Kyoto sits, almost, in the center of Japan, a position that places it within easy reach from the rest of the country, making it an ideal base for your tour of this stunning Asian country. Steeped in culture and history, Japan’s size belies its multitude of attractions. When you do visit, experiencing the historic temples, enchanting landscapes and fascinating cuisine is only natural. And, the only way to get the most out of this country is by visiting as many of its big cities and small hamlets as you possibly can. From Kyoto, there are numerous destinations that you can visit within a day. Below we’ve put together a list of the day trips from Kyoto, Japan. Scroll down to find out more.
Hop on a train, bus or car and travel about 130 km (80 miles) to the port city of Nagoya. A slightly longer day trip than Arashiyama, Nagoya takes about an hour and a half from Kyoto, a journey that’s well worth the time. The city’s position beside the Pacific has earned it a major role in the country, as one of Japan’s main ports. Nagoya has taken this responsibility seriously and leveraged its importance to become a gargantuan metropolis. In fact, the city now sits among the world’s 50 largest urban areas.
Get a taste of what Nagoya has to offer during your day trip, by visiting attractions like Nagoya Castle, the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium and the magnificent Nagoya City Science Museum.
Nagoya Private Walking Tour
Duration: 6 hours
If you’re up for a slightly longer day trip, visit the city of Kanazawa, a journey that’ll take you about three hours. Kanazawa is about 260 km (162 miles) from Kyoto and you can get there either by train, bus or car. This city’s long history is one, like most of Japan, fraught with World War Two tragedy, but Kanazawa miraculously withstood the onslaught and today boasts a huge number of historic buildings dating back centuries.
Kanazawa’s historical sites are just one reason you should embark on this day trip. However, you’ll definitely want to spend time in Kenrokuen, a landscaped garden in Kanazawa. But, this isn’t just any garden: Kenrokuen is one of Japan’s three best gardens and it is, arguably, the country’s most beautiful.
Kanazawa Half Day Tour (Private Guide)
Duration: 4 hours
3. Fushimi and Uji
From Kyoto, you can choose to take a day trip to two fascinating destinations, Fushimi and Uji, the former being only 6 km (3.7 miles) from Kyoto. With attractions like Fushimi Castle and Fushimi Inari Shrine, this ward in Kyoto certainly has a story it seeks to narrate.
Past Fushimi, you’ll get to Uji, a little-known city found roughly 21 km (13 miles) south of Kyoto. If nothing else, visit Uji for its green tea that has earned the reputation of being of very high quality.
Fushimi and Uji
Distance from Kyoto: Fushimi: 6 km (3.7 miles); Uji: 21 km (13 miles)
Travel time: 30 minutes
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A half-hour train ride up Mount Hiei will get you to Enryaku-ji, an ancient monastery that stares down at Kyoto from its lofty position. This day-trip destination is where you escape to when the frantic, people-filled streets of Kyoto get to you. At Enryaku-ji, you’ll get to enjoy a tranquil atmosphere, as you explore the Buddhist temples that sit on the mountain. If you enjoy a bit of hiking, Mount Hiei is a great place to experience this.
Distance from Kyoto: 18km (11 miles)
Travel time: 30 minutes
First built in the 1300s, then subsequently expanded in the late 1500s and early 1600s, Himeji Castle is, today, a distinct feature in the landscape of Himeji City. With quintessential ancient Japan design, this landmark is discernible as a structure that’s laden with history and culture.
With a look that almost resembles a bird with outstretched wings and a white facade, Himeji Castle has earned the unofficial moniker of White Heron Castle or, as the locals would call it, Shirasagi-jo. The castle certainly deserves its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you choose to take this day trip, prepare to travel 136 km (84.5 miles) from Kyoto, which should be about a 2-hour journey.
Himeji Castle and Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Tour from Kyoto
Duration: 9 hours
With Kyoto as your base, you can see more of Japan by embarking on a day trip to Kobe, a city in the center of the country. Found only 78 km (48.5 miles) from Kyoto, you can be in Kobe within slightly over an hour, by road. This city is a true testament to the resilience of the Japanese people, having experienced a catastrophic earthquake in 1995 that almost completely flattened it. Today, you can’t tell that only two decades ago the city was merely a pile of rubble, with the buildings completely rebuilt. Kobe has managed to reclaim its 19th-century glory and it is now reputed as one of Japan’s most beautiful cities.
Distance from Kyoto: 78 km (48.5 miles)
Travel time: 1 hour
Finally, from Kyoto, you can travel roughly 45 km (27 miles) to the city of Nara, which was the country’s very first capital, way back in the year 710. This advanced age left the city with numerous ancient treasures, most prominent of which are the historic temples, Japan’s oldest. From modest wooden temples to majestic architectural marvels, these buildings are worth the one-hour journey from Kyoto.
Kyoto and Nara Tour with Golden Pavilion, Todai-ji from Osaka
Duration: 11 hours
With only about 52 km (32 miles) between Kyoto and Osaka Castle and at about an hour’s distance away, a visit makes for an exciting day trip. Osaka Castle was built in the late 1500s and its grandeur is representative of the elegance of Japan’s ancient architecture. This stunning landmark is, today, one of the country’s most famous, a beloved venue of Japan’s numerous festivals.
Sharing the grounds with the castle are 13 other structures that include turrets, moats and gates, all of which, together with Osaka Castle, combine to form a historical ensemble of major cultural significance.
Osaka Walking Tour with River Cruise from Kyoto
Duration: 9 hours
Travel just 10 km (6 miles) west of Kyoto to Arashiyama, a heavenly destination that’s home to dozens of temples and shrines. Its proximity to Kyoto (only a half-hour drive) means you can conveniently visit its temples, like Tenryu-ji, Nison-in, Jojako-ji or Gio-ji, among others.
However, if the shrines don’t really marshal your excitement, then the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove definitely will. This grove is more than just a bamboo plantation, it’s a dense forest of stunning bamboo plants that form an otherworldly landscape. The bamboo grove is probably Arashiyama’s crowning jewel. There are several ways to get to Arashiyama: you can opt to go by train, taxi or bus, but, hands down, the most fascinating way to get there is by bicycle.
To get to Miyajima (Shrine Island) from Kyoto, a two-hour train ride will bring you to Hiroshima, from where it’s about an hour to the island. Miyajima earned its name from being home to Itsukushima Shrine which, together with the gigantic torii gate, make up the main attractions. There are several ryokans on the island, so if you choose to make this an overnight stay, there are ample places you can spend the night.
Miyajima Halfday Tour
Make the most of your trip to Japan by embarking on one (or all) of the above day trips from Kyoto. Experience the tranquil mountains, historic temples and vibrant cities - Japan has plenty to offer. With Kyoto as your base, you’ll be able to see a lot of Japan.
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