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Wakayama Prefecture is one of the most western areas of the Kansai region. The area is home to many historical and natural sites that should be high on any traveler’s “must-see” list, including castles, forests, and waterfalls.
Originally known as the Ota Castle, this structure underwent many transformations throughout its history. It was first rebuilt as a temple for a group of warrior monks, and in the seventeenth century was refurbished again and renamed Wakayama Castle, only to be destroyed during World War II. It was once again rebuilt in the 1950s and has since become a popular tourist spot, especially for those interested in its long and storied history.
Wakayama Castle is open to the public and easy to find. Historical information on the grounds and artifacts is available in English. The museum features many artifacts, including Samurai armor, for the visiting history enthusiast. Since the castle is not a primary tourist attraction, travelers that seek out the Wakayama Castle are free to view the museum and wander the grounds as they please without overcrowding. In the Sakura season there is much more to take in as the grounds erupt into color. Also be sure to take in the view from the top of the castle, where you can see the entire city stretched out below.
Wakayama Castle can be reached in a 21-minute walk from Wakayamashi Station.
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South of Osaka is Mount Koya in the Wakayama Prefecture. Mount Koya is the main headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon division of Buddhism. The area is home to about 120 temples, a university dedicated to religious studies, and the final destination of a pilgrimage route. In the city of Mount Koya you can learn about Buddhism at Kongobu-ji, the Shingon Buddhism's main temple.
You can travel in to Mount Koya by way of the Nankai Electric Railway from Osaka to Gokurakubashi Station. Then take a cable car to the top of the mountains. Don’t miss a once in a lifetime chance to see ancient Japanese architecture that is specific to the Wakayama region, and Japan's largest cemetery. In the cemetery, walk the lighted pathways for an enchanting stroll through the mountains.
Another way to enjoy the special beauty of the Wakayama Prefecture is to visit the Nachi Falls. Nachi Falls is the original religious site of the Wakayama region, and monks still make offerings to the waterfall every morning. For the best view head to Kumano Nachi Taisha, which is part of a complex series of shrines and offers one of the best vantage points for viewing the tallest waterfall in Japan. A visit to Nachi Falls is a day trip, but do allow some time to stop and see the many shrines along the way.
At the Kumano Nachi Shrine in the summer months is one of the three largest fire festivals in Japan. Plan your visit in July to enjoy this festival of strength, which is also known as the folding fan festival.
There are many things to see in Wakayama, but these are attractions you shouldn’t miss. Many are close together and can be done in a day.
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