Japan’s Kansai region is best known for attractions such as the USJ, Osaka Castle, Kiyomizu-dera, and Kinkaku-ji. While these spots are surely stunning in the fall, the areas are now considered overcrowded and touristy. So if you are planning your second or even third visit to Osaka and Kyoto, how about venturing out of the city center for more chances to take in Japan’s amazing scenery but with a lot less crowd?
Summary of the 14-Day Itinerary
The below travel plan is best for the area’s autumn foliage season between mid to late November. That being said, it is also suitable throughout the year. The landscape will give you a different impression depending on which season you visit the Kansai region.
The suitable train pass for this itinerary is the 5-Day Kansai Area Pass to cover the train cost from the 1st day to the 5th day of the trip. This is assuming that you land at Kansai Airport. On the last day, instead of JR’s Haruka, taking Nankai’s limited express, Rapi:t will be cheaper. The recommended ticket to purchase is Nankai Rapi:t Kansai Airport Express Ticket (関空トク割 ラピートきっぷ). A transportation IC card, such as Icoca or Suica, can be used to pay the transportation costs for the rest of the journey.
Note that the timetable mentioned in this article followed the train timetable when this article was written.
|Day 1||Osaka/Kyoto||Osaka/Kyoto||Minoh Park or any other attractions in Osaka/Kyoto|
|Day 2||Amanohashidate||Ine Bay||Kasamatsu Park, Nariai Temple, Motoise Kono Shrine, Amanohashidate Shrine, Amanohashidate View Land, and Chionji Temple|
|Day 3||Ine Bay||Toyooka/Kinosaki Onsen||Attractions in Ine Bay|
|Day 4||Kinosaki Onsen||Toyooka/Kinosaki Onsen||Genbudō Park, Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway, Onsenji Teple, Kinosaki Straw Crafts Museum, Hachigoro Toshima Wetland, and Kinosaki Onsen’s 7 Public Bathhouses|
|Day 5||Izushi||Kameoka||Attractions in Izushi|
|Day 6||Kameoka||Kameoka||Kameoka Fog Terrace, Anao-Ji Temple, Fukukuru Wood-fire Bakery, Kuwayama Shrine, and Hiranosawa Park|
|Day 7||Arashiyama and Ishiyama||Ishiyama||Sagano Scenic Railway, Hozugawa Boat Ride, MIHO MUSEUM, and Ishiyama-dera|
|Day 8||Sakamoto||Ishiyama||The Former Chikurin-in, Saikyō-ji, Mangetsu-ji Temple Ukimi-dō, Honke Tsuruki Soba, Hiyoshi Toshogū, and Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine|
|Day 9||Ōhara||Ōhara||Attractions in Ōhara|
|Day 10||Mt. Hiei||Ishiyama||Mt. Hiei|
|Day 11||Ōtsu||Ishiyama||Takebe Shrine, Seta no Karahashi Bridge, Biwako Terrace, Ōmi Jingū, Mii-dera Temple, Miidera Chikara-mochi Honke Main Shop, Ōjigaoka Park, and Biwako Flower Fountain|
|Day 12||Kōka and Konan Sanzan||Osaka||Konan Sanzan, Gallery & Cafe ENSOU, Oozuchi Dam, Aburahi Shrine, Tamura Shrine, Minakuchi Castle Ruins, Daichi-ji Temple, and Kōshinsan Kōtoku-ji Temple|
|Day 13||Arima Onsen and Mt. Rokkō||Osaka||Attractions in Arima Onsen, Mt. Rokkō, and Mt. Maya|
Day 1 – Arriving Osaka
Kansai Airport ⇒ Osaka/Kyoto
Depending on when your flight arrives, you may or may not have time for proper sightseeing on the first day. You can either book your accommodation for the first night close to Kyoto or Osaka Station. This will make getting to Amanohashidate the next day easier.
If you have time for sightseeing but are unsure about the places to visit, Minoh Park is a nice spot for an easy stroll and scenic scenery. The park’s fall foliage is particularly stunning if you visit between mid-November and early December.
