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Wakayama-shi is a small city (approx. 400,000 population) about an hour south of Osaka. It's considered by most Japanese to be "hick" country and the people here have their own intonation and accent which are instantly recognizable by most Japanese. I was here for all three years while I was on the JET Program. Wakayama-ken is home to two very famous sites in Japan: Nachi Falls and Koya-san.

Nachi-noTaki Falls is Japan's highest waterfall has a drop of 133m (436 feet).
Nachi Falls is actually a set of three waterfalls and here you can see the
main falls with Nachi Taisha Shrine.

Koya-san is a cemetery and temple complex on a mountain. It is a "must-see" on any trip to Japan. You can stay the night inside one of the temples, have monks bring you vegetarian meals, join in their morning prayers and meditations, and relax in the serenity of the peaceful mountain environment.

Take a couple days to fully explore the cemetery, the garan (sacred precinct) and the woodland surroundings.

Persimmons or kaki
Harvesting bamboo shoots
Wakayama ume
The area surrounding most of Wakayama-shi is farmland. Rice, bamboo, oranges, persimmons, and many others. Wakayama is particularly famous for its ume, or plumb. Terribly bitter off the tree, it can be pickled to make umeboshi, or fermented to make ume juice. Every year I would help one of my JTEs bring in a crop of bamboo shoots. I also went on a field trip to a local farm to pick ume. A number of my teachers had small groves of oranges or persimmons. But of course, acre for acre, there is more rice growing than anything else.
As with all Japanese towns and cities, Wakayama had many shrines. Here is one shrine called Nichizengu, which was just a five minute bike ride away from my apartment.
A tori gate guards the entrance
Before entering the grounds it's necessary to cleanse one's hands at the wash basin

Some traditional-style homes you might see in a town like Wakayama

Wakayama-shi also has its very own castle! It is mostly a concrete reconstruction (because most of it got bombed in WWII), but the grounds are very nice for hanami, or Cherry Blossom parties.
Hanami in spring
A path in the castle gardens

Several very interesting festivals take place around Wakyayama City.

Please click on the above links to view details of these exciting festivals.

Another small festival (that takes place in just about every town)
is an Autumn or Harvest Festival.

A re-enactment of a battle between costumed warriors and a dragon
takes place after a procession of the townsfolk carrying a mikoshi.

Many people are dressed up for the occasion in colorful yukata or hapi coats. After the procession and the battle, people stroll between food and games stalls and pound mochi into mochi cakes.

And that's about it for Wakayama! It's a small city and a very rural prefecture,
but I loved it there; the best of both worlds.



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