Kansai/Kinki region – shaded
The Kansai region (関西地方, Kansai-chihō?) of Japan, also known as the Kinki region (近畿地方, Kinki-chihō?), lies in the Southern-Central region of Japan’s main island, Honshū. The region includes the prefectures of Nara, Wakayama, Mie, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, and Shiga.
The Kinki Plain, containing the cities of Osaka and Kyoto forms the core of the region. From there, the Kansai area streches west along the Seto Inland Sea towards Himeji and Kobe and east encompassing Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake. The region is bordered in the north by the Sea of Japan and at the Kii Peninsula meets the Pacific Ocean in the south. Four of Japan’s national parks lie within its borders, in whole or in part. The area also contains six of the seven top prefectures in terms of national treasures. Other geographical highlights include Amanohashidate in Kyoto Prefecture and Awaji Island in Hyogo.
The Kansai region is often compared (yet more often contrasted) with the Kantō region, which lies to its east and is comprised primarily of Tokyo and the surrounding area. Whereas the Kanto region is symbolic of standardization throughout Japan (from government to economics to language), the Kansai region displays many more idiosyncrasies: the culture in Kyoto, the mercantilism of Osaka, the history of Nara, or the cosmopolitanism of Kobe, and could be said to represent the focus of counterculture in Japan. This East-West rivalry has deep historical roots, particularly from the Edo period. Having a samurai population of less than 1%, the culture of the merchant city of Osaka stood in sharp contrast to that of Edo, the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate.
Many characteristic traits of Kansai people descend from Osaka merchant culture. As Catherine Maxwell, an editor for the newsletter Omusubi, writes: “Kansai residents are seen as being pragmatic, entrepreneurial, down-to-earth and possessing a strong sense of humour. Kanto people on the other hand are perceived as more sophisticated, reserved and formal, in keeping with Tokyo’s history and modern status as the nation’s capital and largest metropolis.”
Popular regional foods include takoyaki, okonomiyaki and kitsune udon. Hyogo Prefecture is well known for its beef and other dairy products (see Kobe beef). Sake is another specialty of the region, the areas of Nada and Fushimi producing 45% of all the sake in Japan. As opposed to food from Eastern Japan, food in the Kansai area tends to be sweeter, and foods such as nattō tend to be less popular.
The dialects (弁, -ben) of the people of the Kansai region have their own variations of pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar which are unique to the region. Kansai-ben is a term referring to the group of dialects spoken in the Kansai area, but is often treated as a dialect in its own right. Kansai-ben is especially strong in cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe.
The terms Kansai (関西), Kinki (近畿) and Kinai (畿内) have a very deep history, dating back almost as far as the nation of Japan itself. As a part of the Ritsuryō reforms of the 6th century, the Gokishichidō system established the provinces of Yamato, Yamashiro, Kawachi, Settsu and Izumi. Kinai and Kinki, both roughly meaning “the neighbourhood of the capital”, referred to these provinces. In common usage, Kinai now refers to the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto (Keihanshin) area, the center of the Kansai region.
Kansai (literally “west of the border”) in its original usage refers to the land west of the Ousaka Checkpoint (逢坂の関), the border between Yamashiro Province and Ōmi Province (present-day Kyoto and Shiga prefectures). During the Kamakura period, this border was redefined to include Ōmi and Iga Provinces.It is not until the Edo period that Kansai came to acquire its current form.(see Kamigata) Like all regions of Japan, the Kansai region is not an administrative unit, but rather a cultural and historical one.
To read more about Kansai region….
I have reached the end of Kinki/Kansai region. I will be moving to Chugoku next! :)
As for now, visit these links to Kansai on information about travelling, where to go and what to do.
Kansai Kinki 2