experiences that will enrich your travel!
What's more, with its strategic location in the Kansai area, all of these places are easily accessible from Kyoto City, so it is easy to make day trips and then return to your Kyoto lodging without having to spend the night. Utilize JR Kyoto Station to visit them during the day and come back to explore Kyoto's nightlife! Here are 9 day trips that are worth an adventure from Kyoto City.
Less Than An Hour from Kyoto City
1. Uji (Kyoto): The Historic Capital of Japanese Green Tea
When thinking about Kyoto, green tea may be one of the first things that come to mind. True to its reputation, Kyoto is the home to high-grade green tea and exceptional green tea confectioneries that whets your appetite and leaves you hankering for more. Uji is the ideal location for green tea fanatics, as it is the city that is responsible for most of Kyoto's superior tea production. As it takes a simple 20-minute train ride to reach Uji from Kyoto Station, it does not take excessive planning or amounts of time to visit.
Take a stroll down Byodoin Omotesando Street while in Uji and have fun tucking into all things tea: tea-flavored noodles, tea-flavored ice cream, and even tea-flavored dumplings. You will surely find that tea tastes especially delectable when you are savoring it amid the spectacular untouched scenery.
A trip to Uji is not complete without a visit to Byodoin Temple. A visually stunning example of architecture associated with Pure Land Buddhism, it showcases a serene atmosphere and arrests your attention with its two phoenix statues on the roof of its Phoenix Hall. Make sure to bring along a ten-yen coin, because Phoenix Hall is so famous that it is prominently featured on the back of this Japanese denomination!
2. Osaka: The City For Foodies And Shopaholics
Bustling and lively, Osaka City grabs at the heartstrings and excites with its dynamism and sheer vibrancy. Travelers who have the Japan Rail Pass can use the pass to ride on a shinkansen train and reach Shin-Osaka Station from Kyoto Station within 15 minutes! But even if you don't have a Japan Rail Pass, it costs only 560 yen to board a Special Rapid Train at Kyoto Station and reach Osaka Station within half an hour. It's the epitome of convenience.
After reaching Osaka City, be sure to try out all of its famous mouthwatering dishes, including takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake), and kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered ingredients) at iconic locations such as Dotonbori. Osaka boasts an unparalleled gastronomic experience that is hardly replicated elsewhere, so you simply have to take this chance to eat to your heart's content!
There is no shortage of things to do in Osaka. Why not take a stroll through the many shopping districts and pick up all the cool goods and merchandise without breaking the bank? Young adults who are into retro fashion often gravitate towards Amerikamura which offers an amazing selection of secondhand clothes. Those who are into modern Japanese brands flock to Whity Umeda, Osaka's underground shopping mall.
After getting your fix of retail therapy, be sure to make your way to Osaka Castle. It boasts an impressive castle tower and is surrounded by tranquil moats and majestic turrets. It's a visual feast that will leave a lasting memory of your trip!
3. Nara: The City for Animal Lovers and History Buffs
Take note, temple devotees: Kyoto Station offers not just one, but two easy ways to get to Nara, meaning it is an essential addition to your to-do list. Taking the Miyakoji Rapid train on the JR Line for 710 yen will enable you to reach JR Nara Station within 45 minutes, and utilizing the Kintetsu Kyoto Line will let you reach Kintetsu Nara Station in about 50 minutes for a mere 620 yen.
No description of Nara would be complete without a mention of the deer that roam freely in Nara Park. These friendly deer are accustomed to humans, so it is a great chance to get to interact with these creatures by buying shika senbei (deer biscuits) and feeding them. If you bow to them, they will even bow back! Remember to fill your social media feed with Instagrammable shots of these adorable deer, but be careful, they can get aggressive when they're hungry!
Once there, embark on some novel adventures that Nara has to offer. As Japan's first permanent capital during the 8th century, Nara's spectacular temples create a regal atmosphere that emanates historical significance. Enter Todaiji Temple for only 600 yen, and see the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. Crawling through the Buddha's "nostril," a gigantic pillar with a hole big enough for worshippers to fit into, assists in gaining enlightenment for your next life. Nearby is the world-renowned Kofukuji Temple, which is an impressive presence with its five-story pagoda. It also contains many ancient Buddhist carvings, with which you can observe for yourself how Buddhism took root in Japan.
