Osaka is a perfect base from which to explore other parts of Japan. All of the country's major cities are accessible within a few hours by high-speed train, and a handful of desirable destinations make for great day trips.
Kyoto – 30 minutes
Japan’s former imperial capital, Kyoto can be reached within 30 minutes from Osaka by train. On the quick ride, the scenery transitions from urban and cosmopolitan to picturesque and historical. On a day trip to Kyoto, it is possible to see multiple famous temples, such as the Golden and Silver Pavilions, try local Kyoto food, and even explore the storied Geisha district. Any trip to Osaka would not be complete without spending at least a day in neighboring Kyoto.
Nara – 30 minutes
Wild deer roam free in the ancient city of Nara, located about 30 minutes from Osaka by train. Nara, formerly known as Heijo, was Japan’s first capital city. Today, historical treasures like temples, shrines, and pagodas can still be seen all around the small city. The best things to do on a day trip include walking through Nara Park, laying eyes on the giant Buddha statue in Todaiji Temple, and enjoying the laid back atmosphere in the city’s quaint backstreets.
Kobe – 20 minutes
The city known for the world’s most tender beef, Kobe is nestled seaside a short 20-minute train ride away from Osaka. For centuries, Kobe served as an international seaport, welcoming seamen from neighboring countries and those further afield. That history can still be felt today in the bustling, foreigner-friendly city of Kobe. While there for the day, don’t miss the views from the enormous Ferris wheel at Kobe Harborland and over the city on the Shin-Kobe aerial tramway.
Himeji Castle – 30 minutes
At only 30 minutes from Osaka by train, visitors should make time for a quick day trip to Himeji Castle. The UNESCO World Heritage site is Japan’s most famous and traditional castle. It has survived wars and natural disasters, and except for some current scaffolding being used for renovations that obstructs the view, remains a beautiful relic of another era. Check renovation updates on the Castle for the most up-to-date information on which areas are accessible. Under normal operation, visitors can explore the grounds, as well as the interior, of the Castle.
Hiroshima – 85 minutes
Internationally known for being one of the two sites targeted with a nuclear bomb during World War II, Hiroshima’s history is complex, rich, and represented in beautiful ways through museums and memorials in the city. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorates the lives lost in the bombing and represents a future of peace and cooperation to avoid international conflicts. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is the city’s main attraction. The city also boasts excellent shopping and nightlife. Hiroshima is about 85 minutes from Osaka by train.
Mt. Koya – 90 minutes
Slightly further afield than other day trip options, Mount Koya is a sacred Buddhist mountain located 90 minutes from Osaka by train. The iconic image of the mountain and forests on it is one encompassed in fog; the image captures the mystical, spiritual appeal of the location. Mt. Koya has excellent hiking opportunities, but visitors primarily flock to it for peace, serenity, and temple stays.