A Gem In Japan

If you’ve visited Japan, you probably visited one of the four big cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, or Kyoto.  A visit to Wakayama  is probably not in your plans – but it should be.  Wakayama is nestled between mountains and rivers on one side, white-sandy beaches on the other, and offers relaxing spas, rivers clean enough to swim in and beautiful beaches.

Kumano Kodo

Kumano Kodo is located in the heart of Wakayama, in the south of Japan and is one of the most picturesque places you could ever visit.  Kumano Kodo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site rich in history and offers one of the most famous hot springs in the world: Yunomine Hot Spring.    Famed for its healing attributes, you can bath in the hot water for thirty minutes for only 750 yen.  If you aren’t one for nude bathing there is still plenty to do.  Within walking distance is a museum that explains the cultural history of Kumano Kodo through pictures and videos.  You can even take a walk on the pilgrimage path by passing through one of the biggest temple gates in Japan.

Outdoor enthusiasts can walk the path in two days, crossing over steep forest paths and staying at local inns to experience a side of Japan you can’t get in the big cities.  On this trip, you can visit not one, but two world heritage sites!  Kouyasan is the place where all tourists go to visit the dead.  Yes, you read that right!  Kouyasan is a huge graveyard filled with the bones of some of Japan’s most famous historical figures.  Samurai, CEOs of famous companies, poets, authors – many of them can be found buried in Kouyasan.  A little bit morbid but one of the most visited places in Wakayama so you don’t want to miss it!

Wakayama is not only filled with historical sites and gravestones, but with mountains, rivers, and white-sandy beaches. You can find relaxing spas, rivers clean enough to swim in and beautiful beaches in this nature oriented area.  A crumbling rock bridge spreads over Kushimoto beach, a nice stop for raw fish, fried squid and other local fares.  Nearby, an aquarium goes under the ocean so you can view sea life, up close.

On the southernmost tip is Shionomisaki, a large park where people sell crafts in a festival-like setting of music, food, and performances on a small stage.  Most people visit Shionomisaki for the view, an ocean as far as you can see, and the peaceful atmosphere.  If you really want to bury your inner tourist, go for a dip in Takada River, hidden in the mountains near Hongu city where you may be the only foreigner in attendance!  Wakayama has much to offer even if it isn’t as well-known as Tokyo!
Thanks to Stacy Vial for her Guest Post on one of Southern Japans treasures.