4. Kobe: The Lively Port City
As a port city, Kobe embraced foreign merchants and traders at a time when Japan was still wary of foreigners, so it now radiates a multicultural feel that entices world-savvy travelers. Reach Kobe in around 30 minutes by using the Japan Rail Pass, and take a shinkansen that travels from Kyoto Station to Shin-Kobe Station. Alternatively, 1,080 yen will get you on the Special Rapid train to get to Sannomiya Station within 50 minutes.
Upon reaching Kobe, head over to Nankinmachi, one of the three largest Chinatowns in Japan. Have an amazing time observing how Chinese influences such as food and architecture are given a uniquely Japanese spin here.
The Kitano Foreign Residences are a collection of residences that were built for non-Japanese. Here you can witness a variety of places of residence that showcase diverse architectural influences. Experience the world in one place through fascinating landmarks such as the England House, Dutch Museum and Fragrance House, and the Italian House, truly a melting pot of cultures. Be prepared to spend anything from 650 to 3,000 yen depending on which buildings you wish to visit, 3,000 yen being the price of a combination ticket that will let you visit several of the historic landmarks.
Other famous landmarks include Kobe Port Tower, which towers over the buildings nestled by the waters of Kobe Port, and the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum, which memorializes the destruction of the deadly Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, and the Starbucks Coffee Kobe Kitano Ijinkan branch. It is nestled in a Western-style building built in 1907 that was designated as a Tangible Cultural Property by the country, making it one of the more interesting Starbucks locations in Japan. Originally the residence of an American living in Kobe, it became home to this Starbucks branch in 2009.
Food-wise, no trip to Kobe would be complete without savoring Kobe Beef. Produced from pedigreed Tajima cattle that are born and bred in Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe Beef delights the tastebuds with its tender, fatty, and well-marbled texture. Simply divine!
Shopaholics and those looking for the perfect souvenirs will not be disappointed, as Kobe offers a multitude of stylish souvenirs.
5. Kurama-dera Temple And Kifune Shrine (Kyoto): The Go-To Places For Trekkers
Another spectacular, easily accessible day trip is Kifune Shrine. A train ride only a little less than 50 minutes from Kyoto City will allow you to be able to witness the sheer beauty of this Kyoto landmark just north of the downtown area. The stone steps leading up to Kifune Shrine are dotted with festive red lanterns, brightening the mood of those hiking up the path. Kifune Shrine is dedicated to the god of water, so it offers an intriguing omikuji (fortune paper) that reveals your fortune only when dipped into water. Don't forget to buy an omikuji to see what your future has in store!
Another spectacular, easily accessible day trip is Kurama-dera Temple. A 430-yen ticket from Demachiyanagi Station in downtown Kyoto will let you hop on the Eizan Dentetsu Line and reach Kurama Station north of Kyoto City in about 45 minutes. Kurama Station is also only a 2-minute train ride away from Kibuneguchi Station by Kifune Station if you would like to visit one after the other.
Kurama-dera Temple is within walking distance from Kurama Station, and its expansive complex that sweeps over the countryside leaves its visitors awestruck. Be prepared to sweat it out a little while hiking up the mountain path and paying homage to the majestic shrines along the way. But perseverance is key because upon reaching the top, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous view of the main shrine that commands a magnificent view of both the mountains and valley. Regardless of whether it is blanketed in a layer of luscious snow or flanked by vivid autumn foliage, it is a sight that is not to be missed.
Less Than Two Hours from Kyoto City
6. Hiroshima: The City That Advocates Peace
Hiroshima has an intriguing past, as it is only one of two cities in the world that was devastated by an atomic bomb. Reaching Hiroshima City from Kyoto Station is an easy feat as well, as the Japan Rail Pass can be used to take the shinkansen to Hiroshima Station. Otherwise, for 10,570 yen, you can take local trains and arrive at Hiroshima Station in one hour and 40 minutes.
Among the things to explore in Hiroshima is the Atomic Bomb Dome, a solemn relic that bears testimony to the horrors of the atomic bombing. Located nearby is the Peace Memorial Museum, which gives a thorough account of this life-altering tragedy and the resilience the people of Hiroshima displayed as they valiantly got back on their feet. If you are lucky, you will get to meet one of the passionate docents who will give a guided tour of the museum. You will definitely get a renewed appreciation of the peace that we often take for granted during serene times.
It is advisable to engage in something light-hearted after viewing the Atomic Bomb Dome, so we suggest paying a visit to Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on Miyajima Island. Miyajima Island is an idyllic ten-minute, 180 yen ferry ride from Miyajimaguchi Station in Hiroshima City. Once there, soak up the stately aura of Itsukushima Shrine, whose attention-grabbing red torii gate will make you stop in your tracks. Miyajima is also world-renowned for its huge, juicy oysters, so be sure to get a taste of those while you're there, and don't forget to interact with the friendly deer inhabitants as well!
