How to enjoy Wakayama Prefecture without busting the bank: A budget guide


How to enjoy the Wakayama Prefecture without busting the bank – Guide to Budget Travelling
 
Introduction
Wakayama prefecture might not be the first prefecture on your bucket list, but is definitely one of the most versatile prefectures of Japan and therefore a perfect prefecture to visit while travelling.
The prefecture covers cultural, historical and foremost spiritual heritage. 
Because of this variety, I would like to introduce the Wakayama prefecture in this article and of course I will focus on the budget activities, because travelling can be most expensive. Especially if you love hiking and active holidays, this is the guide for you!
 
About Wakayama
Wakayama prefecture lies on the island of Honshu and is located south of the Kansai area. It has a population of around 1.000.000 and its most famous spots are Wakayama city, Koyasan and Kumano Kodo. It has beautiful green forests, spiritual mountains and even an 600+km coast line. The area is barely known by tourists (except for Koyasan) and provides you with the unspoiled and real Japan.
 
Wakayama City
Wakayama city is our first stop. You can enjoy Wakayama City in 1 day or you can expand your time by adding another day staying over in Wakayama, by making a day trip by Tama Train (see below).
You can get to Wakayama in an hour by hourly express train from Shin-Osaka Station. 
First up you will visit Marine City which is only a 30 minutes by bus from Wakayama Ctiy (240 yen). 
Marina City is a tourist oriented area which is designed like a theme park with a European theme. Besides the theme park there is also a fresh food market. The Porto Europe costs 1500 yen to enter (without rides), but you do not have to visit this. It is a nice change from the Japanese scenery, but if you are short in time I suggest you skip it. Afterwards, you should visit the Kuroshio Ichiba Market, which has a free tuna cutting show to enjoy. Besides the fish market, there are also a lot of fun souvenirs to explore.
Return to Wakayama City and spend the rest of the day exploring the city center. Of interests are the Wakayama City which has a lovely free garden to explore, the Kimii-dera temple with a panoramic view of the Wakanoura Bay and the Furobashi Bridg.
 
Tama Train
At Kishi Station lives a cute little cat. Nothing special you might think, but less is true. Tama The Cat is not only a cat, but he is a stationmaster of this tiny station in Wakayama. The little guy was appointed to save Nishi Station from closure. Tama got very popular and even got his own train with cats decorated all over the train and the inside of the train is just as cute. 
The Tama Train stops at Wakayama Station and travelling towards Kishi Station costs 370 yen one way or 720 yen day pass.

dailymail.co.uk
 If you want to know more about the Tama Train, please read my article about the Tama Train : 
https://www.odigo.jp/articles/7019-the-tama-train-the-station-master-is-a-cat
 
Koyasan
Koyasan is the main area of the Japanese Shingo Buddhism since the first monk Kukai settled in Koyasan in 819. The main sights of Koyasan, which are almost all UNESCO, are Okunoin, Danjogaran (with the Konpun Daito), Kongobuji and the Cjoishi Michi. 
Other than the amazing sights the best experience to get in Koyasan is the Shukubo (Temple Lodging) where you sleep in a Buddhist temple and have a traditional vegetarian meal the monks eat as well. These experiences costs around 100 dollars per person a night. It might be worth it, but leaving early in the morning and returning late to Osaka/Kyoto will save you a lot of money if you are not interested in this experience.
At Koya, you should definitely visit Okunoin Temple, which is the most famous sight of Koyasan with the amazing room of lights. The Okunoin is free to visit, but the room of lights will charge a little fee, which is definitely worth it in my opinion.

Okunoin Temple - Source: japan-guide.com
 Kumano Kodo
The Kumano Kodo is a network of 7 pilgrimage trails which are spread over the southern area of Kansai. These trails are also UNESCO trails and were used by monks to cleanse themselves on their way to spiritual areas. At the center of these religious areas you will find the three Kumano Shrines; Hongu Taisha, Kayatama Taisha and the Nachi Taicha.
If you like hiking, you will definitely find yourself spending some days hiking these amazing trains.
 
Suggestions walking routes: Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha (7km – 3 hours):
This walk, mostly downhill is a tranquil mountain walk with a lot of panoramic views. The hike starts at the Hosshinmon-oji torii gate, which is one of the most spiritual landmarks of the area. Walking under this torii would give the monks a rebirth in the ‘Land of Pure Paradise’. 
 
The second trail to walk is the Daimonzaka trail. This trail is only 2.2 km long and is a hike suitable for all ages and fit levels. It leads to the Nachi Grand Shrine and the Seiganto-ji Temple. 
Kumano Sanzen:
The Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama-taisha shrine and the Kumano Nachi Tachi make up the Kumano Sanzen. The main shrine is the Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine. The three shrines are all worth a visit and are all free to visit!
 
Suggested days:
1.       Hongu Taisha with the Hoshhinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine
2.       Visit Nachi Taisha with the Daimonzka Trail
3.       Hayatama Taisha Shrine
 
For more information of the Kumano Kodo visit the official Wakayama website:

Shirahama
The beach:
Shirahama is a beach town in Wakayama on the south. The most impressive sights of this little town are the natural wonders of the landscape. Exploring the city center and the beach area on foot is the best way to enjoy this beach town. The beach is 640meters shot and thefore is rather small, but can therefore be enjoyed easily.
 
Senjojiki Rock Formations:
Some sights to visit include the Senjojiki Rock Formations, which mean ‘1000 tatami mats’ and is free to visit. The sight of the rocks, who look like tatami mats obviously, make a great sight with the waves of the sea in the background.

Senjojiki - Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/131221_Senjojiki_Shirahama_Wakayama_pref_Japan02s3.jpg
 Engetsu Island:
The Engetsu Island, officially named the Takashima, is a tiny island just on the coast of Shirahama. However, the island is more familiar under the name: Engetsu, meaning Full Moon. This is because of its appealing outlook with a moon shaped center inside the island, where if timed right the sun will set behind. The island  is 130 meters long, 35 meters wide and 25 meters high. It is too small to visit, but the sight of the island for the beach is breathtaking. Especially during sunset, the sun will set behind the sea cave which will create a magical view which shouldn’t be missed by anyone visiting Shirahama.
 Onsen Saki no Yu:
This onsen has been described in Japanese ancient text from over 1000 years and is very famous.
One of the most popular onsen in Japan, where you can see the ocean from an outside bath. 
The entrance fee will only set you back 400 yen, which is a good deal for a nice onsen experience. 
8:00~17:00; Closed Wednesday ; (Apr,May,Jun,Sept 8:00~18:00) ; (Jul, Aug 7:00~19:00)
 
Conclusion
In this article I have talked about suggestions to create your next trip to Wakayama Prefecture. The above suggestions are almost all completely free or almost free and are therefore great to do on a budget. Yu can easily fill 6 days with the above itinerary. You will only have to pay your food and hostel, but what is great about Wakayama, since it is not yet a touristy prefecture, these two necessities will be cheap to buy as well.
 
If you have any additions or suggestions about trips, which I forgot, please mention them below to make this article even more complete.

Miki P