Planning Your Time
For many tourists, Osaka is a day trip, but it is also an excellent base for exploring the surrounding Kansai region—Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe are each 30 minutes away by train. Osaka is also the most convenient jumping-off point for a trip to the mountainside monasteries of Koya-san, two hours away on the Nankai private rail line.
Most visitors miss the best that Nara has to offer on a hurried day trip from Kyoto, Osaka, or Kobe. If time is an issue, the city is compact and well connected enough to explore all the temples and shrines in Nara Koen and spend a full morning or afternoon shopping and walking the streets of Nara-machi in one day. Spending a night in Nara gives you a chance to see a more traditional side of Kansai and to hit the main temples before the crowds arrive. Staying in Kobe means a chance to see the city’s famous night panorama from the top of Mt. Rokko and a relaxing dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants overlooking the harbor.
The big attractions of Kobe can be covered in a day or two. Hit the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Museum and the Kobe City Museum in the morning. Follow this with a stroll around Kitano-cho and a café stop, and wind down the day at Harborland for dinner. On a second day head up Rokko-san and to the resort town of Arima, where you can soak in mineral hot springs and wander the quaint streets.