Credit: The Travel Intern
January 2023

If it feels like everyone is visiting Tokyo and Hokkaido since Japan reopened, you're probably right.


But if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and discover a charming side to Japan, Kansai has much to offer! Apart from the charming cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Nara, dive deeper into other gems many travellers miss out like Kurashiku, also known as the “little Venice of Japan”, and the charming historic city of Okayama. Here are 11 cool experiences to check out in Kansai, including new attractions and eateries in Osaka.


Fun fact: The region has the most number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites compared to the rest of Japan.


 1) Bikan Historical Quarter in Kurashiki

Photo credit: The Travel Intern


Endearingly nicknamed “the Venice of Japan”, Kurashiki’s Bikan Historical Quarter consists of many trendy cafes, souvenir shops, and museums lining a beautiful canal stretch filled with gondolas. 


You’ll need at least half a day here to explore the area — with notable attractions such as the Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft and the Kurashiki Archeological Museum.


How to get there: 15min walk from Kurashiki Station


 2) Visit the All-Black Okayama Castle

Photo credit: The Travel Intern


Okayama is a 20-minute train ride away from Kurashiki. What’s interesting is that the castle is all-black, a stark contrast to the famous all-white Himeji castle! It was previously destroyed during WWII but reconstructed in 1966, and now spans six levels with a view overlooking the river. There’s even a pottery studio within the castle, where you can make Bizen-yaki — a pottery craft produced in Okayama.


Entrance fee: ¥400/adult (~S$4)

Opening hours: 9AM – 5:30PM, last admission at 5PM

How to get there: 25min walk from Okayama Station or take the tram (Higashiyama Line) and alight at Shiroshita, then walk 10mins.


3) Stroll along one of Japan’s Best Landscape Gardens — Korakuen Garden

Photo credit: The Travel Intern


Korakuen Garden is one of Japan’s three best landscape gardens and is just across the bridge from Okayama Castle. Take a leisurely stroll around the koi ponds, wooden bridges, and tea houses while looking out for scenic photo ops!


Entrance fee: ¥410/adult (~S$4)

Opening hours: 8AM – 5PM, last admission at 4:45PM

How to get there: 5min walk from Okayama Castle


 4) teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka 

Photo credit: The Travel Intern


teamLab Botanical Garden is one of Osaka’s newest attractions — opened in July 2022! When night falls, the garden transforms into a magical space with artworks that interact and change according to the environment so no two visits here will be the same.


Entrance fee: ¥1,600/adult (~S$16)

Opening hours: 6:30PM – 9:45PM, last admission at 8:45PM

How to get there: 15min walk from Nagai Station


5) Fish for your own dinner at Zauo Fishing Restaurant

Photo credit: The Travel Intern


An interesting dining experience in Osaka is at Zauo Fishing Restaurant. Fish for your meal and eat it fresh on the spot! Choose how you’d like to eat your “catch of the day”, and the chef will prepare it for you — be it sashimi-style or deep-fried.


Opening hours: 5PM – 12AM (Weekdays, last order at 11PM), 11:30AM – 11:30PM (Weekends, last order at 11PM)

Address: Hotel Sotetsu Grand Fresa Osaka Namba B1F, 1-1-13, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka 542-0073


6) Indulge in Kobe Beef Steak at Restaurant Royal Mouriya

Photo credit: @kobebeef_mouriya_honten via Instagram


In Japan, you could say beef is almost synonymous to Kobe, so be sure to grab a meal of the city’s pride before you leave. A highly rated place with five-star reviews, Kobe Beef Steak Restaurant Royal Mouriya’s juicy and tender beef is cooked right in front of you on a teppanyaki grill. Sets start from ¥5,600 (~S$56) for a Kobe beef steak paired with appetisers and veggies.


Opening hours: 11AM – 9PM

Address: 1 Chome−9−9, Kitanagasadori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0012 


 7) Explore Nunobiki Herb Garden

After a satisfying meal, head to Nunobiki Herb Garden — Japan’s largest herb garden with around 75,000 herbs and 200 types of flowers! There are 12 different garden areas to explore, such as the Four Seasons Garden with herbs and flowers arranged according to the season. Visitors can also learn about many varieties of herbs and their properties at the Herb Museum there.


The garden is located on Mount Rokko, where you can either hike up for an hour or take a 10-minute scenic ride on the ropeway.


Cost for ropeway: ¥950/adult (one-way), ¥1,500/adult (round-trip) (~S$10-15)

Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM (Weekdays), 10AM – 8:30PM (Weekends)

Address: 1 Chome-4-3 Kitanocho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0002


 8)  Step back time at Kitanocho Historic District

Photo credit: JNTO


Walk off your food coma in the charming historical district of Kitanocho. The houses are a mix of European design and Japanese architecture. These buildings were once owned by foreign trading merchants during the late Meiji period and you can visit some of them for a small fee. 


While you’re here, also drop by one of the prettiest Starbucks for a tea break — with an elegant, western-style decor similar to the buildings in the area.


How to get there: 15min walk from Shin-Kobe Station


 9) Kiyomizudera Temple

Photo credit: Kiyomizudera Temple via Facebook 


Kiyomizudera Temple is one of the most popular temples in Japan with its 13m tall wooden platform protruding over the hillside — offering an amazing view of the city and the surrounding nature. Despite being this famous, the view off the side never gets old. Visit over different seasons to see it covered in varying colours from autumn hues to dreamy snowy whites. 


*Pro-tip: Visit the temple during cherry blossom season in April or fall season in November for epic views.


Entrance fee: ¥400/adult (~S$4)

Opening hours: 6AM – 6PM

How to get there: 20min walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station 


10) Check out the new Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan

Photo credit: The Travel Intern


Can’t say you’ve visited Osaka without adding Universal Studios Japan to your Japan itinerary. If you’re returning here for the first time since Covid, there are now 10 exciting themed zones including the latest addition of Super Nintendo World that opened in 2021!


Hop on thrilling rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and Hollywood Dream The Ride: Backdrop, or try to spot the beloved characters around the park for a photo session.


Cost: From ¥8,400 (~S$85)

Opening hours: Varies according to day and season (check the official website)

How to get there: 5min walk from JR Universal City Station


 11) Vegan Ramen UZU Kyoto

Photo credit: The Travel Intern


Before you give this a pass, let’s just say this had all the non-vegans on the trip impressed.


Vegan Ramen UZU has been awarded the Bib Gourmand accolade in the MICHELIN Guide Kyoto Osaka 2023. The two recommended dishes are the Green Tea Ramen (¥1,800) and the Mountain Herbs Ramen (¥2,200), which has a thick soup base made from veggies and herbs.


Opening hours: 11:30AM – 3PM, 6PM – 10PM, Thu – Sun

Address: 146 Umenokicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto


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