Kansai International Airport is one of the many gateways into Japan; still, most travelers simply pass through the area to points onwards. However, that doesn’t mean there aren't many things to see and do in the area around the airport. At the seaside town of Tajiri, enjoy a morning market or the Fishing Industry Experience at the local fishing port. You can also find classic Japanese residences here, remnants of the town's former prosperity. Afterwards, take the train to Kishiwada, a city known for the energy and liveliness of their Danjiri Matsuri festival. Then there is beautiful Kishiwada Castle, as well as a museum that conveys the passion of the Danjiri Matsuri. But that's not all: With other spots like the historic townscape and outlet mall, it'd be a waste to pass this region by! If you happen to use Kansai International Airport, be sure to come and check it out.
Start at Yoshiminosato Station, Nankai Main Line
1. Tajiri Marine Exchange Center
Getting off at Yoshiminosato, a small station on the Nankai Main Line, you'll step into a peaceful and quiet little town. Start your walk along the narrow road, lined with grocery stores and other shops that have hardly changed over the years. Once the road begins to widen, the ocean comes into sight. It's there at the road's end you'll find the Tajiri Marine Exchange Center, built to shelter the crowds of fishing boats and yachts that anchor at the port. Opening every Sunday, the morning market is thronged with people coming to shop at over 40 different stalls selling seafood, fruits and vegetables, tempura, tsukemono pickles, towels, and more. Even during the weekdays there are sushi restaurants and cafes open for business. Visitors still hankering for a little more ocean can also try out the Fishing Industry Experience (reservation required). Another popular activity is seaside barbecues: Savor freshly caught seafood while taking in a view of the ocean blue.
7:00 – 17:00 Closed Tuesdays (open if holiday)
From Yoshinosato StationFrom to Kishiwada Station
3. Kishiwada Castle
Kishiwada Castle can be seen even as you're coming into the area by train. Situated in the middle of a modern landscape, the castle presents the sort of gorgeous sight that only a classic Japanese castle town can bring. Destroyed by fire in 1827 and subsequently rebuilt in 1954, the dazzling keep reflects sunlight off its white walls. If you look out to the west from the third floor of the keep, you'll just barely see the figures of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and Awaji Island in the distance. Turn your gaze below and there you'll find the castle garden transformed. The garden design was created by Mirei Shigemori and based on castle wall plans dating back at least 500 years to before the Muromachi era. It appears the plan was built to incorporate Zhuge Liang’s Eight Formations. The "general" stands in the center, and each of the Sky, Earth, Wind, Cloud, Dragon, Tiger, Bird, and Snake formations are set around it.
Adults ¥300, middle school students and under: free
10:00 – 17:00 (admission until 16:00) Closed Mondays (open if holiday), year-end and New Year holidays
4. Kishiwada Danjiri Hall
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The first part is about an entirely unrelated destination in central Osaka called "Tekijuku" Among the tall buildings and offices is a small space containing Tekijuku, a private school used for Western studies that remains just as it was in the mid-19th century. Now registered as a National Important Cultural Property, the school was established by Ogata Koan for scholars of Western (i.e., Dutch) learning and medical sciences. Come through the genkan-style entrance and the first thing you'll see is a beautiful green courtyard. Head inwards down the sun-lit corridor to find a dim parlor and several straw tatami mat rooms. Stand on the tatami, wrapped in the silence, and any memories of the office buildings outside will fade away. Continue on through other rooms (the high-ceilinged kitchen, the small family room) and ascend up the steep stairs to the second floor. Head on and let your eyes wander along Kishiwada Castle's moat until you arrive to the Kishiwada Danjiri Hall, a solidly built structure. This museum is a place to experience the world of one of Japan's most notable festivals: the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri. As the automatic door opens, paper lanterns light up the dim space with their otherworldly glow. The hall is packed with a variety of things to interact with: a screen showing the intensity of the Danjiri festival, a display of Kishiwada’s oldest danjiri portable shrine, a reproduction of the old townscape, and a corner where visitors can try on happi coats, pose with paper lanterns, and try out festival instruments. Among those, the 3D image of a danjiri is a must-see! Put on the 3D glasses in the small theater space and you'll see a projection of footage taken from atop a danjiri. Since it's at eye level as if you were seated on the danjiri, you'll be able to really feel the sway and tremor of the float and the passionate energy of the people pulling it. Don't forget to take a closer look at the elaborate carving on the danjiri, too. Come here to experience the vitality of the town and the passion they pack into a single festival!
Adults ¥600 yen, elementary and middle school students ¥300
10:00 – 17:00 (admission until 16:00) Closed Mondays
5. Kishiwada Ekimae-dori & Kishiwada Hon-dori Shopping Streets
Heading straight towards Kishiwada Station along the road in front of the Danjiri Kaikan, you'll come to a shopping district avenue. Turning right and you'll head down the covered Kishiwada Ekimae-dori Shotengai arcade; turn left toward the seaside and you'll be at the open-air Kishiwada Hon-dori Shotengai shopping street. The Ekimae-dori Shotengai has ample space beneath its arches so that the danjiri floats can come through in full vigor when the Danjiri Matsuri festival is being held. A point of interest here is how all the shops, from the record shop and stationary store to the toy store, sell danjiri goods. At the shoe shop you'll find the two-toed tabi shoes needed for the festival: However, in recent years inflated “air tabi” have become quite popular. Over along the Hon-dori Shotengai you'll find a more nostalgic, laid-back atmosphere drifting along the street. The shops here include a retro-style engagement gift shop, classic hardware stores, and sweet shops selling Kishiwada's famous murasame, a Japanese-style sweet steamed cake made with rice and wheat flour.
6. Kishiwada CanCan Bayside Mall
Cut through the Kishiwada Hon-dori Shotengai and head toward the sea: Once you've come to the end of the road, you'll see the sign for the Kishiwada CanCan Bayside Mall. Though Rinku Town Premium Outlet Mall next to Kansai International Airport is a strict outlet mall, CanCan Bayside Mall fuses outlet stores with a shopping mall. In addition to the outlet zone, the mall brings together a huge variety of fashion, general goods, restaurants, amusement facilities, a cinema, and more. The highlight here is the large deck in front of the seaside promenade facing the ocean. With its European-style exterior and rich atmosphere, it's the perfect date spot.
Fashion outlets 10:00 – 20:00, restaurants 11:00 – 22:00, amusement facilities 10:00 – 24:00
Sights to see：Walking from the Danjiri Hall towards Kishiwada Hon-dori Shotengai, there are old houses and stores scattered along the seaside road, known as the Kyu-Kishu Kaido ("Old Kii Province Road"). Looking at structures like the former Yonjusan Bank (built in 1919), the Kishiwada Chuo Hall (a pre-WW II structure), and the elegant examples of modernist architecture, you'll understand how Kishiwada flourished over the years.
HUNGRY?：The famous garden Gofu-so near the moats of Kishiwada Castle was originally a residence built over a decade from 1929 by the Terada Clan, a fabulously wealthy Kishiwada zaibatsu (large conglomerate). Now called Ganko Kishiwada Gofuso, you can enjoy Japanese cuisine here at a reasonable price.
SOUVENIRS：Near the edge of the seaside at the end of the Kishiwada Hon-dori Shotengai shopping avenue is a shop called Kankanba, which sells casual wear in traditional Japanese patterns as well as Danjiri Matsuri-related goods. Kankanba has a massive selection of excellent souvenirs you'll hardly see anywhere outside Kishiwada, including genuine garments made for Shinto ceremonies, miniature danjiri floats and danjiri figures, and more.