Taking day trips from Osaka is not a new concept. It is known to be a fantastic hub for sightseeing in Japan. Osaka has a huge international airport and an extensive train system so getting in and around is easy peasy. When we visited Osaka for the christmas season we did the typical day trips from Osaka, Nara and Kyoto.
Nara is a 1305 years old. Isn’t that a crazy fact? It used to be the capital of Japan and now it is a small city with one main attraction, Nara Park. This is why it is really one of the perfect day trips from Osaka. You can see almost everything major in a day and jump on the train back to the city to get some of Osaka’s amazing food.
The Nara park is large with a some sightseeing inside along with plenty of free wandering deer. Yup, I won’t lie I came here for the deer. Shinto religion believes that deers are the messengers from the gods and so all around Nara park there are deer enjoying the easy life. They are able to roam the park safely, with only one major car access road. They get fed, a lot. These guys are little fatty’s for sure, something that comes with the easy life I suppose.
Throughout the park you can buy stacks of deer crackers to feed them. Don’t worry, the people selling them are easy to spot. Just look for packs of deer who stay close and wait for an easy lunch. The deer can be pushy at times but will bow for their treat, which makes getting a still shot of them being fed a little hard. They wouldn’t stop bowing their little heads! Shesh. As if they don’t know that getting a photo is why everyone is coming there.
The actual sites you can see are…. you guessed it, temples. There are seven different ones I believe, both Shinto and Buddhist. Todai-ji is the most popular and with good reason, the statues in this Buddhist temple are real beauties. There is Daibutsu, a huge bronze Buddha. Komokuten and Bishamonten guard Daibutsu inside the temple, while the Agyo and Ungyo are the Nio guards at the gate outside the temple. The Nio guards are 800 year old wood carvings. I was most excited about them. The detail and strength that comes through is remarkable. The Nio guards were restored in the last two years but are now behind a fence but it is clear that these extensive statues were made painstakingly. I am usually awe struck by carvings and 3D sculptures…. let’s just say that my 3D classes in college weren’t my forte. I couldn’t even make a damn clay bowl. Mine was always the one that leaned slightly to the right or was flung against the classroom wall when I lost control of the wheel. Sigh.
Another option for day trips from Osaka is Kyoto. I went this past November on my first solo trip and loved every second of it. I couldn’t wait to take my hubby here. Kyoto is about an hour train ride from Osaka, depending on which line you take. It is pretty easy to do, after all, I have no sense of direction and managed to get myself there. This go around, knowing I only wanted to focus on one area we took the Kyoto subway line rather than the major JR line. You know, to save a few yen after that crazy cab fare for the laughing festival. Wade is normally the one who knows where he is going, much better sense of direction. Well not this time! We got on the complete wrong train and while sitting, watching the world speed by, things just started to look and feel off. A quick view on my phone showed us heading in the wrong direction. HA, finally, Wade’s directions weren’t perfect! After a little victory brag of proving my gut was right, we straighten our route out and headed down the right track (pun super intended).
There are hundreds of things to do in Kyoto. You couldn’t possibly do them all in a day, not even five days. Many people hit up one of the main tourist attractions like the Golden Temple, Fushimi Inari, the Kiyomizu-dera. The problem is all of those places are so far apart even with using Kyoto’s stella public transit. For this reason I recommend spending way more than a day here. But not everyone has the luxury of returning to a place or the time to spend a whole week there, so if you only have a day I would suggest Arashiyama area. This area is perfect for one of the day trips from Osaka because there is so much to see in one compact little area. There are about 15 different places worth exploring, including bamboo groves, moss temples and a doll museum (I avoided that one, it kinda creeps me out).
Of the places we visited, Adashino Nenbutsu temple was at the top. To get there you need to do some walking but in this section of Kyoto, that is the best way to catch everything. No heels or fancy shoes here, you’ll be climbing up rock and earth staircases, walking on gravel paths and honestly, it is just a ton of walking. We crossed the Togetsukyu Bridge. Trekked our way through the bamboo grove. Followed the main temple road up and up and up. Suddenly, the road turns back in time and you are surrounded by black and white houses with thatched roofs. This is known as the Saga Toriimoto preserved street. This beautifully preserved houses are used as restaurants, shops and homes. Can you imagine being able to live surrounded by so much culture and history? I’m jealous.
Towards the top you will see the stairs leading to the shrine and a wooden sign explaining the site. Basically, this used to be a graveyard for the deceased with no family. The high priest buried 1000 statues to represent them. Later it was used as a venue to practice chants and prayer. The statues were dug up and placed within the new temple grounds. They still hold a ceremony here yearly to honor the deceased. When you visit, they encourage you to try and find one that you see yourself in. Not only are there such a beautiful history here but theres also a beautifully quiet bamboo grove where you are able to take photos without all the tourist walking through! It is small but gives the same effect as the large grove for photos and it is a lot less frustrating!
These simple day trips from Osaka really made our trip. It was great to get out of the city during the day, enjoy some important history and site seeing and return for the fantastic nightlife and food in Osaka. Next time we make our way here, we will be picking different spots to travel too. I’m thinking of Kobe, a trip to Lake Biwa and some more hiking, but this time in Minoo area of Osaka. Just thinking of it makes me excited.