Himeji And Kobe In One Day Trip From Osaka (or Kyoto)

One day is obviously not enough to fully explore Himeji or Kobe, but for those who are short on time and want to see the highlights of these two cities, it is possible to do a combined day trip from Osaka as they are not far away. In this post, we will share the itinerary we took and provide visiting tips.

This day trip can also be done via Kyoto instead of Osaka. We will include information for taking the trip from Kyoto at the end of the post.

Morning: Himeji Castle

Quick links

There are different ways to travel to Himeji from major stations in Osaka, and most routes will take roughly an hour. The quickest option is using the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station, which takes about 30 minutes to reach Himeji Station. However, this is the most expensive option, and Shin-Osaka can be out of the way depending on where you are staying.

I suggest using a fast train from a station you can easily access. Go early and aim to reach the castle around 9 am as it will just get more crowded later in the day. We took the 7:38 am Super Hakuto train from Osaka Station since we stayed at the Hilton Osaka, just a 5-minute walk from the station. You will need a reserved seat to board this train and the ride takes a little under an hour.

View of the street and Himeji castle outside Himeji station.
The castle can be seen as soon as you exit the station

Arriving at the station, you can either spend 15 minutes walking to the castle entrance or take a quick and affordable taxi ride. There is a taxi stand located conveniently right outside of the station.

Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most famous attraction in Himeji City. It survived the bombings of World War II and the Great Hanshin Earthquake, and it is considered one of the premier original castles in Japan.

While many other castles in Japan have been rebuilt (such as Osaka Castle), Himeji Castle still retains its historical authenticity and architectural grandeur. You can explore its well-preserved interiors, expansive grounds, and enjoy panoramic views from the top of the main tower.

view of Himeji Castle, a great day trip from Osaka.

I strongly recommend buying tickets to tour the grounds and the inside of the castle. I came across quite many comments saying it’s empty inside, but if you appreciate the details and understand that the primary purpose of this castle is like a fortress with many defensive mechanisms, your visit will feel very rewarding.

You can take a free private guided tour by an English-speaking volunteer to maximize your castle visit. We were very happy with our tour and you can read more about this Himeji Castle free guided tour here.

Holes on Himeji castle wall as a defensive mechanism.
These holes on the castle walls allowed defenders to attack invaders with weapons, such as arrows

We spent about 2.5 hours touring the castle from around 9 am. When we left, there was a long line waiting to get inside the castle. A couple of quick tips here:

  • The stairs inside the castle are quite steep, but it shouldn’t be an issue for those with average health and normal level of fitness.
  • You will need to remove your shoes, place them in a plastic bag and carry the bag with you inside the castle, so we recommend bringing your socks.

Optional: Koko-en

Koko-en is a Japanese garden located just 10-minute walk from Himeji Castle. There is a separate admission fee to enter Koko-en, but combination tickets are available that include both Himeji Castle and Koko-en, offering a discounted rate. Although the garden is beautiful, I think it’s optional especially if you are going to see more impressive Japanese gardens on your trip.

Koko-en main garden with pond and bridge.

This garden comprises of several garden areas, each with its own theme and style. Its largest garden features a central pond, waterfall, and walking paths surrounded by lush greenery and seasonal flowers. If you want to stroll through Koko-en leisurely and see everything, it may take about an hour.

Midday: Lunch

For lunch, you can either have a Kobe beef lunch in Kobe or have a quick and simple lunch somewhere near Himeji Station and reserve your A5 wagyu meal for dinner so that you will have more time for sightseeing. A teppanyaki meal with Kobe beef may take up to an hour.

For our trip, we took another Super Hakuto train from Himeji Station back to Sannomiya Station and headed to Kobe Beef Steak Ishida for lunch. We were amused to see that this Super Hakuto train had a Conan themed decorations.

Inside a Conan themed Super Hakuto train from Himeji Station.

We didn’t purchase our train tickets back in advance since we didn’t want to have time pressured. We did reserve our lunch at Beef Steak Ishida in advance through their reservation page.

