Mom Comes to Visit!: Shirahama, Wakayama

For winter break, my mom and cousin came to visit me and Trevor from the states. During their two-week stay, we brought them around to places like Osaka, Nara, and Totsukawa, but I think one of the highlights of their vacation was our day trip to Shirahama, Wakayama.

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Shirahama’s drainage cover. I think every city in Japan has their own unique design!

If you don’t know where Shirahama is, its on the coastline of Wakayama, sort of halfway between Wakayama City and Shingu City. From Totsukawa, Shirahama is a little less than an hour and forty minutes away- less time than it takes for me to get to the nearest city up north!

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Shirahama is on the coastline of Wakayama prefecture.

It’s a beautiful resort town, famous for its sandy, white beaches. Fun fact: to maintain that authenticity of the beach, the sand is actually imported from Australia!

Trevor and I have travelled to Shirahama before, and it was one of the towns we really wanted to take my mom and cousin to. There’s quite a bit to do, so here are some of the things there is to see and experience in Shirahama!

Engetsu Island & The Glass Boat

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Engetsu Island is a little island off the coast of Shirahama. It’s noticeable for its natural arch. I did a quick wiki search of it, and the entire thing is made of sandstone. Apparently, sandstone becomes weak over time, so the government of Shirahama have advised people not to go out there, in case it does collapse. (Did not know that!) The island is so popular, that at sunset, people would gather all at a distinguished spot where they would then wait and try to get a picture of the sunset through the hole of the island. It’s pretty amusing watching everyone try to get a picture of the same thing.

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“This spot. No, not that one over there, it has to be this spot. Yes. Excellent.”

A little past the island is a spot where you can get onto a Glass Boat. From this boat, you would be able to see the ocean fish through the glass panels on the bottom of the boat and you would get a closer view of Engetsu Island.

I’m going to be honest about this one: the Glass Boat is kind of a dud. But the initial thought of being able to sit on a boat and see cool fish from the inside was something that really piqued our interest. We were curious to see what kinds of ocean fish we would be able to see. Sadly, the boat was not what we thought it was to be. The glass panels were tall and narrow, and the boat ride towards Engetsu Island was bumpy and uncomfortable. Interestingly, there were professional divers who swam by the panels and waved hi to us, which I guess made up for the lack of fish that came by.

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The boat ride itself is ¥1500 a ticket per person. Before you get onto the boat, you’re ushered into a line where you would have to pose and have your picture taken in front of a fake boat wheel… while wearing cliche captain hats. The photos get developed during the boat ride and you’re more than welcomed to buy your photo, finished and framed. Photos are about ¥1000 yen each.

Overall, as unique of an experience it was, it didn’t impress me all that much… Try it out once if you’d like, but I know that that was my first and only time I’d ever go on the Glass Boat.

Senjojiki

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Senjojiki is a rock plateau, named because it looks like there are a thousand tatami mats. (I don’t see it, do you?) Like Engetsu Island, the rocks are formed from years of erosion caused by storm and weathering from the ocean waves.

You can walk on top of the rocks and along the plateau. If you look closely, you’ll see that many locals and tourists have carved their names and various messages in the rocks. They must have been able to write when the sandstone became soft because when you touch the message, it almost seems as if it was embedded into the surface.

Sometimes you’ll see local fishermen sitting along the rocks, waiting for the fish to bite. I wonder what kinds of ocean fish are being caught?

There is also a little building next to Senjojiki which what I presume is a restaurant or some place to eat.

There aren’t any fees, so I think it’s worth going to and seeing Senjojiki in person. I wouldn’t mind spending some time sitting on the rocks and observing the waves and people who come by. But then again, that’s me…

Shirahama Beach & White Promenade Illuminations

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If you google image search: “Shirahama beach” one of the first images you’ll see is the iconic white sandy beach, nestled between the arch of hotels and the bright blue sea. I was told by my JTE that it’s best to go in the summer… while I believe that summer is a nice time to go and enjoy the beach, I think fall and winter are just as good seasons to go and walk along the sand and large rocks. Even in November, which is the time Trevor and I first went to Shirahama, we noticed the beach was active- not as busy as summer obviously, but it wasn’t as empty as we thought it would be. Even with the chilly fall breeze, kids were still playing with one another on the sand. We noticed a cute small boardwalk where you can get some drinks and whatnot at a beach-style hut. It was closed when we saw it, but I’m sure it’s open longer in the summer.

