The Best Day Trips from Kyoto
17 Destinations for a Wonderful Kyoto Day Trip
The best day trips from Kyoto offer the chance to explore many fascinating corners of Japan.
Kyoto is by far one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, but the city is also within easy reach of a number of nearby towns and cities that make a wonderful day trip from Japan’s former capital.
17 Day Trips from Kyoto: Table of Contents
What Destinations Can You Visit on a Day Trip from Kyoto?
If you’re spending a few days in Kyoto, then there are plenty of destinations nearby for a day trip out of town. Some of those on our list are amongst some of Japan’s most well known and fascinating cities, while others lie a little further off the beaten path.
Alongside classic Kyoto day trips to popular places such as Nara and Himeji, there are plenty of fascinating towns and cities nearby that often fly a little under the radar, particularly in neighbouring Shiga Prefecture.
Head a little further afield and you’ll find a number of destinations that are amongst some of the most beautiful parts of Japan.
In short, there’s a huge choice of places nearby that will make for a truly unforgettable day trip from Kyoto.
How We Chose our Guide to Kyoto’s Best Day Trips
We came up with a couple of rules when creating our list of the best day trips from Kyoto.
Firstly, we set a maximum limit of around two hours’ journey time.
If you’re taking a trip out of Kyoto you don’t want to spend a huge chunk of the day travelling. For that reason we’ve not suggested day trip to the island of Miyajima, for example, which is around a 3 hour journey from Kyoto.
Secondly, and for the same reason, we’ve also tried to limit the amount of changes needed to reach each destination by train.
Only one of the day trips on our list requires more than one change of train. That way you can spend more time enjoying Japan rather than schlepping around train stations.
Do You Need a Japan Rail Pass?
If you’re planning on a trip to Japan then you’ve probably already thought about whether you need a Japan Rail Pass.
Many of the suggested day trips on our list are really only possible by taking a Shinkansen for at least part of the journey.
If you’re making repeat trips across Japan by train then a Japan Rail Pass could save you a decent amount of money on rail fares on all trains operated by JR Group. This is especially true if you’re making a number of journeys by Shinkansen.
A Regional Rail Pass Might Be a Better (and Cheaper) Option
If you’re staying in and around Kyoto, then there are a few regional rail passes that might be a better and cheaper option than the Japan Rail Pass.
Just like the Japan Rail Pass, regional rail passes are also issued by JR Group. Regional rail passes cover all trains operated by JR within specific designated areas of Japan.
For example, the 5 day Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass covers all rail travel between Kyoto and Hiroshima, as well as a huge number of locations in between.
Alternatively, the 7 day Sanyo-San’in Area Pass covers an even wider area, offering travel on all JR trains between Kyoto and Hakata Station in Fukuoka.
If you’re staying close to Kyoto, any one of these regional passes may be cheaper than the Japan Rail Pass and be just what you need for getting to where you need to go.
Perfect Day Trips from Kyoto
From nearby major cities, unique lesser-known towns and, of course, Nara’s super-cute deer, here are 17 ideas and suggestions for the perfect side trip from Kyoto.
Osaka is one of the easiest and most popular day trips from Kyoto.
Less than 15 minutes away by bullet train, in many ways brash and boisterous Osaka is very different from genteel Kyoto.
Tour the bustling streets and canals of Dotonbori and see the city’s most famous landmark, the Glico Man. Take in the city’s history at Osaka Castle and enjoy stunning views from the observation deck at the top of Abeno Harukas, the tallest skyscraper in Japan.
Alternatively head to the top of Osaka’s iconic and retro Tsutenkaku Tower, another symbol of the city. And don’t miss the spectacular Namba Yasaka Shrine, whose main hall is shaped in the style of a massive lion’s head.
In the south of the city is Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of the city’s most beautiful shrines which dates back to the 3rd century. In nearby Nagai Park is the interactive teamLab Botanical Garden art exhibition.
Osaka is also one of the best places to eat in Japan. The city is nicknamed ‘Japan’s kitchen’ and for good reason. Treat your tastebuds to two of Osaka’s specialties, piping hot takoyaki octopus balls and kushi katsu, deep fried heaven on a stick.
Of course, if you’d prefer, you can spend the entire day enjoying the rides and shows at Universal Studios instead. If you do, then you can buy advance tickets here.
