If you’re in Osaka this summer and want to escape the heat, we have all the best day trips to give you a breath of fresh air!
Osaka can be a neon nightmare on a hot, sunny day—and sometimes the last thing you want is to find yourself on packed, sweaty city streets (and less so in the current COVID climate). Luckily the hub has plenty of stunning spots you can escape to, from beaches to forest-covered mountains, all within perfect reach of the day-tripper. There are waterfall hikes, canalside towns and abandoned railway tracks that all deserve a visit, so grab your supplies and get exploring on these summer day trips from Osaka.
1. Countryside and canals in Kurashiki
Being on the water is instantly cooling, even if it’s only psychological (not exactly dealing with sea breezes here). But that’s reason enough to go to Kurashiki for the day. You can float along the willow-lined canals and admire the old rice warehouses in the Bikan-chiku area (meaning “beautiful views”). Many of them have now been turned into cafes, shops and galleries.
Back on land, there are local museums including traditional residences, a cotton mill factory, and Japan’s oldest Western Art Museum. Although Kurashiki is Okayama Prefecture’s second largest city, if you stick to the Edo-period area, you’d never know it.
Catch the JR Rapid service to Aioi and then switch to the Sanyo Line for Okayama. There, switch to the Hakubi Line and get off at Kurashiki. The journey takes a little under three hours and costs just over ¥3,000.
If you have the JR Pass, go from Shin-Osaka to Okayama, then to Kurashiki for free (well kind of!) in 1 hour and 25 minutes.
2. Sun, sea and sand at Nishikinohama Beach
One of Osaka’s 100 most scenic greenery spots, this beach is the perfect spot to watch the sun setting over Osaka Bay after a day spent relaxing in the sand. The beach’s name means “two colors” and refers to the white sand and green pine trees which line it.
There are barbecue spaces, and the beach gets pretty busy during summer and clam-digging season (typically April to June, but note clam digging is canceled for 2020). The swimming months are from July 1st to August 31st. They don’t rope off the sea outside of that period, but it means no lifeguards and facilities may be closed.
From Osaka Station, catch the Osaka Loop Line to Shin-Imamiya Station. Change to the Airport Express to Kishiwada. Change again there to the Nankai Local to Nishikinohama.
The journey costs ¥750 and takes just under an hour. The beach is a 10-minute stroll from the station.
3. Sunsets and architecture on Awaji Island
Awaji Island is in between Honshu and Shikoku and has a whole host of things to enjoy beside the cool sea breeze. The island is traditional, creative and connected by the longest suspension bridge in the world.
Tour sake breweries, see monkeys, hike to the Sumoto Castle or visit the whirlpools. Keino Matsubara Beach is a great place to relax and see the glorious sunsets that lend the nickname of “sunset boulevard”.
One of the island highlights is the Yumebutai Gardens designed by architect Tadao Ando. The gardens cover sloping hills and the view from the top is hard to beat. Plus there’s a elevator to get you there if you don’t fancy the stairs in the summer heat. Ando also designed a modern underground temple called Honpukuji, which you can see through a pool of water!
Pro tip: To take in the best view of the surrounding naturescape, take a boat trip or go parasailing around Awaji Island.
Take a train from Osaka to Akashi on the Hanshin Line (40 minutes, ¥920). Then catch a ferry from Akashi Port, which is a few minutes’ walk from JR Akashi Station.
It takes 13 minutes to cross and costs adults ¥530 each way, plus a ¥270 charge if you take your bike or small animals. The ferries are very regular, especially around commuter times, but still pretty decent on weekends, continuing until around 11 pm. You can check the timetable here.
4. Get spiritual at Mount Koya
Koya is a place to breathe deep and forget your stresses. And with dense forests and mountain heights, it’s cooling too. What’s good for the soul has to be worth a bit of travel—so while you have to switch trains a few times it’s not too difficult of a trip.
The mountain, resting place of ancient Japanese poet Kukai, is highly respected in the Shingon sect of Buddhism and one of the holiest sites in all of Japan. There are temples to explore, traditional Buddhist meals to try and plenty of cool breezes to make sure you forget the city, if just for an afternoon.
Are you looking to disconnect from your everday? Consider this 3-day, 2-night self-guided experience at Mt. Koya. It includes accommodations and traditional vegetarian Buddhist dinners.
Now repaired following typhoon damage, the route from Osaka to Mount Koya is manageable.
Catch the express train on the Nankai-Koya Line from Osaka’s Namba Station to Gokurakubashi Station. The journey takes 1 hour and 40 minutes and costs just over ¥890. From there, do not exit the gates. Head to the cablecar area within the station which takes you up to the top in 5 minutes for ¥390.
Note: The Nankai-Koya Line is not covered by the JR Pass.
5. Be adventurous on the Takedao Railway Trail
An unusual and easy trek with plenty of long, dark tunnels perfect for escaping the heat, this hike is a unique day out from the city. The tracks were once part of the Fukuchiyama Line, but were abandoned as trains were re-routed. The 5-meter trail is pretty much flat and will take you through dark tunnels (torches needed) and even across an abandoned (but safe) bridge. Expect stunning valley views, forests to explore and some very instagrammable spots!
The trail runs between Namaze and Takedao in Mukogawa Gorge and you can start from either end—although Takedao has onsen, which can be a nice way to relax after hike.
From Osaka Station, catch the sub-rapid train on the Tokaido-Sanyo Line to Takedao Station. The journey takes 40 minutes and costs ¥590.
Alternatively, catch the same line to begin your trek at Namaze Station (33 minutes) for ¥510.
6. Riverside walks on the Minoo Park waterfall hike
Rushing water and shady trails make for a great summer getaway, and Minoo Park has both. The trail to the waterfall, located in a forested valley, is popular for autumn leaves, but it’s just as lovely in summer too. The trail to the waterfall is around 3 km normally. The route is mostly paved so it’s definitely an easy one, with shops and temples along the beginning of the route including the impressive Ryuanji Temple.
If you’re after a longer route, head up beyond waterfall to the beginning of the Tokai Nature Trail which goes all the way to Tokyo. If you decide against this, when you get back to Minoo Station, be sure to soak your feet in the local foot bath!
From Umeda Station, catch the Takarazuka Line express to Ishibashi Station. Then change to the Minoo Line and get off at Minoo Station. The journey takes 30 minutes and costs ¥270.
For more travel inspiration, check out our expanded Osaka day trip guide.
This post was first published in 2018. Last updated: June 2020. While we try to ensure accuracy, details may vary.