A small coastal town in southern Wakayama, it is the southern-most town of Honshu island. With amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, this is the place to visit if you like quieter destinations.
Hashigui-iwa is a mysterious, natural work of art, featuring a straight line of large and small unusually shaped rocks which stretches for around 850 meters.
Japanese for “white beach”, Shirahama is one of Japan’s biggest onsen resorts. Many large hotels are situated near the beach so visitors are just a few steps from the water. In addition, there are six public bath houses.
Sakinoyu is an outdoor bath that is located right along the seashore, and it affords a view out across the water, with sea waves splashing in at times. It dates back over a thousand years.
Senjojiki is Japanese for “One Thousand Tatami Mats”, which describes the appearance of these flat, sheet-like rocks. Senjojiki is located along the coast, and visitors can walk out onto them. The sea looks different at different times of the day. It is clearer and more refreshing in the morning.
Sandanbeki consists of three steep cliffs with a large network of caves at water level. An elevator is taken down to the caves, which has a shrine inside and a network of tunnels.
Engetsu Islet is a small island with a perfect circle in its middle off the coast of Shirahama. It is known for its sunset views. It is popular to see the sunset over the sea through the hole.
The first fireworks show in Shirahama was held in 1948, and is held annually in summer. Fireworks are released from the sea 300 metres from the beach. They are a must see.
Nachi Falls, with a drop of more than 133 metres, it is Japan’s tallest waterfall with an uninterrupted drop throughout the year. Most people would take the bus to the last stop to see the waterfall directly. It is possible to alight halfway and trek to the falls.
Mount Koya is the center of Shingon Buddhism. It is also one of the best places to experience an overnight stay at a temple where you can get a taste of a monk’s lifestyle, eating monk’s vegetarian cuisine and attending morning prayers.
Okunoin is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. The Ichinohashi Bridge marks the traditional entrance to Okunoin, and visitors should bow to pay respects before crossing it. Across the bridge is Okunoin’s cemetery, the largest in Japan, with over 200,000 tombstones lining the almost two kilometre path to Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum.
Some guidebooks suggest visiting Okunoin at night, but some parts of the path are poorly lit. A night time visit indeed provides a different atmosphere from the day. At night, it was eerily quiet, and only my footsteps (and my friend’s) could be heard. Once we stopped talking/walking, it was dead silent. Not even the rustle of leaves, nor the ripple of water could be heard.