Wakayama City Guide & 2-Day Itinerary
We spent two days in Wakayama City during our three-month road trip in Japan and honestly, I wish we had spent more time there. There is a plethora of foodie experiences with fresh seafood from the Kitan Channel and vegetables and fruits harvested from the rich, green farmlands influenced by the Kuroshio Current. For those who are interested in historical sites, Wakayama City has many places associated with the rule of the Tokugawa family during their reign in the Edo Period. There are tons of cultural experiences to enjoy in Wakayama and far fewer crowds than some of the other popular places to visit in Japan!
But before we dive into this Wakayama City guide, there is something you really need to know. Wakayama City is one of the most underrated places to visit in Japan so I’m incredibly excited to convince you to book your ticket and head to Wakayama!
Where is Wakayama?
So, the important thing to know about Wakayama is that there are actually two areas titled Wakayama. First, there is Wakayama Prefecture, which is located in the Kansai Region of Japan. It’s a large area that encompasses a number of cities and towns in an area.
Then there is Wakayama City, which, as the name suggests, is a city located in Wakayama Prefecture. Although the Wakayama Prefecture is utterly amazing, especially the Kumano Kodo route. In this guide, we will be focusing on the city of Wakayama.
How To Get To Wakayama City
Wakayama City is actually only a short distance from other popular cities in Japan such as Kyoto and Osaka making it an easy day trip from either. However, although a Wakayama day trip is doable, we highly recommend spending at least two days in Wakayama because there are so many things to do in this area!
How to Get to Wakayama City from Osaka by Train
From Osaka, Wakayama is practically a straight shot depending on what station you leave from in Osaka. There are a number of lines that can get you there, but the fastest route to take is the JR Limited Express Kuroshio from Shin-Osaka Station to Wakayama Station. The journey takes around 1 hour and costs roughly ¥2,810 one-way or is included with an active JR Pass or one of the Kansai Regional Passes.
How to Get to Wakayama City from Kyoto by Train
Though Wakayama City is a little further from Kyoto than Osaka, it is still an easy journey. The fastest way to get to Wakayama City from Kyoto is to take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line or Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka Station. From there you would transfer to the JR Kuroshio Line Limited Express to Wakayama Station. The journey is about 1 hour 30 minutes and costs roughly ¥3,410 one-way or is included with an active JR Pass or one of the Kansai Regional Passs.
Transportation in Wakayama City
During our two days in Wakayama, we were still on our Japan road trip so we had a rental car to get around Wakayama. We found parking to be easy and inexpensive compared to other places we had visited in Japan by car. However, if you aren’t driving in Wakayama there are still a number of public transportation options.
Local Buses in Wakayama
Wakayama City has a local bus service that will take you to most of the places we’ve included in this Wakayama City guide. However, most of the attractions are spread out so it’s best to account for extra time when getting from place to place.
If you have a Kansai Thru Pass you can use it on the city buses. Otherwise, we recommend getting an IC Card to use for public transportation in Wakayama. An IC Card is used for public transportation as well as some shopping and vending machines in Japan.
When using an IC Card for transportation, like the Wakayama City buses, you simply tap your card when entering the bus and swipe again when you leave (on some flat fee buses you will only tap on exit). If you want more information about IC Cards including how to add money and use them, check out this post.
Bike Rentals in Wakayama
Wakayama is a great city to bike in! There is even a bike lane that takes you from the city center of Wakayama to Marina City (about a 45-minute bike ride). Many hotels offer complimentary or inexpensive bike rentals, but you can also rent a bike at Wakayama Station.
Where to Stay in Wakayama City
Dormy Inn Premium Wakayama
During our 2 days in Wakayama, we stayed at the Dormy Inn Premium Wakayama. We chose the Dormy Inn Premium because we have stayed in a number of their hotels before and although the rooms can be small, we found them to be comfortable.
The location was also another factor for us because it was convenient and offered free parking. Since we had a car during our time in Wakayama, this was an added perk!
Another fun feature of the Dormy Inn hotel chain is they offer complimentary bowls of ramen every evening around 9pm. Yep, you read that correctly, FREE RAMEN.
If you are looking for a hotel with the feel of a traditional ryokan, Manpa Resort is an alternative, more luxurious place to stay in Wakayama. There are onsen facilities that overlook the bay and even rooms with private onsen.
