Kansai region

Kansai region

The nihongo|Kansai region|関西地方|Kansai-chihō or the nihongo|Kinki region|近畿地方|Kinki-chihō lies in the southern-central region of Japan's main island Honshū. The region includes the prefectures of Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, and Shiga. Sometimes Fukui, Tokushima and Mie are also included. While the use of the terms "Kansai" and "Kinki" have changed over history, in most modern contexts the two can be considered the same.


The Kansai region is the cultural and historical heart of Japan with 11% of its land area and 24 million residents. [http://www.jref.com/practical/kansai.shtml Japan Reference: Kansai] , retrieved January 17, 2007] The Kinki Plain with the cities of Osaka and Kyoto forms the core of the region, from there the Kansai area stretches west along the Seto Inland Sea towards Himeji and Kobe and east encompassing Lake Biwa, Japan's largest freshwater lake. In the north the region is bordered by the Sea of Japan, to the south by the Kii Peninsula and Pacific Ocean, and to the east by the Japanese Alps (for Kansai) or Ise Bay (for Kinki). [ [http://www.pref.mie.jp/ENGLISH/overview/e_p03.pdf Mie Prefecture homepage: About Mie (pdf)] ] Four of Japan's national parks lie within its borders, in whole or in part. The area also contains six of the seven top prefectures in terms of national treasures. [http://www.kippo.or.jp/aboutkansai/eng/history_e02.html Kansai Now: History] , retrieved January 17, 2007] Other geographical features include Amanohashidate in Kyoto Prefecture and Awaji Island in Hyōgo.

The Kansai region is often compared with the Kantō region, which lies to its east and consists primarily of Tokyo and the surrounding area. Whereas the Kanto region is symbolic of standardization throughout Japan, the Kansai region displays many more idiosyncrasies: the culture in Kyoto, the mercantilism of Osaka, the history of Nara or the cosmopolitanism of Kobe, and represents the focus of counterculture in Japan. This East-West rivalry has deep historical roots, particularly from the Edo period. With a samurai population of less than 1% the culture of the merchant city of Osaka stood in sharp contrast to that of Edo, the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate. [http://www.jpf.org.au/06_newsletter/hitokuchi_3new.pdf Omusubi] - "Japan's Regional Diversity", retrieved January 22, 2007]

Many characteristic traits of Kansai people descend from Osaka merchant culture. Catherine Maxwell, an editor for the newsletter "Omusubi", writes: "Kansai residents are seen as being pragmatic, entrepreneurial, down-to-earth and possessing a strong sense of humour. Kanto people on the other hand are perceived as more sophisticated, reserved and formal, in keeping with Tokyo’s history and modern status as the nation’s capital and largest metropolis." [http://www.livingabroadin.com/Japan/japan_primeliving.html Livingabroadin.com] - "Prime Living Locations in Japan", retrieved January 22, 2007]

Popular regional dishes include takoyaki, okonomiyaki and kitsune udon. Hyōgo Prefecture is well known for its Kobe beef and other dairy products. Sake is another specialty of the region, the areas of Nada and Fushimi produce 45% of all sake in Japan. [ [http://www.kippo.or.jp/culture_e/syoku/sakejijo/sakejijo1.html Kansai Window] - "Japan's number one sake production", retrieved January 24, 2007] As opposed to food from Eastern Japan, food in the Kansai area tends to be sweeter, and foods such as nattō tend to be less popular.

The dialects (弁, "-ben") of the people of the Kansai region have their own variations of pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Kansai-ben is the group of dialects spoken in the Kansai area, but is often treated as a dialect in its own right. Kansai-ben is especially strong in cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe.


The terms Kansai (関西), Kinki (近畿) and Kinai (畿内) have a very deep history, dating back almost as far as the nation of Japan itself. As a part of the Ritsuryō reforms of the 6th century, the Gokishichidō system established the provinces of Yamato, Yamashiro, Kawachi, Settsu and Izumi. Kinai and Kinki, both roughly meaning "the neighbourhood of the capital", referred to these provinces. In common usage, Kinai now refers to the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto (Keihanshin) area, the center of the Kansai region.

Kansai (literally "west of the border") in its original usage refers to the land west of the Osaka Checkpoint (逢坂の関), the border between Yamashiro Province and Ōmi Province (present-day Kyoto and Shiga prefectures).Entry for _ja. 「関西」. Kōjien, fifth edition, 1998, [ISBN 4-00-080111-2] ] During the Kamakura period, this border was redefined to include Ōmi and Iga Provinces. It is not until the Edo period that Kansai came to acquire its current form.Kamigata") Like all regions of Japan, the Kansai region is not an administrative unit, but rather a cultural and historical one.

The Kansai region lays claim to the earliest beginnings of Japanese civilization. It was Nara, the most eastern point on the Silk Road, that became the site of Japan's first permanent capital. [http://www.kankeiren.or.jp/English/brief-history.htm Kansai Economic Federation] - "Kansai Brief History", retrieved January 17, 2007] This period (AD 710-784) saw the spread of Buddhism to Japan and the construction of Tōdai-ji in 745. The Kansai region also boasts the Shinto religion's holiest shrine at Ise Shrine (built in 690 AD) in Mie prefecture. [http://www.jref.com/practical/ise_jingu.shtml Japan Reference] - "Ise Jingu Guide", retrieved January 17, 2007]

The Heian period saw the capital moved to Heian-kyō (平安京, present-day Kyoto), where it would remain for over a thousand years until the Meiji Restoration. During this golden age, the Kansai region would give birth to traditional Japanese culture. In 788, Saicho, the founder of the Hokke Buddhism|Tendai sect of Buddhism established his monastery at Mount Hiei in Shiga prefecture. Japan's most famous tale, and some say the world's first modern novel, "The Tale of Genji" was penned by Murasaki Shikibu while performing as a lady-in-waiting in Heian-kyo. Noh and Kabuki, Japan's traditional dramatic forms both saw their birth and evolution in Kyoto, while Bunraku, Japanese puppet theater, is native to Osaka.

Because of its unique position in Japanese history, the Kansai region hosts a number of well-known historical and cultural landmarks, including five of Japan's thirteen World Heritage Sites: Hōryū-ji, Himeji Castle, Kiyomizu-dera, Tōdai-ji, and Mount Koya. [http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/jp UNESCO World Heritage Centre: Japan] , retrieved January 17, 2007 - Kiyomizu-dera, Todai-ji, and Mount Koya are part of collections of sites and chosen as representative]


ee also

* Geography of Japan
* List of regions in Japan
* Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto


External links

* [http://www.visitkansai.com/ VisitKansai travel guide]
* [http://www.kansaiconnect.com/eng/ KansaiConnect]

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