Beaches and hot spring resorts rolled into one? For the people who love dipping into the water, whether it is a hot or a cold one, one of the best places to visit is Wakayama. Located in the Land of the Sun, Wakayama is well-known among the Japanese locals as one of the best places to go to when in need of relaxation. While Wakayama has a lot of places that tourists can visit, its main attractions are onsens and its white sand beach. water-lovers would definitely have a great time in Wakayama, Japan.
Facts: Map, Weather, Airport, and History
Also known as Wakayama-ken among the locals, Wakayama Prefecture is located in the Kii Peninsula. Situated in the region of Kansai located on the island of Honshu, the capital of this prefecture also goes by the same name: the city of Wakayama. The governor of this prefecture is Yoshinobu Nisaka. Wakayama has a total area of 4,725.67 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 1,824.59 square miles. In rank, Wakayama places on the 30th in the list.
As of the 1st of April in the year 2012, Wakayama had an estimated population of 989,983. This places the prefecture at the 39th of most populated prefectures in Japan. The population density of Wakayama was 209.49 persons per square kilometer, which is equivalent to 542.6 persons per square mile. The ISO 3166 code of Wakayama is JP-30. The prefecture has six districts and 30 municipalities.
The symbols of Wakayama Prefecture include the Ume blossom flower or Prunus mume, the Ubame oak tree or Quercus phillyraeoides, and the Japanese white-eye or Zosterops japonica. The nine cities in Wakayama Prefecture are Arida, Hashimoto, Kainan, Shingu, Gobo, Iwade, Kinokawa, Tanabe, and, of course, Wakayama. The current prefecture makes up of mostly the western portion of the Kii Province.
One of the major catastrophes that occurred in Wakayama was the flood disaster. On the 17th and 18th of July in the year 1953, a torrential heavy rain occurred in Wakayama. This was followed by a number of disasters including the collapse of levees, landslides, and river flooding. Because of these disasters, various houses and even bridges were destroyed. More than 1,000 people perished, along with more than 5,700 people injured and over 7,000 houses lost based on an officially confirmed report by the Japanese government.
There is much to be said about the culture in Wakayama. Located in the Ito District, Mount Koya serves as the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. It houses one of the first Buddhist temples that were constructed in Japanese style in the country. Today, the area is still considered a pilgrimage site and has become a famous tourist destination. Various people visit just to see the ancient temples in the area surrounded by high cedar trees located at the peak of the mountain.
Among the popular attractions are the Sacred sites as well as pilgrimage routes. Located in the Kii Mountain Range, these routes are miles long throughout Wakayama. Together, these sites and routes have been designated as the 11th UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan. The Kumano Shrines are located, on the other hand, are located on the southern end of Wakayama. Also a part of the prefecture is Tomogashima, which is a cluster of four islands.
The agricultural industry also prospers in Wakayama Prefecture. It actually ranks first place when it comes to the production of oranges in the country. Being the main fruit of Wakayama, the prefecture even has its own brand of oranges. These fruits are produced in Arida District, which bore the nickname “Arida-Orange.” The district has produced oranges for over 400 years. Arida-Oranges actually holds around 10 percent of the domestic production of oranges in the country.
Another fruit famous from Wakayama is Japanese apricot, also known as ume. The prefecture also ranks first when it comes to producing Japanese apricot in the country as stated in the survey conducted by The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. The prefecture made up around 70 percent of the domestic production of ume in Japan as of the year 2016.
With Köppen climate classification Cfa, the prefecture has a humid subtropical climate. This means that Wakayama has a hot summer season and a cool winter season. There is also significant precipitation any time of the year though it is typically greater during the summer season than in the winter season. To access the prefecture via air, the prefecture has an airport called Nanki Shirahama Airport.
Travel Guide: Things to Do in Wakayama, Japan
There are definitely a lot of things to do when visiting Wakayama. First and foremost on the list is to eat the “most delicious” ramen in Japan. This is because a ramen produced in this prefecture was voted as “Japan’s most delicious” as shown in a Japanese food show. This ramen is the Wakayama ramen offered by Ide Shoten. Several ramen lovers have traveled to Wakayama just to be able to have a taste of this raved ramen.
With a unique soup base, this ramen is cooked with a very savory pork bone as well as a soy sauce broth. However, this ramen is typically known to the locals of Wakayama as chuka soba, which translates to “Chinese noodles.” Appetizers that are customary in this type of meals are cooked eggs and mackerel sushi. With an honesty policy, customers would just have to inform the servers how much appetizers they availed upon getting the bill.
The place is also quite accessible. Coming from Wakayama JR Station, simply walk straight until one reaches Kokutai Road. Turn left and walk straight until one finds Sannen-zaka Dori. Just left of this is Ide Shoten. The place is typically full due to its popularity so one might have to wait for just a little while.
