When you travel to Japan for the first time, you will probably make a plan to visit and stay in Tokyo first. Being one of the biggest and most famous cities in the world, it is indeed a must-visit place. But there is so much more! If you are planning a long trip to Japan, we would like to suggest you the other parts too.
There are many beautiful places where you can learn more about traditions and Japanese culture in different areas of Japan. Especially, the Kansai Region (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Nara) is a top choice for travelers. Around Kyoto and Osaka, there are many destinations where you can travel, even just for a day trip.
For those of you who are planning to visit Western Japan, we would like to share a global 7 days itinerary in the Kansai Region including Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Kobe. Please check it out! If you are interested in more detailed information per location, please read our other blogs.
– A complete guide to Osaka and Kyoto
Day 1 – Welcome to Osaka!
The international airport of the Kansai region (KIX) in Osaka is a well-connected airport, with direct flights to cities all around the world. From the airport, you can easily access cities like Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. We recommend buying the JR Pass or Japan Rail Pass before coming to Japan. With the JR pass you can travel for free on most trains, including shinkansen, busses, and even some ferries for free! It is cheaper to order the Japan Rail Pass before coming to Japan and activate it upon arrival. You can activate the JR Pass at many places such as KIX, Osaka Station, Shin-Osaka Station, or Kyoto Station.
Day 2 – Explore Osaka, the street food capital!
The day after your arrival, let’s explore Osaka. Osaka is often referred to as the world’s greatest food city and is an exciting city with many interesting places to see and visit. Osaka is a place where kitschy culture and sophisticated culture are mixed. Here, you can learn the depth of Japanese culture, being surrounded by amazing food and people who are very friendly and open-minded.
Popular Tours in Osaka
Discover the best of Osaka with the help of an experienced guide and truly immerse yourself in the city. You’ll have the opportunity to see all the top attractions, such as Osaka Castle, Kuromon Market, Dotonbori Street, and many more.
▶Osaka Highlights Private Walking Tour
To get more ideas for what to do in Osaka, check out our suggested one-day itinerary below!
Day 3 – Day trip to Kobe or Hiroshima from Osaka
Option 1: Kobe
Kobe is the 6th biggest city in Japan and one of the most attractive cities in the Kansai Region. The city is famous for its breathtaking night view, and it’s often called “The Million Dollar Night View”.
Kobe City is located between the Seto Inland Sea and Rokko Mountain. In addition to the stunning night views, there are a lot of worth-a-visit places and activities during the day. We recommend the itinerary on the following link during the daytime and enjoy the view after the evening. Check out more things to do on Kobe Day Trip Guide.
Because Kobe and Osaka are very close to each other and there is a direct train even at night,
you have plenty of time to enjoy the night view in Kobe after an excellent dinner (like Kobe Beef)!
Popular Tours in Kobe
To explore Kobe efficiently with limited time, how about taking a private one-day tour? With a local guide, you can visit the best highlights of the city in one day!
▶Kobe 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour [7 Hours]
Option 2: Hiroshima
Another recommended city for a day trip from Osaka is Hiroshima, one of the popular destinations among both Japanese and international tourists. Next to the beautiful sights, Hiroshima has a rich history that should not be forgotten. There are two famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima Island and the Peace Memorial Dome – known as the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima City.
It takes about 1.5 hrs if you take a Shinkansen “Nozomi” or “Sakura” from Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station.
Popular Tours in Hiroshima
To really get the most out of your visit to Hiroshima, we recommend you discover the city with a local guide. This way you will visit not only the famous sightseeing spots, but you can also learn the deep history and culture of Hiroshima City. A great way to discover the city is also by bike!
Hiroshima Private Tour [Customizable 7 Hours]
Day 4 – Move to Kyoto
After checking out from your hotel in Osaka, you can take a train or subway to Kyoto (approx. 30 min). Leave your luggage in your hotel and start exploring the great city of Kyoto depending on the location of your hotel.
Best highlights and suggested itinerary in Kyoto:
East Kyoto: Kiyomizu temple > Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka > Yasaka shrine > Gion > Fushimi Inari Shrine.
West Kyoto: Bamboo Forest > Tenryu-ji Temple > Togetsu-kyo Bridge > Ryoan-ji Temple > Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion).
See more details about exploring in Kyoto:
Day 5 – 1 day highlight of West or East Kyoto
Kyoto used to be the capital city for 1,000 years and these days it is a popular place to enjoy Japanese culture and traditions, we recommend that you should stay a minimum of two days to explore Kyoto City. (Though, we think two days are still not enough!)
