Largest City


The home 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. The mountains here are a sacred dwelling for the gods and known for their restorative powers, while along the saw-tooth coast healing onsens (hot spring baths) merge with the clear waters of the ocean.

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 in the Kii Mountain Range, linked by the ancient Kumano Kodo.

Don't miss the chance to experience an overnight temple stay on Mount Koya, Wakayama

Don’t miss the chance to experience an overnight temple stay on Mount Koya.

Mount Koya is the easiest to access from Kansai’s major cities, though reaching Koya’s misty mountaintop you’ll feel as if you’ve entered 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, attending the morning prayers and eating Buddhist meals.

All of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes lead to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano in the mountains of southeastern Wakayama; the Hongu Taisha, the Nachi Taisha and the Hayatama Taisha. You can visit all three shrines within a day but it’s worth staying longer for a chance to heal your body and mind in Kumano’s holy waters.

Follow the sacred Kumano Kodo in Wakayama prefecture

Follow the sacred pathway of the Kumano Kodo.

A 1,800 year old discovery, Yunomine is thought to be 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. Tsuboyu is the world’s only UNESCO World Heritage bath; it’s in a small wooden cabin on the river and has healing waters said to cure all manner of ailments. A little way downstream there’s a pool of natural hot water where you can boil eggs and vegetables with the locals.

The incredibly atmospheric Nachi Taisha shrine stands in front of the deified Nachi waterfall which shrouds the shrine in its godly vapour. You’ll struggle to take a bad photo but make sure your camera is waterproof. The Hayatama Taisha in the town of Shingu is home to a 1000 year old tree and a large floating forest that you can feel moving underneath you as you walk.

Sun yourself on Shirahama beach in Wakayama prefecture.

Sun yourself on Shirahama beach.

Katsuura along the coast leading down to the Shionomisaki cape is onsen galore. Katsuura is also famous for its seafood, especially its huge tuna said to be the biggest in Japan. Following the coast round, Shirahama is another popular onsen resort with a gorgeous white sand beach and plenty of places to stay.

Places to visit

Mount Koya

Encounter spiritual Japan at one of its holiest destinations.

Sandanbeki Cliffs

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


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.


The home of the Sanada Clan in exile.

Kishi Station

Welcome to this tiny station epitomizing laidback countryside charm. Stationmaster on a catnap? That’s just part of her job.

5 Famous Foods You’ll Find in Wakayama

Ramen so tasty it made international news.


Discover this small town in Wakayama Prefecture where the traditional art of lacquer making dates back centuries and is still alive and well.


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

Wakayama Castle

A small town castle fit for a Shogun.


The heart of spirituality in Japan.

Kongobu-ji Temple

The heart of Shingon Buddhism at Mt. Koya.



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

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.

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.

Other Destinations in Kansai

Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture


Touted as ‘a Japan in miniature’, Hyogo is one of Japan’s most diverse prefectures.

Amanohashidate or Bridge to Heaven in Kyoto Prefecture


Break the tourist mould and head outside of the city to uncover the rest of what Kyoto has to offer.

Maruyama rice terraces at sunset, Mie prefecture


The first signs of human habitation on Mie can be traced back 10,000 years and that’s only one of this ancient prefecture’s historical claims to fame.

Cherry blossoms among the Yoshino mountains in Nara prefecture


Nara prefecture is where you’ll find the immemorial tombs of Japan’s early rulers, its first Buddhist temple and the headquarters of the sacred Shugendo mountain religion.

Osaka, Japan skyline at Osaka Castle Park, Osaka Prefecture


Japan's second smallest prefecture is the economic and commercial hub of the Kansai region, driven by it's kaleidoscopic capital city Osaka.

Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture


Shiga prefecture is so full of scenic views you’ll feel as though you’ve tripped and fallen into a postcard.

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Nagoya, Japan city skyline, Aichi Prefecture


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People eating and drinking in Yurakucho Tokyo Japan.


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Tap into Tokyo’s Manga and Anime Scene

Tokyo, Japan - August 1, 2015: Crowds pass below colorful signs in Akihabara. The well known electronics district specializes in the sales of video games, anime, manga, and computer goods.


Ah, Akihabara. Where to even begin? Electric town. Cool Japan. Anime Center. Themed cafes. The list is...

Manhole cover in Ghibli museum, Tokyo-Japan.

Ghibli Museum

A whimsical wonderland that is heartbreakingly charming.