A wonderful base from which to go on fun day trips to some interesting destinations nearby, Kyoto is also one of Japan’s largest and most visited cities. A city of a thousand torii, a great number of temples and shrines, a stunning bamboo forest and fascinating geisha culture, Kyoto is a wealth of attractions for visitors to enjoy. It is connected to Japan’s excellent high-speed trains, which can whisk travelers pretty much anywhere they want to go pretty quickly and in comfort. Here’s a handy guide on some of the best places you can visit for day trips from Kyoto, to help you figure out your itinerary while in this lovely historic city.
9 Best Day Trips From Kyoto, Japan
An hour away whether you drive or take the train, Osaka is probably the easiest day trip from Kyoto. This lovely historic city is considered as the heart of Japanese culture, home to a number of excellent sights and attractions worth visiting.
This city is best known for the majestic Osaka Castle which also has the Osaka Museum of History, where the 1400-year history of Osaka comes to life in every floor as its a wealth of information represented in various exhibits.
Aside from the castle, a must try is the Umeda Sky Building observatory, which is a great spot to enjoy the views as it transitions from daylight to dusk and the city lights come on. There’s also the Universal Studios, and lastly, don’t forget to partake in Osaka’s rich and diverse street food culture, something that they’re quite proud of.
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An easy two-hour train ride from Kyoto is the delightful city of Kanazawa. It is a beautiful old town full of tea houses, geishas and an overall festive vibe. Kanazawa is pretty much representative of all things Japanese – from traditional local culture to great food and fine historic attractions.
A delightful day trip from Kyoto, one of the many things you can do here is to explore the narrow streets of the Chaya district, especially after hours when the locals head out to enjoy a night out, and you may even spot a geisha.
There’s also the Kenroku-en Garden, one of the best three gardens in Japan, which is adjacent to a beautiful castle that is worth a visit. Kanazawa also has many shrines and temples, as well as numerous tea shops and museums dedicated to the fascinating tea ceremonies and rituals.
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Relatively remote by Japanese standards, Nara is a historic city that’s only an hour by train from Kyoto. Looking as if untouched by time, Nara’s many fine old buildings and streets make it a unique day trip from Kyoto. It’s home to the historic Nijo Castle, as well as many temples and shrines. A must visit is the Todai-ji temple, which is a Unesco World Heritage site.
The area around Todai-ji is cramped with museums, monuments, and temples, all of which are worth the visit. Take a break and enjoy some snacks at the massive Nara Park, which you can share with one or two of its, 200 deers. If you’re into some strange adventure, check out the desolate Nara amusement park, a popular destination for those into abandoned places.
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A port town that’s best known for its beef and sake, Kobe has long been a melting pot of cultures and culinary marvels. Less than an hour via Sanyo Shinkansen, this is one exciting Kyoto day tour you shouldn’t miss. Kobe is a small city where most attractions are within walking distance from one another.
Make sure to visit Kobe Maritime Museum, which has a massive collection of amazing quality model ships. There’s also the Kobe City Hall where you can enjoy some great views of the city, free of charge.
Check out the Animal Kingdom in Kobe, which is a modern version of wildlife in the city where animals walk free (excluding lions, bears, elephants, etc.). Kobe also has a thriving China Town, which is so developed due to Kobe being a key Japanese port.
Located in the heart of the main island of Japan – Honshu, Nagoya is one of Japan’s main industrial hubs. It is an easy commute from Kyoto — only an hour and a half, and well worth taking the time to explore. A port city, Nagoya has long been an important manufacturing city, known for its ceramic industry which traces its roots as far back as the 12th century.
A fascinating day tour from Kyoto, this city also has the majestic 16th century Nagoya castle, with its intricate design, art treasures and impressive views of the city from its main tower. Like most of Japan, Nagoya has many fine old temples, and the oldest – Atsuta Shrine, dates as far back as the 1st century.
The port is also worth exploring and is home to the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium which is the biggest in Japan, a small marine museum aboard the historic vessel the Fuji, and some pleasant coastal walks. Then there’s the massive SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, a fascinating museum that’s focused on the evolution of Japan’s train system, where you get to experience the design, technology, innovation and even try riding your own train.
Only thirty minutes by train from Kyoto, Enryakuji is one of the more unique Kyoto day trips that you’ll find yourself in. For one, you’ll have to take a short cable car ride to read this gorgeous region that’s located high up in the hills. The cable car ride already gives you a stunning view of the Lake Biwa, as well as the area that’ll remind you of the Alps. Hike up the route on Mount Hiei that’ll take you past some of the most popular temples. Enjoy the stunning views that are said to be among the best in Japan.
Enryakuji is the perfect respite from the hustle of the city so take your time and don’t rush from one temple to another. The area, by the way, is pretty isolated so make sure you pack enough food and drinks to get you through the trip.
Quite a long trip even if you take the Shinkansen but set out early and the journey would be well worth it. A worthwhile day trip from Kyoto, Tokyo is a colorful, friendly city, and a lovely mix of fascinating history, architecture, culture, technology, and great food. Only a whole day in here sounds like it’s impossible to fully experience it, but it can be done.
When you arrive, get a hearty breakfast at Tsukiji Market, which is also a great place for a morning stroll. Get a glimpse of history and culture in the Sensoji temple and the vibrant nNakimase Dori street. Head up the Tokyo Skytree for stunning views of the city, or just a good distance away to get a nice photo. Walk around the Yoyogi Park and Meiji Temple, where you might even catch a wedding procession.
Make sure you get some bento lunch, which you can even get from a convenience store. Tokyo streets and districts have their own distinct personality so it’s a must to see them.
Akihabara for all things techie, Ginza for shopping, Shibuya to witness the mad scramble during rush hour and Takeshita Street for the animé vibe. As evening comes, buy some Tokyo souvenirs or have dinner in Shinjuku then marvel at the vibrant neon signs along the street. That’s got to be the best way to end your day, something that’s undeniably Tokyo.
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Located just 30 kilometers off Hiroshima Bay is the stunning shrine island of Miyajima. If you’re a fast-paced traveler, you can combine this with your Hiroshima trip but most prefer to allow an entire day here. The island is best known for the majestic Itsukushima shrines, that stands serenely in the waters of the bay, supported by raised columns that give the illusion that the buildings are floating.
Explore the temple’s many bridges and historic buildings, as well as its beautiful park, which looks more magical in the evening. Make sure you visit the Hall of a Thousand Mats and the Prayer Hall, as well as the Main and Offerings Halls. There’s also a performance of traditional dances and music, and you can relax in one of the tea rooms for a traditional beverage and meal.
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Only an hour and twenty minutes by rail is Okayama city, home to one of the top three gardens in Japan known as Koraku-en. The massive garden is especially beautiful during sakura season, and popular among tourists as well as a venue for family hanami parties. It is picture perfect all year round though, and a must for a Kyoto day trip.
Adjacent to the garden is the Okayama castle, which forms part of the ‘borrowed – a common component of Japanese garden design and well integrated into this one. After hours of exploring the castle and garden by foot, its time to hop on a bike and cycle through the scenic Kibi plains. Enjoy the rural scenery as you wander through the paths between the rice paddies, temples, shrines and historic burial mounds along the way.