Wakayama can be accessed on the JR Hanwa Line and the private Nankai Main Line, both of which run south from Osaka City.
JR Wakayama station can be reached by Limited Express trains from Shin-Osaka station, departing every hour. The Kuroshio, Super Kuroshio or Ocean Arrow run from Shin-Osaka to Wakayama in one hour at a cost of ¥2660. From Tennoji the run takes about 45 minutes (¥2280). There are also five daily Limited Express departures from Kyoto (90 minutes, ¥3660). From major stations on the Osaka Loop Line, regular Rapid trains run to Wakayama every 20 minutes: look for the Kishiyuji Rapid (紀州路快速). It takes about 90 minutes from Osaka (¥1210) and one hour from Tennoji (¥830). Be sure that you are in the correct car, as part of the train splits off to Kansai International Airport.
The above trains are free with the Japan Rail Pass.
Nankai Railway has two stations: The main station, located marginally closer to the castle than JR, is called Wakayamashi. The other station, Wakayamako, is adjacent to the Nankai Ferry terminal where ships operate to/from Tokushima. Wakayamashi is served by Nankai Railway's Limited Express train, appropriately called the Southern. Trains depart every 30 minutes from Nankai Namba station, running to Wakayamashi in about one hour at a cost of ¥1390. Select trains continue on to Wakayamako, five more minutes away. By regular train it takes 75-90 minutes to reach Wakayamashi with a change of trains required enroute, at a cost of ¥890. All trains pick up and discharge at Shin-Imamiya station, which is a stop on the JR Osaka Loop Line.
An overnight bus service operated by Narita Kūkō Kōtsū runs daily from Keisei-Ueno station in Tokyo and Yokohama station in Kanagawa to JR Wakayama and Nankai Wakayamashi stations. The one-way cost is ¥9000 from Ueno and ¥8600 from Yokohama.
Buses run between the two train stations which pass the castle. The maximum journey is 220yen and takes ten minutes or so. Taxis also operate in large numbers, and are very easily found.
- Wakayama Castle (和歌山城, Wakayama-jō). Wakayama is best known for its castle. Like many castles in Japan, this is a partial reconstruction, as it suffered bomb damage during the war. Walking around the castle is not as commercial as it would be in places like Osaka, for example, and it usually very peaceful. From inside the castle you get a good view of the city, and there are some small exhibits inside, showing some of the castle's understated history.
Within the castle grounds is a zoo, which is a very depressing experience- best avoided. Entry into the castle: ¥400 adults, ¥200 children.
By car, you can reach a small amusement park called Europa city, which is not very tourist-orientated or well advertised. It was built to capitalise on the newly-built Kansai airport, but has faced financial problems because of it's somewhat awkward position out of town.
Wakayama specialises in Mikan (oranges) and various other regionally-known products. There is a small gift shop adjacent to Wakayama castle, but little else. Wakayama has one main department store, Kintetsu, which is relatively expensive. Other than that, the best place to do any shopping is in Burakuricho, which has a DonKehote shop.
The Yakkinikku shop near JR station, Karibicho, is very good, and the family set meal is reasonably priced.
There are some atmospheric izakayas here but nothing special. Arochi has the token seedy area, which has a lot of hostess bars and other expensive vices.
There are a few small hotels in Wakayama, none of which are really used to dealing with tourists. The most easy to spot is the monstrous Daiwa Roynet, which towers above the city near Wakayama Castle. Nearby, in Burakuricho, there is a new business hotel, and there is the Granvia hotel, a rather exclusive and expensive hotel near JR station.
Perhaps one of the best features of Wakayama is that it is well connected, and provides good access to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and so on without being on top of them. Wakayama is a smaller city which seemingly makes little effort to embrace tourism, so is a good example of a "normal" Japanese place untouched by the demons of tourism.
The South of Wakayama prefecture is one of Japan's playgrounds, and its well known resort of Shirahama is busy during the summer season. Mount Koya, the atmospheric and picturesque mountain an hour from Wakayama, is a little-known (by tourists) gem.
|Routes through Wakayama|
|END ←||W E||→ Shirahama → Tsu|