Kinki is the western region of the main Japanese island of Honshu. The region is also called Kansai. While the use of the terms “Kinki” and “Kansai” have changed over history, in most modern contexts the two can be considered the same. The urban region of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto (Keihanshin region) is the second most populated in Japan after the Greater Tokyo Area. The people in this region speak a distinctive dialect of Japanese and are renowned for humor and their love of food.
Hyogo prefecture is situated in the western part of Kinki Region (Midwest Japan) facing Seto Inland Sea to the south and the Sea of Japan to the north. There are scenic places like Seto Inland Sea National Park, San-in Kaigan Coast National Park, Rokko Mountains and Awaji-shima Island. It also has numerous cultural heritage represented by Himeji Castle which is a World Cultural Heritage.
Mie is situated in the center of Honshu, in the eastern part of the Kii-hanto Peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. It is narrow, and spreads down from north to south. Its complex geographical features create a variety of climates.
The southern coastline is an irregular and rugged saw-toothed coast. The eastern coastline is designated as Ise-Shima National Park, and is famous for cultured pearls, oysters and Ise lobsters, all made possible by the complex geographical features. The area designated as a natural park is more than one-third of the area of the entire prefecture, and is the second largest park area in Japan. There are many other scenic spots, including the Uga Valley in Suzuka Quasi-National Park, Doro Valley, and Akame Shiju-hattaki (forty-eight) Falls.
Nara Prefecture is situated in the west central section of Honshu. The formation of an ancient nation started around mid-3rd century, with the Yamato district as its center, and was completed by the late 6th century. The capital was placed in Asuka, in the southern part of the Nara Basin, located in the northwestern part of present-day Nara Prefecture, and it prospered as the political and economic center of Japan until the early 8th century. After the capital was relocated to Heijo-kyo (now Nara City) in 710, many temples and shrines were built there under the direction of the imperial family and aristocrats, and temple towns soon developed. Such temples and shrines include Todai-ji Temple, which has the Daibutsu, the world’s largest Buddha statue, made of copper and gold, it is enshrined in the world’s largest wooden structure, Daibutsu-den (Great Buddha Hall). Other famous temples include Yakushi-ji Temple, which has wonderful old wooden architecture and a statue of Buddha, and Toshodai-ji Temple which was founded by the Chinese priest Ganjin, who came to Japan after difficult journeys and spread the principles of Buddhism.
Shiga Prefecture is in the middle of Japan; Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, lies at its center. It is surrounded by Mt. Ibuki to the northeast, the Suzuka Mountain Range to the east, Mt. Hira-san and Mt. Hiei-zan to the west, and the Shigaraki Mountains lie to the south.
Wakayama expands from the center to the southernmost part of the Honshu Island (the mainland of Japan). The mysterious mountains on Wakayama have attracted many people as a sacred ground since ancient times.