Journey time: 13 minutes
How to get to Osaka: Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Shin Osaka Station
The capital of Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Japan.
Kobe was one of the first cities to open up to foreign merchants when Japan ended its policy of isolationism in the 19th century. The picturesque Kitano-cho district features many Western-inspired homes that date from the early 20th century, some of which are open to the public.
Kobe is a city sandwiched between the sea and mountains. Along the waterfront are Harborland and Meriken Park, home to some of Kobe’s best modern architecture, including the Kobe Port Tower, the city’s most famous symbol. There are wonderful views of the city from the observation deck at the top of the tower.
There are also stunning views of the city from the Rokko mountains which can be reached by riding the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway. If you fancy a dip in some of the region’s most famous spring waters, fit in a trip to Arima Onsen on the edge of the city.
Of course, Kobe is also the best place to try Kobe beef. While not exactly cheap, there’s no shortage of restaurants in Kobe that specialise in the juiciest and most tender cuts of meat that are packed with flavour.
Journey time: 28 minutes
How to get to Kobe: Via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Shin-Kobe Station
Hikone is one of a number of destinations dotted around Lake Shiga in neighbouring Shiga Prefecture that make a great day trip from Kyoto.
This small city’s most famous attraction is Hikone Castle, one of the few original castles that survived the end of Japan’s Edo Period (most castles in Japan are modern replicas of long-destroyed originals).
Hikone Castle is fairly small and fuses a range of architectural styles that were used in Japan when designing and building castles in the 17th century.
Because of its many original features, Hikone Castle has been declared a national treasure by the Japanese government. The castle’s grounds are also a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in the spring.
Also nearby is Genkyuen Garden, a beautiful landscaped Japanese garden with a large central pond. Running south west of the castle is Castle Road, a modern street that’s been given an Edo-era makeover.
Castle Road features a number of shops where you can pick up local souvenirs as well as a number of great places to eat, including restaurants that specialise in delicious omi beef.
Journey time: 30-35 minutes
How to get to Hikone: Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Maibara, then the Tokaido-Sanyo JR Line to Hikone Station
Uji is another small city, located only seven miles to the south of Kyoto. Being sandwiched between Kyoto and Nara (two former capitals of Japan) meant that Uji also flourished, becoming a prosperous town of culture and the arts.
Uji’s most famous landmark is Byodoin Temple. Originally built in the 10th century, the temple’s most recognisable building is the beautiful Phoenix Hall, whose image features on the 10 yen coin.
The temple also features gorgeous grounds as well as a museum full of priceless cultural artefacts and national treasures.
Uji is also famous for its green tea. You can try a wide variety of different types of local green tea and matcha in numerous cafes on Byodo-in Omotesando, the street that leads to Byodoin Temple, as well as green tea-flavoured ice-cream.
In summer you can take cruises along the picturesque Uji River, where you can also see fishermen use trained cormorants to catch fish.
Journey time: 35 minutes
How to get to Uji: Direct trains on the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station to Uji Station
The capital of Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya is another of Japan’s major cities that makes an excellent day trip from Kyoto. Nagoya is often unfairly overlooked by tourists travelling along Japan’s golden route.
The city’s most prominent landmark is Nagoya Castle. Currently undergoing massive renovations until 2028, the castle’s hugely impressive palace remains well worth a visit.
Elsewhere, the sprawling Atsuta Shrine is one of the most sacred holy sites in Japan, dedicated to Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun.
Home to a number of interactive museums and theme parks, Nagoya is also a great day trip for those travelling with kids.
Nagoya is also home to Legoland Japan, while he city’s Railway Museum showcases a selection of bullet trains as well as a fantastic diorama recreating parts of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.
Journey time: 35 minutes
How to get to Nagoya: Via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Nagoya Station
Another city located close to Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Nagahama’s main attractions are centred around the pretty streets close to Kurokabe Square.
Nagahama is famous as a producer of glass. There are many stores in and around Kurokabe Square that specialise in beautiful locally produced glassware.
The historic city also features a number of impressive religious sites, most notably Daitsu-ji Temple with its huge entrance gate, and the 1,000 year old Hachimangu Shrine.
In the centre of the city is the Hikiyama Museum, which details the long history of the kabuki festivals held each year at Hachimangu Shrine. The actors who take part in the kabuki festival are all local children.
