Shingu City, Wakayama is a popular tourist destination as a spiritual sacred place that is part of the Kumano Kodo. But did you know that there are also many great places to go to satisfy your taste buds and work out your body?
Originally, the city was called the “town of consumption", because it was established by wealthy merchants who built a fortune by selling lumber. So, local residents are still particular about food. There are the ruins of Shingu Castle, where there once existed Japan’s shortest railway built only for the purpose of transporting the wealthy to a luxury hotel. People in the city also used to have the tuna freshly caught in Kii Katsuura delivered to them to eat. Though usage of the railroad was later discontinued, the discerning palate of local residents persists on today.
At the Katsuura Gyoko Nigiwai Market located a short drive from Shingu City, you can watch a tuna fileting event every weekend and eat delicious tuna until you are stuffed.
Here, an almost 30-year-old travel writer shows you the food and activities you can enjoy in Shingu City and its surrounding areas.
At Shingu Station, a wooden welcome board greets you. I am so excited to start my journey!
Table of Contents
1 Rent a bike at Shingu City Tourist Information Center
Renting a bike is the best idea for sightseeing in Shingu City. Shingu City itself is small enough for everything to be reached out on foot, but for the sake of speed and your own convenience, renting a bike is the best choice.
You can rent a bike at the Shingu City Tourist Association Information Center, which is located on the ground floor of the Kumano Koutsu office, across from the train station.
If there are no more bikes available here, you can rent one at the store located inside Jofuku Park, which I will talk about later.
At the Shingu City Tourist Information Center, not only can you rent a bike, but you can also get coupons (also available in Chinese and English) that are a great way to enjoy foods in the city, as well as information pamphlets. It is a great place to stop by before you start sightseeing in Shingu.
For a bike to rent, I chose a trekking bike that looks comfortable to ride.
2 Start your sightseeing at Jofuku Park!
Jofuku is said to have traveled all over the world searching for medicine for immortality under the order by the Emperor of the Qin Dynasty in China and finally reached Shingu, where he discovered a medicinal plant called "Tendai Uyaku”. His tomb is currently set up in Jofuku Park.
At the Jofuku Shop located inside the park, you can buy Tendai Uyaku Medicinal Tea, which uses Tendai Uyaku, a medicinal plant which Jofuku handed down as a “miraculous medicine for immortality”.
In regards to sightseeing around the city, Jofuku Park is a good place to start as it is less than 5 minutes on foot from the Shingu Train Station.
Address: 1-4-24 Jofuku, Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 7:00-19:00 (From September to April, opening hours are 8:30-17:30)
Address: 1-4-24 Jofuku, Shingu-shi, Wakayama (inside Jofuku Park)
Hours: 8:30-18:00 (From September to April, open 8:30-17:00 )
Bicycle rental: 500 yen per day
3 Jofuku Sushi, where you can eat raw tuna freshly caught in Katsuura and Pacific saury sushi
Jofuku Sushi – a gourmet sushi restaurant in the vicinity of Shingu Station which is worth visiting. You can also buy take out sushi and eat it on the train home.
In this trip, I had the restaurant’s specialty "Pacific Saury Sugata (whole fish) Sushi" and "Kombu Sushi", both of which are a must-eat.
They salt the Pacific saury anywhere from 10 days up to a month at a time and then marinate it in citrus vinegar. This process eliminates the fishy smell. As for the kombu sushi, the sour taste of kombu and sweet taste of kanpyo (dried gourd shavings) makes an exquisite combination!
Taisho (sushi chef) entertains you with some tasty sushi and his great smile.
A unique way to eat sushi in Kumano is to squeeze citrus juice over it. During the summer, people use orange vinegar made of small oranges.
At this sushi restaurant, the chef calls tuna “shibi”, the old Japanese word referring to “tuna”. Also, sprinkling plenty of locally produced salt and squeezing out some orange vinegar on the black marlin will harmonize the fat of the fish and bring out its umami. You can eat this sushi only in summer. In winter, you can enjoy tuna with the local citrus called “Sanzu”.
