People always ask me about good day trips from Kyoto or Osaka.
Especially if you have allotted quite a bit of time for the Kyoto region and fear to get bored, it’s good to know what else you could do.
And if it’s your second or third trip to the region, then you might want to explore new things.
There are the well-known day trips such as Kobe, Himeji and Nara, for example.
Apart from these, I want to show you a lot of different alternatives.
Believe it or not, but there are so many lovely day trips you can easily do from Kyoto – and I bet there are many you haven’t heard of yet!
Please note that the following travel time estimation is based on public transportation. It’s sometimes faster if you travel by car.
Day Trips from Kyoto within Kyoto Prefecture
Nobody says you have to stay within the borders of Kyoto City.
Please note that I won’t mention any spots that are within Kyoto City, that’s for another blog post.
Kyoto Prefecture has a few gems hidden that are well worth exploring.
1. Byodo-in in Uji (20 mins away)
Uji is a very popular day trip from Kyoto as it’s very close.
Byodo-in Temple (平等院) is mostly famous for its Phoenix Hall (displayed on above photo). This hall is also shown on the back of the 10 yen coin.
The hall was completed in 1053. It got its name from the two phoenix statues on the rooftop. The garden surrounding the hall is very beautiful.
2. Fukuchiyama (1.5-2 h away)
Fukuchiyama City (福知山市) is located in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture.
If you like Japanese castles, you might want to check out Fukuchiyama Castle. The surrounding castle town with some remaining wooden buildings and a few shrines and temples is also quite nice.
You can easily spend 1-2 hours there and then move on to Amanohashidate.
3. Amanohashidate (2 h away)
It’s a beautiful area where you can spend half a day or even a whole day. The nature there is breathtaking, so you might want to explore it on foot or by rental bicycle. The “bridge” is a sand bar (~ 3.3 km) covered with pine trees. You can cross it easily.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Osaka Prefecture
Osaka and Kyoto are often mentioned in the same breath.
Yes, they’re close to each other, yet very different, each with its own unique atmosphere.
4. Osaka City (15-30 mins away)
Osaka City has some nice spots you might want to check out such as Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building, Universal Studios, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, the Namba area with Dotonbori.
Although you might be sick of temples and shrines after staying in Kyoto for several days, you might want to check out Sumiyoshi Taisha and Shitennoji Temple (displayed in above photo).
5. Expo ’70 Commemorative Park (50 mins away)
There are several sightseeing spots just outside of Osaka City you shouldn’t forget about such as the Expo Park in Suita City.
It’s a very spacious park that was the original ground for the 1970 World Exposition, thus the name.
There are many things to explore. You’ll find a Japanese garden, a few museums and lots of recreation areas.
It’s nice in almost any season. It’s famous for cherry blossoms in spring, sun flowers in summer and cosmos fields in autumn.
6. Minoo City (1 h 50 mins away)
Katsuoji Temple (勝尾寺) in Minoo City is an extremely fascinating and spacious temple facility.
Previously the temple was written as “勝王寺” which means “temple that wins against any kings”. The message of that time was that Buddhist prayers surpass the imperial power. Later, the kanji was changed to show constraint.
The best season to visit is autumn (late November). The colors are absolutely stunning during that time of the year.
Minoo Park (箕面公園) is only about 6 km away from Katsuoji Temple. You can easily do both in one day.
The spacious park north of Osaka City is one of the most popular spots to enjoy autumn colors in Kansai.
There are several temples, shrines and other facilities along the relatively easy hiking trail. You can even try momiji tempura (deep-fried Japanese maple leaves).
The main attraction is Minoo Waterfall displayed in the photo above.
7. Kishiwada City (80 mins away)
Kishiwada City is famous for its danjiri matsuri in September and October.
It’s a nice getaway from the big city. There are a few minor attractions such as parks, temples and shrines, but I went for the beautiful Kishiwada Castle. A must-visit for castle hunters.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Shiga Prefecture
Kyoto Station is actually very close to the border of Shiga Prefecture.
There are two famous ninja villages in Kansai, one of them is Koka Ninja Village which is about 1.5 h away from Kyoto. Another interesting sight in Koka City is the Minakuchi Castle and Miho Museum. Unfortunately I haven’t been there yet.
8. Otsu City (10 mins away)
If you want to escape the crowds in Kyoto, just do a short trip to Otsu City. While Otsu Station is only 10 mins away from Kyoto and makes a great spot for accommodation during your stay, for most attractions you have to travel a bit farther.
Nice sightseeing spots are Miidera (displayed in above photo), Ishiyamadera, Lake Biwa, Zeze Castle and Omi Shrine (famous for karuta matches) – to name just a few. Otsu has a lot to offer, but is often forgotten. It has to hide behind Kyoto’s big shadow.
One of the most famous sightseeing spots in Otsu is without a doubt Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei which is about 1 h away from Kyoto.
9. Hikone Castle (50 mins away)
Hikone Castle is one of only 12 remaining original castle keeps in Japan. That alone should be reason enough to visit.
