Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kansai - The Real Japan? You Be The Judge.   関西こそが日本?(・・と、思いますか?)

For most people residing outside of Japan, Kyoto and Tokyo are the cities that are most familiar followed by Osaka, Hiroshima, etc.  However, what about "Kansai"?  When I first visited Osaka (the second largest city in Japan) 10 years ago, my plane did not land at Osaka Airport as I thought it would but rather at Kansai International Airport.  Was Kansai another way to say Osaka?

I soon came to realize that Kansai was the name for the region that includes the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto along with Osaka, the port city of Kobe (also where Kobe beef originated), and the largest lake in Japan - Lake Biwa in Shiga.  Geographic details about this region are depicted in the pictures above.

With Tokyo being the present-day capital of Japan, it is understandable why it gets all the attention, however Kansai has a lot going for it as a region and offers a different lifestyle than what one can find in the metropolitan city of Tokyo, which makes Kansai attractive.  

Having previously lived in Tokyo to experience the city first-hand, it is safe to say that I am biased when it comes to talking about Kansai.  After living in Tokyo, I moved to Kansai and have never looked back since.  Tokyo is comparable to any large metropolitan city in the world. Even though most of the people living in Tokyo are Japanese (as they are anywhere else in this country), the city doesn't have much of a "Japanese" feel to it.  Just more of a "big city" feel.  

Kansai on the other hand does maintain its sense of "Japanese".  Being home to two of the former capitals (Nara & Kyoto) and the merchant capital of Osaka, the region is where Japan got started years ago and even with the passage of time, the region has maintained a great balance of the old with the new to please the masses.  

Also based on the statistics above, the region has a population equivalent to that of Australia and an economy ranked in the top 20 in the world annually.  As a place to visit or possibly conduct business, I cannot say enough positive things about the region.  

Unfortunately current mass media places too much attention on Tokyo as a destination.  Even most tours aimed at Westerners are Tokyo-based occasionally offering a side trip to Kyoto.  It makes sense though as those are the only two cities that ever get mentioned in mainstream media, however coming all the way to Kyoto from Tokyo (two hours by bullet train) and then not stopping by Osaka, Nara, etc., which are just 30 minutes by local train from Kyoto, does not make much sense to me.  Realizing that the travel itineraries are very tight as they are, it would make more sense to split the time in Tokyo and Kansai equally so that visitors can experience as much of Kansai as possible within their allotted time rather than 1-2 days only in Kyoto as is the norm.  

To sum everything up, when looking to experience the "real" Japan, schedule a trip to Kansai and see for yourself what this great region has to offer.  In the end, only you can be the judge.

Finally, for a great resource on the hot spots ranked by foreigners residing in the area in English and Japanese, please on click on "Destination KANSAI" for more information.









最後に、 関西在住の外国人によって制作された「Destination KANSAI」というオンライン書類をご紹介させていただきます。関西の観光資源を外国人目線でまとめたこの書類。日本人の方にとっても、興味深いものと思います。よろしかったらダウンロードしてお読みください。

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