What Makes Kansai Great – In Numbers


Rich in cultural heritage, beautiful natural views, a wide variety of sightseeing spots – no matter how many times you visit Kansai, its charms never fade.






The Kansai area of Japan boasts a rich cultural heritage and contains a number of prominent UNESCO World Heritage Sites that should be on everyone’s must-see list. From the stunning Himeji-jo Castle to the serene temples of Kyoto and Nara, there are countless historical treasures to explore.


1.Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto 


A total of 17 temples, shrines and gardens are included in Kyoto’s World Heritage listing. From the exquisite golden pavilion at Kinkakuji Temple to the tranquility of the Zen garden at Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto is a treasure trove of ancient history.


2.Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

古都奈良の文化財 NARA>

Nara was the ancient capital of Japan from 710 to 784 and is home to some of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kansai, including Kofukuji Temple, Hōryū-ji Temple, and Todaiji Temple, home to the magnificent 15m high seated bronze Buddha.


©Nara city tourist association

3.Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道 <WAKAYAMA / NARA / MIE>

The Kii Mountains have been a pilgrimage destination since the Heian-era and include the three sacred mountains of Yoshino-Omine in Nara Prefecture, and Koyasan and Kumano in Wakayama Prefecture.


4.Himeji Castle

姫路城 <HYOGO>

With a major restoration project completed in 2015, Himeji Castle has been restored to its former, brilliant white glory. Also known as the “White Egret Castle” due to its passing resemblance to a bird taking flight, Himeji Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan.


5.Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area

法隆寺の仏教徒の記念碑 地域 <NARA>

Hōryū-ji, founded in 607 by Prince Shotoku, is acknowledged as the oldest existing wooden structure in the world. The complex of buildings is registered as a World Heritage Site, including the 32m-high five-storey pagoda, its central gate and the main hall supported by 28 massive wooden pillars.


6.Mozu-Furuichi Kofun


Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group Ancient Tumulus Clusters, are ancient burial mounds constructed between the late 4th century and the early 6th century, and include the tombs of Emperor Nintoku and Emperor Ojin, as well as other ancient tombs of varying sizes.

Nearby is the Takenouchi Highway, the oldest in Japan, along which there are historical establishments, such as temples associated with Prince Shotoku. It was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2019.




Picture-perfect lakes, wind-swept dunes, seaside panoramas—away from the hustle and bustle of the cities are some areas of outstanding natural beauty that deserve to be included in any Kansai itinerary.


1.Hikone Castle

彦根城 <SHIGA>

A picturesque castle commanding views over Lake Biwa in Shiga. Designated a National Treasure, Hikone Castle was constructed in the 1600s by the Ii clan.


2.Mikata Five Lakes

Mikatagoko (Mikata Five Lakes)

三方五湖 <FUKUI>

A beautiful wetland area in Fukui prefecture consisting of five interconnected lakes, each with its own unique water qualities. The area is surrounded by some 80,000 plum trees that blossom magnificently in the early spring.

福井県の美しい湿地は水質の異なる五つの湖がつながってできており、春先になると、見事に咲き誇る約8 万本もの梅に囲まれる。

3.Meotoiwa (Wedded Rocks)

夫婦岩 <MIE>

Located 700 metres offshore, these two tiny, tranquil islets are considered to be the entrance to Okitama Shrine and have been a holy spot to watch the sun rise from the horizon since antiquity. The large shimenawa rope that ties the two islets – Otokoiwa (Man crag) and Onnaiwa (Woman crag) – together have been dubbed Kekkai No Nawa or “The Rope of Mystical Boundaries,” signifying it as a holy place wherein the gods of the Tokonoyokami arrive upon the isle of Honshu from the Pacific Ocean. The rope divides the world of man on the shore from that of the divine out at sea.



4.Tottori Sand Dunes

鳥取砂丘 <TOTTORI>

These ancient dunes spread along the coast of the Sea of Japan are breathtaking for their sheer size alone. They are Japan’s only large-scale dune system accessible by tourists, and part of the San’in Kaigan UNESCO Global Geopark.


5.San’in Kaigan UNESCO Global Geopark

山陰海岸ジオパーク <TOTTORI / HYOGO / KYOTO>

Spanning the rugged Sea of Japan coast between Tottori and Northern Kyoto, this UNESCO Global Geopark is of significant geological importance since it holds the key to understanding the formation of the Sea of Japan, some 20 million years ago.


6.The Night views over Osaka and Kobe

大阪と神戸の夜景  <HYOGO>

Hike up, bike up, or take the cable car – the views from the top of Mt. Rokko across Osaka Bay are spectacular at any time of the day and are magical after dark They are locally known as the “$10 Million View.”



7.The Whirlpools of Naruto


The tidal whirlpools in the Naruto Strait between Naruto and Awaji Island are some of the most famous in the world. During the spring tides, some of the whirlpools can reach 20m across.




