11+ EASY DAY TRIPS FROM KYOTO, JAPAN
The captivating cultural city of Kyoto, an ancient capital of Japan is a great base for exploring some of the country’s magnificent sights. Situated in the centre of Honshu Island, Kyoto is connected to Japan’s exceptional high-speed rail links and a massive public transportation hub which can whisk you away to pretty much anywhere you wish to visit in Japan. Japan has an excellent highway network too, to fuel your wanderlust if you plan to drive and explore road trip options.
Neighbouring towns and cities such as Osaka, Himeji, Kobe, and Nara can all be visited in a day. Some of the best easy day trips from Kyoto are about an hour or a little over an hour on public transport and work well for day trippers. With the excellent transport system, you could explore further afield such as Hiroshima as well as other sites including iconic castles and fabled hot springs in about two-and-half-hours.
In this article, I share my tried and tested tips and itineraries to support your planning. It is worth noting that if you plan to make several trips within a five-day period, the Kansai Pass might be a good option. Most routes are also covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Wherever you wish to travel, be sure to plan your day-trip adventures around our list of best easy day trips from Kyoto which includes towns, temples, hikes and other attractions. r
Find out more about Japan Rail Pass for 7, 14 and 21 days from the official Japan Rail Pass site.
Day Trip List
This is my list of the best easy day trips from Kyoto city centre within a reasonable distance for culture lovers and travellers alike. The list includes trips to temples and shrines from Kyoto city centre which require a half-day or full-day visit along with some popular towns on the outskirts of Kyoto. I have visited all of these places during my stay in Japan and Kyoto was definitely the highlight for me.
I shall begin with temples and shrines for half-day or full-day visits within Kyoto Prefecture, moving to larger cities and then further afield. While there is plenty to do at each place, I share only the highlights of each destination as a guide for your itinerary. Additional links are included for further read.
TTS Best Tips:
Seven days in Kyoto is an ideal time to explore the city and to fit in a couple of day trips. The extended regional Kansai Pass which includes an option to Hiroshima is worthwhile. The Pass offers unlimited travel for 5 days, and includes options to explore Hiroshima, Okayama, Kinosaki Onsen, Amanohashidate, Tottori, and Shirahama. You could use it on selected Shinkansen routes, ferry to Miyajima Island, West JR bus services, reserved seats on Kansai Airport Express and much more.
Find out more about the extended regional Kansai Pass.
TOP PLACES TO STAY IN KYOTO
The best areas to stay in Kyoto are Downtown Kyoto, Gion, Kyoto Station and Central Kyoto because these areas offer plenty of choices in shops, restaurants and attractions within walking distance. You will also be within walking distance of the city’s subway lines and train lines.
In Downtown Kyoto, out top hotel and ryokan are:
1 | Luxury: Kyoto Hotel Okura;
2 | Ryokan: Kyoto Ryokan Kinoe;
3 | Mid-range:
>> Gion Misen
4 | Budget: Hotel Resol Trinity Kyoto
THE BEST DESTINATIONS FOR DAY TRIPS FROM KYOTO
1 | Arashiyama
Arashiyama is a district in the western outskirts of Kyoto and is an important and popular sightseeing destination from Kyoto. Located in the village of Sagano, this beautiful part of Honshu Island is the greenest, most picturesque and historic of Kyoto neighbourhoods. Aptly designated as a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty, Arashiyama is filled with temples and shrines but is particularly famed for the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Iwatayama Monkey Park.
1.1 | From Kyoto Station to Arashiyama
Arashiyama is tucked along the base of Arashiyama Mountains and is a fair distance from the centre of Kyoto. Depending on the mode of transport you opt for, the journey time could be as little as 30 minutes or an hour and fifteen minutes.
Arashiyama is served by three stations – JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, Hankyu Arashiyama Station and Keifuku Arashiyama Station. All three stations are conveniently located in Arashiyama.
From Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano Line to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station.
From Central Kyoto, take the Hankyu Line to Omiya Station and then the Keifuku Randen tramline. The tramline is an old fashioned trolley car and the ride lasts 20 minutes.