You can also visit Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda to make your original cup noodles!
Day 2 – Amanohashidate
Osaka/Kyoto ⇒ Amanohashidate ⇒ Ine Bay
You will want to start your Day 2 as early as possible to maximize your time at Amanohashidate. The train or bus to take differs depending on whether your hotel is in Osaka or Kyoto. Refer to our Amanohashidate article for more information about how to get there.
Tip: Remember to purchase Kyoto Amanohashidate Ine Sightseeing 2-day Pass (丹後天橋立伊根フリー2日券) in advance to cover the transportation and a couple of attractions’ admission costs. It is cheaper to pre-purchase it online.
1-Day Itinerary for Amanohashidate
After arriving at Amanohashidate, take the Amanohashidate Sightseeing Boat (天橋立観光船) to Amanohashidate Kasamatsu Park (天橋立傘松公園) first. You can check out the Chienowa Stone Lantern (智恵の輪石灯籠) and the Rotating Bridge (廻旋橋) at the ferry terminal before boarding.
Remember to take the monorail up to Kasamatsu Park and the lift back down for the best view. You will want to keep an eye on when the next Nariai Mountaineering Bus (成相寺登山バス) departs from Amanohashidate Kasamatsu Park. The Mt. Nariai Panoramic Overlook offers a spectacular view of Amanohashidate and its surroundings!
The next stop is Motoise Kono Shrine (元伊勢籠神社). Remember to check out the Suedama (座玉) and its sub-shrine, Manai Shrine (眞名井神社). You can also enjoy traditional sweets at Sabō Kamunagara (茶房 かむながら) between Motoise Kono Shrine’s two torii gates.
Then, you can rent a bicycle at Ichinomiya Ferry Terminal (一の宮桟橋) if you love cycling and return it to Amanohashidate Sightseeing Boat Pier (天橋立桟橋) on the other end of the sandbar.
As you cycle through the sandbar, stop by Amanohashidate Shrine (天橋立神社) and check out the Isoshimizu water fountain (磯清水). It was chosen to be one of the 100 Selection of Japan’s Famous Water Sources (日本名水百選) and the reason why pine trees can grow on the sandbar.
After crossing the sandbar, you can then head to Amanohashidate View Land (天橋立ビューランド) to view the sandbar from a different angle. Again, take the monorail up to Kasamatsu Park and lift back down for the best view.
The last attraction for the day is Chionji Temple (智恩寺) before heading to your accommodation at Ine Bay by the local bus. For the accommodation at Ine Bay, staying in one of the Funayas is highly recommended to fully experience what Ine Bay can offer. You can refer to our Ine Bay article for more information.
Optional for Day 2:
For those who are interested in the scenery at Yuragawa Bridge and Kyoto Tango Railway’s sightseeing train, Tango Akamatsu-gō (丹後あかまつ号), take the Tango Akamatsu-gō from Amanohashidate at 2:48 pm and get off at Tango-Kanzaki Station (丹後神崎駅). The normal train bound for Amanohashidate departs from Tango-Kanzaki Station at 3:55 pm.
Note that the above departure time is per the train timetable when this article was written.
Refer to our Miyazu City article for more information.
Day 3 – Ine Bay
Ine Bay ⇒ Amanohashidate ⇒ Kinosaki Onsen/Toyooka
Day 3 is about exploring Kyoto’s unique fishing town, Ine Bay. Along Ine Bay where the waves are calm, a unique townscape is formed by the type of private houses called Funaya (舟屋). You can take the sightseeing ferry to view the Funayas from a different angle and visit the Funayas that have been turned and renovated into shops and cafes.
Refer to our Ine Bay article for more information about the fishing town.
After having your fill of Ine Bay, take the local bus to get back to Amanohashidate for the train bound for Toyooka.
Depending on how relaxing you want your visit to be, you can also spend a few more hours in Amanohashidate before departing for Kinosaki Onsen/Toyooka for the night.
