Attractions in Osaka, Kobe & Kyoto, Japan

by Aaron Charles
Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto help fuel Japan's tourism industry.

Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto help fuel Japan's tourism industry.

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The fact that Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto lie so close to one another in inland Japan makes them a fitting triad for travelers to visit. Lonely Planet, after asking the rhetorical question, "When you hear the word 'Japan,' what do you think of?", answered, "Whatever it is, it's probably accurate, because it's all there." Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto validate that answer.


Lonely Planet asserts that Japan is one of the easiest countries to travel in, citing Kyoto and Osaka as two places in particular that bring Japan to life. Kyoto naturally attracts those more interested experiencing Japan's traditional culture -- temples, shrines, tea ceremonies, dance and museums -- while Osaka especially draws hearty ramen lovers -- the real ramen, not the stuff in styrofoam. Fodor's says that Kobe has a true cosmopolitan vibe that's driven by the some 40,000-plus foreigners living in the city.


Kobe has attractions but not of the traditional variety. The authors of "Japan: The Rough Guide" say that you don't really visit Kobe for the sights, which are of limited interest, but more for its human scale and diverse energy. One attraction is the Kobe Phoenix Plaza, which details the 1995 devastating earthquake that struck Kobe and the events that showed how people rose to the occasion. Further, "Frommer's Japan" cites the words of one Kobe resident who said that what Kobe lacks in sights makes up for it in its nightlife. Neon-lit streets lead travelers to bars, pubs and nightclubs in one of Japan's biggest sake-producing cities.


Kyoto also has a nightlife, as what city would be complete without one? The Pontocho nightlife area has a number of Japanese-style inns. "Frommer's Japan" lists some of the more traditional culture sights in eastern Kyoto such as Sanjusangendo Hall and its 1,001 wooden statues, Kiyomizu Temple, and the garden-surrounded Heian Shrine. This history-rich city is also known as the City of Festivals. Kyoto hosts annually roughly 500 festivals and ceremonies, including Gion Matsuri, a celebration that's been observed every July 17th since the year 869, according to the book "Cultural Tourism." Gion Matsuri, as of 2010, attracts about 250,000 visitors.


Lonely Planet promotes Osaka as a city surpassed only by Tokyo in terms of showcasing the Japanese urban phenomenon, including Japanese cuisine. Perhaps Osaka's reputation for offering quality food is part compensation for the lack of architectural beauty, manifested in large swaths of concrete box-style buildings and drab streets. But the Osaka Aquarium and the Osaka-jo castle are among the larger attractions in the city. And like Kyoto and Kobe, Osaka emits a particular charm at night when the city lights glow. As the authors of "Traveler's Companion to Japan" note when comparing Osaka with Kyoto, "Where Kyoto shuffles, Osaka bustles."


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