Another unique feature of the Manpa resort is the kaiseki dining you can add to your stay. All of the dining options feature a variety of fresh, local ingredients that are carefully selected, prepared, and arranged on the plates.
If you can ask for a room with a view of the bay for an incredible sunrise or sunset. Last, Manpa Resort even offers a shuttle service to the nearest JR Station to make it easy to get to your next destination in Japan.
Places to Eat in Wakayama City
Because of its proximity to Wakayama Bay and warm climate, Wakayama City is a gastronomic delight! There are many regional specialties to enjoy in Wakayama but here are a few to know about before you go and where to try them.
Wakayama ramen also called “chuka soba,” is one of the most notable in Japan. I mean, ramen is so notable in Wakayama, that they even have a whole taxi service that is dedicated to taking tourists on a ramen-tasting tour. So it’s safe to say that you have to enjoy a bowl of ramen while in Wakayama.
One of the places to enjoy Wakayama ramen is Ide Shoten. Ide Shoten is a tiny, family-owned and operated shop that has consistently won a number of awards for its ramen. With such prestige, the line for a seat can get pretty long, so we felt lucky that we were able to get right in when we visited!
At the small bar table and stool, there were freshly prepared mackerel sushi rolls, a Wakayama specialty, to eat as an accompaniment with a bowl of ramen. We can say confidently, Ide Shoten lives up to its name and the hype surrounding its ramen. The broth is rich and creamy, the noodles are delicately cooked, and the chashu pork is flavorful and very tender.
Location: Japan, 〒640-8329 Wakayama, Tanakamachi, 4 Chome−8 4 // MAP
Sushi in Wayakama
Although you can find sushi in most places in Japan, the Wakayama Prefecture is known for its specialty sushi and fresh fish from Wakayama Bay. One place to go to get fresh sushi is Kuroshio Market!
- Meharizushi: At first glance, Meharizushi closely resembles dolmades however there is a distinct difference. While dolmades are rice wrapped in grape leaves, meharizushi is a rice ball wrapped in pickled mustard leaves called takana. The pickling process creates a sharper, distinct flavor.
- Kakinohazushi: Rice ball topped with salt-preserved fish such as mackerel that is then wrapped in persimmon leaves. This type of sushi is exceptionally popular in Nara, but you can also find it in Wakayama City and Kumano Kodo.
- Sanmazushi: Rice ball topped with salt-preserved Pacific Saury.
- Sea Bream: Tai, or Sea Bream, is a very popular fish in Wakayama. You can enjoy it as sashimi, grilled, broiled, or any other way.
- Ashiakaebi are red-legged shrimp that are found in this area. They are exceptionally tender and sweet!
- Tuna: I think I could go on for days and days about fresh tuna sashimi. It is without a doubt, my favorite, and the tuna at Kuroshio Market is delicious.
Wakayama has long been known for its premium fruit. In fact, during the Edo Period, Harutomi Tokugawa had Sanbokan Mikan tangerines delivered to Wakayama Castle! If you go to some grocery stores or specialty fruit stores in Japan you’ll see seemingly outrageous prices for fruit, like 10,000 yen strawberries or a 15,000 yen melon. But these fruits aren’t your everyday grocery store purchase, they are more often given as gifts.
Wakayama prefecture is often referred to as ‘The Fruit Kingdom’ because of its status as one of the nation’s top producers of premium fruit and it is well worth trying fruit samples and buying some fruit to enjoy from Kinokuni Fruit Village while in Wakayama City.
Wakayama Itinerary: Things to Do in Wakayama City
While in Wakayama, Logan and I jokingly called Wakayama the “city of stairs” because it seemed like everywhere we went there were hundreds of stairs to climb. So while you might get a nice leg workout and you DEFINITELY need to wear your walking shoes, you won’t be disappointed by these Wakayama City attractions once you finally get there!
Day One: Wakayama City Itinerary
For day one of your Wakayama itinerary, I suggest going to the attractions that are the furthest away and working your way back toward the city center. Of course, this will all depend on where you end up staying in Wakayama. If you plan to stay in the city center, as we did, at the Dormy Inn Premium Wakayama, the route below will be best!
If you are worried about running short on time, add Wakayama Castle to the beginning of day one or you can even add it to the morning of your second day.
Bandoko Garden was one of our top favorite attractions in Wakayama. The garden itself is beautiful and there are many places to relax, but the views from here are AMAZING. Bandoko Garden is also the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon picnic and there are even barbecue areas available.
