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Things to Do in Kansai Prefecture - page 4

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Prefecture Government Sakishima Building (Cosmo Tower)
1 Tour and Activity

The Prefecture Government Sakishima Building (aka the Cosmo Tower, rises 840 feet (256 meters above the streets of Osaka and is home to trade offices linking cities around the globe. Glass elevators take visitors to an observatory on the 55th floor, where the 360-degree views extend as far as Awaji Island and the Rokko Mountains.

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Utsubo Park
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1 Tour and Activity

Osaka’s flashing lights, rich food culture and youthful, vibrant atmosphere make it a favorite destination with travelers, but it can all become overwhelming. The city’s Utsubo Park offers an escape. Housed on grounds that once served as U.S. airfield followed by a fish market, the oblong, rectangular park now serves as an urban green space where Osakans come to unwind and breathe the fresh air.

The Utsubo Tennis Center occupies the western end of the park, with eight courts available to the public by reservation. Of greater interest to the visitor are the extensive rose gardens at the east end of the park, and in May, flower lovers and shutterbugs flock here to take in the multi-hued summer display. While not as impressive as rose season, the park is also beautiful in mid-spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

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Hosen-in Temple
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1 Tour and Activity

A 700-year-old pine tree welcomes visitors to Hosen-in Temple, a lodging site for Buddhist pilgrims since the 11th century. Part of this temple’s ceiling is made from blood-stained wooden floorboards from Fushimi Castle, which was invaded in 1600, resulting in a mass Samurai honor suicide.

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Teramachi Street
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1 Tour and Activity

Teramachi Street, a covered pedestrian shopping arcade in Kyoto, brims with shops and boutiques – a favorite shopping destination for Kyoto’s university students in particular. The name of the street translates to Temple Town, reflecting the many temples and shrines that occupied the area during the sixteenth century.

Today, it’s dominated by casual clothing shops and stores selling green tea, accessories, books and souvenirs. Hungry shoppers will find a few traditional Japanese confectioneries, as well as a variety of restaurants and cafes specializing in Japanese and international flavors.

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Asahi Beer Suita Factory

Learn about how one of Japan’s most ubiquitous beers is made with a visit to Asahi Beer Suita Factory, the company's first brewery, built in 1891. Asahi offers daily tours, during which guests see, smell, and touch the hops and barley, along with other ingredients that go into brewing one of Japan’s best-known beers.

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Amanohashidate
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One of Japan's designated “three most scenic views,” Amanohashidate is a pine-covered sandbar that connects the two sides of Miyazu Bay. Amanohashidate, which translates to "bridge in heaven," got its name for its beauty: it is said to look like a pathway between heaven and earth.

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Nara National Museum
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12 Tours and Activities

Established in the late 19th century, the Nara National Museum is a well-respected exhibitor of Japanese Buddhist art. In addition to the original French Renaissance–style building, a newer wing also displays temporary exhibits. In both wings, visitors can admire predominantly Japanese Buddhist statues, paintings, scrolls, and ceremonial objects.

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Danjo Garan Temple
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8 Tours and Activities

The Danjo Garan is the central temple complex of Japan's sacred Mt. Koya temple town. The UNESCO World Heritage site is comprised of about 20 buildings, including several temples, the ceremonial Kondo Hall, and the Great Stupa (Konpo Daito—a 160-foot (49-meter vermillion pagoda housing a mandala and five statues of the seated Buddha.

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Taiyo Park
2 Tours and Activities

At Taiyo Park in Himeji, visitors can tour of some of the world’s most famous monuments without leaving Japan. The park contains smaller replicas of such iconic attractions as the Giza pyramids, the Statue of Liberty, and China’s Terracotta Warriors. Don’t miss the 3D trick-art gallery inside the replica of Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle.

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Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan)
2 Tours and Activities

One of the largest public aquariums in the world, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is home to various species from the Pacific Ring of Fire and aquatic environments around the globe. Learn about local species such as Asian otters and giant spider crabs, and see other creatures, including sea turtles, sharks, penguins, and a host of tropical fish.

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More Things to Do in Kansai Prefecture

Isshin-ji Temple

Isshin-ji Temple

Marked by its modern steel and concrete gate and imposing guardian statues, the temple of Isshin-ji dates back to 1185 when it was founded by Honen, the founder of the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism. The temple is best known for its “Bone Buddha” statue made from the cremated remains of some 200,000 Osaka residents.

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Museum of Oriental Ceramics

Museum of Oriental Ceramics

The finest ceramics from Japan, China, and Korea are gathered under one roof at Osaka’s Museum of Oriental Ceramics, housing a collection that is considered among the best in the world. Of the 6,000-pieces, some 300 sit on display at any given time; highlights include two registered National Treasures.

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Mimuroto-ji Temple

Mimuroto-ji Temple

Known as the "flower temple," Mimuroto Temple in Uji City near Kyoto showcases a vast array of seasonal flowers. Early spring sees cherry blossoms, while azaleas and hydrangeas start to flower later in the spring. Lotus plants complement the bright summer months, and autumn foliage colors arrive in late October or November.

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Saiho-ji Temple

Saiho-ji Temple

Known to locals as ‘Kokedera’—the ‘Moss Temple’—Saiho-ji Temple is home to lush moss gardens, considered among the most beautiful in Japan. Laid out in the 14th century, the zen meditation gardens are a verdant wonderland, where mossy banks lead to fish-filled ponds and gurgling brooks run through idyllic bamboo groves.

