Japan's Regions: Kansai 関西

Kansai, also known as the Kinki region is located in the south central region of the main island of Honshu, about 400 km (250 miles) west of the Kanto region.

The Kansai region includes both the Japan Sea and Pacific Ocean coastal areas and the seven prefectures of Hyogo, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Osaka, Shiga and Wakayama.

The Kansai area has very different climates and landscapes. The weather on the Japan Sea coast is cooler than the hot southern Pacific coast around Osaka and Kyoto in summer with heavy snow along the north coast in winter. The Kii Peninsula (Wakayama, Nara, Osaka and Mie Prefectures) south east of Osaka has higher mountains, onsen and lower temperatures in summer than the urban areas. Japan's largest lake, Lake Biwa occupies much of central Kansai in the prefectures of Shiga and Kyoto. The area stretches west to include the cities of Kobe, Himeji and Okayama.

Osaka by neon night.
Osaka Neon, Osaka is the Kansai area's largest city
Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto.
The enigmatic stone garden at Ryoanji Temple in western Kyoto has become one Kansai's most popular tourist attractions

History of Kansai

Gurico Man, Osaka.

The area's history is dominated by the growth of the early Japanese state first in Nara and later in Kyoto.

Osaka has remained an important trading city for centuries and the merchant as opposed to samurai cultuure that grew up around Osaka is said to have created the unique Kansai personality: irreverent, humorous, boisterous, outgoing.

Kansai's main towns and places of interest are:

Kyoto, the fount of much traditional culture, art and handicrafts and location of hundreds of historic temples and shrines.

Osaka, is Kansai's major industrial city and transport hub for the region with many international flights arriving at the offshore Kansai International Airport.

Nara, Japan's ancient, historic capital.

Kobe, a cosmopolitan port that was one of the first places opened to western trade in the 19th century.

Himeji, location of Japan's most spectacular castle.

Okayama, home of Korakuen - one of the country's finest gardens.

Kurashiki, many preserved Edo period buildings.

Ise & Toba, Ise Jingu is Japan's most important shrine and nearby Toba the center of the nation's pearl industry.

Mount Koya, temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site mountain retreat.

Mount Omine, holy mountains in Nara prefecture.

Iga-Ueno - home of the Iga ninja and poet Basho's birthplace.

Matsusaka - Edo-era merchant town famous for its indigo kimonos.

Arima, hot spring resort near Kobe in Hyogo prefecture.

Kumano Kodo Forest Shrine, Kansai
A moss-covered forest shrine in Kumano Kodo, in the Kansai area
Kobe Port Tower illuminated at night.
Kobe Port Tower illuminated at night

Kansai Access


There are airports at Kansai International south of Osaka, which has many international connections to destinations around the world including Beijing and Seoul in East Asia and direct flights to many cities throughout Japan. Osaka's Itami Airport has flights to mainly domestic destinations. There are other regional airports in Kobe, Nanki-Shirahama and Okayama, which also has international connections to Seoul, Guam and Shanghai.


There are a number of ferry services operating to and from various ports in Kansai.
Osaka to Beppu in Kyushu direct or via Kobe and Matsuyama in Shikoku
Osaka to Miyazaki (Kyushu)
Osaka to Kitakyushu (Kyushu)
Osaka to Takamatsu (Shikoku)
Osaka to Shanghai (China) weekly
Osaka to Naha from where there is onward transport to Miyako and Ishigaki (Okinawa).

Kobe to Oita (via Imabari & Matsuyama) and Kitakyushu (Kyushu)
Kobe to Shibushi in Miyazaki prefecture (Kyushu)
Kobe to Tianjin (China)

Kansai International Airport to Kobe Airport

Wakayama to Tokushima (Shikoku)
Okayama to Shodoshima
Himeji to Shodoshima
Uno to Naoshima and Takamatsu.


Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji and Okayama are all connected to Tokyo via the Tokaido shinkansen. Trains on the JR, Hankyu, Kintetsu and Keihan networks connect Nara, Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka.
There is a hourly Kintetsu express train from Osaka Namba to Nagoya (2 hours).


Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe all have regular highway bus services to Tokyo and other cities in Japan, and many small towns will have at least one bus connection with Tokyo per day.

Kansai Map

Kansai map.

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