Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture Is Full of Picturesque Spots

Many Japanese poems have been dedicated to this place.


Manyoshu
(literally translated as “Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves”) is the oldest existing anthology of ancient Japanese poems. It became really popular during the start of the Reiwa era and has placed Nara Prefecture and Dazaifu City in the limelight for having deep historical connections with classic Japanese poems called waka.


Only a few people know about the major
waka capital in Wakayama City. Wakanoura, a mere 20-minute car ride from the JR Wakayama Station, was recognized as Japan Heritage in April 2017. Old poets were enchanted by this place, as expressed through the poems in the Manyoshu. Even Emperor Shomu was so moved by the view that he gave an imperial order to protect the scenery of the city.


When you visit the area, you’ll find that its elegant atmosphere hasn’t changed over the years. In this article, we tour you around the beautiful city’s best spots!


The beautiful view of Wakanoura from Mt. Tengu, as described in the old poems


Tamatsushima Shrine


Tamatsushima Shrine
is the literal holy ground of waka in Wakanoura. Princess Sotoori, who was rumored to possess an extraordinary beauty that glows through her clothing, is enshrined here. The shrine worships one of the Three Gods of Waka Poetry, alongside Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka and Kakinomoto Shrine in Akashi.


A stone monument of
waka can be found in the compound, while portraits of the 36 Immortals of Poetry are displayed in the worship hall, adding to the sacred atmosphere of the place. 


Ono no Komachi
, a famous waka poet from the Heian period, used to worship in Tamatsushima Shrine. The side of the torii, an area where she would drape the long sleeves of her kimono on a fence and compose poetry, is now marked.


Stone monument of a poem written by Yamabe no Akahito, an imperial court poet


Portraits of the 36 Immortals of Poetry in the worship hall


After visiting the shrine, you can climb the summit of
Mt. Tengu by going up the stairs within the compound for five minutes. The view of Wakanoura from the top is breathtaking. 


Fun Fact: During the Nara period in the year 724, Emperor Shomu climbed this mountain and admired its beauty.


From the worship hall, proceed to the right to find the entrance of Mt. Tengu.


Climb up the steep stone steps for five minutes to the summit.


This is the majestic view from the summit. There used to be a wide, idyllic mudflat where the sandbar on the right side was once connected to the shore at the front.

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A
local volunteer guide giving a commentary about the town


Tamatsushima Shrine is located at 3-4-26 Wakauranaka, Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture. You may contact them at +81-73-444-0472.


Saikazaki


Aside from being a Japan Heritage,
Wakanoura is also home to the spitting image of the most beautiful coast in the world, the Amalfi Coast in Naples, Italy. The beach in Saikazaki is a 10-minute car ride from the Tamatsushima Shrine.


On a sunny morning,
Saikazaki looks picturesque. The embankment in the fishing port is a perfect photo spot.


Similar to the landscape of Amalfi, houses are lined up on the mountain slope.


There is a certain charm to the otherworldly, maze-like alleys in-between the houses on the mountain slope. “If you get lost, just keep going down and you’ll end up in the fishing port,” reassures the volunteer guide. Beside the fishing port are also two cafes where you can take a break.


The sloped alleys and streets in Saikazaki are just wide enough for one person to go through, making it feel like you’re walking through a giant maze. 


You will come across
Ebisu Shrine while strolling the streets. Fishermen’s flags, called tairyobata, are lined up here during the Lunar New Year festival.


Many establishments such as small restaurants, grocery stores, and a barbershop are scattered around the place. 


A short walk up the slope will bring you to the
Saikazaki Lighthouse. It is a popular spot for watching sunsets.


This is the view from the Saikazaki Lighthouse. You can vaguely see Awaji Island at the far end.


Fresh seafood is sold directly at the port. Once the boats come back from fishing, fishermen clean and fillet the fish, then sell them right away, making sure that they are fresh. Schedules may vary depending on the season. You can check the official website of
Saikazaki Fisher Association for more details.


Saikazaki Fisher Association is located at 1162 Saikazaki, Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture. You may contact them at +81-73-444-2282.


Wakaura Fishing Port Ottotto Square


A
waka composed by Yamabe no Akahito, as recorded in the Manyoshu, reads: “Off the beach at Waka, With the rising tide, The sandbanks vanish, Plunging to the reed beds, The cranes fly over, calling.” Although seeing the view that once made old poets swoon is memorable by itself, you might as well try the seafood while you’re in the area. 

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The
shirasudon (fresh whitebait rice bowl) from Ottotto Square in Wakaura Fishing Port is a must-try. Unless you’re in a fishing village, fresh whitebait isn’t too common since it’s hard to catch. For dessert, don’t miss the chance to try the Wakayama natives’ so-called soul food, Green Soft.


The famous shirasudon. The whitebait from Wakaura Bay is branded as Wakashirasu.


Hairtail fish or tuna rice bowls are also available. A variety of fresh, dried, and processed seafood are sold in the stalls.


Green Soft
is a matcha-flavored, creamy yet crunchy ice cream. This is also available as soft-serve cream.


Wakaura Fishing Port Ottotto Hiroba is located at 1-1 Shinwakaura, Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture. You may contact them at +81-73-446-3308.


Wakayatsuya


Wakayatsuya
is a diner inside the renovated building which used to belong to the old Wakagawa Fishermen’s Association. There, you can try the Haiboshi Sanma (dried saury fish), a Wakayama specialty.


A sanma set meal from Wakayatsuya. You can also try the Haiboshi Sanma, a delicacy of this region, at the restaurant.


Its retro-modern interior makes it an easy local favorite.


Wakayatsuya is located at 2-6-2 Wakaurahigashi, Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture. You may contact them at +81-73-444-0525.


Aside from the good food, you shouldn’t also miss the magnificent sights of Wakanoura as sung in the
Manyoshu. In the vicinity, you can find the Kishu Toshogu Shrine, also known as the Nikko of Kansai, and the Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine, where Sugawara no Michizane is enshrined. Moreover, there are day-use hot springs along the way from Wakanoura to Saikazaki, too.


Sculptures that are said to be made by master craftsman,
Jingoro Hidari, are found at Kishu Toshogu Shrine.


Climb the stone steps of Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine and take in the panoramic view of Wakanoura.


Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Kansai Walker™ (25 January 2020)


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