If you find yourself in Osaka, just make a side trip to the outskirts and you will find many wonderful summer retreats. Here are five recommended spots near Osaka to get away to in the summer.
Okubiwako is a little less than two hours away from downtown Osaka by car. The area north of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake in terms of area, is called Okubiwako and it is known for its rich nature and spectacular scenery. The drive is particularly enjoyable from the Okubiwako Parkway, which spans 18.8km from Tsukidetoge to Oura, as you will be driving while marveling at the stunning vista of the azure-blue Okubiwako and Chikubushima Island that is floating on Lake Biwa. And from the peak of Shizugatake that has an elevation of 421m, you will see Okubiwako that almost resembles a fiord, and Lake Yogo on the other side that looks like a mirror. There is a lift up to the halfway point to the peak, so it is best to ride on that going up.
When the weather is nice, go to Hokouen and Kohoku Mizudori Park at night and watch the sun setting on the mountains on the opposite side of the lake that tuck Lake Biwa. This is a spot recommended to those who want to get away from the bustle of the city and just relax while surrounded by nature.
Located about an hour from the city center of Osaka, Mt. Rokko is a sprawling mountain range on the north side of Kobe in Hyogo, west of Osaka. It is a place that has become a famous summer getaway thanks to its proximity to the downtown area and its climate that feels like that of a plateau. Guests can also easily get to this summer retreat through the Rokko Cable that links Rokko Cable Shita Station and Rokko Sanjo Station, and the Rokko Arima Ropeway that connects the summit and Arima Onsen (hot springs). The journey to the peak while watching the moving and changing scenery is definitely recommended. Go to the famous viewing spots such as the Rokko Garden Terrace, the Observation Deck, and the Rokko-Shidare Observation Deck, an observation platform where nature can be experienced that was completed in 2010, and you can enjoy the view of the port town Kobe and the Akashi Strait both during the day and its glimmering nightscape, too.
Aside from the above, Mt. Rokko is also home to the Rokkosan Country House, a leisure facility surrounded by trees, the Rokkosan Field Athletic, where guests can enjoy real athletic activities, the Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden, where different alpine plants blossom in all four seasons, and a lot of other sightseeing and leisure spots. It’s the perfect place for those who want to go to a summer retreat easily.
2. Mt. Rokko
The area north of Mt. Hachibuse, which has an elevation of 1,221m and is located on the northern section of Hyogo, is called Hachikita Kogen.
Hachikita Ski Resort in this plateau may be one of the leading ski resorts in the Kansai region that is thronged by people in winter, but it is also a popular getaway in the summertime. From the summit of Mt. Hachibuse, whose name came from the recessed shape of its peak that resembles a bowl turned upside down, you will be able to see Mt. Hyono at the border of Tottori on the south, and if the weather is fine, the famous Mt. Daisen on the west. Zazenso (skunk cabbage), mizubasho (Asian skunk cabbage) and other wild grasses and flowers can also be seen here depending on the season, so it is recommended to those who are interested in these plants.
Further, there are many “terraced rice fields” wherein rice paddies cultivating rice are spread on the slope of the mountain, so you will also get to feel the atmosphere of Japan’s country life. It also offers a lot of fun activities such as fish catching wherein the fish caught by hand is grilled on charcoal right there, and paragliding.
It may be quite far being about 2.5 hours away by car from downtown Osaka, but it is still highly recommended to those who want a taste of fresh, crisp air.
3. Hachikita Kogen
Kannabe Kogen, which takes approximately 2.5 hours by car from Osaka in a northwest direction, has long been known as a mountain plateau resort north of Hyogo. Guests get to enjoy the rustic atmosphere here, but it is also characterized by the numerous falls on the valley that was formed by lava and the crater and caves made by the volcanic activities. At the Kannabe Yoganryu, there is a promenade for walking along the river where walkers will get to see 30 small-large falls such as Hattan no Taki, and deep bodies of water. Don't you feel like getting refreshed by bathing in a lot of negative ion?
This getaway is also filled with a lot of activities to enjoy, such as river fishing (*there is a charge for fishing in the downstream of Jugo no Taki) where rainbow trout and other fish can be caught, golf and paragliding, and skiing in winter. This is the perfect place for those who want to fully enjoy different activities in a summer retreat.
4. Kannabe Kogen
The Hanazono area is located south of the sacred Mt. Koya on the southwest side when coming from Osaka. Built together with the Mt. Koya Temple of Kobo Dashi, the founder of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism, this area is protected as the temple grounds. In light of this, it is rich in nature, and is home to Japan’s original landscape and remnants of the countryside, so it has gained a lot of attention as a calm Japanese paradise.
Inside this area, the must-see sight is the Kongo no Taki, a natural water dam where people can play in the river. Swim in the deep waters and you can see the nearby water turbines, giving you the full taste of summer in Japan’s countryside. The other recommended spots here are the Kongo Ryokuchi Auto Camping Ground, where fireflies can be seen in early summer, and the Hanazono Green Park where you can enjoy athletic activities and go sledding on the artificial ski slopes even in the summer. How about heading out to Hanazono and taking a break in Japan’s countryside this year?
Don't you feel like going to those summer retreats? While the extravagance in food and the energetic clatter of Osaka, which is famous for being a merchant city, might be fun, it is always a good idea to get away sometimes and relax in the midst of the very Japanese nature.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.