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Island
Honshu
Largest City
Osaka
Population
22,755,030

Kansai

Discover Japan's rich heritage

For centuries, Kansai has been the cultural heartland of Japan.

A region on the western side of the main island of Honshu, Kansai is where you’ll find the traditional Japan of your imagination; winding cobbled streets lined with dark wooden houses, the sound of distant gongs in the mountains and the smell of incense in the rain.

Go Geisha hunting in Kyoto’s Gion.

Surprisingly, it’s also where you’ll find the hub of the Japanese anti-establishment, led by the region’s unofficial capital Osaka – a youth paradise of Japanese counterculture with an infamous nightlife and extremely good food. The nearby city of Kobe too has a distinctly cosmopolitan vibe, offering up its famed marbled beef in an attractive, port-side setting.

Explore Shinsekai, a pre-war neighbourhood that was created with New York as a model for its southern half and Paris for its northern half.

Explore Osaka’s Shinsekai, a pre-war neighbourhood that was created with New York as a model for its southern half and Paris for its northern half.

Both Kyoto and Nara were former capitals of Japan, and, thanks to a relatively peaceful political and natural history, Kansai has more preserved UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other region in the country. Kyoto alone has around 2000 temples and shrines, including the much-photographed golden pavilion of Kinkaku-ji, while nearby Nara is home to one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddah.

Beware the hangry deer at Nara’s Todai-ji Temple.

Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture is one of Japan’s most beautiful feudal castles and the Ise Shrine in Mie is an important pilgrimage site. Mount Koya, in Wakayama prefecture, is a remote, mist-covered temple town where visitors can make the journey to experience an overnight temple stay, rising early to pray with the monks and sampling the simple Buddhist food.

Don't miss the chance to experience an overnight temple stay on Mount Koya, Wakayama

Don’t miss the chance to experience an overnight temple stay on Mount Koya.

Also known as the Kinki Region, Kansai is sometimes seen as the more quirky counter to its eastern neighbor, Kanto. Kansai people are known for their humor, love of food and for riding on the other side of the escalator. They also speak a distinct dialect known as ‘Kansai-ben’.

Destinations in Kansai

Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture

Hyogo

Touted as ‘a Japan in miniature’, Hyogo is one of Japan’s most diverse prefectures.

Amanohashidate or Bridge to Heaven in Kyoto Prefecture

Kyoto

Break the tourist mould and head outside of the city to uncover the rest of what Kyoto has to offer.

Maruyama rice terraces at sunset, Mie prefecture

Mie

The first signs of human habitation on Mie can be traced back 10,000 years and that’s only one of this ancient prefecture’s historical claims to fame.

Cherry blossoms among the Yoshino mountains in Nara prefecture

Nara

Nara prefecture is where you’ll find the immemorial tombs of Japan’s early rulers, its first Buddhist temple and the headquarters of the sacred Shugendo mountain religion.

Osaka, Japan skyline at Osaka Castle Park, Osaka Prefecture

Osaka

Japan's second smallest prefecture is the economic and commercial hub of the Kansai region, driven by it's kaleidoscopic capital city Osaka.

Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture

Shiga

Shiga prefecture is so full of scenic views you’ll feel as though you’ve tripped and fallen into a postcard.

Nachi, Japan at the pagoda of Seigantoji and Nachi no Taki waterfall, Wakayama Prefecture

Wakayama

Wakayama prefecture is the spectacular, spiritual heart of Japan.