Explore the following 12 Kansai areas, some well-known tourist hubs, others off the beaten path, yet each with its unique cultural heritage. Discover the treasures of ancient Kyoto and Nara, the spiritual heartland of Kumano, or the geothermal hot springs to be found along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Kansai offers something for everyone.


1.Historic Monuments of the Ancient  Kyoto Area

古都京都の文化財  <KYOTO>

A major feature of the city, Kyoto’s Cultural Properties consist of 17 sites selected from a long list of choices that speak of the many layers of the ancient capital’s history. Centering on architectural structures and gardens, and based on criteria befitting World Heritage status, these properties were chosen on account of their excellent state of preservation, with factors such as possession of high-ranking National Treasures (for structures) or Places of Scenic Beauty (for gardens) and overall designation as a Historic Site being of considerable importance.


2.Hikone Castle & Castle Town Area

彦根城と城下町  <SHIGA>

Hikone Castle is a delightful castle and a National Treasure. It features a daimyo lord’s residence at its base and offers picturesque views all year round. Enjoy its cherry blossoms in spring, its verdant greens of summer, its crimson leaves in autumn or its snow-covered beauty during winter. The area surrounding the castle evokes a semblance of the prosperous town of ancient times, with the castle at its centre. It also provides visitors with a fun shopping experience. Look out for Hikone’s very popular mascot character, “Hikonyan” – a samurai cat. He can often be seen in Tenshu-mae Square or at the Hikone Castle Museum.


3.Obama and Wakasa Area

小浜・若狭  <FUKUI>

Since ancient times Wakasa has been known as the “land of food” because it supported the food cultures of ancient Nara and Kyoto with an abundance of fresh produce. It is also the point where sea routes from the Asian continent connect with land routes leading to the old capital. Over a long and varied history, the ports, castle towns and inns along this highway prospered, and the festivals, entertainment and Buddhist culture of those passing through led to the unique development of this area. The cluster of highways that start in Obama City are commonly referred to as “Saba Kaido” (Mackerel Road) and feature townscapes and a bustling merchant culture which recall its ancient heritage.


4.Amanohashidate Area

天橋立 <KYOTO>

Along with Matsushima (Miyagi Prefecture) and Miyajima (Hiroshima Prefecture), Amanohashidate is known as one of the three most beautiful sights in Japan, the focus being the distant vista towards the natural 3.6km sandbar, with its white sandy beaches and stands of pine trees. The annual events of “Aoi Matsuri”– the oldest festival in the Tango region – “Defune Matsuri” and the Miyazu Toro Nagashi Fireworks, draw large crowds, but the area is generally bustling all year round.


5.Toyooka Area

豊岡 地域 <HYOGO>

Toyooka is located in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture and is its main city and the most extensive in terms of surface area in the prefecture. It is the last remaining habitat in Japan of the wild Oriental White Stork (Konotori) and is at the forefront of projects to protect, breed and reintroduce these endangered birds. As well as storks, it is home to many sightseeing and leisure spots, including the Takenohama Swimming Beach, the Kannabe Plateau Camping Grounds, skiing areas, and the famous “Kinosaki Onsen” (hot springs). It’s also famous as an area that produces bags.


6.Tottori Sand Dunes & San’in Kaigan UNESCO Global Geopark

鳥取砂丘・山陰海岸ジオパーク <TOTTORI>

The San’in Kaigan UNESCO Global Geopark offers an insight into the history and culture of the people that have long lived alongside the Sea of Japan. Its unique coastline and geological features include the impressively large Tottori Sand Dunes and the scenic beauty of Uradome Kaigan with its caves, white sand and mysteriously shaped rock formations. The area is famous for its bountiful seafood, geothermal hot spring resorts and lush natural settings.



7.Rokko, Arima & Kitano Areas

六甲山・有馬・北野 地域 <HYOGO>

Kobe is a port town sandwiched between Mt.Rokko and the ocean. The city soon gives way to mountain slopes where the historical Kitano district nestles – home to Kobe’s first foreign merchants and containing some classic examples of western period architecture. The mountain itself affords spectacular views across the bay, and just over the other side is “Arima Onsen” – one of thethree oldest hot springs in Japan.


8.Naruto and Tokushima Area

鳴門・徳島 地域 <TOKUSHIMA>

The Whirlpools of Naruto that form naturally in the Naruto Strait are said to be some of the fastest in Japan and also comprise one of the three largest tidal currents in the world. Observing the whirlpools from the Onaruto Bridge or from a special sightseeing boat is popular among tourists. Tokushima’s greatest attraction, however, is the Awa Odori (Awa Dance) Festival, held every August for the past 400 years. Awa Dance is famous worldwide and can be placed alongside the Rio Carnival as one of the largest dance events in the world. The streets of Tokushima City, the focal point of the festival, turn into a giant dance floor.


