The city of Wakayama is a gem “hidden” only 1 hour from Osaka and 40 minutes from Kansai Airport. Wakayama is the place where you will find the best ramen soup, the most delicious tuna sashimi, beautiful hot springs and beaches, shrines and temples and more!
If you are planning to visit off the beaten path parts of Japan, you should definitely add Wakayama to your list, at least for a day! During my entire trip there I felt like I was the only tourist and had all those special places to myself!
I visited some shrines and there were only a couple of locals there, so I could really enjoy the experience and feel the authentic vibe of each place, listen to the sounds of nature and relax.
Wakayama is not about the hustle and bustle of crowded touristy places like Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka. Instead, it is a town of peace, where you can walk around and take your time while discovering the hidden gems.
I suggest you stay for about 2 days in Wakayama, Japan, if not more. Depending on your desired itinerary and your list of to-do things, you will have enough time to experience some great attractions, see some authentic shrines and witness the true spirit of the city!
I was invited to visit this charming city by the wonderful people from My Secret Wakayama and I spent 2 beautiful days there. On the first day I visited the entire Marina City area, and on the second I visited some shrines and ate some delicious ramen.
I rented a bike while I was there because I wanted to truly experience the city and wander around the streets at my own pace. You can do the same or you can take a bus to get around. There are also trains that are easily accessible and you can find everything about transportation in Wakayama at the end of this article.
Regarding Japan prices, the local currency is the yen (¥). 1,000¥ is equivalent to US $8.80.
Without further ado, here are the top 11 things to see and do during your Wakayama stay (plus some bonus activities and useful info such as how to get there, how to get to the airport and where to stay):
- 1. Visit Wakayama Castle
- 2. Drink a cup of tea in Momijidani Garden
- 3. Pass through Ohashi Roka Bridge
- 4. Walk up to Kimii-Dera Temple and Buddha Hall
- 5. Visit Kishu Toshogu Shrine
- 6. Visit Tamatsushima-Jinja Shrine
- 7. Teleport yourself to Italy at Porto Europa
- 8. Watch the tuna show at Kuroshio Market
- 9. Taste delicious fruits and juices at Kinokuni Fruit Village
- 10. Bathe in Kishu Kuroshio Onsen
- 11. Eat some of the most delicious ramen
- Bonus things to do and see:
- Where To Stay In Wakayama
- Where To Eat And Drink In Wakayama
- Transportation options In Wakayama City
- How To Get To Wakayama City
- How To Get From Wakayama To Kansai Airport
1. Visit Wakayama Castle
Wakayama Castle is one of the most iconic attractions of the city and a must-see during your stay, regardless of how short it is!
Wakayama Castle is a historical site dating from the 16th century, but since then, it was taken down and rebuilt again several times. The last time it was rebuilt was in 1958, after World War II and since then it stands proudly overlooking the entire city as a symbol of Wakayama’s history.
The castle is nestled in a very nice area, full of nature, gardens, a zoo, and a very special bridge. You can walk freely around the entire area, admire the stone walls which lead up to the castle, go up the beautiful stone stairs and finally you will reach the castle. The entire itinerary takes about 60 minutes, depending on how much you want to hurry. You will get many photo opportunities along the way and the best spot to photograph the castle is clearly marked on the trail. Here is the best photo spot of the castle:
And this is the view from the photo spot:
How to get there: You can take the bus from Wakayama JR Station (any bus from Platform 2 such as 25, 26, 30, 33, 24 etc.) to Koen-Mae stop, about 7 minutes. Price of the bus ticket is 230¥ (US $2). Read more details about Wakayama buses and transportation at the end of the article.
Price: The admission fee to the castle was 410¥ (US $3.70) when I went (August 2018), but you can visit the surrounding area, the zoo and the gardens for free. The admission ticket includes a visit to the museum inside the castle and you can also go up to the Castle Tower to see the stunning view over the city.
Pro tip: After you finish visiting the castle, go to Wakayama City Hall which is very close by. Take the elevator up to the top floor and enter their restaurant. You will have a beautiful panoramic view of Wakayama Castle and you can even enjoy a set menu for lunch if you want!
2. Drink a cup of tea in Momijidani Garden
Momijidani Garden is right near Wakayama Castle and it is a gorgeous oasis where you can rest and drink a cup of traditional green tea (matcha)!
