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Bla, bla
Kyoto
Kyoto is a must on anybody's itinerary while visiting Japan. It's the country's cultural capital, with enough temples and gardens to keep you occupied for days or weeks.



Modern
Kyoto
The newest contribution to Kyoto's architecture is its railway station, which has gotten mixed reviews. However, whether you like it or dislike it, the impressive atrium is enough to take one's breath away.
Kansai: Kyoto Station

Kitano
Kobe
For visitors with a longing for an American/European atmosphere, temporary relief can be offered by visiting the neighborhood of Kitano in Kobe.

Media
Daily Yomiuri Online
National newspaper
The Asahi Shimbun
National newspaper
The Japan Times
English language newspaper

Asia | N. E. Asia | Japan | Kansai Region--> Tokyo | Hiroshima | North Japan -->

Kansai Region: Cultural Heart

Many of Japan's main attractions can be found in the Kansai Region, some three hours by shinkansen train from Tokyo. The two most popular destinations in the region are the historical cities Kyoto and Nara, both having previously served as the capital of Japan, and which together contain several thousand temples, shrines and gardens. On the other extreme is Osaka, the vibrant and modern hub of the region. Visitors should at a minimum plan for a week in the region.

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Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Kyoto, which also makes it one of the city's most visited sites. Thousands of Japanese go there every day to drink the sacred water from its waterfall, or check out their future success in love by trying to walk 18 meters between two stones with their eyes closed. The temple was originally built in 798, though the current buildings stem from 1633. Avoid during Japanese holidays, when it gets even more crowded than usual.

Himeji: Egrets Castle

Himeji is a small town 15 minutes by shinkansen from Kobe and 30 minutes from Osaka. It's not likely many tourists would bother to stop if it weren't for its breathtaking castle. Also known as the White Egret Castle, Himeji-jō is probably the nicest in all of Japan. It sits on top of a small hill, just a 10 minute walk from the railway station. If the shinkansen burns a hole in your wallet, there's also a commuter train to Himeji from both Kobe and Osaka (half the price, twice the time).
Kansai: Himeji Castle

Osaka: Urban Expanse

Osaka is Japan's second largest city, and the financial locomotive of Kansai. It doesn't sport a whole lot of attractions, but it has a certain charm which is best experienced by simply strolling through the city. Like Tokyo, it is a vast urban expanse of elevated highways, concrete box buildings, neon lighted convenience stores and kitchy pachinko parlours. To really appreciate the size of the city, check out the nighttime view from the Umeda Sky Building.

Kyoto: Yasaka-jinja

Yasaka-jinja (popularly known as Gion-san) in Gion is thought to have been built in 876, and it is one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto. The shrine is home to Gion Matsuri, perhaps the most popular festival in Japan, with one of its elements being the colorful parade called Yama-boko Junkō. Yasaka-jinja is also the most popular spot in Kyoto to observe the annual spring cherry blossoms.

Nara: First Capital

Following Kyoto,Nara is the second most popular tourist attraction in Kansai. Its prominence stems from the fact that it became the first permanent capital of Japan, in the year 710. However, it only retained this status for 75 years, when the capital was moved to Kyoto, in order to marginalize the powerful clergy in Nara. Many of the great temples build while it was capital of Japan have survived, giving tourists plenty to see for at least a couple of days.



By the Bay
Kobe
Kobe is one of Japan's most international cities. Stroll lazily through the city, or get a nice view of Osaka Bay from the top of Mt. Rokko. If you have the money, make sure you try Kobe beef.

Facts
日本国 Nihon-koku

Capital
Tokyo
Largest city
Tokyo
Population
127,400,000 (2006)
Area
377,835 km²
Official language(s)
Japanese
Government
Constitutional monarchy

Travel
KansaiConnect
Community for English speakers
Kobe City
Official site
Nara Prefecture
Official site
Osaka City
Official site
Visit Kansai.com
Travel guide
Welcome to Kyoto
Official site

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