One Day in Nachi-Katsuura

UNESCO Site and Fishermen's Town in Kumano

By Alena Eckelmann    - 4 min read

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:

Katsuura is a natural port
Katsuura is a natural port
View of Katsuura from the top of a nearby hill
View of Katsuura from the top of a nearby hill

Locating Nachi-Katsuura

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.

The Nachi Big Waterfall is the largest of 48 falls in the Nachi area
The Nachi Big Waterfall is the largest of 48 falls in the Nachi area
In front of Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine near the Nachi Big Waterfall
In front of Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine near the Nachi Big Waterfall
Nachisan Seiganto-ji temple next to the Kumano Nachi Taisha
Nachisan Seiganto-ji temple next to the Kumano Nachi Taisha
Walking up ancient stone steps set between giant old cedar trees
Walking up ancient stone steps set between giant old cedar trees

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's shopping street where you also find many fish restaurants
Katsuura's shopping street where you also find many fish restaurants
Large resort hotels share the space with fishermen's daily activities
Large resort hotels share the space with fishermen's daily activities
Fishing boats by the pier waiting for their next run
Fishing boats by the pier waiting for their next run
Tuna auction at the Katsuura fish market
Tuna auction at the Katsuura fish market

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!

Katsuura is an onsen resort by the ocean
Katsuura is an onsen resort by the ocean
Onsen in a cave at Urashima Hotel, the largest resort hotel in Nachi-Katsuura
Onsen in a cave at Urashima Hotel, the largest resort hotel in Nachi-Katsuura

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!

Getting there

  • From Osaka, Shin-Osaka Station or Tennoji Station, take the JR limited express train Kuroshio bound for Shingu. Get off at Kii-Katsuura Station.
  • From Nagoya, take the JR limited express Wideview Nanki bound for Shingu. Change in Shingu to a local train bound for Osaka. Get off at Kii-Katsuura Station.
  • From Tokyo there is a night bus bound for Katsuura Onsen. It leaves from Shinjuku Station.
  • Alternatively, take a flight from Haneda to Nanki-Shirahama. Then take the Kuroshio train bound for Shingu and get off at Kii-Katsuura Station.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Founder of Kii Monogatari, my story and the story of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Originally from East Germany, I came to Tokyo, via Berlin and London, in 2005. In summer 2011 I moved by choice to remote Kumano in the south of the Kii Peninsula where I live, work and play now, and explore every day.The whole of the Kii Peninsula is a Healing Hub for me with its abundance of forest, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the ocean, friendly rural communities and sacred places. This is where nature meets spirituality, and tradition meets sustainability, the new paradigm for travel post-pandemic. My deep interest is in Japanese nature & spirituality. I love being in nature, in the forest and in the mountains, and I love spending time at temples and shrines.  I am building my life and my work around these two passions. I am a Licensed Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy) Guide and a Licensed Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Guide. I am also a Licensed Retreat Facilitator and I am planning retreats on the Kii Peninsula. Last but not least, I have been the Japan Travel Partner for Wakayama and Yamagata since the conception of the platform in 2011! These two prefectures are close to my heart because they are the centers of Shugendo, a spiritual tradition of mountain ascetism. I am a Shugendo Practitioner for over ten years now and received Tokudo in 2016 at a Shugendo temple on Yoshinoyama. Please kindly connect via my Facebook Page Kii Monogatari. Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

Join the discussion

Bonson Lam a month ago
This is an often forgotten part of Japan. The walk amongst the huge cedar trees look amazing!
Elena Lisina a month ago
Such places are my favorite in Japan!
Kim a month ago
What a beautiful area to enjoy living in for 10 years! I'm sure you count your blessings every day, I certainly would! :)