There are many other restaurants serving Kobe beef near Sannomiya Station, such as Mouriya and Kawamura. And of course, it is not a must to have Kobe beef, especially if you have already tried other high-quality Japanese beef, such as Hida beef or Kyoto beef. Besides, you can find Kobe beef in other cities. For example, Mouriya has a location in Kyoto, Kawamura has a location in Himeji, and Ishida has a location in Osaka.

a thick cut of A5 sirloin wagyu at Beef Steak Ishida in Kobe.
A5 sirloin wagyu at Beef Steak Ishida in Kobe
a chef cooking the wagyu sirloin on the teppan at Beef Steak Ishida in Kobe.
The chef cooking the beef on the teppan

Afternoon: Explore Kobe

I recommend taking the Nunobiki Ropeway and visiting Nunobiki Herb Gardens in the afternoon of your day trip from Osaka. The base station of the ropeway is next to Shin-Kobe JR Station. It is possible to travel from Himeji Station straight to Shin-Kobe Station by taking the shinkansen.

Also near Shin-Kobe station is the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum, which you can stop by before taking the ropeway to the gardens if time allows. This museum closes at 4:30 pm.

The closing time of the ropeway and herb gardens depends on the season, and you can find their detailed schedule on the official website. During summer as well as weekends in spring and fall, the ropeway and gardens may open until 8-9 pm. However, other facilities such as cafes and shops may still close at 5 pm.

view of Kobe city, the port and a cable car from Nunobiki Ropeway.

The Nunobiki Ropeway offers spectacular views of Kobe city, the port area, and the surrounding mountains. We visited on a sunny day and the views were wonderful.

The gardens at the top feature a wide variety of herbs and flowers spread across a vast area on the slopes of the mountain. From the top station, you can walk down to the middle station through several European themed garden areas, a greenhouse, restaurants and cafes. There are also hammocks in some areas to relax and enjoy the scenery. From the middle station, you can choose to take the ropeway down to the bottom station, or some people choose to walk to see a waterfall along the trail.

Cascading patches of flowers at Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe.

If you ask me if the gardens are special or amazing, I would say not exactly, but it is an incredibly relaxing place to visit and take a walk. What I like most about Nunobiki gardens is its setting on the slope of the mountain, which allows for the concept of “borrowed scenery”. The natural beauty of the mountain with matured trees, the views of the city and the port provide a picturesque backdrop, making it great for a scenic stroll. I was also glad to see patches of nemophila flowers at the garden.

Lavender at Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe, a great day trip destination from Osaka.
Lavender flowers
Nemophila flowers at Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe.
Nemophila flowers

Nunobiki garden is a popular attraction, and you will see way more Japanese visitors than international tourists here. Since it is spread out, we didn’t feel it was overcrowded or unpleasant.

I also recommend trying some of the flavored ice cream. When we visited, they had honey vanilla ice cream at the top station and we skipped it. We tried the strawberry ice cream at the Veranda near the greenhouse. We missed the lavender ice cream as it seemed we reached the stall selling it near the middle station a bit too late.

Strawberry ice cream at the Veranda in Nunobiki Herb Gardens.
Strawberry ice cream at Nunobiki Herb Gardens

We spent about 2.5 hours here as we liked to relax and took a lot of travel photos. After visiting Nunobiki Ropeway and Herb Gardens, you can continue exploring Kobe (such as the harbor area) or go back to Osaka depending on time and how your feet feel :). Some trains running between Kobe and Osaka operate until quite late, so you can take your time in Kobe.

Doing This Day Trip From Kyoto

If you are based in Kyoto and also want to take a combined day trip to Himeji and Kobe, it’s totally doable. Below are what you need to know.

Travel from Kyoto to Himeji

The fastest option is taking the JR Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Himeji Station. The trip will take 45 minutes and cost about 5,000 yen. A cheaper option is the JR Special Rapid Service at less than half the cost but it will take double the amount of time. You will either need to wake up earlier or cut into your sightseeing time.

Travel from Kobe to Kyoto

To return to Kyoto after visiting Kobe, you can take the shinkansen from Shin-Kobe Station. The trip will be about 30 minutes. The cheaper alternative is the JR Special Rapid Service from Sannomiya Station, which will take about an hour.

a collage of Himeji castle and flower field at Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe.
a collage of Himeji castle and flower field at Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *