Welcome to Kansai
If you had to choose only one region of Japan to explore, Kansai (関西) would be an easy choice. It's the heart of Japan – there is nowhere else in the country you can find so much of historical and cultural interest in such a compact area.Osaka, the region's hub and Japan's third largest city, shows off Japanese urban life in all its mind-boggling intensity, while Kōbe retains some of the international feeling that... Read More
Top experiences in Kansai
Kyoto Sightseeing Tour including Nijo Castle
Following a morning pickup from your Kyoto hotel, meet your guide and hop aboard your air-conditioned coach to begin your city tour. Widely considered to be the cradle of Japan's cultural heritage, Kyoto was the country’s capital and the Emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. Today it stands as Japan’s seventh largest city, with a population of 1.4 million people and a modern face which belies its status as Japan's most traditional city. Head first to Nijo Castle, noted for the stark contrast between its solemn appearance and beautiful interior. Built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shogun, Nijo Castle is a joy to explore. Wander past the inner walls to Honmaru Palace and its garden, and hear of their history and heritage from your guide. Discover Ninomaru Palace with its five connecting buildings made of cypress — lavishly decorated in gold leaf — and admire the kitchens, guard house and extensive gardens. Continue on to the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto's most popular temple. Explore the authentic and exquisite Japanese garden — widely considered to be the most authentic and exquisite of its kind in the world — and the celebrated Golden Pavilion. Follow your guide on a walk through the Kyoto Imperial Palace, where the Japanese taste for simplicity and calmness can best be appreciated. (Please note that before entering the Kyoto Imperial Palace you will be required to fill out a form with personal information such as your full name, sex, age, and nationality.) The palace was the residence of the Imperial family until the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1868, and its history is fascinating. Marvel at the Shishinden Imperial state chamber — where enthronement ceremonies took place — and gain valuable insight into ancient Japanese royalty. Admire the brightly colored Heian Shrine, then visit the Buddhist temple of Sanju-Sangendo Hall — where famous deity the Thousand Armed Kannon sits in wait — and marvel at the 1,000 life-size statues flanking the grand hall. Follow your guide along a quaint old lane lined with pottery shops to conclude your tour at the Kiyomizu Temple, and enjoy panoramic views over the entire city of Kyoto from your vantage point on its lofty terrace. After approximately nine hours exploring Kyoto’s many top attractions, return to your original departure point with your guide to conclude your tour.
Kyoto and Nara Day Trip from Kyoto including Nijo Castle
Your day trip starts with morning pickup for the Kyoto sightseeing portion of your tour. Known as the cradle of Japan's cultural heritage, Kyoto was the country’s capital and home of the Japanese emperor from 794 until 1868. Thus, it boasts many important temples and other sites, several of which make up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage site.With your guide, visit some of the highlights of this ancient city, starting with Nijo Castle, the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shogun until the mid-1800s. This World Heritage–listed castle was built in 1603 and is noted for the contrast of its solemn appearance with its gorgeous interiors. You have about 50 minutes here to explore. Next, visit Kyoto's most popular temple, Kinkaku-ji, another World Heritage site and the home to what is perhaps the world's most exquisite Japanese garden. It’s also home to the celebrated Golden Pavilion, a 3-story structure covered in gold leaf and extended out over a pond. Make sure your camera is ready because it makes a great photo op. Spend about 45 minutes here.Continue your tour to Kyoto Imperial Palace, the former residence of the emperors of Japan. During your 40 minutes here, visit the Shishin-den, where important state ceremonies took place, and get a feel for the Japanese aesthetic of purity, simplicity and calmness as you explore the palace grounds.Take a break from sightseeing for lunch, and then re-board your coach for the 1-hour drive south of Kyoto to Nara, where you’ll visit two of the temples and shrines that make up the UNESCO World Heritage site the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. Start at Todai-ji, a temple complex famous for being home to one of the world’s largest bronze statues of the Buddha, housed in the Great Buddha Hall. You have about one hour here to explore the temple grounds and surrounding Nara Park. Then head to colorful Kasuga Shrine, famous for the 3,000 bronze lanterns that line its interior. You have 40 minutes here before continuing to a section of Nara Park, aka Deer Park, where tame sika deer roam freely and can be hand-fed (special food can be purchased from vendors, if you wish). If time and/or traffic conditions permit, you will also stop at a souvenir shop before heading back to Kyoto, where your day trip ends.
Half Day Small-Group Kyoto Cultural Tour
While traditional customs and lifestyle remain strong among locals, Kyoto is also a vibrant and modern city, where the old and the new co-exist in perfect harmony. You can soak up this culture on this small-group walking tour of Kyoto.First, visit Tofukuji Temple, one of the five great Zen temples of Kyoto and a rare example of surviving Zen architecture from the 13th century. Amble through the many gardens, both modern and traditional, of this working monastery. Next, on the outskirts of the city, nestled in a wooded mountain, is the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Wander through the numerous bright red torii (sacred gates), made famous in the film Memoirs of a Geisha, and admire the many smaller shrines and fox statues.End your tour with a trip to the fascinating Gion District and home of the geisha. As you stroll past the traditional restaurants and tea houses that have remained unchanged over the years, glimpse the geishas with their beautiful and intricate kimonos, and learn the secrets of this ancient traditional art.
