| Kobe | Nara | Kyoto |
North Kinki | Kii
The so-called Kansai region, centered around the cities of Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and
Nara, is the economic and cultural hub of western Japan. The Kinki
Area as a whole is also the cradle of Japanese culture and religion
and for centuries was the center of power. Kobe is the capital
of Hyogo Prefecture, while Nara is the capital of Nara Prefecture.
Osaka and Kyoto are not officially prefectures (ken) but urban prefectures (fu). The
other prefectures that make up the Kinki Area are Wakayama
and Mie on the Kii Peninsula and Shiga, which surrounds Lake Biwa.
There is a long-standing tradition of rivalry between the Kansai
region and Tokyo. Kansai residents consider Tokyo-ites as stuck-up and shallow,
while in Tokyo, Kansai people are thought of as loud, pushy and
obnoxious. One manifestation of this is the intense rivalry between
the Yomiuri Giants (Tokyo) and the Hanshin Tigers (Kansai)
baseball teams. The exception is Kyoto, whose female
dialect is said to be the most refined spoken Japanese in the
country. After Tokyo, Kyoto is Japan's best-known and most-visited
city. Having been the Imperial capital for over a thousand years,
it is steeped in history. The neighboring city of Nara was also
once the capital and is even older, though less developed, than
Kyoto. Osaka is a leading candidate for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Kobe is renowned for its beef and the nighttime view of its harbor.
Kansai has two major airports, Kansai International Airport, built on reclaimed land and Jpan's first 24-hour airport, and
Osaka International Airport and there are plans for a third in Kobe. There are services from
these airports to all parts of Japan, with flights to and from
Tokyo taking 1 hour. By shinkansen, it is around 3 hours to Tokyo
from Shin-Osaka station and Kyoto is just 20 minutes, while Nara
is about 30 minutes on the Kintetsu Nara Line.