7. Okayama: The City That Dazzles Fruit Lovers
Okayama is the home of Momotaro, arguably Japan's most beloved folk tale character, so this prefecture is worth checking out for those interested in Japanese culture and folklore. Reaching Okayama from Kyoto Station is a piece of cake, as it only takes an hour and a half with the Hikari shinkansen. Those who have the Japan Rail Pass do not have to fork over a single cent; otherwise, this shinkasen ride will set you back about 7,500 yen.
As if stepping back years in time, the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter provides a glimpse into an old market town. Still encompassing many classic Japanese features, the quarter has been recognized Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings. Walk along the streets lined with traditional white walls, or perhaps partake in a gondola ride down the gentle river. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter offers not only a sense of olden Japan, but also a harmonious collaboration between Japanese and Western influences.
Nature lovers will also relish the opportunity to visit Korakuen Garden, justly known as one of Japan's top three gardens. Go on a leisurely stroll in this meticulously landscaped space, breathe in the fresh air, and take a respite from the hustle of your packed travel itinerary. The view at Korakuen Garden is especially compelling as you can see Okayama Castle, which is in the immediate vicinity. Savor the sight of its dignified black walls!
Widely acclaimed as the "Sunshine Prefecture," Okayama delights many foodies as its fine weather makes it a haven to produce juicy fruits such as white peaches, melons, muscat grapes, and pione grapes. These fruits emit a sweetness that will stick with you throughout your stay in Okayama! Thanks to the availability of such heavenly fruits, there are also many kinds of delectable desserts and souvenirs available, so do not miss the chance to give your taste buds a treat.
Less Than Three Hours from Kyoto City
8. Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo): One of Japan's Best-Loved Onsen Towns
A quintessential Japanese experience is having a slow, relaxing dip in a hot spring, so seize the opportunity to visit Kinosaki Onsen located in northern Hyogo Prefecture. Taking a limited express train will set you back just a little under 3 hours, by which you will reach Kinosaki Onsen Station - at a wallet-friendly price of 4,160 yen.
Nestled within verdant greenery, this charming onsen town has seven public sotoyu (hot baths). Each bath is designed to be unique from each other, so you are bound to have a magnificent time hopping from onsen to onsen soaking up the various atmospheres. Your quest will be made more memorable by navigating the town. Fill your eyes with the calming sight of wooden ryokans and stunning arched bridges.
After having your fill of onsens, feel free to take your pick of the many activities you can engage in while in this onsen town, such as exploring the shops and cafes along Yunosato Dori Street. Shop till you drop, purchase exquisitely handcrafted souvenirs and yummy snacks, or relax at an idyllic cafe for hours. This leisurely afternoon is yours to savor!
9. Koyasan: The Ultimate Mindfulness Retreat In Japan
As a nation steeped in Buddhist spiritual practices, Japan can act as a stepping stone to gaining inner peace. Those looking to purge their minds of worries should visit Koyasan (Mount Koya), known as the center of Shingon Buddhism, a Japanese sect of Buddhism. Traveling to Koyasan from Kyoto City is rather convenient: first travel to Nankai Namba Station in Osaka and then take the Nankai Koya Line to Gokurakubashi Station (the ride is priced at 870 yen). Finally, spend 390 yen to board a cable car that goes all the way up to Koyasan Station. All this traveling should take a little more than 2.5 hours in total.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Koyasan consists of 117 temples, all of which will envelop you warmly with their solemn and dignified air. As you take in the many intricate features of these temples, enjoy how this stately atmosphere compels you to appreciate the silence around you and listen to your own heartbeat.
Other than the temples, the Okunoin Cemetery is an intriguing place of interest as it is home to the graves of some 500,000+ people, including esteemed historical figures like daimyo Oda Nobunaga. Who knows, you might just gain an epiphany about life after visiting the cemetery!
Make the Most of Your Time in the Kansai Area
Which one of these 9 day-trips piques your curiosity or strikes your fancy? No matter where you go, you will get to experience local culture and lifestyle that will fire up your enthusiasm for life, so embark on your journey with vigor!
Title image credit (clockwise from top left): f11photo / Shutterstock.com, Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com, KPG_Payless / Shutterstock.com, siriwat sriphojaroen / Shutterstock.com
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.