Travel Guide Asia Japan Honshu Kansai



Kansai (or Kinki), in southwestern Honshū, is the cultural and historical heart of Japan. The region includes the prefectures of Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo and Shiga, sometimes Fukui, Tokushima and Tottori. While the use of the terms "Kansai" and "Kinki" have changed over history, in most modern contexts the use of the two terms is interchangeable. The urban region of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto (Keihanshin region) is the second most populated in Japan after the Greater Tokyo Area.




  • Hikone
  • Himeji is famous for its stunning castle
  • Ise
  • Kobe is famous for Kobe beef, the world's most expensive beef.
  • Kyoto - the ancient capital of Japan.
  • Nara - Japan's first permanent capital and home to the world's largest wooden building.
  • Osaka
  • Kinosaki is small town in the northern part of Kansai famous for its onsens.



Sights and Activities

  • Horyuji Temple and Hokkiji Temple in Horyuji became the nation's very first World Heritage Sites in 1993.
  • Himeji Castle, (Himeji) the largest original castle in Japan.
  • Eight Sites in Nara make up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, including Todai-ji which houses one of the world's most famous Buddha statues, the beautiful Kasuga Shrine and the Kasuga Primeval Forest on the mountain behind it, Heijo-kyo the former palace site, and four other temples.
  • The Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto are a list of 14 sites in Kyoto#World Heritage Sites, 2 in Uji (Byodoin and Ujigami Shrine), and 1 in Otsu (Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei).
  • The shrines and temples of Yoshino, Mount Koya and Kumano are all part of the single site known as the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.



Events and Festivals

Traditional Festivals

  • Japanese New Year (January 1) - the most important holiday in Japan. Although there are lots of customs and traditions most of them are done in the private. This is mainly a family holiday and Japan can feel very empty as almost everyone goes home. Travelling in Japan in during this time is difficult because everything is shut down.
  • Seijin No Hi (2nd Monday of January) - the coming of age holiday for Japanese women which 20. Traditionally families will buy any young woman how turned 20 in the last year a kimono. On this day almost all Japanese women will ear a kimono.
  • Hin Festival (March 3) - Also known as doll festival the Hin Matsuri festival is meant for young women. In early february families with daughters put dolls in order to make the women happy and healthy later in life. On Girls Day, on March 3, the dolls are put away until next year.
  • Shichi Go San Festival (Novermber 5) - Boys who are 3 and 5, and girls 3 and 7 are taken to a shinto shrine in traditional Japanese dress. The children are brought there to pray for good luck, good health and wealth.

National Holidays

  • Golden Week - Is quite often referred to as the "Japanese Spring Break." It is a combination of many state holidays, including Showa Day, Greenery Day, Children's Day, and Constitution Memorial Day in order to give a full week off. It takes place during the first full week of May. Everyone gets this week off in Japan so it is very bad time to travel because everything is crowded, expensive and most hotels will be full.

Other Events and Festivals

  • O-Bon (Festival of the Dead) - Usually held in August, this festival is observed nationwide in Japan. Buddhist tradition dictates this is the day the dead return to earth to visit their relatives. Lanterns are hung outside homes and offerings to the spirits are made. In the evening, people float the lanterns on the river to help guide the deceased back to their resting place.
  • Hanami and Cherry Blossom Festivals - A tradition all over Japan, Hanami literally means viewing flowers. Picnic under the beautiful flowing trees in any public park during this special season. Usually lasting for only two weeks in March, the sakura (cherry blossom) schedule changes a bit every year, so it’s hard to nail down exactly when to come.



Getting There

By Plane

1. International flights in Osaka arrive at the Kansai International Airport (KIX), about 38 kilometres from Osaka. After Narita Airport it's the busiest airport in Japan regarding international passengers. Airlines flying from Europe to Osaka include KLM (Amsterdam) and Finnair (Helsinki).

To/from Osaka-Kansai Airport

  • Rail: The lower railroad level of the Sky Gate Bridge R leading to Osaka is used by two railroad operators: West Japan Railway (JR West) and Nankai Electric Railway. JR West operates Haruka, the limited express train services for Kansai Airport Station from Tennōji, Shin-Ōsaka and Kyoto Station. JR West also offers "Kansai Airport Rapid" services for Kansai Airport Station from Ōsaka and Kyōbashi Station, as well as several stations on the way. Nankai operates a limited express train service to Namba Station on the southern edge of downtown Osaka.
  • Bus: Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise and other bus operators offer scheduled express bus services, called "Airport Limousines", for Kansai International Airport.
  • Car: The airport is only accessible from the Sky Gate Bridge R, a part of Kansai Airport Expressway. The expressway immediately connects to Hanshin Expressways Route 5, "Wangan Route", and Hanwa Expressway. Taxis and rental cars are available at the airport and there are thousands of parking places as well.
  • Ferry: A high-speed ferry service operates between Kobe Airport and KIX. The journey takes about thirty minutes.

2. Despite it's name, Osaka International Airport (ITM) serves only domestic destinations, but in total does handle more passengers than Osaka-Kansai!

To/from Osaka International Airport

  • Rail: The only direct rail connection to the airport is the Osaka Monorail, which stops in the northern suburbs of Osaka.
  • Bus: A number of scheduled buses run to and from the airport daily, forming connections to Osaka and Kyoto.

By Train

Kansai region can be reached from numerous cities to the east and west on Honshu, including Hiroshima and Tokyo. Check Hyperdia for schedules and prices.

