Summer Days Out in Kansai

ByJustin Hanus
Apr 21, 2023

Summer Days Out in Kansai

Kansai is a diverse region of Japan, perfect for the warmer summer months. It’s best known for bigger cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, but plenty of locations within and beyond these parts make for great summer days out. You won’t be short of options, from mountains to beaches to cool local festivals. Here is a pick of where to head in the region this summer.

Outdoor dining in Kibune (Kyoto)

Kibune is a small rural town in the northern mountains of Kyoto. Much of the town consists of a winding riverside road lined with inns (ryokan) and restaurants that offer a unique outdoor dining experience from June to September, where diners can eat on wooden platforms that straddle the flowing water beneath. This is known as kawadoko. There are also hiking trails if you’re really up for taking in the outdoor atmosphere. The nearby Kifune Shrine, with its stone steps lined with red wooden lanterns, is well worth a visit, and there are also temples and onsen en route if you fancy a trek.

You can reach Kibune by train from central Kyoto on the Eizan Kurama line, traveling to Kibune-guchi station, and then a further five-minute bus ride.

Water-based fun at Lake Biwa (Shiga)

Japan’s largest freshwater lake is also one of the country’s oldest waterways, aged at around 4 million years. Located in Shiga prefecture, north of Kyoto, it stretches out at over 235 km and provides a perfect day of summer fun if you’re looking for something water-based. There are beaches and seated terraces if you want to relax or get in the lake for a swim, as well as activities on offer, such as boating and windsurfing. The wetlands surrounding the lake are one of the best places in Kansai to spot wildlife, plus there is a museum if you want to learn more about the lake’s history. There are also camping facilities if you want to make a weekend of it.

To get there, take a train from Kyoto to Otsu station for the southern tip of the lake or continue to Hikone station for the east side.

Watch the sunset from Japan’s tallest building (Osaka)

Opened in March 2014, the 300-meter-tall Abeno Harukas building is currently Japan’s tallest skyscraper, although the Azabudai Hills tower is expected to overtake it on completion in 2023. This commercial facility in central Osaka is multi-purpose, consisting of offices, guest rooms, department stores, and more. The top three floors – 58th to 60th – are an observatory where you can witness spectacular views of Osaka and even see as far afield as the nearby cities of Kyoto and Kobe. The 60th floor is made from glass, giving off the feeling of floating on air, while the 58th floor is a café and bar open late into the evening during the summer months. What better way to see the sunset?

Website: Abeno Harukas

Enjoy centuries-old traditions at the Gion Festival (Kyoto)

One of Japan’s longest-standing and important Shinto festivals, the Gion Matsuri, dates back to the 9th century when locals staged festivities to appease gods and prevent disease. Today in this district of Kyoto, activities are carried out throughout July each year. The most important part of the festival happens on the 17th and 24th of July, with a grand parade of floats (Yamahoko-Junko) in the morning and a procession of portable Shinto shrines (Mikoshi-Togyo) at night.

Website: Gion Festival

Sunbathe at Shirahama Beach (Wakayama)

Wakayama prefecture in southern Kansai has no shortage of beaches, the pick of them arguably being the glorious Shirahama beach. With a name that translates as “white beach,” this bathers’ paradise offers postcard views that are a tourist favorite thanks to its white sand (imported from Australia), emerald green sea, and fantastic rock formations. The beach stretches out for over 600 meters, and nearby restaurants and family activities make this location the quintessential summer fun experience.

Website: Shirahama Beach

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