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I am planning to stay around Osaka, Kyoto for 4 nights. Is it a good idea to stay 2 nights in each place or I should pick one as a base and move back and forth? I bought the Japan Rail Pass, so moving wouldn't be a problem.

closed as primarily opinion-based by fkraiem, Doc, mts, JoErNanO, hippietrail Jul 12 '16 at 8:27

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  • It's a matter of personal preference. I stayed 2 nights in each and was able to experience a more traditional Japan in Kyoto by staying in a Ryokan and visit all the temples and castles nearby. Then moving to Osaka and enjoying all the night life, food, and more modern experiences. Also taking a side trip down to Kobe is well worth it! – EdmundYeung99 Jul 12 '16 at 3:30
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Pick Kyoto as your base. It has far more sights of interest than Osaka, and it's easy to daytrip from there not just to Osaka, but to Nara as well.

The JRP is actually unnecessary for this, since there are lots of cheap local trains between the two, but might as well use it if you've got it. It will not be hugely helpful for getting around either city though, since it doesn't cover the subways or buses.

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That depends, what is the purpose of your trip? If it's sightseeing, I would spend most of time in Kyoto. If it's about food, then I would spend more of my time in Osaka.

Personally, I was more interested in all the food so I stayed in Osaka (or more accurately in Kishiwada). To maximize my time in Kyoto, I left for Kyoto first thing one morning, stayed overnight at a Ryokan (highly recommended), and then spent the next day in Kyoto before finally taking the train back in the evening to Osaka.

As previous answers have stated, you don't need a JR pass. Local trains are fine.

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    YMMV, but both Kyoto and Osaka are cities of a million-plus people, with thousands and thousands of restaurants. if you're only staying for 4 nights, there's no meaningful difference to the quality or selection of food you can find. – jpatokal Jul 12 '16 at 12:11
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Definitely it doesn't make sense to change hotel between Kyoto and Osaka.

Chose Osaka as your base.

Kyoto has definitely more touristic places to visit, but they are usually open until 17:00. While an evening in Kyoto Higashiyama area might be a nice experience, it does not necessarily need to be repeated every day. Nightlife in Osaka is definitely more lively.

You have to include commute time 45-60 minutes, but from Osaka you can get within the same time to different areas of Kyoto: Higashiyama (Gion), Arashiyama, Fushimi, Uji. Transport between these places within Kyoto would take similar amount of time and money*.

Osaka has much denser train and subway network which means you would be able to find a hotel closer to the station making it a more convenient base for going out.

Considering the weather, Osaka has more shopping galleries and underground passages connected with train stations. Should you encounter a day of heavy downfall or a typhoon, you can escape your hotel.


* JR Pass (either general one or only JR West) won't save you money between Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. One-way fare is at most 600 yen and you would have to take bus or subway on Kyoto anyway, so try to arrange the JR Pass period for long-distance trips.

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    Kyoto is my favourite place for nightlife in Japan! Just buy your favourite drinkies from a supermarket or konbini and head to the Kamogawa river's edge by the main bridge when it gets dark. I always find a great mix of friendly locals and expats. But if I didn't have a friend with a spot for me to crash in Gion I would probably prefer to stay in Osaka because it's a fun city. – hippietrail Jul 12 '16 at 8:34
  • Kyoto has a pretty active clubbing and nightlife scene as well: after all, there is a city of 1.5 million people bolted onto all those temples... – jpatokal Jul 12 '16 at 12:17
  • @jpatokal Sure, but I wouldn't recommend anyone going for a day to Osaka and coming back to Kyoto for nightlife, hence my answer. For a short-term visitor of whom we know nothing, chances that they would find something to suit their taste are higher in Osaka, for the simple fact that the transport is denser and more frequent. – macraf Jul 12 '16 at 12:31
  • @macraf All I'm saying is that, unless they have really particular tastes in nightlife, they can certainly find a nice izakaya/pub/jazz bar/nightclub in Kyoto as well. – jpatokal Jul 12 '16 at 12:37
  • @jpatokal And I'm saying exactly the opposite :) If they have a particular taste, they could do it in Kyoto (or anywhere), take instructions, get a taxi door-to-door, if leaving things more to chance then I recommend Osaka. – macraf Jul 12 '16 at 12:53

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