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 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.
History of Kansai
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:
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 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.
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
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.