On the edge of Lake Biwa is Nagahama Castle History Museum, a replica of the original castle that enjoys fantastic views of the lake. Keiunkan, a stunning 19th century Japanese villa close to Nagahama Station, is also well worth a visit.
Journey time: Around 40 minutes
How to get to Nagahama: Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Maibara, followed by three stops on the JR Hokuriku Line to Nagahama Station
Omihachiman is another small city in Shiga that features a canal that winds through a beautifully preserved town centre.
Omihachiman became a prosperous merchant town during Japan’s feudal era, thanks to its location en route between Kyoto and Tokyo.
The city continued to be a major trading centre for centuries and there are several signs of that wealth on display today in the grand houses that still line many of Omihachiman’s streets.
You can take a pleasant boat ride along Omihachiman’s canal that courses through the beautiful Shinmachi area in the centre of the city. There are also a handful of historic Western-inspired buildings dotted around Shinmachi, including Haku’un-kan, a former school built in 1877.
There are stunning views of the region from Mount Hachiman, reached via the Hachimanyama Ropeway cable car. Also, like Hikone, Omihachiman is another great place to sample the Shiga speciality omi beef.
Journey time: Between 35-45 minutes
How to get to Omihachiman: By direct train on the local Tokaido Sanyo JR Line from Kyoto Station to Omihachiman Station
Himeji, and the spectacular Himeji Castle in particular, is certainly one of the most fascinating day trips from Kyoto.
One of Japan’s 12 original castles and an UNESCO World Heritage site, Himeji Castle is easily the most majestic castle in Japan.
Known as the White Heron Castle thanks to its grand design and dazzling exterior, Himeji Castle was built in 1609 and is the largest castle in Japan. The castle’s main keep can clearly be seen in the distance as soon as you exit Himeji Station, towering over the rest of the castle complex and the extensive grounds of Himeji Park.
To the south west of Himeji Castle is Kokoen, an elegant Japanese garden that features a number of different areas. Each section of the garden recreates a style of landscaping that was popular during Japan’s Edo Period.
Inside the garden is a beautiful tea house where you can try green tea served with a traditional Japanese sweet called wagashi.
Journey time: 40-50 minutes
How to get to Himeji: Via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Himeji Station
The deer-filled city of Nara is probably the most popular day trip from Kyoto. Nara’s adorable free-roaming deer draw millions of people to the city each year, who are captivated by their head-nodding pleas for treats.
There are over 1,000 deer in Nara Park, which takes up a huge area in the east of the city. Nara’s surprisingly tame wild deer are classified as natural treasures, though they can get feisty if they think there’s food to be had.
Nara Park is also home to many of the city’s other main attractions, including the five-story pagoda and vermillion main hall of Kofukuji Temple. The enormous main hall at Todaiji, which houses a 15 metre tall statue of Buddha, is another of Nara’s most famous sites.
Outside Nara Park there are a number of pretty historic streets in the old town area of Nakamichi. Plus there are wonderful views of the city from the peak of Mount Wakakusayama, especially at sunset.
Journey time: Between 45 minutes to 1 hour
How to get to Nara: Via the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station to Nara JR Station
Almost 50 miles to the north of Kyoto, Tsuruga sits on the coast of the Sea of Japan in Fukui Prefecture.
A small city with a rich and varied history, there is plenty to see and do here to keep you busy for a day. To the west of the city centre is Kehi no Matsubara, a beautiful beach that overlooks Tsuruga Bay that is framed by pine trees.
In the centre of Tsuruga is the historic Kehi Shrine, which features the third tallest wooden torii gate in Japan.
To the north of the city centre in Tsuruga’s port are more interesting reminders of the city’s past. Tsuruga’s Red Brick Warehouses, once used as industrial storage space, are now occupied by a large scale diorama that depicts the story of the city.
The diorama comes complete with moving trains and automated lights that change from daytime to night.
Nearby, the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum tells the fascinating story of Chiune Sugihara and the brave acts he undertook as a diplomat based in Lithuania in 1940.
Chiune Sugihara secretly granted visas to thousands of Polish Jewish refugees, allowing them safe passage to Japan and escaping near certain death. The Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum documents both his story and that of those he saved.
