Cities in Kansai
Osaka is at the center of the second most populous region in Japan. By speedy shinkansen (bullet train), it is only two and a half hours west of Tokyo. Known for its outgoing locals and good food on the cheap, Osaka is often considered the friendliest place in Japan. Locals split the city in two: Kita and Minami, literally “north” and “south”. Kita is undergoing a massive makeover with new high-rises springing up all around Umeda station. Minami is the historic heart of Osaka, which also is in the midst of something of a renaissance, particularly the Dotombori and Tennoji districts.
Another of Japan’s ancient capitals, the city is popularly considered the country’s center of culture and tradition. There are countless temples and shrines. The ancient Heian Shrine and Kiyomizu Temple are two wonderful examples. Be sure to enjoy a drink along the banks of the Kamo River from one of the many traditional terraced teahouses.
Kobe is a lovely city nestled between the ocean and a ridge of mountains to the north. The city has a modern feel with many high-rise offices and residences while still managing to preserve its history and charm as a prominent port. Just over the mountains is the old resort town of Arima with its many hot springs.
Getting Around Kansai
Rail is the most popular method of public transportation in urban areas of Japan. We have provided links to the major train and subway/metro networks for the Kansai region. In addition, there are private railways such as Hankyu, Hanshin, Kintetsu, and Nankai with convenient routes in and around the area.
Smart Cards and Commuter Passes
Kansai has its own smart card system. A single card can be used for trains, subways/metro, buses, and even convenience stores. You can purchase a card at a ticket machine at any train station. Likewise, you can recharge the card at any point. For frequent trips between two stops like home and the Learning Studio, the card can be upgraded to serve as your commuter pass.
* Not all public transportation will accept the smart card. It is always best to carry some change in case the smart card is not accepted.