For those looking for a more laid-back introduction to Japan, Kyoto and Osaka make a wonderful and accessible first impression. With only a short train ride between them, the two cities offer a microcosm of the modernity and tradition that constitute Japan.
Kyoto is the storehouse of Japan’s traditional culture and the stage on which much of Japanese history was played out. With 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than 1,600 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shintō shrines, Kyoto is home to the country’s most treasured remnants of imperial life. Here, geishas still entertain in full makeup and dress within the Ochaya teahouses of Gion, masterpieces of religious architecture still house mesmerizing Zen gardens, and the Nishiki Market—or the “kitchen of Kyoto”—bustles with frenetic fish-selling energy.
Just south of Kyoto is the sprawling cityscape of Osaka, one of the world’s foremost food destinations. Its reputation is mostly the result of its access to quality ingredients and its gastronomic specialties such as tako-yaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (pan-fried batter cake), traditional oshizushi (pressed sushi), and sublime sake.
While Tokyo often steals the show as the modern center of the country, Osaka now boasts not only the foremost food sensations, but also the tallest building in Japan. At Abeno Harukas—which also hosts restaurants, the Osaka Marriott, and a shopping mall—you can soar to the top floor and look out over the city with only the mountains competing with your view.
Osaka has undergone massive revitalization efforts in recent years, and the sparkling new amenities sit harmoniously with some of Japan’s ancient treasures like Osaka Castle, and some of the country’s most prestigious architectural attractions. Even Osaka’s airport is considered an architectural masterpiece by the famous Renzo Piano.
Your Ker & Downey consultant can help you discover the best of Kyoto and Osaka, two impressive cities that give you unprecedented access to Japanese culture both ancient and contemporary.