Sounds crazy, right? But if you have very limited time and want to see as much as you can it is possible to visit Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kōbe, Himeji and Hiroshima/Miyajima in just 5 days! While you might need 5 days just for Kyoto alone, if you are visiting for a second time or want to see as much of the region as possible, you might try my crazy itinerary.
First things first, you need to choose a “homebase” location. I recommend Osaka, because it has a great nightlife and is between all these locations. Alternative is Kyoto, there is so much to see in Kyoto, so it doesn’t hurt to be able to stay there in the evenings.
Second, you need a rail pass if you want to go to more than one place. JR offers great deals for tourist and there are different options depending on what you want to see. If you want to focus on Kansai Region only, I recommend buying a Kansai Area Pass or better yet Kansai Thru Pass. The first one covers JR trains but not subways, the second one doesn’t cover JR trains but most other private lines and has a better connection to Kyoto, since you can take Hankyu-Kyoto-Line to Kawaramachi Station which is near the Nishiki Market. JR Trains only go to Kyoto Station, which is far away from all the temples and the city centre.
If you want to go to Hiroshima, I definitely recommend buying a Kansai Hiroshima Pass, which is valid 5 days and allows you to take JR Trains and Shinkansen to Hiroshima, as well as a ferry to Miyajima and the Hiroshima Tourist Bus “Meipuru-pu”. It is a really great deal, although you cannot use the subway lines. Alone the Shinkansen is worth it! If you are staying in Osaka, make sure to look for a place near the Umeda station. If you stay near Namba, you will have to go to Umeda Station every day, except for when going to Nara. Namba JR Station doesn’t have good connections to Kyoto or Kōbe.
The actual itenary for my crazy sightseeing tour goes like this:
Homebase is Osaka, meaning you stay there for the night and do sightseeing there in the evening, while visiting other cities during the day.
DAY 1: Kyoto Arashiyama (Arashiyama Bamboo forest, Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama Monkey Park), Return to Osaka in the evening to enjoy dinner, visit Namba or Umeda Skybuilding
DAY 2: Kyoto Fushimi-Inari, Nishiki-Market, Gion, Yasaka-jinja Shrine, Kōdai-ji, Ninenzaka, Kiyomizu-dera
You will need to take a train to Fushimi-Inari and back to Kyoto Nishiki-Market or to Gion. The Shrines and Temples are located near each other, so it is possible to go from Gion to Kiyomizu-dera on foot (if you are as crazy as I am) while seeing as much as you can on the way.
DAY 3: Himeji Castle and Kokoen Garden, Kōbe Harborland, Kōbe China Town and if you have time Kōbe Kitano
DAY 4: Nara Park including Tōdai-ji and Kasuga-taisha, and Osaka in the evening
DAY 5: Take a Shinkansen to Hiroshima, starting with going to Miyajima in the morning and returning to Hiroshima for sightseeing at noon.
I intend on posting about each location in detail, let’s see how it goes.