Apr 11, 2015

Cherry Blossoms @ Wakayama, Japan 2015

I went to Wakayama on the very first day of my spring Kansai 2015 trip. I hadn't thought nor researched much about Wakayama prior. The idea of going beyond Kyoto and Osaka only struck me while i waited for my flight to depart Changi Airport. Talk about YOLO LOL.




“Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県 Wakayama-ken?) is a prefecture of Japan located on the Kii Peninsula in the Kansai region on Honshū island.[1] The capital is the city of Wakayama”



I took a limousine bus from KIX airport straight to Wakayama because I didn’t want to spend too much time and energy messing around with public trains and bus while lugging my luggage around. The bus trip cost me 1150 yen and took around 40 minutes.




For the complete bus timeline and more information, check out the official website here.


Photo from : http://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/access/bus/


To buy the tickets for Wakayama, exit the airport (Terminal 1) and look for Bus Stop Number 3.  As you can see from the Airport floor plan, Bus Stop 3 is near exit ‘G’.  Near the Bus stop, would be automated Ticketing machines like the picture below.


wakayama bus


Apologies for the bad picture but I was in a rush to buy my ticket and get on board. But basically, you purchase a bus ticket to Wakayama ( Circled in red) and then show it to the bus driver.





Queue up at the correct bus stop and wait for your bus to arrive. Do exercise vigilance though as there can be a chance that the same bus stop service more than 1 route ( Bus Stop 3 services 3 different routes). So always keep a look out to make sure you catch your bus. Pay attention to the LED screen on the left of the buses as it clearly shows where they are going.  Don’t be afraid to go up to the Staffs and ask for help. Just show them your ticket which marks your destination and they’re bound to help.






There  are 9 Bus stops in Wakayama. I alighted at the ‘JR Wakayama Sta’ Bus Stop because I wanted to lock my luggage in the Train station’s coin lockers. If you don't have similar concerns as me, then I recommend you alight straight at ‘Koenmae’ as it takes you right to the Wakayama Castle.




Before I board the bus, i also purchased a data sim card from Kansai International Airport. For more information about purchasing a Data Sim card in japan, click here.


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The Limousine Bus is clean and spacious.


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There is a small TV screen in the front of the bus and it showed me the Stop Route it will be taking. 





It will continuously update you on the upcoming Stop which in my case, was the “JR Wakayama Train Sta”. I alighted and the Train Station was just a stone throw away. This particular entrance of the station however is small and easy to miss.




Google maps FTW!




I locked my luggage in a middle sized locker room that cost me 500 yen. Then I got out from the tiny train station front , turned left, took the underpass and got over to the opposite side of the train station to catch a Bus to Wakayama Castle. The opposite side was a small Bus Interchange





I think I took Bus number 3. The Bus stops were very confusing here and I got onto the right bus only because there was a bunch of Mandarin speaking tourists who was going to the same place and I just follow suite XD . I also alighted because they alighted hahaa. I believe there is also a small TV screen in the front of the bus that tells you which stop you’re at, alight at “Koenmai (公园前)”. I remembered the Castle was diagonally across the bus stop and required some 4 minutes of walking and roads crossing.




Finally! Wakayama Castle!




There were a bunch of people dressed up as Ninjas giving out flyers and helping tourists with photographs. The lady with a yellow coat above was giving out flyers that showcased yummy food around the castle. I didn’t try any of them out because I didn’t know how to navigate myself and because I was rushing off to my next destination. Anyway, let the photo bombardment commence!




The first thing I noticed when I stepped foot into the place was the big weeping sakura ( Shidarezakura) tree on the right. It was one of the earliest tree to flower in the entire castle so it was no surprise everyone crowded around it for a photo opportunity.




Red and white lanterns lined the sides of the stone path.




There were also Ninjas everywhere in the castle compound. The ninjas were presumably staffs (or volunteers) who were all very cute and helpful.  This cute ninja boy was asking the father in blue whether he needed any help with the photograph




This picture was taken by the Ninja Boy. One of the very few full body shots of myself ahhaa.





They were also very game for posing. I didn't  even asked for a photo but the moment they see a camera aimed at them they jump into position, kawaii na!




Kindly got one of them to help me take a photo with the castle. The boy probably felt like he did a bad job toying with a DSLR so he apologised guiltily afterwards haha. I think he did a decent job though!




I didn't bother entering the castle because I was more keen on exploring the garden around it.  Now I regret not at least going up those flights of stairs to see what's beyond those doors.


Time for some Sakuras!!!!! *hyperventilates*





Aren’t they breath taking?!




I found this poster stuck on this table in the castle premise. I'm guessing it's the castle organiser recruiting "Ninja" volunteers to assist people who visits the castle and having mobility issues. If so then maybe the ninjas I've seen are all volunteers! That would be really amazing :)






I went to Wakayama on 27th March 2015. Then, it was still too early for sakuras. Most of the garden had Cherry Blossom trees that was still bare.