After you are done visiting Wakayama Castle, keep walking and you will arrive at Momijidani Garden. It is a very small garden with a pond, a wooden bridge, and many trees. I was simply mesmerized by the color of the water and the way the sun was reflecting through the leaves of the trees!
If you want to take your Japanese experience to a whole new level, you can participate in the tea ceremony at Kosoan Tea House, right near Wakayama Castle and the gardens. The tea ceremonies take place between 9 AM – 4:30 PM and the last admission is at 4 PM. You will get to taste a bowl of matcha tea and some traditional Japanese sweets. Unfortunately, the tea house was closed when I visited, but I participated in a tea ceremony in Kyoto and it was one of the highlights of my Japan trip!
How to get there: Go down from the castle using the Back Path. Turn left and you will find the garden with the pond. It is kind of hard to miss it, as it is so close to the castle.
Price: Entrance to Momijidani Garden is free. The tea ceremony is 460¥ (US $4) (includes matcha and sweets)
3. Pass through Ohashi Roka Bridge
Ohashi Roka is a very special wooden bridge, with a roof and walls, dating from the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), and tilted at 11°. The perfectly polished wooden floor has some small steps inside and the entire idea behind it is that the people who pass through it cannot be seen from the outside.
You will have to take your shoes off when you go on the bridge and, even though this is such a simple bridge, it is very charming! After you pass through it coming from the castle, you will enter the beautiful Momijidani Garden (no. 2 on this list).
How to get there: Ohashi Roka bridge is located right near Momijidani garden.
4. Walk up to Kimii-Dera Temple and Buddha Hall
The city of Wakayama is full of beautiful temples situated at the end of hundreds of steps, but Kimii-Dera is definitely the largest and most stunning one of all!
Founded in 770, Kimii-Dera temple sits proudly at the edge of Mt Nagusa-Yama, 231 steps above the city. I know it sounds like a lot of effort, but the view from above and the entire scenery is definitely worth it!
“Kimii-dera” means “the temple in Wakayama with three fountains”. The entire site is very peaceful and it is the perfect place to have a rest after the long way up. The scenery includes a pond, fountains, many shrines and small statues and there are also some cafes, vending machines, and souvenir shops on the way up. There were only a couple of locals visiting when I was there, so I really felt like I had the entire place to myself!
If this temple was so beautiful in August, I can only imagine how splendid the entire scenery is in spring with the cherry blossoms or during autumn when there are red leaves everywhere!
One of the highlights of this temple is the Buddha Statue called “Kimii-dera Dai Kannon,” a wooden statue covered in gold that is a mesmerizing 12-meters tall. Built in 2008, it is the biggest wooden statue in all of Japan to this day! The statue depicts Daisenju-juichimenkanzeon-bosatsu-zo (try to pronounce that!), a Buddhist saint with 100 hands and 11 faces, and it is super impressive!
How to get there: Take buses 40, 42, or 43 (Platform 1) or 20, 121, 22, or 122 (Platform 2) from Wakayama Station and get off at Kimiidera station (about 25 minutes). The temple is a 5-10 minute long walk from the station. Price of the bus ticket is 400¥ (US $3.60)
Price: admission fee is 200¥(US $1.80)
5. Visit Kishu Toshogu Shrine
Built in 1621, the Kishu Toshogu Shrine is an important cultural property in Japan nestled in a dark green forest!
Kishu Toshogu Shrine has the most beautifully carved wooden gates of all the temples I’ve seen in Japan! The gate is very colorful and when you are standing at the top of the 107 stairs leading up to the temple, you will be able to see Wakayama Marina City far away on the horizon, the artificial island in Wakayama that I talk about in no. 7 on this list.
Again, while I was at this shrine I only saw a maximum of 5 local men who came to pray at the temple. Other than that, I was all by myself and I could take my time and admire this historic site. The entire atmosphere was very serene and there were crickets chirping all over the place!
How to get there: From Wakayama Station you can take bus no. 24 or 30 (Platform 2) and get off at the stop “Gongenmae” (about half an hour). The shrine is a short walk from the bus station. Price of the bus ticket is 380¥ (US $3.40) (for bus 24) or 500¥ (US $4.5) (for bus 30).
6. Visit Tamatsushima-Jinja Shrine
I wasn’t kidding when I told you Wakayama is full of wonderful, unique ancient temples!
