Exploring the Sacred Grounds of Kansai

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I dream of traveling the world – experiencing rich cultures and learning new things. Walking past innately sculptured ancient architecture, smelling their local dishes,v and taking a leap of faith by embracing their traditions.

You’ll never know what realization you will get until you start your journey. I decided to go back to Japan after visiting Tokyo two years ago. This time, I decided to lose myself in the old streets of Kansai.

The cultural charm of the place envelopes you wherever you go. So just brace yourself, and trust your gut – take a big gulp and prep yourself up to have a one-of-a-kind adventure because Kansai nurses a number of World Heritage Sites – each with its own story.

KYOTO: Mirror Pond and Geisha Flashback

The Kinkaku-Ji (Rokuon-Ji) Temple which is the villa of Kintsune Saionji back in 1220, also known as the Golden Pavillion will surprise you with its astounding beauty. The crystal-like water together with a blast of sunlight creates a wonderful reflection. The rich green garden path around the area is perfect for snapping away and capturing the moment. It can be encapsulated by the word Zen – as they say, simplicity is key.

I was lucky to have visited Kyoto during a busy week. There was a large student population celebrating the Intercollegiate Festa featuring a music competition, fashion exhibition, parades, and a food expo with a smorgasbord of delicacies from all over the world. I tried and tasted treats made from scratch by the kids.

Kinkakuji golden temple
Kinkakuji golden temple
Japanese maple leaves
Japanese maple leaves

The event also featured traditional dances with a modern twist prepared by students. The fierce movement captures the quintessential Kansai mixed with the youthful glow of the performers keeping the audience glued to their seats.

Not to mention its movie appeal, as it was the setting for one of the scenes in Memoirs of a Geisha.

Another must-see is the Fushimi Inari Shrine. It houses thousands of never-ending toriis – a sight to behold. The complex is composed of five shrines spread out over the area.

Tori at Fushimi Inari
Tori at Fushimi Inari
Looking through the tunnel of tori
Looking through the tunnel of tori

My favorite part of the whole trip was exploring Sanjusangendo which means Hall with 33 bays. Its exhibit ground will astound you with its vast collection of National treasures – 1,001 Kannon statues together with 28 guardian deities.

NARA: Sharing inner peace with nature

In search of the perfect torii, I around the nature trail of Nara. Deers stroll along with you as the cool breeze brushes your face. Hours of walking will surely take their toll – but worry not, there are food stops along the way. I urge you to reward yourself with a Green tea ice cream! It’s worth it!

Feeding the deer in Nara
Feeding the deer in Nara Park

I encourage travelers to find the perfect charm in Kansai. There are a lot of temples selling a little bit of luck for every need – for expecting mothers, for health, to pass an exam, reach your goal, and, of course, for love. You may or may not believe in them but having one surely makes your trip worthwhile – it can just plainly be your souvenir or the perfect gift for your friends back home.

You can also write on wooden blocks and wish – or simply use them as memorabilia. Don’t worry about strictly following your itinerary – surprise yourself and travel to your heart’s content!

Wooden blocks
Wooden blocks hanging
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Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

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