What To Do In Kii Katsuura (7 Must-See Attractions)

Tristan Balme What to do in kii katsuura

Kii-Katsuura might be home to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route, but that’s not the only attraction you’ll get to explore during your visit. After my hike, I spent an additional two days exploring other parts of the town. And they’re just as breathtaking and exciting as the main event. 

You’ll not only experience the town’s reputation as a fishing hub but also walk away with an understanding of its spiritual significance.

Here’s a glimpse of what you can do to make the most of your time in the area: 

How To Get To Nachi-Katsuura

Train

Kii Katsuura is most easily accessible by train. The JR Kii-Katsuura Station is located in the heart of town, with connections to major cities like Osaka and Nagoya. The journey from Osaka takes around 4 hours and costs approximately ¥6000 (around $40) for a one-way ticket.

By bus

Busing is especially convenient if you’re coming from Nara, Wakayama, or Shirahama. Rides take about 5 hours and cost ¥3000 – ¥4100 ($20 to $30) one way. 

By car

If you’re looking for more flexibility, you can rent a car from any major city or airport, and drive to Kii Katsuura. 

1. Nachi-Katsuura’s Tuna Market

Tristan Balme Kii Katsuura tuna market 3 1

This market bustles with activity every morning with tourists and locals witnessing the tuna auctions.

Giant bluefin tunas, some weighing as big as 100kg, are sold off to the highest bidder. You can’t participate in the auction itself, but watching it unfold is an unforgettable experience. If you’re lucky, you might even snag a fresh piece of sashimi from a nearby stall after the event for a very reasonable price. 

There are tours available if you want to walk on the actual floor to get a closer look at the bidding process. These need to be booked in advance and cost ¥1,000 (around $9) per person.

2. Relax In Katsuura’s Onsens

Tristan Balme nachi katsuura foot onsen

These traditional bathhouses offer a tranquil escape and are a fantastic way to experience Japanese culture. There are several public onsens in Katsuura, with prices typically ranging from ¥400 to ¥1,000 (around $3 to $7) per entry. 

Some ryokans and hotels also offer both indoor and outdoor onsen experiences for their guests.

These are especially relaxing and rejuvenating after hiking the Kumano Kodo trail.  

3. Eat Fresh Sashimi At Katsuura Port Nigiwai Market

Tristan Balme nachi katsuura tuna market

Port Nigiwai Market offers a vast array of seafood, from tuna and scallops to oysters and sea urchins. There are several restaurants within the market where you can sample the freshest catches, prepared in a variety of ways–chirashi-don, sushi, or one of my favorites, sashimi. Expect to pay from ¥1,500 ($10) for a delicious meal.

4. Set Off On A Whale Watching Tour

The town is a renowned spot for whale watching, particularly in the Sea of Kumano, which takes place during the migration seasons (spring and fall). 

Several tour operators offer excursions, all with different packages and departure times. 

Tristan Balme Japan Whale Watching Tour

I made a booking with Nanki Marine Leisure Service through Kumano Travel during spring. The guides explained that sometimes the trip might end without seeing any whales. Fortunately, I got to spot a pod of migrating humpback whales. The outing lasted for about three hours and cost ¥6,500 (around $43).

I recommend booking via Kumano Travel (just make sure to do it at least a month in advance!)

5. Soak Up The Sun at Nachi Beach

This is a relaxing and beautiful way to enjoy the stretch of coastline with soft white sand and crystal-clear waters. It’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or simply strolling along the shore.

nachi beach
Image credit @booking.com

6. Reflect at Nachi Taisha and Nachi Falls

Kii-Katsuura has several cultural attractions, like the Nachi Taisha and Nachi Waterfall. 

Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine is nestled in a cedar forest just halfway up Nachi Mountain. It’s one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano and is considered one of the most sacred sites in Japan. 

The falls are a short walk from the shrine. It’s the tallest waterfall in the country with an uninterrupted cascade and a drop of 133 meters (437 feet). These attractions combined create a tranquil spiritual experience. 

Tristan Balme Kumano kodo nachi falls

I explored the short trail leading to an observation platform, and the views of the falls were simply stunning. As cliche as it may sound, when I stood in front of the grand Nachi Taisha shrine, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of calm wash over me.