Look at this cherry blossom patch with chairs underneath it. It would be an awesome place to see the sakuras when they come to full bloom! But alas, i am a few days too early.













Ohashi Roka is a bridge which was constructed in the Edo Period for feudal lords and their servants to move between the outer citadel with its government offices and the feudal lord’s living area and the western citadel with the Momijidani Garden. It has a roof and people cannot be seen crossing it from the outside. It is a very rare structure in Japan being a slanted bridge. As it is at an 11 degree angle, it has steps to prevent slipping. “



The slanted bridge. The bridge is one of the rare slant ones in Japan. It has a 11 degree slope and in order to prevent slipping, planks have been built inside the bridge.




To cross, you must take off your shoes, put them in the provided plastic bags and then bring them over with you. I'm not sure if it was the cold or my damp socks (sweat yo!) But the journey from one end of the bridge to the other was so uncomfortable! Walking on cold hard wooden floor with damp socks in a cold place was not something i fancy. To make it worse, the planks/stairs made stepping such a hassle (yes I know without it we would fall but still!).




After you reach the end of the bridge, you wear your shoes back and return the plastic bag. I think such discipline  can only happen in Japan haha. If it was any other country, I'm sure countless rogues would have just screwed the sign and walked over the bridge with their shoes on. Much less return the plastic bags and leaving the place in such a good condition.




How the world outside looked like from inside the bridge.




By this time i was getting hungry so i ventured around for food. Since the place was big and I didn't know where i was going, it took me a while to find the food stalls I saw at the beginning. I eventually found them and bought Yakisoba! Yakisoba with an egg cost me 500 yen.


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I took it with me and then found a nice place to picnic with it.




The sakuras in this particular area had bloomed much earlier than others so they made for a really nice hanami spot. Photo above taken with my cellphone so the sakuras can barely be seen -__-;





The view from my Hanami/lunch spot. Sadly, most of the flowers have not bloomed yet.




Cherry blossoms are so beautiful!!! *_*



Saw these pair of really cute sisters posing in front of the weeping sakura.



Pity this photo's focus was off ><||| children moves too fast!

After that I decided to go to Kimiidera temple. I took a bus to kimiidera outside the wakayama castle. Woes be upon me though as I narrowly missed my bus and had to wait half an hour or so for the next one argh! To make it worse, there was nothing else interesting nearby so i could only entertain myself with my phone.




Alighted at the Kimiidera Bus stop and wandered around mindlessly looking for the temple.




The temple is actually somewhere behind the bus stop. A landmark to look out for is this Onsen hotel. The entrance to the temple is on the right of the Onsen hotel when you face it. You walk through a stretch of very neighbourhood looking street with old little shops.




Towards the end of the street is a flight of stairs up the temple.




“ This temple is said to have been founded by a Chinese monk in the year 770, and was a place to pray for the prosperity of the Tokugawa Clan of Wakayama. Many cherry trees are planted within the precincts of Kimiidera Temple, which is known as a place for early-blooming cherry blossoms. Once you climb all 231 steps that lead to the precincts, you can enjoy panoramic views of beautiful Wakanoura Bay.”





Entrance ticket cost 200 yen. The tickets includes viewing of the golden Buddha statue.Opening hours is from 0800 - 1700. However viewing of the gold Buddha status closes at 1630…. which I missed -_-;





A long long flight of stairs meets you face on as you enter the temple. Oh dear! 









The place would have been gorgeous if the sakuras had bloomed. Pity I was early!




There was a row of blooming cherry blossoms along this path!






The hand washing area that is in every temple in Japan.




The devotees praying.



This is the main area of the temple that you arrive at after climbing those 200 over steps. The golden Buddha is in the red tower in front.





The view from here.




The monks and devotees making their way down the long flight of stairs.



I'm not sure if it's because i came on a weekday or what but I find the place to be a quiet retreat. There is significantly lesser tourists and if not for my worry about making my way back to Osaka, I'd have made a trip to the Onsen Hotel. 




Anyway after Kimiidera, i made my way back to Osaka for my hostel. I think I took the same bus (waited a long while for it) went back to JR Wakayama train station for my luggage and then took the trains to Yaenosato.


The railway tracks along the way.



Takarazuka Revue promotional posters on the train ^_^You can see a lot of Takarazuka posters around Kansai as Takazuka is part of Kansai. I didn’t make my way there this trip though due to time  and money concerns.


Hope you guys enjoyed this blog entry and photographs. See you at the next entry!


Anonymous said...

your photos are amazing. the scenes were breathtaking. looking at them makes me feel regret for not going to wakayama. did you went on a backpacking trip on your own?

would be looking forward for more photos on your Japan trip.

Kaika ( aka Elpheal) said...

Annoymous: Thanks for the compliment! I had so much fun taking pictures of Kansai on this trip! The upcoming ones will be even prettier as the sakuras start to bloom ^_^

Yeap I went on a solo trip~