Hikone is a lovely city and from the hilltop where the castle stands, you get a breathtaking view over the whole area. Genkyu-en right next to the castle is a lovely Japanese garden.
If you like hiking you can see the site of Sawayama Castle. The mountain castle was abandoned after the Battle of Sekigahara. Only ruins are left now, but from the top of the mountain you get an awesome view of Lake Biwa.
10. Nagahama (50-70 mins away)
If you decide to visit Hikone Castle, you can as well move a bit farther and go to Nagahama Castle on the same day. While this is only a reconstructed castle keep, it’s still quite nice. The surrounding park is beautiful.
There’s also the Nagahama Railway Square where you’ll find Nagahama Station House – the oldest existing station house in Japan.
Furthermore there are a few temples and shrines such as Kegonji Temple, Chikubujima Shrine (on a small island within Lake Biwa) or the Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine.
11. Omihachiman (40 mins away)
The main reason to visit Omihachiman are probably the Azuchi Castle ruins – once one of the most impressive castles.
Nowadays, Omihachiman is a lovely castle town at the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. Make sure to check out the canal area “Hachiman-bori”. There are also some Western Colonial-style houses.
In mid-March you can enjoy the “Sagicho Matsuri” where festival floats are set on fire and men wearing make-up dance wildly.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Nara Prefecture
Most tourists and first-time visitors to Japan add the famous “Nara Park” to their itinerary.
And that’s certainly a good idea. Nara Park has a lot to offer: deer, hiking, ancient temples and shrines, museums and more.
But there’s so much more to see in Nara Prefecture.
12. Nara City (1 h away)
There are a lot of things to do in Nara City. Besides the famous Nara Park which is housing Todaiji Temple, you can also check out several temples and shrines such as Horyuji Temple (slightly outside of Nara City), Toshodaiji Temple, Yakushiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple or Kasuga Taisha.
Climbing up Mt. Wakakusayama – which is an easy hike – is also an option when you’re in Nara Park.
Strolling around in Naramachi, a former merchant district with old houses, or checking out the beautiful Heijo Palace are additional options.
13. Tsubosaka Temple (1 h 40 mins away)
If you’ve been to Japan a few times and have covered everything there is to see in Nara City, then how about exploring some other sights within Nara Prefecture? Tsubosaka Temple is really impressive, especially in autumn.
The temple houses a few Buddha statues, a 20 m tall Kannon statue and a 3-story pagoda.
It’s also the sixth temple on the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage.
14. Takatori Castle Ruins (1 h 45 mins away)
The Takatori Castle Ruins make a nice hike from Tsubosaka Temple. You can easily do both in one day. Because of the autumn foliage there, I recommend going in fall (late November).
It used to be a massive hilltop fortification on Mt. Takatori. Nowadays, only ruins are left.
15. Yoshinoyama (1 h 40 mins away)
Mt. Yoshino is the most popular sakura viewing spot in Kansai. There are three “layers” of cherry blossom trees going from the bottom of the mountain to the top. Not all of them are blooming at the same time. Usually the best time to go is around mid-April.
Apart from the thousands of cherry blossom trees, there are also some temples to explore.
16. Sakurai Area (1:10-1:35 h away)
The Sakurai region has some brilliant temples and shrines you should check out.
Hasedera Temple (長谷寺) is a huge temple facility on a hillside. It’s very popular for its year-round flowers (especially cherry blossoms in spring and autumn colors). Founded in 686, it now serves as the head temple of the Bunzan school of Shingon Buddhism. Its main hall is a National Treasure of Japan.
Muroji Temple (室生寺) is located in Uda City and houses several buildings, some of them very old. They’re quite spread out.
The oldest building used to be a 5-story pagoda from the late 8th century. However, it was destroyed by a typhoon and renovated recently.
An interesting fact is that Muroji is also called “Women’s Koyasan” because in ancient times women were also allowed to enter – which was quite rare. Mt. Koya on the other hand only allowed access for men.
If you visit Tanzan Shrine (談山神社) you might feel like you’re in a temple – and that’s kind of true. In fact, it used to be both, temple and shrine. However, during the anti-Buddhist shinbutsu bunri movement after 1868 it was turned into solely a shrine.
There’s a pretty impressive 13-story, 17 m tall pagoda dating back to 1532. You can see it in above photo.
Tanzan Shrine is also a very popular spot for autumn foliage. The “Kemari Matsuri” (kickball festival) is held twice a year there (April 29 and 2nd Sunday of November).
Omiwa Shrine (大神神社) is located at the base of Mt. Miwa and is probably Japan’s oldest shrine.
Mt. Miwa is being worshipped by three gates standing next to each other (mitsu-torii) which is an extremely rare sight. You actually need to call in advance if you want to see it, so a priest can guide you there.
Very close to the Sakurai area is the Asuka area which also offers a few sights such as Asukadera, Asuka Museum or the Ishibutai Tomb. I just didn’t find this too appealing, so I’ve never been there.