Popular Tours in Kyoto
Would you like to explore the unique and distinctive food culture in Kyoto? Japan Wonder Travel Food and Drink Tour offers guests an authentic Kyoto food experience and a deep culture at the popular local market with a variety of snacks and dishes. See the link below for more details about the tour!
▶Kyoto Food and Drink Tour @Nishiki Street & Gion
We also have a private tour which can be customized as you want. Friendly English-speaking guide shows you around the places telling you the stories behind each place.
▶Kyoto Private Full-Day Walking Tour [Customizable]
Day 6 – Day trip to Nara or Mt. Kurama from Kyoto
Option 1: Nara
If you prefer nature and history to city and modern life, you should go to Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. In fact, Nara is older than Kyoto and there are unique traditions and culture as well as a number of historical monuments. For example, wild deer are sacred in Nara. Also, there are many World Heritage Sites. From Kyoto Station, there is a direct train to Nara Station and which takes about 50 min by train. For more details, check the link below:
Popular tours in Nara
To learn the deep history and culture in Nara, it’s highly recommended to take a private guided tour! You can go through the best highlights of Nara including the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in one day with a local expert! Check the link below for more details:
▶Nara World Heritage Private Walking Tour from Kyoto
Option 2: Mt. Kurama
Mt. Kurama is a spiritual mountain and a good hiking spot north of the center of Kyoto, taking you from Kurama to Kibune or the other way around. You can go there by bus or train and it takes about 70 min. from Gion Shijo Station. During the hike trekking, you will go through so many temples and shrines like the Kifune Shrine. When you end in Kurama, there is an onsen to relax. Also, if you prefer, you can head to Kibune area which is known for the beautiful riverside view from the mountain.
Day 7 – Fly out from Osaka
The regional airport KIX is easy to access from Kyoto Station. There is a direct limited express train named “Haruka” to KIX and it takes about 70 mins. If you have time, climb Kyoto Tower to say “Sayonara” (goodbye) to Kyoto City before leaving. Or spend time in Rinku Park right next to the airport.
Other options for day trip from Kyoto or Osaka
The followings are the options if you have more days.
Himeji Castle is the first place which was registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nickname is “White Heron Castle” due to the brilliant white walls. The specialty of Himeji Castle is not only beauty. It was built as a fortress to protect Kyoto and Osaka from samurai warriors who come from the far west side of Japan. That’s why you could find a lot of functions for war here.
▶Himeji Half-Day Private Tour with Government-Licensed Guide
It’s totally worth it to take a guided tour there to learn more historical facts about the castle and the surrounding area.
From Kyoto or Osaka, you can take a JR train. From Kyoto Station, we recommend take a bullet train (Shinkansen). It takes about 80 min. From Osaka Station, it takes about 80 min by either local train or bullet train.
Miho Museum is one of the most unique museums in Japan and it is located in Shiga prefecture, next to Kyoto prefecture. The feature is their wide-range collections and their concept “Promoting Beauty, Peace and Joy Through Art”. The collection contains about 3,000 artworks from Japan and the ancient orient. Also, the combination of their architecture and surrounding nature is breathtaking.
Access from Kyoto and for more details;
If you head to the far north of Kyoto prefecture, there is a miracle spot created by magnificent nature. Amanohashidate means the bridge to heaven and is known as three of the most scenic spots in Japan. Other spots are Matsushima which is very close to Sendai city and Miyajima in Hiroshima prefecture. Here you can find amazing seafood, white sand beaches and pine‐covered seashores. It takes approx. 2 hours by JR limited express train “Hashidate” from Kyoto Station.
Recommended tour: Amanohashidate round trip e-ride tour
Enjoy the beautiful scenery around Amanohashidate while cycling with an electronic bicycle!
The birthplace and the first capital of Japan is Asuka, south of Nara City. Here the first emperors of Japan established the capital cities and so you can see the country’s oldest shrines, temples, tombs, and older constructions. There is also a beautiful rice terrace. You can visit there from Kyoto, Osaka or Nara as a day trip. It is highly recommended if you like cycling because Asuka is a very good place to discover by bicycle.
