Kyoto is one of the gems in the Kansai area, but there is a reason why Kansai is also known as the flower of Japan. It’s a region that contains a great amount of Japan’s culture and history, particularly for having two cities which used to be the capital of the country (Kyoto and Nara) in its territory. Besides Kyoto and Nara, other destinations in this area include Osaka, Hyogo, Shiga, Wakayama and Mie. All of these have their own particular beauty and are all easily accessible for those staying at Sakura House Kyoto Imadegawa with a JR Pass. Lets discover each one of them below.
Japan’s Old Capital – KyotoWhether it be walking around in the old “kimono” and “obi” weaving neighborhood of Nishijin, home to our traditional “machiya” house, or riding on the old boats of Arashiyama between its mountains, the city of Kyoto offers many unique experiences both historical as modern.
Temples and shrines are without a doubt a main part of this city having 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city boundaries. Throughout the years, many of these temples and shrines have been the start of some of the most awaited events and offer the beautiful opportunity to travel back in time and sink into the richness of this city.
Above visiting some of the over 1600 temples and shrines, the culinary culture empowered by this city also attracts many visitors every month throughout the entire year, both international and national. The main role being carried out by the “kaiseki ryori”, a traditional multi course dinner offering the best in season. In addition to this are the “wagashi” (traditional sweets) with one of the most traditional shops just meters away from our “machiya” house, the city of Uji and its many “matcha” green tea flavored goods (including ramen and beer) and many many more.
Several aspects of the city keep slowly changing, getting modernized and offering its visitors the comfort and sense of “omotenashi” (Japanese hospitality) that they deserve.
From here, just a quick bus or subway ride away from Sakura House Kyoto Imadegawa to Kyoto Station is where our discovery of Kansai begins.
Kansai’s Capital – OsakaJust south-west from Kyoto is the large and bustling city of Osaka. It is a destination that always catches the eyes and interests of visitors to Kyoto and the surrounding areas.
This city is well known for its “outgoing” character compared to other areas of the country. An interesting effect of this are the large banners and signs of shops, particularly in the Dotonbori area, a spot that can not be missed. Here, as with other areas in the city, a large range of culinary options, shops and products make it the perfect target for those looking to get some unique souvenirs and a full belly.
Another unmissable aspect of the capital is Osaka Castle. This castle has played an important role in the unification of Japan in the 16th century and carries with it a large part of Japan’s history. If you’re interested in Japans history this is certainly a building worth visiting. It also has one of the most visited park areas during the cherry blossom season, when groups sit under the trees in cover of the sun while enjoying the view of the castle from a distance.
There shall be many things to see and do in this city regarding what each persons interests are, and the many merging subway lines shall make it easy to move from place to place. The most important fact is that for those staying at Sakura House Kyoto Imadegawa, prompt access is available for both people carrying a JR Pass or not, this is a very attractive opportunity without having to book another place to stay nor having to carry all the luggage around.
Oh deer – NaraStraight down south from Kyoto is the prefecture of Nara. As with Kyoto, having been the old capital of Japan, this city offers a unique collection of temples and shrines in terms of beauty and historical importance. These also offer some unforgettable festivals and events throughout the year, one of them being the Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival, when the entire grass plane of a mountain is set on fire to be seen from the city.
Due to its large green areas, visiting this city in different seasons make it a unique experience itself. One of the most visited areas that accent this is of course the Nara Park, a wide green area offering straight connection with nature and the many deer wondering around freely.
8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites can also be visited to indulge in the history of the country and the beauty that this corner of earth has to offer.
Here again, access is available for our guests at Sakura House Kyoto Imadegawa whether in possession of JR Pass or not.
The Freshest Place in Kansai – ShigaJust east of Kyoto is the neighboring prefecture of Shiga and its large freshwater Biwa Lake. Due to the size of this lake, this area is sometimes also called the “lake country” and gives it the reputation of being one of the most naturally kept locations in the Kansai area. In effect, the food products here are renown to be some of the freshest available, including its unique variety of “wagyu” meat, the “Omi” beef.
Cultural experiences here include some unique museums and a mixture of 16 different temples and sites named World Heritage Sites and National Treasures by UNESCO.
Shiga can also be accessed through an unforgettable boat ride through the Biwa Canal all the way from Kyoto to Biwa Lake on the Biwa Sosuisen.
Light of Kansai – MieSouth of Shiga and south-east from Kyoto is the prefecture of Mie, the land that historically was the main provider of food for the emperor.
This area of Japan has very beautiful natural scenery and some of its most known images are the rice fields of Mitake and the illumination events at the botanical garden of Nabana no Sato, one of the biggest winter illumination events carried out during the winter in all of Japan.
Just as with Shiga, the greatest aspect of Mie is its great amount of natural scenery and therefore its fine culinary offers. Part of it is the Matsusaka beef, ranking 3rd on the “wagyu” beef brands.
For the lovers of nature and hiking, the pilgrimage routes of Kumano Kodo shall be the perfect choice to do so, since they have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 2004. All in all, this is an area that shall fulfill travelers with a nice relaxing experience of the country’s most personal aspects.
Home of Kobe – HyogoWest from Kyoto, the prefecture of Hyogo has an overwhelming range of experiences to indulge in. Its capital, Kobe, is well known world wide for its unique “wagyu” ranked meat, the Kobe beef. Above this, this area of Japan has one of the country’s most visited hot spring towns, Kinosaki Onsen.
For a more cultural destination, the World Heritage Site of Himeji Castle shall be a site that can not be missed. This castle is considered one of the most beautiful in the country and is also named a National Treasure.
Other interesting options include visiting the sake breweries of Nada Gogo, the Akashi Kaiko Bridge (the largest suspension bridge in the world, connecting with the Awaji islands) and the Ako Gishi Festival for those visiting during mid December (a festival celebrating the loyalty and sacrifice shown by the samurai of the renown “47 Ronin” story).
Historical Kansai Culture – WakayamaTravelling south from Kyoto through Osaka, Nara and Mie is the prefecture of Wakayama. This area shares the World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes with Mie prefecture.
The most renown aspect with travelers to Wakayama is Mount Koya (“Koyasan” in Japanese). Mount Koya has many temples offering “shikubo”, the possibility of staying at one of the temples and experience life as a monk there. A very much recommended activity for those looking to dive into the purest aspects of the historical Japanese culture.
Other activities include soaking into the relaxing pools of Katsuura Onsen and Shirahama Onsen, tasting the addictive Wakayama ramen, enjoying the freshness of the area’s famous fruits and stopping by Adventure World with its safari like themed park.
Moving around Kansai with JR PassThe overwhelming options that Kansai has to offer is certainly very attractive and with the JR Pass you can see much of the region, but it can be troublesome to manage booking a place to stay on each and everyone of them. That is why we always welcome our guests to use our “machiya” house of Sakura House Kyoto Imadegawa as their base to explore all these beautiful places and more.
This is very much possible for those with a JR Pass. This is a special train pass allowing you to board the JR trains (including of course the “shinkansen” bullet train) in a specific area during a selected amount of days. The JR West Rail Pass shall be the best option to look into while in Kansai, particularly the Kansai Area Pass and the Kansai Wide Area Pass for those interested in exploring even more. The bullet train plays a crucial role in allowing prompt access, but options are not limited to just this. As mentioned previously, local trains, buses and even some boat rides may offer attractive alternatives for those looking to enjoy a unique ride while visiting the neighboring areas as well.
You can always feel free to chat with our onsite concierge, at the entrance to our “machiya” house, and discuss what shall be the best option for you and your group.