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The Kansai Trio—Kyoto, Nara and Osaka

Immerse yourself in the refined atmosphere of Japan’s former capital, feed sacred deer and come face-to-face with the largest Buddha statue in Japan, and eat until you drop in Osaka, the city of merchants. On this journey through Kansai, visit historic sites in the former capital of Japan, Kyoto, with hundreds of ancient shrines and temples. In Nara, see the largest bronze statue of Buddha in Japan, housed in the world's largest wooden building. In Osaka, wander through the shopping districts and eat to your heart's content.

Go JapanGo Japan2 months ago
The Kansai Trio—Kyoto, Nara and Osaka

Day 1

Kyoto

Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan

A must-visit on any traveler's itinerary, Kyoto's monuments, National Treasures and World Heritage sites attract thousands of visitors each year. Take your time to explore Kyoto and consider extending your trip here a few more days.

Nijo Castle

Built as a family residence in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, take in the gorgeous structure of the Ninomaru Palace and wall paintings. In the springtime, the garden has over 200 cherry trees, which are lit up when in bloom.

Nijo Castle (nijo-jo)
Nijo Castle (nijo-jo), 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkakuji Temple

Another beautiful World Heritage site, the temple is flanked by beautiful gardens. The sight of the Golden Pavilion reflecting in the pond that surrounds it is lovely, especially on a clear day.

Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji Temple, 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Yasaka-jinja Shrine

Thought to be built in 656, this shrine is referred to as "Gion-san" by locals. Once at the shrine, visit the main building and surrounding smaller shrines around the outside. During the Gion Festival , it becomes especially lively.

Yasaka-Jinja Shrine
Yasaka-Jinja Shrine, Omiya Yakushiyamanishicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Chionin Temple

Walk through Maruyama Park on the way to the temple from Yasaka-jinja Shrine , and pass through the largest wooden gate in Japan. Chionin Temple is the head temple of the Jodo Sect of Japanese Buddhism and includes numerous garden areas to explore. While you're there, take a look at the largest temple bell, which requires a team of 25 to ring.

Chion-in
Chion-in, 400 Rinka-cho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Yasaka-no-to Pagoda

After visiting Chioin Temple , walk up the Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka slopes and enjoy a view of what traditional Kyoto would have looked like as you head towards one of the iconic sights of Kyoto, Yasaka-no-to Pagoda. If you're interested, a small admission fee will allow you inside to look at the architecture, statues, and paintings.

Hōkan-ji Temple
Hōkan-ji Temple, 388 清水八坂上町 Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Kiyomizudera Temple

Tour the temple grounds, enjoy the cliff-side view from in front of the main hall, and exploring the temple grounds. Head down to the Otowa Waterfall, and drink from the streams that promise longevity, success in school, and a happy love life. Just don't be greedy and drink from all three.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizu-dera Temple, 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Shijo Kawaramachi

Take a break from traditional Kyoto in the most popular entertainment district. Takashimaya and Kyoto Marui, two of the finest department stores, can be found on opposite sides of the intersection from each other.

Shijo Kawaramachi
Shijo Kawaramachi, Inaricho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Nishiki Market

Starting as a fish market in the 14th century, this is now known as the kitchen of Kyoto. The 400-meter shopping street is lined with over 100 shops and restaurants. Anything food related, from knives to fresh seafood, can be found here. Shop and snack your way through.

Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market, 609番地 Nishidaimonjicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Japan

Day 2

Nara

View Japan's second tallest pagoda and enjoy the temple grounds at Kofukuji Temple . For lovers of Buddhist art, a visit to the National Treasure Museum is a must, particularly to see the 1,300-year-old, three-faced, six-armed Ashura statue.

Nara Park

Enjoy a 20-minute stroll over to Nara Park , and see the many wild deer. Be careful if carrying any plastic bags, as they are unafraid of people and will gladly go through your bags looking for "shika senbei," the snack many tourists feed to them. Buy some from a local shop, and try your hand at having the deer bow for their treats.

Nara Park
Nara Park, Nara, Japan

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Nara's most celebrated shrine, Kasuga Taisha Shrine was established at the same time as the city. View hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns that have been donated by worshipers. Take in the distinct style of the main hall, Honden. Finally, enjoy whatever season you visit with hundreds of varieties of plants in the Botanical Gardens.

Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Kasuga Taisha Shrine, 160 Kasuganocho, Nara, Japan

Todaiji Temple

Todaiji Temple is widely considered the pinnacle of Buddhist culture. Inside, view numerous Buddha statues before coming face-to-face with the Great Buddha, the largest in Japan. Try squeezing through the hole in a pillar, which is the size of the Great Buddha's nostril.

Tōdai-ji
Tōdai-ji, 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, Japan

Nara National Museum

A 10-minute walk from Todaiji is the Nara National Museum , established in 1889. many Buddhist art masterpieces are exhibited in permanent exhibits. If your feet are getting tired, take a short break in the restaurant.

Nara National Museum
Nara National Museum, 50 Noboriojicho, Nara, Japan

Gangoji Temple

Another 20-minute walk will take you to Gangoji Temple . The best-preserved part of the temple houses three National Treasures; the Hondo, the Zen room, and the miniature pagoda.

Gangoji Temple
Gangoji Temple, 11 Chuincho, Nara, Japan

Day 3

Osaka

Osaka
Osaka, Japan

In the city center is the Tenshukaku (castle keep) of Osaka Castle . The inside of the castle has been made into a museum, and there is even a corner where you can try on a warlord costume. From the eighth-floor observation deck enjoy a panoramic view of the city.

Osaka Castle Harbor

From the castle, head to the harbor and take an hour-long "Aqua Liner" cruise. Osaka is criss-crossed by rivers, and what better way to enjoy this history than cruising along the canals and taking in the waterfront from a boat.

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle, 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan

Nipponbashi Electric Town

After disembarking from the cruise, head towards Nipponbashi Electric Town, known as Denden Town and Sennichimae Doguyasuji. Lined with electronics stores, Nipponbashi Electric Town is similar to Tokyo's Akihabara . Sennichimae Doguyasuji is a 150-meter shopping arcade filled with every cooking utensil you need to make a five-course meal.

Asia Pacific Trade Center

Finally, make your way to the Asia Pacific Trade Center . Stroll through the showrooms, check out the outlet malls, and don't miss the beautiful oceanfront views. Finally, relax and learn a little bit about the history of wine and enjoy a glass at the Wine Museum in the Grand Front Osaka .

ATC - Asia-Pacific Trade Center
ATC - Asia-Pacific Trade Center, 2 Chome-1-10 Nankokita, Suminoe Ward, Osaka, Japan
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