9.Osaka Castle Area

大阪城 地域 <OSAKA>

The Osaka Castle area is located in the centre of the city and offers visitors a fascinating insight into the history of Osaka.


© Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau

10.Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group Ancient Tumulus Clusters and Takenouchi Highway Area

百舌鳥古墳群・竹内街道  <OSAKA>

Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun Ancient Tumulus Clusters are ancient burial mounds constructed between the late 4th century and the early 6th century and include the tombs of Emperor Nintoku and Emperor Ojin, as well as other ancient tombs of varying sizes. They are hoping to be awarded World Heritage Site status. Nearby is the Takenouchi Highway, the oldest in Japan, along which there are historicalestablishments, such as temples associated with Prince Shotoku.


11.Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

古都奈良の文化財 地域 <NARA>

The area surrounding Nara Park is a World Heritage Site and registered as the Cultural Property of the ancient Japanese capital of Nara. This area wonderfully preserves the delicate harmony of the traditional wooden temple architectural style of the Nara period, found in places such as Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest, lying within the mountains and other forests of the region. Traditional annual events and ceremonies continue up to the present because of its close spiritual association with Japanese Shinto and Buddhism.


12.Kumano Area


Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, Kumano overflows with natural power. It is also part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes of the Kii Mountain Range, a sacred area possessing a long history of worship and spiritual devotion with the “Kumano Pilgrimage”– connecting the three main Kumano shrines – offering a popular route for pilgrims to participate in a millennium of history. Highlights include Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine – the principal shrine of all the 3,000 Kumano shrines in Japan – and Nachi Falls, the tallest uninterrupted waterfall cascade in Japan.






The Kansai region is served by three world-class airports and two large seaports. Kansai International Airport provides over 1,200 international flights a week. It is connected to the rest of Japan through superhighways that traverse the country and by the world-famous bullet trains (Shinkansen). In addition, the Kansai region has an extensive network of private railways, metros and buses, enabling travel across several areas having vastly different characteristics in a relatively short period of time.




Kansai International Airport (KIX)

Opened in 1994, the world’s first offshore airport to be built completely on an artificial island was constructed off the Senshu coast in Osaka Bay. This world-class airport has multiple 4,000-metre runways and is capable of operating 24 hours a day, connecting 82 cities in 23 countries, with approximately 28 million travellers arriving and departing annually (as at winter 2017). The 4-floor “Terminal 1” building connects directly to the 2nd floor railway station and the 1st floor bus terminal, ensuring seamless access to ground-level travel after arrival by air. “The Terminal 2” Building, which opened in 2012, is dedicated to LCC (low-cost airlines) and features the first smart airport security in Japan as well as an extensive range of duty-free shops. The airport functions not only as the gateway to the Kansai region, but also as the western gateway to all of Japan.



Kobe Airport

Opened in 2006, this environmentally friendly seaside airport is located in Kobe, one of Kansai’s major cities. Departures fly to many areas of Japan as well as a network of international locations and the airport serves around 4 million air travellers annually.




Osaka International Airport (Itami)

This highly convenient urban airport makes up part of Japan’s extensive domestic travel network and was opened in 1939. Designed to co-exist in harmony with the surrounding area, the airport receives 15 million travelers each year.



©Kansai Airports All rights reserved.


Port of Kobe

An international trading port which opened in 1868, and one of Japan’s most renowned ports. Kobe’s port is an important port-of-call on global shipping routes and international shipping networks and is connected with ports all over the world as well as with a well-established domestic shipping network of ports in western Japan (mainly in the Setouchi area). Very popular with local residents, the port of Kobe attracts cruise ships and plays a role in the proactive development of the local waterfront area), which is home to many large-scale complex facilities including, among others, shopping, dining, cinemas, and amusement venues.




Port of Osaka

This harbour port with many international and domestic routes boasts one of the largest ferry terminals in Japan. In addition to serving numerous overseas cruise liners, it is also a base for cruises to Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa, as well as China and South Korea.



© Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau



The Kansai region has a very wide railway network: the shinkansen or bullet train (JR line), five major private railway lines (Kintetsu, Nankai, Keihan, Hankyu and Hanshin lines) and the subway. Thanks to the extensive network of routes, it only takes about 1 hour by train from Osaka Station to the popular tourist spot of Fushimi-inari in Kyoto, 1 hour by train and bus to Nara Park in Nara, or 3 hours to the famous Tottori sand dunes. This makes it possible to travel large distances around the fascinating local prefectures even on a short-stay trip.


The Kansai region Tourism Information「The KANSAI Guide」(English)

関西観光情報ポータルサイト「The KANSAI Guide」(国内向け)

関西ならではの上質な観光コンテンツを情報発信する国内向け観光サイト「Premium 関西」