Journey to discover Kansai

Update: 10:37 | 25/10/2019
The 6-day and 5-night trip in the two most famous cities of the Kansai region (Japan), Osaka and Kyoto, left us unforgettable memories…
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As a loyal fan of “Osin” – the famous Japanese drama with beautiful natural scenery and humane, meaningful story, I have cherished the dream of visiting Japan “the Sunrise country”.

After planning quite meticulously for the first self-sufficient trip to Japan, I invited some of my friends to join the journey. This time, we chose the Kansai region where many tourist cities of Japan such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nara,… located in for our 6-day and 5-night journey.

journey to discover kansai
The Osaka Castle. (Photo:

Interesting Osaka

Far from my imagination that an industrial city is often boring, Osaka is actually quite interesting. It is not too bustling as Tokyo as well as not too quiet and peaceful as Kyoto, Osaka is said to be an ideal destination for those who want to experience the traditional Japanese culture and love the modern of a dynamic city. As the third largest city in Japan, Osaka is known as the “Venice of the East” thanks to network of canals connecting with the Yodo river.

Since we all love history, our team unanimously chose the Osaka Castle – a city’s symbol, as the first destination. Being built by the end of 16th century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi – a famous Japanese lord, the castle was burned and rebuilt many times but retained its ancient and mysterious features. The castle was built in a three-round structure with the outside round is roads, then ponds and the last round is compound.

The Osaka Castle is not only a favorite destination for foreign tourists but also Japanese ones as it is a lively museum presenting full important historical periods of Osaka. On the journey to discover Osaka’s cultural and historical values, we also had the opportunity to visit the Osaka Museum of House and Life, the Osaka Art Museum,…

Not only attractive to tourists by traditional beauty, Osaka is also a young, vibrant city with busy shopping centers where gather many world leading brands. Shinsaibashi Building is the most famous shopping place in the Shisaibashi Suji area where shoppaholics can spend their huge amount of time in countless shops and big restaurants.

When I was searching for famous shopping places in Osaka, I was surprised to find hundreds of photos taken at a 33-metre tall statue of a running man called “Glico Man” – an icon of the famous Japanese nutrition and health group Ezaki Glico. I later learned that this icon is also the popular “check-in” place of many tourists in Dotonburi shopping area.

In terms of cuisine, Osaka is as rich as Tokyo or other Japanese regions with a number of special dishes such as pancake (Okonomiyaki), grilled food (Teppanyaki), tofu Udon noodle (Kitsune Udon),… However, if you ask any Japanese about Osaka’s signature dish, you will get the same answer: “Takoyaki!”.

Originating from a restaurant named Aizu in 1933, “Tako” in Japanese means octopus, and “yaki” means grilled food. However, Takoyaki is not grilled octopus but ball-shaped fried dumplings filled with diced octopus. A takoyaki ration has about 10-12 cakes which are best eaten while hot and with a variety of sauces on top. Each takoyaki stand has its own unique flavor and sauces.

journey to discover kansai
The Kiyomizu temple. (Photo:

Peaceful Kyoto

Our team decided to choose the ancient citadel of Kyoto as the second stop on the journey to explore the Kansai region because Kyoto is a very famous tourism destination of Japan and not far from Osaka. It takes 50 minutes to travel between these two cities.

As the capital of Japan from the 8th century (794 AD) to the 17th century, Kyoto retains its ancient beauty intact, preserves many aspects of Japan’s most traditional and delicate culture, from temples to kimonos. This is what make Kyoto unique and helps the city attract millions of tourists every year.

In contrast to a noisy and hustle Osaka, Kyoto is the embodiment of ancient and legendary Japan with slow, peaceful, harmonious life. More than half of Japan’s ancient temples, shrines and palaces are concentrated in Kyoto. Particularly in Kyoto, there are 14 temples and shrines that are recognized by the UNESCO as world cultural heritages, of which the most famous is Kiyomizu temple dubbed one of the world most beautiful temples. Kiyomizu temple is also the first travel spot of our team in Kyoto.

From the Kyoto train station, we took a bus straight to Kiyomizu temple. Wandering the small road leading into the temple’s ground, we were overwhelmed by young people in colorful kimonos, souvenir shops, a lot of restaurants, traditional glutinous rice cake shops, tea houses which featuring Japanese traditional culture.

Being built in 778 on the Otawa Hill, Kiyomizu temple worships thousand-hand Kwan Yin. From Kiyomizu temple, visitors can have a panoramic view of ancient Kyoto. The temple has an impressive ancient architecture with 139 large wooden columns. Behind the temple, there is a waterfall flowing down the path into three lines symbolizing human aspirations which are love, health and money.

We were lucky enough to visit Kiyomizu temple during the cherry blossom season. This was also the time when the temple welcomed the highest number of foreign tourists of the year, up to thousands of tourists every day. The ancient and solemn Kiyomizu temple is nestled next to blooming cherry blossoms. The harmonious combination of mountain and water has created a poetic and charming scenery making tourists bewildered on their way.

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