Detailed Osaka Itinerary: 3 Days
This article is one of series of itineraries which are designed to help you get the most out of your stay in Osaka. If you have three days to explore this amazing Japanese city and its surroundings then this is the schedule for you. Firstly, my Osaka 3 Day Itinerary will show you the best sights and things to do in the city of Osaka itself. Then we’ll take a look outside the city with some day trips to Miyajima Island, Hiroshima and Kyoto.
For an overview of the top sights and attractions in Osaka take a look at this earlier blog post on what to do in Osaka, Japan. You can either use it to build your own itinerary or to find out more about the individual attractions in the city. In this post, I’m going to provide a step by step schedule which will help you pack in as much as possible. I’ll also include details of how to get between each place by public transport and what order to visit to make things easier.
Osaka 3 Day Itinerary: Day 1
For the first two days of this 3-day itinerary you’ll be following the schedule set out in my earlier 2-day itinerary. I won’t repeat it all here so head over to my Osaka 2 Day Itinerary page and you’ll find all the details there.
Firstly, we need to enjoy the city itself so for the first day, we’ll stay in the city of Osaka and explore using the metro system. With this in mind, here’s a brief overview of what’s included in day 1:
- Go up the Umeda Sky Tower
- Shop in the basement Food Street
- Visit Shitennoji Temple
- Explore Osaka Castle
- Dine in Lively Dotonbori
Osaka 3 Day Itinerary: Day 2
Then on day two, we’ll take a ride on the famous Japanese bullet train to Hiroshima in the south. As well as visiting the Peace Park, we’ll spend time exploring the beautiful island of Miyajima with its famous floating Torri gate.
Osaka 3 Day Itinerary: Day 3
Of course, Osaka makes a great base for exploring the surrounding Kansai area. So today, we’re going to take another day trip and head to the former capital of Japan, Kyoto.
Firstly, take a train from Osaka station to Kyoto. There are lots of trains to choose from since they travel regularly between the two cities. Specifically, you should look for a JR Special Rapid Service, Limited Express Thunderbird or Limited Express Hakuto. The JR Kyoto Line Rapid Service is also an option but it takes 10 minutes longer. The journey should take you approximately 30 minutes and if you have a Japanese Rail pass this trip is also included. Otherwise, buy a ticket when you get to the station. You don’t need to reserve a seat on these local trains and in fact, there is no option to do so on most of them. Just hop on and then sit in any spare seat.
When you arrive in Kyoto take a while to explore the station. Surprisingly, Kyoto station is a tourist attraction in its own right. Look for the steps going up because the best views are from the top. As you can see in the photo below there are lots of them but you don’t have to climb them all. Fortunately, there is also an escalator which will take you up into the roof area.
Firstly, you get some fantastic views of the station below you. This glass and steel structure is really impressive and so much more than just a railway station. As I have said, on these upper levels, you’ll find plenty of things to occupy your time. There’s a whole street of restaurants so it’s the ideal place for lunch.
Keep heading up and you’ll then come out into the open on the roof. Here you’ll find some quite extensive gardens to explore while you enjoy the fresh air. Also, don’t forget to take a look at some of the fabulous views across Kyoto.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a railway station quite like it. You can even get married here. What a fabulous venue for a wedding with that view. You’d never think it was on the roof of a station, would you?
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Getting to Fushimi Inari Shrine
When you’re done exploring the station take a local train to Inari on the JR Nara line. Japanese stations are well organised and have plenty of signs so just look for the JR Nara line sign and follow it. Again, the rail pass covers this journey but if you’re paying as you go there are ticket desks near the platforms.
It’s a short trip since Inari is the first stop from Kyoto. You’ll be there in about 5 minutes. Inari is a small suburban station and as you exit the station you’ll see Fushimi Inari Shrine just across the road. Look for this huge red Torri gate at the entrance.
Thousands of Torri Gates
Fushimi Inari is an important Shinto shrine and it’s most famous for the tunnel made up of thousands of red Torri gates. It celebrated its 1300th anniversary in 2011.
If you look carefully you’ll see that each Torri gate has an inscription on it. Building such a massive network of gates cost a lot of money and everyone who donated has their name engraved on a gate.
You can walk through the gates and along the trails which climb up Mount Inari. They seem to go on forever but there are various opportunities to loop back down again if you get tired. If you walk the entire trail it will take you around 2-3 hours. However, after about 30-45 minutes you’ll reach an intersection where you can turn off and make your way down again. Take a minute to look at the great views before you descend. Then, there’s plenty to see as you walk down again. Look out for smaller shrines, statues and pretty gardens.
Main Shrine Building
Although the crowds flock towards the Torri gate trails, it’s worth spending some time exploring the main shrine buildings on the lower levels. These very attractive red and white halls are where offerings are made. In fact, there are actually five shrines here. The lower, middle and upper shrines and two auxiliary shrines. They are each named after the Inari Okami virtues. At one time there was also a shrine at the top of the mountain but unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire.
The shrine buildings and gates are painted in a specific shade of red, vermilion. This is considered an auspicious colour which also repels evil forces. You can read more about this and the history of the shrine on the official website. Entry to the entire shrine complex is free and it is always open.
Afterwards, return to Kyoto on the local train from Inari station. Next, we’re going to delve into another aspect of Kyoto history by visiting Nijo Castle. From Kyoto station take the Karasuma (green) subway line to Karasuma-Oike station. Change here to the Tozai line (brown) to Nijojo-mae station. Nijo castle is approximately 10 minutes walk.
I am fascinated by the Japanese shogun and so was excited to see Nijo Castle which was built for the first Edo shogun. Shoguns were important people in Japan, being appointed by the Emperor to rules parts of the country.
Nijo Castle was built in 1603 for Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was extremely powerful and his family went on to rule for 250 years. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage sights and one of the top attractions in Kyoto.
Ninomaru Palace and Gardens
The castle is surrounded by an impressive moat and visitors enter through a large gate on the eastern side. Inside you can stroll through the extensive and beautiful gardens. You can also venture inside the castle. The main building, the Ninomaru Palace is open to the public although you need to pay an extra admission fee. This was the main residence of the shogun and well worth the extra. Take off your shoes and leave them in the storage area and then follow the marked tour route.
October to June: 8:45am to 5pm
July and August: 8 am to 6pm
September: 8 am to 5 pm
Castle grounds and gardens: 600 Yen (£4)
Ninomaru Palace: 400 Yen (£3)
Back to Osaka
Return to Kyoto station using the metro. Why not enjoy an early dinner on the food street on the upper levels of the station! We had a fabulous Italian meal but there is plenty of choice including traditional Japanese restaurants and other international options.