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5 Day Trips from Kobe

Looking for places near Kobe that you can explore in a day? Here are five day trips from one of Japan's most attractive cities.

By 4 min read

The city of Kobe, the capital of Hyogo Prefecture, has a very convenient location close to many of the most important sights in the Kansai region. This beautiful city, sandwiched between the mountains and sea, is often explored as a day trip from Osaka and is less than two hours away by train from Kyoto and Nara. Kobe is an excellent base from which to take day trips to places in Kansai that are further from Kyoto and Osaka or outside the usual tourist route.

Here are five places that can (more or less) be fully explored in a day trip from Kobe.

1. Himeji Castle

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Next to the castle is also Koko-en, a beautiful Japanese garden.

A very easy and popular day trip from Kobe is to see Japan’s best-preserved castle. Known as the White Heron Castle for its white color and elegant appearance, it’s one of Japan’s 12 original castles, never destroyed by an earthquake, fire or war. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the castle we see today stands as it has been since 1609.

The journey to Himeji Castle from Sannomiya station is just 40 minutes by train and then about a 10-minute walk. Next to the castle is also Koko-en, a beautiful Japanese garden. Combination tickets are available for both the castle and the garden.

68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012 - Map
Admission: ¥1,000
Opening hours: 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

2. Naruto Whirlpools

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A unique natural phenomenon worth the day trip from central Kobe.

These whirlpools are located between Tokushima Prefecture and Awaji Island, which seems far from Kobe but is easily accessible by bus from Sannomiya station. A unique natural phenomenon, the whirlpools are formed by the water moving at high and low tides between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean through the narrow strait. They are not dangerous to boats but can reach up to 20 meters in diameter.

The best way to see the whirlpools is on a sightseeing cruise, with two boat companies to choose from. There is also a walkway under the Onaruto Bridge that offers good views of the whirlpools. However, visitors need to check the tide schedule before visiting as there is little to see outside peak times or on calm days.

Naruto, Tokushima 772-0000 - Map
Ferry cruise admission: ¥1,800 – ¥2,400 / Observation deck admission: ¥510
Ferry cruise opening hours: 9 a.m.–4:20 p.m. / Observation deck opening hours: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

3. Arima Onsen

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Founded 1,300 years ago, the town is small enough to be explored on foot.

Though technically within Kobe’s city limits, Arima Onsen feels far away. This quaint onsen town lies in the mountains behind the city, about a 30-minute train journey from Sannomiya. Founded 1,300 years ago, it is one of Japan’s oldest onsen towns and is small enough to be explored entirely on foot.

Arima Onsen has two types of hot spring waters: kinsen (gold water), which is supposed to be good for the skin and muscles and ginsen (silver water), which is supposed to ease muscle and joint pain. The town has two public baths, Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu, which specialize in kinsen and ginsen respectively. There are also several ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) that allow visitors on day trips to use their baths.

The town is beautiful during all seasons but is especially popular in autumn. A popular destination within Arima Onsen is Zuihoji Park, which turns into a canvas of color thanks to multi-colored maple leaves in autumn.

Arimacho Kita-ku, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Kin no Yu admission: ¥800 / Gin no Yu admission: ¥700
Kin no Yu opening hours: 8 a.m.–10 p.m. / Gin no Yu opening hours: 9 a.m.–9 p.m.

4. Katsuoji

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Bring one home for good luck!

Tucked away in the mountains in Minoh, Katsuoji makes for a delightful day trip from Kobe. The temple’s most notable feature is the presence of thousands of daruma (red-painted good luck doll).

It dates to the 700s, but its lucky reputation began a century later when Emperor Seiwa fell ill. His followers prayed for his recovery, and when he eventually recovered, he attributed his survival to the temple.

Today, the temple’s many daruma inhabitants have been placed there by visitors who bought them to pray for good luck in achieving a goal. The dolls can be bought at the temple in sizes ranging from tiny to massive. Katsuoji is also well-known for its spectacular autumn foliage and is particularly popular during that season.

2914-1 Aomatani, Minoh, Osaka - Map
Admission: ¥500
Opening hours: 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

5. Tonomine Highlands

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Especially in the autumn season, the highland’s susuki grass paints a beautiful scene.

The beautiful rolling hills and fields of pampas grass in the Tonomine Highlands are an excellent escape from the city. This marvelous landscape, which has recently become famous as a filming location, sits on plateaus about 800 to 900 meters above sea level. The fields are beautiful all year round but are particularly popular in the autumn when the meadows turn red, making the field look like it’s on fire.

Located in Kamikawa in central Hyogo Prefecture, the highlands are about 50 kilometers north of Himeji, and it takes about an hour and a half to drive there from Kobe. Visitors can spend several hours hiking in the area, but boardwalks in the field allow a leisurely walk through the landscape.

Kawakami, Kamikawa, Kanzaki District, Hyogo - Map
Admission: Free
Opening hours: Open 24 hours
Have you been to any of these places? Which other places near Kobe can be explored in a day? Let us know in the comments!

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