The Kinki Region, also commonly known as Kansai encompasses the Kinki Plain and consists of seven prefectures. It used to be the political and cultural center of Japan for many centuries and includes the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe.
Iga is situated almost at the midpoint between Osaka and Nagoya. It is a castle town completely surrounded by mountains. The city is laid out in a neat grid of streets. It is famous as the birthplace of the Iga ninja spies. Iga is also noted as the birth place of the haiku poet Matsuo Basho, who created 'haiku,' unique Japanese-style short poetry consisting of 3 lines with 17 syllables. The ninjas would infiltrate into the enemy's ground with their special skills called 'ninjutsu,' with the objectives of scouting, conniving stratagems, raiding, harassing the rear guard and engaging other activities. Two of Iga's main tourist attractions are the Iga Ueno Castle and the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, the area around the city being the historical home of the famous Iga Ninja. Iga Ueno Castle is famous for having the highest stone walls in Japan. At the Iga Ninja Museum, you can enjoy watching powerful ninja shows, and experience for yourself the challenge of throwing ninja stars and even try on real ninja clothing. There is annual Iga Ueno Ninja Festa ninja festival in every spring.
Hikone is in the central-eastern part of Shiga and is a centre for economy and culture on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa-ko. The town has been an important traffic point since early times and developed as a castle town of the Ii family. Hikone Castle has a backdrop of Lake Biwa-ko and Kinki-zan Hill, and is regarded as one of four national heritage castles, along with Inuyama Castle in Aichi, Himeji Castle in Hyogo, and Matsumoto Castle in Nagano. Its three-layered chalk castle tower still maintains its noble and heroic appearance as a symbol of the city. Besides the castle tower designated as a national treasure, there are other towers of important cultural properties, such as Tenbin-yagura, Taikomon-yagura, and Nishinomaru-sanju-yagura; other historical spots include Genkyu-en, the old garden of a feudal lord, which recreates the nostalgic atmosphere of those ancient days. Set in the rich, natural surroundings of Lake Biwa-ko, Hikone is a superlative place for you to enjoy the atmosphere of a castle town, full of historical and cultural interest that revolves around the castle itself.
Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Biwa-ko, Otsu is the main city in Shiga Prefecture, and once flourished as a post station along Tokaido Street between Tokyo and Kyoto. Numerous historical sites and cultural assets, such as the Mii-dera and Ishiyama-dera temples are found in the city. The best known is Enryaku-ji Temple at Mt. Hiei-zan, the birthplace of Japanese Buddhism. Visitors also can enjoy a cruise on Lake Biwa-ko by taking a sightseeing boat from Nagisa-koen Park at Hama-otsu. Off the shore of Otsu Harbor, one of the largest fountains in the world sprays out water in various shapes making a fantastic sight.
The scenic Ama-no-hashidate sand bar is located in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture, on Miyazu Bay, facing the Sea of Japan. Located on the west coast of the bay, it is a 3-kilometer-long and 40- to 100-meter-wide sand spit, stretching into Miyazu Bay from Ejiri on the Tango-hanto Peninsula. It was formed by sand accumulated by the tides and wind. The over 8,000 pine trees growing on this white sand spit. The area is said to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan. If you bend over and try to look at the view through your legs, it is said that Ama-no-hashidate will appear like a bridge to the heavens. Bathing in the Ama-no-hashidate-onsen Hot Spring, which is located in the vicinity, is said to give bathers beautiful skin.
The Sagano and Arashi-yama is a pleasant, touristy districts located in the western part of Kyoto City. The landscape today is still reminiscent of that period. Tenryu-ji Temple, a World Cultural Heritage Site, was erected in the 14th century. It is one of the Kyoto-gozan (Five Major Temples of Kyoto), and the garden located there is designated as a special national scenic spot. There are many things to see and do in the Arashiyama area, such as shops, cafes and restaurants are found in the district's busy centre around area's landmark Togetsukyo Bridge and Keifuku Arashiyama Station. Togetsu-kyo Bridge spans the Hozu-gawa River at the foot of Mt. Arashi-yama. It is 250 meters long and still retains its 17th century appearance. The famous bamboo groves are found in Arashi-yama. The bamboo is still used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes, mats and pieces of art. Another thing to do is taking a boat tour down Hozu River. The river flows through forested valley to urban Kyoto. Alternatively, you can enjoy views of the valley from the Sagano train and can rent a bicycle at the district. Arashiyama is particularly beautiful and busy during the cherry blossom and autumn leaf seasons.
