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Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine

Kansai Wakayama Reboot body and soul in Japan’s spiritual heartland

Cherry Blossoms

Forecast of first bloom

18 Mar 2021

Forecast of full bloom

27 Mar 2021

Wakayama offers the natural and spiritual sides of Japan with the ancient temple complex of Koyasan, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, and a picturesque coastline

Wakayama is Japan’s spiritual heartland attracting enlightenment-seeking pilgrims and beach-bound sun worshippers in equal measure. From the World Heritage listed Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route and the mountaintop temple complex of Koyasan to the sparkling white sands of Shirara Beach. Wakayama City is home to an impressive castle and a delicious local ramen with its own style.

How to Get There

Wakayama can be accessed by express trains from Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya. There are regular train and bus services from Osaka and Nagoya and easy connections for flights into Kansai International Airport. From Tokyo, you can reach the area via Nagoya by train, or fly into Wakayama’s Nanki-Shirahama Airport in just over an hour.

Most visitors access Wakayama Prefecture via Wakayama City on the JR Kuroshio Limited Express from Shin-Osaka Station, a major bullet train stop. To visit Wakayama's southeast coast approaching from Mie or Nagoya, take the JR Nanki Express. The journey from Nagoya takes three and a half hours and is not fully covered by the JR Rail Pass. If you don't have a rail pass, a less expensive alternative to air and rail is express bus. These run from Tokyo, Kyoto and other major cities. From Tokyo, expect the journey to take 12 hours.

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Don’t Miss

  • The calm, spiritual atmosphere at the ancient temple complex of Koyasan
  • Wakayama Castle perched upon a mountaintop
  • Jagged natural rock monuments seen from picturesque beaches
  • Follow the ancient Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route through dense and misty forests

Local Specialties

  • Koyadofu

    Commonly referred to as either koyadofu or koridofu, this shojin-ryori staple is tofu prepared in a traditional method that dates back centuries. First frozen to remove excess water and then dried, it is often simmered in broth and served individually, garnished with a slice of carrot or other vegetable. This tofu differs from regular tofu in that it absorbs the flavor of anything it is cooked with. Try it at Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture or anywhere else where shojin-ryori Buddhist cuisine is served.

  • Wakayama Umeboshi

    Wakayama grows more plums than anywhere else in Japan. The pickled plums they produce, called umeboshi, have a distinctive flavor—salty, sweet and sour all at once. Umeboshi are often eaten with white rice, and are even found on hamburgers. Umeboshi made from Nanko ume are especially prized.

  • Wakayama Maguro

    Wakayama catches more maguro or bluefin tuna than anywhere else in Japan. From decadent tuna sashimi rice bowls to deep-fried tuna burgers, the possibilities for tuna are endless in Wakayama. There's even a tuna festival in late January.

  • Wakayama Mikan

    Wakayama farmers have been cultivating mikan since the 1600s. These tangerine-like citrus fruits are a vibrant orange and very sweet. Many local souvenir shops offer fresh squeezed mikan juice and even liqueurs made with Wakayama mikan.

  • Wakayama Ramen

    Wakayama ramen is distinguished by its rich pork and soy sauce broth, also referred to as tonkotsu-joyu. If you want to order it like a local, ask for "chuka soba."

  • Kishu Paulownia Chests

    Paulownia wood gives Kishu tansu their unmistakable warm hue. Each chest of drawers is crafted with seamless precision and exacting detail. Distinguishing features include tongue and groove joinery, wooden nails and custom hardware.

    Kishu Paulonia Chests
  • Kishu Lacquerware

    Made in Kuroe, Kishu shikki is lacquerware known for its simplicity, durability and practicality. The ever-popular negoro-nuri is finished in vermilion lacquer but reveals the black undercoating. Embracing modernity, this lacquerware now includes plastic versions as well.

    Kishu Lacquerware

Seasonal Highlights

  • Spring

    Mild temperatures and low rainfall offer ideal conditions for trekking the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route. Head to Kimiidera Temple for some of the earliest-blooming cherry blossoms in Wakayama and the Kansai region—full bloom is usually early April.

  • Summer

    Beachgoers flock to the picturesque and dramatic coastline to soak up the sun when beach season gets fully underway in July. Through July and the first half of August, the Wakayama night sky fizzes with firework displays.

  • Autumn

    Blazing red maple leaves transform the gardens of majestic Wakayama Castle in mid-November. Shingu City celebrates its local festival in early October, in which divine spirits are transported along the Kumano River.

    kongobu-ji temple
  • Winter

    Warm up in historical hot spring resorts in the mountains and along the coast. Enjoy Wakayama's sweet, juicy mikan oranges when they are in season between October and December.

    kongosanmai-in temple

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