How to Get to Kinosaki Onsen/Toyooka from Amanohashidate
If you want to board another Kyoto Tango Railway’s sightseeing train, Tango Aomatsu-gō (丹後あおまつ号), take the service departing from Amanohashidate at 3:21 pm, bound for Toyooka.
Should I Stay at a Hotel/Ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen or Toyooka
As Day 4 and Day 5’s itinerary is all about the attractions in and around Kinosaki Onsen, you can book a two-night stay with one of the hotels or ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen. This is recommended if you are uncomfortable bathing with strangers and prefer a private onsen tub.
Note that the accommodation costs to stay in Kinosaki Onsen are high during peak seasons, such as the fall foliage season. So another choice is to stay at a hotel close to Toyooka Station, just a 2-station away from Kinosaki Onsen.
Day 4 – Kinosaki Onsen
(Toyooka) ⇒ Kinosaki Onsen ⇒ (Toyooka)
Close to Kinosaki Onsen, Genbudō Park (玄武洞公園) has some amazing landscapes that are worthwhile to check out. Also, if you hold a compass close to the basalt in the park, the NS pole will reverse!
As the park opens at 9 am, you can visit it first while waiting for other attractions in Kinosaki Onsen to open.
To get to Genbudō Park, you can cycle from Kinosaki Onsen and cross Kinosaki Bridge. But because bicycle rental shops in Kinosaki Onsen probably won’t open until 9 am, the other option is to take a train to JR Gembudō Station and cross the highway to get to the ferry terminal (渡し船乗り場).
For the staff at Genbudō Museum (玄武洞ミュージアム) to pick you up, you have to call +81-796-23-3821 to make a booking. You can call them at JR Kinosaki Onsen Station (城崎温泉駅) or JR Toyooka Station (豊岡駅). There should be staff who can speak English. If you are still experiencing communication issues, you can always kindly ask the station staff to make the phone call for you.
After getting back to Kinosaki Onsen, head to Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway (城崎温泉ロープウェイ) and head to Mt. Daishi’s summit. The Michelin-starred scenery awaits, and the cafe at the summit should be open by the time you get there too!
You can also visit Onsenji Temple (温泉寺) by getting off the ropeway at Onsenji Station.
For the rest of the day, you can visit attractions such as Kinosaki Straw Crafts Museum (城崎麦わら細工伝承館) and Hachigoro Toshima Wetland (豊岡市立ハチゴロウの戸島湿地) in between visiting a couple of the Kinosaki Onsen’s 7 Public Bathhouses.
Day 5 – Izushi
Kinosaki Onsen/Toyooka ⇒ Izushi ⇒ Kameoka
Izushi (出石) is a quaint town in Toyooka City where you can find traces of Japanese history dating back to the Edo period. As the town is quite compact, you probably only need 2 to 3 hours to explore it.
So if you get to Izushi in the morning, it is likely that you will be ready to leave after enjoying the town’s specialty, Izushi Soba noodles for lunch.
Refer to our Izushi article for the attractions in this small town.
To get to Izushi, take Zentan Bus’s services bound for Izushi from JR Toyooka Station. If you stay in Kinosaki Onsen, check with the tourist information center for any buses departing from the hot spring town.
After Izushi, you can either spend more time in Kinosaki Onsen or take a train to Kameoka.
Day 6 – Kameoka
Kameoka is known as “The City of Fog”, and the best time to enjoy the Sea of Clouds scenery is between October to March. So if you visit Kameoka between the colder months, start your day early and head to Kameoka Fog Terrace.
As the terrace isn’t close to Kameoka Station, you must take a bus or catch a taxi. In fact, unless you love cycling or have access to a car, buses or taxis are the only transportation methods to travel between the attractions in Kameoka.