Tamatsushima-jinja Shrine has been a continuous inspiration for Japanese poets so it appears in many poems. This shrine is located in a residential area and is just as peaceful as the others I visited in the city! You can take your time and admire the statues, take pictures and maybe even buy a trinket (a small object that will bring you luck) from the souvenir shop to bring back home.
Pro tip: If you have some more time on your hands, go behind the shrine to the path to Mt. Kagamiyama. If you walk for less than 5 minutes you will get to the top of the mountain and the view is absolutely stunning! After you finish your visit at Tamatsushima Shrine, you can also head out to Furobashi Bridge – it is really close to this shrine and nice to see. It is a beautiful arched bridge made of stone, built in the 19th century.
How to get there: From Wakayama Station, you take bus no. 24 and get off at Tamatsushima-jinja-mae station (about 25 minutes). Price of the ticket is 380¥ (US $3.40).
7. Teleport yourself to Italy at Porto Europa
Wakayama Marina City and Porto Europe were some of the most special and unique things I saw during my Japan vacation!
Marina City is an island resort and a very special experience in Wakayama. The island includes Porto Europa (amusement park), a fish market, a fresh fruit market, a stunning hotel and an onsen (hot communal baths that are super popular in Japan)!
Porto Europa is an amusement park with different attractions such as roller coasters for kids, a ferris wheel, a water slide, a carousel and more! The entire area was designed to resemble Italian, French and Portuguese streets and they did a really good job! You won’t even feel like you’re in Japan anymore with the stunning ocean views and the pleasant breeze.
There are also some European-style restaurants and cafes there where you can enjoy a nice meal. If you are not fond of amusement park attractions, I suggest simply walking around the place and admiring the architecture. You will get many great photo opportunities on those cute little streets, especially if you go in the afternoon!
How to get there: From Wakayama Station you can take the bus no. 42 (Platform 1) or 121, 22, 122 (Platform 2) for Marina City and get off at the last station (Marina City). Price of the ticket is 520¥ (US $4.70). You will see Porto Europa right from the start. It is only a short walk from the bus station.
Price: The entrance fee to Porto Europa is 3,500¥ (US $31.4) for adults and 2,900¥ (US $26) for children. There are some rides that you have to pay individually for. It is free to walk on the streets.
8. Watch the tuna show at Kuroshio Market
You simply can’t miss the tuna show at Kuroshio Market that takes place 3 times a day: at 11:00, 12:30 and 15:00!
Kuroshio Market is the perfect place to try some authentic, fresh sushi, freshly cut tuna sashimi, eel sushi and other Japanese treats, sweet or savory. You can have lunch there – just buy whatever your heart desires from the fresh dishes prepared on-site, or buy some fresh fish and they will barbecue it, then take a seat at the special eating place outside. Enjoy your meal with a seaside view and you will understand what makes Japanese food so delicious!
At Kuroshio Market, you can also buy great souvenirs and presents like Japanese sweets and spices to bring back home!
Pro tip: If you want to take your tuna experience to a whole new level, you can try the sushi making experience for 1,500¥ (US $13.5)! You can change into the special chef clothes and then the sushi chefs at the market will teach you how to make different types of sushi (5 types of nigiri sushi and 2 rolls). At the end, you will get to eat your own sushi!
How to get there: Kuroshio Market is right near Porto Europe, very close to the “Marina City” bus stop.
Price: the access to the fish market is free and the tuna show is free to watch.
9. Taste delicious fruits and juices at Kinokuni Fruit Village
If you want to taste some delicious locally produced Wakayama fruits and veggies, this is the perfect place to do it!
Kinokuni Fruit Village is a small fruit market full of fresh fruit and vegetables. All of the fruit sold there is locally grown and is super tasty! You can walk around and sample different types of fruit or fruit products such as freshly squeezed juices and more. This is also a very good place to buy souvenirs like honey (I bought some orange blossom honey there that I simply love!), ginger ale (famous local drink), sauces, sweets, and cakes!
How to get there: Kinokuni Fruit Village is right across from Kuroshio Market, very close to the “Marina City” bus stop.
Price: Entry to the Kinokuni Fruit Village is free.
10. Bathe in Kishu Kuroshio Onsen
Wakayama is best known for its multiple onsens, and Kishu Kuroshio is probably one of the most beautiful ones!
An “onsen” is a public Japanese bath with hot spring water where Japanese people go to bathe and take time to relax. The rule is that you have to get into the onsen completely naked (no underwear or swimwear allowed!) and I must say, this is a truly unique experience. Even though I was a bit shy at first, nobody bats an eye as they are very used to this ritual, so you will slowly learn how to feel comfortable in your own skin.
