Guideto JapanCulture History
Located in the Kii Peninsula in Kansai, Wakayama Prefecture is mostly covered by mountains, apart from a small plain around the capital Wakayama. The cape Shionomisaki is the southernmost point in the island of Honshū, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. To the west is the Kii Channel, linking the Pacific to the Seto Inland Sea. At 133 meters, Nachi Waterfall is Japan’s highest waterfall with a single, uninterrupted drop.
Wakayama Prefecture at a Glance
- Established in 1871 (formerly Kii province)
- Capital: Wakayama
- Population: 923,000 (as of Oct. 2020)
- Area: 4,725 km2
The area that is now Wakayama Prefecture has attracted pilgrims for centuries. Mount Kōya in the northeast is a center for Buddhism, where Kūkai, one of the early proselytizers of the religion, established the Shingon sect in the ninth century. Many temples offer overnight stays to visitors. Meanwhile, Kumano in the southeast is known for its three major Shintō shrines connected by walking trails.
A major fruit producer due to its warm climate, Wakayama is Japan’s top prefecture for growing mandarins, ume apricots, and persimmons. It is also number one for hassaku citrus fruits and sanshō or Japanese pepper. The mosquito coil was invented in the small city of Arida, which remains a leading manufacturer of the product today.
- Minakata Kumagusu (1867–1941): A polymath who made contributions in the fields of biology, folklore studies, and environmentalism.
- Matsushita Kōnosuke (1894–1989): The founder of Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, which became a household name across the world as Panasonic.
- Maehata Hideko (1914–95): The first Japanese woman to win an Olympic gold medal, which came in the 200-meter breaststroke at Berlin in 1936.
(Originally published in English. Banner photo: The temple of Okunoin on Mount Kōya in Wakayama Prefecture houses the mausoleum for Shingon Buddhism founder Kūkai. © Pixta.)
For the complete list of the country’s 47 prefectures, see “The Prefectures of Japan.”