Planning on exploring a little further? There's plenty more to discover beyond Osaka's glitzy streets.
Although Kyoto, Nara, and Mount Koya are all very worthy destinations to visit, if you’re spending a little time in Osaka—or even living there—there are so many more diverse locations to explore both within easy day trip-distance or for overnight adventures. Being based in Osaka means you can have Japan any which way you’d like; mountains, picture-perfect beaches, hidden retreats, and quaint coastal escapes, you can do it all, no problem.
Towering over Osaka and neighboring Kobe‘s outskirts, Mount Rokko is a 931-meter high summit that offers excellent city views and vibrant natural surroundings. Perfect for the casual or more advanced hiker, there are several ways to scale the mountain, including hopping aboard a cable car if that’s more your style.
The mountain is home to a handful of quaint attractions, including a golf course (Japan’s first course actually), a botanical garden, a visitor complex complete with shops and restaurants, and some idyllically positioned viewing platforms. Those looking for more rugged ways to explore the area can take the Koza Falls trail near Arima. This trail runs just under 18 kilometers out and back and is considered relatively challenging. It’s mainly used by mid-advanced level hikers and passionate birdwatchers.
Palm Garden Glamping facility is an airstream ocean-facing camping resort that sits just north of Osaka’s popular Sakai district. It’s the ideal place for those who are craving the illusion of camping or city escaping without having to actually leave the city at all. The site hosts a cluster of retro-tin can airstream caravans as well bohemian styled trailers, that by all accounts are more boutique hotel than a dusty old trailer park set up, complete with ocean-facing hammocks hung up on the deck.
As well as accommodation options, the site is also home to several attractions to keep you busy throughout the day—and keep that camping fantasy alive—including fully-stocked BBQ setups (food included) and a segway park. While, sure it’s a little bit cheesy and as far from real camping as you can get (they don’t call it “glamping,” aka glamorous camping, for nothing), you can’t deny that it does look like a whole lot of fun, and when it comes to city escapes it doesn’t get much easier than this.
Sitting at the foot of Mount Koya, about an hour and a half drive from central Osaka, Amano Sato is a lush mountain resort comprising of six villas, well worthy of a luxe little weekend away. Home to cherry blossoms in spring, verdant shades of red and gold in autumn, fireflies in summer, and dusted with pure white snow in winter, Amano is a town that’s nothing short of picture storybook perfection all year round.
Each of the villas houses a semi-open-air bath so guests can enjoy the local view while relaxing in complete privacy, and easy access to the on-site restaurant, which serves up Japanese and western fusion cuisine utilizing the best fresh produce in the area.
Not to be confused with Izu’s Shirahama Beach (a wonderful day trip from Tokyo), the Shirahama we’re talking about here is the crystal clear blue water and pristine white sand beach located in Wakayama Prefecture, about a two and a half-hour drive from central Osaka. Known as the “sister beach” of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, this almost 650-meter long coastline looks more like a snapshot taken from a Hawaiian postcard than it does an Osaka-adjacent beach town.
If stunning scenery isn’t enough to make you want to visit, Shirahama is also comparatively warmer than the rest of Honshu and boasts one of the earliest swimming seasons on main island Japan, opening up in early May!
Also, sometimes known as Mino or Minoh, Minoo Park is a forested retreat just north of the outskirts of Osaka. It’s a popular hiking destination and koyo (autumn leaf viewing spot) that could almost be considered the Kansai version of what Mount Takao is to Tokyo. The main, three-kilometer long hiking trail of Minoo is do-able for almost anyone from lower-level to upper-level hikers, and it travels via a valley alongside the Minoo River, before leading to the 33 meters high Minoo Waterfall, the area’s major attraction.
The trail also has a few temples along the way, including Ryuan-ji Temple, which is generally considered the most impressive of the lot. The temple is part of the Shugendo religious sect, a Shinto sect based on mountain worship. It’s situated about halfway along the journey and from the station takes only less than 30 minutes to access. Indulge in a local craft beer after your hike for a refreshing treat!
At the time of writing (October 2020), the state of emergency over coronavirus in Japan has been lifted. However, you should still practice precautions while traveling.
If you find yourself visiting any of these locations, tag us on social media with #GaijinPotTravel for your chance to be featured on our site!