What to do if you have one day in Nachi-Katsuura, a fishermen's town in Wakayama Prefecture, located in the south of the Kii Peninsula?
You might have walked the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail, or you drove down the Kii Peninsula by car or camper van and spent a night at the campsite of Daitai-ji temple, and now you wonder how to spend the remaining day before you start your journey home.
Here are some suggestions based on what I have come to like most after having lived in this area for over 10 years now:
The prefix of Nachi to Katsuura differentiates this town in Wakayama Prefecture in the south of the Kii Peninsula from another Katsuura Town located on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. Interestingly, the latter Katsuura was only founded in the late Edo Period of Japan and the name of what then was barely a village derived from the much older village of Nachi-Katsuura on the Kii Peninsula. Incidendly, both Katsuura Towns now have a population of less than 20,000 people.
Nachi: waterfall, shrine and temple
Nachi-Katsuura is famous for the mighty Nachi Otaki Waterfall whose waters plunge 133 meters down from a sheer cliff. If you climb up some steps, you get to the Kumano Nachi Taisha, one of the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano and next door Nachisan Seiganto-ji, a temple in the Tendai tradition of Japanese Buddhism. This temple is also the Headquarters of Nachi Shugen, a local Shugendo group. You will find a large wooden statue of En-no-gyoja, the Founder of Shugendo, in the main temple hall.
This is a little known fact but Seiganto-ji is famous as the no 1 temple in the Saigoku Sanjusan-cho, a pilgrimage to 33 temples in the Kansai area that are dedicated to Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. At Seiganto-ji the main object of worship is Nyoirin Kannon whose statue sits snuggly in the middle of a golden-decorated canopy at the back of the centuries-old wooden temple hall.
Katsuura: tuna auction, onsen, resort
Many visitors to this part of Japan do not make time for exploring this town. Visiting famous Nachi Falls and walking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail is their main objective. Yet, Kii-Katsuura has a lot to offer and one can easily spend a whole day there and relax after after walking the pilgrimage trail.
Nachi-Katsuura is a natural port and has served as a fishing hub for centuries. There is a place called Tsukiji here, reminding us of the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Indeed, here in Nachi-Katsuura Tsukiji is an equally famous fish market and this fish market even beats its cousin in Tokyo in the amount of tuna being auctioned off on weekdays.
Kii-Katsuura is known as a hot spring (onsen) resort. All accommodations in town have onsen on premise. Many onsen hotels and ryokans have an onsen pool right by the ocean. One can enjoy fantastic views while bathing!
Scenic drive or Kumano Kodo walk
Nachi-Katsuura is located in the Yoshino-Kumano National Park, short "Yoshi-Kuma", which was established in 1936. There are many scenic locations in this National Park and Katsuura Bay is one of them. There is a bay cruise around what is called the "Kii-no-Matsushima". This is a reference to famous Matsushima Bay in the Tohoku Region of Japan.
Road No 42 and a JR rail track follow the coast around the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula. This road and train line, in turn, more or less follow an ancient Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail, the Ohechi route, which passes by Daitai-ji temple.
The Ohechi pilgrimage route is still a less popular option with the Nakahechi route and the Kohechi route being pilgrims’ favorites. Nonetheless, this route is now signposted and maps are available. If you want to walk this part of the Kumano Kodo in the future, you might want to consider staying at Daitai-ji temple rather than at the Nachi-Katsuura hot spring resort.
See you soon in Nachi-Katsuura!