7. Wander Around The Fishing Town

Despite being a fishing town, Kii-Katsuura has plenty of other points of interest to explore. There’s a mix of shops selling local crafts and souvenirs. You can also explore the harbor area and enjoy a treat or two at one of the cafes or restaurants.

Tristan Balme exploring kii katsuura

8. Embark on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage

I hiked Kumano Kodo via the Nakahechi route within 4 days. The trail passes through Kii-Katsuura and winds through the mountains dotted with shrines and temples. This section allows you to spend ample time surrounded by nature and experience the spiritual significance of the area. 

Tristan Balme kumano kodo nakahechi route guide

I chose the Nakahechi route because it connects with the 3 grand shrines. But you can still explore the trail via Ohechi, Iseji, Michi, and Kohechi. Or if you’re up to it, and the budget allows, combine different routes to create a longer and more diverse pilgrimage. 

Where to Stay

The town is quaint, but it offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Here’s a breakdown of the three main types of accommodation.

Tristan Balme japanese ryokans

Ryokans

Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that feature tatami-mat rooms, futon bedding, and onsens. Most also include meals in their rates and a well-rounded cultural experience.  

Expect to pay anywhere from ¥15,000 to ¥50,000 (around $100 to $300) per night for a stay.

Minshuku

These family-run guesthouses offer a more basic, yet homey and affordable alternative to ryokans. They typically have Japanese-style rooms and range from ¥5,000 to ¥10,000 (around $33 to $67) per night.

Hostel

Hostels are budget-friendly options with dormitory rooms. I tend to opt for these if I’m spending a single night and looking to save money.

They’re also an excellent way to meet other travelers, that’s if you don’t mind sharing space and amenities. 

Hotels

The town also offers a selection of modern hotels. I opt for hotels to enjoy a more familiar style of accommodation. Similar to hotels you’d find anywhere in the world, these range from budget-friendly to more luxurious options. 

Most offer standard amenities, with the only difference being they feature onsens and the same cultural experience as ryokans or minshukus. Hotels range from ¥8,000 to ¥20,000 (around $53 to $134) per night.

What’s the Right Name? Kii Katsuura vs. Nachi Katsuura? 

A quick online search can leave you confused about the town’s name. Nachi Katsuura is the town’s official name, but Kii Katsuura is widely used and perfectly acceptable. I learned that the locals often call it the latter for convenience. 

How to Get Around Nachi-Katsuura 

Kii Katsuura is a relatively walkable town. Many of the main attractions are located within a short distance of the station. Here are modes of transport you can use to explore the surrounding areas.

Rental Bicycles

Renting a bicycle is a fantastic way to explore the town at your own pace. Several shops near the station offer bicycle rentals. Some lodgings also offer bicycle rentals or recommendations on where to hire one nearby. Expect to pay around ¥300-¥1,000 (US$4-US$8) per day.

Local Buses

Buses connect Nachi Katsuura Station with various destinations–Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine, Nachi Falls, Katsuura Port–within the town. They run every 2 to 4 hours and you can expect to pay a few hundred yen (US$2-US$3) for journeys within Nachi Katsuura.

Taxis

Taxis are readily available around the JR station and major hotels. You can usually hail one on the street or find them at taxi ranks.

They’re not the most budget-friendly option, costing around ¥1000 – ¥2000 ($10 – $20) but they’re extremely convenient for short trips.

Is Nachi Katsuura a Safe Destination For Tourists?

The town’s crime rate is low, making it a very safe destination for tourists. While the locals are warm and friendly, you shouldn’t let your guard down completely. 

As with any foreign city you visit, always be aware of your surroundings and take precautions. This includes keeping an eye on your belongings and avoiding poorly lit areas at night.

How Long Do You Need in Kii Katsuura?

I stayed in Kii-Katsuura to hike the Kumano Kodo trail. After this, I spent time exploring the rest of the city and immersing myself in the activities mentioned above. The entire trip lasted 5 days. 

If you just want to hit the highlights, like the tuna market, Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine, and Nachi Falls, you can do it in a whirlwind 24-hour trip.

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