Keihanshin (京阪神)

Keihanshin is both a collective name for the cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, and an area name indicating the main part of the Kinki region centered around these three cities.


Generally speaking, the term Keihanshin often indicates the Keihanshin Metropolitan area. However, in some cases, the examples stated below can be seen.

Keihanshin' as a collective name

As it is made up simply of the initial sounds of the three city names, it is used when describing events and facilities limited to those three cities as one group, such as 'The Three Keihanshin Universities (Kyoto University, Osaka University and Kobe University),' etc.

Keihanshin' as an area name

It indicates an urban area including Kyoto City, Osaka City and Kobe City along with their surrounding satellite smaller cities. Kinki region, or the central part of western Japan.

An economic area centered around the three cities above in which the capitals of all six prefectures in the Kinki region (excluding Mie Prefecture) are concentrated. The extent differs depending on what is measured, however, in terms of economy and culture, there is a strong interdependent relationship. Main part of Kinki region.

Keihanshin Metropolitan area (world's 3rd largest GDP, world's 6th to 7th largest population)

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications specified the urban area with Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe as its central cities (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) (absolute urban area) as the Keihanshin Metropolitan area (from the 2005 national census). The extent corresponds to the parts colored in dark blue, blue and light blue in the right figure, and covers the entire area of Osaka prefecture, the southern part of Hyogo Prefecture, the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture, the northern part and part of the southern part of Nara Prefecture, the southern part and part of the northern part of Shiga Prefecture, Hashimoto City, Iwade City, Katsuragi Town and Kudoyama Town in Wakayama Prefecture and Nabari City in Mie Prefecture, with a population of about 18.64 million people. In Japan, it boasts of a scale second only to the Kanto Metropolitan area, ranked as one of the three major metropolitan areas in the nation and also one of the seven largest, while in the world it is ranked as the 6th to 7th largest urban area. (Refer to the ranking of the population of urban areas in the world). The GDP is the world's 3rd largest, exceeding Los Angeles in consideration of the depreciation of the yen. Since the Osaka City center surpasses others in the area in aspects of the tertiary industries such as business and merchandising, the urban area centered in the heart of Osaka is sometimes regarded as the Keihanshin Metropolitan area (refer to Osaka).

more than 10% of its population commuting to a central city
Based on this viewpoint, the Urban Employment Area (10% commuter area [more than 10% of its population commuting to a central city]) has separately specified the Osaka urban area, Kyoto urban area and Kobe urban area (relative urban area).

In addition, there are many cases where a modern city uses industry as a base of wealth in the course of its growth, attracting workers and thereby gaining in its concentration of population. Also up until Japan's period of high economic growth, the population engaged in the secondary industries was largest in the urban areas of large cities. From this perspective, a densely-populated zone formed in an industrial area being specified as a 'city'is something that is seen world-over. In accordance with this traditional point of view, the Hanshin Industrial Zone centered in Osaka City and Kobe City is specified as a city (urban area), and the urban area centered in Kyoto City which is not based on modern heavy chemical industries is treated separately. Examples of it being divided in this manner into the 'Hanshin urban area' and 'Kyoto urban area' can be seen in the Urban Agglomeration of the United Nations and the GDP by urban areas by PricewaterhouseCoopers Co., Ltd., etc.

Daytime population and night-time population by prefecture (from the 2005 national census)


In the ancient times, many emperors (tycoons) placed their hometowns (refer to the capitals in Japan) in the Nara Basin, and in this case, the port in what is currently Sakai City was connected with those hometowns by Nagao-kaido Road, Takeuchi-kaido Road, etc. bound for the city. On the other hand, in time periods focusing on diplomacy, or if an emperor wanted to establish themselves at a distance from the existing powers in the Nara Basin, their capitals were placed to the south of the southern coast of Lake Biwa along the inland water system logistics route from the Japan Sea, via Wakasa Bay, Lake Biwa, the Yodo River, Osaka Bay and to the Seto Inland Sea. Because of a large-scale preparation of the capitals, such as Fujiwara-kyo Palace, Heijo-kyo Palace and Heian-kyo Palace, the compulsion of concentrated dwelling of powerful regional clans and nobles from their local lands into the capitals, and the preparation of the official roads for tax payments and government officials, (refer to the ancient roads of Japan), the provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara (Kinai region) had become an economic area in which the wealth of Japan was concentrated. Thereafter, although the power was dispersed in court nobles, samurai families and temples, and the concentration of taxes in Kinai region was sometimes weakened, wealth was taken in with the establishment of the the Muromachi shogunate government and the South Court (Japan) as well as the expansion of Hyogo and Sakai by trade. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period, Nobunaga ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI built their bases here and carried out economic reforms, and in addition, a concentration of population and economic development were seen by conducting a large-scale engineering works for the shogun (tetsudai bushin) and by forming castle towns.

