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Things to Do in Kansai Prefecture - page 3

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Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum
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Just because it is a museum does not mean that the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum is not functional. This operational sake brewery introduces visitors to the history and technical components of sake brewing. Located in the heart of an old sake brewing district, many of the buildings and breweries have been standing since the Edo era. Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum itself was founded in 1637, making it one of the region’s oldest breweries.

The charm of this Museum is its attention to detail. The brewery is in an old-fashioned, traditional sake house. Japanese songs about sake and sake brewing play throughout the museum. One of the main displays features over 6,000 brewing tools, considered by many to be cultural relics. Of course, the highlight of the tour is the sake tasting itself, where some of the area’s best is on display.

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Shoren-in Temple
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Historically, the head priests of Shoren-in Temple were members of Japan’s imperial family. In fact, a 12th-century emperor built the temple originally as a residence for his son to study alongside a prominent priest of the time. The temple’s stately pedigree matches the allure of its tranquil natural surroundings. Shoren-in Temple rests at the foot of Kyoto’s Higashiyama mountains. Standing outside of the main temple building, trees tower above, and the wooded forest encircles the entire complex.

Shoren-in Temple is known for being quiet and peaceful, a respite from hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors are invited to walk through the rooms of the temple. These include a drawing room, where the main attraction is intricately painted fusuma, or traditional sliding doors. The drawing room opens to a pond, where visitors often go to meditate. The main hall is the primary place of worship. Outside of the temple are several walking paths. Some circle a garden, while another leads up to a teahouse.

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Nishi Hongan-ji Temple
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While many of Kyoto’s temples provide insight into ancient Japanese Buddhist history, few showcase contemporary movements. That’s what makes Nishi Hongan-ji Templeunique. Built in the late 16th-century, the temple remains today an important landmark for modern Japanese Buddhism. Located in the center of Kyoto, the large temple and its sibling-temple, Higashi Hongan-ji, represent two factions of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.

The three main attractions on the temple grounds include Goeido Hall, Amidado Hall, and the temple gardens. Goeido Hall is dedicated to the sect’s founder, and Amidado Hall to the Amida Buddha – the most important Buddha in Jodo-Shin Buddhism. Cultural treasures, including surviving masterpieces of architecture, are displayed in these main halls. The Temple garden is known as a “dry” garden, utilizing stones, white sand, trees, and plants to symbolize elements of nature such as mountains, rivers, and the ocean.

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Eikan-do Zenrin-ji Temple
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The tip of Tahoto Pagoda, part of the Zenrin-ji Temple, peeks out between layers of sprawling mountain foliage. The Eikan-do, formerly known as Zenrinji, dates back to the 9th century. The temple was founded as a training school for the Esoteric Buddhism of Shingon sect. Over time, the temple converted to the Jodo sect of Buddhism.

The stunning Tahoto Pagoda is only one of many attractions in the complex, although it is the most famous. Other attractions include a pond garden, Hodo Pond, and the main building temple itself. Within the main temple is housed a unique Buddha statue; the Buddha is looking over his shoulder. Eikan-do is most famous for its stunning display of autumn colors, which are enhanced by an illumination display from mid-November to early December.

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Nakasendo Way
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Have tea with locals. Spend time in nature. Walk between villages. These are the highlights of the Nakasendo trail, a historic walking path through the Kiso Valley that links the villages of Tsumago and Magome. In feudal times, the Nakasendo Trail linked Kyoto to Tokyo. Samurais and feudal lords frequented the trail. Along the path were 69 villages, where the travelers could stop and rest. Today, walking the Nakasendo Trail between Tsumago and Magome provides visitors an opportunity to experience a small part of that history.

The five-mile (8-km) NakasendoWay meanders through a wooded forest. The trail crosses over two main waterfalls, the Odaki en Medaki waterfalls – male and female. Along the path there are several old-fashioned wooden buildings, many converted into shops where local handicrafts are sold. Many people stop in at a teahouse along the way, where a guestbook tracks those who have come through.

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Kodai-ji Temple
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In the forested mountain foothills east of Kyoto, the small Kodai-ji Temple is a historic place of worship for members of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Surrounded by raked-sand Zen gardens and accessed by a bridge over a peaceful boulder-lined pool, the temple was constructed in 1606 by the wife of general Toyotomi Hideyoshi to honor her late husband.

