Kansai Culture & history

Our most recommended Kansai Culture & history

Nara: Private Tour with Private Guide

1. Nara: Private Tour with Private Guide

Discover Nara on a fully customizable tour. Nara is in close proximity to Kyoto and Osaka, and its rich collection of traditional sites make it an ideal destination for a day trip from either of its larger neighbours. Start your day by meeting your guide at your hotel or chosen location, then choose sites you wish to visit depending on your interests. Example 6-hour Itinerary: Meet your guide at the designated meeting point you chose and let the tour begin. First visit Kofuku-Ji temple, a historic site that has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover several designated National Treasures here including the Buddhist sculpture masterpiece, the Statue of Ashura. Next, head for Todai-Ji temple, a World Heritage Site that is Nara’s most famous landmark. Admire the statue of Kongo Rikishi at Nandaimon Gate and Japan’s largest Great Buddha statue. Stroll through Nara Park which is famous for its wild deer species. Enjoy the verdant natural setting of Nara while taking part in the popular activity of feeding the deer inside the park. Then discover Kasuga Taisha temple, another World Heritage Site with an impressive red main shrine. Explore the Kasuga-Taisha National Treasure Hall which contains valuable works of Buddhist art.

Nara: Half-Day UNESCO Heritage & Local Culture Walking Tour

2. Nara: Half-Day UNESCO Heritage & Local Culture Walking Tour

Meet your knowledgeable guide at the meeting point and begin your cultural half-day walking tour of Japan's first historical capital. As you walk by the shopping arcade, explore a Japanese old town extremely different from a metropolis like Tokyo. Walk between the historical buildings, and go inside a traditional merchant's house to see how people around here live in the past. Next, take a break from walking to observe the mysterious pyramid-shaped structure in the middle of the quiet town. Admire the view of the city of Nara from the hill, then visit Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Learn about the distinct Japanese religious culture as you see a huge temple with a great Buddha statue, then explore a beautiful shrine housing hundreds of lanterns. In this area, meet and feed the wild deer living in Nara Park. For over 1,200 years, locals have believed that deer are sacred divine messengers. Interact with them and see how polite they are. At the end of the tour, savor a delicious Japanese lunch dish made only using local Nara vegetables and fresh meat.

Himeji: Private Customized Tour with Licensed Guide

3. Himeji: Private Customized Tour with Licensed Guide

Explore Himeji in your own way with a private licensed guide. Choose the 6 or 4-hour option depending on what fits with your schedule. Let the guide know what special requests you have for the day and they will tailor your itinerary accordingly. All guides hold the nationally-licensed Tour Guide-Interpreter certification. It is issued by the Japanese government and requires a good understanding of Japanese culture and history. This tour features a morning pickup at your hotel in Himeji, then a visit to any number of possible sites. You can customize your itinerary according to the places you want to visit. See a suggested itinerary below: The first stop is Himeji Castle, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Himeji Castle dates back to 1333, and has survived natural disasters, WWII bombing, and the wear of the weather. In 2015, it underwent restoration works, which helped return its facade to a brilliant white. Visit the castle with a local knowledgeable guide and learn about the castle's architecture. Next is Mt. Shosha, a picturesque temple area located in the mountains behind Himeji Castle. Take the ropeway cable car up to Mt. Shosha. Alternatively, if you’re feeling extremely energetic, you could hike up the mountain in an hour or less. Then stop by the Engyo-ji Temple. With so much to explore on the temple grounds, plan to spend around an hour here to see the main structures. The trails that lead through the grounds reveal Mt. Shosha's gorgeous flora, and little details that create a magical atmosphere. For lunch, you enjoy delicious local food around Himeji Station, such as amen, gyoza, tonkatsu, and sushi. The local shopping street arcade is another charm of Himeji, and your guide will pick out the best shops for you to visit.  Other popular places to visit on this tour could be the Himeji City Museum of Literature, the Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery, or the Hiromine Shrine.

