Japan’s Regional Rivalries

As a frequent traveler to Japan, every trip between Osaka and Tokyo unravels the strong rivalry between the country’s two distinct regions – Kansai and Kanto. Kansai represents Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara areas. Kanto represents Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, and Saitama areas.

Kansai vs. Kanto – Personality

In Osaka and its surrounding areas, locals are known to be friendly and outgoing with a relaxed sense of humor. In contrast, Tokyo locals are known to be too polite to the point where they come across as cold which can be attributed to their intense work environment.

Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station in the middle of Marunouchi, the capital’s financial district. Men and women in black suits briskly walk through the city during their daily commute. The intense work environment molds locals to focus on their careers in an obediently polite manner


Kansai vs. Kanto – Escalator Etiquette

The most obvious way to spot the rivalry between Kansai and Kanto is in where they stand on the escalator. In Tokyo, locals stand on the left and let passersby walk on the right; whereas in Osaka, locals stand on the right and let passersby walk on the left.

Why the difference? Perhaps it can be rooted in history. Merchants who mostly lived in Kansai protected their money and valuables in their right hand. Samurais who dominated Kanto favored bearing left when encountering strangers in order to easily draw their swords.


Kansai vs. Kanto – Cuisine

The rivalry between Kansai and Kanto can even be tasted. For instance, the basic dashi stock broth in Kansai is made with konbu (dried kelp) and in Kanto is it made with katsuobashi (dried bonito flakes). Even the soy sauce differs with Kansai soy sauce tasting slight sweet and Kanto soy sauce tasting saltier.

Kanto Sukiyaki
Kanto Sukiyaki. In Tokyo, you will typically find sukiyaki prepared in a slow simmer with all the ingredients in the pot cooking together. Some restaurants cook a slice of beef first for the customer to enjoy while the rest of the pot cooks and simmers in the liquid
Kansai Sukiyaki
Kansai Sukiyaki. In Kyoto and Osaka, you will typically find the beef caramelized and a sukiyaki pot with less liquid. The beef is first seared in fat while browned and caramelized in sugar with a little liquid. The vegetables are also cooked with just enough liquid to flavor and soften. This prepared creates an intense beef taste


Kansai vs. Kanto – Sports

Finally, the most popular culture rivalry between the two regions can be represented in their sporting teams. While baseball in an American sport in its roots, it a massive enthusiasm among players and fans in Japan. The two best teams are the Tokyo Giants and the Osaka Tigers. The rivalry can likened to the San Francisco Giants vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers or Real Madrid vs. Barcelona.


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