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Population (approx.): 1.019 million (2012)
Area: 1,825 sq miles
Area Rank: 30
Wakayama Prefecture is located in the Kansai region, south of Osaka. Wakayama is most famous for Koyasan, or Mt. Koya, the center of Shingon Buddhism. On the peak of Mt. Koya-san surrounded by mountains is Kongobu-ji Temple, founded by Kobo Taishi, the Head Temple of Esoteric Buddhism, which has a 1200-year-long history. More than 120 temples are scattered throughout the area, thus forming a great religious city. Visitors to Koyasan can also stay overnight at “shukubo”, temple lodging, and experience a day in the life as a monk. During the stay, visitors will attend morning prayers and eat “shojin ryori”, a vegetarian meal, which monks ate due to their belief that it was wrong to take another life. Also in Wakayama is Nanki Shirahama, a hot spring resort area famous for its white sand beach. Shirahama is even ranked with Kobe's Arima Onsen and Matsuyama's Dogo Onsen as one of Japan's three oldest onsen.
One of Japan's best white sand beaches
Experience Zen and lodging at Mt. Koya san for a great spiritual experience
Group of pilgrimage routes that lead to the sacred Kumano Sanzan
Created by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to commemorate the death of his mother
Great view of Wakayama and a popular cherry blossom site
Japan's tallest waterfall with single uninterrupted drop
Wakayama has several local dishes including one of its most popular, “meharizushi”. The dish is quite simple and consists of just a rice ball wrapped in pickled takana leaf. Some meharizushi have fillings such as pickles but others have no fillings.
Wakayama is a major producer of “umeboshi”, Japanese pickled plums. Umeboshi are traditionally extremely sour and salty, having been pickled in salt then dried. Umeboshi is enjoyed throughout the country, especially in a bento in the middle of rice or as onigiri, but Wakayama is known to produce the best quality umeboshi in the country.
Kishu Goten Temari are handball toys created for princesses in the Edo Period. It originated in Kishu, former Wakayama Prefecture. The beautiful temari handballs were originally created for princesses and gained popularity among girls in general. The temari balls are created from polystyrene balls wrapped tightly with cotton threads. Then various colored threads are sewn in layers to create intricate details on each handball. Kishu Goten Temari is still a popular souvenir in Wakayama for its elegance.
"Nachi No Hi Matsuri" is a fire festival held on July 14th in the Kumano mountains of Wakayama Prefecture. A dozen mikoshi, portable shrines, are carried up the steps of the Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine by men wearing all white as others run down the steps with torches in their hands. Then both groups head to Nachi No Otaki Falls where they perform the purification ritual by purifying, or burning the mikoshi.