Traveling to Japan is almost on everyone’s bucket list and there are many reasons why it’s such a popular destination to visit for tourists from all over the world. Japan has so much culture, traditions, and has preserved many of its temples and palaces. My favorite cities to visit in Japan were Kyoto and Osaka. There was so much to do here that I had to share my Kyoto Osaka Itinerary with you all. In the amount of time, I was able to spend there, I was able to see the most in these 4 days. So if you are on a limited time frame, I suggest you check out this Kyoto Osaka Itinerary.
Short on time? Read about whether you should travel to Kyoto or Osaka.
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Kyoto Osaka Itinerary
Where you visit during your 4 days Kyoto Osaka Itinerary
- Day 1: Nara and Kyoto
- Day 2: Kyoto
- Day 3: Kobe and Osaka
- Day 4: Osaka
If you plan to visit other parts of Japan, check out this post on Japanese landmarks.
Kyoto Osaka Itinerary Day 1: Nara and Kyoto
So depending on which airport you arrive at, I suggest you start with a half-day in Nara. For my Kyoto Osaka Itinerary, I flew into Kansai airport, so Nara was on my way to Kyoto which made it a fairly easy pitstop to hit before moving to Kyoto. I also arrived at around 10 am which made it easy to move on to the sightseeing. You can take a bus or train to Kintetsu-Nara station. It’s the closest station to the park and you can easily store your luggage at the many coin lockers there.
First, go to Nara Deer Park and then have lunch eating tonkatsu. Afterward, head to Kyoto to experience all of the popular tourist spots. I went to my hotel to drop off my stuff, however, you can also store luggage at the train station as well. Next, head to Yasaka Pagoda, on my way there I went to Pontocho, Kenninji Temple, and Gion District.
I took the scenic route and walked from my hotel room and hit up these areas on the way there. If you are staying in Daikokucho or Narayacho, it will be about a 20-minute walk. If you have a chance rent a Kimono and walk through these areas for the best Instagram photos. Book your Kimono rental here and hire a photographer for a photoshoot.
Afterward, head to the popular Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. If you don’t have time to do it this night, make sure to visit the next day.
Finally, end your night eating some amazing ramen at Ichiban. The line can be intimidating but it’s a popular ramen restaurant and it went by pretty quickly. I suggest you arrive early if you can.
RELATED: 2 Days in Kyoto
Recommended things to do in Nara and Kyoto
- Deer Park
- Kyoto Tower
- Nishiki Market
- Kenninji Temple
- Rent a Kimono
- Gion District
- Yasaka Pagoda at Hōkanji Temple
- Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
- Have ramen at Ichiban
Kyoto Osaka Itinerary Day 2: Kyoto
This day of your Kyoto Osaka Itinerary is jam-packed with all the major high lights in Kyoto. I suggest you start your day very early if you want to get all of the great shots in. I started around 6:30 am since I wasn’t able to sleep. I headed straight over to the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine which you can see still had many people in my photos.
The train can be a bit confusing in Japan and even though I thought I was on the right train, it did not stop at my destination and I had to turn around. I arrived at the Shrine around 7:00 am. This is a pretty large shrine to get through and many people will take a run or hike through the area.
Afterward, head over to the Bamboo Grove. You can easily take the JR train from the shrine to Bamboo Grove. This place will literally be packed by 9:00 am. I arrived around 8:30 am and there were still quite a few people. The area really was filled with tourists by 9.
When finished walking through Bamboo Grove, you can easily take a trip to Monkey Park Iwatayama since it is nearby. I skipped the monkey park, but that’s truly up to you. After Bamboo Grove, I was pretty hungry so I grabbed some soba noodles to enjoy outside of the entrance.
Then take the bus to go see Kinkakuji Temple, then Nijo Castle, and finally to Higashiyama Temple and Philosopher’s Path. If you missed the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple on the first day, then head there.
Recommended things to do in Kyoto
- Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine
- Bamboo Grove
- Monkey Park Iwatayama
- Kinkakuji Temple
- Nijo Castle
- Higashiyama Temple and Philosopher’s Path
Kyoto Osaka Itinerary Day 3: Kobe and Osaka
In the morning you will head to Kobe if you plan to eat Kobe beef that is. If not you can easily go to Osaka instead. For Kobe beef, I suggest you make your reservations very early. Ishidaya, for example, can book fairly quickly in advance especially during the tourist seasons. You can store your luggage with the coin lockers at the train station in Kobe.
