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Nights in Japan - Kansai and Beyond
Dotonburi, heart of Osaka
Other than Tokyo, Kansai (関西) is the area most visited by tourists, and this is no surprise given Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara are all in this densely populated region. Among these famous cities, Osaka beckons proudly with its castle, food, shopping, and oh-so-outrageous signboards. You must have seen some of these Dōtonbori area (道頓堀) signboards before, in magazines or in movies. The Glico Man. The moving crab. The swaying fugu ... ... They continue to entertain endless throes of tourists and revelers night after night. They are sure to delight you too.
Kansai is a delightful area to visit because it has such a vast variety of sights. Just 20 minutes by express train from bustling Osaka is the ancient capital of Kyoto, famous for its hundreds of historical shrines, temples and gardens. Nearly all of these cultural sights close at sunset, but several times a year, they are lit up for special night time visits. Such as the twice yearly Kyoto Hanatoro (花灯路) festivals, and various temple illuminations during the Sakura and Autumn Leaves season. The pictures above were taken at Kyoto's famous Kiyomizu temple (清水寺) during the Sakura season in 2015. Is the classic elegance a stark contrast to Osaka's cheery bawdiness? Both are just 20 minutes apart by train.
Meriken Park, Kobe
Kobe, the third major city of the Kansai area, has long been a western port of entry. In 1995, it suffered a devastating earthquake but have in recent years recovered completely. You wouldn't find as many sights in Kobe, compared to Osaka or Kyoto, but that's not to say it's not worthy of at least a day of visit. The Meriken Park port area, with its iconic tower, is a breezy and romantic location perfect for an evening of carefree strolling and shopping. There's also plenty of food choices here, and best of all, it tends to be less crowded than downtown Osaka and Kyoto.
Other Japanese cities during night time
Japan is not a large country. But it is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and so it has a plethora of well connected and unique cities. There are the economic powerhouses, such as Nagoya, home of the Toyota brand. There are the resort cities and the cultural cities, such as Nagano and Kanazawa. There are also the tranquil ones at the fringe of the country, like Miyazaki City all the way down south. Finally, there are the cities that are showcases of their trade heritage, such as Otaru in cold, northern Hokkaido. These cities come alive with lights in a different way each night, to the delight of visitors and photographers. If you take the effort to go beyond Tokyo and Kansai in search of them, you too would be charmed.
The Top Three
Japan has plenty of rankings when it comes to domestic tourism. The "three best" views of Japan. The "top 3" onsens. Etc. There is of course a "top 3" night views of Japan too, and these three cities are Kobe, Nagasaki, and Hakodate. All three enjoy a gorgeous spread of lights at the foot of their hills, fringed by gentle port waters. At that moment of sunset, when the illuminations take over the role of the sun, it gets absolutely magical. Without a doubt, the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing in Japan.
Which of the mentioned Japanese cities have you visited?
Check out the first part of this double feature on Nights in Japan.
- Nights in Japan - Tokyo
A perfect blend of the past and present, night time Tokyo is sure to mesmerise even the most jaded traveller.