17. Koriyama Castle (1 h away)
Nara Prefecture doesn’t have any huge impressive castle keeps compared to its neighboring prefectures. As far as I know, Koriyama Castle is the only remaining castle keep. It’s really nice there, especially during cherry blossom season. If you’ve seen already the bigger, more famous castles in Kansai, then how about checking out this one? There’s also an annual sakura festival on the castle grounds.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Hyogo Prefecture
This is probably my favorite prefecture in the Kansai region. I also have the feeling that this is the prefecture where I’ve travelled the most.
Apart from Kobe and Himeji, people often don’t know what else to do in Hyogo Prefecture.
Let me give you some ideas.
18. Kobe City (30-50 mins away)
Kobe is probably one of my favorite cities in all of Japan. It has so many different things to offer in just one place and I like the whole atmosphere. You can easily spend more than a day there.
The Meriken Park with the Kobe Tower (in the photo above) are the symbol of Kobe City. At the nearby Haborland you can go shopping and also try the famous (and expensive) Kobe beef.
As you might know, the area was hit by a strong earthquake in 1995. You can learn more about this in the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum.
Like most harbor cities in Japan, Kobe has received a lot of Western influence in the second half of the 19th century. In the Kitano district you’ll find a lot of Western-style mansions. This is not the only thing Kobe, Nagasaki and Yokohama have in common. There’s also a very nice China Town.
If you’re into nature and / or hiking, then you don’t have to go far! Just a short walk from Shin-Kobe Station leads you up to a rather easy hiking trail where you can discover beautiful Nunobiki Waterfall. You can hike up all the way to Nunobiki Reservoir. You could also take the Shin-Kobe Ropeway to get to Nunobiki Herb Garden. From there the hiking trail goes all the way up to Mt. Maya, one of the peaks of the Rokko mountain chain. Mt. Rokko is another option if you like hiking and stunning views.
While all of them offer nice night views, Mt. Maya offers the so-called “Ten Million Dollar Night View” and is well worth checking out.
After hiking, you can soak and relax in Arima Onsen.
Kobe has several museums, shrines and temples on top of that. The shopping area around Sannomiya Station is also quite good (although not as big as the ones in Osaka).
If you happen to be in Kobe in early December, make sure to check out the breathtaking illumination of “Luminarie“.
19. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (60-70 mins away)
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge connects Kobe with Awaji Island. It’s the longest suspension bridge in the world. It’s lit-up at night which is quite beautiful.
I love the area around Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. It’s so relaxing to hang out there, so close to the ocean, staring over to Awaji Island.
At the Bridge Exhibition Center you’ll learn more about this fascinating bridge (e.g. how they made it quake-proof). At the Maiko Marine Promenade you can access the bridge and walk ~50 m above the water, offering interesting views.
Near the bridge are a few buildings, also Western-style ones. Not too far away is Akashi Castle Park which is especially nice during cherry blossom season and autumn.
20. Awaji Island (2 h away)
Once you cross above mentioned Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, you’ll end up on Awaji Island. The area got probably damaged the most during the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake. You can get more information at the Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park which was the actual epicenter.
Needless to say that my personal highlight was Sumoto Castle. It’s on a hill and the view from up there is stunning. There’s also an onsen in Sumoto City. However, the onsen with the best view is without a doubt “Matsuho no Yu“.
What I also really liked was the Yumebutai which was designed by Tadao Ando, a famous Japanese architect. You’ll find lovely flower fields as well as Japan’s biggest greenhouse.
If you always wanted to see the famous Naruto whirlpools, but had no chance to travel all the way to Shikoku, pay attention now!
While the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge connects Kobe with Awaji Island, the Onaruto Bridge connects Awaji on the other side with Naruto (Shikoku). You can actually see the gigantic whirlpools from there or even take a boat tour. Just make sure to check the “strong days” of the whirlpools.
And there’s still so much more to explore like the Awaji Monkey Center, Awaji Joruri Puppet Theater, several temples and shrines (e.g. Izanagi Shrine) and beautiful beaches. There’s public transportation, but it’s much easier if you have a car (or do a cycling tour).
21. Himeji (50-90 mins away)
I don’t think Himeji needs an introduction. Everybody has heard of Himeji Castle, possibly the most beautiful castle in all of Japan. It’s also one of the only 12 castles with an original castle keep that still remain.
But Himeji has so much more to offer than just the castle – and you got a full day after all, right?
Right next to the castle is Kokoen Garden. I mainly recommend this if it’s a season where a lot of flowers bloom, also during cherry blossom season and in autumn, of course.
Also quite famous is Engyoji Temple on Mt. Shosha, especially because it was a shooting location of “Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise. It’s only a short bus ride from the castle.
If you’re tired of all the typical sightseeing spots, how about visiting Himeji Taiyo Park?
You’ll find a pretty good replica of “Schloss Neuschwanstein”. I always though it was funny that there’s a replica of Germany’s most beautiful castle in Himeji where you find Japan’s most beautiful castle. Not too surprising, though, as the two cities have a partnership.
