Kansai, comprising seven beautiful prefectures, has always attracted travellers all over the world, luring them through its unique culture, gastronomy, and eco-tourism, which includes landscapes and outdoor activities. Taking it to the next level, Kansai has now embarked on halal tourism, focusing on the Muslim market in South East Asia since Japan is now one of the most popular destinations for this segment. International airports and big cities are now Muslim-friendly, musholla (Muslim prayer rooms or spaces) available more than ever and halal restaurants mushrooming.
Here are Gaya Travel Magazine’s picks on the unique things about Kansai:
1. Catch a Geisha on the streets of Kyoto
Go to the Gion area and wish for good luck. Gion is where Maiko and Geiko live, so you may come across a Geisha moving from one banquet to another by chance. Hanami-koji, the street in front of Gion Corner, would be good place to wait and see. Be careful not to mistake tourists making up themselves as a Geisha for the real thing!
2. Kimono Forest in Arashimaya
Another landmark worth noting is the Kimono Forest, the latest hype at Hannari Hokkori Square located at Arishiyama train station, which is adorned with various rich and luxuriant fabrics used in the making of kimono. The idea is to create awareness towards the art of kimono, giving the train station a new and distinctive mood and feel, besides generating interest among the younger generation to appreciate kimono’s cultural significance and heritage.
3. Boat Ride in Arashimaya
No one season look or feel the same in Arashiyama but rest assured that the boat ride along Hozugawa River remains memorable all year round as it takes travellers through torrents and deep pools, offering a mild adrenaline rush. Do note, every visit may be a different experience but it’ll be worth while.
4. Romantic Train Arashimaya
Travellers are also encouraged to visit the stunning Tanba Mountain range via the Romantic Train or Sagano Torokko at every season for them to enjoy the crimson gold leaves during autumn, the powdery snow topping the mountains during winter, the cheerful sakura during spring, and emerald greenery during summer.
Culinary is at its best as fresh seafood are in abundance especially crab. During high season between November and March, one can easily sample five to ten Matsuba Crab (snow crab) during mealtime.
6. The Ruins of Takeda Castle
This is a truly impressive castle. Despite being only ruins; the location, stone walls, design, and view easily make it worth the visit. It is amazing how they built such extensive stone walls on top of the mountain.
7. Kannabe Highlands
Located in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture, Okukannabe Ski Area is an outdoor recreational area in the mountains offering outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding and snow trekking at a volcanic crater. A hidden gem for many travellers, it is accessible by bus from Kinosaki or train from most city stations.
8. Sampling Fugu
A culinary craft mastered only by a few chefs and requires license is the preparation of the poisonous fugu or puffer fish, a cuisine made famous in Japan since it allows diners to excitingly tread on the adventurous side.
9. Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited castle in Japan. Standing strong for over 400 years, this magnificent white castle is the finest example of Japanese castle architecture. Tested through time and survived the extensive bombing during World War II and the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995, Himeji Castle remains intact and now glorified as Japan’s national treasure.
10. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizu-dera Temple, also known as Pure Water Temple, is recognised by UNESCO as one of Japan’s heritage sites and one of the most celebrated and famous, characterised by the majestic wooden stage jutting out from the main hall that is supported by hundreds of pillars, offering the view of Kyoto city.
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