Journey time: Around 50 minutes
How to get to Tsuruga: By direct Thunderbird Limited Express train from Kyoto Station to Tsuruga Station
Okayama’s two most famous attractions are Okayama Castle and Korakuen gardens.
Okayama’s black castle was originally built in 1597 but destroyed in the Second World War. Most of the current castle is a reconstruction of the original, though two original 16th century watchtowers did manage to survive the war.
Known as the Crow Castle because of its black appearance, inside there is a museum dedicated to the history of the castle, along with plenty of samurai armour and weapons on display.
Opposite the castle across the Asahi River is the beautiful Korakuen, classified as one of the three best landscaped gardens in Japan.
Korakuen was originally created in 1700 as a private garden for the feudal lords of Okayama Castle. In the late 19th century Korakuen became the property of Okayama Prefecture and in 1884 the garden was opened to the public.
Today the garden looks exactly as it did in the 1880s, featuring several ponds, manicured lawns, walking paths and a huge range of colourful trees and flowers that bloom at various different times of year.
There’s also a teahouse for enjoying a bowl of matcha tea as well as glorious views of Okayama Castle.
Journey time: Around 1 hour
How to get to Okayama: Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Okayama Station, then the JR Hakubi Line to Kurashiki Station
Not far from Okayama is Kurashiki, a historic town filled with beautiful merchant houses around a picturesque canal that dates from the Edo Period.
Kurashiki was a prominent trading town during the Edo era, most notably in the sale of rice. The town’s elegant storehouses were built to keep rice fresh, while a canal was built so that it could be easily transported to the docks for distribution nationwide.
Today, many of Kurashiki’s grand old storehouses are shops, restaurants and museums, known as the Bikan Historical Quarter, one of the most beautifully preserved areas anywhere in Japan.
Kurashiki is also famous as the birthplace of Japan’s denim industry. There are several denim stores located on Kurashiki Denim Street, housed inside a collection of historic storehouses.
Art lovers will also not want to miss the Ohara Museum of Art, which features a large collection of Japanese and Western art, including works by legendary artists such as Monet, Gauguin, and Degas.
If you’re pushed for time then it might be possible to combine both Okayama and Kurashiki into a single day trip from Kyoto, though they both have plenty to see to fit into a day.
Journey time: Around 1 hour 30 minutes
How to get to Kurashiki: Via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Okayama Station
Wakayama is another city that played an important role during Japan’s feudal era. The city’s most famous landmark is Wakayama Castle.
Built as a base for the powerful Tokugawa Clan, the current castle is a faithful recreation of the original, beautifully located on an elevation high above the heart of the city.
One of Wakayama Castle’s most unusual features is the sloping wooden Ohashiroka Bridge, located in the castle’s park and originally built to connect the castle with the outer quarters.
The park is also one of the most spectacular cherry blossom spots in Japan, with over 600 cherry trees coming into bloom each spring.
Opposite the castle is the futuristic Wakayama’s Museum of Modern Art, which features a revolving range of exhibitions of eclectic and thought-provoking contemporary art.
If you’re missing the beach then Wakayama is the perfect day trip for you. The pristine yellow sands of Kataonami Beach is a 30 minute bus ride from Wakayama’s city centre.
Nearby, the sprawling Kimiidera Temple also offers incredible views of the sea, as well as beautiful grounds filled with cherry blossom trees.
Journey time: Around 1 hour 30 minutes
How to get to Wakayama: Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka Station, then the Kuroshio Limited Express train to Wakayama Station
The small town of Shigaraki certainly makes for one of the more unforgettable day trips from Kyoto. Shigaraki is home to dozens of potteries that make the tanuki statues that are commonly seen outside homes, shops and restaurants all over Japan.
In Japanese folklore, tanuki are shape-shifting supernatural spirits that can bring either good fortune Literally thousands of tanuki statues fill Shigaraki’s streets.
There are dozens of stores located throughout the town that sell tanuki statues. Each store stocks an enormous range of tanuki in all shapes and sizes, ranging from just a few centimetres high to several metres tall.
Shigaraki has been famous for its pottery, known as Shiaraki-ware for centuries. Kilns were first established to take advantage of the abundance of locally produced clay as far back as the 8th century.
