The Kinki region, also known as the Kansai region, is home to two of Japan's most exciting cities - Osaka and Kyoto - as well as a great deal of history, nature and spirituality.
Reduced to little more than rubble at the end of World War Two, Osaka has risen once again to be one of the world's economic wonders, with a staggering output.
True to its mercantile history, Osaka to this day maintains its rivalry with Kyoto, capital for over one thousand years, former home of the Emperor and his household, and spiritual and cultural heart of the nation. Kyoto constantly surprises; the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are just the beginning of what Kyoto offers - truly a must-see destination.
Besides these two great cities, Kinki is also home to Nara, another of Japan's ancient capital cities; the Kumano Kodo network of pilgrimage routes, tracing their way through the mountains of the Kii Peninsula; Mount Koya, the atmospheric home of Shingon Buddhism; and the beautiful onsen hot springs of Kinosaki - to name just a few of its highlights.
No two cities could sum up the contrast of urban Japan better than the two giants of the Kinki region - Osaka and Kyoto. One an ancient imperial capital, the other a concrete jungle of factories, shops, apartments, flashing lights and catchy jingles.Simon King - Director
There is nowhere more special than Kyoto. It is home to everything associated with traditional Japan: striking temples, mysterious geisha, sacred tea ceremony, Zen rock gardens, imperial palaces, refined cuisine, ornate kimono, bamboo groves, street-corner shrines and lively festivals.
Osaka is the concrete beating heart of the Kansai region - Japan's second biggest industrial area with an output rivalling that of Australia. This is modern Japan writ large: massive crowds, huge department stores, karaoke boxes, bars, restaurants and clubs one on top of the other.
Kinosaki Onsen is the classic Japanese hotspring resort. Nestling between mountains and sea, Kinosaki has escaped the concrete and glaring pachinko parlours of other Japanese towns. Traditional wooden houses sit along the willow-lined river which carries colourful koi carp through the town centre.
The city of Himeji in is rightly famous for its original castle. While many Japanese castles are reconstructions after damage by fire, war and earthquake, Himeji-jo escaped these calamities and remains at is has been since its construction in 1581 by the popular samurai hero, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Situated in the north of Kyoto Prefecture, a two hour train ride from Kyoto city will take you through rice fields and lush mountain forests to this pretty coastal town on Tango Peninsula which protrudes northward into the Japan Sea - a world away from the crowded sites of the former capital.
Nara is perhaps Japan's friendliest and greenest city. The quiet town sits on the edge of a sprawling park providing a picture perfect backdrop for the magnificent temples and shrines including Todaiji, home of the huge Dai-butsu statue of Buddha.
The history of Mount Koya stretches back some 1,200 years to the ninth century, when a monastic retreat was set up atop the mountain to serve members of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Today it is one of the most atmospheric and peaceful places that you can visit in Japan.
Hikone is a small, charming town located on the shores of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. Hikone lies on the Nakasendo, an important trading route during the Tokugawa era. Hikone's biggest attraction is it's castle, one of only 14 remaining original castles in Japan.
Shirahama is home to one of Japan's best white sand beaches and is a great destination for relaxing by the sea. There are boat trips into the bay with scuba diving or snorkeling available as well as fishing trips. There are two golf courses nearby and tennis courts are available for hire.
Kobe must be Japan's most attractive city; gleaming modern streets, a welcoming international atmosphere and stunning night time views of the busy port. There's little in the way of tourist attractions, but Kobe is a real working Japanese city with great shopping and fantastic cuisine.
Opened in 1994, Osaka's Kansai Airport (known as Kanku in the local Kansai dialect) is an engineering triumph of extraordinary proportions. As construction projects go they don't come bigger than this.
Arima Onsen is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan, along with Shirahama Onsen in Wakayama Prefecture and Dogo Onsen on Shikoku Island.
Ise is a coastal town in the scenic Ise-Shima National Park. The town shares its name with the myth-enveloped shrine which is visited by millions of Japanese each year.
Yunomine Onsen is a great place to stay in the centre of Japan's sacred Kumano Kodo. Tucked deep in the hidden valleys of Wakayama Prefecture, this is a beautiful, spiritual place little visited by Western tourists.
Kii-Katsuura is where the Kumano Kodo meets the Pacific Ocean. Once a quiet fishing port, the town's fortunes changed when an abundance of hot springs were discovered here and today the town's shore line is dominated by many big onsen hotels.
Located on the far tip of the Ise Peninsula, Kashikojima is a charming stretch of coastline offering views across a bay studded with little islands.