Kyoto was Japan's capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its historic value, the city was dropped from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb and spared from air raids during World War II. Countless temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures survive in the city today. There remain many temples and shrines in Kyoto that were built during this long period. Seventeen historic sites including, Kiyomizu Temple and Nijo Castle, are inscribed as World Cultural Heritage Sites.
The Gekkeikan Okura Show introduces you to the fascinating history of sake brewing with its nostalgic buildings, tasting experience, and valuable collection of traditional brewing tools. From among the 6,120 brewing tools designated by Kyoto City as folk craft cultural assets, some of the most representative items used in the various stages of the brewing process are on display here. While enjoying the exhibits, you can hear recordings of traditional sake brewing songs sung by brewers of bygone days. Here is faithfully reproduced the atmosphere of an old sake brewery.
Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo government. Main court was burnt down in 1788 so only Second court is the original part. The present Main court was built in 1827 modeling after one which stood in the grounds of Kyoto Imperial Palace. The castle has many cultural treasures including Chinese Gate and Second Court buildings dating from Momoyama Era (16th Century), and is designated a national treasure for its splendid architecture and interior decoration.
Gion includes 2 spots on the tour. Gion Ancient Capital Conservation District covers the area from Yoshiima Japanese inn to Gion Corner, linked by a narrow pathway lined with traditional building including tea houses on the both sides. Gion Corner was established in 1962 and has been popular among international tourists because you can learn and enjoy an overview of Japanese traditional arts including puppet plays and comic plays. On the first floor, there is a Maiko Gallery exhibiting interesting items associated with maiko.
Golden Pavilion is located ant he foot of Kinugasa hill. It is a famous structure of Muromachi period (14 - 16 Century). It was originally designed as the villa of a court noble. The second owner, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, the 3rd shogun, greatly improved it and spend the latter part of his life there in retirement from the cares of stare. He built the Golden Pavilion and laid our the garden in 1394. his will was followed by his son as successor to change the villa into a Buddhist temple under the name of Rokuonji. It was burned down i 1950 and reconstructed in 1955.
Kiyomizu Temple is noted for its main Hall on the cliff top with a broad wooden veranda and a panoramic view of Kyoto city. The veranda is supported on a scaffold of wood towering on a wooded hillside, so the veranda seems to hang in midair. The valley is so deep that there has been the expression "jumping from the veranda of Kiyomizu temple," which means doing something daring. The present temple building was built in 1633, and its main hall has been designated as a national treasure.
Kodaiji is one of the many outstanding temples in Kyoto's Higashiyama district. It was constructed in 1605 in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi by the great political leader's wife. Besides fine temple halls, Kodaiji features a small bamboo grove and a landscape garden with tea houses, designed by leading, contemporary masters. Beautiful, Zen style illumination shows are held in Kodaiji's garden during certain times of the year.
Tea Ceremony is a custom in which guests are invited to a special room and served powdered green tea. It is a highly developed art form with a strict code of etiquette, and it combines the ideal of Zen Buddhism with the uniquely Japanese concept of "wabi." The tea room is surrounded by greenery, where you can enjoy powdered green tea and a Japanese sweet.
Gion Festival, the festival of Yasaka Shrine, is the most famous festival in Japan. It takes place over the entire month of July. There are many different events, but two are particularly renowned: the Yamaboko Junko, a procession of floats on 17 July ; and Yoiyama, the festive evenings preceding the procession.
Itami Airport (ITM), formally known as Osaka International Airport, was opened in 1939 about 10 kilometers northwest of central Osaka. With the completion of Kansai Airport (KIX) in 1994, Kansai Airport took over all of Itami's international and part of its domestic air traffic. Today, Itami Airport continues to handle a large number of domestic flights to more than 30 destinations across Japan.
