Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

If you are staying in Osaka, there is a lot to see but you might be curious to explore the Kansai region. There are so many local gems, so many castles and temples, you could travel forever. So here are a few day trip ideas to make planning your Kansai and Osaka itinerary easier.

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Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

How to Get a Kansai Pass

Kansai Japan is well connected and there are many trains going hourly. Train travel in Japan, however, isn’t cheap so having a railpass is a good way to go. You can choose between different regions and time frames to match the railpass to your travel plan. No need to get one for the entirety of Japan if you are just exploring the Kansai region, for instance.

The JR railpasses can only be ordered and shipped to an address abroad, so make sure to book it way in advance. They are valid for a year and can be validated at bigger JR railway stations. You will receive a booklet with a list of all the customer service counters available for this.

 Example Itineraries for travelling Japan:   2 weeks  |  3 weeks 

Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

Do You Need a Kansai Rail Pass?

The JR railpasses are great value if you want to see as much as possible in a short time and make extensive use of train travel. For slow travel, I recommend bus travel. The Kansai Pass allows you to travel within a certain region, which makes it an affordable option for short term visits to Osaka and beyond. Should your railpass not arrive in time, you can always return it and get the money back and instead invest in a local Kansai Thru Pass. This one also includes discounts for many local shops and restaurants and can be used already at from the airport to get into town.

 Check Hyperdia for Train schedules here. 
 Check detailed usage for the JR Kansai Rail Pass here. 

Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

Day 1: Nara

The number one day in the Kansai region undoubtedly has to be Nara. This quaint city used to be the capital of Japan and has retained its grandeur in its vibrant temples. All the Great Seven Buddhist temples are still standing and beautiful shrines, such as Kasuga-Taisha, will make for amazing photos.

 Read: What to Do on a Nara Day Trip 

The true highlight, though, are the local Nara deer in Nara Park. They may be wild but are quite used to people feeding them rice crackers. Over 1200 deer are said to roam around freely in the parks, forest and at times even the city. Just be careful when you get close to them as they can kick and bite.

How to get from Osaka to Nara: Take the JR Yamatoji Rapid Service for either Kamo or Nara. It takes about an hour and costs 800yen without the JR Kansai Pass.
What to eat in Osaka: Osaka okonomiyaki (savory cabbage pancakes), takoyaki (fried dough ball with octopus), kushi-katsu (deep fried skewers),butaman (steamed pork buns)

Day 2: Wakayama

This underrated destination is not far away at all from Osaka. You can use your JR Kansai Pass to reach Wakayama within an hour. Getting from the train station to Wakayama Castle takes around 30 minutes on foot. Wakayama Castle sits snugly on a hill atop the mouth of the Kii River and the O-hashi-rōka bridge down below has been well preserved. Look at it from outside before you venture onto the castle grounds and the gardens.

Getting inside the castle costs a small entrance fee and you will see a small exhibition inside on its history and preservation efforts. It’s nothing too exciting, if I’m honest. In front of the entrance is a kiosk and benches and a fine view over the city.

How to get from Osaka to Wakayama: Take the JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service for Wakayama to Hineno and then the JR Kishuji Rapid Service for Wakayama to Wakayama. The ride takes around 90 minutes and costs 1,240yen without the JR Kansai Pass.

Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

Day 3: Castle Hopping

There are over 140 Japanese castles in the Kansai region and many of them can be easily reached with a JR Kansai Pass. To make the trip convenient, I recommend heading westward all the way to Akō. In Akō, sadly, there are only a few ruins left and a temple that stands on the former castle grounds.

From there, you can head back to Himeji, where you can see one of the prettiest castles in Japan. Its pristine white glow is best experienced in spring when surrounded by pink cherry blossoms. From Himeji, you can take the train to Akashi, where it takes only five minutes to reach the park and former castle wall remains. Why not plan a small picnic among the old walls? If you still have time, you can also visit the city of Kobe on the way back to Osaka.

How to get from Osaka to Ako: Take the JR Special Rapid Service from Osaka to HIMEJI and change into JR Sanyo Line for BANSHUAKO. Get off at the last stop. Then, follow the signs to get from each station to the respective castle (ruins).

Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

Day 4: Kyoto

Kyoto is super close to Osaka and an absolute must. You can easily spend at least two days in the former capital of Japan as there is so much to see beside the famous Gion district. The second most popular destination in Kyoto must be the red Fhushimi Inari torii gates. If you have the Kansai rail pass, you can get from Osaka station to Fushimi Inari in only a few minutes and then walk up the mountain, following the gates.

 Read: The Top 15 Epic Spots for Seeing Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto 

How to get from Osaka to Kyoto: From Osaka station, there are trains leaving every ten minutes. It takes around thirty minutes. Ticket prices can range from 560yen to 3,020yen without the JR Kansai Pass, depending on which train you chose.
What to eat in Kyoto: Shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine), obanzai ryori (multi course meal), yuba (skimmed tofu), yudofu (tofu cooked in hot broth)

Epic Destinations to Explore with a 4 Day JR Kansai Pass

Tell me: Where would you go with a Kansai Pass?

Read next:

17 Kawaii Osaka Cafes Foodies Will Die For
How to Make Osaka Okonomiyaki
Adventures in Historic Kyoto You Cannot Miss (Even if You’re in a Hurry)

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It had to happen, after ditching the 9-5 for a prolonged break, Annemarie's wokaholic tendencies led her to start a daily blog about her adventures. Realising how much travel has helped rebuild her confidence and and general #GirlBoss-iness, Travel on the Brain released a book about her adventures in Down Under and New Zealand and creates quirky video series focusing on story telling in destinations around the globe.
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    • kuldeep dogra
    • 26/06/2018

    Very well written and explained article. Images are beautiful and eye-catching.
    Thanks for sharing such an informative blog post.

    1. Reply

      Hi Kuldeep, thank you for your kind comment.

    • Setiawan
    • 07/07/2018

    Really helpful and well written. Thank you

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