There is plenty to see and do here including renowned places to eat and experience kaiseki dining.
1.2 | Things to do and see in Arashiyama, Kyoto
1 | Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an unmissable destination in a Kyoto day trip itinerary. The renowned Bamboo Forest is one of the city’s top sights and is full of picturesque paths surrounded by stunning bamboo groves. The walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove itself is short yet immersive. Standing amidst the towering bamboo stalks is a beyond-words kind of experience which must be experienced;
2 | Tenryu-ji Temple is an expansive Zen temple with one of the finest gardens in Kyoto;
3 | Nison-in Temple is a charming Tendai sect Buddhist temple. The temple is best known for its maple and cherry trees lined all the way to the halls;
4 | Togetsukyo Bridge is an iconic landmark in Kyoto built during the Heian period. It is a great spot in Arashiyama to snap some pics or just relax in the sun.
5 | Visit Iwatayama Monkey Park, home to about 120 Japanese snow monkeys. You might catch some of the monkeys running wild in the nearby parks of Arashiyama.
Address: Iwatayama Monkey Park, Japan, 〒616-0004 Kyoto, Nishikyo Ward, Arashiyama Nakaoshitacho, ６１
*Arashiyama involves a fair amount of walking and has a wealth of cultural sights to indulge in. One of the best ways to explore Arashiyama is to opt for a customised Rickshaw tour, ranging from 45 minutes to 3+ hours. You are likely to spend one complete day in Arashiyama and return to Kyoto in time for an early dinner.
2 | Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and Mount Inari, Kyoto
The famed Shinto Shrine of the Thousand Torii Gates — orange torii gates that line-up all the way to the top of Mount Inari in Kyoto beckons hikers, outdoor lovers and practically every visitor to Kyoto. The Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine captures the quintessential elements of Japanese culture, architecture and practices.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of thirty-something-thousand Inari shrines dotted around Japan. It was established in 711 AD. Japanese worshippers have gathered here to pray for bountiful harvest, prosperity and all kinds of other wishes.
The visit to Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine and the hike up to Mount Inari will typically involve a half-day experience.
2.1 | From Kyoto to Inari Station
Travel time from Kyoto Station to Inari on the JR Nara line takes 5 minutes.
2.2 | What to experience in Mount Inari, Kyoto
Mount Inari is a holy mountain at 233 metres high and is one of the Southern most of Higashiyama mountains in Kyoto. The hiking trail of the thousand torii gates connects the main building to various shrines and buildings in the mountain. The pilgrimage circle around the top of the mountain where you could see all of the shrines is one of the most interesting walks around Kyoto. The hike up the mountain affords spectacular views over Kyoto.
Address: Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchichō, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
Would you like to discover Kyoto at night?
This particular tour covers a historic area of Kyoto – Gion and is a perfect way to learn of Geisha and their tradition.
3 | Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji Temples on a day trip from Kyoto central
Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji Zen Temples are often described as siblings and were built by the same family of rulers albeit for different purposes. It is worth visiting both on the same day. The temples are located not too far from one another and it is convenient to reach by bus with a short ride.
3.1 | From Kyoto to Kinkakuji Temple
There are no train stations near Kinkakuji Temple. The best way to get to Kinkakuji Temple is by bus. Take Bus No. 205 from Stand B3, Kyoto Bus Terminal. The journey time is 50 minutes.
NB: When taking Bus No. 205, ensure that you DO NOT take the #Rapid 205 – this bus does not go to Kinkakuji Temple.
3.2 | Kinkakuji Temple (The Golden Pavillion, Kyoto)
Kinkakuji, popularly known as the Golden Pavillion is a Buddhist Zen temple situated in northern Kyoto. The Golden Pavillion is one of the most iconic and popular buildings in Kyoto visited by many tourists annually.
