Walking through town while enjoying the salt breeze off the Kumano Sea

In Nachi Katsuura Town, which is known for its fresh tuna, you’ll visit an auction at the fish market and try your hand at painting a miniature whaling boat. In the town of Taiji, which is known for whaling, you’ll explore the quaint fishing district and visit historical sites associate with traditional whaling. The main focus of this itinerary is taking leisurely strolls while enjoying the salt breeze.

Trying your hand at painting a toy whaling boat

Katsuura, which is famous for its hot springs, has one of the largest catches of fresh tuna landed using longline fishing in all of Japan. One way to experience the world of fishing in Katsuura is to participate in a tour of the Katsuura Fish Market (reservations required) as part of a program offered for guests staying in inns that are members of the Nanki Katsuura Hot Spring Inn Association. The tour lets you view the market at Katsuura Fishing Port, where a tuna auction is held early in the morning, while a worker from the fishermen’s cooperative explains how the system works. Rows of freshly caught tuna make for an impressive sight.

Tour of Katsuura Fish Market

At Oguraya, a souvenir shop located in front of Katsuura Station, you’ll focus on traditional Kumano whaling boats, a local toy. The boats, which are shaped like whaling boats from the Edo period, are decorated with colorful designs such as Chinese phoenixes or chrysanthemums. The proprietor paints each one himself, and if you make a reservation, you can make your own.


Next, you’ll head for Taiji while making your way past Ki-no-Matsushima Islands, a general name for a number of islands of various sizes that lie around the periphery of Katsuura Port, including Tsurushima Island, Kabutojima Island, and Rakuda-iwa. You’ll depart on an excursion boat from Katsuura Tourist Pier. The basic Route A trip includes a stop at Taiji Kujirahama Beach Park, which is where you’ll be disembarking.

Ki-no-Matsushima Islands Cruise (left photo)
Taiji Kujirahama Beach Park (right photo)

There are a number of sightseeing attractions in the area, including a whale museum, and you may want to enjoy a lunch of bread from Boulangerie Le Bois while relaxing on a bench in the park.

Boulagerie Le Bois

Enjoying the cute retro look of the town’s rows of painted houses

You’ll walk south from the park to Taiji Fishing Port, which lies in the center of the town. Across from the fishermen’s cooperative is Ebisu-jinja Shrine, which enshrines the deity of fishing and has a torii gate made of whale bones. The area is densely packed with houses, giving it the unique ambience of a fisherman’s town. Many of these Japanese homes have lattices but have been painted in light colors, giving the area a distinctive appearance. In the past, Taiji has produced many North American emigrants and whaling vessel crewmen, and it is said that they brought the custom of painting houses back with them from overseas.

Taiji Fishing Port (upper left photo)
Whale Bone Torii Gate (lower left photo)
Enjoy walking through the town with its rows of painted houses. (right photo)

After stopping by Kamehachiya, you’ll visit Sekimon (Rock Gate). Legend holds that an enormous mansion owned by the Wada family, which inventedtraditional whaling, was located inside this gate. You may also want to follow the trail to Tomyo-zaki Point and Kajitori-zaki Point. The hilly terrain makes for a great walk. Ubame oak and other species create a tunnel of green from which walkers enjoy frequent views of the ocean. Like Tomyo-zaki Point, Kajitori-zaki Point was used as a mountain lookout from which to spot whales. If you go as far as the smoke signal site at the end of Kajitori-zaki Point, which is a Japan Heritage site, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Kumano Sea.

Gravesite of Yorimoto Wada, Whaling Founder (left photo)
Sekimon (Rock Gate) (right photo)

If you have time, you could also extend your trip to Tomyo-zaki Point and Kajitori-zaki Point. From either Sekimon (Rock Gate) or Kajitori-zaki Point, you can make your way back to JR Taiji Station by municipal bus. However, be sure to check the bus schedule as service is limited.

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