Location: Japan, 〒641-0062 Wakayama, Saikazaki, 番所ノ鼻 // MAP
Cost: ¥600/adults, ¥300/children, ¥500 parking fee
The Saikazaki Cape area is one of the most beautiful areas in Wakayama. The Saikazaki Lighthouse is a beautiful place to view the ocean and see a sunset or sunrise and some small islands.
Location: 809-2 Saikazaki, Wakayama 641-0062, Wakayama Prefecture // MAP
Cost: ¥600/adults, ¥300/children
Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine
Be prepared to get your steps in because Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine has a ton of them! But the trek to get to the top is well worth it once you see the temple and the stunning view from above Wakanoura Bay. The shrine itself is dedicated to the Shinto god of academics.
Location: 2 Chome-1-24 Wakauranishi, Wakayama, 641-0024, Japan // MAP
Kishu Toshogu Shrine
Just when you thought that the stairs would be over, think again! As I said, we’ve dubbed Wakayama the city of stairs after all. The entrance to Kishu Toshogu Shrine is surrounded by a tunnel of greenery which causes the vibrant colors of the shrine to illuminate even more.
Location: 2 Chome-1-20 Wakauranishi, Wakayama, 641-0024, Japan // MAP
Tamatsushima Jinja Shrine
Tamatsushima Jinja is a shrine dedicated to the three Waka poetry gods and is often featured in poems and other written works. Behind the shrine is a short path that will take you to the top of Mt. Kagamiyama which offers a fantastic view.
Location: 3 Chome-4-26 Wakauranaka, Wakayama, 641-0025, Japan // MAP
After visiting Tamatsushima Jinja Shrine take a short walk over to view Furobashi Bridge. Furobashi Bridge is a stone arch bridge that was built in 1851 during the order of Harutomi Tokugawa, the 10th Lord of the Kishu Domain.
Location: 7 Chome-4-2 Takajomachi, Wakayama, 640-8135, Japan // MAP
Wakayama Castle was built in 1585 for the Toyotomi clan and was said to be the first early modern castle of Todo Takatora who became famous for his castle designs. Throughout the years the castle changed hands on numerous occasions but it became one of the most important fortresses in Western Japan.
In 1871 the feudal system was eliminated and Japan was divided into prefectures. Around this time the castle was shortly used as an army lookout until it became a public historical site in 1931.
Like many other castles in Japan, Wakayama Castle was destroyed by fire twice, once in 1846 after a lightning strike and the second time in 1945 during an air bombing in WWII. In 1958 it was restored to its original state and you can now visit a number of exhibitions inside the castle including samurai armor and many historic relics.
One of the things we loved about Wakayama Castle was the lack of crowds. While many other castles we’ve visited in Japan are often extremely busy, our experience at Wakayama Castle was anything but. I’m not sure if it was the time of year (we were there during the summer), but whatever it was, we aren’t complaining!
Having fewer crowds gave us time to explore the castle in-depth and take time to read about the history and artifacts. We also found this castle to be similar in looks to Osaka Castle, although not as lavishly decorated on the exterior.
Location: 3 Ichibancho, Wakayama, 640-8146, Japan // MAP
Cost: ¥410/adults, ¥200/children
After visiting Wakayama Castle, stay inside the park area and stop by Ohashiroka Bridge. Ohashiroka is a bridge that was constructed during the Edo Period and has a rather unique design that had a roof and walls preventing people from seeing in from the outside. It is also diagonally ascending which is not common in Japan. From inside Wakayama Castle Park, you can easily view the bridge in front of a stunning view of Wakayama Castle.
Location: Ichibancho, Wakayama, 640-8146, Japan // MAP
Momijidani Teien Garden
Next to Wakayama Castle is Momijidani Garden, a beautiful scenic Japanese garden that is known for its vibrant autumn foliage. While at Momijidani Teien Garden, you can also visit Koshoan Teahouse for some green tea and a Japanese sweet. Perfect for resting your legs for a few minutes before heading on to all the stairs!
Location: Japan, 〒640-8146 Wakayama, Ichibancho, 3 // MAP
Prefectural Museum of Modern Art
The Prefectural Museum of Modern Art has a number of contemporary and modern art pieces from artists in Wakayama and other parts of Japan and other countries as well. If you are an art lover this is worth adding to your Wakayama itinerary, otherwise, I would suggest adding it only if you have time at the end of the day.
