Japan is at the top of many travelers' bucket lists with its incredible food, beautiful landscapes, and intriguing culture. But while many people fly into Tokyo and simply stay there, it’s more worthwhile to get outside the capital and spend time exploring the Kansai region.Kansai encompasses the prefectures of Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Wakayama, Hyogo, and Shiga. Within these prefectures, the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and Himeji are some of the most popular among tourists. Here are 10 reasons visitors should consider spending their time in Kansai rather than sticking to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

10 It’s More Affordable

Many travelers are deterred from visiting Japan because of its reputation for being extremely expensive. While this might be true for the capital city of Tokyo, the Kansai region provides an opportunity to experience some of Japan’s top attractions on a reasonable budget.

Accommodation in Osaka, Japan’s second city, is 21.58% less than that in the city center of Tokyo. The cost of a meal in Osaka is also lower than in Tokyo by 16.67%.

9 The Food

Osaka is commonly known as the food capital of Japan because it offers some of the best dishes in the country. The name originated during the Edo period since Osaka was a port city, where all food would pass through on its way to other areas in the nation.

Osaka boasts unique dishes and street food like Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that can contain different meats or seafood. Takoyaki wheat-flour-based ball containing octopus. Both of these are readily available throughout the city but are fun to try at Dotonbori.

8 Plenty of Onsens to Choose From

The Kansai region is famous for its many hot springs, which are known as onsens in Japan. Traditionally, people bathe naked in an onsen and these public baths are separate for men and women.

In the Hyogo prefecture, some of the most popular hot springs include Arima, Kinosaki, and Ako Hot Springs. In Nara prefecture, Totsukawa Hot Springs is a favorite among travelers while the best spot to soak in the warm mineral waters in Kyoto is Kurama Hot Springs.

Related: 10 Onsen Hot Spring Etiquettes Visitors To Japan Must Know

7 Slower Pace of Life

Tokyo is known for its sheer size and population. It’s a busy place and everyone is always on the move. For a more serene experience in Japan, travelers may prefer the relaxed atmosphere of Kyoto or the smaller scale of Osaka City.

The best part about choosing the spend a two-week vacation only in the Kansai region rather than solely in Tokyo is the diversity. Since the Kansai region includes Nara, Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, and Kobe there are opportunities to enjoy delicious food in Osaka, serene nature in Nara, beautiful shrines in Kyoto, and soothing hot springs in Himeji.

Related: Kyoto Vs. Tokyo: Which Japanese Destination Should You Visit?

6 Peaceful Shrines and Temples

Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are abundant throughout Japan, but in the Kansai region, they are unmatched. Since there is so much greenery and nature in the area, the shrines and temples here are often shrouded in trees and offer plenty of room for tourists to space out, so they can enjoy the tranquility without feeling crowded by others.

Some of the most notable shrines that are on traveler’s Japanese bucket lists are found in Kansai, including Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizu Dera, and Todaji Temple.

5 It’s the Cultural Capital

Much of Japan’s important history originates from the Kansai region, which is why its referred to as the country’s cultural capital. Although Tokyo is the modern-day capital city of Japan, the historical cities of Nara and Kyoto previously served as capitals of the country as well.

Nara is an ancient city with much of the original architecture and old streets still intact. Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital city as of 710. Kyoto also had its time as Japan’s capital city and is worth visiting for the Gion historic district alone.

4 Learn About Ninja Techniques Where They Originated

Ninjas have a prevalent reputation worldwide, but few people realize their origins are from Japan’s Kansai region. Japan’s warriors have a rich history here, primarily from Iga and Koka.

One of the last original ninja houses is in Kansai on the ground of Iga Ueno Castle. Visiting this location allows travelers the unique aspects of the ninja house like trapdoors, secret rooms, and weapon storage. This is the perfect place to gain a new appreciation for this part of Japan’s culture.

3 History and Castles

The Kansai region is steeped in rich cultural history and one of the many ways to appreciate the past is to visit some Japanese castles. Osaka Castle is one of the most famous historical sites in Japan, particularly notable for its massive stone wall. In springtime, the castle is even more picturesque when its surrounded by cherry blossoms.

Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture is another worthwhile sightseeing stop when in Kansai. It sits atop a hill, has a complex structure, and remains in great condition.

2 It’s a Spiritual Place for Journeys of Enlightenment

For those interested in the spiritual aspects of Japan’s culture, Kansai is the better alternative to Tokyo. Kansai encompasses Wakayama prefecture where there are many sacred sites. One of these is called Koyasan, where the sect of Japanese Buddhism was born.

Kansai is also famous for being an area of the country where many Japanese people come to make pilgrimages. One such pilgrimage route is Kumano to Kyoto via the Kodo trails.

1 There's More Wildlife

Travelers hoping to interact with unique wildlife or take photos of creatures in their natural habitats will certainly prefer Kansai over Tokyo for their Japanese adventure. While Tokyo offers animal cafés, these are a moral gray area with many cafés treating their animals unethically.

In Kansai, there are opportunities to see bowing deer wandering free at Nara Deer Park. These magnificent animals are curious and eager to devour the cookies visitors can purchase at the park and feed them as a treat. There is also Iwatayama Monkey Park in Arashiyama. It's easy to visit the park on the same day as the iconic Arashiyama Bamboo Forest on a day trip from Kyoto.