Best day trips from Kyoto in Japan That You Cannot Miss

Best day trips from Kyoto in Japan That You Cannot Miss

  If you’re planning your holiday in Japan, you’re most likely going to visit Kyoto, Japan’s most visited city. Or you’d be the first one skipping it as I don’t know anyone who would plan a trip to Japan without spending a few days in Kyoto. Being in the very heart of Kansai region, remember of making the most of using it as a perfect base for organising some of the best day trips from Kyoto, Japan. That shouldn’t surprise any of you who is reading this post why no one skips this ethereal and probably the most aesthetic city in the world. The moment you get off at the Kyoto station which happens to be state-of-the-art architectural wonder, Kyoto will indisputably take your breath away. However, once you’ve spent some time in Japan’s old capital, you might want to see what else is out there in the Kansai region, just like we did it ourselves. Reading about best things to do in Kyoto and places to see near Kyoto seemed to be all over the place when we were doing our research.  In fact, this is exactly what inspired us to write this post listing the best day trips from Kyoto, Japan and hopefully, saving you some time in your own research phase.  

What to Keep in Mind When Planning Best day trips from Kyoto

  When thinking of squeezing in a few good day trips from Kyoto, try to be realistic with your probably already high expectations on what to see near Kyoto. Start with the amount of days you staying in Kyoto for. so you know whether you can spend a whole day out or you can only allocate a few hours for a day trip from Kyoto, Japan. If you ordered your JR Pass beforehand, even better. If not, don’t worry as you can buy a JR Pass ay Kyoto station, it’s only a pound more expensive to buy a one-day JR Pass in Kyoto. Right, ready for the best day trips from Kyoto in Japan?    

1.   Day Trip from Kyoto to Osaka

    Start with a trip to Osaka, the third biggest city in Japan after Tokyo and Yokohama. For the food selection and nightlife, it ranks number one for us! Osaka’ vibe in quite the opposite to what you’ll see in Kyoto which is why it makes it for a perfect day trip from Kyoto. In Osaka, you’ll be bombarded with thousands of neon lights, loud noise coming from the joyful street food vendors and excited crowds made up by Osaka locals and tourists from all over the world. Don’t worry, everyone will find something to do in Osaka, whether it’s the mouth-watering takoyaki, bustling riverside featured on Osaka postcards, temples going far back to the 6th century, state-of-the-art architectural wonders, best spots in Japan for watching autumn foliage and even Harry Potter in Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan!         Don’t skip it. Just because Osaka is not a current capital like Tokyo or is not as traditional as Kyoto does not mean you should. It has something that both places put together lack – the friendliest people in the whole of Japan that will make your stay totally unforgettable! I totally recommend at least a couple of days out there but even a single day trip from Kyoto to Osaka will result in having an absolute blast out there.  

What to see in Osaka

  Wondering what to see in Osaka? For starters, check out the famous Dotonbori in Osaka, it’s going to take up at least a couple of hours! Dotonbori Canal and the nearby Glico man poster is where all things are happening, day or night. Namba Osaka is where you want to be. Not to mention probably the most beautiful castle in Japan, Osaka castle which to me looks even prettier than the Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture.           For the best views of Osaka, visit fabulously cobalt blue glass building known as Umeda sky building. Shinsaibashi and Namba Parks in Namba will offer the best of Osaka shopping experience. Whilst you’re at it, have a peek at Den Den town which is what Akihabara is to Tokyo. Up for some Kushikatsu? Shinsekai is where you should go! Oh, and the Korea Town Osaka is the largest Korea town in Japan. And that’s only a tiny fraction. There are plenty of things to do in Osaka so if you’d like to read more, visit our guide with best ideas on what to do in Osaka, Japan here or check out our video with top 10 things to do in Osaka summarised below. One more advice on Osaka. Your time will be split between sightseeing and entertainment so don’t get too carried away too much as the social life in Osaka is totally addictive!    

2.   Day Trip from Osaka To Nara

  You may know it, you might not. Nara’s known to be Japan’s fist official capital. If you did want the spiritual feel of Kyoto, Nara will deliver. It’s home to hundreds of over century’s old temples and shrines where you can get lost and wander for hours.  It’s going to be one of the best day trips from Osaka. Why? Because if you love the nature and wildlife, Nara loves you too. Or rather the horde of deer roaming freely in Nara Deer Park!    

