3 Day Itinerary on Kansai Vacation (Osaka-Kobe-Himeji-Kyoto)

Kansai is a vast area, consisting 3 big cities, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and many smaller cities. You can spend a month on sightseeing to just have a glimpse. If you only have 3 full days and would like to get as much for sightseeing, shopping and dining, I have the following itinerary for you to experience the best of Kansai, shopping and dining in 3 days. The itinerary includes the following highlights:


  • Himeji Castle: The most beautiful and best-preserved castle in Japan. Himeji Castle is a national treasure, as well as a UNESCO World Herritage site. Himeji Castle is about 1 ~ 1.5 hour from Osaka by train. You may have seen this beautiful castle in movie or on postcard. It would be fascinating if you can see it in your own eyes.

  • Kansai Night View: The night view of Kansai from Mount Rokko in Kobe is considered one of the best in Japan.

  • Arashiyama: A scenic area in the outskirt of Kyoto. It is about 50 minutes from Osaka by train.

  • Tenryu-ji Temple: This temple in Arashiyama was established in 1339 and is a UNESCO World Herritage site. The landscape of its garden is very beautiful.

  • Kinkaku-ji Temple: This is a Zen temple in Kyoto with the top two floors completely covered in gold leaf. Similar to Himeji Castle and Tenryu-ji, it is also a UNESCO World Herritage site.

  • Hanami-koji Street: A charming ancient street in Gion, Kyoto. You may see a real maiko or geisha in kimono (traditional Japanese dressing) on the street. The street is now full of restaurants. Among them are a number of ochaya (teahouses), the most exclusive and expensive of Kyoto’s dining establishments, where guests are entertained by maiko and geiko.


  • Mitsui Outlet Park Marine Pia Kobe: This outlet mall is near Kobe, about 30-minutes by train. There are over 100 shops, offering products from local and international brands at discounted price.


  • Kobe Beef Teppanyaki – Kobe beef is world famous and very expensive. The best place to have a bite is in Kobe, the home town where the cattle are raised.
  • Unagi (Japanese grilled eel) – Unagiya-Hirokawa is a Michelin recommended restaurant. The restaurant is famous for unagi. We will have lunch at this restaurant in Arashiyama.
  • Sushi & Sashimi: We will try sushi and sashimi at Kuromon Market in Osaka.
  • Ramen: We will have the Japanese ramen at Ichiran Restaurant in Osaka.


As you can see the 3-day itinerary covering attractions from 3 major cities. The schedule is really tight to see the very best in each city. We will stay in Osaka and travel to Himeji/Kobe and Kyoto on day trip. As the travel time from Osaka to Kobe and from Osaka to Kyoto is roughly 50 minutes. Osaka is a perfect accommodation choice. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan. There are many hotels and room rate is generally cheaper. For Osaka accommodation, I prefer hotels in Shinsaibashi or Namba. The reason is simple. Namba/Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi is the shopping, entertainment and dining center. Namba is a transportation hob with JR, Nankai, Hanshin railways and city subways. My favorite hotel is Hearton Hotel Shinsaibashi. It is very close to Shinsaibashi station and the room rate is attractive. The room is clean and tidy.

Day 1

We will explore Himeji Castle on Day 1. We will take Hanshin train from Namba station to Himeji. The journey takes about 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take JR train from Namba to Himeji. After visiting Himeji Castle, we will visit Mitsui Outlet Park on our way back. After shopping, we will take the cable car up Mount Rokko and have the magnificent night view in Kansai before returning to Kobe for dinner.

The reason I prefer traveling on Hanshin train is because you can buy the Himeji Tourist Pass and save on travel cost. The tourist pass costs Yen 2000 and consists of a one-way Nankai train ticket from Kansai International Airport to Namba-Osaka and a one-day pass on Hanshin Electric Railway and Sanyo Electric Railway from Namba to Himeji. The one-day pass covers almost all your travel cost for the day.

Day 1 Itinerary

8:00 – 8:30AM: Breakfast at Shinsaibashi. There are many choices, such as McDonald’s, cafe, Japanese beef rice fast food chains.

8:30 – 9:00AM: Travel from Shinsaibashi (M19) to Namba (M20) on subway.

9:00 – 10:30AM: Travel on Hanshin train from Osaka-Namba station to Himeji. You should take Rapid or Limited Express trains to shorten the traveling time. There are a few transits for the train ride. Check out the Route Map for details.

11:00 – 3:00PM: You can see the Himeji Castle once you walk out the train station. It takes about 20 minutes walking to Himeji Castle from the station. You can spend about 3 hours on Himeji Castle. There is no restaurants inside or near the castle. You can bring a sandwich or have lunch at restaurants near the train station.

3:00 – 3:40PM: Travel on Hanshin train from Himeji to Sanyo-Tarumi station and walk about 9 minutes to Mitsui Outlet Park.

3:40 – 6:30PM: Shopping at Mitsui Outlet Park.

6:30 – 7:00PM: Travel on Hanshin train from Sanyo-Tarumi station to Mikage station.

7:00 – 8:00PM: At Mikage station, take bus route 16 to Rokko Cable Shita Station. Catch the cable car up Mount Rokko. Above the Rokko Sanjo Station is the observatory for the magnificent night view of Osaka and Kobe. After the night view, return to Mikage station.