The complex retains several of its earliest features including historic gardens, several traditional tea houses (reportedly designed by famous 16th century tea master Sen-no-Rikyu or his students) a memorial hall shrine where the temple’s founder and her husband are buried, as well as the general’s intricate jinbaori over-armor coat stitched with gold and silver thread. In some areas of the temple makie lacquering—a common decorative technique common in the Momoyama period that incorporates powdered gold and silver into the lacquer paint while still wet, creating artistic patterns and designs—embellishes stairs and smaller shrines. The temple museum has scrolls and relics from the Kodai-ji and other nearby temples.

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Kyoto International Manga Museum
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The Kyoto International Manga Museum, housed within the former Tatsuike Elementary School, protects and exhibits a collection of some 300,000 manga-related items, including Edo-era caricature woodblock prints, magazines from the Meiji to the early Showa periods and manga books from around the world. The crowning jewel of the museum is the Wall of Manga, an open-access library of 50,000 publications lining 650 feet (200 meters) of the museum’s walls.

Special exhibitions and workshops give manga fans to dig deeper into the art, whether through pen and ink drawing classes, lectures by popular manga artists or a live manga studio, where visitors can watch professional artists draw manga from pencil sketch to full-color image.

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Byodo-in Temple
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If you think this classic furled-roof temple looks familiar, take a look at a 10-yen coin, and you’ll see why. One of Japan's most famous temples, and a World Heritage Site, the image of its 11th century Phoenix Hall graces the coin and the 10,000-yen note.

The reason why this Buddhist temple is so famous is because it is one of the few remaining examples of Heian-era architecture, a textbook example of Japanese perfection.

Take a tour to see the famous statue of Amida and 42 Bodhisattvas from the 11th century. The surrounding gardens are also justly famous, with tranquil water gardens reflecting the temple's surrounding pines.

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LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Osaka
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Experience the ultimate indoor LEGO®adventure at LEGOLAND®Discovery Center Osaka. Located inside Tempozan Marketplace, this interactive LEGO-themed entertainment park lets kids and adults build, explore, learn, and play in a 3,400-square-foot (316-square-meter) space full of games, displays, workshops, rides, and a 4D cinema.

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Kyoto Station
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Kyoto Station is far more than a busy transport hub – it’s an attraction in its own right featuring shopping malls, multiple restaurants, and many other things to see and do. This modern, almost futuristic building stands in direct contrast to the traditional buildings found in the city; the station's vast main hall features an exposed-steel beamed roof, and historical aspects of Kyoto are filtered through a modern lens.

Those looking for some retail therapy will enjoy Kyoto Station’s Isetan department store, Porta underground shopping mall, and Cube shopping mall. There are some great food courts to be found within each of these, with popular eateries such as Kyoto Ramen Koji and Eat Paradise for those who need refueling.

Aside from shopping and eating, there is an open-air observation deck on the station’s top floor, which can be reached via a series of escalators and an additional flight of stairs. From here, views of the city unfold before you (albeit through heavily tinted windows). Elsewhere, the Skyway Tunnel will allow you to walk the length of Kyoto Station some 45 meters above the main hall, revealing views of both the city and station below.

Various day and night tours of the city depart from Kyoto Station. You can also enjoy a day trip by arriving into the station on a Kyoto rail tour by bullet train from Tokyo.

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More Things to Do in Kansai Prefecture

Umeda Sky Building

Umeda Sky Building

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Modern architecture goes space age and skywards at the cutting-edge Umeda Sky Building. The edifice is made up of two glass towers that rise 567 feet (173 meters) and are connected by a futuristic observation platform with an amazing 360-degree view from the 40th floor. An escalator in a glass tube takes visitors up the last five storeys.

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Chion-in

Chion-in

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The classically curved eaves, ceremonial steps and oversized two-story gateway mark Chion-in Temple as something special, even in temple-filled Kyoto.

The main temple of the Jodo school of Buddhism, Chion-in is a very grand affair, focusing on the huge main hall and its image of the sect’s founder, Hōnen. Another building houses a renowned statue of the Buddha.

The beautiful temple gardens are a sight in their own right, threaded with stone paths, steps and Zen water gardens. The view from the Hojo Garden is particularly worth catching.

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Osaka Museum of Housing and Living

Osaka Museum of Housing and Living

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Visiting the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is like stepping back in time to the streets ofmid-19th-century Osaka to see how they might have looked during the Edo Period.

The museum is laid out in a series of recreated houses, each depicting an element of daily life,including merchant houses, a bath house and a town hall. For an additional fee, visitors can renttraditional kimonos to wear while walking around to really immerse themselves in the scene and to create better photo opportunities.

