20 Best Things to Do in Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima and More: Western Japan Bucket List
Best Things to Do in Kansai and Chugoku areas: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and more!
Are you planning your trip to the western part of Japan? The west side of Japan such as Kansai and Chugoku regions are very popular travel destinations after the capital city, Tokyo.
Today, I’d like to share my bucket list of western Japan introducing 20 best highlights of each cities on the classic travel route including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo and Hiroshima. Check out where to visit, best things to do and what to eat in western Japan 😉
This bucket list would be very useful for those who are planning to visit western Japan for the first time preferably for 10 to 14 days. So let’s start from the capital city of western Japan, Osaka!
*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.
1. Take a Photo with the Glico Running Man
Dotonbori (道頓堀) has been the center of shopping, dining and entertainments of the west over the century, and it’s a must-visit spot for all first time visitors to Osaka. The energetic and vibrant district is best known for extravagant shop displays and neon lights, especially at night. The running man sign by Glico is the symbol of the area and a popular photo spot among tourists for many years. Once in Dotonbori, make sure to capture the iconic symbol along with other illuminated billboard.
2. Savor Osaka’s Local Dishes
What is the most attractive thing about Osaka? Many would answer “local dishes”. Starting from famous Takoyaki (octopus ball) and Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake), Osaka has a plenty of delicious local dishes you should definitely try such as Kushiyaki (Deep fried stick dish), Ikayaki (squid pancake) and more! Besides local delicacies, Osaka also has many great options for fine dining restaurants including high-end sushi and michelin starred restaurants. You can check the below link to find Osaka’s best cuisines and dining spots!
3. Explore Shinsekai “the New World”
Shinsekai (新世界) is the old downtown of Osaka city is full of local and nostalgic vibes. Shinsekai literally means the New World in Japanese. The symbol of the district, Tsutenkaku Tower has an observatory to gaze the panoramic view of Osaka city.
More info ▶ Shinsekai: Welcome to the New World in OSAKA!
4. Play Hard at Universal Studios Japan
One of the world greatest amusement parks, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is located in Osaka City. The park offers numbers of attractions based on popular films such as Spiderman, JAWS, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and Minions as well as seasonal events, special show, themed food & drinks and limited merchandise collection.
5. Temple & Shrine Hopping in Kyoto
The ancient capital city Kyoto is best known for its historic and preserved townscape and sites, mainly temples and shrines. Apparently, there are over 4,000 temples and shrines in the city in total. Three most popular historical sites in Kyoto are: Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (famous for the vermilion red torii gates), Kinkakuji Temple (known as Golden Pavilion) and Kiyomizudera Temple (the oldest temple with a large wooden terrace).
More info ▶ 10 Must See Temples and Shrines in Kyoto!
6. Cross Paths with Real Geisha in Gion District
Besides temples and shrines, another significant thing in Kyoto is its Geisha culture. The figure became hugely famous in the whole world after the film: Memoirs of a Geisha was released in 2005. Gion (祇園) is known as the biggest Geisha district in town and you can meet pretty Geisha girls even on the street. Or you can try makeover by professional local makeup artists and become one of Geisha girls for a day 😉
More info ▶ Gion: Traditional Geisha District in Kyoto
7. Do It for the Gram
Kyoto has been always popular among photographers, but now it’s also no.1 destination for Instagrammers. Dress in Kimono and stroll down the old street, then you wouldn’t be able to stop taking selfies for sure! Also there are numbers of Instagram-Worthy spots in the town including unique temples and shrines, and colourful and cute desserts.
8. Indulge Yourself with the Finest Matcha
When it comes to food products in Kyoto, green tea from Uji city definitely comes first. The city is home to Japan’s finest Matcha products, and there are numbers of traditional tea houses and cafes offering authentic Matcha drinks as well as delicious Matcha desserts. If you are a Matcha lover, it’s truly a best place on earth!
9. Walk through the Bamboo Grove
One of the most popular photo spots in Kyoto along with Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji). Arashiyama’s bamboo grove (竹林の道) is simply the most pleasant path to walk down in the country.
10. Meet the Great Buddha at Todaiji Temple
Along with the neighbour city Kyoto, Nara is also famed as the ancient city of Japan, in fact, its history is even longer than Kyoto. Nara is the first capital city of Japan dates back 710, and is home to a large number of historic monuments including World Heritage Sites and national treasures. The most famous landmark of the city is the world’s largest bronze statue, the 15m tall Great Buddha that is stored in the main hall of Todaiji Temple (東大寺).
