What to Do in Wakayama City, Japan

Wakayama Castle is perched atop a mountain overlooking the city
Wakayama Castle is perched atop a mountain overlooking the city | © YAY Media AS / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Brooke Larsen
Osaka Hub Writer23 July 2020

Wakayama City is just an hour south of downtown Osaka by train. It’s located in Wakayama Prefecture, a mythical place characterised by beautiful beaches, ancient pilgrimage trails and picturesque onsen villages. Discover the best things to do there with this guide to Wakayama City.

Take a stroll around the seaside Saikazaki fishing village

Architectural Landmark
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Saikazaki, Japan.
© YUUSUKE WAKEBE / Getty Images
At first glimpse, Saikazaki, a fishing village built into mountains overlooking the ocean, conjures up images of Mediterranean life. Located in Wakaura, a seaside district home to pristine beaches, mountain hikes and fresh seafood, Saikazaki and the surrounding areas are magical places. The views from the winding streets are spectacular, and an aimless wander can easily take visitors through lush green forest tunnels and ancient temples. Wakaura is also home to a weekend fish market, tropical beach retreat Bagus and the Takozushi Mountain hike and viewpoint.

Explore the abandoned military ruins of Okinoshima

Architectural Landmark
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Priest Hikes Up a Mountain on the Island of Okinoshima Fukuoka, Japan.
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Once a military stronghold, Okinoshima is now a great place for exploration and camping. During World War II, a secret military base was placed on Okinoshima, and the island was removed from maps and records. The base was never used and now lies abandoned, being slowly engulfed by nature. The red brick buildings strangled by vines and overgrown plants resemble scenery from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, a beloved Studio Ghibli film. It’s a great place to take enchanting photos. Okinoshima is accessible by a short ferry ride from Kada Port, a short walk from Kada Station in Wakayama.

Visit historic Wakayama Castle

Historical Landmark
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Wakayama Castle in Japan
© YAY Media AS / Alamy Stock Photo
Perched on top of a mountain and overlooking this lovely city is Wakayama Castle. Similar in style to Himeji Castle, Japan’s most beloved, this structure burned down during WWII but was reconstructed through fundraising efforts of the locals. Wakayama Castle and the surrounding grounds are much smaller than those of the nearby Osaka Castle, but it’s a lot less crowded and more tranquil. Nishinomaru-Teien Garden, especially beautiful in autumn, houses a teahouse where you can get matcha to sip on while you roam through the scenic foliage. The castle is conveniently located near the city’s hub station, which has plenty of dining and shopping options.

Wander quaint European-style streets at the Porto Europa theme park

Amusement Park
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Porto Europa theme park, Wakayama.
© Ekasit Wangprasert / Alamy Stock Photo
Take a vacation from Japan without actually leaving by visiting Porto Europa, a unique theme park located in Wakayama’s Marina City. Porto Europa recreates the city streets of Western European countries like Portugal and France so convincingly you might feel disoriented at first. The park includes a Ferris wheel, a carousel, kid-sized roller coasters and other fun attractions. The European-style architecture and cafés alone are probably worth the trip. Marina City itself has many other charms like a natural hot spring, fish market and a fishing park.

Make a pilgrimage to two of the city’s most important shrines

Shrine
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Kishu Toshogu Shrine and Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine are two of the most visually striking in the city, if not the whole country. To reach either, visitors must climb steep stairs, making the ascent feel as epic as a real pilgrimage. You will truly be walking in the footsteps of pilgrims of ancient times, as both shrines date back hundreds of years. Kishu Toshogu enshrines Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan’s first and most famous Shogun. Wakaura Tenmangu is dedicated to the god of academics. Both are breathtaking and offer panoramic views. The two shrines are located a short walk from each other and the Wakaura beach area.
These recommendations were updated on July 23, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.