This incredible structure was built in 1397 as a home for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The top two floors of this historic temple are covered in gold facade and overlook a tranquil pond set amidst an expansive landscaped garden. Within the serenity of its lush garden, sits a teahouse where you could stop and indulge in a traditional tea drinking activity. A visit to Kinkakuji will typically take half-a-day. Best to visit in the morning.
Address: Kinkakuji Temple, 1 Kinkakujichō, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
3.3 | Ginkakuji Temple (The Silver Pavillion, Kyoto)
Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavillion is an elegant Zen Buddhist Temple located in the northeast of Kyoto city. Built by Yoshimitsu grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1482, Ginkakuji was intended to be his retirement villa. However, after his death, the Silver Pavillion was converted to a temple in accordance with his wishes.
Set amidst picturesque and tranquil gardens, Ginkakuji is a two-storey pavillion made of wood in a simple design demonstrating a sense of refinement. The top floor is constructed in Japanese traditional architectural style commonly used in mansions and the second floor is more in the Zen Buddhist style.
Address: Ginkakuji Temple, 2 Ginkakujichō, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8402, Japan
3.4 | Timeless Travel Steps Best Tips on visiting Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji in one day:
The recommended itinerary for this one day trip from Kyoto city centre is to visit Kinkakuji in the morning ( just so you could avoid the crowd later in the day), located on the north of the city and head to Ginkakuji in the afternoon, situated in the north east of Kyoto.
There are no trains available between these two temples and you will need to take the bus. Take Bus No. 204. Journey time is approximately 20 minutes.
Bus No. 204 works in a loop and in both directions. You can take this in either direction. The bus ride costs Y230 for any route. The bus stop you need for Bus No. 204 is Kinkakuji-michi bus stop B or C.
Recommended read: Read our guide to the Unmissable Top 5 destinations in Kyoto for an inspiring visit to the historic city.
4 | Mount Hiei, Kyoto
Mount Hiei is famous in local lore and religion, in particular for the famous Marathon Monks and their one-thousand-day challenge. Located in the northeast of Kyoto city at 850 metres (2500 ft), straddling the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture.
4.1 | From Kyoto Station to Mount Hiei
Mount Hiei makes an exceptional day trip from Kyoto. You could take the bus or the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Hieizan – Sakamoto Station.
I opted for the bus ride and it was an incredible experience to watch the beautiful scenes unfold. If you can, take the Sakamoto Cable car to Shiga Prefecture. The cable car opened in 1927 and is the longest cable car route in Japan. The ride offers incredible views over Lake Biwa.
4.2 | What to experience in Mount Hiei, Kyoto
The hills are regarded sacred and are home to one of Japan’s most important monasteries, Enryakuji Temple belonging to the Tendai sect Buddhism and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are three main areas in Mount Hiei — Todo, Saito and Yokawa. All areas are connected by awesome walking trails. Walking in the Mount Hiei forest is truly an amzing experience.
Recommended read: The Complete Guide to Mount Hiei — the Sacred Mountain in Kyoto.
5 | Lake Biwa and Hakone Castle from Kyoto
Lake Biwa is a lovely little paradise in the Shiga Prefecture, neighbouring the north side of Kyoto. The lake is the largest freshwater in Japan and is absolutely worth a day trip from Kyoto.
5.1 | From Kyoto to Lake Biwa
Take the JR Tokaido Main Line train from Kyoto Station to Otsu Station, at the southern tip of Lake Biwa or continue on to Hikone Station, on the eastern side of the lake.
Journey time from Kyoto Station to Otsu Station on the JR Tokaido Main Line is approximately 10 minutes.
5.2 | Things to do in Lake Biwa
There are a variety of activities — from boating, kayaking to cycling and hiking that can fuel a day. The serenity of the area has been an inspiration for centuries of poets and authors. Lake Biwa is home to many onsens, resorts and the iconic 17th century Hikone Castle.
Recommended read: Lake Biwa and What You Need to Know.
From the outskirts of Tokyo, you could travel to neighbouring cities, also within an hour’s journey.