The park offers a lot of replicas of the world’s most famous sights. There’s also trick art where you can take funny photos with your friends.
After all that sightseeing you might want to take a rest at the Hello Kitty Café that’s in the shopping arcade leading from Himeji Station to the castle.
If you happen to be there in late June, I highly recommend checking out the Himeji Yukata Festival. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous in October, then you could give the dangerous Nada Kenka Matsuri a try.
22. Takarazuka (1 h away)
Takarazuka is a type of Broadway-style musical performance with female only staff. The Takarazuka Revue was founded in 1913 in Takarazuka City, thus the name. If you’re interested, you can obtain tickets here. Nowadays, you can also enjoy shows in Tokyo.
The Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum is just around the corner. Now, you might wonder how the “Godfather of manga” and Takarazuka are related? That’s easy. Osamu’s mother often took him to the Takarazuka Revue as he grew up in Takarazuka City.
In Takarazuka you can also soak in onsen, visit some of the temples and shrines or dare to hike along abandoned railway tracks.
23. Ako City (1:20-2:10 h away)
If you’re interested in Japanese history, you might want to visit Ako.
While Ako Castle itself might not be very thrilling, Oishi Shrine right next to it is quite famous. Have you ever heard of the “47 ronin“?
While the brave ronin are enshrined in Tokyo, Ako is where it all took place. Next to Oishi Shrine is “Ako Loyal Samurai Museum” where you can find artefacts and items left behind by the 47 ronin.
Every year on December 14th, there’s a festival called “Gishi-sai” where they honor the revenge of Lord Asano’s 47 ronin.
This is more like a “local insider tip”, but if you happen to be in the area during cherry blossom season, definitely check out “Ako Misaki“. The pink sakura viewed from a hill with the blue ocean in the background is just too beautiful to skip.
24. Takeda Castle (2:10-2:50 h away)
Takeda Castle recently became quite popular as it was featured as the “Castle in the Sky” on TV a lot. It’s also called the “Machu Picchu of Japan” having some of the most impressive castle ruins in Japan.
It might be a bit far out, but you should at least know about it. During early autumn mornings it’s literally covered in clouds, so that’s the best time for photos.
From there it’s not too far to Kinosaki Onsen (about 90 mins away), so you could soak and relax there and then take a train back to Kyoto which will take a bit more than 2.5 hours. I wouldn’t really recommend doing Kinosaki Onsen as a day trip from Kyoto, but rather going there after visiting Takeda Castle or Fukuchiyama Castle + Amanohashidate and then spend the night there.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Wakayama Prefecture
If you’re into pilgrimage, nature and cat employees, then Wakayama Prefecture is for you.
25. Wakayama City (1:50-2:20 h away)
I once had a flight from Kansai International Airport around midnight and wanted to do some sightseeing before that. I decided to visit Wakayama Castle and Kishi Station (further down). It was a nice and pleasant day trip.
Wakayama Castle is not an original castle keep, but it’s still quite a nice castle. It was built by Toyotomi Hidenaga from 1585-1586. On the castle grounds is Momijidani Garden which is extremely beautiful in autumn.
Apart from the castle, you can check out Kimiidera Temple which was founded in 770. There are 231 stone steps. If you climb them with your loved one in mind, it is said that you’ll stay together forever.
Before you leave, make sure to try Wakayama ramen or soak in one of the onsen.
If you come in summer, you might want to check out Kataonami Beach.
26. Meet Kishi Station Master … a Cat!?! (2 h 20 mins away)
Only 30 mins from Wakayama Station you’ll find Kishi Station. The station building alone tells you that it’s not a normal station.
This station actually employs a cat as station master. And I’m NOT kidding you!
In order to attract tourists, that’s what they once came up with. Unfortunately the previous – and very famous – station master Tama died a few years ago, but there’s already a successor. If you love cats, you just gotta visit!
27. Mt. Koya (2 h 45 mins away)
I’m sure most of you have heard of Mt. Koya by now. It’s a very popular getaway from Kyoto or Osaka.
One reason why it’s so popular is because you can experience shukubo (temple lodging) to get an idea of the traditional, simple life of a Buddhist monk. You can even take part in the morning prayers.
Mt. Koya is popular among pilgrims as it’s the is the center of Shingon Buddhism. It’s also connected to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trails.
28. Shirahama (3 h 10 mins away)
For people who can’t go all the way to Okinawa, Shirahama Beach is a good alternative.
But there’s a lot more to discover in Shirahama apart from the beautiful white sand beach.
In walking distance you can enjoy Engetsu Island, Sandanbeki (great stone cliffs and caves) and Adventure World (amusement park with a zoo, marine park, safari etc.).
Also, Shirahama is known as one of Japan’s biggest onsen resorts. As a huge rotenburo fan, I recommend “Saki-no-yu”.
It’s a popular getaway for the locals in Kyoto and Osaka. However, most of them stay overnight and don’t do this as a day trip.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Mie Prefecture
Another prefecture that is close to Kyoto, but is often ignored, is Mie.
Once you see what Mie has got to offer, I’m sure you’d want to go.