What to see in Nara

  Want to know what to see in Nara? It really depends how much time you have. For the very minimum, make sure to see Nara Park or Nara Deer Park (simply follow the sign 奈良公園 Nara-koen), Todai-ji temple featuring world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha called Daibutsu and ethereal Kasuga Taisha shrine with hundreds of stone lanterns.         Why these three places? Nara Deer Park or Nara Park if you prefer is a place you won’t see anywhere else in the world and if you do, make sure to leave a comment where. On the green plain near Todai-ji temple you will see hundreds of Bambi looking deer. Some of them are resting, others playing, some are running after the children and adults asking for some cookies and others are wandering around. Why? According to a local legend, deer are messengers of god which is why they’re under protection. That also explains why there are so many of them and they behave more like pets! Because of its proximity to Kyoto and Osaka, Nara offers an easy, short and very affordable commute and I can guarantee you that it is going to be one of the best day trips from Kyoto and Osaka without staying there overnight unless you choose to do so. That’s of course, not all of Nara. For those of you with more time looking for the best day trips from Osaka to Nara and nearby areas, you’ll probably enjoy our article listing the best places to see in Nara, Japan here. Ah, I almost forgot. The video below is a quick summary of what’s like visiting Nara if you’re planning a day trip from Kyoto in Japan. Once you see it, you’ll be planning your trip to Nara too!    

3.   Day Trip from Kyoto To Himeji

  Staying in Kyoto for a few days? Rain or shine, try to make the most of your JR Pass for a few cultural day trips. How does a day trip from Kyoto to Himeji castle sound to you? It’s definitely cheaper to visit Himeji and the surrounding areas on Kansai region with it but it’s not impossible without it, either.  Himeji is a popular destination for the Japanese people and international tourists and when combined with a trip to Kobe, you can experience one of the best days trip from Kyoto and Osaka. Visiting Himeji Castle (姫路城) is more on a cultural side of Japan and it’s totally worth it. Whether you’re following influencers posting pictures on Instagram of not, you cannot argue with it. Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture is of the most distinctive places in Japan.  

What to see in Himeji

  Why should you make a day trip from Kyoto to Himeji? Well, this snow-white castle is the most visited castle in Japan. In fact, it’s the largest castle in Japan and you’ll see it when you’re climbing it a few floors to reach the top. This brilliant construction is also quite a remarkable achievement to how the Japanese castles were built back in the day, not to mention the meticulous details on the tiles. Did you know that Himeji Castle was one of the first places to be registered in UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan?         After visiting Himeji Castle, make sure to allocate some time for Koko-en Garden (好古園), a beautiful Japanese landscape garden right next to Himeji castle. It’s full of Koi fish and it’s much quieter than the other Japanese gardens seen in Tokyo or Kyoto, making it a good alternative for a stroll or even mediation. Himeji castle is a must-see place in Japan and especially good for planning short day trips from Kyoto in Japan, leaving you enough time to explore surrounding areas of Kansai area.    

4.   Day Trip from Kyoto To Kobe     Whilst I like focusing on the cultural and historical aspects of Japan, you have to make time for food as well. This is why I think best day trips from Kyoto should involve some food aspect too. So why not planning a snappy day trip from Kyoto to Kobe? Kobe is a totally futuristic looking town, with a beautiful seafront and harbour but apart from this is boasts one of the best Wagyu beef in Japan, the famous Kobe beef. Now you know why your trip to Japan will be incomplete if you miss out on trying Kobe beef from nowhere else but Kobe!  

