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Osaka | 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.

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See our page on the government's official websites for each prefecture and major city:
Guide to Japan's Regions and Cities

PhotoPassJapan has hundreds of photos of Kyoto, Nara and Osaka.

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