In the Edo period, the westward sea route (from the northeast Japan to Osaka)(kitamae-bune vessel), and the eastward sea route (from the northeast Japan to Edo) (higaki-kaisen vessel, taru-kaisen vessel) were connected with Kyoto and Osaka (Kamigata area) on the inland water logistics route stated above, and the five main roads (Gokaido) were prepared as land routes. And the Omi merchants dispersed in various areas in Japan, changing Kamigata area to a collection and distribution center and financial center of Japan (the Edo shogunate directly controlled Kamigata area, and moreover, among three privileged branches of Tokugawa family, placed the Kishu Tokugawa family on the Tomogashima Channel in the eastward sea route, and the Owari Tokugawa family on the junction of Tokai-do Road and Nakasen-do Road). In Osaka where warehouses of each domain were concentrated, the Dojima Rice Exchange, the first commodity futures exchange in the world, was established, and bills of exchange for long-distance transactions also came to be used, making Osaka, the 'kitchen of Japan,' the center of the Japanese economy. Kyoto had been developed as a high-value-added commodity production area, or industrial city, such as those for the wealthy class, and its products and craftsmen circulated around various areas in Japan, which brought the accompanying influence of Kyoto culture to those regions thereon.

After the opening of Japan to the world in the Meiji era, Kobe had been developed as an international trade port and modernization of the cities in Osaka and Kyoto had also advanced. As Osaka, an economic city called the 'kitchen of Japan,' was in good health, Edo succeeded in attracting many wealthy people by Sankinkotai system (a daimyo's alternate-year residence in Edo) and became a major consumer area in Edo period, and after changing its name to Tokyo, established a centralized administrative framework, and came to collect more wealth by taxes and foreign trade. However, through the Sino-Japanese War which broke out in 1894, Osaka developed into the largest industrial and commercial city in Japan, called the 'Manchester of the East,' while Kobe had rapidly progressed to become the largest port city in the East, causing the cities to once more be the center of culture and economy in Japan (also refer to the Hanshin-kan Modernism). Further, after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, there were many immigrants from the Kanto region, which caused a further increase boom in the culture and economy.

During the second half of the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s, as the Sino-Japanese war was developing into World War II, the wartime regime was established by Fumimaro KONOE's government, and various industrial sectors were put under the control of the government. For this reason, companies in Keihanshin and other areas were integrated and forced to place their headquarters in Tokyo, and companies, zaibatsu conglomerates and capitalists moved from Keihanshin to Tokyo one after another. After the war, manufacturing output was increased by new construction or expansion projects of factories and business establishments in the Hanshin Industrial Zone; however, because of unipolar concentration of Tokyo, headquarters and business establishments have continued to move to Tokyo thereafter.

On the other hand, universities with excellent research equipment, research achievements and professors, and research facilities based on industry-academia-government collaboration, including the Kansai Science City and the Kobe Medical Industry Development Project, are concentrated in the area, and it is not the case that the economical environment would decrease their size. According to a report by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers Co., Ltd.), the GDP of the Hanshin area is the 7th largest among those of world urban areas, and according to business environment assessment by MasterCard International Incorporated, this area is ranked 19th, and still a huge economic area in the world.


Keihanshin forms a large urban area; however, a considerably undulating landscape spreads therein. It spreads over the Harima Plain, Kyoto Basin, Nara Basin and Omi Basin, mainly centered in the Osaka Plain. In this point, Keihanshin, in which the cities spread across mountains, such as Ikoma Mountains and Rokko Mountains, is very different from the Tokyo area, which spreads out in a radial fashion with the center in the Kanto Plain.

