5 Differences Between Kansai and Kanto

Writer's Profile
Writer’s Profile

Misty Fujii is a Canadian who moved to Osaka, Japan, in 2019 and married her Japanese sweetheart. In 2022, they had a baby and moved to Fukui for the clean country air. She is a DJ who teaches English part-time and writes to share Japan with the world. She gets excited about collecting vintage vinyl records, food from all countries, travelling, and renovating her traditional Japanese house.

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In one corner of the ring, you’ve got Kansai, a region of heavyweights like Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. On the other, there’s Kanto with titans Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, and more. Who can come out on top? Well, only you can decide that because both regions are about as different as you could imagine!

For example, the people. You’ve got Tokyoites, known for their sleek style and polite reserve, versus Kansai folks, famed for their bold humor and fiery passion. Taste Kanto’s light, dashi-based broths compared to Kansai’s rich, miso-laden stews. Then throw in accents so different they’re practically different languages! Buckle up language-lovers and culture cravers as we explore the hilarious, delicious, and sometimes confusing differences between these key regions. 

Get ready to laugh and learn as we unveil the differences between Kansai and Kanto in Japan’s West vs. East showdown!

1. Personality of Locals

Misty Fujii – Osaka’s Obaachan’s – loud, funny and kind!

Osaka, Japan’s comedy capital, breeds locals who are as spicy as their takoyaki. It’s the land of friendly fire, where teasing is a love language, and laughter echoes through the streets. Kansai residents are known to erupt like firecrackers, full of fun and always cracking jokes. Think loud, friendly, and always ready for a good-natured roast (you’re not even safe from the grandmas!). This is mainly due to being home to one of the nation’s most esteemed comedy schools and some legendary graduates who have become some of Japan’s most famous actors and comedians. Kansai is the spot if you’re looking for big laughs and even bigger hearts. 

Meanwhile, things play out more like a silent movie in Kanto’s leading representative, Tokyo. Think hushed train rides, impeccably straight lines, and a helpful hand offered with a polite bow. Rest assured, if you look lost, it won’t be long before someone will quickly help to guide the way. Kanto is where manners reign supreme, and social harmony is the name of the game. Don’t get it twisted, though, these folks aren’t robots! Tokyo also knows how to let loose and have a good time – after a hard day’s work, that is. 

While the personality differences between Kanto and Kansai residents are often highlighted, it’s important to remember that these are generalizations and don’t necessarily apply to everyone. Japan’s awesome because it’s got all kinds of personalities. So next time you visit, embrace the differences and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

2. Food

Japan is a foodie’s paradise and the food fight is never-ending between these two areas! In the Kansai corner, you’ve got Osaka, the Nation’s Kitchen, where some of the world’s best street food reigns supreme. This region is cattle country, so expect melt-in-your-mouth Kobe steaks and savory okonomiyaki piled high with meaty goodness. They go light on the soy sauce, keeping flavors subtle and fresh. Sweet tooths get their fix in Kyoto with fluffy pancakes filled with red bean paste, and matcha galore, perfect for an afternoon matcha tea ceremony.

Back in Kanto, there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo than in any other city in the world! Boasting 251 Michelin Stars across 194 restaurants in the 2024 guide, Japan’s buzzing capital is known for its cuisine. The food here is bold and brash, with dark soy sauce and deep flavors. While Kansai is known for beef, Kanto prefers pork. Ramen? Tonkotsu all the way, rich and creamy with a pork punch. Even the gyoza is pan-fried perfection filled with porky goodness. And don’t forget the sushi! Here, it’s served in the traditional Edomae style: bite-sized nigiri kissed with soy sauce.

Needless to say, both regions offer a mind-blowing variety of deliciousness and are both worth exploring!

3. Dialect

Think Japanese is all “konnichiwa” and polite bows? Think again! Dialects across Japan paint a vibrant linguistic landscape, and none are as lively as Kansai-ben

While Kanto folks stick to the “standard” script, Kansai speakers are known for their infectious energy and distinct pitch, making them hard to miss even before you see them. Listen for the rising pitches and quirky expressions. Forget “no” because Kansai throws in an extra punch with a sassy “nen” or “yanai” at the end of verbs. Get ready for phrases like “Nan de ya nen?!” (What the heck are you talking about?!), “Nanbo?” (How much?) and “Ookini!” (Thank you!). 

Meanwhile, in Kanto, things are a bit more chill. Standard Japanese reigns supreme, with a polite, textbook-perfect accent. It’s the language of business and formality, where a straight “hai” (yes) and “ikura” (how much?) are the norm.

4. Comedy

Dialects differ, and so do the punchlines! Osaka is practically synonymous with comedy, boasting famous theaters and the nickname “birthplace of comedy.” Their signature style is manzai, where two comedians riff off each other, one playing the fool and the other the straight man. Loaded with misunderstandings, physical comedy, and wordplay, it’s all delivered in Kansai’s trademark dialect – loud and proud!

In contrast to Kansai’s playful slapstick, Kanto’s comedy style is much more subtle. But don’t worry, they still know how to laugh! Instead of playful jabs, Tokyo-ites rely on witty wordplay, puns, and even self-deprecating humor, all with a straight face and deadpan delivery. And Tokyo isn’t a comedy slouch! Legendary actor and comedian Beat Takeshi got his start right in Asakusa.

Remember, these are just generalizations, though, and both regions have diverse comedy scenes. Ultimately, the best way to experience Japan’s humor is to immerse yourself in it!

5. Sense of Fashion 

Dick Thomas JohnsonCC BY 2.0 DEED via Wikimedia Commons

Last but not least, fashion! Thanks to the Internet and social media, the differences in fashion, especially for young adults, are not as different as they used to be. Still, some regional differences and stereotypes live on to this day.

Ditch the rulebook and enter Osaka’s fashion playground! Here, bold colors, playful patterns, and eclectic mixes reign supreme. Think vintage finds mashed with streetwear, kawaii influences, and a dash of anything-goes attitude. It’s a celebration of personal expression, where louder is better and uniqueness is the ultimate accessory. Think you can’t rock leopard print with polka dots? You can in Kansai!

Tokyoites, on the other hand, are the trendsetters of Japan, with sleek minimalism mixed with high fashion trends. Think clean lines, monochrome palettes, and statement accessories that scream ‘effortless and cool’ (even if it took hours). In Kanto, It’s all about individuality and expressing your unique vibe, whether it’s edgy street style or polished perfection.

So which side are you on, team Kansai or Kanto? Wherever you decide, there’s no doubt that both regions are full of culture, fun, and lots to explore!

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