For the rest of the day, refer to our article on Kameoka and pick the ones that interest you. If you are unsure, below are a couple of interesting or scenic ones. They are listed in the sequence that you can follow on the day:
- Anao-ji Temple (穴太寺)
- Fukukuru Wood-fired Bakery (薪窯パンふくくる)
- Kuwayama Shrine (鍬山神社)
- Hiranosawa Park (平の沢公園)
Day 7 – Sagano Scenic Railway, Hozugawa Boat Ride, MIHO MUSEUM, and Ishiyama-dera
Kameoka ⇒ Arashiyama ⇒ Ishiyama
Sagano Scenic Railway & Hozugawa Boat Ride
The mountains from Arashiyama to Kameoka have some of the most spectacular scenery in Kyoto. And to adore these sceneries (which changes each season), the best seats are provided by Sagano Scenic Railway (嵯峨野観光鉄道), which runs along the Hozu River (保津川)!
As the train departs from Arashiyama side first, taking a JR train to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station and taking Sagano Scenic Railway’s 1st service of the day back to Kameoka is highly recommended.
After getting back to Kameoka, you can then take the Hozugawa River Boat Ride (保津川下り). The boat will bring you all the way to Togetsu Bridge (渡月橋) in Arashiyama. You can then take a relaxing stroll from Togetsu Bridge to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station.
Regarding your luggage, you can either utilize the delivery service provided by your hotel or take it with you to Arashiyama and store it in one of the lockers in Saga-Arashiyama Station. The concierge should be able to arrange the luggage delivery service for you.
For lunch, take an early lunch at Ine (嵯峨とうふ 稲). Their Vegetarian Gozen (ベジタリアン御膳) is amazing!
Ishiyama: MIHO MUSEUM and Ishiyama-dera
From JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, you can then take a JR train to JR Ishiyama Station. After leaving your belongings at your hotel, take Teisan Bus’s service to MIHO MUSEUM. You can refer to our Kōka City article for more information about the amazing museum and the bus services.
Then return to JR Ishiyama Station to take a bus to Ishiyama-dera (石山寺).
Day 8 – Sakamoto
Ishiyama ⇒ Sakamoto ⇒ Ishiyama
The Sakamoto Area (坂本) area in Ōtsu City in Shiga Prefecture is located at the foot of Mt. Hiei. In the good old days, this is where the monks of Mt. Hiei’s Enryakuji lived after they were put out to pasture following their “retirement”. The area has a couple of temples that are particularly stunning during the fall foliage season. A few of them even have illumination events!
Refer to our article on Sakamoto to decide where you want to visit. If you are still unsure, below is a list of our chosen attractions you can follow on the day according to their sequence. You might want to swap the Former Chikurin-in with Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine to participate in the temple’s light-up event in autumn!
Day 9 – Ōhara
Ishiyama ⇒ Ōhara
To enjoy what Ōhara has to offer, book your accommodation for Day 9 in Ōhara. But for most of your belongings, check with your hotel in Ishiyama to see if they are happy to hold them for you, as you will be checking back in on Day 10.
Your visit to Kyoto doesn’t have to be you being jostled amongst the sweltering crowds as you try to take a peek at the tourist traps.
Ōhara (大原) is a quiet, insular town on the outskirts of Kyoto, which is around 60 minutes away from Kyoto Station by bus. Situated at the foot of Mt. Hiei, the area has abundant nature and several gorgeous Japanese gardens and temples. It is the perfect destination to enjoy the ancient city.
For more information, refer to our Ōhara article, which includes a suggested itinerary!
Tip: Ohara no Sato Onsen (味噌と大原温泉 民宿 大原の里) can cater to a vegetarian diet.
Day 10 – Mt. Hiei
Ōhara ⇒ Mt. Hiei ⇒ Ishiyama
Getting to Mt. Hiei from Ōhara is just a matter of a short bus trip, which is why we placed the two destinations next to each other. From the bus stop, Ōhara (大原), take Kyoto Bus (京都バス) Route 16 or 17 and get off at Yase Eki-mae (八瀬駅前). It is just a 15-minute bus ride. Then walk to Cable Yase Station (ケーブル八瀬駅) and take the cable car up to Mt. Hiei.