Tsu City is actually the capital of Mie Prefecture and also has a lovely castle. As I’ve never been there yet, I won’t recommend it. I only write about things I’ve actually seen myself. Maybe I’ll add it one day when I’ve finally been there.
29. Iga Ueno (1 h 40 mins away)
Japan has two famous ninja villages, one of them is in Mie Prefecture.
If you visit Iga City, you need to check out the Ninja Museum of Iga-ryu. Not only can you see some ninja combat techniques live, but there’s also a house with typical ninja tricks and traps as well as an extremely elaborate ninja museum.
Very close to the museum is Iga Ueno Castle.
As Iga is the birthplace of one of Japan’s most famous poets, Matsuo Basho, you’ll find his birth house and a memorial museum there.
You can also enjoy the annual Ueno Tenjin Festival which is held from October 23-25. If you can’t make it, you can at least admire the beautiful festival floats in the Danjiri Museum.
30. Ise (2 h 10 mins away)
Ise City is well worth a visit, because Japan’s most sacred shrine, the Ise Grand Shrine, is located there.
The scenic “wedded rocks” in the ocean can also be found in Ise. While there are several of these in Japan, the “Meoto Iwa” of Ise is probably the most famous among them.
If you travel with kids – or even if you just want to experience life in a feudal castle town, dressing up as a ninja or samurai – then you might want to check out “Edo Wonderland” which is very close to Ise Shrine and Meoto Iwa. On top of that you’ll find a 1:1 replica of the impressive Azuchi Castle. The real one stands in Shiga Prefecture, although only ruins are left (I mentioned it earlier in this post).
Day Trips from Kyoto to Okayama Prefecture
Okayama Prefecture is already outside of Kansai. It belongs to the Chugoku region.
From Kyoto you have to travel through Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures to get there.
A lot of people stop by on their way from Kyoto to Hiroshima (although then it won’t be a day trip anymore).
31. Okayama City (1 h away)
Okayama City has a Shinkansen stop on the way from Kyoto to Hiroshima, so it’s located very conveniently.
The most famous attraction is probably “Korakuen“. It’s one of Japan’s “Top 3 Japanese gardens“, “Kenrokuen” in Kanazawa (see further down) and “Kairakuen” in Mito being the other two. Personally, this is my favorite among the three. It’s beautiful in any season, but especially during cherry blossom and autumn season.
As an additional feature you can see Okayama Castle from the garden. It’s also known as the black “Crow Castle“, as contrast to nearby Himeji Castle, the white “Egret Castle”.
Okayama City also has a lot of museums such as Okayama Orient Museum, Okayama Prefectural Museum, Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Hayashibara Museum of Art or the Yumeji Art Museum. There’s even a Maneki Neko Art Museum.
If you’re looking for temples and shrines, I want to point out Saidaiji Kannon-in Temple. While it’s not a particularly interesting temple per se, it’s where the crazy “Naked Man Festival” takes place every February.
32. Soja City and Kibi Plain (2 h away)
If you’re looking for something to do that’s a bit different from the “usual” stuff, then I recommend Soja City.
Not only will you find the demon castle “Kinojo” there, but you can also enjoy one of the most pleasant cycle tours around the Kibi Plain.
Between Soja Station and Bizen-Ichinomiya Station (~ 13 km), you’ll find several temples and shrines and can follow the legend of “Momotaro“. Extra tip: you gotta try Kibi dango!
Note that the castle is about 8 km away from Soja Station. The closest station is “Hattori Station” (5 km), though.
It’s tough to do both, the castle and Kibi plain, in one day, even more if it’s a day trip from Kyoto unless you pay for a taxi or have your own means of transportation.
33. Kurashiki (1 h 35 mins away)
When visiting Kurashiki, you might feel like you’re in a different country … maybe Italy? That’s because of the beautiful canal area that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867). Along the canal you find lots of tiny shops, restaurants and mostly art related museums. Most of the buildings were originally used as warehouses.
34. Kojima – Mt. Washu (2 h away)
Okayama is the gate to Shikoku, one of Japan’s 4 main islands. The Great Seto Bridge (13.4 km) connects Honshu with Shikoku via expressway and railway.
The Seto Inland Sea is often praised for its beauty. There are many small islands which add to the scenery. Some of the islands can be visited, e.g. Naoshima, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that as a day trip from Kyoto. Save that for when you explore the whole region a bit more.
One great way to enjoy the beautiful landscape is accessing one of the two observation decks on Mt. Washu. You just travel to Kojima Station and take a bus to “Daini Tenboudai” from there.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Hiroshima Prefecture
As a lot of first-time visitors consider including Hiroshima to their itinerary. Some just stay a day, others for a few days.
In fact, Hiroshima Prefecture has a lot to offer.
35. Hiroshima City (1 h 50 mins away)
When people hear “Hiroshima” they usually think of the atomic bomb. That’s probably still the main reason for tourists to visit as there’s a lot to learn and see about that incident. A very symbolic building that has been preserved in its destroyed form is the A-Bomb Dome. Nearby is the Peace Memorial Park and the museum where you’ll learn what led to the dropping of the bomb.
