What to Do in Kansai, Japan
Food & Wine
Arts & Culture
The Kansai region of Japan is like my second home. My mother's from Osaka and my childhood summers were spent visiting my grandparents and friends in this region. Each time I return, the sights and smells bring me back. In general, the energy of Kansai is a bit more relaxed than the Kanto region. There's an ease and sense of humor with locals. Whether you're interested in mountains and hot springs or the city and street food, Kansai has an array of options.
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Where to stay in Kansai, Japan
The Celestine Hotel Gion
The Celestine Hotel Gion is a sophisticated boutique hotel in Kyoto's historic Gion district, seamlessly blending traditional charm with modern luxury for an unforgettable stay.
The Oriental Hotel is an iconic and opulent destination, renowned for its timeless elegance, impeccable service, and breathtaking views, providing an unforgettable luxury experience.
Nishimuraya Honkan is a serene and historic ryokan nestled in the scenic mountains of Japan, offering traditional hospitality, exquisite hot springs, and a tranquil escape from the modern world.
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Things to do in Kansai, Japan
Views from the top of Mount Rokko: Enjoy expansive and peaceful views of Kobe and Osaka. It can be a nice break from city exploration. Easiest to get to by bus then cable car.
Arima or Kinosaki Onsen: Two hot springs towns in Hyogo prefecture. Take a day trip to soak and relax or add it to your itinerary for a couple of nights to explore and eat in these cute towns. You'll really feel immersed in the Japanese hot springs life.
Shirahama Beach: White sand beach in Wakayama facing the Pacific Ocean. You can enjoy hot springs here also from outdoor baths that look out to the ocean.
Tea ceremony in Kyoto: Learn the beauty and importance of the Japanese tea ceremony. I think you'll see matcha in a new light.
Todai-ji Temple in Nara: This temple houses one of the largest bronze Buddha statues. It is housed in the Great Buddha Hall. This hall is the largest wooden structure in the world. The neighboring Nara park is where you'll find the famous deer.
Note: Be careful when feeding these deer the special crackers they sell for them, they can get pretty eager.
Takarazuka show : Entertaining audiences since 1914, Takarazuka Revue is an all-female musical troupe that performs in the Takarazuka Grand Theatre in Takarazuka, Hyogo. The talent of these performers is amazing!
Visit Osaka Castle: This castle is of cultural and historical importance. Strategically built in the center of Osaka City in the late 16th century, it has been rebuilt a number of times. There's a large park surrounding the castle and it's perfect for a nice stroll.
Karaoke bar or private karaoke boxes in Osaka's Minami: Known for its nightlife, Minami has numerous karaoke places with plenty of English songs. If you like the group atmosphere, you can go to a karaoke bar for a different type of karaoke experience.
Places to eat & drink in Kansai, Japan
Takoyaki Wanaka Sennichimae - A must-eat in Osaka is takoyaki (octopus in a wheat-based batter shaped into balls). My suggested order: The standard with sauce, Kewpie and toppings or ponzu with green onions.
Nishimura Coffee Kitanozaka - One location of Japan's first coffee houses located in a Kobe neighborhood where foreign merchants and diplomats once lived. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of cake while you feel like you've stepped back in time.
Tsujiri Tea House Gion - Kyoto tea shop specializing in green tea. After a day of walking, this is just the spot to enjoy Japanese sweets and grab yourself some matcha to take home. Note: Anticipate a wait to get in and be seated.
Uoshin Sushi - The nigiri portion is generous, good quality and reasonably priced. Loved the Kobe locations. Recommended for lunch.
Old Kobe Bar - You'll find just the right Japanese whisky or preferred spirit in this cozy and sophisticated bar. A great spot for a nightcap!
Ristorante e Pizzeria Santa Lucia - Japan might not equate pizza to you, but you'll likely have some of the best pizza of your life in Japan! This charming multi-storied restaurant is headed by an Italian chef. I think the Margherita pizza with a glass of wine would be an excellent lunch.
Omen - The udon restaurant of Kyoto which began in the 1970s. Homemade noodles and beautiful ingredients create dishes you'll come back for and an ambiance that's refined. I like the Shijo location for its proximity to the river and its near Gion and Kawaramachi.
Patisserie Tooth Tooth - Kobe mainstay with restaurants and cafes. Go here around tea time for their exquisitely made desserts.
Need to Know
Looking for more Japan travel inspo? Check out Travel Advisor Cindy La's guide, Exploring Japan: Things to Do in Osaka, Tokyo & Kyoto.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Japan.