6 | Uji, Kyoto
Uji is one of the quintessential Japanese towns located about 15 kilometres southwest of Kyoto. The town is easily accessed by both the Keihan Line and the JR Line and makes an easy day trip. Uji is famous for its traditional tea shops, shrines and temples, in particular the two World Heritage Sites of Byodo-in Temple and Ujigami Shrine. It is famed as one of the most romantic places in Kyoto and is associated with the world’s first novel, Tale of Genji, written 1000 years ago.
6.1 | From Kyoto Station to Uji
There are two railway stations in Uji — JR Uji Station and Keihan Uji Station.
Keihan Uji Station: This station gives you better access to all the major sights in Uji. You can access Keihan Railway from Sanjo Station or Gion Shijo Station in Central Kyoto. However, this route requires a transfer and the Japan Rail Pass cannot be used on this route. You will first need the JR Nara Line to get to Tofukuji Station and then transfer to Keihan Main Line from there. The journey from Kyoto to Tofukuji is 3 minutes and is Y140. All trains from Tofukuji to Uji are local, takes 37 minutes and costs Y310.
JR Uji Station: For this station, it is a direct route with no transfers from Kyoto Station. You can use Japan Rail Pass on this route. All trains on the JR Nara Line stop at Uji Station and you can board this train from Platforms 8, 9 or 10 from Kyoto Station. You could either the Rapid or the local service. The Rapid service will get you to Uji in 19 minutes. The local service stops at all the stations along the way and takes no more than 30 minutes to reach Uji. The fare is Y240.
Journey time from Kyoto city centre to Uji by train on either route is approximately 30 to 37 minutes or less.
Plan your journey with the JR West Route and Timetable.
6.2 | Things to do in Uji:
1 | Visit the famous and beautiful Byodo-in Temple (featured at the back of Y10 coin);
2 | The Tea House in Uji is a popular stop (Uji is famous as a tea growing area);
3 | Visit the Mampukuji Temple;
4 | Explore the attractions along the river.
7 | Himeji day trip from Kyoto
Himeji is a fun city to explore. The pretty coastal city is home to Mount Shosha, where some scenes in the movie, The Last Samurai were filmed. If you love castles, you will love the magnificent Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron. This strikingly superb castle dates back to 1333 and is surrounded by a moat and splendid gardens.
7.1 | From Kyoto to Himeji
Travel time is approximately 45 minutes on the direct bullet trains to Himeji Station from Kyoto Station.
*You will need the Hikari bullet train headed to Hiroshima on the Tokaido-Sanyo Line in the direction of Shin-Kobe Station. There are usually two departures within the hour.
7.2 | Things to do in Himeji:
1 | Visit Himeji Castle, the formidable White Heron;
2 | The splendid Koko-en Garden – just 5 minutes away from Himeji Castle;
3 | Explore Mount Shosha;
8 | Nara, Japan
Nara, a beautiful quintessential traditional Japanese city is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. The richness and beauty of the temples, shrines and gardens is only second to Kyoto and is worth a couple of days visit at least. The city was the capital of Japan over 1300 years ago before it moved to Kyoto. It is a popular city and people travel here easily from Kyoto and Osaka for a day to immerse themselves in the world famous temples, scenic trails and to interact with the friendly deer of Nara.
8.1 | From Kyoto to Nara
Nara is located within an hour of Osaka or Kyoto city.
Kyoto Station is connected to Nara Station by two train lines — the JR Nara Line and the Kintetsu Kyoto Line.
The journey from Kyoto to Nara can take anything from 35 minutes to 50 minutes depending on whether you take a limited express or the rapid express train.
Take the JR Miyakoji Rapid Service from Kyoto Station to Nara Station for a journey time of 45 minutes. Be mindful not to board the local JR Line as this involves 21 stations and will add an extra 25 minutes to your journey.
8.2 | Things to see and do in Nara
1 | Todaiji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritag Site and consists of a huge temple compound. The temple was once one of the Seven Great Temples and is home to the largest bronze Great Buddha;
2 | Kasuga Grand Shrine has a history going back to the 8th century and is an important Shinto shrine. The shrine is one of the prettiest landmarks in Nara where the buildings are kept in pristine condition. Hundreds of lanterns line the corridors leading to the temple and these are illuminated during the Mantoro Lantern Festival.
