Kanto is Japan’s major eastern region, home to Tokyo and six other prefectures. Kansai is its western counterpart; this major region boasts Osaka, Kyoto and five more prefectures. The two regions have a friendly rivalry going back centuries. Historically, Kansai was home to wealthy merchants and Japan’s emperor whereas Kanto was dominated by samurai, not to mention the country’s ruling shogun.
These days, the samurai have given way to salarymen, but you can still see the differences between Kansai and Kanto every time you sit down for a meal at a restaurant. In general, Kanto cuisine is richer, bolder and saltier, whereas Kansai food is milder and sweeter. You’ll find more seafood dishes in Tokyo but a wider variety of vegetables in Kyoto. Whether it’s okonomiyaki vs monjayaki or triangular vs round onigiri, the Kanto vs Kansai rivalry is very pronounced in the kitchen.
Here are some of the big differences between Kansai and Kanto cuisine.