WAKAYAMA

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A LAND ENCOMPASSED BY STEEPMOUNTAINS AND SWEEPING COASTLINES,
HOME TO LEGENDS AND FAITH OF OLD…

SIX KEY AREAS

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Located approximately 70 km south of Osaka in the Kinki region of Japan lies, Wakayama Prefecture, a land of beautiful ocean and mountain scenery. Here you can not only enjoy all that the local sights, hot springs, and local cuisine have to offer, you can also find a land that offers a hint a mystery in the shrines and Buddhist temples and the principles of enlightenment they espouse passed on through the ages. Stretched out over a long oblong-shaped piece of land from North to South, Wakayama Prefecture is home to six key areas – Wakayama City, Koyasan, the Kii Peninsula, Kumano, Shirahama and Kushimoto.

Wakayama City is host to a range of historic sites such as Wakayama Castle, and to the Waka-no-Ura Bay, one of the picturesque sites extolled in Japan’s oldest collection of poems, the “Manyoshu”. The port towns facing the Kii Channel, entryway to the Seto Inland Sea, are also famous spots for surf fishing, swimming beaches and other marine resorts, and also offer a taste of fresh seafood.

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Koyasan is a holy city and World Heritage Site set atop the mountains that is home to temples and historic sites densely packed into an area of an approximately 1.5 km radius. Its solemn atmosphere and beautiful natural surroundings make for an unforgettable experience. Making your way along the pilgrim trail, the Koyasan Stone Marker Path, from the towns at the foothills of the mountains to the peaks and the 117 temples on top is a true highlight. Half of those temples also offer the shukubo style of temple accommodation, where a stay offers a glimpse of traditional Japanese architecture and lets you experience the history and culture of not just Koyasan itself, but Japan as a whole. The tatami rooms, beautiful paintings on traditional sliding doors, ancient furnishings, and the traditional vegetarian temple food eaten by monks known as shojin ryori all build a sacred atmosphere that draws visitors from inside and outside Japan all year long.

The Kii Peninsula is the largest peninsula in apan, and an area that perfectly expresses the mix of ocean and mountains in Wakayama with its ample fishing grounds and beautiful coastline matched with incredible views that peek out through the mountain ranges. There are many famous spots such as the Shirasaki Coast, which is known as the Aegean Sea of the Orient for its contrast of azure ocean that stretches out to the horizon with white limestone. The Kii Peninsula was also selected as one of the top 10 regions to visit in 2018 by the guidebook Lonely Planet, used by travellers the world over.

Kumano in the southern part of the Kii Peninsula has long been considered a holy site and home to the gods, revered for its stunning and mysterious natural surrounds. The Kumano Kodo trail, designated a World Heritage Site in 2004 along with Koyasan, is a holy trail that has existed since the ancient Heian Era as a pilgrimage trail to those of faith in the three grand Kumano shrines, and is well worn by the footsteps of those in search of prayer for over 1,000 years. Here you can go trekking amidst this ancient backdrop, and this trail, which ties together the three grand shrines of the Hayatama Taisha, Hongu Taisha, and Nachi Taisha, offers a variety of terrain depending on the route you take, capturing the imaginations of visitors even to this day. The Nakahechi Route in particular is said to have been walked by retired emperors and other nobles, making it the most significant in terms of Japanese history. Accommodation can also be found along this route, together with famous hot springs such as the Kawayu, Yumine, Wataze, and Katsuura.

Shirahama is home to one of Japan’s three largest hot springs and a location long known as a site for hot springs, Shirahama Onsen, and Adventure World, a theme park based on the concept of bringing together people, animals, and nature that is loved by young and old alike.

In Kushimoto, the town at the southernmost point of Japan’s main island, the coast has been registered and designated as a marine park under the Ramsar Convention for its great coral communities. It is also popular for incredible sights such as Engetsu Island and the Sandanbeki Doukutsu Cave, and the vast rias-style coastline.

WATER, THE SOURCE OF ALL THINGS

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It is precisely because Wakayama has long been known as a land of great forests since ancient times that it is also a region of bountiful, clear waters conditioned by those very same forests. The water of Wakayama, long revered for its magnificent environment, is said to hold a mysterious power. It was the heavy rainfall over the Kii Mountain Ranges that gave birth to the forests in the depths of the mountains, and the water conditioned by those forests that then turned into grand rivers and waterfalls that have been deified since times of old.

The world of Koyasan and Kumano, both a part of the World Heritage Site listing, is a special one created by the sheer power of this water over the years, and is home to holy waters that bind together the grand natural surrounds with people, and people with their faith. A quiet walk on one of these ancient trails steeped in nature and faith is sure to be quite the experience.

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Even simply enjoying the sights of the water that cleanses the Kii Peninsula and the natural sites its unique topography produces is sure to bring clarity to your mind. From the hot springs that burst forth from the ground, to the rivers that weave their way through the mountains, a trip to see the products of Wakayama’s bountiful water resources cannot be missed.

DEVELOPMENT OF A CYCLING PARADISE

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Wakayama is a prefecture that actively promotes tourism via bicycle, which allows tourists to travel to spots that large busses and trains cannot reach. There are many wonderful places you can visit that cater to beginners and the needs of the more advanced alike, from pottering through beautiful scenery and tourist sites, to hill climbs that promise incredible views at the tops of mountain roads.

Development of cycling roads (blue line) over some 800km is proceeding throughout all of Wakayama Prefecture, and is due for completion during the Japanese 2017 financial year. In addition to these roads, a number of other facilities such as bike racks and benches, toilet access, and cycle stations that allow cyclists to take a break or perform maintenance on their bikes, are also being created. Great care to detail has been made, with loans of air pumps and tools to make temporary repairs on offer, all with the aim of turning Wakayama into a region that can be called a new paradise for cyclists.

Accommodation catering to the needs of cyclists is said to increase along the cycling roads as well. What better way could there be to see Wakayama than going on a bike trip through the prefecture where you can come in close contact with the natural surroundings and the local culture, whilst sometimes taking a break to reward yourself with a spectacular view, and enjoying the local cuisine and seasonal produce?