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Exploring Kansai: Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

autumn leaves on tree branches from japan
Omer Sonido | Unsplash

Kansai is one of Japan’s nine regions and along with Kanto, house of the fast and technologic Tokyo, it’s one of the most popular places to visit during your stay in Japan. In fact this region is full of history, nature, gastronomic delicacies and shopping centre as well as entertaining spots. I’m sure we have all heard about it’s most famous cities but do you know everything they have to offer? Keep reading and find why Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe are some of the most visited places in this region, Kansai.


It’s located on the middle of Kansai and Osaka is the 2nd biggest cities in Japan and it’s port made it to be one of the most important economic hubs and financial centre for the country, serving as entrance for foreign trades and on the 18th century it was referred as the Manchester of Japan, thanks to the importance the textile industry takes due to the appropriate conditions to ensure cotton growth.

view of the dotonburi canal in osaka
Juliana Barquero | Unsplash

One of the main things Osaka is known for is its food culture, some even calling it Japan’s Kitchen. Some of the main dishes are takoyaki along with okonomiyaki which this place takes pride of being their birthplace. Kuromon Market offers tons of food stands dedicated to sea food and, of course, the Minami area (south) where the Dotonburi canal is located, probably most known for its huge mechanical crabs and neon signs, such as the Glico Man.

After filling yourself with delicious food you can visit it’s extensive list of cultural landmarks and attractions*. Some of the most popular include, of course, Osaka castle, which played an important role on Japan’s unification and is currently open to the public. If you wanna keep learning about Japan’s history and go back in time, the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living recreates the townscape of the Edo Period. You can also visit the Hozenji Yokocho, a moss-covered statue of Fudo, buddhist god of Fury.

Moreover, this will be one of your main reasons to visit Osaka is the Universal Studios Japan! You’ll be able to immerse yourself in a plethora of different worlds, from having fun in the Hello Kitty attractions and shops to the magical world of Harry Potter and of course, it’s recent opening to Super Nintendo World.


With a past of 1000 years of being Japan’s capital, Kyoto is located in the Keihanshin area of Kansai, along Osaka and Kobe. It’s the must visit city in this region thanks to its versatility when it comes to activities, sightseeing and cultural landmarks such as shrines and palaces, positioning itself as Japan’s cultural capital. You can be sure here’s always something to do and an extensive list of places to visit, you might even need more time in the city to explore most of them.

Kinkakuji temple view surrounded by greenery and reflecting it's golden front on the water

When it comes to temples and shrines, Kyoto has plenty of them, some of the most famous include the Kinkakuji, built for a shogun is now a zen buddhist temple and with its breathtaking golden front making all its visitors enjoy gathering around to enjoy the view. The Kiyomizu Dera Temple, with its amazing architecture, offers one of the best views of Kyoto. Another famous spot is the Nansen Ji Temple, bringing visitors all around the world to enjoy their rock garden.

For those who enjoy connecting with nature, Arashiyama is the best place to spend your days. You can find tons of greenery views, mountains and rivers, it also houses the famous

view of arashiyama bamboo forest and people taking photos on the path

bamboo forest where you can walk around and enjoy a fresh breath of air. There’s also the Iwatayama monkey park where after a hike you can find the snow monkeys. And if you’re big on scenery the romantic train is waiting for you in the Saga Torokko Station where by the end of the route you can take the train back or enjoy a two hour boat ride back through the Hozugawa River

If you’re looking to see and feel the beauty of Kyoto make sure to visit the Gion district, with its traditional wooden builds, perfect for relaxing in a tea house near the canal, enjoying the view of the Geiko strolling around, be mindful and respect their culture though, there are some places where photographing them is banned. This is the perfect place for the artist lovers you can find lots of art galleries, antique shops, kimono stores and even ceramics.

day view of kobe's port in japan
Jiranon Kaeomalaithip | Unsplash


Taking its place as Japan’s 7th biggest city and the 3rd largest port city is Kobe, located on the southern side. It was one of the main spots open for trade with the West, and we can see the influence of Europe on its streets, also being where some diplomats settled. It only takes 25 mins by the train from Osaka to arrive in this beautiful port city.

steaming kobe beef in kobe japan
note thanun | Unsplash

Kobe is globally known for its beef, which is a five star delicacy thanks to its flavor, tenderness and fatty, enchanting everyone with its own marbled look and versatility when cooked, from steak to sashimi. Surprisingly enough it wasn't until World War II when it regained popularity to what we know now to be one of the most delicious and expensive dishes of Japan.

Much like Kyoto, Kobe is known to be big on shopping culture but much less crowded as well, resulting in a popular saying “If you can’t go to Paris, go to Kobe”. Whether you get off on Sannomiya or Motomachi, once outside you’ll be greeted with huge range of shops to get anything you wish, from antiques and used-goods to fashionable brands and stationery.

Ha-Chan | Visit Arima Onsen

Once you’ve done all your shopping and have enjoyed the landscapes and breeze of the port you can go to the worldwide famous Arima Onsen, a hot spring town, walk around the streets and relax for a few days or hours. What makes this town so special is the different kinds of onsen where you can choose from Kinsen (gold water) or Ginsen (silver water) each with different healing properties. After relaxing you can also visit the hot spring museum.

You can’t leave Kobe without visiting its many temples and shrines, one of the most popular being Ikuta Shrine, receiving 1.5 million visitors over the celebrations of New Year, where people come and pray to the gods for health and happiness, even the younger generation come around through the year to get love and happiness amulets. It’s very well located, just a 10 minute walk from the Sannomiya JR Station.

What do you think now that you know more about these cities? Their beauty, cultural landmarks and attractions are sure to bring lots of visitors, will we see you there? Hopefully you’ve found this blog useful and interesting.


Remember KOKO JAPAN helps you go to Japan to study Japanese. Feel free to contact us if you want more information and book a free counseling to fulfill your dream!

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