The best off the beaten track day trips by JR train From Osaka
Osaka, the second-largest city in Japan, is one of the most popular cities in Japan for both tourists and residents. Osaka has a variety of things to see, things to do and foods to eat. It is also popular to use Osaka as a ‘hub’ when travelling. Osaka is very close to a lot of other prefectures, cities, or attractions, and so it is common to stay in Osaka and take day trips. Most of these day trips are places like Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. These are great places to visit, but sometimes going off the beaten track can be more interesting.
Day trip from Osaka to Minoo
First, let’s have a look at Minoo. Northern Osaka has a lot of mountains, and at the top of one of these mountains is Minoo Waterfall. Walking to the waterfall is hiking for casual walkers – no equipment or practice is required but there is still the experience of walking through forest. The journey from Minoo train station to the waterfall is about 45mins to 1 hour on foot and the path is paved the entire way with no steep inclines. The start of the walk is quaint as most of the buildings are built in the traditional Japanese architectural style, with flowing trees in the background. It’s so different from the main city that it can be hard to believe this is the same prefecture as the middle of Osaka. Slowly the amount of buildings become less and less and the road becomes a path through the trees. This area is known locally for being amazing viewing in Autumn and Spring. In Spring, there are hundreds of cherry blossom trees all along the path. In Autumn, there are Japanese red maple trees. Because of the maple trees, Minoo has actually developed Momiji Tempura, or maple leaf tempura. This consists of maple leaves fried in batter and it provides a perfect snack when reaching the waterfall at the top of the mountain. Minoo station is about 30 minutes by train
from the Osaka-Umeda station, with a change at Ishibashi station.
Day trip from Osaka to Wakayama
For something different, and a little further away, we have Wakayama. Usually when people visit the prefecture of Wakayama, it’s for the beachside towns like Shirahama or the Kumano Kodo hiking. The city of Wakayama is often skipped but it can be a nice day trip. Oda Park, in the middle of the city, has a number of temples and shrines to be explored. The entire prefecture is known for onsens, or hot springs, so a nice afternoon activity after exploring temples and shrines in the morning is a relaxing bath at the onsen. There are plenty around the city or with a short 25 minute train ride, you can visit the onsens in the national park area of the nearby town, Kada. To get to Wakayama from Osaka station, there is a short train ride to Tennoji station, and after a train change here it is direct to Wakayama for about 45 minutes.
Day trip from Osaka to Omimachiman and Lake Biwa
In the opposite direction, we can come to Omimachiman. This is a small town in Shiga prefecture, on the edge of Lake Biwa. Omimachiman is a small town which has retained its traditional charm. It is different from a lot of other small towns in Japan in that it used to be a merchant town and there are canals running through the town that were used to transport goods. In the town there are many examples of how people lived traditionally, with both the Omimachiman City Museum and Shin-machi Dori street. There is also a nearby ropeway and some traditional rural temples and shrines, showing the difference between the city and rural versions of traditional places. Omimachiman is about 1 hour and 5 mins from Osaka station by a direct train.
Day trip from Osaka to Omimaiko
On the other side of Lake Biwa, we have Omimaiko. In Summer, Omimaiko is popular for locals from surrounding regions to visit, as it is a beach on the edge of Lake Biwa. It is surrounded by groves of green firs with mountains in the background. It’s a beautiful area to enjoy nature, from the beach to the forest. During Summer, it is possible to go swimming or wind-surfing at the beach and there are camping grounds nearby for those who wish to stay overnight. There are also barbeque pits for public use. The beach is calm and peaceful even on the busiest of summer days. Omimaiko is also about 1 hour from Osaka station directly, despite being on the opposite side of Lake Biwa.
When visiting Japan, Osaka is a popular city, both for its own attractions, but also for its proximity to a number of other areas. A common way of organising travel is to use Osaka as a ‘base city’ and take day trips to other cities or areas. Some are really popular, like Kyoto and Nara, and others are a bit more off the beaten track. Areas that are popular with local residents but not foreign tourists, or places that are seen as a stop along the way. To have a more unique Japan visit, these are the places to go.