Our handpicked Osaka and Kyoto 2 day itinerary is filled with attractive sightseeing, covering the best that these amazing cities have to offer. This means you can do just about anything from visiting historic shrines and temples to picking out souvenirs in modern shopping facilities. And since the various places of interest are so accessible by public transport, even solo travelers can feel free to go all out!
Some locations we absolutely recommend solo travelers to visit are Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple and Osaka’s Shin-Umeda City that is very popular among international visitors.
This sample itinerary introduces you to stunning landscapes and tasty gourmet food that are either within walking distance from train stations or accessible with a single bus ride from one!
Day 1. Yasaka Shrine: Located in the resplendent Gion area (time needed: about 30 minutes)
From Kyoto Station, take city bus 206, disembark at Gion-Mae Bus Stop and Yasaka Shrine will be right before your eyes.
Yasaka Shrine is considered the main shrine to the approximately 2,300 shrines and temples where Susanoo-no-Mikoto, a god who appears in Japanese mythology is being worshipped.
Within the shrine’s premises are a number of undershrines that bestow various blessings. Horikawa Ebisu Shrine, affectionately known as Ebessan among locals, is worshipped as the god of fortune who brings prosperity in business.
Utsukushigozen Shrine is where a goddess believed to bestow riches, artistic talent, and beauty is enshrined. Rumor has it that worshippers who put some of the beauty water in front of the shrine on their skin will gain beauty. The maiko, or apprentice traditional artisans of Gion often come here to pray for beauty as well!
Kiyomizu Temple: Must-visit tourist hotspot that absolutely lives up to the hype (time needed: 90 minutes)
After visiting Yasaka Shrine, the next destination, Kiyomizu Temple is just within walking distance. You’ll have to stroll through Nene no Michi to get there, and this is a beautiful cobblestone path where rickshaws-pullers still ply their trade, making it one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Higashiyama that’s full of the olden Kyoto charm. Kiyomizu Temple, the foremost tourist hotspot in Kyoto is always packed with visitors and pilgrims. There is a Japanese saying that goes, “Like leaping off from the platform of Kiyomizu Temple”, which is meant to portray the courage needed to make big decisions that may result in drastic consequences. The platform mentioned in the saying overlooks the streets of Kyoto, so you’ll be able to take in the lovely city sights at a glance when you get there!
Before reaching the platform, don’t forget to go down underground at Zuiguido Hall to experience the interesting “womb-wandering” activity. The basement of the hall is kept in pitch-darkness, so you cannot see anything at all. As you grope around the walls in hushed trepidation, you’ll come across beads that will lead you to a glowing stone engraved with a Brahmic script character. Feel around the stone and make a wish, if you so please!
You’ll also pass by a few Important Cultural Properties such as Nishimon Gate, a three-story pagoda, and Tamura Hall before reaching the main hall, which is itself considered a national treasure. The floor at the southern edge of the main hall is the famed platform of Kiyomizu which juts out across a sheer cliff and is about 13 meters, or 42 feet high.
After the main hall, head towards Otowa Waterfall by going past the Shaka Hall, Amida Hall, and the inner garden. This waterfall comes from Mount Otowa, which is said to flow with the merit water or golden water of Kan’on, the Bodhisattva of compassion.
It is also the origin of the temple’s name of Kiyomizu, which means “purifying waters”. The three streams of the spiritual waterfall are said to grant longevity, academic success, and romantic success.
Cafe Rojiusagi: Conclude your morning with a nice and leisurely lunch in a traditional townhouse
About a 20-minute walk away from Kiyomizu Temple and east of Kamogawa is the entertainment district Miyagawa-cho, which stretches in all directions to Gojo Dori. With a calm, mellow, subtly sensual mood that shows off the charms of Kyoto, the path is a wonderful place to take a leisurely stroll in. Rojiusagi is a cafe built in an olden townhouse that allows you to enjoy a slightly late lunch in quaint surroundings.
Their obanzaicuisine (Kyoto-made food) includes favorites like the “Rojiuzen” set meal (1,250 yen) which features meat and fish cooked in a way that is beneficial for the body. The meals also comes with generous helpings of nutritious vegetables and you can clearly see the love that was put into its preparation.