There are some steps that you have to follow for bathing in an onsen, though. First, you have to enter the facility, take off your shoes, purchase your ticket, receive your towel, and leave all your stuff, bags and clothes, in a special locker. The onsens are divided into female and male zones, so you won’t have to worry about this. Then you have to wash yourself at the communal shower and only after this step are you allowed to enter the onsen. Sit there, relax, then go and wash yourself a second time, get back into the onsen and you are done!
Kishu Kuroshio Wakayama Onsen has an indoor and outdoor bath with water pumped from 1,500m below sea level. The outdoor one is amazing as you will have a stunning view of the city! I went at around 9 PM and the weather was perfect, I could feel the ocean breeze while I was soaking in the hot water. The onsen is open until 12 AM.
Tip: You can’t take photos at the onsen. You cannot go into the onsen if you have tattoos. The way to get around the rule is to cover your tattoo with a bandage or even a band-aid if it is small. It is important that the locals don’t see your tattoo, as this is a taboo subject for them. I can’t assure you that this will work in every onsen because it also depends on how big your tattoo is.
How to get there: The onsen is right near Marina City Hotel, across the street from Porto Europe, very close to the Marina City bus station.
Price: Admission fee is 830¥ (US $7.40) for adults (1,000 with the towel included) and 520¥ (US $4.70) for children (600¥ (US $5.40) with the towel).
11. Eat some of the most delicious ramen
No Wakayama experience is complete without a big bowl of hot “chuka soba”!
Trying some authentic Wakayama ramen, called “chuka soba”, was definitely on my list of priorities while in the city. On my way back from Kimii-dera to the Wakayama station, I parked my bike and stopped at the famous Ide Shoten where I ordered the ramen with extra meat. Ide Shoten is a very small and traditional restaurant with fast service and delicious ramen! I arrived late in the afternoon and the place was packed with businessmen and students, all of them slurping from their own big bowl of ramen. Of course, I was very excited to do the same and I have to admit I was not disappointed!
Wakayama ramen has a very special and distinctive taste thanks to the “tonkotsu” (pork soy sauce broth), which makes it famous in the entire country. Regardless of the restaurant you choose to try, I am sure you will be amazed by its mix of flavors and subtle soy seasoning!
Entrance to Ide Shoten, Wakayama
Pro tip: If you are a ramen lover ready for an adventure, you can take the “Wakayama Ramen Taxi,” a special taxi that will take you to the best ramen places in town after you tell the driver your preferences! All the drivers have a high knowledge of ramen and local history, so they will tell you everything you need to know. If you take this taxi, you will have special offers of ramen places such as being able to order only half a portion, so you can taste even more ramen!
How to get to Ide Shoten: The restaurant is close to the Wakayama JR Station. Here is the address: 4 Chome-4-84 Tanakamachi
Prices: The standard ramen bowl is 700¥ (US $6.30), with extra meat or extra noodles it is 800¥ (US $6.30) and if you want extra of both it is 900¥ (US $8).
Bonus things to do and see:
Here are some of the things that were on my to-do list for Wakayama, but because I was only there for 2 days, I didn’t have enough time to cross everything off my list!
If you have more time in the city, I spoke to some locals and this is what they recommended to add to the list of attractions in Wakayama:
1. Take a boat to Tomogashima Islands
This is one of the things I really regret not doing while I was in Wakayama due to lack of time! 🙁
Tomogashima Island is a chain of 4 beautiful islands: Jinoshima, Torajima, Kamijima, and Okinoshima. You can only take a boat to Okinoshima Island and the ride there is totally worth adding it to this Wakayama, Japan guide, as it is a very beautiful island, full of fortress ruins dating from World War II. You will feel like you are in a Miyazaki anime while wandering around the ruins and small streets of the island!
Tip: Make sure to take some food and water with you to the island. Some insect repellant spray will also be useful, as there are many mosquitoes and insects on the island. If you want to explore everything at your own pace, consider investing around 4 hours in this island trip.
How to get there: From Nankai Wakayama Station you take the train on the KADA line to Kada Station. From there, take the ferry from Kada port for 20 minutes and you will arrive at the island.
Price: The train ticket to Kada station is 300¥ (US $2.70) one-way and the ferry is 2,000¥ (US $18) roundtrip.