It’s not in the Kansai region, but you can visit Kanazawa, the scenic city with the greatest Japanese garden. From Kyoto Station, it takes about 2 hours to Kanazawa Station by JR Limited Express “Thunderbird”. The most famous destination is Kenrokuen Garden, but there are a lot more places to visit, including traditional Samurai houses, a fancy seafood market, a castle, and prestigious museums. Convenient for the 1-day trip as most sites are within walking distance from Kanazawa Station.
Check out our private tour in Kanazawa to enjoy the town to the fullest! We will take you to the highlights of Kanazawa including Omicho Market, Higashi Chaya-Gai District, Kenrokuen Garden, and Nagamachi Old Samurai Residential House.
Other options for 2 days trip from Kyoto or Osaka
Mt. Koya (Koyasan)
If you have an interest in experiencing trekking as a pilgrimage, the best destination is Koyasan or Mt. Koya. The sacred place of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. Accessing Koyasan is not so simple and you need to calculate about 3 hours to go there from Osaka, but it’s worth a visit. Due to the special experience of staying in temple lodging, known as shukubo, we strongly recommend having at least one night. You can get a taste of a monk’s lifestyle, eat traditional Buddhist cuisine (shojin-ryori), and attend the morning prayers.
You can make a reservation for temple lodging from the link below:
Recommended tour: Mt. Koya Sacred Full-Day Private Tour (Osaka departure) with Licensed Guide
The guide will pick you up at Osaka and take you on a trip to Mt. Koya. Traveling with a guide makes it much easier to travel to the sacred mountain and allows you to discover and learn more about the area and historical sites.
Naoshima Island is a very small island with a 3,000 population, but now called “The sanctuary of contemporary art”. This small island is located in the Seto Inland Sea known as the Japanese Aegean. The feature of Naoshima is the harmony of natural beauty, Tadao Ando’s architecture, and Site-specific arts. Since most of the museums are based on the concept to feel and forget time, it is recommended to stay here. If you have interest to visit there and stay there, see the link below.
Access: Mainland to Naoshima Island
Recommended tour: Naoshima Art Island Guided Tour
It’s so much better to explore Naoshima with a professional guide as navigating through the island using limited transportation effectively and seeing everything on your list.
Shodoshima is another island in the Seto Inland sea. It is well-known for olive plantations, soy sauce production, and somen noodles. There are amazing white sand beaches, Olive Park, and a local small village. The most famous place is Angel Road, a sandbank that appears only twice a day due to the tide. If you like to relax in the beautiful ocean landscape, you should go here.
Shodoshima Island Ferry Tour from Kobe
This tour includes a ferry ride from Kobe to Shodoshima and a private taxi to take around the island. The English guide is not available but the driver will communicate with you with a language translator.
If you really want to take a very good onsen, Kinosaki Onsen makes your dream come true. This pleasant town, built along a willow-lined river, is one of the top onsen destinations in Japan. There are 7 different onsens you can enjoy and each onsen has a long history and its own hot spring quality.
It is fun to explore the town and find that onsen in the evening, after a long day of exploring. You can go there about 2 and a half hours from Kyoto Station by JR train.
This is our suggested 7 days itinerary in Osaka and Kyoto to enjoy Kansai Region. But to fully enjoy this great area, 7 days are far from enough. Since there are a lot of roots in Japanese culture, the more days you spend, the more you learn about Japan! Along with your visit, we would also recommend you take guided tours to make the most out of your stay!
Japan Wonder Travel Tours in Kyoto
When you are visiting Kyoto and you need some help organizing your trip, you came to the right place. We’re happy to help you make your trip to Kyoto the best trip ever. We can advise you on where to go or even better, show you around with a local, English speaking guide. Let us help you create safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memories in Kyoto!
▶Kyoto Private Full-Day Walking Tour
On this full-day private tour of Kyoto, you will be able to see the highlights of Kyoto in just one day and at the same time develop a deeper understanding of both the culture of the area and Japan as a whole.
▶Total Kyoto Experience
If you only have a day or two in Kyoto, we offer a full-day tour of the city, enabling you to immerse yourself in and fully enjoy the entire city of Kyoto in just 10 hours!
▶Kyoto Food and Drink Tour @Nishiki Street & Gion
If you’re looking to learn more about the culture and the local cuisine of Kyoto, this is the perfect tour for you! Take part in this Kyoto food and drink tour and explore the 400-year-old market and the famous Gion district.
Find the Other Tours
If you want to make travel easier, we suggest you look into tour packages.There are a wide range of tour packages out there to suit the accomodate for each traveler needs. Click the button below to find the best tour package from various Tour Operators!