The menu also comes with standard cafe fare and interesting local specialties like matcha au lait (550 yen), so even if you choose to lunch somewhere else, this shop is still worth a visit for some great-tasting dessert or high tea.
- Address 176 Shimoyanagicho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0808
- Phone Number 075-551-0463
Hours: 8:00 a.m. (7:00 a.m. during July and August) – 11:00 a.m. (last order 10:30 a.m.); 12 noon – 5:00 p.m. (last order 4:30 p.m.) *Last order for lunch is 2:00 p.m.
Closed: Not fixed
Kyoto Tower: See panoramic city sights from all angles (time needed: 30 minutes)
After leaving Rojiusagi, take a city bus to Kyoto Station. The next destination is Kyoto Tower, the symbol of Kyoto that was created based on the image of a lighthouse that illuminates the streets of Kyoto. Standing at 131 meters (about 429 feet), this tower is the tallest building in Kyoto. The tower’s observatory deck allows visitors to enjoy a 360 degrees panoramic view of the streets of Kyoto. The Kyoto Tower mascot, Tawawa-chan will make random appearances at the deck, so if you happen to chance upon Tawawa-chan, be sure to take a commemorative picture together!
- Address 721-1 Higashishiokojicho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8216
Phone: 075-361-3215 (hours: 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.)
Hours: Deck 9:00 a.m. – 9:20 p.m. (last entry 9:00 p.m.) *Subject to change without notice
Price: Deck entry - Adults 880 yen; High school 650 yen; Elementary to Junior High 550 yen; minors three to six 150 yen
Closed: Open daily
Kyoto Tower Sando: Finding an experience or souvenir that catches your fancy (time needed: 60 to 120 minutes)
Basements one and two of Kyoto Tower contain a large commercial facility known as Kyoto Tower Sando. Basement one is a food hall where you can wander from shop to shop, all of them offering delicious Kyoto foods, and pick and choose whatever interests you the most. The lighting here is deliberately dim, which, when combined with the stylish decor, envelopes the place with a calm and mature vibe.
The area is chock-full of shops that are popular among local residents, a testament to the quality food they offer. A total of about 300 seats have been installed on this floor for you to enjoy your chosen chow at leisure. Take your pick from among 19 special shops serving specialty food and drinks!
A great way to ensure that you get the most of your trip here is to buy a few items from each store to try while seated at the common area of the floor. For the price of a full meal, you’ll be able to taste and see for yourself a little bit of everything Kyoto has to offer in terms of tasty treats!
The first floor of the building faces Kyoto Station directly and is designed after the concept of a marketplace for things that look and feel uniquely Kyoto. So you’ll find Kyoto’s most popular Japanese and Western snacks, pickled food, cosmetics, and other souvenirs that many have come to associate the city with.
Besides the regular souvenir offerings, you’ll also be able to buy ujicha-flavored popcorn, candy floss, shichimi togarashi (seven-spices seasoning), and other products from premium specialty stores featuring the best of Kyoto souvenir snacks.
On the second floor, workshops that touch on the cultural aspects of Kyoto and Japan are being held, offering you the chance to take part in a unique experience. We’re talking about things like Japanese candy-making, sushi workshops, Shimizu ceramic painting, food sample-making, and plenty of other family-friendly activities that will leave you and your travel group feeling closer to the cultural core of Kyoto than when you first arrived for sure!
KYOTO TOWER SANDO京都タワーサンド
- Address 721-1 Higashishiokojicho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8216
- Phone Number 075-746-5830
Hours: B1F 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.; 1st and 2nd floors 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. *Differs from shop to shop
Closed: Open daily
Day 2. Shin-Umeda City: Exploring new experiences like never before (time needed: 120 to 180 minutes)
After basking in the traditional culture of Japan in Kyoto, it’s time to turn your attention to the most modern sightseeing and shopping facility in Osaka in day 2 of our sample itinerary by heading to Shin-Umeda City, which is a short 7-minute walk from Osaka Station on the JR Lines.