Location: 1 Chome-4-14 Fukiage, Wakayama, 640-8137, Japan // MAP
Day Two: Wakayama City Itinerary
While day two of this Wakayama itinerary might seem a little lighter than day one, Kishi Train Station is a little further out so there will be more travel time this day. Another factor to consider is that the Wakayama Marina City area will definitely take up a lot of time! This will also give you some wiggle room if you need to add something from day one of this itinerary.
Tama Museum Kishi Train Station
You might be wondering why we would suggest visiting a train station of all the places to visit in Wakayama. I promise you it’s for a good reason. At the Kishi Train Station, you can pay respects to a very special icon in Wakayama, Tama, the stationmaster cat.
Not long ago the Kishigawa railway was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy until Tama showed upbringing her endearing charm. Curiosity spread and commuters and tourists from around the world came to see the cat that adopted a train station as its home. Thus, Tama was dubbed the stationmaster of Kishi station in 2007 even wearing an adorable cat-sized stationmaster hat.
Sadly, Tama passed away in 2015 but her legacy at the Kishi station lives on. Now at Kishi station, the entrance of the train station was remodeled to look like a cat’s face and you can ride on the adorably decorated train cars, all designed in honor of Tama and also inspired by the Wakayama countryside. They include details like wooden blinds and floors, photos and depictions of Tama, and even a library of cat books to peruse.
After a period of time, a new stationmaster cat was appointed named Nitama which you can visit 5 days a week and also enjoy a visit to Tama’s cafe and souvenir shop.
Location: 803 Kishigawacho Kodo, Kinokawa 640-0413 Wakayama Prefecture // MAP
Cost: ¥800/adult, ¥400/child for a train day pass
Kimii-dera Temple dates back to 770 thus it is one of the most important temples in Wakayama. It is not only a beautiful temple to visit, but it also has an amazing view of Wakanoura Bay and is the first location known for cherry blossoms in the Kansai region of Japan.
Being that it is also one of the largest temples in Wakayama, prepare to spend a little extra time here. We found this temple to be very peaceful, and though the steps to get to the top are a feat (we stopped counting at 200!) it’s well worth it.
Location: 1201 Kimiidera, Wakayama, 641-0012, Japan // MAP
When first arriving at Wakayama Marina City our first stop was Kuroshio Market to grab some lunch and witness a tuna action. Though the tuna demonstration at Kuroshio Market is more low-key than that you might find at Tsukiji Market or Toyoso Market in Tokyo, it’s still a really cool experience to have when visiting Wakayama City.
After we watched the tuna auction we decided to purchase some of the fresh tuna from one of the stands for lunch as well as a few other side items. There are a number of tables that you can sit at that are open to the public to grill or eat the items you purchased from Kuroshio Market.
After eating, we decided to do a little shopping, which we highly recommend because there are a number of food-related souvenirs or gifts available for purchase.
Location: 1527 Kemi, Wakayama, 641-0014, Japan // MAP
After getting lunch at Kuroshio Market, we walked a few steps over to Porto Europa. This amusement park will make you feel like you accidentally got on a plane is a theme park that resembles the romantic streets of France, Spain, and Italy.
Unlike many other amusement parks, it is free to enter the park or you can pay for a pass to enjoy the rides or games. We loved taking photos here, exploring the shops, and playing arcade games while at Porto Europa. Overall the charm of this amusement park is worth checking out for this Wakayama City guide.
Location: 1527 Kemi, Wakayama, 641-0014, Japan // MAP
Cost: Free to visit the park, ¥3,800/adult ride pass, ¥3,200/child ride pass
Kinokuni Fruit Village
After Porto Europa, we walked yet again, just a few steps over to Kinokuni Fruit Village where you can sample a variety of fresh fruits from Wakayama Prefecture.
Wakayama Prefecture is known for its citrus fruits so don’t miss out on trying some! Of course, there are more than just samples at Kinokuni Fruit Village, there are fresh fruits and vegetables available for purchase too and not to mention, shops where you can enjoy some yummy ice cream made with milk from nearby Kurosawa Ranch or fresh fruit juices.
Location: 1527 Kemi, Wakayama, 641-0014, Japan // MAP
Wakayama was definitely one of the places we found most memorable during our time in Japan. We hope this Wakayama City guide helps you on your visit to Wakayama!