Kansai is not a prefecture
, it is a region
encompassing a number of prefectures. The literal meaning of the word is "west of the barrier", with barrier
meaning the (imaginary) wall dividing the west (Kansai) from the east (Kanto
) of Japan; actually it's more a division between the Kyoto
region where the focus of power and history in Japan used
to be, and the Edo
region that was always economically powerful but used to be considered wild and uncivilized until the Tokugawa shogunate
reversed the power balance.
Nowadays, Tokyo is the center of Japan, and Kansai people are seen as somewhat odd, and funny, partially because of their distinctive accent, Kansai-ben.