Day Trips From Kyoto
The magic of Japan stretches far beyond Kyoto, and there are dozens of nearby tiny towns waiting to be explored.
It is well known that Kyoto is filled with unique places to visit, but the same can be said about the entire Kansai region. There are day trips in every direction from Kyoto that will wow any traveler.
If you are looking for assistance in planning your trip to Kyoto, look into having a local plan the trip for you. Our locals make personalized itineraries, based off your travel preferences (museums? nature lover? foodie?). These plans are packed with insider tips. Find your local!
Some of the best day trips from Kyoto include:
Because Osaka is only a short train ride from Kyoto, these two cities are commonly paired together when visiting Japan. Although they are close in distance, each city is very unique.
Getting there: It can take anywhere from 12 mins to 40 mins, depending on what train you ride.
While Kyoto has "old Japan" charm, Osaka is a bustling metropolis of modern technology and innovative cuisine. If you enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, it is likely that you will also like Osaka.
Osaka is known as a foodie city and the best place to get a taste of Japan.
Be sure to try dishes like:
Takoyaki: minced octopus, coated in wheat flour, and topped with takoyaki sauce and mayo
Okonomiyaki: a grilled cabbage and meat pancake, covered in different sauces
Matcha Soft Serve: Green tea ice cream - a frozen treat that is in vogue right now, and very easy to find in Osaka
As always, read up on a history of the city before you arrive.
Once there, don’t miss sights like:
Shinsekai: a retro market area that is famous for its flashy design, 60s-style advertising, and traditional restaurants
Kuromon Market: a 150-year-old market with many food stalls
Shitennō-ji: the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, originally completed in 593
Orange Street: a hipster area filled with boutiques, cafes, and restaurants
Osaka Castle: the jaw-dropping castle, originally built 500 years ago, burned down in the 1660s and was rebuilt after. This castle is surrounded by lush grounds that are great to explore.
Again, depending on the type of train you select, the ride from Kyoto to Nagoya can take anywhere from 30 mins to an hour. Either way, it is not a far distance. This is what makes Nagoya an excellent day trip.
Nagoya is Japan's fourth-largest city. The city is known as a "major production city," and is an economic center for the entire country (do names like Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi ring a bell?)
As a city, there are some famous landmarks. See the Nagoya Castle, Ōsu Kannon temple, the fine arts museum, and the science museum.
Finally, as Nagoya is only semi-popular with tourists, this is a great city to “get lost” in (as lost as you can get with Google maps). Find a local cafe, and make friends with local. It is a great city to learn more about life in Japan.
Before visiting Kanazawa, read up on the history of Japan’s Edo period.
Visiting Kanazawa is like traveling back to the Edo period of Japan’s history. Home to one of the most powerful clans during this feudal time, Kanazawa became a cultural hotspot hundreds of years ago. During WWII, Kanazawa escaped most of the bombing in Japan, and the city is very well preserved.
From Kyoto, Kanazawa is a bit further than other day trips. Depending on the train, the trip can take anywhere from 2-3 hours. Many people choose to spend the night and return to Kyoto (or another day trip spot) in the morning.
The most famous attraction in the city is Kenrokuen garden, known by many as the most fabulous garden in all of Japan. The garden has many artistic structures, as well as natural beauty. Research the park before you arrive, or just wander and see where it takes you.
Also worth visiting are:
Kanazawa Castle: A large castle built in the 16th century.
Chaya District: A chaya is a traditional Japanese tea house where guests are entertained by geisha (songs, dance, ect.) For much of history, these houses were very exclusive (still are), and an "entertainment district" would grow around them. Higashi Chaya District is the most well-preserved of these entertainment districts from the Edo period. There are two tea houses open to the public, and a gold leaf store.
Nagamachi District: Another preserved area of the city that was once the home of the city's samurai.
Gadling posted a great list of reasons to visit the areas, and local specialties to keep an eye out for.
It is likely you have heard of “Kobe” or “Kobe beef” before visiting Japan, but this city is so much more than marbled meat. Many consider it to be one of the most overlooked places for travelers in Japan. While it is not the typical itinerary, it becomes a favorite of everyone who makes the visit.
Kobe is a little over an hour from Kyoto by train. There is also a bullet train that gets there in 30 mins (covered by JR pass).
Kobe is a great city to discover unexpected places.
Some popular attractions include:
Haborland: An entertainment district very close to the waterfront. There are a lot of trendy cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, and a giant ferris wheel with a great view of the city.
Rokko-Arima Ropeway: A very scenic cable car that takes passengers over Mt. Rokko - a very beautiful and dramatic ride, filled with natural beauty.
Earthquake Memorial Park: A park honoring the hardships and trauma caused by the 1995 Kobe earthquake. The area of the park was never repaired and is a reminder of the level of devastation the city underwent after the earthquake. There is also an earthquake museum.
City Look Bus: Buy a ticket for this bus at the train station, and use it to ride around the city all day.
Eating Kobe beef: Don’t miss Kobe beef while in Kobe! Seek out a spot to try this delicacy renowned across the globe. This buttery beef will be some of the best you ever taste. There will be plenty of restaurants serving it (pick one! any one!), as well as places near Harborland.
This is a great post with more things to do.
Kishi Station Master
Calling all cat fans! If you have a JR pass and some extra time, it might be worth it to hop on a train in Kyoto and ride it until you reach the Kishi Train Station.
The station master at Kishi is a cat named Nitama.
Yes, you read the correctly. The station master is a cat named Nitama.
Nitama replaced Tama, a cat that previously ran the Kishi Station for over nine years. Tama is credited with bringing tourism to the area and saving a train line that would otherwise have died. When Tama passed, there was a 50 day period of mourning, and a funeral attended by more than 3,000 people.
Nitama is now in charge and can be seen at her post at the station. There is also a cat museum and cat cafe in town.
Nara is a city that is very popular with tourists, but still worth the trip. If you have seen pictures of tourists petting deer, it is likely that those pictures were taken in Nara. In addition its four-legged residents, Nara was the original capital of Japan, and has the history and temples to prove it.
Located only a one hour train ride Kyoto, there are plenty of things to see and do, including eight Unesco World Heritage Sites. Some popular temples for visitors include Tōdai-ji and Hōryū-ji.
Nara also has a large collection of natural parks and wooded areas. The nearby Mount Yoshino is covered in cherry blossom trees and is very beautiful in the spring.
Himeji is about 60-90 mins away from Kyoto. This town is known for its namesake castle. This expansive castle has 83 buildings that have sprawled over the grounds since construction began in 1333. This massive structure is one of the oldest, best preserved, and largest examples of Japanese castle architecture.
Himeji Castle is beautiful in every season, but two favorite times to visit are spring, for cherry blossoms, and winter to see the castle covered in snow.
The area also produces a lot of popular Japanese food and drinks, including candy, sake, and Yuzu Fruit. It is possible to visit different tasting rooms and shops for local brands.
A plan of training in, exploring the castle and the town, and training back to Kyoto will likely fill an entire day.
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