OSAKA AND THE KANSAI REGION

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ABOUT OSAKA

Osaka is the hub of the Kansai region which also includes Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, Wakayama, and Mie prefectures. All of these areas can be reached within a one-hour drive or by public transport. The Kansai region centered on Osaka is a treasure trove of historical sites and buildings. Osaka and the Kansai region are engaging not only for history lovers but also for people who love entertainment! The entertainment includes one of the world's largest aquariums and the internationally acclaimed Universal Studios Japan. Osaka also has an excellent reputation for food. As the nucleus of economic activities, Osaka has a variety of foods from all over Japan. Visitors are guaranteed outstanding food and exciting activities in Osaka and throughout the Kansai region.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle, which is a famous landmark, a popular sightseeing spot, and the symbol of Osaka, contains thirteen structures which have been designated as Important Cultural Assets by the Japanese government. Of special note are the grand gates and turrets along the outer moat. The steep walls that rise close to 30 meters high are made of huge blocks of stone that were transported to Osaka from quarries over 100 kilometers away. The sheer height of the walls and the wide moats they rise above make for a grand sight that can be matched by no other castle in Japan. Also of interest are the tower's eight roof dolphins and the ornamental roof tiles and reliefs carved in the shape of tigers, all of which are gilded with gold.

The castle tower underwent a major renovation in 1997. The outer walls were replastered, the ornamental fixtures were restored, and gold leaf was re-applied throughout. These repairs have brought back the structure's stunning appearance of old?with pure white walls and striking accents of glittering gold. The re-engineered and refurbished Main Tower is illuminated both inside and out, highlighting the castle's brilliance as the symbol of Osaka.

Dotombori

A bustling commercial street that is representative of the Minami area of Osaka, always busy with playhouses and food shops from the Edo Period to today.

Kuromon Ichiba

A marketplace that fills the stomachs of Naniwa people. 180 wholesale and retail shops.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Be surprised by the huge whale shark. Smile at the drifting jellyfish. Various wonders of the sea are displayed in the tanks.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN

A theme park filled with world-class family entertainment for all ages. Each area is uniquely themed and offers extraordinary experiences that impress and inspire the guests' emotions. Enjoy a wide variety of entertainment offerings from the exciting ride attractions themed after blockbuster Hollywood movies to the shows performed by popular characters.

Tempozan

Tempozan Harbor Village is a comprehensive leisure spot located in the bay area, which features Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the world's largest aquariums.

Shinsaibashi

A commercial avenue stretching north and south for about 580 meters from the south of Nagahori-dori to Soemoncho-dori. Visitors to this street number about 60,000 on weekdays and about 120,000 on weekends and holidays.

Shinsekai

Downtown of southern Osaka, famous for Tsutenkaku, Janjan Yokocho Alley, a giant blowfish lantern sign, etc.

THE KANSAI REGION - KYOTO, KOBE & NARA

ABOUT KYOTO

The former capital of Japan, famous worldwide for its temples and shrines. Kyoto was the center of politics and culture for 1,100 years. Kyoto Prefecture stretches out from the southeast to the northwest in the central and northern parts of the Kansai region. It has four geographical features, the saw-toothed coastal area around Maizuru Bay in the northeast, the Tanba Mountains around its center, the Kyoto Basin in the southeast, and the Yamashiro Basin.

Kyoto became the capital of Japan in the 8th century. It flourished as the center for Japanese politics, economy and culture for some 1,100 years, until the capital functions were transferred to Tokyo in the mid-19th century. There remain many temples and shrines in Kyoto that were built during this long period. Seventeen historic sites including, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo Castle, are inscribed as World Cultural Heritage Sites.

You may meet some 'maiko,' young dancing entertainers, who walk in long hanging-sleeved kimono in the Gion district, see the townscape characterized with popular 19th century style latticework, and visit the Nishijin where they weave traditional 'Nishijin-ori' textiles with vividly colored threads. The festivals in Kyoto are famous not only in Japan, but are also known worldwide. The three major festivals of Kyoto are the Aoi-matsuri Festival in early summer, the Gion-matsuri Festival in mid-summer and the Jidai-matsuri Festival in fall. There is also the Gozan-no-Okuribi, more commonly known as Daimonji-yaki, held on the night of Urabon (August 16th). During this festival numerous torches are ignited on the five mountains surrounding Kyoto, with the flames laid out to form a letter or figure. It is a summer event known both at home and abroad.

ABOUT KOBE

The international bay area is filled with a variety of shopping, gourmet, sightseeing spots and evening entertainments for visitors to enjoy. Kobe Port, also known as the Bay Area, is the second largest trading port in Japan. Nearby is the Kobe Harborland, a beautiful shopping and entertainment district situated along the waterfront of Kobe's port. Kobe Harborland features an array of large-scale commercial sites- from department stores, superstores, and specialty shops to hotels. With its seaside sightseeing spots, pier and a pedestrian bridge, this cityscape perfectly suits to its Kobe surrounding, gaining popularity among local resident as well as fans of Kobe from around the world.

On the seaside of Harborland is a very unique entertainment complex called “Mosaic.” The name comes from the complex's mosaic-like effect created by the big Ferris wheel, carousel, gardens, cinemas, restaurants and boutiques. The outside terrace with the ocean breeze and the musical events makes the Mosaic a favorite spot for all.

Visitors can not but help be swept into a magical world of luminescence as the 80 zelkova trees lined at Kobe Gasu-to-dori Streets are decorated with 80,000 lights during Christmas season. The illumination and the modern building lining the waterfront is a symbolic winter spot at Kobe Harborland.

ABOUT NARA

Nara Prefecture is located in the center of the Japanese archipelago and is an inland prefecture with good access from Osaka. The prefecture covers a long area north to south, and it is constituted by various geographical characterics: an open plain in the northern part, and the Kii mountain in the south. It is possible to have a clear feeling of the Japanese four seasons here.

Cultural assets of ancient city Nara

Designated as World Heritage in 1998.
Ancient City Nara constructed Changan in the Tang as Japanese capital and Heijyokyo Capital in a model in 710. Heijyokyo Capital is the first capital.In Japan, while the capital was located here, Japanese architecture and culture made an outstanding progress, as a result of international exchange with China and Korea. Moreover, it was also a period when foundations of politics and culture were formed.
Many temples and shrines still remain today, and you can still feel the atmosphere of 1300 years ago.