While this might all be quite depressing, there are also very beautiful sights in Hiroshima City. One of them is Hiroshima Castle and the surrounding park. There’s also the lovely Japanese landscape garden Shukkeien.
If you’re up for a little hike, I recommend checking out the Futabayama Peace Pagoda about 1,5 km from Hiroshima Station.
36. Miyajima (2 h 40 mins away)
Just like Amanohashidate which was introduced earlier in this post, Miyajima is one of Japan’s Top 3 Views.
The red gate that’s floating in the ocean is famous around the world, so I don’t think Miyajima needs an introduction anymore.
The small island that originally only men were allowed to enter is beautiful in any season, but especially in spring and autumn. Note that it can get extremely crowded then, all the more on the weekends.
Just like in Nara Park, you’ll find deer there. They’re also used to tourists, but still acting a bit different to the ones in Nara. They used to be less aggressive and they also haven’t learned to bow in order to get food, but I haven’t been there ever since 2010, so things might have changed now.
I recommend spending almost a full day there. You can hike up Mt. Misen where you get absolutely stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea. Some people also stay overnight on Miyajima.
37. Fukuyama Castle (1 h 20 mins away)
Maybe you’ve seen this castle already when taking the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima as it’s right next to Fukuyama Shinkansen Station.
Fukuyama Castle is a reconstructed castle keep. The size is quite impressive. It’s a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in spring.
The great thing about this castle is that you can just hop out of the Shinkansen, visit it for 30 mins and then hop onto the next train to Hiroshima – or even better to Onomichi (see next point below). Just note that not every Shinkansen stops in Fukuyama, so check beforehand. It’s the stop between Okayama and Hiroshima.
38. Onomichi (1 h 50 mins away)
Onomichi is only 20 mins by train from Fukuyama. It ‘s a very beautiful small town located along the Seto Inland Sea. You’ve probably noticed by now that pretty much everything around the Seto Inland Sea offers stunning views.
Onomichi has many slopes. The most pleasant way to get up to Senkoji Park where you have a nicer view over the port town is to do the Temple Loop. You’ll walk from temple to temple and thus your way up. Another enjoyable way up is the Path of Literature. There are also many cats along the way. I went in spring and the combination of cherry blossoms and the blue ocean was amazing.
If you have a chance, try Onomichi ramen, the local speciality.
Onomichi is also the starting point of the Shimanami Kaido cycling tour which leads you over bridges in the Seto Inland Sea from one small island to another until you reach Imabari in Ehime Prefecture (Shikoku). This has been on my bucket list for the longest time and I hope I get to do it at some point. Obviously, this is not recommended as a day trip from Kyoto.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Aichi Prefecture
Next up, we’re moving into the opposite direction to the Chubu Region which you’ll cross when you go from Kyoto to Tokyo or vice versa.
There’s so much to discover that I highly recommend instead of doing a day trip from Kyoto, to look for a base, e.g. in Nagoya, and travel the region from there. However, if there’s something you want to see no matter what, you should at least know that the following trips are possible.
39. Nagoya (35 mins away)
A lot of people have never heard of Aichi, but almost everybody knows Nagoya City, the capital of the prefecture.
It’s very convenient as it’s a major stop on the Shinkansen line from Tokyo to Kyoto and makes a great day trip from both sides.
Nagoya is a rather big city, so there’s naturally a lot to do and explore.
One of the major tourist attractions is Nagoya Castle. It’s a reconstructed castle keep, but especially famous for its two golden carps on the roof.
The Nagoya Port Area has something to offer for everyone. You can go shopping, there’s an impressive aquarium, an amusement park and the “Fuji Icebreaker”, a ship that was used to explore the Antarctic Ocean.
Apart from several museums, there are also a lot of temples and shrines. Particularly interesting are the Atsuta Shrine, Osu Kannon Temple and Nittaiji Temple.
40. Castle Hunting in Aichi (~ 1:00-1:50 h away)
Aichi Prefecture is great for castle hunters. Besides Nagoya Castle, you can also find the following ones nearby:
Odaka Castle Ruins (24 mins from Nagoya), Suemori Castle Ruins (25 mins away), Kiyosu Castle (27 mins away), Okazaki Castle (50 mins away), Kariya Castle (50 mins away), Ansho Castle Ruins (53 mins away), Iwasaki Castle (1h away), Yoshida Castle (1 h away), Koromo Castle (1 h 10 mins away) and Nishio Castle (1 h 15 mins).
Personally I somehow liked Kiyosu Castle the best.
By far the best choice is Inuyama Castle, though. It’s one of the only 12 original castle keeps in Japan and Inuyama City is truly beautiful – as you can see in above photo. It’s about 1 h and 40 mins away from Kyoto or about 1 h from Nagoya.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Fukui Prefecture
I really don’t know why so many people completely ignore Fukui Prefecture. Probably because it’s not connected to the main Shinkansen line.