Once you get to Mt. Hiei, a full day of exploration of one of Japan’s Three Holiest Places begins! You can enjoy lunch at Enryakuji Kaikan (延暦寺会館).
Refer to our Mt. Hiei article for the attractions that you can visit!
Day 11 – Ōtsu
Ishiyama ⇒ Ōtsu ⇒ Ishiyama
Ōtsu, the capital of Shiga Prefecture, is filled with rich cultural and historical elements. What many people are not aware of is the fact that Ōtsu was once Japan’s capital. Although it only lasted for five years, we are sure that after you admire the scenery of Japan’s biggest lake, Lake Biwa, it won’t be hard to understand why Emperor Tenji (天智天皇) wanted to reside close to it!
To plan your day, you can cherry-pick a couple of spots to visit from our Ōtsu article or follow the rough itinerary below:
Afternoon + Evening
Note that it is recommended to start your Day 11 as early as possible. Tatebe Shrine and Seta no Karahashi Bridge can be accessed 24/7. This is so you can maximize your time at Biwako Terrace without delaying the afternoon’s schedule!
Day 12 – Kōka & Konan Sanzan
Ishiyama ⇒ Kōka & Konan Sanzan ⇒ Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe
To utilize the early morning, we will start with Zensui-ji Temple (善水寺), which is a little further away on the other side of JR Kōsei Station (甲西駅). Then you can either take a taxi or head over to JR Ishibe Station (石部駅) and take a bus to Chōju-ji Temple (長寿寺) and Jōraku-ji Temple (常楽寺).
If Gallery & Cafe ENSOU opens on Day 12, ensure you visit it for its delicious cakes before exploring the attractions in Kōka City! The mochi rice cake sold at Kōka Mochifuru Sato-kan Mochimochi House (甲賀もちふる里館 もちもちハウス) is a must-try too!
Regarding other attractions in Kōka City, refer to our Kōka City article. To adorn the autumn foliage, you can visit the following spots below:
- Oozuchi Dam (青土ダム)
- Aburahi Shrine (油日神社)
- Tamura Shrine (田村神社)
- Minakuchi Castle Ruins (水口城跡)
- Daichi-ji Temple (大池寺)
- Kōshinsan Kōtoku-ji Temple (庚申山広徳寺)
Day 13 – Arima Onsen, Mt. Rokkō, and Mt. Maya
Osaka ⇒ Arima Onsen, Mt. Rokkō, and Mt. Maya ⇒ Osaka
Arima Onsen (有馬温泉) is one of the three most famous onsen towns in Japan. Located just 30 minutes from Kobe, the town known for its moisturizing and relaxing hot springs is also filled with a range of leisure activities to keep you entertained!
For more information on the attractions in this hot spring town, refer to our article on Arima Onsen.
Arima Onsen is also known as a summer resort as the area is noticeably cooler compared to the Kobe city center, due to the area being located in the valley of Mt. Rokkō (六甲山). On the other hand, if you come to Kansai in winter looking for some snow, it is where you would want to go if you can’t find any in Osaka or Kobe!
For more information on the attractions in the hot spring town, refer to our article on Mt. Rokkō and Mt. Maya.
Day 14 – Shopping
Osaka ⇒ Kansai Airport
Depending on your flight time, you may or may not have time for sightseeing on Day 14. But if you have time, finishing up with some last-minute shopping should be ideal for the last day. Then when you are ready, take Nankai’s Airport Line to Kansai Airport by using the Nankai Rapi:t Kansai Airport Express Ticket (関空トク割 ラピートきっぷ).
Planning to Spend More than 14 Days in Japan? Check Out the Itinerary to Other Parts of Japan!
If you have more than 14 days to spend in Japan and are struggling to decide where to visit next, we have a couple more itineraries to other parts of Japan with fascinating attractions!
Please refer to our Japan Itinerary Category for more information!