2. Witness the only train in the world with a cat conductor
Yes, you read that right! Wakayama has a cat as a train Stationmaster!
Wakayama Electric Railway has one cat to rule over all: Nitama! Actually, the first stationmaster cat was Tama, who was “in charge” between 2007 and 2015. After she died, her apprentice (Nitama) took her place and Tama was transformed into the goddess of Wakayama Electric Railway and Local Public Transport! She even has a shrine at Kishi Station.
You can find Nitama at Kishi Station. There are 14 stops from Wakayama Station to Kishi Station and on your way there you will enjoy some beautiful scenic landscapes. Like any other employee, Nitama has some specific working hours and she takes the day off on Wednesday and Thursday. On her regular days, you can see Nitama peacefully asleep in the front cabin of the train!
As a bonus, Wakayama Electric Railway has 4 themed trains: a Strawberry Train, an Omocha (Toys) Train, a Tama Train (Tama the cat!) and an Umeboshi Train (plums). Each one of these trains is unique and decorated according to the specific theme. The Tama Train is probably the cutest train ever!
Price: The train ride from Wakayama Station to Kishi Station is 400¥ (US $3.60) (200¥ (US $1.80) for children) one-way and it takes about 35 minutes to get there. You can buy a one-day ticket for 780¥ (US $7) (adults) and 390¥ (US $3.50) (children).
3. Visit the uniquely creepy Awashima Shrine
Out of all the shrines in Wakayama, Awashima is definitely the most special and spooky one!
The reason I am saying this is because Awashima Shrine’s altar is full of dolls! And when I say “full” of dolls, I mean over 20,000 dolls – from Japanese women to owls and other colorful animals. The entire site has a very mysterious and creepy mood and I am sure you will be intrigued by the entire setting! All the dolls at the shrine were sent by people all over Japan to be used in a special ceremony in March. Even though it may not sound like such a big deal, I am sure being there is simply incredible.
The Awashima Shrine is in the Kada region and other than the dolls, it is famous among women who go there to pray for different feminine problems, such as childbirth, infertility etc.
How to get there: From Nankai Wakayama Station you take the train on the KADA line to Kada Station. Price of the ticket is 300¥ (US $2.70) one-way. Awashima Shrine is a 15-minute walk from the train station.
Price: free admission
4. Take a walk on the beach
Wakayama is not only famous for its shrines and ramen, but also for the beautiful coastline full of nice beaches!
Out of all the beaches in Wakayama, I really wanted to go to Kada beach, because it is so close to Awashima Shrine! Kada is a Wakayama beach perfect for some sunbathing and relaxation and it is also child-friendly! The waters are calm and the beach has soft golden sand.
(1-minute away from Kada Station, close to Kada Beach).
How to get there: From Nankai Wakayama Station you take the train on the KADA line to Kada Station. Price of the ticket is 300¥ (US $2.70) one-way. Kada Beach is only 15 minutes away from the train station by foot.
5. Experience Seine Fishing
Seine fishing is the traditional way of fishing in Wakayama!
This type of fishing includes a big fishnet called a “seine” and multiple people using it at the same time. The fish nets are deployed directly from the beach into the water. During this activity, you will get to catch some different types of fish like horse mackerel, octopus etc. and then enjoy a delicious barbecue and sashimi with the freshly caught fish! You can also enjoy some other types of grilled fish, meat and vegetables for additional fees depending on your preferences. The fishing takes 30-40 minutes and the BBQ takes 60 minutes.
Note: This activity is only available from April 1st to November 30th (with the exception of August 13th – 16th). You have to book this activity at least 7 days in advance by sending an e-mail at [email protected]
How to get there: The meeting point is Kataonami Beach. To get there, you can take bus 24 (Platform 2) from Wakayama Station and get off at Furobashi Station. The beach is a short walk from the bus station.
Price: One fishing net is 75,600¥ (US $678) which will be divided between all the people participating in the activity (the net can be used by 20-120 people). The BBQ is 1,800¥ (US $16)/person, excluding tax. For children it is 1,500¥ (US $13.50), excluding tax.
Where To Stay In Wakayama
There are many hotels in the city of Wakayama that you can choose from for all types of budgets.
