Guide to Wakayama, Japan 和歌山県

The Wakayama Prefecture is a prefecture for all ocean lovers – from divers, surfers, waterfall hikers to snorkelling, this land of water is surrounded by clean beaches where you can touch the crystal clear ocean, beautiful coastlines and gorges and breathtaking waterfall hikes. It is 100% for all you ramen lovers and loud slurpers too. It is not a particularly large prefecture, but allocate a weekend at the very least if you are planning to explore this magical land of water.

2019-03-12 09.11.51 1.jpg
Wakayama Castle in Wakayama City

We spent an entire weekend in Wakayama and it was not enough, especially for me. If I have the chance to return to Wakayama (I really hope I do), I hope that I can do more waterfall hikes and maybe not miss a bus to catch a flight to Singapore (my friend did). I also want to see the Doro-Kyo Gorge, it looks so gorgeous. Fortunately, I travelled to Miyazaki and managed to kayak down the Takachiho Gorge (Kyūshū region) as well as to Tokushima and cruised down the Iya Valley (Shikoku region).Evidently, I can’t get enough of the ocean.

So what can you do in Wakayama? The capital city of Wakayama Prefecture is Wakayama where we stayed a night, but we enjoyed being next to the coast more so there is where we spent a majority of our time (all the action took place there any way!). To get to Wakayama you can take the train or bus. You can check the timetables for the JR West railway and bus (JR West focuses on the Kansai area). I prefer booking the bus on Willer to Wakayama City and figuring out day passes for trains at the central station you get dropped off at especially if you are on a budget (buses are relatively cheaper or purchase a JR pass before you fly to Japan, it’s cheaper. This article explains it well.)

Accommodation wise, there are lots of guesthouses that you can look up on Hostelworld. We highly recommend Guesthouse Rico if you are in the city – the service was excellent, you can sleep tatami style and everything was clean. There is also a great family-ran ramen place called Tsuta (first Michelin-Starred ramen too!) and after trying lots of ramen, Wakayama Style ramen is quite frankly the top of my list – you HAVE to try it! AJI ramen opened until late and we had a great experience too (Cash-Only).

Enough of the logistics – here are my favourite spots in Wakayama so far:

1. Porto Europe and Kuroshio Market

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Windy Day at Porto Europe

We started off the trip walking around Wakayama City and bused out to the Marina area: Porto Europe – a theme park and replica of European streets and architecture so if you are ever missing Europe, you could pay this quaint little place a visit. It is also right next to the real attraction in my heart: the Kuroshio Market.

22528340_10213341691524055_538964487103446122_n
Delicious Tuna Nigiri at Kuroshio Market

Kuroshio Market is located in Marina City, and is famous for its tuna cutting shows that take place three times a day. Even Zac Efron watched in awe as a giant tuna is skillfully cut! Kuroshio Market is the place to go for fresh local products and yummy meals.

2. Shirahama Beach

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Shirahama Beach

Shirahama is a stunning seaside district known for its clean, white-sand beach & its slow and relaxing atmosphere. This area boasts the best beach in all of the Kansai region and is home to many historic onsens (i.e. Saki-no-yu) and seafood fare. Highly recommend going to any izakaya nearby and spend the night singing away karaoke. For enthusiastic divers or to-be licensed divers, the Shirahama neighbourhood is also known to mother beautiful corals too. Everything is relatively nearby in Shirahama Town, and you can get around by foot reasonably.

3. Shirasaki Coast

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Shirasaki Coast

The Shirasaki Coast left us speechless. This long, chalky cape that resembles an iceberg faces a deep blue ocean and is a wonderful natural sight to the eye. This unspoiled beauty is unusually formed by a group of limestone rocks 250 million years ago. Even the Official Wakayama Tourism Board thinks this is a must-see during the day or at sunset because the rock reflects the colour of the sky and the sunset.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Little Mermaid at a beach nearby Shirasaki Coast!

It was a little challenging to get to the coast, we had to taxi from a nearby station and hitched a ride back from a friendly diver. It was also a little far from Shirahama town, you have to take the train to get there. However, people are really friendly, and it was a very safe area so you don’t have much to worry about other than the cab fare which are known to be crazy in Japan. Remember to go back to the train on time if you aren’t staying overnight too, services are more limited in less busy areas such as this.

4. Senjojiki

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

We decided to hit up yet another rock formation. This venue was accessible by public bus from Shirahama Town, just remember to keep the bus routes map and bus timetables that are offered to you (goes for ANYWHERE in Japan!) so that you know. It was a little bit of a search and a bit of a walking distance from the bus station but it was worth it.

IMG_7485

Senjojiki means a thousand tatami mats in English. You can see why when you see layers of flat rocks piled up in an unorganized manner. The best thing about these cliffs is that you can walk close to the edges and breath in the fresh air whilst you feel the breeze of the ocean. There are people fishing and you can observe small sea creatures atop the rocks near the edges of the cliffs too. Superb to start the day with and an excellent but underrated tourist attraction, the second best thing is that it is not crowded!

5. Nachi Falls

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Nachi Waterfall

This well-known waterfall is the highest waterfall in Japan (133m), located in a sacred site in Kumano where nature worship still takes place today and is the object of worship of Hiro-jinja Shrine (associated with Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine). There are different versions of the hike up to this view too, make sure you google and know which route you are taking. This view is 100% worth the hike, and man, the calorie burn just means you can eat more after.

Wakayama is amongst my top 5 prefectures to visit in Japan. Maybe because it reminds me of Brighton, U.K. It’s near the ocean, is blessed with beautiful coastlines and cliffs s instead of pubs, is filled with local izakayas that serves bloody fresh seafare.

I received most of the information to see all these places on the Visit Wakayama Website. Take a look at it for more inspiration. The unspoiled landscapes and relaxing vibes certainly makes it worth the extra bit travel from Osaka or Tokyo if you are flying from overseas. I have also linked all the places mentioned to their respective Google Map location so that you can save them to your list. I hope this helps your planning and that your trip to Wakayama is just as amazing.

Xoxo,

Nicole