If you’re in Osaka this summer and want to escape the summer heat, we have all the best day trips to give you a breath of fresh air!
Osaka can be a neon nightmare and on a hot, sunny day—and sometimes the last thing you want is to find yourself on packed, sweaty city streets. Luckily the hub has plenty of stunning spots you can escape to, from beaches to forest-covered mountains, and all within perfect reach of the day-tripper. There are hikes to waterfalls, canalside towns and abandoned railway tracks that all deserve a visit, so grab your supplies and get exploring.
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 easily enough reason 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 which have now been turned into cafes, shops and galleries.
Once you’re back on land, there are local museums including traditional residences and a cotton mill factory, as well as Japan’s oldest Western Art Museum. Although Kurashiki is actually the prefecture’s second largest city, if you stick to the Edo-period area, you would never know it.
Getting there: 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 and from there to Kurashiki for free (well kind of!) and 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 in 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 during clam-digging season, which is from April to June. The swimming months are from July 1st to August 31st (they don’t rope off the sea, but it means no lifeguards and facilities may be closed).
Getting there: From Osaka Station catch the JR Yamatoji Line to Shinimamiya, change to the Airport Express to Izumiotsu or Kishiwada, and change again there to the Nakai Local to Nishikinohama.The journey costs ¥730 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 with the addition of a cool sea breeze. Connected by the longest suspension bridge in the world the island is traditional and creative. 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 which lend it its 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). He has also designed a modern underground temple called Honpokuji which you can see through a pool of water!
Getting there: Take a train from Osaka to Akashi (40 minutes, ¥920) and 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 ¥500 each way, plus a ¥220 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 11:20pm; 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, and although you have to switch trains a few times it’s not too difficult of a trip. The mountain, resting place of 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.
Getting there: Now repaired following typhoon damage, the route from Osaka to Mount Koya is manageable. Catch the rapid train from Osaka Namba to Shinimamiya, the change at Hashimoto for Gokurakubashi Station—this takes just under 2 hours and costs just over ¥1,000. From there take the ropeway which takes you up to the top in 5 minutes for ¥390.
5. Be adventurous on the Takedao Railway Trail
An unusual and easy hike 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-mile 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.
Access: Catch the Takarazuka Rapid service from Osaka Station and switch to the local line at Takarazuka. The journey takes 40 minutes and costs ¥580.
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 is located in a forested valley and although the area is popular for autumn leaves, it’s lovely in summer too. The trail to the waterfall is around 3km normally, but following typhoon damage there is a detour in place until the paths can be fully repaired, but it is clearly signposted. 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 then 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!
Access: From Umeda Station, catch the Takarazuka Line express to Ishibashi. From there, change to the Minoo Line and get off at Minoo. The journey takes 25 minutes and costs ¥270.
This post was first published in 2018 and was last updated by Lily Crossley-Baxter in March, 2019. While we try to ensure accuracy, details may vary.