The region of Kansai has got to be one of the most beautiful places in Japan. Whether you're visiting in spring to watch the cherry blossoms or in autumn to watch the warm colours of the foliage, there is never a dull moment.
As one of my journeys to find inspiration for my artworks, I would love to share these photos that will definitely make you add Kansai to the top of your to-do list. Even though I took on whatever whacky adventure I could conjure up during my 3 weeks, I really only scratched the surface of what Kansai had to offer.
Kansai is the historical and cultural heart of Japan, with it's main city Kyoto serving as the nations capital from 794 to 1869. 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 standardisation 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 counter-culture in Japan. This East-West rivalry has deep historical roots, particularly from the Edo period and material evidence can be seen all across Kansai.
Kyoto is famous for having hundreds of temples and shrines, sometimes multiple temples right next door to each other. A few temples even offer overnight accomodation. Many of the temples and surrounding gardens in Kansai are hundreds of year old, build almost completely out of wood. I found older Japanese architecture to be most interesting because of it's intricate joinery work; Japanese buildings often boast of not using a single nail in the construction of wooden structures.
I had the pleasure of staying in one such temple for a week and I worked and ate alongside the monks running the temple. It's definitely not for the carnivorous alcoholics like myself.
Many office buildings in Osaka have glass enclosed viewing platforms at the top, which offer breathtaking views - especially in the evening. This photo was taken at the Orix Building in Honmachi, Osaka.One of the best highlights of Orix building is that it sits on the corner or 2 major arteries in Osaka and it's extremely interesting to watch cars driving of roads layered above each other. Entry to the lookout is free and there is also a rooftop restaurant on the same level as the lookout.
And if you are the adventurous type who isn't afraid to brake a few laws, many buildings in also have helipads on the roof that you can sneak onto. I was lucky enough to sneak onto a few rooftops in the first few nights I went out and was awarded with uninterrupted panoramic views over Osaka.
I strongly advise against climbing onto helipads. The illegal nature plus strong winds makes this extremely risky. You could be blown over the side and land yourself in the catch next or even land yourself in jail (or both).
There are also many legal ways to experience a panoramic view of the Osaka skyline - one of those places is the Umeda Sky Building. Two 40-storey buildings joined at the peak by a multilevel circular observatory, the Umeda Sky Building is a must-see for anyone visiting Osaka. I managed to nab this self-portrait sitting over the railing on the top floor unenclosed lookout while the security was looking the other way.
There are an abundance of bamboo groves throughout the Kansai region, the most famous of which is the Arashiyama bamboo grove. I've never been the type to visit densely saturated tourist locations so I set out to find my own. What I realised was that a lot of larger temples and shrines have their own bamboo groves close-by.
Written by Sydney based photographer Andy Miao