Discover Off-the-Beaten-Path Historical Sites Near Kansai International Airport

Make the most of your Osaka layover at Kansai International Airport by exploring these off-the-beaten-path historical sites or find inner peace at sacred sites.
Discover Off-the-Beaten-Path Historical Sites Near Kansai International Airport

Are you heading into Osaka via Kansai International Airport soon? Discover all the amazing things you can do and see during a layover or if you choose to stay longer. There is much more to do in Osaka than visit the busy cityscapes of Osaka central. If you don't have the time to visit downtown Osaka, you can experience history-rich scenic historical sites within 15 minutes by train from Kansai International Airport (KIX).

Osaka is known for its gourmet dishes and bustling city life, but the destinations in this article offer lesser-known cultural experiences that are near to Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Be sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes because Osaka is large and if you want to see everything, you're going to be doing lots of walking. 

Osaka is actually the second most visited city after Tokyo, and you can see both in one incredible trip. So if you're heading to Tokyo, make sure to include some time in Osaka. It is only a one-hour flight from Tokyo to Osaka when flying with a Japan Explorer Pass.

So whether you are in transit to other cities or on the way to Osaka city, these are some fun, easy, and quick visits to have an experience without all the crowds. Use this hand travel guide to understand how to get to all the sites using local transport. 

Stroll Around the Uncrowded Kishiwada Castle 

Stroll Around the Uncrowded Kishiwada Castle 

If you're wondering what you can see in Osaka, Japan, you probably weren't thinking about castles. If you want to see Osaka Castle but don’t have the time or you want to avoid the crowds, consider going to Kishiwada Castle which has a rich history and a lovely garden to stroll around.

The castle itself has an antique-looking stone wall to explore and an exhibition room in the castle tower. During your visit, you can view the fascinating artifacts in the exhibition, hear stories about the castle and its historical significance via an audio guide, and even try on Samurai armor. 

Although the castle was originally built in the 1300s, it has been renovated over the years. In 1953, Hachijin Garden was created by garden designer Mirei Shigemori. The garden was designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty in 2014. Best of all, Kishiwada Castle is only a 10-minute train ride from Kansai International Airport if you take the Nankai Line to Takojizo Station. The castle is an easy five-minute walk from the train station. 

Find Your Inner Peace in the Sacred Site Mizumadera Temple

Find Your Inner Peace in the Sacred Site Mizumadera Temple

If you're looking to find some inner peace during your Osaka layover, then Mizumadera Temple is the place to visit. Mizumadera means "between the waters," which is an accurate description of the location since the temple is located between two pristine rivers. A monk founded the temple at the request of Emperor Shomu over 1200 years ago during the Tenpyo era (729-749). 

When visiting, you can admire the magnificent temple, the statue of Kannon - Goddess of Mercy, a three-storied pagoda that includes a temple “Aizendo” called “Lovers Sanctuary." This is all found on one side of the river. On the other side, you'll find more attractions to explore, such as Mizuma Park, which is full of statues, and the vivid red “Lovers’ Bridge,” which crosses a pond surrounded by cherry blossom trees.

Mizumadera Temple is 17 minutes from Kansai International Airport when you take the Nankai Electric Railway Main Line to Mizuma Kannon Station via Kaizuka Station. There is a short 10-minute walk from the train station to the temple complex.

Hike up to the Buddhist Pilgrims' Waterfall and Revitalize Your Soul 

Hike up to the Buddhist Pilgrims' Waterfall and Revitalize Your Soul 

Wondering where in Osaka you could go on a spiritual pilgrimage? Well, Inunakisan or “Dog-Barking Mountain” is the perfect destination. This site has a rich history that is full of fascinating stories and legends and is known as the oldest Buddhist monastic center for Shugendo in Japan. The unique complex in the mountains was founded by ascetics more than 1300 years ago. 

Visitors looking for a spiritual experience while in Japan can head to this complex to enjoy the numerous temples, waterfalls, and rock structures that remain. Shipporyuji Temple which means “The Waterfall of Seven Treasures” is the centerpiece of this complex and the place to experience the true power of nature. There is even a hot spring resort here for you to soak in while you admire the breathtaking mountain vistas. 

