Make the most out of a visit to Japan’s Kansai region by using the handy Kansai Area Pass! See everything there is to see in this beautiful region (including Kyoto and Osaka) by making use of the local transport in a hassle-free way.
So you’ve rightfully decided to spend some time exploring the beautiful region of the former capital city Kyoto: Kansai. What now? Kansai has plenty of places worth paying a visit, and the best way to do this is by using the Kansai Area Pass. As the name implies, this is one of the regional passes available to foreign visitors to make the most out of their time in Japan.
The Kansai Area Pass includes unlimited travel on local JR trains and buses, as well as (non-reserved seats) on the Haruka Express train) for a direct line between Kansai International Airport and major Kansai cities. Available for 1, 2, 3 or 4 consecutive days, this pass is not to be confused with the Kansai Area WIDE Pass). The latter covers a larger area: greater Kansai, Okayama, Takamatsu, Kinosaki Onsen, Amanohashidate and the Wakayama area. This pass is available for 5 consecutive days.
Two of Nara’s deer-ly beloved inhabitants perusing their local shop.
Top spots to visit with the Kansai Area Pass:
Kyoto (including Arashiyama):
It is practically impossible not to have heard of Kyoto before. The former capital manages to dazzle many a visitor every year, and for good reason! Some of the most famous historic buildings, including temples and an imperial castle, are located here. The city also has plenty of lush mountain views and fascinating shops to explore. You can comfortably spend a few days there and only see the tip of the iceberg. If possible, be sure to visit the impressive yearly Gion Festival) (one of the biggest festivals in the country) and the slightly further out Arashiyama area (famous for the bamboo grove).
Another city that doesn’t need much introduction is Osaka! Known as a culinary hotspot, the city manages to combine the atmospheres of Tokyo and Kyoto into a unique, bustling city with a matching nightlife scene. A popular spot to visit is the city’s giant aquarium, and for theme park enthusiast: Universal Studios Japan is easily reached from here.
The home town of the world-famous Kobe beef! If that is not enough to convince you, the city also boast plenty of shopping opportunities, sprawling landscape views from the top of the nearby Mt. Rokko and its own Onsen Hot Springs Resort (Arima Onsen) within the city limits.
This city has one huge selling point: Himeji Castle. Often said to be the most beautiful and well-kept original historic castle in the whole country. Also known as the ‘White Heron Castle’ due to its elegant white façade, it is well worth a visit just to admire the huge castle in the middle of the equally well-kept castle grounds. Visitors can also venture inside to appreciate the intricate architecture of this awe-inspiring piece of history.
As another former capital, Nara has many historic buildings that are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including some of the oldest and largest temples in Japan. Another memorable aspect of the city are the deer that quite literally roam the streets, ready to relieve admiring visitors of the especially made ‘deer crackers’, purchasable around the Nara Deer Park. (A tasty-looking bag may occasionally be confused for food though, so keep an eye on your belongings…)
Are you done with the ‘normal’ sightseeing after visiting all the above top spots? Not to worry, Iga Ueno has you covered. This city is home to one of the well-known ‘Ninja’ clans, the Iga Ninja. Naturally there is a museum dedicated to the Iga Ninja, where you can learn (and even see demonstrations) of the various Ninja techniques of old. If you’re more of a poetry enthusiast you won’t be disappointed either; Iga Ueno is the birthplace of Japan’s famous poet Matsuo Basho, with various places related to the literary mastermind open to visitors.
Best value options for the Kansai Area Pass:
Travelling around a country will inevitably be an investment, so how do you get the most bang for your buck? The easy answer is of course travelling to the edges of the Kansai Area. Himeji, for example, is certainly worth a visit but generally one of the more costly places to go to if you start out in central Kansai. Another great value option is taking the Haruka Express train (non-reserved seats only), the convenient (and fast) train that takes you from Kansai International Airport to central Kyoto and Osaka. Be sure to check out this website if you want to plan your itinerary (whether based on costs and/or places of interest) in advance. Happy travels!