253 Kms from Osaka
Culture and saké: Takayama (2 days) Kampai! Takayama is home to dozens of saké breweries, and is the place to sink down jugs and jugs of this rice-based beverage. If you don’t like the taste that much, try and start with some warm saké after a day of exploring — nice, right? To fill up the day before boozing hour, visit the morning markets, explore the old town on foot, and snap pics of the traditional wooden houses and old-school shops. Or maybe spend an afternoon hanging out in a cafe, sipping on tea and writing postcards while listening to jazz records. Oh, and make sure you hop on the train back to Tokyo during daylight hours: the ride is stunning.
339 Kms from Osaka
Intense history: Hiroshima (1 day) This city’s name is forever linked to the atomic bomb that hit it on August 6th, 1945. This is not bound to be an easy experience, but definitely visit the Peace Memorial Museum and walk out of there forever convinced of the necessity to eradicate nuclear weapons on a global scale. Hiroshima is anything but a trapped in its tragic past though: it’s actually a city with a pretty chill vibe. Head to Okonomimura — 3 levels of small stalls serving the exact same thing — to taste the region’s signature dish, the okonomiyaki (sort of shredded cabbage pancake), then collapse in a food coma. Cover yourself in as many layers as you can (the wind is freezing), and get up close with an active volcano! The fumes rising up from the pale green lake at the bottom of the Naka-dake volcano are toxic, which is why access to the park can be closed some days. If you brought your hiking boots, cross the black sand desert and climb through the cold lava stones, marble-like rocks and bright orange summits to reach the top of Taka-dake — a hike you’ll never forget.