The Keihanshin area encompasses the areas of Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka, and takes it’s name from a combination of the kanji in the names of all three. Although a metropolitan and port area, the vibe is certainly less intense than that of Tokyo, with fewer tall buildings and a focus on historic buildings and places (which is certainly existent in all parts of Japan, but is more concrete in an area such as Kyoto, which used was the previous capital of Japan before it was moved to Tokyo). Places such as the Gion Corner assist in preserving the culture of Japan through demonstration of arts such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, plays, dance, and music (Japanese harp [koto, a thirteen stringed instrument], court music).  The seats are quite small, but the performances were spectacular.

Besides the cultural aspects of the cities, there are also areas for shopping, one of which we visited in Kyoto. The covered streets stretch out in all directions, and are host to stores that sell such things as punk clothes, books, high-end clothes, CDs, anime and manga, and a variety of food items. There are also places such as game galleries that include purikuri booths, and a movie theater. I spent a good deal of time looking through anime-related CDs in the anime and manga store that we stumbled upon. It was a fun place to spend time in.

On our last day in the Keihanshin area, we visited Osaka castle, starting with a lunch at a takoyaki restaurant, located within the castle wall in a plaza area in front of the castle, where we were given the opportunity to cook our own takoyaki. It was quite difficult to make sure that it the batter was shaped well and cooked evenly, but the efforts were rewarding. Although it was a takoyaki restaurant, the people who didn’t eat meat had konnyaku-yaki. It was quite tasty from the batter, although the root vegetable itself has almost no flavor. The castle was eight floors tall, and exists today because it was rebuilt after being destroyed multiple times in the past. The roof is a light green, and there is gold trim on all the edges. The view from the top is quite something, and the museum on the other floors provides a plethora of information.

The Keihanshin area is certainly a must-visit in order to experience the history of Japan as it exists in the present, and melds with the new.

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