Kyoto: Nishiki Market and Gion Cultural Walking Food Tour

4. Kyoto: Nishiki Market and Gion Cultural Walking Food Tour

Start at the vast 400-year-old Nishiki Market, nicknamed 'Kyoto's Kitchen,' where over 130 food shops and stalls will beckon your taste buds. Stroll through the Market and learn about its history and taste the various dishes unique to Kyoto including: Tofu Skin, Sesame Cracker, Japanese Pike Conger Eel, Sake, and etc. Then, rest your appetite by visiting a nearby shrine dedicated to the God of Education. Head for Pontocho Street by crossing through Teramachi Street, Shijo Street, and Kiyamachi Street- all of which will enable you to immerse yourself in modern Japanese culture. Pontocho street is very special, even for locals, because it is one out of the five Geisha districts in Kyoto. From here, you will walk across the majestic Kamo river and taste local sweets. The final section of the tour will lead you to Gion district (which is also another Geisha district). The guide will take you out of mainstream hustle and bustle of the crowded streets and into the more photogenic and hidden spots. Not only will you be educated about the Geisha tradition, you may even meet one. The tour finishes in Gion District on Shijo Street. From the finishing point, you can easily access Kiyomizudera which is most famous temple in Kyoto known for its stage with a great view.

From Osaka: Himeji Castle and Arima Onsen Private Tour

5. From Osaka: Himeji Castle and Arima Onsen Private Tour

Venture out from Osaka on day trip that gives you history, relaxation, and fun, all with the comfort and luxury of a private vehicle, tour guide, and door-to-door transportation. Customize your itinerary to your preferences and discover the gems of the Kansai region. Discover the mysteries of Himeji Castle, a feat of engineering and one of Japan's most elegant castles still standing today. Let your English-speaking guide take you into the castle buildings, providing you with stories and facts that make for a much richer experience than could be obtained on your own. Learn what rooms were used for what, all about defensive strategies, the role of concubines, and of course how the castle was designed to thwart invasion. Leave Himeji Castle and take a lunch break before heading off to Arima Onsen or central Kobe for some afternoon sights and relaxation. Feel restored by the therapeutic, mineral rich waters of Arima Onsen as others have done for over 1,300 years. Sense how your mind becomes more at ease and your skin smoother after the experience. Then, take a lovely stroll around the town, with shops and food vendors pleasantly scattered about. For those not quite so interested in hot springs, opt instead to explore the coastal areas of Kobe City at no additional cost. Choose from a number of local highlights according to your interests, including a well-known sake (Japanese rice wine) producer, where you can learn how the product is made and get some free samples. See the Western-style area of Kyu Kyoryuchi with its well-preserved houses dating back to the late 1800s.

Kyoto: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Walking Food Tour

6. Kyoto: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Walking Food Tour

Start the tour from the JR Saga Arashiyama station. The Arashiyama district, located west of the Kyoto city center, has long been a scenic leisure spot. Many ancient aristocrats had their villas here 1000 years ago and enjoyed writing literature and poetry. Today, the area is one of the most popular tourist sites in Kyoto.  First, explore the Bamboo Forest and quiet Sagano District, a peaceful neighborhood known for its beautiful maple trees. Then, visit Tenryu-ji temple which was built in 1339 by the Shogun Ashikaga in memory of the Emperor Go-Daigo and was a complex of more than 100 buildings. They were mostly destroyed by fires and civil wars over the years, but the traditional garden remains in its original form, designed by the monk Muso. Enjoy walking in the landscaped garden. After walking, taste Japanese croquette, leek pancakes, and sweet potato. Then, head over to the Togetsukyo bridge which, as the area’s landmark, dates back to the 9th-century and provides a good photo taking spot for visitors today. At the end of this half-day tour, have a nice sweets. If you like, you can enjoy shopping around after the tour because the this tour finished in a district where you can find many souvenirs.

Kyoto: 2-Hour Gion Geisha District Tour

7. Kyoto: 2-Hour Gion Geisha District Tour

Explore Gion, the centuries-old entertainment district of Kyoto, which truly comes alive at night. With your guide, learn about the customs of the geisha and the apprentice maiko. You may catch a glimpse of a few of the women in full costume.  Walk through the narrow streets with the lanterns flickering on the wooden buildings. Enjoy a night visit to a Shinto shrine, with a beautifully lit pagoda. Wander through the grounds of a Zen temple in the tranquil calm of the night. Learn more about the modern history of the entertainment district from your guide.

