When you fly halfway around the world to Japan, it would be a pity to only see one thing or one place. Japan has such a rich history with strong traditional and modern culture that is unique to Japan. Seeing different places and people around the country is the best way to take it all in. Luckily the rail system is fast and efficient so you can quickly hop from one destination to another. It’s easy to take day trips to several other places from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and more, even with kids. 

We’ve always tried to pack a lot into a trip to make the most out of the time we have there. Switching hotels every 1, 2 or 3 nights became a little more challenging when kids came along, but it’s still possible. Instead of switching so frequently, since kids, where possible we try to base ourselves in a couple of cities. From those base cities, we plan different day trips. This works well since you don’t need to haul luggage, unpack and repack, and resettle with the kids too much. In Japan, this approach was perfect. We stayed in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and took day trips from all of these cities.

Osaka is the third-largest city in Japan, only behind Tokyo and Yokohama. It’s a major bustling city, financial and business hub. For whatever reason, you find yourself in Osaka, take advantage of the time you have, extend it if you can, and check out some of these additional places nearby on a day trip.

Day trips to take from Osaka with kids

1. Himeji (姫路市)

1.25-hour train ride from Osaka

Himeji lies west of Osaka and is most known for its magnificent Himeji Castle. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s famed as the most beautiful surviving feudal castle in Japan. The castle and gardens next door allow plenty of space for kids to move on their own. 

2. Kobe (神戸市)

1-hour train ride from Osaka

Have you heard of Kobe beef? Yes, this is where Kobe beef (a Wagyu beef) hails from, Kobe, Japan. Have a traditional teppanyaki experience with the best beef in the world. We chose to do lunch, assuming that was less formal since we brought our baby with us. There are numerous steak restaurants and different experiences so just search for what will best fit your preferences. Also see the Ikuta Shrine, Mt. Rokko, the port and more in Kobe.

3. Imaicho (今井町)

1.5-hour train ride from Osaka

Imaicho, southeast of Osaka, is probably the largest most intact village that exemplifies Edo period (1603-1868) architecture in Japan today. When most people imagine traditional Japanese architecture with the dark brown wood and contrasting white, they’re imaging Edo period buildings. Imaicho is less explored but well worth a visit if you are interested in period architecture. Read further about our Imaicho experience here.

4. Hiroshima (広島市) & Itsukushima (厳島)/Miyajima (宮島)

2.5-hour train ride from Osaka

Hiroshima, west of Osaka, is the furthest on this list but with the Shinkansen (bullet train) it’s doable as a day trip. See the sobering Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Lighten the mood by taking a quick ferry ride across to Itsukushima/Miyajima island to see the Itsukushima Shrine, Great Torii Gate, native free-roaming deer and more on this cute little island.

5. Nara (奈良市)

1.25-hour train ride from Osaka

Nara was the first formal capital of Japan back in the 8th century (710), then known as Heijo. Nara Park is the most popular sight and where you’ll find the famous native free-roaming deer. Also in the park, you’ll find the Todai-ji Temple, Isui-en Garden, and Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. We skipped Nara, but Steve went when he was in high school

6. Kyoto (京都市)

1.5-hour train ride from Osaka

Northeast of Osaka you’ll find the deservingly famous Kyoto. Some people choose to spend all their time in Japan here and I don’t blame them, Kyoto is awe-worthy. If, however, you cannot stay in Kyoto directly, make sure to at least visit it for a day trip or even two. Kyoto transports you to old Japan with its picturesque temples, bamboo forest, teahouses, geisha and more.

7. Osaka (大阪市)

Not a day trip, of course, but do make sure you save enough time to also explore your base city – Osaka. Sometimes people skip over Osaka. On the surface, it’s just another sprawling modern metropolis, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find Osaka is worth exploring. Don’t miss the Osaka Castle, Dōtonbori, the food scene, Shiteno-ji Temple, Shinsekai and more.

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