During my Wakayama trip, I stayed in two different hotels because I wanted to experience two different neighborhoods that are distinct from each other. Here are my reviews of the 2 hotels where I stayed:
Wakayama Marina City
Wakayama Marina City is a gorgeous hotel in the Marina City complex, the artificial island located in the south of the city half an hour from Wakayama Station. I stayed here on my first day in Wakayama. The hotel is very relaxed and has a European vibe to it. It is also colorful, chic and provides excellent service!
The rooms are very cozy (mine had a pool view which was super cool!) and the staff is extremely friendly. They helped me with everything I needed during my stay, including finding me an electrical adapter and they spoke very good English.
Daily activities at the hotel include sunbathing and bathing in the pool (which is open until 5PM), eating a delicious buffet breakfast or having lunch at one of their restaurants (they have an Italian one and a Japanese one and a bakery) and just exploring the surrounding area including Kuroshio Market, Kinokuni Fruit Village, Porto Europa and Kishu Kuroshio Onsen.
Your booking at this hotel also includes a free ticket to Porto Europa during your stay and a free ticket to the onsen, which is a great bonus (and a savings of about 4,500¥) (US $40)! They also have some evening parties by the pool that you can join for an additional fee. When I was there, they had a Night Pool Party with some DJs and cool music and the entire pool area was full of young Japanese people enjoying the vibe!
One of the best things about Wakayama Marina City is the daily breakfast, served between 7 AM – 10 AM. They invite tuna cutting masters from Kuroshio Market to present a tuna show and then you get to eat fresh tuna sushi at breakfast! How amazing is that? Other than the sushi, the breakfast options are very wide and include miso soup, salads, pastries, tofu, noodles and more! This was the place where I got to taste some Umeboshi pickled plums (unique taste and experience, by the way!).
The rooms are sparkling clean, the bathrooms include a bathing tub and there is also a nice souvenir shop at the hotel where you can buy gifts and all kinds of snacks! My experience at Wakayama Marina City was super pleasant and I would go back in a minute!
Comfort Hotel Wakayama
Even though Comfort Hotel Wakayama doesn’t have such a summer breeze vibe and isn’t surrounded by the ocean, it has an extremely convenient location: right near Wakayama Station, only 2 minutes away by foot! The hotel looks very nice and I stayed here on my second day in the city; I really liked how easy it was to get around, to get to the main Wakayama attractions or to the airport. I decided to rent a bike from the hotel for free and used it for the entire day.
The breakfast options were very good as well, ranging from traditional Japanese buffet dishes such as noodles, onigiri, and salads to pastries, coffee and juices. The daily breakfast is served between 6:30AM and 9:30AM.
The rooms are very clean and tidy and all of them are air-conditioned. My room was on the top floor of the building and I had a stunning view of the city! Another good thing about this hotel is that it is only 1 minute away from Kintetsu Department Store, which is a very good shop, similar to a bigger supermarket where you can buy food, sweet drinks and souvenirs for reasonable prices!
Other great hotels in Wakayama
Here is a list of other very good Wakayama accommodation options:
Luxury (US $170 and up): Wakanoura Nature Resort Epicharis is a great luxury Wakayama hotel, located only 1 minute away from the beach. The rooms are very bright, cozy and super clean and the service is excellent! My second suggestion is Hotel Granvia Wakayama, a stunning 5-star hotel located 1 minute away from the train station! It features free bicycle rentals, stunning rooms, great service, and friendly staff!
Middle-priced (between US $110 and $170): Daiwa Roynet Hotel Wakayama is a very nice 4-star hotel situated only 1 minute away from Wakayama Castle. You will get to choose from 6 different restaurants and you will have everything you need for a pleasant stay! Wakayama Kada Onsen Kada Kaigetsu is located in the Kada area, 12 minutes away from the beach. The hotel offers free pick-up shuttles from Kada Train Station and great service!
Budget (between US $58 and $110): Tsukiji Hostel Wakayama 1 is a super nice hostel in Wakayama with traditional Japanese beds. The hostel provides a free shuttle service from Wakayama Station. Tsukiji Hostel Wakayama 2 is just as good as the first one! You can rent bikes for free there and you will get free Wi-Fi and a shared bathroom.
