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3 hidden gems around Osaka and Kyoto in the Kansai area of Japan

3 hidden gems around Osaka and Kyoto in the Kansai area of Japan

Why you should read this article

It has been such a challenging time for most of us due to COVID-19, but this has only fuelled our desire to go on travelling even more. I guess many people are considering Japan for their next trip as it’s one of the most popular destinations for Singaporeans. And within Japan itself, Osaka and Kyoto are two of the most attractive destinations with a tonne to offer. However, I’d like you to step just a little further away from the beaten path and behold the region’s newly found charm! And so, I have selected a few interesting places and made a sample itinerary based on the usual route that starts from Osaka and Kyoto. Hopefully, this will help you plan your next itinerary and discover some hidden gems that you have never heard before or know well about.


The 3 hidden gems

In this article, we will introduce Amanohashidate (天橋立), Biwako Valley (びわ湖バレイ Biwako Barē), and Awaji Island (淡路島 Awaji-shima)!


Where is Amanohashidate?

(Image credit: @cheeserland)


It is one of the three most scenic spots in Japan located in northern Kyoto.


There’s a legend about Amanohashidate that it is a fallen ladder made by God to connect heaven from earth. This magnificent view is formed by Mother Nature and is a straight road with white sand beaches and green pine trees. There are several observatories in the surrounding area, and you are recommended to enjoy the view in “Matanozoki” style (股のぞき an upside-down view, just like the photo) from Amanohashidate View Land. By doing so, you will see a dragon-like figure rising to heaven. Also, for those who love active experiences, sightseeing around Amnohashidate on a motor boat may just be the fun for you. You can enjoy dynamic cruising with a sense of speed.


If you’re visiting with your family, don't forget to drop by Chionji Temple (智恩寺) for a blessing. It is said that the god there bestows wisdom to those who pray. It’s a popular spot for Japanese students who are preparing for their exams, so who knows, maybe you will become wiser after your visit to the temple?


Where is Biwako Valley?


(Image credits: @cheeserland)


Biwako Valley is a resort in Shiga Prefecture with convenient access, located just east of Kyoto.


Lake Biwa (びわ湖 Biwako), where the resort’s name originates from, is the largest lake in Japan. Its entire size is just a little smaller than Singapore—imagine that! Compare the size with your own eyes!


Despite being really close to Kyoto (about 40 minutes by local train), you can easily enjoy seasonal nature such as snow activities in winter, sceneries of blooming cherry blossoms and daffodils in spring, and of course, autumn leaves in autumn.


I also recommend sightseeing around Lake Biwa, so be sure to experience a lake cruise or a relaxing lunch (for example, Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel) by the lake, and more!

Where is Awaji Island?

© 1976, 2020 SANRIO CO., LTD. APPROVAL NO. L612797 (Image credits: @cheeserland)


Conveniently accessible from Osaka and Kobe, it is soon becoming a popular spot in Japan.


In fact, legend has it that Awaji Island is the first island that existed in Japan, and you may find many tales about the birth of the country over here.


Awaji Island is famous as a gourmet island with an abundance of delicious vegetables, meat, and more! So much so that they have served these ingredients to the Imperial Family of Japan since ancient times.


Many attractions have opened in recent years with the most recent one being the National Awaji-Island Institute of Godzilla Disaster (国立ゴジラ淡路島研究センター Kokuritsu Gojira Awajishima Kenkyū-sentā), featuring life-sized Godzilla and shooting attractions that just will open this autumn! In addition, you can also find a theme park that features world-famous characters Naruto (ナルト) and Crayon Shin-chan (クレヨンしんちゃん) at Nijigen no Mori (ニシケンノモリ), as well as Hello Kitty Smile, a fashionable restaurant.


Sample itinerary and access

(Image credit: @cheeserland)


Here’s an itinerary I’ve put together that allows you to plan for easy travelling in the Kansai area, starting from Osaka and Kyoto.


Itinerary summary


Day 1: Kyoto → Day 2: Amanohashidate (Northern Kyoto) → Day 3: Biwako (Shiga) → Day 4: Awaji Island (Hyogo) → Day 5: Osaka


Day 1

Arrive at Kansai Airport!

↓ Go to Kyoto by train “Kansai Airport express Haruka”

Sightseeing in Kyoto City and check-in to nearby accommodation


Day 2

Depart from Kyoto Station (9:14)

↓ Train “Ltd. Express Hashidate 1”

Arrive at Amanohashidate Station (11:30)

Sightseeing at the observatory (Amanohashidate Bureauland, etc.), Chionji Temple, Bay Area, etc. on foot from the station

Check-in to nearby accommodation


Day 3

Depart from Amanohashidate Station (10:01)

↓ Train “Ltd. Express Hashidate 2”

Kyoto Station (12:07)

↓ Local train (about 40 mins)

Shiga Station

↓ Local bus

Biwako Valley

Enjoy seasonal activities and view at Biwako Valley!

Check-in to accommodations around Biwako


Day 4

Depart from Biwako

↓ Local train

Osaka Station

↓ Shuttle bus

Awaji Island

Enjoy Nijigen no Mori, Hello Kitty Smile, and the National Awaji-Island Institute of Godzilla Disaster on Awaji Island!

There is a free shuttle bus service on the island, so you can move around conveniently.

↓ Shuttle bus

Osaka Station


Day 5

Enjoy shopping and sightseeing in Osaka!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this article!


In addition to Osaka and Kyoto, there are many attractive places in the Kansai area where you can feel the history and bring home with you valuable experiences. I believe that these places will bring you an entirely different feel of travel that you have never experienced before.


The bonus is that you can travel around conveniently in the Kansai area by utilising the wide railway network, rental cars, and bicycle rental to move from the station to other places.


This is just a sample itinerary, but I hope that it will be useful for you to pick up some spots that suit your interest, and then incorporate them into your own travel plan.


Lastly, I would also like to share some information about the coronavirus prevention measures by JR West that might be useful for you when travelling in Kansai. Let’s look forward to an exciting journey in Kansai, Japan!


This article was contributed by JR West. 

Header image credit: @cheeserland


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