Ok, I’m guilty, too, as this was one of the last prefectures I ever visited, but there’s really so much to see!
41. Fukui City (1 h 30 mins away)
Fukui City is the capital of the prefecture and the starting point if you want to further explore the prefecture.
While there’s not that much to see, you still should know about it. For some of the other sights further down, you’ll have to transfer at Fukui Station anyway and if you have a bit of extra time, you could check out the nearby Fukui Castle Ruins (5 mins walk). Only the moat and the castle walls are left, though.
Nearby (10 mins walk) is the beautiful Japanese garden, Yokokan. You can get a combination ticket to also visit the Fukui City History Museum there.
42. Eiheiji Temple (2 h 20 mins away)
Eiheiji (永平寺) is located just outside of Fukui City in the mountains, surrounded by cedar trees. It’s one of the two head temples of Soto Zen Buddhism. The other one is Sojoji Temple (nowadays) in Yokohama.
Eiheiji is a large temple complex with over 70 buildings and structures.
It’s also a training monastery with around 200 monks and nuns. The typical training period for a priest there is 3 months – 2 years.
If visitors have Zen experience, they can participate in the training. However, you need to contact the temple in advance.
43. Katsuyama City (2 h 40 mins away)
I think Katsuyama City is mostly famous for the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum which is about 20 mins by bus from Echizen Katsuyama Station.
Needless to say that I went there to see Katsuyama Castle.
While it has no historical value as it was built in 1992, it’s apparently the tallest castle (57,5 m) in all of Japan. The outer appearance of the castle is pretty cool in my opinion. On six floors you can find a tea room, a library, an observation deck and also a huge museum displaying artefacts from up to 700 years ago.
At Seidaiji Temple you can admire Echizen Daibutsu which is actually taller than the Giant Buddha in Nara‘s Todaiji. As it was built in the late 80s, again there’s little historical value. However, the temple complex is really impressive and the surrounding landscape is stunning. It’s displayed on above photo. You can see Katsuyama Castle in the background as well.
Heisenji Temple is one of Japan’s most famous “kokedera” (moss temples). Another famous one is Saihoji Temple in Kyoto. Not only is the ground around the temple covered in moss, there are also lots of massive, old cedar trees. This is creating a magic atmosphere. Near the temple a hiking trail leads up to sacred Mt. Hakusan (2702 m).
Heisenji was a shooting location for the movie “Sakura saku” (2014).
44. Maruoka Castle (2 h away)
Maruoka Castle is yet another of the only 12 original castle keeps in Japan. Isn’t it amazing that you theoretically can visit a lot of them as a day trip from Kyoto?
Maruoka Castle is only about 12 km away from Fukui City. The castle was built in the late 16th century which makes it one of the oldest surviving castle in Japan. Thus it’s designated as an important cultural property.
In spring, the castle grounds are a very popular cherry blossom viewing spot.
45. Tsuruga City (1h 10 mins away)
Tsuruga City faces the Sea of Japan and offers beautiful landscape views.
Kehi Jingu Shrine (氣比神宮) has the third largest wooden torii in Japan (11 m). By the way, the world’s largest (non-wooden) shrine gate can be found at the original location of Kumano Hongu Taisha in Wakayama Prefecture (33 m).
Famous poet Matsuo Basho, visited this shrine in 1689. You can find his poems caved in stone there as well as a statue of him.
The shrine is also famous for its “power water“. In 702, when the shrine was founded, a sacred spring was there. The pure water is said to provide longevity and health.
At the foot of Kanegasaki Castle ruins you’ll find Kanegasaki Shrine, close to Tsuruga Bay. It’s only 2,5 km from Tsuruga Station. It’s a famous cherry blossom viewing spot and in April a flower exchange festival with the purpose of matchmaking is being held.
If you’re a fan of Leiji Matsumoto, then Tsuruga will not disappoint you. Along the so-called “Tsuruga Symbol Road” from Tsuruga Station to Kehi Shrine, you’ll find several bronze statues of characters from Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato.
If you want to enjoy beautiful scenery, I recommend “Kehi no Matsubara“. The color combination of blue ocean, white sand beach and green pine trees is a designated Site of Scenic Beauty.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Gifu Prefecture
Gifu Prefecture has so much to offer and I really love this prefecture.
However, most places are too far away from Kyoto to really make sense as a day trip which is why I only picked one option for now.
I’ll dedicate a whole post to Gifu Prefecture in the future, so look forward to that.
46. Mino Area (1-2 h away)
Gifu City is only 20 minutes from Nagoya and thus easily accessible.
The main attraction is probably Gifu Castle which is located on Mt. Kinka (300 m) from where you have a lovely view of Gifu City and the Nagara River. It was reconstructed in 1956, so the castle keep is relatively new.
From Gifu Park you can take the ropeway up to the castle, but before you do that, you might want to check out the sights within the park. The Nawa Insect Museum has a really impressive collection of insects. There’s also the Gifu City Museum of History.