Where To Eat And Drink In Wakayama
Wakayama is famous for its ramen called “chuka soba”, so I advise you try at least one big bowl of hot ramen while you’re in the city! Here are some good places to eat ramen in Wakayama, as well as some other delicious dishes:
- Ide Shoten – famous place in Wakayama for its ramen, close to Wakayama Castle. You can read more about it in no. 11 on the list above
- Wakayama Dining Kishugura – close to Wakayama Castle. I recommend the Kishu food course (multiple food course where you will get to taste lots of Wakayama delicacies)
- Ti.po – great for coffee and close to Wakayama Station
- Ajidokoro Mihanami – close to Wakayama Station. Go there for the “futomaki” – thick sushi roll filled with eel and tuna or you can try the Wagyu beef.
- Kyoubashi Koutaro – close to Wakayama Castle. Great ramen!
- Kuroshio Market – fresh fish, sashimi, sushi, and fish barbecue. You can read more about it in no. 8 on the list above
- South West Café – Go there for the fruit cocktails or just to have a drink and relax. Not far away from Wakayama Station.
- You can find other great places to eat in Wakayama here.
Transportation options In Wakayama City
Wakayama attractions are kind of scattered around the city in different places, so you will need to make an itinerary for yourself and find the best way to go from point A to point B.
There are different areas of interest for tourists in the city such as the center (with Wakayama Castle, Momijidani Garden etc), Kada (the place where Awashima Shrine is and where you can take the ferry to Tomogashima Islands), Kimii-dera (where the famous Kimii-Dera Temple is located), and Marina City (south of Wakayama, the island-resort).
Renting a bike in Wakayama
It is quite easy to get around in Wakayama. I chose to rent a free bike from Comfort City Hotel on my second day there so I could explore the streets at my own pace.
You can also rent bikes from Wakayama City Tourist Information at Wakayama Castle for 500¥ (US $4.5)/day for a regular bike (tax included). Another option is to rent it from Wakayama Station, at Wakachika Hiroba (Tourist Exchange Center) in front of the train station. The fee is 500¥ (US $4.5) day for a regular bike, 700¥ (US $6.5) for a sports-type bike and 1,000¥ (US $9)for an electric bike.
Even though I used a bike, I carefully took notes about other types of transport in the city so I could give you the right information for your trip.
Buses in Wakayama
Taking a bus in Wakayama is as easy as in the rest of Japan and there are many options for different areas in the city. One good place to take the buses is Wakayama train station, as most of the buses have a stop there or even depart from there. I also suggest you grab a free Wakayama Transit map (pictured above) from the Information Point at Wakayama Station. It is very clear and easy to use!
The buses are great, all of them are air-conditioned (this is great during summer when it is super hot!) and have special buttons that you have to press when you want to get off. Don’t forget to press those red buttons, otherwise the bus won’t stop!
Bus prices: Bus ride fares start from 210¥ (US $1.90)/person depending on your destination and they can go up to 520¥ (US $4.70) (for Marina City, for example, which is farther away). I recommend you purchase a one-day bus pass if you are planning to use the bus multiple times a day. It is only 1,000¥ (US $9) and you can use it for an entire day on all bus lines, no matter how many rides you take.
Paying for the bus ride: In Japan, you have to pay for your ride at the machine near the driver before you get off the bus. The machine works only with coins, but it also has a special place where you can insert bigger bills and it will convert the bills to coins. Before you get off, the machine’s screen will show the amount of money you have to pay for your ride.
Trains in Wakayama
As for the trains, this is also a very convenient way to get to different points in the city. The trains are very punctual in all of Japan and in Wakayama as well.
Train ticket prices: The ticket prices start at 190¥ (US $1.70)and they go up depending on how far away your destination is. You can take trains to the Kada area for 300¥ (US $2.70), to Wakayama City Museum for 190¥ (US $1.70), to Kishi Station to see the cat stationmaster for 400¥ (US $3.60) or to Kimii-Dera for 190¥ (US $1.70).
Getting a train ticket: You have to buy your tickets at the train stations from special ticket machines. The process is very simple, you just have to select English and then select your destination. The machine will show you how much you have to pay and after you insert the coins or bill, you will get your ticket which you then have to validate at the turnstiles. Make sure to keep your ticket, as you will have to insert it again at the destination station.
Taxis in Wakayama
In Wakayama you can hail a taxi from the street – the vacant taxis have a red light in their window, the occupied ones have a green light. Please note that the left side door of the taxi will be automatically opened and closed by the driver using a special button (you don’t have to touch the door). Most taxi drivers only speak Japanese, so if your destination is not a known attraction such as Wakayama Castle, Kimii-dera etc, make sure to have the address written on a piece of paper or show the driver your Google Maps. You will have to pay the fare shown on the taximeter in cash when the ride finishes (some taxis accept credit cards but it is better to be safe than sorry!)
