While Kyoto has a plethora of places to visit, maybe you’d like to escape the crowds, or maybe you just want a change of scenery. In that case, here are four places you can visit in a day trip from Kyoto.
Nara, like Kyoto, is also a former capital of Japan, with many UNESCO World Heritage sites to visit. But if you’ve had your fill of temples and shrines, then Nara Park, with its resident deer, makes for a nice (and cheapo) place to relax for a day. Stroll the grounds, feed the deer, or have a picnic (this is particularly nice during spring or autumn).
But Nara Park isn’t just a park. If you feel like exerting yourself, you can hike to the top of Mount Wakakusa for a great view over the city. Isuien and Yoshikien are two traditional Japanese gardens you can visit for an additional fee. If the weather turns, then the Nara National Museum can also be found within the park. And of course, if you want to see some temples and shrines, then Nara Park certainly delivers!
Getting to Nara
48 minutes from Kyoto Station on the Kintetsu Line (620 yen one way)
44 minutes from Kyoto Station on the JR Nara Line (710 yen one way)
Hikone is a small castle town on the banks of Lake Biwa, about a 50-minute train ride from Kyoto. The main attraction is Hikone Castle, which is one of the few Japanese castles still in its original state. Near the castle is Genkyuen Garden, which is modeled on a Chinese palace garden from the Tang dynasty.
Yume Kyobashi Castle Road is a street leading to the castle, with almost all the buildings remodeled to give the atmosphere of an Edo period old castle town. For those interested in shopping, the buildings now house boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. As Hikone is on the banks of Lake Biwa, it’s a good destination to try freshwater fish dishes.
Getting to Hikone
47 minutes from Kyoto Station on the JR Biwako Line (1,140 yen one way)
Ise Grand Shrine
Being in Mie Prefecture, Ise Grand Shrine is a little further away from Kyoto than Nara or Hikone. But as Japan’s most important shrine, it’s still a worthwhile, and totally feasible, day trip.
Ise Grand Shrine is made up of the Outer and Inner Shrines. The shrines are believed to be around 1500 and 2000 years old respectively. This predates Buddhism’s entry to Japan, and as such, the shrines have a unique architectural style.
Most visitors make the ten-minute walk from Ise-Shi Station to the Outer Shrine, then catch a shuttle bus to the Inner Shrine. The approach to the Inner Shrine is called Oharaimachi and is lined with shops and cafes. Another attraction is Okage Yokocho, which, like the Yume Kyobashi Castle Road in Hikone, recreates an Edo period town.
Getting to Ise Grand Shrine
121 minutes from Kyoto Station on the Kintetsu Ise-Shima Liner (3,620 yen with a reserved seat, one way)
Osaka is a large metropolis, so there’s no way to see all it has to offer in a day. Rather, it’s better to focus on one area and dedicate the day to it.
So what will your day’s theme be? If you like shopping, then the Umeda area (and the nearby Chayamachi district) has you covered, with everything from department stores to secondhand bookshops to cool boutiques.
Want more “traditional Japan”? Check out the stunning Osaka Castle or visit the Tennoji district for multiple shrines and temples.
Feeling hungry? You can’t go wrong in Osaka: it’s Japan’s kitchen. Try okonomiyaki or takoyaki. Or if you need something really cheapo, go to the Instant Ramen Museum. Maybe you can wash it down with samples from the Suntory Whisky Distillery. When the sun sets, check out the super lively and bright Dotonbori district for the best of Osaka’s nightlife.
Getting to Osaka
28 minutes from Kyoto Station on the JR Kyoto Line (560 yen one way)
44 minutes from Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line (400 yen one way)
Bonus Trip: Uji
Uji makes a great day trip destination from Kyoto or Osaka to enjoy some delicious premium green tea as well as a relaxing walk along the town’s temples. Read our full Uji day trip guide here.