The Kansai region of Japan is known as a colorful place; not just the scenery, but the people too. Kansai people are known to be talkative and outgoing, unlike the more reserved people in Kanto or the more remote areas of Japan. Most of Japan’s comedy talent come from Kansai, and Kansai speakers have a distinctive dialect called “Kansai-ben.”
Kansai is on the southern part of Honshu, just across the mountains from the Kanto region where you find Tokyo and Yokohama. There are three cities in Kansai which are major attractions: Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe.
Without a doubt, Kyoto is the top tourist destination in Japan. Kyoto is where you find traditional Japanese culture preserved, unlike the hustle and bustle of modern Tokyo. When I went to Kyoto I saw geishas walking around on the street, talking on cell phones. Most people go to Kyoto to see the famous temples, like Kiyomizudera and Kinkakuji. These temples are old and historic. Japanese people love to look at the temples, and as one of my friends said, when you visit a temple like Kiyomizudera, you can really understand the soul of Japan.
Kyoto is also famous for its food. Probably the best-known flavor of Kyoto is “macha,” or green tea. Aside from drinking green tea, you can eat green tea flavored ice cream, made in a certain style famous in Kyoto. But, shops that serve this ice cream usually have long lines.
Osaka is a more modern city. It’s one of the biggest cities in Japan, and is famous for its shopping and dining. The top delicacies from Osaka include “takoyaki” (fried balls of dough with a chunk of octopus inside) and “okonomi-yaki,” a kind of Japanese pancake. Aside from shopping and eating, you can also go and see Osaka-jo, or Osaka Castle, which was at one time the seat of the government. But, one word of warning: The exhibits don’t have much English, so take a friend who can translate. Unless you’re up for trying to read all that kanji, that is.
Kobe is a very modern city, rebuilt after the Kansai earthquake a few years ago. Kobe was rebuilt with tourism in mind, so there is lots to do and see. Kobe and Kyoto are both famous for their night time views.
As I already mentioned, Kansai people are very outgoing. In most of Japan, people won’t often come up and start talking to you. Japanese people are famously shy and reserved. But, in Kansai, it’s a different story. To most Japanese, Kansai people have a reputation for being loud and unruly, but to us Americans, they just seem extra friendly.
The distinctive Kansai accent, “kansai-ben,” is often used in movies for the speech of gangsters and criminals. This may reinforce a negative stereotype of Kansai, but the accent lends its speaker a certain color. Most kansai-ben speakers try to hide their accent when they move to Tokyo, but get a group of them together and you’ll need a kansai-ben to Japanese dictionary!