The area of land consisting of Hyogo Prefecture, along with Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, Shiga, Fukui, Mie, and Tokushima Prefectures, is called the Kansai Region, and was the centre of Japan for over 1,000 years until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1868. During this 1,000 year period, the capital of Japan was located in Kyoto, Nara, Shiga and Hyogo Prefectures for varying lengths of time.
As a result, Kansai is rich with numerous remaining shrines, temples and historic spots. About 51% of Japan’s designated National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties are found in the Kansai Region. The area is also known for its diversified natural beauty, including forests, lakes, and the sea.
Unlike the Tokyo metropolitan area in which activities are mainly centred in Tokyo, Kansai is a decentralised region consisting of the three major cities of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. The three cities display features of a commercial city, an international city, and a historical city respectively. Other large cities such as Himeji, Nara, and Wakayama, as well as smaller cities and towns all contribute to the area’s attractiveness and prosperity. In economic terms, the Kansai Region has a population of 24 million and a gross regional product that exceeds 90 trillion yen per annum, equivalent to the gross domestic product of the world’s 7th top-ranked country (according to 1995 statistics).
In order to promote itself as the “Heart of Japan”, with characteristics which differ from those of the Tokyo area, the Kansai Region is aiming to become an international exchange base mainly for the Asia-Pacific Region. To this end, projects such as the Osaka Bay Area Development Project and the Rekishi Kaido Project (historic spots networking project) are underway in the region. National projects including the construction of the 2nd Phase of the Kansai International Airport, to respond to increasing air demand, and Kansai Science City, are also underway.