Kansai 関西

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Kansai 関西

For information on the climate of Kansai,
see p311.


For fans of traditional Japanese culture, Kansai is an unmissable destination. Nowhere else
in the country can you find so much of historical interest in such a compact area. And,
since plenty of international carriers now fly into Kansai International Airport, it is perfectly
possible to make Kansai your first port of call in Japan.
Kansai’s major drawcards are Kyoto and Nara. Kyoto was the imperial capital between 794
and 1868, and is still considered by most Japanese to be the cultural heart of Japan. Nara predates Kyoto as an imperial capital and also has an impressive array of temples, burial mounds
and relics. Both cities should feature prominently in even the busiest travel itinerary.
Osaka is a great place to sample Japanese city life in all its mind-boggling intensity, while
Kōbe is one of Japan’s most cosmopolitan and attractive cities. Himeji, west of Kōbe, has the
best of Japan’s many feudal castles. Kyoto is the logical base for an exploration of Kansai, but
you could also base yourself in Osaka or Nara. The former allows you to enjoy Japanese modern
city life and excellent transport connections; the latter is much quieter and is a good place to
relax. You will almost certainly find that Kansai is the perfect place to sample both modern and
traditional Japan without having to spend too much time moving from place to place.
The main attractions of the prefecture Mie-ken are Ise-jingū, Japan’s most sacred Shintō
shrine, and the seascapes around the peninsula, Shima-hantō. Wakayama-ken offers onsen
(hot-spring spas), a rugged coast and the temple complex of Kōya-san, Japan’s most important Buddhist centre. Finally, the northern coast of Kansai has some fabulous scenery, a
number of good beaches and the lovely Tango-hantō (Tango Peninsula).

The Japanese spoken in Kansai is referred to
as Kansai-ben, a rich and hearty dialect that
is immediately distinguishable from standard
Japanese if you know what to listen for. One
thing to listen for is verb endings: in Kansai-ben, verbs often end with ‘~hen’ instead
of the standard ‘~nai’ (in simple negative

Getting There & Away
Travel between Kansai and other parts of Japan
is a breeze. Kansai is served by the Tōkaidō
and San-yō shinkansen lines, several JR main
lines, and a few private rail lines. It is also possible to travel to/from Kansai and other parts...
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