It’s time for the ninth entry in my series of itinerary ideas for my trip to Japan and Korea later this year. Today I’m focusing on the Kansai region of Japan, which in the map below is the part of Japan colored purple (and this time I’ve got an image with all the different regions of Japan clearly labeled). Kansai is located in the western half of the island of Honshu and before Japan’s capital was moved to Edo (Tokyo) it was the political and cultural center of the country. In 2017 I passed through the heart of Kansai and I’ll probably end up following a very similar route in 2019—except going in opposite direction—but I’m going to try to visit at least one or two new places.
After finishing up my time in Shikoku I’ll probably restart my trek across Honshu by visiting the city of Himeji. The main attraction of Himeji is its massive white castle, which is widely regarded as the best in Japan. Himeji’s castle is one of the few in Japan that was never destroyed by war, fire, or natural disasters and even though I visited it in 2017 I’m eager to see it again. I’m thinking I’m going to spend a single night in Himeji and my goal is to visit both the castle and also check out the temple atop nearby Mount Shosha.
Osaka & Kobe
I stopped in Osaka in 2017 and for 2019 my plan is to stay in the city again for two or three nights. While there I’ll again visit Dotonbori and try some more takoyaki, and I’ll also return to a few other spots in Osaka such as the city castle and Shitennoji Temple. My other plan for Osaka is to use it as a base for one or two day trips. One of those day trips might be to the city of Kobe. There doesn’t look like there’s too much in Kobe that I’d be interested in but I skipped over it in 2017 and I’m currently contemplating spending a morning or an afternoon there.
The other day trip I’m thinking about taking from Osaka is Mount Koya. The temple complex on Mount Koya is among Japan’s most important religious sites and the photos I’ve seen of it online look really cool. It will take about 1.5 hours to get from Osaka the village of Koyasan and I won’t be able to use my JR rail pass to get there but it should be well worth it. I’ve also read online that Mount Koya is a good place to experience spending a single night at a Buddhist temple. I’m not sure if I’ll do that but it could be an interesting experience.
Kyoto is perpetually overrun with tourists but anyone who goes there can understand why it’s such a popular city. The former capital of Japan was spared from the bombing campaign that destroyed most other major Japanese cities during WW2 and as such it is full of historical and cultural treasures. Kinkakuji Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Kiyomizudera Temple are just three of the city’s many must-see attractions. On top of all the things to see in Kyoto, you can also day trip to some nearby towns that are worth visiting, and I personally am planning on visiting Nara and Uji, which are both directly south of the city.
In the southeastern part of Kansai is the Shima Peninsula, which is home to both some nice natural scenery and Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrine. The region is commonly referred to as Ise Shima and from what I’ve seen online it’s a popular vacation spot for people who live in Osaka and Nagoya. The inner shrine of Ise Shima, which is thought to be over 2,000 years old, is what interests me the most. Ise Shima can be reached as a day trip from Osaka but for my trip I’ll probably be venturing there from Nagoya since it looks like it’s a bit closer.