Welcome to Kansai


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 dates back to its days as a foreign treaty port. Nara, Japan's first permanent capital, is thick with traditional sights including Japan's largest Buddha at the awe-inspiring Tōdai-ji. Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture is one of the three most important sites in Shintō, In Wakayama-ken you'll find great onsen and hiking, a rugged coastline and the mountaintop Buddhist temple complex of Kōya-san, one of Japan's most intensely spiritual places.

Kyoto and Osaka are the main cities of Kansai and both make good bases for exploration.


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Kansai activities

$122.04 Tours & Sightseeing

Kyoto in One Day Tour with Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu Temple

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.

$135.60 Day Trips & Excursions

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.

$59.33 Cultural & Theme Tours

Kyoto Cultural Half-Day Small-Group Tour with Geisha District

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.

$37.10 Cultural & Theme Tours

Kyoto Wakwak-kan Japanese Tea Ceremony with a Tea Master

Depending on the option you choose, you will either be picked up from your Kyoto city hotel and taken by subway or city bus to meet your tea instructor at their house, or you will meet your instructor at the machiya. For the tea ceremony, you will learn the proper way to sit, and observe how the instructor prepares the tea using matcha (a powdered green tea that dates back to the Tang Dynasty in China). In the 12th century, the monk Eisai brought the powdered tea to Japan.When the tea is ready, you’ll sip the delicious brew and savor the traditional Japanese sweet that accompanies it. You can even try your hand at preparing the tea with the help of your instructor. Enjoy this quintessential part of Japanese culture that has been described as a formal social gathering, a meditative practice and a performance art.1-Hour Tea CeremonyIf you choose to participate in the tea ceremony at the machiya, you will be shown into a tearoom. The tea master will explain the tea ceremony to you and show you the proper way to sit, and then you will go through the ceremony together. 1.5-Hour Tea Ceremony with KimonoLearn to dress in the kimono before you begin your tea ceremony at the machiya. Donning a kimono correctly can be a tricky business, but your teacher will be there to help you.Click on "View Additional Info" for machiya house location.

$161.81 Cultural & Theme Tours

Kyoto and Nara Tour with Golden Pavilion, Todai-ji 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. 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, you'll be transferred to Kintetsu Nara Station and say goodbye to your guide at the station. You'll make your own back from Kintetsu Nara Station to Osaka Namba Station (non-reserved seat) where the tour concludes.

$70.63 Walking & Biking Tours

Kyoto Sightseeing Small-Group Bike Tour with Guide

Start your small-group bike tour of Kyoto by cycling along the Kamo River, passing the many traditional restaurants that dot the waterfront. You’ll get great views of the downtown area along this route.Then, cycle to Heian-Jingu Shrine, a spiritual center of Japan. Note its impressive bright red torii (a sacred gate) and replica buildings of the old Kyoto Palace.Make your way along the quaint canals to the Nanzenji Temple, a classic example of Zen Buddhism, and admire its stunning smaller temples. Take some time to sit and contemplate the natural beauty before heading down the Path of Philosophy.Flanked by hundreds of cherry trees, the Path of Philosophy was named by Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan's most famous philosophers, who was said to practice meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University. Then return to Kyoto Station.Please note: this tour covers about 9 miles (15 kilometers) by bicycle, and can be quite strenuous for travelers who are not used to cycling. This tour is recommended for guests with a medium level of fitness.