Gifu City houses a few temples and shrines that you might want to check out on your way, e.g. Shohiji Temple (Gifu Great Buddha), Jyozaiji Temple or Inaba Shrine. At Tejikarao Shrine you can enjoy the Tejikara Fire Festival in spring.
Gifu is also famous for cormorant fishing (ukai) in the Nagara River in summer. You can participate. Excursion boats can be hired from mid-May to mid-October and will set out after it got dark.
If you want to increase your castle count, you can quickly hop on a train and visit Ogaki Castle which is only 20 mins from Gifu (10 mins train + 10 mins walk).
If you want to enjoy stunning nature and soak in onsen, then the area around Ena Gorge is something you should consider.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Nagano Prefecture
Just like with Gifu Prefecture, most sights within Nagano Prefecture are too far away from Kyoto to justify a day trip. It’s highly recommended to stay a few days in the region to explore everything there is.
47. Matsumoto City (3 h away)
One exception might be Matsumoto Castle. While it’s quite far for a day trip from Kyoto, it’s so well-known that a lot of people wonder how they could squeeze it into their itinerary. It doesn’t matter if you come from Tokyo or from Kyoto as it’s pretty much the same travel time. Note that this might become expensive unless you have some kind of train pass.
Matsumoto Castle is without a doubt one of the most impressive Japanese castles and well worth a visit. It’s yet another of the 12 original castle keeps that are left in Japan. Built in 1504, it’s one of Japan’s oldest castles. The original wooden interiors and external stonework of the main keep remain. Because of its outer appearance, it’s often called “Crow Castle”.
Now that you’ve travelled all the way to Matsumoto, you might also want to check out a few other things such as the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum or the Nakamachi-dori, a street filled with old warehouse-type buildings.
48. Kiso Valley (2 h away)
Kiso Valley (木曽谷) actually stretches from Nagano Prefecture all the way to earlier mentioned Mino area in Gifu Prefecture.
It’s a very popular sightseeing spot for foreign tourists, so I thought I should mention it although this is the only place in this post where I haven’t been myself yet. You probably won’t be able to see all the villages if you do it as a day trip, but principally it’s possible. However, it’s recommended to either stay overnight right there or at least somewhere nearby to get the most out of it.
The area was once part of the old Nakasendo Highway connecting Kyoto with Edo (Tokyo).
The post towns of interest are Magome, Tsumago and Narai.
The hike from Magome (Gifu Prefecture) to Tsumago (Nagano Prefecture) along the well maintained section of the former Nakasendo is very popular. It’s about 9 km, so it’ll take about 2-3 hours. If you’re short on time, you could also take a bus or a taxi.
Tsumago is the best preserved town, but many people say that Narai has the most authentic Edo period atmosphere.
You can drop off your luggage at the tourist information center or have it forwarded to one of the other town’s tourist information centers, but if you’re doing a day trip, that won’t be necessary.
Day Trips from Kyoto to Ishikawa Prefecture
Another very popular itinerary for the Chubu region includes Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kanazawa. While Takayama and Shirakawa-go are simply too far away to justify a day trip from Kyoto, Kanazawa isn’t. Personally I’d recommend the earlier mentioned itinerary, but if that’s not possible, you can at least enjoy Kanazawa.
49. Kanazawa (2 h 20 mins away)
Kanazawa City is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture and has quite a few interesting sightseeing spots.
The most famous is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s top 3 landscape gardens.
Right next to the garden is Kanazawa Castle which was in use from 1580 to 1871. It’s a reconstructed castle keep.
Of course, there are also many temples and shrines. The most interesting being Myoryuji Temple also known as Ninjadera. The temple earned its name because of its many deceptive defences. Oyama Shrine is also worth a visit because of its unusual shrine gate that was designed by a Dutch architect.
Kanazawa has three, well-preserved chaya districts, Higashi Chaya District, Nishi Chaya District and Kazuemachi. Chaya means teahouse and refers to a special type of restaurant where customers are entertained by geisha. The Higashi Chaya District is the largest and thus most interesting one.
Nagamachi is a former samurai district where you still can enter some old samurai residences.
You’ll find several museums in Kanazawa such as the 21st Century Museum, D.T. Suzuki Museum, Prefectural Museum of Art or the Prefectural History Museum.
Also in Ishikawa Prefecture and a possible day trip from Kyoto is Komatsu City. Natadera Temple and Awazu Onsen have been on my bucket list for a while, but not with top priority.
50. Your Suggestions (≤ 3 h away)
I’m well aware that there’s so much more to see.
I only mentioned the things I’ve been to myself – apart from one exception. It also greatly depends on what you’re interested in. As I love Japanese castles so much, that’s usually my first choice. And that’s how this selection came to be.
Theoretically there’s even more, like Toyama or … Shizuoka (although that makes more sense if you’re in Tokyo or on your way from Kyoto to Tokyo or vice versa).
As it’s simply impossible to list everything you could possibly do as a day trip from Kyoto in a blog post, I had to limit the selection.
However, I highly encourage you to recommend your favorite encounters near Kyoto and share them with us in the comments below.