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Spa World

Spa World

Japan is famed for its onsen (hot springs, but there are few naturally occuring in the Osaka area. Luckily, visitors looking for a little relaxation of the soaking variety can find it at Spa World, one of the world’s largest hot springs complexes, where you’ll find kitschily decorated onsen and saunas from around the world.

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Kyoto Handicraft Center

Kyoto Handicraft Center

The Kyoto Handicraft Center is an easy one-stop-shop for browsing and purchasing local handicrafts, ranging from kimonos and decorative fans to pottery and dolls, and much more. Spanning three floors, a huge variety of traditional arts and handicrafts are available here, and the center also runs classes and rents kimono.

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Myoshin-ji Temple

Myoshin-ji Temple

In the early 14th century, Japanese Emperor Hanazono abdicated to become a monk, turning his palace into what is now the Myoshin-ji Temple. This large complex houses a main temple and 50 sub-temples. Nearly all of the buildings were destroyed in a war in the 15th century and rebuilt over the next 150 years. The reconstructions stand today.

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Osaka City Central Hall

Osaka City Central Hall

The neo-Renaissance, red-brick, bronze-domed Osaka City Central Hall, built between 1913 and 1918, rivals Osaka Castle in its architectural beauty. The Iwamoto Memorial Room in the basement of the building commemorates Einosuke Iwamoto, an Osaka stockbroker who funded the construction.

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Amami Onsen Nanten-En

Amami Onsen Nanten-En

Relax in hot springs surrounded by postcard-worthy Japanese scenery at Amami Onsen Nanten-En, a remote ryokan (guesthouse nestled among the mountains of Kyoto prefecture. The waters of the onsen at Amami Onsen Nanten-En have a high mineral content and are therefore said to have healing properties.

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Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail

Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail

The only pilgrimage route besides the Camino de Santiago to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kumano Kodo is a network of trails through Kansai. In use for more than 1,000 years, the pilgrimage routes developed as a way to travel between sacred areas, a practice that tourists and pilgrims alike continue today.

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Kinshi Masamune Horino Memorial Museum

Kinshi Masamune Horino Memorial Museum

The Kinshi Masamune Horino Memorial Museum is about more than tasting sake. This traditional sake-brewing house in Kyoto honors the legacy of Machiya culture, a style of wooden townhouse best exemplified in Kyoto. The house formerly belonged to the Horino family, founders of the craft beer company Kinshi Masamune, but has since been converted into a museum that is open to visitors interested in learning about the history of Japanese architecture and sake brewing.

Visiting the Horino Memorial Museum provides a unique look into the art of brewing sake. The museum has an exhibit on sake brewing tools, and travelers are invited to taste three different kinds of Japanese sake, all made with water from a well on the premises. The well-water is still used today to make beer. and visitors get the chance to make their own label for a bottle of sake to take as a souvenir.

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Kiyotaki River

Kiyotaki River

The crystal-clear waters of the Kiyotaki River make its banks one of the most scenic walking trails in the Kyoto area. Alighting from the bus at the Takao stop that heads west out of Kyoto and then on to Ninnaji Temple, it’s just a short walk down to the banks of the Kiyotaki River.

The river’s waters are impossibly clear, and within them lives the giant Japanese salamander. Measuring up to 1.5 meters long, the world's largest amphibian is sometimes referred to as the “living fossil” on account of the spices not altering much in 30 million years. The gentle walking trail along the river continues on to the village of Kiyotaki. From there, you can catch a bus to Arashiyama or else turn back and retrace your steps along the river.

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Chionji Temple (Hyakumanben Chionji Temple)

Chionji Temple (Hyakumanben Chionji Temple)

In the sleepy and still-functioning Chionji Temple (Hyakumanben Chionji Temple), in north-central Kyoto, it’s possible to see monks praying with incense at an interior alter and long strings of giant juzu beads hanging in the rafters. Also called Hyakumanben Chionji and not to be confused with the Chion-in Temple north of the city and on the sea, the wing-roofed temple has a small garden, wooden statues and bells that clang during important ceremonies.

Chionji is accessed by a long cement walkway surrounded by dusty grounds that come alive, jam-packed with vendors, for an all-day flea market on the 15th of each month. It’s one of the largest gatherings of local artisans in Kyoto and has colorful stalls selling locally-crafted hand-painted items, children’s toys, leatherwork, furniture, ceramics and clothing; there are also several fortune-telling booths, food stalls and coffee tents.

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Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum

The sprawling Kyoto National Museum campus, an homage to Japanese art and history, includes outdoor gardens featuring The Thinker sculpture by Auguste Rodin, a wing (new in 2014) housing permanent collection pieces, an older building showing a rotating slate of special exhibits and its own traditional Japanese tea house.

Similar in its permanent collections to the Tokyo National Museum, the Kyoto National Museum houses ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, archeological relics, intricate kimonos and more, but the special exhibitions and rotating showcases are where the museum really shines. Past displays have featured the art of Zen; photos, swords and artwork illustrating life and times of Sakamoto Ryoma (who helped usher in the modern Meiji government in the 1800s); vivid scrolls of humans and animals from the Kosan-ji temple; Buddhist art; and a feature exhibition on the work of Edo-period painter and poet Yosa Buson. Most items feature full signage in both Japanese and English.

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