And so I was prompted to write this blog post to try to persuade them further. Tokyo and Osaka, the second main city of Japan, have a fierce rivalry, similar to Sydney and Melbourne here in Australia, I guess. A quick spot of geography: Tokyo falls in the Kanto region, and Osaka in the Kansai region - both similar-sized areas taking in a few surrounding prefectures.
When I was moving to Japan, the company I was going to work for offered me just two choices for my new home: Tokyo or Osaka. Without a moment's hesitation I picked Osaka. I think I've always wanted to pick the road less travelled, although with some 22 million people in the Kansai area (the whole of Australia!) it's hardly a barely travelled road. But you get my drift. Anyway, I was really glad I picked Kansai. I visited Tokyo and the Kanto region a couple of times, and it was great too, but I think for volume of amazing places packed into a relatively small area, Kansai wins. So here are a few of my favourite Kansai attractions:
1. Amazing food (and giant crabs)
|My father with Namba's famous crab - in central Osaka|
2. Kyoto's temples and shrines. Nara's temples and shrines. SO MANY temples and shrines.
|Kinkakuji - the Golden Temple - Kyoto|
|Fushimi Inari shrine|
3. Kobe - rebuilt after the 1995 earthquake
Kobe is just a short train trip from Osaka (less than an hour) and I used to visit regularly. It was quite different from Osaka, Nara or Kyoto, largely because much of it had been rebuilt after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. This made it more modern and an interesting contrast; I also was moved every time I visited the earthquake memorial, a part of the harbour which they'd left unrepaired.
|Great Hanshin Earthquake Memorial in Kobe|
4. Monkeys in Kyoto and deer in Nara
Cute animals definitely give bonus points, right? In Kyoto I often climbed up Arashiyama to interact with the monkeys at the top; I lived close enough to Nara Park to cycle there and see the deer. I once met a man who was involved in taking care of the Nara Park deer - they're considered sacred - and he made me appreciate them even more.
|A monkey on Arashiyama in Kyoto|
5. USJ ... Universal Studios Japan
|Meeting Jaws at USJ - Universal Studios Japan|
Forget Tokyo Disneyland. (Okay, don't forget it entirely, it's pretty cool too. But you don't need it.) Osaka has Universal Studies. It had just opened when I first moved to Osaka and it was the talk of the town. And it really is a wonderful day of fantasy.
6. Osaka Castle and more importantly, Osaka Castle Park
|Osaka Castle mid-cherry blossom season. Be still my beating heart!|
I rather like Osaka Castle itself. But I really love Osaka Castle Park - Osaka-jo-koen - where it's located. It's a huge green space in the middle of the city and home to all kinds of fun cultural activities, from sumo wrestling tournaments (get tickets if your trip coincides!) to being a very popular destination for cherry blossom picnics.
7. And there is more. MUCH more.
In nearby Mie prefecture, head to Akame- a spot with 48 waterfalls and the most delightful walk you'll ever find. The ginormous Himeji Castle is not that far west of Kobe. You can explore Lake Biwa and surrounds, the largest lake in Japan. From Osaka, it's a short shinkansen ride to Hiroshima, one of the most fascinating cities of Japan, and from there just a quick ferry trip to Miyajima, my favourite Japanese island. I could go on. But I hope I've made my point already.
PS There is even more great stuff in Japan - see my 25 things to do in Japan post for more proof.