What to see in Kobe

        What is there to see in Kobe that I think you should add it to your bucket list? Well, Kobe beef should be the ultimate reason for your trip. You can only try the original Wagyu beef in Japan and Kobe beef is the best place to try it! Remember, don’t get fooled if you see ‘real’ Wagyu beef anywhere else in the world, it won’t be real. Not staying long enough in Kyoto? Doesn’t matter. You can literally take your JR pass and pop in to Kobe for lunch and combine it with a trip to Himeji castle, Nara or Lake Biwa which you’ll learn about next. However, if you want to explore more, Kobe is one of the hi-tech cities in Japan. Futuristic looking Kobe Harborland and stunning Kobe Port Tower look at their best when they’re illuminated in the evening and at night time. There’s also the longest suspension bridge called Akashi Kaikyo Bridge if you fancy!         Now if you ask me what you should start with if you’re making a day trip from Kyoto to Kobe, then it will be the famous Chinatown or Nankinmachi Kobe (南京町) which in my opinion might be even busier than Yokohama Chinatown. Did you know you could try delicious, top-notch Wagyu beef there as well? With Kobe beef for dinner or lunch, you’re going to make some beautiful Japanese memories because you are going to love it out there, the choice in Kobe is incomparable to anywhere else in Japan. It seems like I’m really spoiling you with your options for the best day trips from Kyoto! Ready for the last one?    

5.   Day Trip from Kyoto To Lake Biwa

    This might be extremely appealing to some of you, especially if you’re after the best day trips from Kyoto during summer time. You might want to get away from the humidity and heat when sightseeing starts to wear you down and becomes more of a chore. A day trip from Kyoto to Lake Biwa will let you enjoy the best of Japan and combine with active holiday. When I studied Japanese at my University, I remember Lake Biwa being mentioned quite a few times, both in my course book and by our teacher. You can imagine the excitement on my face when we got there! Why? It’s the largest lake in the whole of Japan and a perfect camping destination with fabulous landscape, activities and attractions. Best thing about it? It’s rated high amongst the Japanese who can filter out overrated attractions in their home country and pick the places that are totally worth visiting. I think you get my point.    

What to see in Lake Biwa

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    I can tell you one thing for sure, you’ll regret not visiting Lake Biwa. It’s so big and each side of it features different types of landscape and tourist attractions, with the majority of them less known to a Western tourist. If you’re planning a day trip from Kyoto to Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture, you should make a few stopovers to see the beauty of Omi province. A few noteworthy spots include Shirahige Shrine (a think of a picture featuring a floating shrine in Japan), similar to Miyajima shrine or Itsukushima Shrine but a lot less touristy with water being a lot warmer and being much closer to the shore.  
    Another great place is Biwako Valley in Otsu city, about 40 km west from Kyoto offering great ski hills in winter and lush green hills in summer! It makes it for a perfect, active day trip when visiting Kyoto in Japan during winter. If you’re in Otsu, make sure to check out the famous Otsu Flower Fountain also referred to as Lake Biwa Flower Fountain, that’s all on the west coast of Lake Biwa! For a nice retreat, you should check out Ogoto Onsen.
  Lastly, check out the picture below. It features Betendo Temple from Ueno Park in Tokyo which in fact was modelled after Hogon-ji Temple in Chikufujima island which happens to be right in the heart of Lake Biwa. Shiga prefecture is particularly pretty if you’re visiting Kyoto during cherry blossom season but whenever you go, there are many beautiful places to see in there.  
    As you can see, Lake Biwa is worth every minute of your time if you’re looking for the best day trips from Kyoto in Japan. Visiting Lake Biwa deserves a separate article rather than listing it briefly in the best trips from Kyoto, Japan. You can read more about visiting Lake Biwa in our guide here.    

Best Day Trips from Kyoto in Japan. Liked it? Share it!

  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our guide to the best day trips from Kyoto in Japan. This is only a starting point but depending on the duration of your holiday, these spots are considered to be the must-see places near Kyoto and it would be a shame to miss them if you’re staying in Kyoto! In case you do end up visiting Osaka or you’ve made up your mind to make a trip to Osaka, you can check out our must-read Osaka guide listing best things to do in Osaka, Japan here. It’s a good overview on the main spots and it covers quite a few less-known places in Osaka or alternatively, you watch our video featuring top 10 things to do in Osaka here. Nice and easy, after watching it you’ll probably feel you know it all! Leave a comment in the section below to let us know what do you like most from our list of best day trips from Kyoto, we’d love to hear from you. Have a great time in Japan!

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