Wakayama -The Land of Gods

Reboot body and soul in Japan’s spiritual heartland

Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県, Wakayama-ken) located south of Osaka in the Kansai Region. The Prefectural capital is Wakayama City. The prefecture’s best-known tourist attraction is Mount Koya (Koyasan), Shingon Buddhism’s headquarters. Which is the best place to experience an overnight stay at a temple.

Wakayama offers Japan’s natural and spiritual sides. The ancient temple complex of Koyasan. World Heritage-listed Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. And a picturesque coastline with sparkling white sands of Shirara Beach. Wakayama is Japan’s spiritual heartland. Attracting enlightenment-seeking pilgrims and beach-bound sun worshipers in equal measure. The city is home to an impressive castle and delicious local ramen with its own style.

Just a couple of hours south of Osaka’s electric city. There’s a place where ancient pathways lead to hidden shrines shrouded in mist. Where monks worship waterfalls, and mystical forests float. The mountains here are a sacred dwelling for the gods. Known for their restorative powers.

How to Get There

Wakayama is accessible 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 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 3.5 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 an express bus. These run from Tokyo, Kyoto, and other major cities. From Tokyo, expect the journey to take 12 hours.

Local Specialties

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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 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.”

Visited: December 2019
References: Wakayama Prefecture, First time Wakayama: a guide to Japan’s spiritual heartland, Wakayama, Wakayama Prefecture [和歌山県], Wakayama Prefecture