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The land of the gods

Wakayama Prefecture is the spectacular, spiritual heart of Japan.

Just a couple of hours south of the electric city of Osaka, there’s a place where ancient pathways lead to hidden shrines shrouded in mist; where monks worship waterfalls and mystical forests float.

Located on the remote Kii peninsula on the southern coast of Kansai, Wakayama Prefecture makes up a large part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sacred Sites and pilgrimage routes called the Kumano Kodo. All of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails lead to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano in the mountains of southeastern Wakayama.

Mount Koya

Mount Koya is home to thousands of monks and Japan’s largest cemetery.

One of the easiest Sacred Sites to get to in the prefecture would have to be Mount Koya. Climbing up the misty mountain top feels like entering another realm.

Among the collection of ancient temples nestled along the wooded slopes, many offer overnight stays where you can experience life as a monk. Attend morning prayers and eat vegan Buddhist meals as you follow the pathway towards enlightenment. Mount Koya is also home to Okunoin Cemetery, the largest graveyard in all of Japan.

The incredibly atmospheric Nachi Taisha shrine stands in front of Nachi waterfall which shrouds the shrine in its godly vapor. You’ll struggle to take a bad photo, but make sure your camera is waterproof. Hayatama Taisha shrine in the town of Shingu is home to a 1,000-year-old tree and a large floating forest that you can feel moving underneath you as you walk. You can visit all three shrines in one day but it’s worth staying longer for a chance to heal your body and mind in Kumano’s holy waters.

Hot Spring Towns

Onsen town Yunomine in Wakayama, Japan.

Photo by: Onsen town Yunomine in Wakayama, Japan.

A 1,800-year-old discovery, Yunomine is one of Japan’s oldest hot spring towns and a key stopping point on the Kumano Kodo route. Pilgrims would come here to purify themselves before worshipping at the shrines.

It is also home to Tsuboyu—the world’s only UNESCO World Heritage bath. You’ll find it in a small wooden cabin on the river. A little way downstream there’s a pool of natural hot water where you can boil eggs and vegetables with the locals.

Another option is the river hot springs on the Kawayu River. The waters are aquamarine during the hotter months, but the onsen resorts are especially popular during winter. These are public hot springs so you might see people in bathing suits and you might see people in their birthday suits!


Shirahama is a town in the Nishimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture.

Located in the southern part of the prefecture, Shirahama Beach is another onsen resort with a gorgeous white sand beach and plenty of places to stay. The most popular of the three beaches along the coastline is called Shirahama Ohama Beach. There are a ton of beachfront hotels to choose from.

Plan your trip to Wakayama with the links below!


Discover Wakayama

Get away from it all in scenic Wakayama with a temple stay, hiking, or sacred fire festival.


Places to visit

Kumano Sanzan (Three Grand Shrines of Kumano)

Partake in ancient tradition by making a pilgrimage to three of Japan’s most important shrines.

Okunoin Cemetery Mount Koya on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail

Kumano Kodo: Kohechi Route

This demanding trek is for seasoned hikers only, but gorgeous views and the unearthly Mount Koya are sure to take anyone’s breath away.

Hashikui-iwa Rocks Kumano Kodo Ohechi Coastal Route in Wakayama Japan

Kumano Kodo: Ohechi Route

Take the road less traveled on this coastal hiking trail once sought out by poets and painters for artistic inspiration.

Hyakken-Gura lookout point Nakahechi Route Kumano Kodo JNTO

Kumano Kodo: Nakahechi Route

This stunning trek through Wakayama Prefecture was once favored by emperors and nobles.



A quiet and historic resort town perfect for a weekend getaway.

Mount Koya

Encounter spiritual Japan at one of its holiest destinations.

Kongobu-ji Temple

The heart of Shingon Buddhism at Mt. Koya.


The heart of spirituality in Japan.

Wakayama Castle

A small town castle fit for a Shogun.


Call it Okinoshima or Tomogashima — this mysterious tiny island has big history.


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5 Famous Foods You’ll Find in Wakayama

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Kishi Station

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A rustic Edo Era industrial town, where the thick, sweet smell of soy sauce wafts through timeworn wooden warehouses and stores, a constant reminder that this is the birthplace of soy sauce.

Sandanbeki Cliffs

A secret pirate cave hidden next to Wakayama Prefecture's most iconic beach

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