So, you want to take an adventure in the Kansai region? Of course you do! But if you have never been to the Kansai region before (or Japan for that matter), you probably have a lot of questions. Here, we are going to take some time to answer the most common questions we hear about travel in Kansai. Some of these travel tips are also applicable to Japan as a whole
Do you have a question? Ask us on the contact page!
Most of Kansai’s major cities (Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, etc…) experience similar temperatures throughout the year.
During the spring and fall, temperatures are usually around 20°C (68°F) and the days are typically sunny. In winter things can be chilly, roughly 5°C (41°F) or so during the day. It does occasionally snow, but the snow seldom piles up unless you go to mountainous areas, like north Kyoto or Hyogo prefecture.
Summer is easily the roughest season throughout the Kansai region. While summers have traditionally be hot and very humid, in the past few years we’ve had highs reach well in to the upper 30’s (upper 90’s in°F). Some days have even gone as high as 40°C (104°F). In 2018 there were a number of heat stroke warnings issued, and local governments encouraged people to stay indoors.
Our Travel Tips: If you are a very heat sensitive person, try to plan only a few outdoor activities in the summer, keep water on hand, and give yourself plenty of breaks in the shade when possible. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that a number of shrines, temples, and other historic tourist sites do not necessarily have air-conditioning.
It is also important to keep in mind that many restaurants in the big city areas in the Kansai region offer English menus, but that does not mean staff can speak English. Rather, it is most likely that the staff does not speak English, though they will try.
Our Travel Tips: Be sure you have some common Japanese expressions under your belt. Even just the basics can be very helpful!
In Osaka for example, purse snatching is a real problem and many people report having their bags stolen right out from under them. In crowded areas, especially those with lots of tourists or big events like festivals, pickpockets are not rare either. Furthermore, if you lose something on a train DO NOT count on getting it back. It seems every winter I lose a pair of gloves on the train, and I never see them again.
Our Travel Tips: Remember these common sense rules about traveling in new or unfamiliar areas:
- Keep a close eye on your personal possessions at all times.
- Make sure your bags are closed and close to you.
- Keep large amounts of money or other valuables inside your hotel room or in a locker.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
During the winter in Japan the flu is extremely common, but flu medicines are not sold at drugstores. If you think you have the flu you must go to a hospital to get medications that treat flu symptoms.
Our Travel Tips: Assemble a basic travel first aid kit. In addition, you might want to bring a couple extra small portions of special medications if you are prone to things like sour stomach and headaches. Also, don’t forget to buy traveler’s insurance! You never know what could happen.
Our Travel Tips: It is not uncommon for Japanese-style toilets to not provide toilet paper, soap, or paper towels. The fewer tourists in an area, the more likely this might be. Bring a small towel and some hand sanitizer with you whenever you venture off the beaten path. If you are planning to really go a remote location, you might even want to consider toilet paper…just in case.
Our Travel Tips: If you have tattoos and you intended to go to an onsen or a beach, you may want to call/check ahead to make sure tattoos are permitted.
Our Travel Tip: We advise always calling ahead/checking in advance about how handicap/wheelchair accessibility. Even in major city areas, smaller stations might have only one elevator and that elevator might only be on one side of the station.
Our Travel Tips: Consider using the Wi-Fi in your hotel as your primary source of Wi-Fi, or make plans with your cellphone service provider in your home country first.
In the past few years, I have seen more temporary phones advertised to tourists that offer internet services, but I have never personally used one.
Our Travel Tips: Once you get away from big cities, check the train schedules in advance!
Our Travel Tips: If possible avoid rush hour, especially if you have large baggage with you.
Our Travel Tips: When in doubt, “silence is golden”.
Kansai Airport is the largest international airports in the Kansai region. It takes 40 minutes to reach Osaka City from the airport via the Nankai Rapit Express.
*As of September 2018, Typhoon 21 caused a large ship to crash into the only bridge connecting the Kansai Airport to the mainland. While the airport is scheduled to resume flights, it seems currently the only way out of the airport will be bus or ship service. For more information, see our post about the Aftermath of Typhoon Jebi on Kansai Airport*
Kobe Airport is in Hyogo prefecture, but it doesn’t have as many flight per day as Itami or Kansai Airport
There are no airports in Kyoto and Nara.
Our Travel Tips: Bring your good walking shoes when you come to Japan!
Our Travel Tips: Food is a huge part of experiencing another country. Eat well and consider treating yourself to something you really want at least once during your trip. Trust us, it’s worth it!