Introduction to Kansai Area, Japan ▏Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe
Back in the days when Tokyo was called Edo and the nation was still un-unified, the Kansai region was where all the economic, technological, diplomatic, industrial, and cultural development happened. Whether it be the imperial court at Kyoto or the main trading ports at Osaka and Kobe, Japan truly started in these regions and still holds massive importance in Japanese, and even Asian, culture, even after almost 2,000 years.
After Tokyo, these are the most popular tourist, developing, and economical areas in Japan. Therefore, many cultural locations, universities, and global companies reside here. With easy access to transportation and their close vicinity to each other, it is common for both locals and tourists to commute between these cities on a daily basis.
Starting at its center around Osaka - Umeda Station, you will leave the station and be taken aback by the glorious and grand skyscrapers surrounding it. A great way to start getting familiar with the city is to visit the Umeda Sky Building and view the city from its 170m high viewing platform. Around the station, you can find many different shopping areas, many of them to the east. Like the Hankyu-east shopping street, Izuma-no-Hiroba, the Tenjinbashisuji shopping street, or the Dotonbori, with the famous running man sign, further south!
Hosting both the Osaka international airport and the Kansai international airport, while also having great long-distance shinkansen trains and highway busses, Osaka is in a fantastic location for further travels inside the country. With many low-cost flights, you can take trips wherever and whenever you want.
Culturally, Osaka hosts many memorable locations. Osaka castle, once the largest and grandest castle in the country, lies just a few minutes away from Umeda.
And on one of the artificial islands on the west part of the city, lies the Universal Studios Japan park! Directly connected with its own train station, it is a perfect destination for all movie fans. Take time to also enjoy its more peaceful locations, like a picnic in the tranquil Ryokuchi park, or walk along the green and great Yodo river!
【Borderless House in Osaka】
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For over 1,000 years, Kyoto has been the capital of Japan. Having been so vital to the culture and politics, it has been spared from a lot of the damage and degradation other modern cities have. Because of this, many shrines, temples, and other structures are hundreds of years old but still kept fresh and clean.
Around Kyoto station, there are various clothing stores and shopping malls, especially around the Kyoto tower. Outside of that, there are small shopping streets scattered all over the city, like the Teramachi shopping district accessible via subway or bus.
In this city lies some of Japan’s most historically famous locations. Here lies the famous Kinkaku-Ji, The golden pavilion, the Kyoto imperial palace; home of the emperor for centuries, Senbon Torii; the thousand Torii Gate, Heian Shrine; build to celebrate the cities 1100th birthday, and the great Kiyomizu-Dera; a great temple complex with its famous wooden balcony. Nearby to Kiyomizu-Dera, you can also find the Sanneizaka and Nineizaka area. This entire area is built to look like old samurai-era buildings, and many of them are still the same ones from that period.
But that does not mean all in Kyoto are historical buildings and shrines. For non-historical scenery, there is the Arashiyama Bamboo forest; a stunning walking path in the middle of a bamboo forest, and the nearby Arashiyama monkey park as well! The local Kyoto city zoo, Funaokayama Park, with peaceful zen-like isolation, the Toei Kyoto studio park; home of so many old samurai era films, with many performances made by local samurai! Or take a lovely relaxing stroll along the great Kamo River, an especially beautiful location during sunny summer days.
【Borderless House in Kyoto】
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Home of the world-renowned Kobe beef and the 7th largest city in Japan, Kobe has, among Osaka, being the two most historically important ports in Japan. During the Meiji period, Kobe became one of the biggest ports for western industrial and economical research, so even today, Kobe has a visible mix of Japanese and western architecture in many of its districts. Especially in the Kitano area, which used to hold the foreign diplomats and merchants. Many of Japan’s industrial powerhouses lie here as well. Companies like Kobe Steel, Kawasaki Shipbuilding, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
While being an industrial city, there are many benefits to living here. From its harbor, there are many short-distance ferry rides and several cruise lines going all over Japan and Asia. Take a relaxing boat trip over a weekend to places like Kyushu, Hokkaido, or even to other countries like Taiwan and South Korea! Also accessible, is the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, which leads to the great island of Honshu.
Some of the local hotspots among locals and tourists are the Arima onsen, a historical hot spring resort that is still considered one of the best hot springs in western Japan, and the breathtaking Nunobiki Herb Garden, which lies high up the mountains, so whether you want to view the city night lights, or see as far away as Osaka during the day, this is a fantastic option for a relaxing trip.
【Borderless House in Kobe】
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With these areas being so varied and grand, it is difficult to mention or guide anyone to all their unique locations. But hopefully, this guide has given some more clarity over what each area has to offer. Since all these three areas are great tourist locations and often deal with global industries, Using only English is not such a big hindrance as it is in many other Japanese cities. Ask locals or any information desk in these areas and they will likely have a huge array of guides and tips for any first-timers around!
Enjoy, and stay safe!
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