By Boat

South Korea
The PanStar Line operates a ferry between Osaka and Busan. The ferry leaves Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, at 3:10pm from both Osaka and Busan and arrives the following day at 10:00am. In Busan, the luggage check-in time is prior to the passenger check-in time: for the Busan-Osaka run, luggage check in is 12:40pm-2:00pm and the passenger check in time is 2:15pm-2:45pm; for the Osaka-Busan run, luggage check in is 1:00pm-2:00pm and the passenger check in time is 1:00pm-2:30pm. Many different room options are available, including family rooms. Fares start at ¥17,000 and range through seven different room/suite classes culminating in a Presidential Suite, which is ¥250,000 per night. Tickets can be purchased online, but much of the website content is only available in Japanese and Korean, and may be difficult to navigate for English speakers. Tickets are easily obtainable through agents specializing in Korean or Japanese travel.

The ferry holds live musical performances, magic shows, and other entertainment on the run. Schedule varies.

You can take your car on the ferry, but there are documentation requirements, and you should check the website for information. The cost for a single basic room and a car is ₩690,000. Room upgrades are available. Temporary insurance must be purchased at the port upon arrival in Osaka.

There are weekly ferries crossing the sea between Shanghai and Kobe and Osaka. The ferry's destination alternates each week between Osaka and Kobe and the journey takes two days. Another line travels weekly as well between Shanghai and Osaka only.

FESCO runs a service from Vostochny Port/Nakhodka in Far Eastern Russia to Osaka.



Getting Around

By Train

The three major cities of Kansai - Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe - are connected by a myriad of train routes. When traveling between two of these cities, it helps to determine what method of transportation fits your travel needs, and fits your budget... unless you have a Japan Rail Pass, of course.

Besides the Shinkansen, Japan Railways operates the main trunk line - the Tokaido Line - between Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. The Kyoto-Osaka segment is known as the JR Kyoto Line, while the segment from Osaka to Kobe is the JR Kobe Line. The Special Rapid, or Shin-Kaisoku (新快速), generally leaves every 15 minutes with very fast transit times. If you do not have a Japan Rail Pass, however, JR can be more expensive compared to private railways.




The Kansai dialect (関西弁 Kansai-ben) is Japan's largest dialect group after Tokyo's dialect group collectively. There are many subdialects, ranging from the elegant and euphemistic Kyo-kotoba (京言葉) of Kyoto's courtiers to the gruff but imaginative gangster slang of Osaka, much favored by Japanese comedians. Some notable features include the copula ya instead of da, the negative ending -hen instead of -nai, the use of akan (あかん, アカン) instead of dame for "No way!", aho (あほ, アホ) instead of baka for "idiot", and ōki-ni (おおきに) instead of arigatō gozaimasu for "Thanks".

That said, most Kansaites are perfectly conversant in standard Japanese, so knowledge of the local dialect is by no means necessary, but even a few words will be appreciated. The typical Osakan greeting is Mōkarimakka? ("Making money?"), to which the typical reply is Bochi-bochi denna ("Well, so-so"); trying this out on a friend or acquaintance is guaranteed to produce a surprised smile, and make you look like a omoroi (funny) guy.

English is taught at all schools in Japan, and while it is less commonly spoken than in Tokyo you will find that younger people will often know enough English to communicate, especially those residing in the cities. Still, learning even a few important phrases in Japanese will be appreciated and not as difficult as many Westerners think.




Kansai cooking is subtly different from the Kanto style, although the average short-term visitor is unlikely to spot many differences. Perhaps the most visible differences are a tendency to use light-colored soy instead of dark, especially in soups, and a preference for thick white udon noodles over the thin buckwheat soba noodles of eastern Japan.

Some famous Kansai dishes include:

  • Sabazushi (鯖寿司 mackerel sushi), Battera of Osaka, sabazushi in Kyoto, or kaki-no-ha zushi (柿の葉寿司) from Nara are local variants of this type
  • Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), variously described as Japanese pizza or pancakes. Although Hiroshima also makes a strong claim for this name, they are in fact reasonably different from each other. (Hiroshima style tends to come cooked on a pile of noodles.)
  • Takoyaki (たこ焼き) is the common name for the fried balls of octopus and batter. Akashiyaki (明石焼き) from Akashi City area is recognized as the origin of the more famous Osaka-style takoyaki. As opposed to the Osaka-style being served with dark and thick sauce on it, Akashiyaki are eaten without sauce but dipped into clear soup. When visiting takoyaki bars, the various fillings mentioned are generally substituted for octopus, rather than being an addition.
  • Beef (和牛), there are famous beef brands; Kobe beef (神戸牛), Matsusaka beef (松阪牛), Tajima beef (但馬牛) and Omi beef (近江牛).
  • Udon (うどん) is the popular noodle in Osaka instead of soba in Tokyo. Another udon area, Sanuki in Shikoku, is famous for chewy noodle, while Osaka is famous for soft noodle.




Kansai is sake country, with Nada (in Kobe) and Fushimi (in Kyoto) alone accounting for 45% of the country's production. Kobe in particular is a good place to tour sake breweries, many of which are open to visitors. Yamazaki, a halfway point between Osaka and Kyoto, is known for Japan's oldest commercial whisky distillery owned by Suntory.



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This is version 17. Last edited at 10:59 on Aug 18, 17 by Utrecht. 17 articles link to this page.

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