Fish markets in Wakayama are quite comparable to Tokyo’s counterpart, which is the Tsukiji fish market. Known as Kuroshio-Ichiba Market, this fish market in Wakayama not only sells fresh catches of the day but also hosts three shows about cutting tuna on a daily basis. These shows are quite popular as not only are they entertaining but watchers can learn something about how to cut tuna in the most efficient way. An amusement park with a European theme stands right next to this fish market.
Another fish market in Wakayama worth noting is the Katsuura Port fish market. Located in the southeast corner of Wakayama, this place is famous for having hauled the biggest tuna in the country. There is a daily tuna auction that people can participate in to get some of the freshest cuts of Tuna fish. There are also free samples for visitors in Katsuura Town, such as seared tataki, sashimi, or sushi.
An unknown hike to some people, Kumano Kodo is an ideal getaway located in Kii Mountain. It consists of seven routes with varying difficulties through the south of the prefecture. It was formerly an ancient pilgrimage that led to three main Japanese shrines, namely, Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and Nachi Taisha. Probably the best route begins in Kii-Tanabe JR Station in Tanabe City and ends in Nachi JR Station in Nachi Fall. There are various onsen towns, beautiful valleys, and food shops along the route.
One great experience when in Wakayama is, of course, to visit an onsen. However, what makes it more fun is making a batch of onsen tamago or hot spring egg. As the name suggests, these eggs are to be boiled in an onsen. There is actually a public cooking basin located in the Yunomine onsen area. Take note that this area is actually the only UNESCO World Heritage hot spring in the world.
Experience one of the most sacred festivals in the country in Wakayama. This festival is known as the Nachi Fire Festival. Held every month of July, this festival is in celebration of the homecoming of the god of Nachi Waterfall. This event is about 1,700 years old now. Truly, this celebration is rooted in the history and culture of the local in Wakayama Prefecture.
Relax and Rewind in Various Onsens in Wakayama
With so many onsens in Wakayama, one may get a bit confused as to which one to try. Probably the best one to try would be Saki-no-yu. Situated in Shirahama, this hot spring is considered by many as the oldest onsen in the country. One of its main features is its rotenburo, which is open-air baths, that let guests view the beautiful and vast Pacific Ocean while relaxing in the hot bath. Watching the waves hitting the rocks gives a serene feeling while guests are soaked in hot spring water. The ocean is so near that spray from the waves can sometimes even be felt by guests in the rotenburo.
For people with aching feet, the best place to go to is Ashiyu Alley. Located in Ginza Alley, what makes this onsen extra special is that it features hot spring foot baths. Visitors who tired of walking that are in need of some pampering should most certainly visit this place. Being located in a restaurant district, guests can dip their feet in hot spring water either during or after having dinner.
Another contender for being the oldest hot spring in Japan is Tsubo-yu. However, what makes this different is that this onsen is actually the only designated UNESCO World Heritage Site wherein guests can enjoy full-body onsen bathing. The place is considered mysterious because it is actually just a small rock bath that can fit no more than two adults. The hot water changes its hue seven times every single day.
One other place famous for its rotenburo known as Sennin Buro is Kawayu Onsen. The place is actually only available from the month of December to the month of February, which is winter season. By digging at the river bank, hot water emerges, creating an open-air bath. This hot spring is able to accommodate almost 1,000 people. However, it is important to note that people are required to wear a bathing suit before dipping into this hot body of water.
Shirahama Beach: White Sand and Pandas
If one would like to cool down, aside from taking a cold shower, visitors of Wakayama can also head on over to Shirahama Beach. With its white sand, people would really enjoy this beach during the summer season. There are also various attractions in the area that visitors can explore. One of these attractions is the “Three Step Cliffs.” Situated on the south shore of Senjojiki, these cliffs run for 2 kilometers long from north to south. They are also around 50 meters to 60 meters high. There is an observation platform wherein one can see a great view of these cliffs.
The area is not only great for adults but also for Japanese families. Aside from the beach and the hot spring resorts, Shirahama also contains Adventure World. It is an extraordinary theme park that consists of a zoo among other things. The zoo serves as a home to five giant pandas. This number is already the highest that is contained in any zoo in the country. Out of the five pandas, two of these are twins that were born in the year 2010.
The place is recognized as having one of the most successful programs in breeding pandas that is outside of mainland China. It is actually the Japanese branch of the famous Chengdu Panda Research Base, with its headquarters located in China. There are several souvenirs and signages that were designed based on these very cute and cuddly giant pandas.
Another thing to check out while in the area is the Sandanbeki Dokutsu Cave. With an entrance fee of 1,200 yen, many may find this fee a bit expensive. However, it is because within these caves lies the enshrinement of Murodai Benzaiten, who is believed to be the protector of the sea as well as the guardian of temples and shrines. The rocks inside were formed by the strong waves splashing against it.