More info ▶ Todaiji Temple: Meet the World’s Largest Buddha
11. Interact with Adorable Deer
Along with the Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple, deer is another symbol of Nara Prefecture. Over 1,000 wild deer can be found freely roaming at Nara Park, the ground of several historic monuments including Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine. While visiting the historic landmarks, you will surely encounter the adorable and friendly deer, which are actually considered as messengers of gods in Shinto region. You can purchase deer crackers which are sold around the park to feed the deer and interact with them.
12. Soak up in Kinosaki Onsen
Kinosaki (城崎) is a famous Onsen town in Hyogo Prefecture. The town is known for its charming townscape with the canal and willow trees and has been chosen one of top 10 Onsen spots in Japan by the famous travel magazine, Lonely Planet, as “the Best Onsen Town”.
13. Visit the Beautiful Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle (姫路城) is considered as the greatest castle in Japan, and the architectural design of the castle complex is highly praised as it’s the only Japanese castle that is designated to UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of its impressive white exterior, the castle is also called The White Egret.
14. Treat yourself with Kobe Beef
Besides Sushi, Tempura, etc, Wagyu beef is one of the significant Japanese dishes which may be on everyone’s food list. The king of Wagyu beef, Kobe Beef is indeed from Kobe City, and there are numbers of good steakhouses in the town.
More info ▶ 5 Best Kobe Beef Restaurants in Kobe
15. Discover the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
Kurashiki (倉敷) is a charming old town in Okayama Prefecture, the town used serve as an important trade center back in Edo period. The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is often described as “Japan’s Little Venice” with the scenic canal lined by well-preserved traditional storehouses and willow trees. It’s one of the best hidden gem spots in western Japan.
16. Stroll in Korakuen Garden
Korakuen Garden (後楽園) is counted as one of three most beautiful Japanese gardens along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa City and Kairakuen in Mito City. The scenic Japanese garden can be enjoyed with Okayama Castle which is located just across from the garden.
17. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The most important historic monument in the country, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (平和記念公園) represents the memory of one of the most horrific incidents in the history and brings the message to each visitors not to repeat the tragic history.
18. Capture the Great Torii Gate on Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island is home to the great world heritage site in Hiroshima Prefecture, Itsukushima Shrine, and it’s one of top tourist sites in Japan. The shrine is best known for the floating big red torii gate. Besides, there are many other attractions on the island such as Daisho-in Temple, aquarium, hiking trail and shopping street.
More info ▶ Miyajima Island Hiroshima : Best Things to Do
19. Try Hiroshima Specialties
Hiroshima is one of best destination for foodies as there are several delicious local specialties. First of all, if you enjoy Okonomiyaki in Osaka, you’d better try it in Hiroshima style, too! Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki contains much more stuffing including noodles and egg. Visit “Okonomi Mura” (okonomiyaki village) for the best Okonomiyaki in the city!
Also don’t forget to eat oysters! Hiroshima is the largest oyster farm region which shares over 50% of oyster productions in Japan. Hiroshima’s oysters are very big and rich taste. Many oyster stalls can be spotted on the street of Miyajima island!
Momiji Manju is something everyone has to buy in Hiroshima. It’s a small maple leaf shaped cake filled with red bean paste. Many other flavours are available, too such as custard cream, chocolate, cheese and etc. You can find them literally everywhere in Hiroshima!
20. Last Minute Shopping at KIX
If you are travelling in western Japan, I imagine most of you arrive in/depart from Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka. If so, and in case you forget to buy enough souvenirs to take home, no worries, KIX offers the widest variety of items to shop in western Japan. From delicious local food souvenirs to traditional handicrafts, you wouldn’t miss out anything from your shopping list!
More info▶ What to Buy at Kansai International Airport
▽Check more Bucket Lists in other popular areas in Japan!▽
▶️30 Best Things to Do in Japan
▶︎Top Things to Do in Tokyo
▶︎Top Things to Do in Kyoto
▶︎Top Things to Do in Osaka
▶︎Top Things to Do around Mt Fuji
▶︎Top Things to Do in Hokkaido
▶︎Top Things to Do in Okinawa
Hope you have enjoyed my bucket list of western Japan! In case you won’t have enough time to see and do all listed things, here are some more ideas about travelling around western Japan in specified spots!