After enjoying your Kobe beef lunch (lunch is cheaper than dinner hours), head on over to Osaka. You can decide to store your luggage at the train station in Osaka if you like or head on over to your hotel room to drop off your luggage. Next, you’ll head over to Osaka Castle to get a beautiful view from the park side. You can pay to enter the castle and enjoy a great view of the city.
When you are finished at Osaka Castle, head on over to the Sanrio Store or Dontobori area. Enjoy some shopping, a Kawaii cafe, street food, and dinner at Ajinoya to eat Osaka’s famous Okonomiyaki, which is a must for your Kyoto Osaka Itinerary.
RELATED: 2 Days in Osaka
Recommended things to do in Kobe and Osaka
- Eat Kobe Beef
- Osaka Castle
- Sanrio Store
- Pink Kawaii Cafe
- Eat Okonomiyaki at Ajinoya
Kyoto Osaka Itinerary Day 4: Osaka
On the last day of your Kyoto Osaka Itinerary, I was pretty exhausted from running around all day. So I slept in and took it a little more easy this day before my flight in the evening. Head on over the Namba Yasaka Shire, Shitennoji Temple and then Tsukenkaku Tower.
On the street where Tsukenkaku Tower is located, enjoy some delicious food and eat conveyor belt sushi, takoyaki, and more. Be sure to get a beautiful photo with the tower in the background as well.
Afterward, head on over to Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum to make your own delicious cup of noodles designed and filled to your favorite flavors. On your way back to the city, stop by the Umeda Sky Building to get a beautiful view of the city and the beautiful architecture.
Recommended things to do in Osaka
- Namba Yasaka Shrine
- Shitennoji Temple
- Tsukenkaku Tower
- Eat Conveyor Belt Sushi and Takoyaki
- Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
- Umeda Sky Building
Best time to visit the Kansai Area for your Kyoto Osaka Itinerary
I would suggest visiting Japan during the offseason as it will become very crowded during the Fall and Spring months because of the foliage. Traveling during the summer months can be brutal with very high humidity, tropical rainstorms, and typhoons.
The language in the Kansai area of course in Japanese. Although, I seemed to get by with speaking English. I was fairly worried about communication. During my Kyoto Osaka Itinerary, I didn’t have any issues and if I did, I pulled out my google translate. However, I think many Japanese on the mainland are very familiar with tourists so many know enough to communicate.
Form of currency
Japan uses Japanese Yen. 1,000 Yen is about $10 USD. The best way to make a conversion is by thinking 2 decimal points to easily change the currency from USD to Yen. If you are using a different currency, for your Kyoto Osaka Itinerary I suggest you download a currency app like GlobeConvert.
Tips to save money in the Kansai area
To save money for the Kyoto Osaka Itinerary, there are a few options.
Depending on how long you are staying in Japan, the Japan Rail Pass might be worth the cost. However, during this itinerary, it was cheaper to pay for each ticket individually. It cost about 2,000 yen from the airport to Nara, 1,500 yen from Nara to Kyoto, 1,150 yen from Kyoto to Kobe and 1,500 yen from Kobe to Osaka. The total was about 6,150 yen versus for the JR Rail Pass for one Adult is about 24,700 yen.
In Kyoto, I grabbed the city subway and bus day pass tickets to easily get around Kyoto. For a 1 day pass it costs about ¥900 for Adults and ¥450 for children 6 to 11 years old. For a 2 day pass it costs about ¥1,700 for Adults and ¥850 for children 6 to 11 years old. You can easily grab this pass at the train or subway station in Kyoto. This was by far the best purchase I made for my Kyoto Osaka Itinerary.
The Osaka Amazing Pass can be worth the cost depending on what you want to do. It included a lot of the major attractions in Osaka including visiting Osaka Castle Museum, Osaka Science Museum, the HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel, Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory, and more. It also included unlimited use of the subway, tramway, and bus system within the city which is the part that is worth it. You can either pick a 1 or 2-day pass. The price is about $25-35 USD.
How to get around Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and Osaka
I suggest you get some of the passes I suggested above in order to get around these areas. I highly suggest you avoid taking a taxi as much as possible since they are extremely expensive in Japan.
To get from Kansai airport to Nara, you will need to take the Japan Rail or JR. You will need to use the JR to travel between cities and further away locations.
Kyoto is very bus friendly, so the pass works really well if you plan to take a bus in Kyoto, however, the pass only works for the subway lines which there aren’t many in Kyoto. Most of the trains in Kyoto us the JR Rail.
Osaka is mostly subway and walking. It’s a pretty walkable city, but the subways aren’t always convenient depending on where you are going.
I suggest you try and use Google Maps, although it isn’t completely accurate, it was able to get the job done and learn how to use public transportation in Japan.
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