After you’ve toured the recreated Old Osaka on the building’s ninth floor, head downstairs to seethe impressive scale model of “New Osaka” as it looked just after World War II. The tenth-floorobservatory makes for a prime spot to people-watch, as museum-goers pass just below.

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Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street

Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street

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Osaka is Japan’s third-largest city and also one of the best for shopping. With that said, some ofthe most distinctive souvenirs can be found in a rather unexpected place called SennichimaeDoguyasuji. The 525-foot-long (160-meter-long) covered shopping arcade specializes inwholesale kitchen equipment and utensils and serves as the spot where Osaka’s chefs come toshop.

Anyone who has spent time in Japan will recognize the plastic models of popular food itemsplaced in many Japanese restaurant window displays. Sennichimae Doguyasuji is the place tofind these pieces, which make very unique gifts to take back home. With its hugely discounted prices, this shopping street is also a good place to buy chopsticks, cooking knives and otherJapanese-style dishware.

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America-Mura (American Village)

America-Mura (American Village)

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If you want to put your finger on the pulse of Osaka street culture, plan to spend an evening wandering the streets of America-Mura (American Village), a district near Shinsaibashi. In the 1970s, the neighborhood began filling up with shops selling imported goods from the United States, earning it the name America Mura, or “American Village.”

Today, America Mura serves as one of Osaka’s prime fashion centers, a place where the city’s youth congregates, often sporting some of Japan’s more creative fashions. A collection of record stores, vintage clothing shops and boutiques sell a little bit of everything, from J-pop club wear to gothic styles, but the main appeal of the area is the opportunity it provides for people-watching.

America Mura is at its most lively at night, when the bars, clubs, live music venues and street food stalls open up. Visitors will find takoyaki (octopus balls), a popular Osaka street food, throughout the neighborhood.

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The Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku-no-michi)

The Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku-no-michi)

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One of Japan’s heralded philosophers is said to have meditated daily as he walked on a stone route alongside a canal on his commute to Kyoto University. The scenic path, shaded by hundreds of cherry trees, quickly became known as The Philosopher’s Path (or The Path of Philosophy), and today hundreds of people traverse the two-kilometer trail every day searching for peace, insight, and a clear mind. Small temples and shrines peek out from the cherry trees, beckoning to thinkers and walkers in search of religious observance.

Originating near Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion temple, the trail extends to the Kyoto neighborhood of Nanzenji. Near the end of the trail, a large aqueduct greets visitors, a popular spot to stop and take photos. Restaurants and cafes dot the trail. In the Spring, The Philosopher’s Path is one of the best places in all of Kyoto to enjoy the vibrant cherry blossoms in bloom.

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Den Den Town (Nipponbashi)

Den Den Town (Nipponbashi)

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Flanked by neon-lit signs and store fronts, the narrow streets ofDen Den Town (Nipponbashi)cater to shoppers interested in electronics and comics. Multitudes of shops selling anime, manga, video games, action figures, tools, electronic equipment, and even furniture compete for business among Osaka’s young people. The commercial district was once known for second-hand stores. Today, it is often compared to Tokyo’s famous Akihabara Electric Town.

Unlike shopping in the majority of Japan, it is acceptable to negotiate prices in Den Den Town (Nipponbashi). Some of the shops even sell tax- and duty-free items. Some of the more popular, unique stores include Super Potato, which specializes in retro video games, and Gee! Store, the place to find a wide variety of costumes and other clothing. Alongside endless entertainment shopping, Nipponbashi boasts a wide variety of cafes and restaurants.

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Tennoji Zoo

Tennoji Zoo

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Osaka's Tennoji Zoo is home to over 1,500 creatures and 300 different species from all over the world, from elephants and pandas to Australian koalas, big cats, and primates. Mimicking natural habitats as closely as possible, the 27-acre (11-hectare) zoo is known for its ecological protection and humane treatment of animals. Exhibits include a reptile house, a site for nocturnal creatures, and an area for hippopotamuses, as well as a savanna zone set to serve as the wilds of Africa.

Located in Tennoji Park, the zoorepresents a place for recreation and culture for locals. While here, stroll through the adjacent botanical gardens.

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Osaka Museum of History

Osaka Museum of History

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Work your way through centuries of the past at the Osaka Museum of History, opened in 2003. Located just across from the Osaka Castle, head to the top floor to see great views of the castle.

Exhibits chronicle Osaka's history, beginning in ancient times when Osaka served as Japan's first capital and site of the Naniwa Palace and ending with exhibits on the city's bustling shopping arcades of the early Showa Period.

