Japan City Guides: Wakayama Wakayama Prefecture
- situated south of Osaka on the coast of the Kii Peninsula in the Kansai.
- population approximately 387,000.
- ferries to Tokushima in Shikoku and Awaji.
- access from Namba Station, Shin-Osaka Station and Kyoto Station.
- main attraction is Wakayama Castle.
- food specialties are Chinese-style noodles, mikan oranges and pickled plums (umeboshi).
- pleasant beaches nearby and onsens in Shirahama to the south.
Wakayama Castle is Wakayama's main sightseeing attraction. The castle, on Mt. Torafusu, was first constructed on the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) in 1585. Most of the buildings you see today were rebuilt in 1958 after the castle was badly damaged in World War II. The main entrance gate of Wakayama Castle, the Otemon Gate, was rebuilt in 1989. Only the Okaguchi Gate and the impressive stone walls remain from the original castle.
The castle grounds are Wakayama's most popular spot for cherry blossom viewing (hanami) and also contain the Nishi-no-Maru Garden (Momijidani) built by Yorinobu Tokugawa in the early 17th century. The garden has a pond, a waterfall and is famous for its autumn leaves. The garden was adjoined to the Nishi-no-Maru palace of the domain lord.
South of the castle park is the impressively-designed Wakayama Museum of Modern Art (Tel: 073 436 8690) with a collection of both Western and Japanese contemporary art, including works by Picasso, Nonagase Banka, Tanaka Kyokichi, Mark Rothko and George Segal. There is also an extensive display of modern prints. The museum has a spacious restaurant and was designed by the celebrated Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, who also designed both Oita and Toyota stadiums, Kuala Lumpur Airport and the New Wing of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Wakayama Marina City
Wakayama Marina City is a "resort town" a short bus ride from Wakayama with restaurants, a hotel and Porto Europa a a Europe-themed amusement park with full-scale reproductions of famous European architecture and buildings.
The Kuroshio-Ichiba Market at Marina City has tuna cutting demonstations after which the cut flesh is offered for sale.
Wakayama Castle & Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama
Wakayama Castle grounds
Getting Around Wakayama City
It is fairly easy to get around Wakayama on foot but there is a good municipal bus service with many buses departing from JR Wakayama Station and Wakayama-shi Station.
The small Tourist Information Center (Tel: 073 422 5831) is outside JR Wakayama Station and you can pick up a map from the booth near the bus stops at Wakayama-shi Station.
JR Wakayama Station & Nankai Wakayama-shi Station
Cherry blossom in Wakayama Castle
Shopping/Eating in Wakayama
The underground arcade at JR Wakayama Station has a number of restaurants and izakaya. There is a department store and food hall/supermarket at the station.
Other things to see and do in Wakayama include walking the Kumano Kodo trail with its many onsens and delightful scenery. Previously a pilgrimage route, the Kumano Kodo trail passes Hayatama Taisha, Hongu Taisha and Nachi Taisha.
The route provides access to the Kumano region, a pristine land of river, waterfall, mountain and forest. Spreading over the lower half of the Kii Peninsula south of the cities of Osaka and Kyoto, Kumano has been sacred since prehistoric times, and is widely regarded as an origin of Japanese culture and spirituality.
Nachi Falls & the Tama Train on the Kishigawa Line, Wakayama
Nachi Falls, in the south eastern corner of Wakayama Prefecture, is one of the highest waterfalls in Japan - just over 130m tall. The Nachi Taisha Shrine near the base of the falls is dedicated to the kami (spirits) of the waters. The Nachi Fire Festival is held annually in July and is a celebration of the return of the twelve kami of the falls. Twelve 50kg pine torches are waved in front of the falls, while an equal number of mikoshi portable shrines are carried up to the waters.
Nearby is a 7th century Tendai sect temple - Seigantoji. The temple is the oldest wooden structure in the area.
The sacred temples of Koyasan are in Wakayama Prefecture and give visitors the chance to stay overnight in a temple and try delicious vegetarian shojin-ryori.
Shirahama on the coast is famous for its onsens, some of them pools right by the ocean. At Kawayu Onsen, bathers dig into the river to create their own hot spring or in the winter season enjoy the giant Sennin-buro River Bath, created by damming the Oto River. Katsuura on the coast of the Kii Peninsula is known for the baths at the Hotel Urashima including one in a cave looking into the ocean. Nakanoshima Ryokan is a Japanese inn with a noted rotemburo or outdoor bath. Both Japanese and western-style rooms are available.
Increasingly visitors are coming to Wakayama to see Tama the station cat at Kishi Train Station, a 30 minute ride from Wakayama Station.
A vermillion torii gate at the foot of a picturesque crag on the Kumano Kodo trail
Wakayama is easy to reach from both Kyoto and Osaka. There are JR express trains to JR Wakayama Station from Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station. Alternatively, take a local train from Tennoji Station on the Hanwa Line (1 hour). There are also trains from Osaka Namba Station on the Nankai Line to Wakayami-shi Station (1 hour). The JR Kisei Line links JR Wakayama Station to Wakayama-shi Station. For Koyasan there are trains from JR Wakayama Station to Hashimoto (1 hour), then change to the Nankai Line to Gokurakubashi.
The ferry port to Tokushima on Shikoku is on the Nankai Line or take a taxi from town. Nankai ferries (Tel: 073 422 2156) take two hours. Boats to Awaji leave from Fuke-ko Port to the north of Wakayama.
Wakayama Castle is a 20 minute walk from JR Wakayama Station or a 10 minute walk from Nankai Wakayami-shi Station. There are buses from both places to the castle park entrance. Get off the bus at Koen-mae.
Ocean Arrow at Wakayama Station & Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama
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