8:00 – 10:00PM: Take the train from Mikage station back to Kobe for dinner. You should decide which restaurant for dinner and alight at a station nearby. There are many restaurants selling Kobe beef in Kobe. In general, the price is very expensive for premium quality Kobe beef. We have the following recommendations from good to premium price:

  • Misono Kobe is the restaurant in Japan offering the first Teppanyaki steak. They only sell A4 or A5 steak. Dinner costs around Yen 20000 or more.
  • Mouriya is a steak restaurant with over 130 year history. Its quality is among the best in Kobe. It is recommend to make reservation in advance. The official website has 5% discount coupon for download. Lunch costs around 6000 – 1300 Yen and dinner costs around 15000 – 20000 Yen.
  • Oi-Nikuten is a famous butcher shop in Kobe founded a century ago and have its own restaurants. The food and service quality is very good. Dinner costs around Yen 14000.
  • KISSHOKICHI is a restaurant chain in Kobe that offers Kobe beef in reasonable price. The chain offers food from low priced Kobe beef burger to more expensive Teppanyaki dinner. Check out their website for details.

10:00 – 10:40PM: Travel on Hanshin train back to Osaka-Namba station and take subway back to your hotel.

Day 2

We will have a relaxing tour in Osaka, visiting Kuromon Market, Dotonbori, Shinsekai and then back to Shinsaibashi. As we have visited the national treasured Himeji Castle, we will skip the landmark Osaka Castle this time. We will focus on Dotonbori and Shinsekai today. Dotonbori is famous for eateries and Shinsekai (aka New World) was the World Expo site in 1903. It was once Osaka’s city center. Now, time was frozen in Shinsekai and you feel like walking in Showa Era.

Day 2 Itinerary

9:00AM: Take subway from Shinsaibashi (M19/N15) to Nipponbashi (K17/S17) station. Kuromon Market is just beside the Nipponbashi station. Kuromon Market is the largest and best known market for fresh produce in Osaka. There are lots of eateries and fish/fruit shops. You can have your breakfast in Kuromon Market.

11:00AM: After Kuromon Market, you can walk to Dotonbori. Dotonbori is full of shops and eateries. You can have ramen at Ichiran Restaurant in Dotonbori. Ichiran Restaurant opens 24 hours. So, you can come anytime for a bowl of noodle.

1:00PM: We will take subway from Namba (Y15/S16/M20) station to Dobutsuen-Mae (K19/M22) station. It is time to experience the Showa-era in Shinsekai. Shinsekai is just a 5-minute walk from the station. And you can go up the Tsutenkaku Tower for a panoramic view of the city.

4:00PM: Walk to Ebisucho (K18) station and take the subway back to Namba. First, we visit Takashimaya Department Store at Namba City, followed by walking along the walking street of Dotonbori towards Shinsaibashi. The walking street is full of tourists and shoppers. You can easily spend the evening on the walking street. There are many eateries and restaurants on side streets. Deciding the dining restaurant could be an issue as there are too many choices.

Day 3

We will visit Kyoto. Kyoto is the former capital and was voted the best city by tourists. Kyoto is very beautiful. We will visit the scenic Arashiyama and Tenryu-ji Temple. Then, we will take the 100-year old Randen tram and visit Kinkaku-ji Temple. In the evening, we will visit Hanami-koji Street. We will have unagi lunch at a Michelin 1-star restaurant.

Day 3 Itinerary

8:00 – 8:30AM: Breakfast at Shinsaibashi. There are many choices, such as McDonald’s, cafe, Japanese beef rice fast food chains.

8:30 – 9:00AM: Travel from Shinsaibashi (M19/N15) to Umeda (M16) on subway.

9:00AM – 10:00AM: Travel from Umeda (HK01) to Arashiyama (HK98) on Hankyu Railway. You need to make a transit at Katsura (HK81) station.

10:00AM: At Arashiyama, walk from the station towards Tenryu-ji Temple and enjoy the scenic beauty. After you cross the bridge, walk to Unagi Hirokawa restaurant.

11:30AM: We will have lunch at Unagi Hirokawa, a Michelin recommended restaurant. This restaurant only has 28 seats for non-reserved customers. It is very popular and very often you need to wait 2 hours during lunch time for a seat. The restaurant opens at 11:30AM. It would be better to arrive 1-hour before it opens and queue for a seat. The restaurant is about 200 meter from Tenryu-ji Temple on the main street at Arashiyama.

11:30 – 12:30PM: Lunch at Unagi Hirokawa

12:30 – 2:30PM: Visit Tenryu-ji Temple. There are two type of tickets, indoor or outdoor. The indoor ticket is to visit the temple. You will not set your feet on the garden. The outdoor ticket is visiting the garden. I prefer visiting the garden. The garden is very charming and beautiful. You walk up the slope and enjoy its beauty. After you walk uphill, there is an exit. You can go to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the scenic rail station after the exit.

2:30PM – 3:00PM: Travel on this 100-year old Randen tram from Arashiyama to Kitano-Hakubaicho. At the bus stop of Kitano-Hakubaicho station, take bus 204 or 205 to Kinkaku-ji Temple. It is only 4 bus stops away.

3:00 – 5:00PM: Visit Kinkaku-ji Temple.

5:00PM: Take bus 12, 59 or 205 to Gion/Shijo Kawaramachi and alight at Gion-Shijo Station. The Hanami-koji Street is about 300 meter away and is an ancient street preserved in good condition.

7:00PM: After dinner, go to Kawaramachi station and take the Hankyu train back to Umeda.

8:00PM: Take the subway back to hotel.

This concludes our 3-day visit in Kansai. This itinerary allows a first time visitor to have a glimpse. There are many many other attractions in the region that are worth the visit but were not included. If you like the beauty and serene of Japan, it may be the beginning of your journey to explore Japan.

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