Getting around in Wakayama Prefecture might seem troublesome, considering that its public transportation is not as convenient and efficient as that in Japan's main cities (Tokyo, Osaka). The interior of Wakayama Prefecture is completely covered with mountains, which makes the area rather isolated and remote. However, getting to this place and moving around the prefecture is easier than it might seem at first glance.
Tanabe is the second largest city in Wakayama Prefecture. Located at the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Tanabe has its own railway station, Kii Tanabe Station, which is operated by the JR West railway company. The train line connects Tanabe with Osaka, from where you can get to the rest of the country. The trip takes around 2 hours by express train and it is included in the Japan Rail Pass, a very convenient way to move around the country. In addition, there is a special pass that can be purchased to be used on all local trains belonging to the JR West railway network. It costs 7,000 yen and it can be used during four consecutive days.
Kii Tanabe Station is located in the city center, just a short walk from the famous Tokei Jinja shrine. The station is the starting point of the Ginza shopping district, a large street full of shops and restaurants (mostly serving traditional Japanese dishes) that leads into the Ocean.
In the station there are various ticket machines, a ticket office, a waiting area and a small convenience store to buy some snacks while waiting for your train to come. Next to the station there is a cozy bakery which serves well priced coffee. Outside, you will also find an interesting souvenir store (probably the only one in Tanabe) offering local products.
Those coming to Tanabe for the first time might want to visit the Tourist Information Center located just across the street from the station. In the small center you can find maps, bus and train schedules and pamphlets about the Wakayama region. Although the sign for the center is in English, only Japanese is spoken here. However, Japanese people are extremely nice and the clerks will try to assist you with anything you may need, even if you don't fully understand each other.
Trains in Wakayama Prefecture only run to coastal cities (Tanabe, Shirahama, Shingu being the main ones). To complement the coastal train line, there are local bus services operated by a number of bus companies. The bus stops are conveniently located in front of Tanabe Station. The buses will take you to the main inland towns such as Hongu and Nachi, where you will be able to enjoy Japan's deepest countryside.
However, the best way to move freely around Wakayama Prefecture is by car. Next to Kii Tanabe Station there is a car rental outlet. Renting a car there will allow you to visit the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes and the impressive Kumano Taisha shrines without worrying about timetables. The Kumano area is full of guesthouses, so accommodation should not be a problem either.
What makes Kii Tanabe Station unique, is its close location to the city beach. Getting to Tanabe Ogigahama Beach from the station is only a five minute walk, which makes it easy to arrive from other cities for a day trip to take a dip in the ocean.