This is the menu item I want foreign tourists to try, but for those who do not care for fish, they also have “Mehari sushi”, the prefecture’s specialty rice ball wrapped with a lightly-pickled takana mustard leaf, and rolled sushi using Kumano beef. This rolled Kumano beef sushi can be tasted in two different styles: wrapped in nori (dried seaweed) or in kombu (kelp). Taisho told me that the one wrapped in kombu has a taste close to what you would call art.
The rolled Kumano beef sushi wrapped in kombu was as delicious as Taisho said it would be!
・Jofuku Sushi Shingu Station Store
Address: 2-1-9 Jofuku Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 10: 00 - 17: 00 (closed on Thursdays)
4 Are you a meat person? Then you should eat Kumano Beef at Yakiniku Hige
Recommended for those who also want to eat meat, Yakiniku Hige is where you can eat fresh Kumano beef.
This restaurant is actually the only yakiniku restaurant in Wakayama which is designated to serve Kumano beef. It is a very special yakiniku restaurant where you can even eat fresh giblets of the cattle which other restaurants cannot obtain. During lunch hours, you can enjoy the highest quality Wagyu beef at an affordable price.
The set comes with 110 grams of fresh Kumano beef rib meat at a cost of 1,500 yen. The rib meat of Kumano beef served at this restaurant is so tender that you would think you are eating tenderloin. It has a perfect amount of fat and is never too greasy. This is probably not just by virtue of it being Kumano beef but also because of how the chef prepares the meat before cooking it.
This time, I had Kumano beef special set meal for lunch.
Eating tender and juicy meat makes me happy!
The giblets I additionally ordered had a rich taste and was delicious.
Address: 4-3-19 Kamikura Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 11: 30 - 14: 00, 17: 00-22: 00 (Closed on Tuesdays)
5 Nakakoriten, a shaved ice shop using pure ice
As their shaved ice is made from ice carefully frozen using pure river water, you won't have a brain freeze even if you eat it all at once. Because it is a nationally famous shop, depending on the time of the day, you have to wait in a long line to get their shaved ice. Inside the nostalgic Showa-style shop, many different delicious flavors are waiting to be tried. Since I am in Wakayama, I picked the "Kiyomi orange" flavour, which is a kind of orange grown in the prefecture.
One of the must-eat sweets in Shingu City is the shaved ice at Nakakoriten.
“Watermelon shaped shaved ice” – a popular flavor that is as photogenic as it is tasty.
The ice with fluffy texture melts in your mouth as soon as it touches your tongue, bringing out an indescribable deliciousness.
“Unshu Orange” flavour – another popular flavor
Address: 551-12 Shingu Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 8:00 - 20:00 (open seven days a week)
6 Smack your lips over the eel at Shikaroku, which Haruo Sato also loved
If you want to indulge yourself with something a bit more luxurious, why don’t you visit Shikaroku, a restaurant specializing in eel dishes with more than 100 years of history?
Shikaroku is an eel restaurant that has been loved by notable literary minds since its opening. Haruo Sato was also a patron of the restaurant.
Although the restaurant uses the farm-raised eel from Mie, they get rid of the mud from the eel’s body in a live pond using fresh well water inside the premises of the restaurant. In fresh clean water, the eel discharges mud, and this way they can remove the muddy smell resulting in a better taste.
The eel covering the rice underneath is crispy on the surface, and tender and fluffy inside. The juicy and sweet taste of the eel in your mouth will definitely bring a smile to your face.
The Unaju (eel served over rice with sauce) I had this time is 5,000 yen.
The crispy grilled eel tastes different from the steamed one eaten in Kanto.
They generously showed me their big rice-cooking pot that has been passed down from generation to generation to always serve freshly-cooked rice to customers.
For those who are on a tight budget, they also serve Unadon (eel bowl) at 1,400 yen. Enjoy the sophisticated taste of eel which have been enjoyed by some of the area's literary greats.