Today the town is synonymous with tanuki. A giant tanuki welcomes visitors outside Shigaraki Station, and there’s even a tanuki-shaped restaurant on the edge of the town.
Journey time: Around 1 hour 30 minutes
How to get to Shigaraki: Take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line from Kyoto Station to Kusatsu Station. Change on to the Kusatsu Line to Kibukawa Station, then take the Shigarakikogen Tetsudo Line to Shigaraki Station
A visit to Hiroshima is always deeply poignant and offers an important and emotional insight into one of the 20th century’s biggest tragedies. The city’s Peace Memorial Park is located where the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on 6th August 1945.
Inside the park is the Peace Memorial Museum which documents the city’s history as well as the events and impact of the fateful day.
Opposite the museum across the Motoyasu River stands the haunting remains of the charred remains of the A Bomb Dome, an iconic symbol of the city.
Elsewhere, Hiroshima’s faithfully rebuilt castle is well worth a visit. Modelled on the original 16th century design, the interior features an interesting museum. Plus there are excellent views of the city from the top of the castle.
The city’s beautiful Shukkeien Garden is another wonderfully scenic spot. Restored after the war, the landscaped garden is typical of those found in Edo era Japan, centred around a large, carp-filled pond.
Journey time: Around 1 hour 40 minutes
How to get to Hiroshima: Via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Hiroshima Station
Kanazawa might be an adventurous excursion from Kyoto, but at just over two hours, it’s certainly achievable.
Alongside Tokyo and Kyoto, Kanazawa was one of the wealthiest cities in Japan during the Edo Period. Today the city is stocked full of sights to see, including the historic areas of Higashi Chaya, Nagamachi and Nishi Chaya which still retain the charm of the samurai era.
The city’s most famous streets are in Higashi Chaya, where it is still possible to see geisha perform at ceremonies in traditional tea houses. Kanazawa is also home to Kenrokuen, another spectacularly maintained Japanese garden that’s amongst the three best gardens in Japan.
Close to Kenrokuen is Kanazawa Castle, reconstructed to the same specifications of the original that was built in 1583.
There are also beautiful gardens inside the castle’s large grounds, including the Gyokuseninmaru Garden. Nearby is Oyama Shrine, a unique shrine whose entrance gate features colourful stained glass windows.
Kanazawa is also a great place to eat, especially at Omicho Market. This fresh food market has been operating since the Edo Period. Today there are over 170 stalls and shops inside the market, as well as numerous restaurants, where you’ll find some of the most delicious fresh seafood dishes in Japan.
Journey time: Around 2 hours
How to get to Kanazawa: Via the Thunderbird Limited Express train from Kyoto Station to Kanazawa Station
Ise is famous for being home to one of the most sacred shrines in Japan. Ise Grand Shrine is also dedicated to Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun, one of the holiest deities in the Japanese religion of Shintoism.
Ise Grand Shrine is actually spread across two different sites, the Inner Shrine and Outer Shrine. Ise’s Outer Shrine is located just a short walk from the city’s main Iseshi Station.
The Inner Shrine is in the east of the city, and reached via Okage Yokocho, a number of pretty atmospheric streets that feature a collection of shops and restaurants. Okage Yokocho is a great place to pick up souvenirs and get a bite to eat.
Within easy reach of Ise is Futami Okitama Shrine, just two train stops away from Iseshi Station. Located overlooking the sea, Futami Okitama Shrine is famous for its two wedded rocks, called Meoto Iwa, joined together by rice straw called shimenawa.
Nearby is Hinjitsukan, a beautiful former guesthouse in the style of a luxury Japanese villa. Open to the public, the former guesthouse once welcomed members of Japan’s Imperial family.
Journey time: Around 2 hours
How to get to Hiroshima: Direct Kintetsu Limited Express trains between Kyoto Station and Iseshi Station – this is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass or any JR regional passes
Enjoy the Perfect Day Out from Kyoto
If you’ve explored all of Kyoto’s many main sights and are looking to take a side trip out of town, there are plenty of options that make a wonderful day trips from Kyoto.
Whether you’re looking to explore one of the nearby cities or you’d prefer to find a smaller gem a little more off the beaten path, then there’s bound to be somewhere within easy reach that will take your fancy.
If you’re travelling to other parts of the country then you can find more of our articles from Japan here.
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