Welcome back, students! As an area rich with history and culture, the Kansai region should be well-known to anime fans. Also referred to as the Kinki region, this area is populated by 22 million people living in seven prefectures, including the cities of Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka. The local dialect, called Kansai-ben, should also be a familiar sound to your ears. Today’s lecture turns our attention to this important industrial, commercial and historic area of Japan.
The Golden Pavilion
The cultural center of Japan is Kyoto, which served as the nation’s capital from 794 to 1868. Although the capital was moved to Tokyo following the Meiji Restoration, Kyoto remains home to many cultural landmarks, temples and shrines, including the Imperial Palace, Heian Shrine and Kiyomizudera Temple.
One of the most prominent and beautiful landmarks in Kyoto is Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Now a popular attraction for students and tourists alike, the Golden Pavilion was once the residence of a shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, before it was converted into a Buddhist temple. The temple gets its name from its golden walls, which are covered in authentic gold leaf. Although the original temple was destroyed a number of times in its long history, Kinkakuji’s current incarnation was rebuilt in 1955 and renovated in 1987.
Vampire Princess Miyu captures the dark and shadowy aspects of Kyoto’s past. Often the choice for many a class field trip, the animated Kyoto can also be seen in Nanaka 6/17 as the students take in the city’s sights.
The ruined roads of Kobe
Kobe, in the Hyogo prefecture of the Kansai region, is the second largest port in Japan with a population of over one million. Shown in the animated dramas Grave of the Fireflies and Earth Girl Arjuna, the city of Kobe is also well-known for the real-life drama and hardship caused by a natural disaster at the end of the 20th century. In January, 1995, the city was decimated by the Southern Hyogo Earthquake. Rocked by the magnitude of a 7.2 earthquake and its aftershocks, an estimated 5,000 people lost their lives. Although hundreds of thousands of buildings and homes were destroyed, the city has since completely recovered.
Southeast of Kobe lies Osaka, the largest city in the region and the third largest city in Japan. It was once called Naniwa, the first recorded capital of the country. The most famous landmark in the city is Osaka Castle, which was built on the site of a temple in 1590 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a general who is credited with unifying Japan in the 16th century. Like Kinkakuji in Kyoto, the Osaka Castle has been rebuilt several times since its original construction and was refurbished in 1995.
Not your typical Kansai resident
Another identifying characteristic of the city of Osaka, as well as the Kansai region, is the distinctive dialect. Referred to as Kansai-ben, words are accented differently than spoken Japanese of the Tokyo area. Grammar is altered, as well; for the negative form, Kansai speakers use “hen” rather than “masen”. For example, instead of saying “wakarimasen” for “I don’t understand”, inhabitants of the Kansai region are more inclined to say “wakarahen” instead.
Fans of Rurouni Kenshin and Azumanga Daioh have heard this dialect several times. Sekihara Tae, the proprietor of the Akabeko restaurant in Rurouni Kenshin, hails from Kyoto, so she speaks with the Kansai dialect. Azumanga Daioh’s Kasuga Ayumu is encouraged by her curious teacher to speak with her native accent. If you listen closely, you will hear the differences in their Japanese.
That’s all for today, class! For extra credit, see how many other anime characters you can find that use the Kansai-ben dialect.