Waka what? Everybody knows about Osaka and Kyoto, but Wakayama will draw a blank with many visitors of Japan. It is not mentioned at all in the Rough Guide of Japan, for example!
Wakayama is located about 60 km south-west of Osaka and we went there in the first place because of our interest in the Japanese bath culture of the onsen, the hot spring baths. The hotel we had booked, Dormy Inn, has a big onsen which occupies one floor of the hotel. Separate baths for male and female. Because everybody is naked, it is not allowed to take pictures, so I have taken a few pics from the Internet to give an impression. During our two days stay we used this onsen 5-6 times, it is really addictive…:-)
The first evening we were looking for a famous ramen stall, but it was closed. So we tried our luck in a BBQ seafood restaurant, hoping for somebody who could speak a bit of English. That was not the case but one of the waitresses was Chinese, studying Japanese language. With her help we could order quite exotic food…:-). Interesting detail, in the picture to the right I am about to eat the BBQ-ed shell. It was quite tasty. Only after swallowing it I was told that the blackish part should not be eaten as it contained the shit of the critter…:-) Well, I survived.
The next day was the only day we had rain. Aric had to use his raincoat. We had a snack for breakfast, bread with egg and noodles, a weird combination, but the taste was good.
Our target was the Awashima Shrine in Kada, about one hour by train from Wakayama. Kada is a small seaside town. Walking to the temple we passed another small temple with a nice cemetery.
When we arrived at the shrine the drizzle had changed in a real downpour, so we had to take shelter for a while. The temple hall itself is nothing special, it is famous for the thousands of dolls and statuettes given to the temple by devotees.
An orgy of colours and shapes. You keep taking pictures…:-) Click a picture to enlarge
Near the temple we found another nice restaurant for lunch. Again BBQ shells and seafood. Here they had a menu in English!
After we came back in our hotel, Aric went for another onsen session (he is more addicted than me.. haha) and then we went out again, first to the ramen stall, which was open now. They have won prizes with their ramen and deservedly so. The most delicious ramen I have ever tasted.
After this dinner we went to a public bath, the Hanayama onsen. Special about this onsen is the brownish teh tarik color of the water. Also here no pictures, here is one from the Internet. Nice experience, people come here for their bath, young and old. But of course we remained outsiders because we could not speak Japanese…:-)
There are many more beautiful onsen in the countryside, access not always easy, maybe we can come again another time.
For our last night we had booked the Manpa resort, a ryokan resort with its own onsen, overlooking the sea. As we could only check in after 3pm, we had the morning to spend and we decided to visit the Wakayama castle.
That was a good move, because it turned out to be a much nicer place than the touristic and crowded Osaka castle.
On out way back to the hotel, looking for a suitable place for lunch. That can be really a problem in Japan, because local eateries are not always conspicuous. Fortunately often the signs use Chinese characters (with Japanese meaning) so Aric could guess the meaning. Like was the case with this canteen where we had lunch.
As the Manpa resort is a bit remote, we took a taxi. The resort has a nice view of the sea and also here one complete floor is reserved for the onsen. We had a nice room in Japanese style with a sea view.
Of course we went a few times to the onsen. There were not many guests, so we had the bath for ourselves, and even could take a few pictures.
The (expensive) Manpa package includes a traditonal Japanese dinner and a breakfast the next morning. The dinner was a delight, although we could not read the menu. But the waitress was very nice
The departure time for our flight back to KL from Kansai airport was at 11 am, so we had to wake up early for our last onsen and then our breakfast. The breakfast was again very traditional Japanese, very fishy, actually not easy to eat so early in the morning….:-)
It was a remarkable trip. Not always easy, I needed quite a few days to recover. But it will be worthwhile to come back again.