Geographical features
Plains, basins: Osaka Plain, Harima Plain, Kyoto Basin, Nara Basin, Kameoka Basin, Omi Basin, Yamashina Basin and Ueno Basin
Mountainous regions, mountains: Ikoma Mountains, Rokko Mountains, Kii Mountains, Mt. Hiei, Mt. Ikoma, Mt. Oe and Mt. Kongo (Kongo Mountains)
River: Yodo River, Yamato River, Kako River, Ibo River and Kino River
Lakes: Lake Biwa
According to the regional classifications of weather forecasting and such, it is classified as the middle part of the Kinki region. The plains mainly belong to the Seto Inland Sea climate, while the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture, the southern part of Shiga Prefecture, the northern part of Nara Prefecture and the Iga region of Mie Prefecture belong to the inland climate. Further, in Hanshin area, the seasonal cold wind named 'Rokko Oroshi' blows down from Mt. Rokko, and in Kosei area of Shiga Prefecture, the Hira Oroshi wind from Mt. Hira.

In addition, since it is widely covered with urban areas, a heat-island phenomenon is seen, which brings about a tendency toward coldness in winter and fierce heat in summer, as the climate is modified by this phenomenon.


In Keihanshin, construction of the interurban routes (inter-city trains) modeled after those of the United States of America has flourished. Beginning with the Hanshin Line (started in 1905), the opening of the subsequent Minoo Arima Electric Tramway (later Hankyu Takarazuka Main Line, started in 1910), the Hanshin Kobe Main Line (started in 1920) and other lines became a trigger for focusing on the suburban farming areas which had previously been unexploited hinterlands in Kobe and Hokusetsu region. And the development of a suburban residential area for the purpose of creating comfortable living environment was promoted in the space between two railroads, the scenic southern slope of Mt. Rokko along these railways, (Hanshin-kan Modernism).

Furthermore, housing land development had come to be promoted actively before and after World War II, in the other areas outside the Hanshin area such as the Keihan area along the Hankyu Kyoto Main Line (Hankyu Corporation) and the Keihan Main Line (Keihan Electric Railway Co., Ltd.), the Hanna area along the Kintetsu Nara Line, and Senshu and Minamikawachi areas along the Nankai Main Line and Nankai-Koya Line. In Keihanshin in particular, private railroad companies laid down many lines, and development of the areas along the railroads were promoted mainly by the railroad companies.

In the period from the end of the Showa era to the beginning of the Heisei era, the trend of expanding commutable areas to their widest limit became prominent. The commutable area was expanded, for example, as far as Sasayama City in Hyogo Prefecture, Sonobe Town in Kyoto Prefecture (currently Nantan City), Oyodo Town in Nara Prefecture, Aoyama Town in Mie Prefecture (currently Iga City), Omihachiman City and Takashima City in Shiga Prefecture and Hashimoto City in Wakayama Prefecture. Furthermore, some new slangs also appeared, such as Hyogo-fumin (lit. a resident of Osaka Prefecture), Nara-Fumin, Shiga-Fumin, Mie-Fumin and Wakayama-Fumin. Afterward, the expansion of the commutable area weakened due to the tendency of people to return to the city centers.

Research institutes

The following research cities are located in Keihanshin. Refer to the linked URLs for details.

Kansai Science City (Osaka Prefecture, Kyoto Prefecture and Nara Prefecture)

Harima Science Garden City (Hyogo Prefecture)

Kobe Medical Industry Development Project (Hyogo Prefecture)

Kobe Kenkyu Gakuen Toshi (Kobe Science City) (Hyogo Prefecture)

International Culture Park (Osaka Prefecture)


The current Keihanshin corresponds to the Kinai region in the Gokishichido area of the ancient map, and ahead of other areas of Japan transportation system was developed since ancient times. The development of such traffic networks had a major effect on strengthening the character of Keihanshin as an integrated area by the construction of railroads and the maintenance of its roads in and after the Meiji era. However, because of the undulating landscape, and because Kyoto, as well as Osaka and Kobe, is its own city center in itself, the traffic networks do not extend out in a circular fashion like the Tokyo metropolitan area with the center in Tokyo, but instead, the traffic networks expand in a concentric fashion with the center in each city.


Multiple railroad companies have laid lines in the three cities in Keihanshin, forming sections of railroad that would be competed over fiercely between JR and private railroad companies as well as among competing private companies, with respect to servicing and developing the areas along the railroads.


Hanshin Port is the name of the Super Central Port which integrates the main four ports.

Kobe Port

Osaka Port

Amagasaki-Nishinomiya-Ashiya Port

Sakai-Senboku Port


Three airports in Kansai area

Kansai International Airport

Osaka International Airport

Kobe Airport

Yao Airport

[Original Japanese]