Kansai International Airport (KIX) is Japan's second most important international airport. Located on a man-made island about 50 km south of Osaka, Kansai Airport was opened in 1994, taking over all international and some of the domestic air traffic formerly handled by Osaka's Itami Airport.
Osaka is the central city of West Japan with a population of 2.6 million and 16.5 million in the area. In the Edo Period (1603-1867), it was the distribution center for products from around the country and from Meiji (1868-1913) onward, it developed as the center of the Japanese economy with the wholesale trade. Shinsaibashi is one of the best downtown areas in the city, possessing a wide array of shops. Osaka's north gate, Umeda, has a gigantic stretch of underground mall that houses many restaurants, fashion and sundry goods stores. In contrast to Kita with Umeda as its core, Minami is an area with core cities Namba, a popular business and shopping district, and Dotonbori with many restaurants on both sides of Dotonbori-gawa River. Minami is known as a town of public entertainment and has many theaters and cinemas. Osaka's unique open culture can be experienced here. Osaka's Castle, constructed in 1583, is one of Osaka's representative sightseeing spots. The Osaka Castle has a five-layer donjon as its core, on a lawn park that stretches for about 60,000 square meters. During the cherry blossom season in the spring, this park is especially crowded with hanami (cherry blossom viewing).
Located in Rokko, southern Hyogo and on the northern coast of the Osaka Bay, Arima is one of the oldest onsen resorts in Japan. Arima onsen is natural ones that have been used since ancient times when people had no skills of digging in the ground. Presently the digging skills are highly developed, however they are also providing us with hot water full of natural blessings or active ingredients from near the surface in the earth. The spa contains a variety of hot springs including salt-rich spring with a salt content as high as twice that of seawater, carbonated spring with the flavor of soda-pop and radium spring. Arima onsen is very easy to access from the center of Kobe by public transportation so visitors can take a day trip to explore the neighbor.
Himeji is most famous for the Himeji Castle. It was constructed in the mid-14th century, and after a three-layer castle tower was built by the order of the man of power Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century, Ikeda Terumasa, a feudal lord of the castle rebuilt it further in the 17th century. Its figure was likened as a white heron spreading its wings, and thus called the Hakuro-jo, or White Heron Castle. It was designated as a national treasure in 1931 and as the World Cultural Heritage in 1993. The Tenshukaku (castle tower) is the main structure and has 5 stories in appearance but 6 stories inside and a first basement. All structures are covered with white plaster unique to Japan. The roofs are covered with kawara tiles and white plaster is applied to the joints. The sturdy, magnificent structure and elegant appearance, as well as complex and tactical defense devices make the Himeji Castle the most prominent castle in Japan. The Castle hosts the Himeji Castle Cherry Blossom Viewing Fair, cherry blossom viewing drum music performance and Princess Sen-hime Peony Festival in spring, Himeji Port Festival in summer, Moon Viewing Fair and Himeji All Japan Ceramics Market in autumn. Visitors never cease throughout the year. In the surrounding areas, there are a Japanese garden Koko-en, an affinity with the Castle, Otokoyama Sen-hime Tenmangu Shrine and Hyogo Historical Museum.
Kinosaki Onsen, the classic Japanese hot spring resort, is located in northern Hyogo Prefecture on the coast of the Sea of Japan. This pleasant town, built along a willow lined river, is one of the top Onsen destinations of the Kansai Region. Traditional wooden houses sit along the willow lined river which carries colorful carp through the town centre. Hot springs were discovered in Kinosaki around the 8th century and since then the town has developed into a charmingly old-fashioned onsen town. The Kinosaki Onsen Resort was once a spa called Tajima-no-yu. Since more hot springs were found in 1950's, the area has grown to be a new sightseeing and health spot in and around the Hanshin (Osaka-Kobe) district.
Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture. Located between the sea and the Rokko mountain range, Kobe is considered one of Japan's most attractive cities. Kobe has been an important port city for many centuries. Kobe Port, the second largest trading port in Japan, was one of the first Japanese ports to be opened to foreign trade in the late Edo Period, and the city remains one of Japan's more cosmopolitan cities. Sannomiya is a biggest downtown district area in the city and Sannomiya station is also a hub of many transportation systems. Nearby Kobe Harborland has nice store to enjoy shopping and gourmet food. Nightspots and recreational facilities, such as amusement parks, attract people day and night. While Kobe can seen as a modern city, it remains numbers of historic sites. Kitano-cho is a historical district which contains a number of foreign residences from the late Meiji and early Taisho eras of Japanese history. While some of the houses still serve as residences, many are open to tourists, making Kitano-cho one of the principal tourist attractions in Kobe.
Nara with its small town feel, its parks, temples, and 1200 sacred, well fed deer is perhaps one of the friendliest and most relaxed city in Japan. It hasn't always been this way of course. Nara has enjoyed a turbulent history. Horyu-ji Temple is known as the oldest existing Buddhist temple in Japan. Nara's centerpiece, the magnificent Great Buddha, housed in the largest wooden structure in the world, has seen its fare share of troubled times. Although founded in 743, the present structure dates from 1706, rebuilt after the last of numerous great fires. Nara is the home of Buddhism in Japan and the Nara National Museum, devoted to Buddhist art has exhibits of archaeological finds as well as displays of sculptures, paintings and calligraphy and is a must see for those with an interest in Buddhist history. The temple is also inscribed as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Tourists can visit Nara throughout the year to see scenic spots such as Mt. Yoshino, known as one of the best cherry blossom viewing point in Japan, and Nara Park, with its friendly deer which have been treasured as messengers from the gods.
Todaiji Temple was completed in 752 with one of the largest bronze statues in the world. it has an imposing gate supported by eighteen 25m high pillares Blown down by a typhoon in 962, the gate was re-built in 1199. its exterior niches has two 8m wooden figures of Deva Kings, guardians of Buddhism. Great Buddha is national Treasure. The statue measures 16.2m in height and has a face 4.8m long and 3m wide; eyes 1.2m wide; a nose 48cm high. The material used are estimated 437 tons of bronze, 75kg of mercury, 130kg of pure gold and other materials.
Nara Park is popularly called the "Deer Park" by visitors because of its many deer. It is a natural woodland of fine turf and has various kinds of trees including Japanese cedar, Wisteria, Japanese andromeda, Japanese yew trees. There are about 1,100 tame deer roaming about the park. they are regarded as divine messengers of the Kasuga Shrine and are one of the main attractions.
Mt. Koya-san is located in the northeastern part of Wakayama and is in Koya-Ryujin Quasi-National Park. On the peak of Mt. Koya, surrounded by mountains, is Kongobu Temple, founded by Kobo Taishi, the Head Temple of Esoteric Buddhism, which has a 1200-year-long history. More that 120 temples are scattered throughout the area, thus forming a great religious city. A number of structures exist in the mountain. For instance, the 25-meter-high Dai-mon Gate, Important Cultural Property, that has served as the main entrance to the temple ever since its founding day, or the temple structure complex, National Treasure, and the Danjo-garan complex. Koyazan-Reiho-kan Treasure House exhibits the tremendous cultural properties of Mt. Koya-san. Lodging facilities are provided by the temple for the followers, available also for visitors. The meal served is Shojin-ryori, special vegetarian food using only vegetables, cereals and seaweed and avoiding meat and fish. Some of the temples offer chances to experience zazen, a kind of Zen Buddhist training.
Nanki, a generic name for the entire southwestern part of Wakayama and 100 km south of Osaka, is a large spot of leisure containing various amusement facilities, such as one of Japan's best white sand beaches and places where you can enjoy sports. You can enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling if you wish. There are tennis courts, golf courses nearby, fishing is available by boat. "Shirahamah" literally means "white sand beach". Shirahama is also a well developed Onsen resort facing the Pacific Ocean in the Kii-hanto Peninsula. Its popularity as an entertainment destination and its proximity to Osaka caused Shirahama to become one of Japan's most famous Onsen resorts. In and around Shirahama are many places of natural beauty visited by a large number of tourists throughout the year.
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