3 | Visit Kofuku ji Temple, a pagoda which dates over 1300 years. Built in 730 AD and rebuilt in 1426, Kofuku ji is one of the oldest and most special Buddhist temples in Japan. While here, visit the National Treasure Museum which houses important works of art, with many dating back to the 8th century.
4 | Meet the deer at Nara Park which is one of the most unique things to do in Nara. Nara Park was established in 1880 and became home to hundreds of free roaming deer. The deer is a symbol of the city and is designated as a natural treasure.
Recommended read: Nara in One Day Itinerary
9 | Kobe, Japan
Kobe is the third largest port city, the capital of Hyogo Prefecture and is situated on Osaka Bay in central Japan. Famous for its ‘Kobe beef’ and Mount Rokko along with the scenic setting of mountains framing the harbour, Kobe has a lively sake culture and a vibrant China Town.
9.1 | From Kyoto Station to Kobe Station
Take the Special Rapid Train on the JR Kyoto Line and this will get you to Sannomiya Station in Kobe in 51 minutes. Alternatively, if you have the Japan Rail Pass, the Shinkansen will take you to Shin-Kobe Station in as little as 32 minutes.
9.2 | Things to do in Kobe on a day trip from Kyoto
1 | Kobe China Town is a vibrant area packed with street vendors and food stalls. In Nankin Park central square, there are animal statues that represent each of the twelve years of the Chinese astrological calendar.
2 | Kobe Port Tower is a seafront landmark at 108 metre high. Constructed in 1963, it is a red lattice tower featuring an observation deck with spectacular views across the bayout to Rokko Mountain range. Night time views are particularly dazzling with the ‘night light show’ on the nearby Ashaki Kaiko Bridge;
3 | Kobe Harborland is a popular place to hang out after a visit to the Kobe Port Tower. Grab a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants and cafes while watching the ships bobbling along the bay. There is the Harbor Circus, Hankyu Department Store, Mosaic – a dining complex with a Mediterranean ambience. Mosaic Garden next door houses a small amusement park with a Ferris wheel and other rides.
4 | The Nunobiki Falls in Mount Rokko is regarded as one of Japan’s ‘Divine Falls’ and has been a place for inspiration for poets and writers for many generations. The cave behind the cascade is known as the Palace of the Dragon. From the falls, catch the Shin-Kobe Railway which leads further up the hills for even more impressive views of the city and to Nunobiki Herb Garden.
5 | Rokko Island took almost twenty years to build and is now a major residential, tourist and commercial district. Rokko Island is home to an amusement park, sports facilities, restaurants, cinemas and museums.
6 | Visit a Sake Brewery in Nada, on the eastern part of Kobe, one of the best known sake-making regions in Japan. Nada’s sake industry dates back 700 years and is famed for being made with pure mineral rich water from Mount Rokko.
10 | Osaka on a day trip from Kyoto
Osaka is an incredible city of lively atmosphere and delicious speciality foods. There’s so much to experience in Osaka and if you can, stay here for at least two days.
10.1 | From Kyoto Station to Osaka
Shinkansen (Japan’s bullet train): The quickest way to travel from Kyoto to Osaka is via the Shinkansen. The Shinkansen will get you from Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka Station in 12 minutes and costs Y1420. The Japan Rail Pass covers this route.
JR Kyoto Line: From Kyoto Station, take the Special Rapid Service on the JR Kyoto to Osaka Line for Y560. Journey time is 23 minutes.
10.2 | Top things to do and see in Osaka
1 | Osaka Castle is surrounded by impressive moats and huge parks. The park is one of the most popular Hanami spots. It is worth planning your trip to coincide with the cherry blossom season, which usually takes place in early April.
2 | Dotonbori in Osaka is a lively entertainment area and is popular amongst tourists. The area is renowned for its neon lights, extravagant signage and the endless variety of restaurants and bars.