This complex facility houses both the Umeda Sky Building and Westin Hotel. It’s also where you can find the Nakashizennomori, where you can catch sight of fireflies during early summer season. There’s also the Satoyama garden that aims to feature the beautiful natural and primal landscape of Japan. These places are like a soothing balm to the soul one can avail themselves to amidst the hectic pace of a modern city.
Kuchu Teien Observatory: Delightful vistas without breaking the bank (time needed: 60 to 90 minutes)
The connector part of Umeda Sky Building is known as the Kuchu Teien Observatory, and it features an open-style rooftop. Ride on the see-through elevator up to the 35th floor and switch to the see-through escalator, which will take you all the way up to the entrance of the observatory on the 39th floor.
The observatory floor on the 40th floor is covered with 35 meters, or about 115 feet of glass counters that can offer visitors either an electrifying City View of Osaka’s streetscapes or a mellow River View of Yodogawa River and the Hokusetsu Mountains.
Sky Walk is an open-air rooftop corridor that brings you closer to the sky while offering a magnificent view of the sights around - beautiful enough to get it featured prominently on lists such as "Top 100 Sunset Spots in Japan" and "Japan's Night Scenery Heritage", at the very least!
You can also buy exclusive Kuchu Teien souvenirs or regular Osaka goods from the shops on the 39th floor. The Umeda Sky Building 3D Puzzle and original figurines are among the more popular items here.
Takimi Koji: Lunch at a retro-style food street (time needed: 60 minutes)
The Showa Era (1926 to 1989) is known to be a vibrant and energetic time in Japanese history. Takimi Koji is a food street that revives that quaint and nostalgic charm with a decor that carefully reproduces a Showa-style street. Take a break from all that sightseeing and step back into the past for some delicious lunch!
The food street is located at basement 1 of Umeda Sky Building. There, you'll find every nook and cranny stuffed with a shop or two offering food representative of Osaka, such as kushikatsu, shabu shabu and sukiyaki (hot pot), mizutaki (boiled food), katsudon (pork cutlet rice), sushi, unagi, tempura, and plenty more!
The cobblestone paths and makeshift olden Inari Shrine, police post, and post office among other nostalgic throwbacks bring you right back to the early Showa period. There's also a room that attempts to reproduce an olden tearoom with low tea tables, vintage TV sets, and other antique items, showering you with an authentic Showa atmosphere throughout your time there.
As a collaboration with the Kuchu Teien Observatory, if you show the staff your entry ticket or ticket stub, you'll be able to enjoy discounts at some shops here. Don't miss this chance to get exclusive items at great prices!
UMEDA SKY BUILDING梅田スカイビル
- Address 1 Chome-1-87 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka, 531-6023
Phone: 06-6440-3899 (Shin-Umeda City General Information)
Hours: [Kuchu Teien Observatory] 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. (last entry 10:00 p.m.); [Takimi Koji] Depends on shop
Price: Adults 1,500 yen
Closed: [Kuchu Teien Observatory] Open daily; [Takimi Koji] Depends on shop
1-1, Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 531-0076
Osaka Station （JR Tokaido Line / JR Kyoto Line / JR Osaka Loop Line / JR Kobe Line / JR Takarazuka Line）
6 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 06-6440-3855
- Address 1-1, Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 531-0076
Grand Front Osaka: Shop till you drop at this massive commercial complex (time needed: 60 minutes or more)
Right in front of the north exit of Osaka Station is the massive commercial complex Grand Front Osaka, featuring an open-style central elevator that creates a sheer sense of spaciousness.
From fashion to general goods, lifestyle products, beauty items, cafes, restaurants, and bars - there's bound to be a shop here that caters to your taste! The building offers shrewd shoppers an efficient way to get all their souvenir shopping done in one spot.
We hope you've enjoyed this sample itinerary of the Kansai region that takes you through traditional mainstays like the shrines and temples of ancient Kyoto and the vastly contrasting modern metropolis of Osaka with the exciting new experiences it has to offer.
The best part is that all the sightseeing spots, fabulous foods, lovely landscapes, exciting experiences, and sensational shopping mentioned in this article can be easily accessed from a train station, or with just a single bus trip from a train station. We're confident this itinerary will be a handy reference to have when planning for a solo trip around the Kansai region!
English translation by: Huimin Pan
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*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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