Another option is to install the app called JapanTaxi, which is like an Uber for Japan. Add your card and then order your taxi as you would do with any other taxi app. The fare will be automatically paid from your card at the end of the trip. This app works with all the taxi companies in the area and is not exclusively dedicated to one company.
Prices: Initial fare is 400¥ (US $3.60), to which they add a fare per km which is 200¥ (US $1.80)/km. For example, if you are going from Wakayama Station to Wakayama Castle (about 3km), you will pay around 1,000¥ (US $9) (400¥ initial fare + 200¥ x 3km). Of course, this depends on how heavy the traffic is at that moment.
How To Get To Wakayama City
Wakayama city is located around 1 hour from Kyoto and Osaka so let me describe the transportation from each of these cities in greater detail:
Getting from Osaka to Wakayama requires changing 2 trains, but the ride is quite simple. The total travel time is around 1 hour. You can use the website HyperDia (the search field on the top left corner) if you want to calculate your route, check the up-to-date prices and timetable.
- Osaka -> Tennoji
At Osaka Station, you have to take the red line “O” (Osaka loop line) with the direction Fukushima. Look for the signs guiding you to the red line O (1 and 2). From Platform 1, take the train for Tennoji. The ride takes 20 minutes.
- Tennoji – Wakayama
At Tennoji, take the orange line R. From platform 15, take the train to Wakayama Station (R54). You have to be very careful here because the same train will go both to Wakayama and to Kansai Airport. For the same train, half of the cars (marked with triangles on the train) are going to Wakayama, and half of them are going to the airport. For my train, cars 1-4 were going to the airport and cars 5-8 were going to Wakayama. When you reach Hineno Station, the train will split in 2 and you will continue your way to Wakayama. Don’t worry, as the voice announcement will clearly say your destination depending on the cars you are in. You can also change cars while you are on the train. After this, you get off at Wakayama Station and you have arrived at your destination!
Price: 1.240¥ (US $11) one-way/person
From Kyoto you have to first get to Osaka, then follow the steps above to arrive at Wakayama. The ticket you buy will be for travel to Wakayama so you don’t have to buy a new ticket at every train station.
How to get from Kyoto to Osaka:
Buying the ticket: At Kyoto JR station, go to the vending machines and buy your ticket for Wakayama. Select “English” -> JR tickets -> more than 840¥ (US $7.5) -> select 1840¥ (US $16.5) -> select Wakayama -> insert your coins or bills and pay for your ticket -> get the ticket -> put it in the machine to validate it and keep it. You will have to insert your ticket when you arrive at your destination.
Getting to Osaka: At Kyoto Station, from lines 4 or 5 take the local or rapid train (it doesn’t matter) to Osaka.
Price: 1,840¥ (US $16.5)for the entire Kyoto – Wakayama trip.
How To Get From Wakayama To Kansai Airport
As the city of Wakayama is only 40 minutes away from Osaka Kansai Airport, it will be easy to get there.
You have two options here: you can either take the bus or the train. The bus is more expensive but easier, as you will only have to get on the bus and get off at your destination, which is the airport. The train is cheaper but you will have to change trains at Hineno station and take the train to KIX Airport. You can take both of them from Wakayama Station. I chose to take the bus. For the bus station, you have to head out of the train station and find the Airport Bus station which is clearly marked:
And this is the timetable for the airport limousine bus:
Prices: Bus fare is 1,150¥ (US $10.30) one-way and the train ticket is 890¥ (US $8)one-way.
Disclaimer: I was invited on this trip by My Secret Wakayama, a very nice project aiming to develop Wakayama tourism. All opinions are my own.
This was my list of reasons why you should include Wakayama on your itinerary for your next Japan trip including some great things you can do and see there! Although Wakayama is a small city, it is very close to Osaka. It’s a great destination as there aren’t as many tourists there and you will get to experience the true Japanese vibe! The city is very authentic, full of nice little red temples, beaches, onsens, good ramen restaurants and other attractions that can easily fill two days of exploring!
I hope I convinced you that Wakayama is one of the most charming off-the-beaten-path places in Japan and that it deserves your time and attention!
As always, if you have any questions or things you are curious about, you can leave them in the comments below. I am interested in hearing what you think about this wonderful city!
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