3 | Abeno Harukas stands at 300 metres and is the tallest skyscraper in Japan. The observation deck occupies the top three floors (58 to 60). The 60th floor has large floor-to-ceiling windows all around and offers 360 degree views of Osaka.
4 | Suijo Bus Aqua Liner is a water bus to view Osaka from the river. The cruise is about 40 minutes and passes through many of the city’s attractions.
Recommended read: Guide to Cherry Blossom season in Japan – When and Where to go
If you have time, go further afield to Hiroshima and Miyajima – a beautiful corner of Japan, rich in history that is a gem to explore.
11 | Hiroshima Japan
Hiroshima is a bright modern city, rich with plenty to do in a day along with a sad history of 1945. Ideally, it will be best to spend at least two days in Hiroshima to fully embrace all that the city has to offer and to uncover the historic city at your own pace.
11.1 | From Kyoto Station to Hiroshima
The easiest, quickest and most comfortable way to reach Hiroshima from Kyoto Station is by Shinkansen. Shinkansen offers two routes — Sanyo and Tokaido lines. This is also an economical option if you have the Japan Rail Pass. Both lines take you through to Hiroshima without transfers. Journey time from Kyoto to Hiroshima on the bullet train is 1 hour 42 minutes.
NB: If you are travelling with the Japan Rail Pass, ensure you do not board the Nozomi Shinkansen as these trains are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
If you take the Sakura or Hikari services, from Kyoto Station, you may have to make a transfer at Shin-Osaka or Shin-Kobe Station. This transfer will only add an extra 10 or 15 minutes to your journey, so it should not be a problem.
The journey from Osaka to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen is 1 hour 33 minutes.
You could visit Hiroshima in one day from either of the cities if you are short on time.
Use the JR West Timetable and Route Planner to map your journey from Kyoto Station to Hiroshima Station.
11.2 | Things to do and see in Hiroshima on a day trip from Kyoto
1 | The Atomic Bomb Dome is the only structure left standing in the area where the first atomic bomb fell on August 6, 1945. This is one of the more somber heritage sites you visit in this city.
2 | Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is where you shall see the Cenotaph for A-Bomb Victims and the Children’s Peace Memorial. Take some time to reflect on what you see at these sites.
3 | Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum will require at least an hour to explore.
4 | If you could manage it, head to Miyajima Island in the afternoon. You can’t come this far to Hiroshima and not visit Miyajima — the sacred island of Honshu.
Recommended read: Complete Guide to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island
ADD TO YOUR DAY TRIPS FROM KYOTO ITINERARY
Surounded by mountains, Kyoto is a hiker’s paradise. The mountains are literally dotted with clearly marked trails and make a great day trip from Kyoto with a short train or bus ride.
1 | Hike the Nakasendo from Kyoto
The hike of Nakasendo, an old mountain route between Kyoto and Tokyo is a great opportunity to experience rural Japan. As a day trip from Kyoto, you could walk the Magome to Tsumago which is a popular section of the route.
2 | Mount Daimonji-yama Hike from Ginkaku-ji Temple
The hike from Ginkakuji Temple to the viewpoint on Mount Daimonji-yama is a short trek. The roundtrip is about an hour. The view of the city of Kyoto is incredible from here.
3 | Tango-hanto Peninsula
This really isn’t a day trip as it requires a longer journey, and perhaps an overnight stay. It is worth exploring if you have the time and feel adventurous.
Located about two hours journey north of Kyoto, the Tango-hanto Peninsula is a scenic unspoilt destination with onsen (hot springs), sand beaches and breathtaking coastal scenery. There are little farming villages and secluded gems within the forested mountain. It is a perfect escape to rural Japan and to embrace the slow side of travel.
While the JR trains from Kyoto can get you to towns on either side of the peninsula – Tooyoka, Kinosaki and Maizuru, Tango is best explored with your own transportation.
Why not explore more of Japan? If so, you may also like to read some of our popular articles on this beautiful country.
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