Osaka and Kyoto are two cities often on travelers’ Japan itineraries. Given their proximity, we’re often asked whether it is possible to stay in one and make a day trip to the other. The short answer? Yes, it’s certainly possible to stay in Osaka and make the journey to Kyoto for a visit.
The following blog will provide information on staying in Osaka, how to travel between the two destinations, and offer suggestions for spending your time in Kyoto.
If you have any questions, be sure to get in touch. Also, be sure to explore our selection of Tours in Japan’s Most Vibrant Cities. With our local insight and understanding of Japanese culture, we welcome you to explore our favorite neighborhoods and places together.
The proximity of Osaka to Kyoto
Located just about 56 kilometers (35 miles) apart, Osaka and Kyoto are surprisingly accessible from each other. Osaka is a busy metropolitan hub offering an insight into modern Japanese living, while Kyoto is one of Japan’s historic jewels, and you can easily see them both!
The most popular and efficient mode of transportation is the train.
- Hankyu or Keihan Railways: These are the best rail options to consider when planning your day trip.
- Shinkansen (Bullet Train): Japan’s rapid bullet train, the Shinkansen, can get you from Osaka to Kyoto in a blink, taking about 15 minutes.
- JR Lines: Regular JR lines, especially the JR Kyoto Line, connect the two cities in approximately 30 minutes. They’re wallet-friendly and depart from Osaka Station, making them a fine choice for many day-trippers.
- Driving: While trains are the preferred mode, driving offers freedom for those who are used to traveling about in a rented vehicle.
Advantages of Staying in Osaka
Choosing Osaka as your base has its fair share of advantages:
- Budget-Friendly Accommodations: Osaka often offers a wider range of budget-friendly hotels and hostels than the more sought after central Kyoto properties.
- Friendly Locals: Osaka is well known for being a welcoming city. Combine this with it being considered as one of the world’s most liveable cities, and you know you’ll be made to feel at home.
- Vibrant Nightlife & Culinary Scene: Dive into the Dotonbori area in the evening, and you’ll be surrounded by mouth-watering street food, vibrant bars, and the city’s infectious energy.
- Access to Green Spaces: While Osaka is a bustling urban area, the city is also spotted with parks and green spaces. Also, from Osaka you have convenient access to the San’inkaigan, Setonaikai, and Yoshino-Kumano National Parks.
- A Mix of Modernity and Tradition: While Kyoto is the number one destination for exploring Japanese tradition, Osaka offers a balance. From Osaka Castle to the Harukas, there’s a blend of old and new at every corner.
- Additional Attractions: Staying in Osaka gives you easy access to other attractions, such as Universal Studios Japan, which could be a great addition to your itinerary.
Read our blog on Walking Tours in Osaka to learn more about what you can expect to do while in the city. You may also wish to book a place on one of our popular Osaka Guided Tours – an excellent way to get your bearings and see the city through the eyes of a local.
Day Trips to Kyoto: What Can You Experience?
A day trip might feel limiting, but a taste of Kyoto’s beauty can be experienced in this short span with the right plan.
- Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion): Start your morning with the shimmering beauty of Kinkaku-ji, a Zen temple layered in gold leaf which stands by a tranquil pond.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest: A midday stroll here feels like stepping into another world, with towering bamboo groves forming a serene canopy.
- Fushimi Inari Taisha: Wander through the iconic red torii gates leading up to the sacred Mount Inari. This is not just a shrine but a journey through countless gates, each telling a story.
- Kiyomizu-dera: As the day nears its end, head to Kiyomizu-dera to watch the sunset over Kyoto from its wooden terrace. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers panoramic views and a glimpse into Japan’s spiritual heart.
If you plan wisely and start early, these sights and more can be planned into your Kyoto trip, making a day trip not only doable but an incredibly rewarding part of your holiday in Japan.
Joining a Tour: The Pinpoint Traveler Experience
Osaka and Kyoto may be close geographically, but culturally and historically, they’re worlds apart. A tour will offer you the most in-depth and hassle-free way to get the most out of your Kyoto visit.
Why Join a Tour from Osaka to Kyoto with Pinpoint Traveler?
- Expert Guidance: Our guides aren’t just well-versed in which sights to visit and when. They offer stories and local insights and are on hand to answer any of your questions. Kyoto’s history, folklore, and hidden nuances come alive when you have someone to share them with you. Our guides are also all bilingual.
- Convenience: Leave the logistics to us. We’ve got everything covered from picking you up in Osaka, transporting you to Kyoto’s iconic sites, to ensuring you’re back by evening.
- Cost-effectiveness: When you factor in individual expenses like transport fares and unplanned detours, our tours come out as an economical choice.
- Customized Experiences: We understand that each traveler is different. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or someone looking for spiritual exploration, our tours are carefully designed to be accessible and enjoyable by every type of traveler.
Take a look at our 8- and 10-hour Kyoto Tours from Osaka. Leave Osaka in comfort and head to the beauty and timelessness of Kyoto, all by private vehicle. This tour is designed to give you a balanced representation of Kyoto’s best, with a famous temple (Tenryuji), gardens (Tenryuji and Okochi Sanso), a short visit to the entertainment quarter (Gion), and the region’s most famous shrine (Fushimi Inari) with its red gates snaking up the mountain, all included on the day’s plan (please note, entry admissions are not included).
Tips for Traveling from Osaka to Kyoto
Navigating the journey independently between these two cities can be smooth if you keep some tips in mind:
- Recommended Departure Times: To make the most of your day, aim to leave Osaka by 8 am. This gives you a head start, ensuring you’re in Kyoto just as the city wakes up.
- Train Etiquette: Japanese trains are a marvel of punctuality and manners. Remember to queue up neatly, keep your phone silent, and avoid loud conversations.
- Purchasing Tickets: If you’re using the Shinkansen, reserving a seat might be a good idea, especially during peak seasons. For regular JR lines, IC cards like Suica or ICOCA are convenient, allowing for tap-and-go at gates.
- Packing Essentials for a Day Trip: Travel light, but don’t forget essentials like water, snacks, a charger, a good map or guidebook, and comfortable walking shoes.
Discover Kyoto from Osaka
As we’ve discussed, the proximity and connectivity between Osaka and Kyoto make it not just possible but incredibly enticing to base oneself on the modern beat of Osaka while courting the timeless allure of Kyoto.
The contrasts between these cities – Osaka’s urban dynamism and Kyoto’s historical beauty – are the very essence of what makes Japan such a compelling destination. One can revel in Osaka’s neon-lit nights, then find oneself in the serene embrace of Kyoto’s temples and gardens with just a short train ride.
Whether you opt to navigate this journey independently, seeking out personal adventures, or decide to take a private tour, the key is to plan well and have an itinerary based around what interests you most.
If you’d like to spend a day exploring Kyoto with one of our expert guides, book a place on our Kyoto Tour from Osaka. If you’re exploring Kyoto independently and want to join us in the evening, see our Nighttime Osaka Food and Culture Tour.
As always, please get in touch with us should you have any questions.