The region of Kinki, also known as Kansai, is at the south-central portion of the main island of Honshu and is also south of the Kanto region. Although Tokyo, which is in the Kanto region, is the most significant centre of the country, Kansai remains to be the cultural and historical heart of Japan.
Four of Japan’s important cities belong to Kansai: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe.
Kyoto was Japan's capital and the centre of Japanese culture for more than 1000 years, and thus is full of historical buildings and structures, and World Heritage protected sites.
Despite the historical and cultural atmosphere in Kyoto, the city is largely urbanized. The northern area, however, is calmer and greener and has less population.
Kyoto has three notably modern wards: Nakagyo, Shimogyo and Kamigyo, which are mostly dominated by commercial and business centres that surprisingly blend well with nearby historical sites.
The Kamigyo ward was a popular residential area of the Imperial family in the past and the upper-class Kyoto society.
The ancient city of Nara at the Nara Prefecture is moderately developed and is mostly known for its historical sites and wildlife. The city has also become a centre of commerce and government in the region.
Kobe is the capital of the Hyogo Prefecture of the Kansai region and is one of the biggest cities in the country. The city used to be one of the busiest container ports in Japan and in the world, but declined in ranking after it experienced the Great Hanshin Earthquake in the 1990s.
Today, Kobe remains one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the country, with an economy fuelled by manufacturing activities and the service industries.
Chuo-ku is the centre of the city and serves as the commercial, business, government, and entertainment hub. The Tarumi-ku ward, on the other hand, is the prominent residential area. Many commuters working in other parts of the city choose to reside here.
Kobe’s expat community is a wide mix of Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Americans.
Kobe has its rustic side, dominated by the Rokko Mountain Range. It is also a popular beach destination in the Kansai region. During the summer months, visitors flock to the beaches in the Suma-ku ward.