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Wakayama Sightseeing: Five Great Places to Visit!

Anna AyvazyanAnna Ayvazyan
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February 28, 2024
A bridge over a body of water in Wakayama.

Wakayama is home to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in Japan. From sandy beaches and rock formations on land to underwater mailboxes and beautiful corals, there’s something any nature lover will enjoy! There’s also a special place for cat lovers to visit. Let’s explore five places you should visit in Wakayama if you plan to visit this spring. 

Susami Underwater Mailbox

Located off the coast in the little fishing town of Susami, you can find the world’s first underwater mailbox. The postbox was built in 1999 by Toshihiko Matsumoto, a former postmaster. He built it to help promote the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail and surrounding areas in the southern part of Wakayama’s Kii Peninsula. While first seen as a publicity gimmick, it quickly became a popular place for local and international tourists to travel!

The Susami Underwater Mailbox.
You can deliver postcards underwater! Image via Conde Nast Traveller India

The mailbox is active and is connected to the local post office. Annually, the mailbox receives over 1000 to 1500 letters, which the Yamatani Dive Shop employee collects. You can buy water-resistant postcards at this dive shop and write messages with an oil-based paint marker. You can also rent dive gear to place the postcards in the mailbox. Sending a letter underwater will leave the sender and receiver with unique memories!

Shirahama Beach

Shirahama Beach is one of the most popular beaches to visit in Japan during the warmer months. In Japanese, Shirahama means white beach. Its namesake comes from its beautiful white sand. Additionally, the beach is well known for its hot springs and breathtaking views. The beach stretches more than 2624 feet and is the sister beach of Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach. 

White sandy coast at Shirahama Beach.
Shirahama Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Japan! Image via Shutterstock

Although the official swimming season starts around mid-July, there are still plenty of things to do around the beach area. You can visit their famous onsen, particularly Saki-no-yu, one of Japan’s oldest hot springs. Many seafood restaurants around the beach also showcase fresh seasonal fish and regional delicacies. Even if you can’t swim, you can still dive! Various outlets on the beach provide diving and snorkeling experiences year-round.

Hashigui Rock Pillar

The Hashigui Rock Pillar is one of Japan’s most unique natural wonders. The pillar stretches for around 2788 feet and features unusually shaped rocks. This site is top-rated to visit during sunrise and sunset, where the sky contrasts beautifully with the rocks. The rocks were formed by magma rising from the underground. The magma entered the mudstone layer and solidified, and the waves eroded the soft mudstone layer.

Hashigui Rock Pillar during the day.
These rock formations are unique! Image via Shutterstock

There is also a legend surrounding the rocks. The legend says a monk named Kukai built the bridge due to a bet with Amanojaku – a demon in Japanese folklore. The bet was to make a bridge connecting Kii Oshima to the mainland. During the bridge building, Amanojaku cheated by ringing a bell, saying time was over. Kukai believed it to be accurate and failed to complete the bridge. Thus, the rocks are believed to be the remnants of the incomplete bridge. 

Are you looking for some fantastic snacks while traveling to places in Wakayama? Check out TokyoTreat! TokyoTreat delivers limited-edition Japanese noodles, snacks, drinks, and sweets right to your door so you can enjoy the latest spring goodies directly from Japan!

Tama Cat Train

If you love cats, then you should visit this location! Kishi Station, located on the Wakayama Electric Railway, has a cute stationmaster called NiTama. NiTama is a working calico cat who is in charge of overseeing the Kishigawa Line.  NiTama is the successor of Tama the original stationmaster who was the stationmaster from 2007- 2015. The cats have been pivotal to the station’s and train line’s redevelopment.

The Tama Cat Train interior in Wakayama.
The Tama Cat Train has calico cats all over it! Image via Shutterstock

In 2004, the Kishigawa line faced closure due to low ridership until residents intervened. Nearby stores cared for cats, one of which, Tama, impressed the railway president and was appointed stationmaster, boosting fame. The station was refurbished in 2010, featuring a unique cat-like roof and a special station master’s office for the station master. At this station, you can ride the cat-themed train Tama-den, which has a charming interior and unique seats for an unforgettable experience.

Kushimoto Marine Park

The Kushimoto Marine Park is the first marine park established in Japan. The park was established in 1970 and is associated with the Yoshino-Kumano National Park. The area is heavily influenced by the Kuroshio Current, which consistently makes the water warm year-round. Here, you can encounter a diverse range of marine life from both temperate and subtropical regions alongside numerous species of vibrant coral.

A turtle at a dock in Kushimoto Marine Park.
Kushimoto Marine Park is home to a large aquarium! Image via Travel Japan

The marine park contains various sightseeing and educational facilities, such as an aquarium, an underwater observation tower, a glass-bottom boat tour, and a diving park. There are also restaurants and souvenir shops. The undersea sightseeing boat lets you get an up-close experience of the natural underwater world and its inhabitants. If you love fish and corals, this is a perfect location to visit!

Why should I visit Wakayama Prefecture this year?

Although Wakayama may seem like a small prefecture, there are still many things to see and do! For those seeking unique experiences, a visit to the Susami Underwater Mailbox is a must for sending once-in-a-lifetime letters. Indulge in stunning vistas and delectable seafood at Shirahama Beach. Or, immerse yourself in the adorable world of NiTama and her feline companions at the Tama Cat Train! 

A pagoda in the forest in Wakayama.
Have you ever been to Wakayama? Image via Shutterstock

For nature enthusiasts and folklore fans, the Hashigui Rock Pillar promises natural wonders and intriguing legends. Marine enthusiasts can also enjoy Kushimoto Marine Park’s close encounters with captivating sea life. Regardless of what your hobbies are, you’ll have fun in Wakayama! Where in Wakayama do you want to visit? Let us know in the comments below! 

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