Kyoto and Nara Day Tour Including Golden Pavilion and Todai-ji Temple from Osaka
Meet your guide upon hotel pickup and head to JR Osaka Station. Board the JR Special Rapid Service or Rapid Service (non-reserved seating) to Kyoto, Japan's former capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. Now the country's seventh largest city, modern Kyoto remains steeped in traditional culture. Your morning tour of the city’s main highlights includes approximately 45 minutes at each site. Start at Nijo Castle, a former residence of the Tokugawa Shogun. Completed in 1626, Nijo Castle is noted for the contrast of its solemn appearance and gorgeous interiors. (Note: When Nijo Castle is closed you’ll visit Ryoan-ji Temple instead.)After touring the castle, head to nearby Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto's most popular Zen Buddhist temple. Home to perhaps the world's most authentic and exquisite Japanese garden, the temple features the celebrated Golden Pavilion whose wooden structure is completely covered in gold leaf.Next, visit Kyoto Imperial Palace, which clearly demonstrates the Japanese taste for purity, simplicity and tranquility. With your guide you’ll gain exclusive access to the former residence of the Emperor of Japan before the capital moved to Tokyo. When the Kyoto Imperial Palace is closed, the tour will visit Kitano Shrine (Kitano Tenman-gu) instead. This famous shrine, known as the god of study, has been designated a national treasure and is particularly worth seeing for its Japanese plum blossoms and colored leaves.Enjoy a Japanese set meal for lunch (vegetarian option available) before you’re off to Nara, located in the Kinai Plain less than one hour from Kyoto. Due to its past as the first permanent capital of Japan, established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara remains full of iconic sites.See Todai-ji Temple, one of Japan's most famous and historically significant temples, constructed in the 8th century. In its huge precincts are various national treasures of Japan. Step foot in the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall), one of the world's largest wooden buildings, before a stop at Kasuga Shrine. This most famous and beautiful Shinto shrine features some 3,000 antique stone and bronze lanterns. Before your day trip ends, your guide will take you to Nara Nagomikan, Nara’s biggest souvenir shop where you’ll have the opportunity to browse for about 20 minutes. Here, you’ll find a variety of food products, sweets, and goods exclusive to Nara. Afterward, head to Kintetsu-Nara Station for the rail ride back to Osaka-Namba Station on the Kintetsu line (non-reserved seat) with your guide. Upon arrival back in Osaka, you'll make your own way back to your hotel.
Nara Afternoon Tour of Todaiji Temple, Deer Park and Kasuga Shrine from Kyoto
Japan's first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara. As the influence and political ambitions of the city's powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784. Nara is located in the Kinai plain, less than one hour from Kyoto. Due to its past as the first permanent capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan's oldest Buddhist temples. Visit the Todaiji Temple, constructed in the 8th century, is one of Japan's most famous and historically significant temples. In it's huge precincts are various national treasures of Japan. The Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) is one of the world's largest wooden buildings. One of Japan's best-known temples, it enshrines a gigantic bronze statue of Buddha. A wonder of religious architecture. See over 1,000 tame deer roam freely in the verdant 1,250 acres peaceful park. If you wish to feed the deer, they will gladly eat from your hand. Special deer food is available for sale in the park grounds. Tour concludes with a visit to Kasuga Shrine, the most famous and beautiful Shinto shrine in Nara, it features some 3,000 antique stone and bronze lanterns. Travel by return coach to Kyoto.
Kyoto Imperial Palace, Golden Pavilion,Nijo Castle
After pickup from the Kyoto New Miyako Hotel or your selected hotel in Kyoto, your first sightseeing stop is Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. With your guide, spend almost an hour exploring the former residence of the Tokugawa Shogun, built in 1603. Noted for the contrast of its solemn appearance and gorgeous interiors, the complex contains the ruins of Honmaru Palace as well as Ninomaru Palace with its five connecting buildings made of cypress. See living quarters lavishly decorated in gold leaf and tour the kitchens, guardhouse and several gardens.Note: When Nijo Castle is closed, Ryoanji Temple will be visited instead. Next on your itinerary is Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto's most popular temple. During 45 minutes here, your guide points out perhaps the world's most authentic and exquisite Japanese garden as well as the celebrated Golden Pavilion. Continue to Kyoto Imperial Palace, which was the residence of the imperial family until the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1868. View the Shishinden Imperial state chamber where enthronement ceremonies took place, and admire the Japanese taste for simplicity and tranquility. Note: When Kyoto Imperial Palace is closed, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine or Nishi Honganji Temple will be visited instead.Your tour ends with drop-off at the Kyoto New Miyako Hotel.