The view in the cover photo to this blog is from the mountains looking down on the city of Kobe. This is one of the main cities in the Kansai region of Japan and is a huge draw for both domestic and international tourists throughout the year. What else does Kansai have to offer?
The first time I visited Japan was in 2011 and on that occasion I remained in Tokyo (and a few other cities in Kanto prefecture). It took me a couple more years before I discovered other areas of Japan. In particular, I have a very soft spot for Kansai prefecture. It has some of my favourite Japanese cities (including my favourite of all – Kyoto) and some of my best tourist attractions. Travel between Kanto and Kansai is very easy on the Shinkansen, and even further west beyond Osaka on the Sanyo Shinkansen is easily possible (I visited Hiroshima and Miyajima, but that’s another story).
As far as planning your journey in and around the Kansai prefecture, you will notice that travel times are very short and usually with a very convenient method of transport. For example, Osaka to Kyoto is just a one hour bus ride away, and this journey can also be made on the Shinkansen. Osaka to Nara is a 45 minute train/bus ride, whereas Osaka to Himeji will only take you around 2 hours each way on a bus.
So let’s take a look at the highlights of Kansai and give you enough reasons to make a prolonged stay in the region:
Osaka is the largest city in Kansai and one of the largest in all of Japan. It is the home of the Dotonbori Canal, and Universal Studios Japan, which is a fantastic theme park for all ages! Street food is also very popular here in Osaka, and it is the birthplace of both takoyaki and katsukushi.
Kyoto is a city where the more you look, the more you discover. There is an abundance of temples and pavilions to visit in Kyoto, not least of which are the pair of colourful pavilions known as Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji. These are golden and “silver” respectively – although in the case of Ginkakuji, not all is as it seems…
The main attraction in Nara is the Todaiji Temple – but beware of the aggressive deer! Smaller temples are also scattered around the city, such as Omizutori and Horyuji Temple, but these are not essential to visit. Nara is a favourite backpacker haunt in Kansai and shouldn’t be missed when you’re in the region.
Located between the Rokko mountains and the sea, Kobe was one of the first in Japan to open its doors to international tourism and it remains a firm favourite with travellers the world over. Sake is famous in these parts, and you can’t come to Kobe and not try the world famous Kobe wagyu beef!
Himeji is perhaps only worth a visit for the castle itself, though a what a reason to visit that is! You will probably consider Himeji Castle to the best of its kind in the whole country, and it has plenty of gardens and hidden nooks and crannies in its grounds to keep you occupied. Himeji Castle has spent the last few years being renovated, but is not almost complete, which means its famous façade is now free of dirty-looking scaffolding!
Kansai can provide many cultural and natural attractions to entice the visitor, more so than any other region of Japan, in my opinion.