Nara: Big Buddha, Bambi and Backstreets Cultural Tour

8. Nara: Big Buddha, Bambi and Backstreets Cultural Tour

Accompanied by your tour guide, head straight to one of Nara’s top historical sites and one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, the Todaiji temple. Its famous centerpiece is the 15-meter bronze statue of the Great Buddha, Vairocana. On our way, you will be greeted by the friendly deer of Nara. The deer are divine protectors of the ancient capital living in perfect harmony with the locals. Next stop is the second of the seven great temples of Nara, Kofukuji. Make a brief stop at the Sarusawa pond, well known for its turtles and the pretty scenery surrounding it; this is considered a perfect spot for a romantic evening walk in Nara. Move forward into the quiet alleys and backstreets of Nara-machi, the well-preserved former merchant's district, where you will be able to see and experience unique traditional arts and crafts. As the best way to experience a city is through its food, you will get the chance to test some of our favorite local delights. The last stop of your journey will take you to a shopping street, where you can find colorful and diverse shops, perfect for souvenir hunting.  Both the JR Nara station and the Kintetsu station are within comfortable walking distance from the finishing point of the tour. Your guide will be happy to help you with directions to your hotel or to provide a restaurant recommendation for lunch. Do not forget to ask for more hints and tips on what else there is to do in Nara during your time here. 

Kyoto: Walking Tour in Gion with Breakfast at Nishiki Market

9. Kyoto: Walking Tour in Gion with Breakfast at Nishiki Market

Start out the tour by enjoying the fresh, morning air while walking through Gion. A local tour guide will show you around the calm and quaint morning of Kyoto.  Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere which is a big contrast to the vibrant energy at night. After a healthy little walk, you will visit a shrine that is loved by locals. Once arrived at the market savor a one of a kind Japanese breakfast along with tasting 4 to 5 exquisite dishes selected by your local guide. Nishiki Market has over 400 years of history and has been loved by locals as the "Kitchen of Kyoto" for a long time. The name implies that Nishiki Market is rich with the famous gourmet cuisine of Kyoto. Your local and knowledgeable guide will provide you with valuable information that you cannot get from an ordinary sightseeing tour. During the tour, you are welcome to ask any questions about the history and culture of Kyoto. Your local guide is happy to answer all of them.

Nara: City Highlights Shared Group or Private Bike Tour

10. Nara: City Highlights Shared Group or Private Bike Tour

Embark on a guided cycling tour around the city of Nara. Discover some of its significant landmarks including Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Tōdai-ji, and the Oshikien Garden. Meet your guide in Nara and after a short introduction and safety briefing, you will be ready to set off. Put your helmet on, jump on your bike and head off to discover the beauty of the city.  Admire the beautiful scenery of Nara Park as you ride along at a relaxed pace. See the friendly deer who roam freely within the park and take in the views of the beautifully maintained surroundings. Stop at the Todai-ji Temple and learn more about Buddhism and Shinto culture with your guide. Stroll through its grounds and gaze in awe at the 15-meter-tall giant Buddha statue. Next, head to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine to see its thousand lanterns. Then, continue to the Kikuichi store, a high-end Japanese cooking knife retailer, before heading back to the starting point.

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What people are saying about Kansai

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 127 reviews

Great tour with personable guide. This bike tour is particularly recommended on hot days, as you can reach all the important sights quickly and easily. It also gets high quality bikes. A very nice idea was that the guide took pictures of the whole tour, which he then made available to me. Great tour, full recommendation!

Yamaguchi was an amazing guide. He was thoughtful, prompt, polite and informative. We very much enjoyed our time with him and would highly recommend!

My guides have been excellent- warm, gives wonderful insights into Kyoto culture and cuisine, very polite and excellent service!

Great tour guide! Niall was professional and very helpful with providing a pleasant tour.

Excellent tour with an excellent tour guide. Loved it.