Explore Hyogo's top sights in this all-in-one day trip from Osaka.
The 400-year-old Himeji Castle is the perfect day trip destination from Osaka
Hyogo prefecture, Osaka's neighbor to the West, is packed with historical sites that will transport you back into old Japan. From Himeji's 400-year-old historical castle, to a spa town flowing with naturally golden hot water, there's a lot to see. Thankfully there is a convenient day trip that fits these attractions and more into one convenient package.
I booked my ticket from GetYourGuide.com and had the e-ticket immediately sent to my smartphone. From the central meeting point in Namba, I boarded our spacious tour bus for the drive out to Himeji castle. On the way our tour guide shared some historical background information on Himeji before I settled in and enjoyed the scenery from the bus window.
I knew I had arrived in Himeji when I saw the unmistakable profile of the "White Heron Castle" fill the horizon. The iconic main keep of the castle was built in 1601 and is one of the oldest surviving castles in Japan. Himeji castle was never bombed during war, burned down in flames, or besieged in battle, making it one of the best-preserved examples of traditional Japanese castle architecture. As much as I appreciate the modern-day Osaka Castle, the imposing presence and awe-inspiring post-and-beam construction of Himeji Castle is truly something to behold.
The imposing main keep of the “White Heron Castle” as seen from below
Also included in the ticket was admission to the adjacent Koko-en gardens. Composed of nine separate gardens spanning 3.5ha, the gardens of Koko-en offered a relaxing stroll after completing the climb to the top of Himeji castle's main keep. Using classical Japanese gardening techniques from the Edo period, each garden provides a unique environment to explore that is further nuanced by the changing of the seasons.
The Garden of the Lord’s Residence, one of nine classical Japanese gardens in Himeji Castle’s adjacent Koko-en Gardens
After a full morning exploring the castle and surrounding grounds of Himeji, it was time to board the bus for Arima Onsen, one of Japan's three oldest (and most famous) hot springs. For those seeking to revitalize their body and spirits after a long day spent walking, Kin no Yu hot spring offers a rejuvenating public bath experience.
Meandering shopping streets wind through the heritage town of Arima Onsen
The water of Kin no Yu's baths is a deep golden color due to the rich mineral and iron content, justifying the translated name of "Golden Hot Spring". For the more modest travelers, Arima's historical shopping streets serve up a variety of contemporary refreshments like locally produced coffee and craft beer as well as traditional specialities like soda crackers and bamboo baskets.
Enjoying a free foot bath in the golden waters in front of Kin no Yu spa, before heading inside for the full soak
Finally, the last stop on the tour was the Mt. Rokko Garden Terrace. With views that are said to be worth $10 million dollars, the panoramic views of Kobe, Osaka, and Osaka Bay from this mountaintop lookout do not disappoint. Having visited so many spots throughout this day trip's packed itinerary, it’s reflective to look out over Kansai and get a sense of the scale of this beautiful corner of Japan.
Kansai as far as the eye can see; soaking up Rokko Garden Terrace’s expansive views
After leaving Rokko Garden Terrace, the bus returned from the calm of the mountains to the bustle of Osaka city. Although I saw many sites in one day, the pace never felt hurried or rushed. With ample opportunity to relax between stops, this tour is the perfect way to see the many sights Hyogo prefecture has to offer in one convenient and affordably priced offering.
Mike Rogers is a content creator who has lived on-and-off in Osaka for over 13 years. When not in Osaka, he’s travelling the world with his worldschooling family of four or building up his small homestead on Canada’s west coast. His adventures and exploits are documented on his website, Slowsteading.
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare flight prices and timings to find the best Japan flight deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, you might save money with a Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
- Get a prepaid Icoca card to make travelling around Osaka easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world