Next to the beach is an area with huge rocks, that sort of create a wall between a part of the beach and the ocean. We don’t know if the way they’re standing is natural, of if they were placed like that beforehand. We noticed many people climbing onto these rocks to take photos so we decided to do the same.

Around winter time, the beach will transform into the White Promenade Illuminations. This was my first time seeing illuminations in Japan, and while it may not be as extravagant as Kobe Lumiere (which I’d someday love to see), I still thought it was beautiful, especially for Shirahama being a small town.

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I noticed the theme right away when I noticed twelve constellations lined up behind the centerpiece. Astrology! I’m a sucker for astrology, so when I saw constellations and lights shaped into winged horses, I went giddy. There was a huge circular display positioned between the two winged horses that reminded me of Cardcaptor Sakura. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience this when my mom and cousin were here, but apparently on New Year’s Eve, Shirahama does fireworks on the beach at midnight.

Adventure World!

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I love animals and zoos. So it would make sense for me to get excited about taking my mom and cousin to Adventure World. It would be the first time for me and Trevor as well. We spent almost an entire day there, and my overall impression? I love Adventure World. Absolutely love it. It is probably one of the best zoos I have ever been to.

Adventure World is not only a zoo, but it’s also an aquarium, safari park, and an amusement park! It’s the mega theme park of every animal lover’s dream! There is so much to see and much to do, it’s understandable why they would have 2-day passes available.

The zoo is famous for its giant pandas. In particular, twin pandas, Kaihin and Youhin were born last year in December and celebrated their first birthday this year. They are quite the celebrities of Adventure World!

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One of the panda twins. It was nap time when we saw them!

Adventure World is very different from any other zoo I’ve been to back home in the states. You can get very up-close and personal with some of the animals, making for an experience you really can’t encounter in a zoo back home (unless you are a zoologist). For instance, you can witness exactly how close you can get to the animals from walking through the entrance alone.

After you pass the ticket gate, there is a “welcoming hall” where you can see two adorable red pandas- and not in cages either! There are wood “branches” that hang from the ceiling where these little guys just walk across and look down to see all the company. No glass, no cages- just red pandas being cute.

Outside the welcoming hall is a fountain where you can see a couple penguins swimming around! Again, no cages or glass or barriers to separate man from animal. These guys seem to live so freely- it’s quite a sight!

When my mom and cousin were here, we watched an amazing dolphin show (where about 20 species of dolphin coordinated with each other and human trainers) and went on a free safari ride that drove through the enclosures of giraffes, lions, tigers, cheetahs, bears- and much more!

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However I will admit, there was one exhibit that made me a little sad and that was the dog playground area. I think it was called Wan Wan Park? This was an area where you could interact with the pet dogs of the zoo but many of them looked so exhausted and worn out… possible from the abundance of kids hovering over all of the dogs and maybe petting them in ways that’s uncomfortable for the poor dogs.

On a positive note, it seems that every section of the zoo has some sort of place of rest for the animals.

I could go on about how amazing this place was- but of course, to truly understand how much I love this place, you’re just going to have to come and experience it yourself.

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Those panda twins are the zoo’s token mascots. They even have their own dish modeled after them! *hungry*

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Super friendly goose- you can get reaaallyy up close with some of the animals!

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Trevor’s photo of the lions- taken from inside the safari’s train!

If I had the expenses, I’d be going to Adventure World every weekend LOL.

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We went during New Year’s weekend. It’s only fitting that they sell a lot of monkey-themed things for the new year!

Also had to make sure to stop by the gift shop. The gift shop is massive, there are sooo many things to buy. I’m surprised we didn’t get more!

A folder for my work things, a new key holder, twin panda stud earrings, and a panda kendama for Trevor. 🙂

Can you tell we had a lot of fun? Haha

 

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