This region is a must-visit for your first trip to Japan. Kyoto served as Japan’s capital in the past and was the emperor’s residence. There are numerous temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures in Kyoto and Nara. Don’t miss the spiritual Mt. Koya and the entertaining and tasty metropolis of Osaka.
The Gion and Higashiyama areas, located about 20 minutes from Kyoto Station by train or bus, are one of the most representative areas of Kyoto. From Kiyomizu-dera Temple in the south to Ginkaku-ji Temple in the north, the area is lined with famous temples and shrines. You can also meet maiko and geiko in Hanami-koji, a street lined with traditional teahouses, and experience the richness of Kyoto's streets along Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka on the way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
About 95 minutes by train and cable car from Namba Station in Osaka, Mt. Koya has a history of 1,200 years as the center of Buddhism in Japan. There are more than 100 temples scattered around its grounds, including some that are registered as World Heritage sites. In Shukubo, lodging facilities of the temples, you can experience a cuisine closely connected to Buddhism called vegetarian cuisine, which uses only vegetables and wild plants.
The area called Minami, which stretches around Namba in Osaka, is one of the largest shopping districts in the city. Osaka has long been known as the city of "kuidaore" (meaning to spend one's money on food and drinks). In the Dotonbori area, you can experience this culture. In particular, there are many restaurants selling takoyaki (octopus dumplings), okonomiyaki (Japanese-style crepes or pancakes), and so on. You can find your favorite restaurant here. Also, the giant signboards glow at night, making an attractive sight for visitors. Last but not least, on the Dotonbori River that runs through the center of the city, you can take a cruise and enjoy the scenery.