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Last updated : Nov 2009
Kyoto, Nara and Osaka
Kyoto, Nara & Osaka - TravelPuppy.com
Situated in the Kansai area of central Honshu, these three famous cities are all favourite tourist destinations, each having contributed unique elements towards Japanese culture and history. Capital of Japan for more than 1000 years, Kyoto is still Japan’s star attraction. Established in AD 794, the city’s largest number of shrines, temples, museums and historical sites acts as a textbook to the history of Japan, while her arts, crafts and cuisine are among the country’s best. ‘Must see’ sights include the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji), the minimalist Zen rock garden of Ryoanji, awesome Kiyomizu Temple and the Imperial gardens and villas of Katsura and Shugakuin (a permit is necessary). The striking medieval Nijo Castle, the vermilion-lacquered Heian Shrine and the Buddhist art treasures of Sanjusangendo Temple are also worth a visit. The city’s large number of historical neighbourhoods, such as the rustic temples of Arashiyama, the textile workshops of Nishijin and the Gion geisha district, are best seen on foot. Kyoto hosts 3major traditional summer events: the colourful Aoi, Gion and Jidai Festivals.

Nara, 1-hour south of Kyoto, is a major Buddhist centre and was Japan’s capital during the 8th century AD. Visitors flock to visit the famous ‘great Buddha’ of Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world, ancient Kasuga Shrine and the Buddhist sculptures of Kofukuji Temple. The attractive expanses of Nara Park contain hundreds of sacred deer. Nearby, the esteemed Horyuji Temple dates back to the 7th century AD.

One of Japan’s biggest cities, prosperous and commercial Osaka is famous for its many brilliant restaurants, historic Osaka Castle and the performing arts of Kabuki and Bunraku. The city also enjoys an impressive aquarium and excellent Museum of Oriental Ceramics. The city’s busy Namba and Umeda districts are well known for their nightlife and the Dotonburi area is especially lively after dark. Universal Studios Japan, a 140-acre theme park in Osaka, is extremely popular.


The historic town of Uji, situated between Kyoto and Nara, is well known for the lovely Byodoin Temple which is featured on Japan’s ¥10 coin. Tourists and pilgrims are welcomed to visit the many temples and monasteries on scenic Mount Koya, two hours from Osaka, where Buddhist vegetarian cuisine and overnight temple lodgings are available at reasonable prices. The port city of Kobe has an international vibe and is well known for its old foreign-style houses and buildings dating from the Meiji era.