This sacred destination awaits you and can be reached in less than an hour when traveling from Kansai International Airport. Take the Nankai-Limited Express until Izumisano Station and then hop on the bus towards Inunakisan getting off at Ichinodosyobashi. The hike up to Shipporyuji Temple takes about 35 minutes. 

Practice Mindfulness at Nanshuji Temple Zen Garden 

Practice Mindfulness at Nanshuji Temple Zen Garden 

One of the other things to do near Kansai International Airport is to visit Nanshuji Temple Zen Garden. This famous temple belongs to the Rinzai school of Buddhism but was founded in 1557 by Soto Dairi upon the request of Nagayoshi Miyoshi. Unfortunately, the original temple was burned down in 1615, so it was moved to its current location and rebuilt. In modern times, Nanshuji Temple is a prestigious memorial site and recognized as a high-ranking Zen Temple.

The peaceful Zen garden at Nanshuji Temple is also a nationally designated place of scenic beauty in Japan. It features white sand, incorporates a dry waterfall, small stones, and a stone bridge. In the center is a unique rock formation that is fascinating to see. After admiring the garden, you can also spend some time at the Buddhist temple, which has the most beautiful architecture both inside and outside such as the memorial towers and entrance gates.

To get to Nanshuji Temple Zen Garden, take the Nankai-Kuko Line Airport Express towards Nankai-Namba from Kansai International Airport. Then, get off at Sakai Station and take a 20-minute walk to the temple. 

Experience a Tea Ceremony at the Grand Tea Master Sen-no-Rikyu Museum 

Experience a Tea Ceremony at the Grand Tea Master Sen-no-Rikyu Museum 

For a truly Japanese experience, head on over to Sakai Plaza to learn about tea ceremonies and the life of the original tea ceremony grandmaster Sen no Rikyu. A traditional Japanese tea ceremony involves a tea master and their guests connecting while drinking tea. The ritualistic preparation of the tea and the room by the tea master helps to facilitate the overall experience. 

Sen no Rikyu was the man who brought tea ceremonies into prominence, which is why you learn about him during your own tea ceremony. You will be given a chance to savor matcha tea and Japanese sweets while you relax in a comfortable seat, or you can even attend an authentic tea ceremony experience in a tea house.

To get to Sakai Plaza from Kansai International Airport, take the Hankai Line to Shukuin Station. It is only a short one-minute walk to your tea ceremony from the station. 

Admire the Ancient Wooden Sakurai Shrine Designated as National Treasure

Admire the Ancient Wooden Sakurai Shrine Designated as National Treasure

Interested in Japan's historic sites? Then you'll definitely want to check out the ancient wooden Sakurai Shrine. This particular wooden shrine predates the sixth century making it one of Osaka's most precious cultural and historical landmarks. The ancient wooden shrine survived both the siege of Osaka and World War II, which is why it is a designated Japanese National Treasure. 

Although it is a relatively small shrine compared to others in Japan, you can also wander around the shrine grounds. Take note of all the differences in the haiden (worship hall) as it is unique compared to others in the country. There is a covered passageway in the middle that leads you to a prayer altar at the end. This is a rare form of Shinto architecture that's worth seeing.

The Sakurai Shrine is located halfway towards downtown Osaka with a slight detour. You can reach it from Kansai International Airport within 30 minutes if you travel by car. Alternatively, take the Kansaikuko Line to Mikunigaoka Station and then the Nankai-Koya Line to Toga-Mikita Station and then walk 2km to the shrine. 

Plan Your Trip with Japan Airlines

If you're heading to Japan and wondering just what to do during your Osaka layover or how to get around Osaka, Japan, this guide will help you plan. Whether you're traveling between Tokyo and Osaka or just have a layover in Osaka, you'll want to explore this incredible city.

There are plenty of off-the-beaten-path historical sites to discover near Kansai International Airport. So, make the most of your time in the area. Japan Airlines can assist you in planning an unforgettable experience for your next trip to Osaka with the Japan Explorer Pass.

Getting There