Designed from top to bottom, visitors start on the 10th floor and work their way down to the 7th, passing through galleries which focus on the Age of the Naniwa Palace, the Age of the Hongan-ji Temple, and the Age of Greater Osaka. Archaeological remains are displayed in the building’s basement.

Take the Highlights Course if you’re short of time, or follow a more leisurely and detailed route with the Complete Course.

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To-ji Temple

To-ji Temple

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The spindly needle atop the 55 meter (180 foot), five-storied pagoda of To-ji temple keeps protective watch over the city of Kyoto, as it has done since its construction in the early 9th century. The tallest pagoda in Japan, it has become a symbol and iconic image of Kyoto. Several Buddha statues reside inside the famous wooden structure, enhancing its religious and historical allure.

The temple itself dates from 796, two years after the capitol moved to Kyoto. At the time, To-ji, along with a no longer existing sister temple, guarded the capitol. The temple’s feature image is that of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine, further promoting To-ji’s status as a protector. To-ji was one of only three temples allowed in Kyoto in the early years of its reign as capitol, and it’s the only one that still stands today.

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Shimogamo-jinja Shrine

Shimogamo-jinja Shrine

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More than 200 years before Kyoto would be named the capital of Japan in 794, construction on the Shimogamo-jinja Shrine began. One of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan and one of the 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shimogamo Jinja rests at the intersection of the Takano and Kamo rivers in the midst of 600 year old trees in the ancient Tadasu no Mori forest.

Throughout the more than 1,000 years that Kyoto reigned as Japan's capital city, the Imperial Court patronized the Shimogamo Shrine and its neighbor, Kamigamo Shrine, to bring food fortune, protection, and prosperity to the city. Today, the 53 buildings in the shrine complex provide a respite from city life, welcoming visitors into a natural setting where peace and tranquility abound.

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National Bunraku Theater

National Bunraku Theater

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If you’re interested in seeing a bunraku puppet show while in Japan, Osaka’s National Bunraku Theater is arguably the best place to do so. The art of bunraku puppetry dates back more than 300 years, and it reached its peak in Osaka in the 1740s.

A typical performance at this theater features a series of puppets, each requiring three handlers working in tandem to operate it. Unlike in other forms of puppetry, the bunraku puppeteers appear openly on stage. Performances typically last the better part of a day, with each of two halves lasting three to four hours, but it is possible to buy a ticket for only one part or even for just a single act. With these tickets, visitors can get a sense of the art form without spending a whole day watching it.

While the plays (typically traditional samurai dramas) are in Japanese, English language headphone guides that explain what’s happening onstage can be purchased.

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Osaka Central Fish Market

Osaka Central Fish Market

It’s well before dawn in Osaka when merchants, fishermen, and chefs gather to auction off – and bid on – the day’s catch, fresh produce, and seasonal ingredients at theOsaka Central Fish Market. The Markets opened in 1931 and are one of Osaka’s main attractions today. Osaka’s food-loving culture starts at 4:15am with the Refrigerated Tuna Seller. A bell is rung, and giant, whole tuna fish are placed on display. The tuna sells out within the hour, and the bidders move on throughout the enormous 320,000 square meter venue to try their luck at winning other coveted food items.

The vegetable wholesale market takes place on the third floor. The cost of a box of vegetables at the wholesale markets is approximately half of what it is in a grocery store. The fruit markets show off the ripe, in-season bounty on conveyor-belts. The sushi restaurant Endo, open since 1907, attracts vendors and market workers but also welcomes tourists. The inexpensive, small restaurant is one of Osaka’s best. By early morning the auctions have completed in the nearly 200 shops housed here.

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Tempozan Harbor Village

Tempozan Harbor Village

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Located on the waterfront of Osaka Bay about 20 minutes outside of the central business district, Tempozan Harbor Village comprises a modern shopping and entertainment complex where many of Osaka’s top attractions are located.

At the heart of the village towers the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, the largest and tallest ferris wheel on the planet until the opening of the London Eye. The sixty passenger carriages on the massive wheel take passengers to a height of more than 350 feet for spectacular views of Osaka, the harbor and Mount Rokko. Also in Tempozan Harbor Village, the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) ranks among the world’s biggest and is home to nearly 600 species of marine creatures.

The Suntory Museum cultural complex hosts various art and design exhibitions and also houses a massive IMAX Theater complex with a 3D screen. Hungry visitors can head to the Tempozan Marketplace to sample from the Japanese food court offerings.

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