Address: 2-3-5 Motokaji-cho, Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 11:00 - 15: 00, 17: 00 - 21: 00 (Closed on Mondays)
7 A short trip to Dorokyo, a place best suitable for activities
When you've satisfied your palate, why don’t you enjoy a trip to Dorokyo Gorge, located near Shingu City, for some fun activities? The gorge comes in at a length of 31 km, and you can enjoy the entirety of it in a water jet boat, going down the clear stream of the emerald green river and enjoying the beautiful scenery, including seeing some oddly-shaped rocks and Boshi-no-taki Falls on the way.
Driving a rental car is the easiest way to get to "Dorokyo Meguri-no Sato Kumanogawa River", the boarding point for the water jet boat tour, but you can also take a bus to get there.
After getting on the boat and taking a seat, your cruise will begin. The boat is an open-air boat, so you can feel the fresh air from the gorge as you go down the river. Though the boat stops at the Tado boarding point for a short break, you will definitely enjoy the 2-hour round trip cruise so much, it'll pass by as if you were dreaming.
Rental canoes are also available at the "Lifelong Learning Division" at Shingu City Hall. So, if you have a plenty of time to enjoy Dorokyo, you should consider renting one there.
There is also a cafe using the building of Doro Hotel, which is more than 100 years old. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Dorokyo over a cup of tea.
・Dorokyo Meguri-no Sato Kumanogawa River
Address: 272 Hitari Kumanogawa-cho Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (open seven days a week)
*The last departure time for the water jet boat is 14:30
・Wakayama Pref. Shingu City Lifelong Learning Division
Address: 1-1 Kasuga Shingu-shi Wakayama
Address: 405 Koushita, Totsukawa-mura, Simoichi Yoshino-gun, Nara
Hours: Open at 11: 30 until sold out
8 Must-buy souvenirs and foods
After eating and playing, you might want to do some shopping within the city. Here are some of the souvenirs I found on my trip that you should check out.
・Yatagarasu-no Tamago (mythical raven’s eggs)
I purchased Yatagarasu-no Tamago (mythical raven’s eggs) at Okashidokoro Tsukushi. Inside the powdered Kishu Bincho charcoal egg-shaped shell is the soft filling consisting of egg yolk and sweet bean paste wrapped in another layer of white sweet bean paste. The size is perfect for those on the go.
The price is 550 yen for a set of 3 pieces and 160 yen for a single piece.
Address: 4-1 Tanioji-cho, Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 9:30 - 18:30 (no fixed holiday)
・Suzuyaki (mini sponge cake) and Kumano Meisho Senbei (rice cracker)
Kobaido is one of the best sweets shops in Shingu City. Traditional sweets made with Shikoku's famous Wasanbon sugar have an established reputation among local residents, so the shop is always filled with customers. At this famous shop, I found Suzuyaki, a bell-shaped mini sponge cake (325 yen for 20 pcs), and "Kumano Meisho Senbei", or rice crackers with pictures of Kumano’s famous sights printed on the surface (430 yen for a set of 10 pc).
Address: 3-3-4 Ohashidori, Shingu-shi, Wakayama
・Dashi pack and Ume plum wine
At Tosaya, which was founded in 1930, they shave bonito flakes fresh everyday to ensure the best bonito flavor for their customers. Here, I found "Tosaya's Original Tosa Dashi" (1,000 yen for 20 bags) and "Red Plum Wine" made by Kishu Uguisuya (800 yen). I was surprised that such high quality dashi broth packs are sold at 1,000 yen for 20 bags!
Address: 1-2-8 Nakano-cho, Shingu-shi, Wakayama
Hours: 8:30 ~ 18: 30 (closed on Sundays and public holidays)
・Chopsticks and Tableware
Minoya, located in the Nakano-cho Shotengai shopping district, is a shop that stocks dishes with a large selection of Japanese-style tableware and miscellaneous kitchen gadgets with a nostalgic Showa look also available. Here, I found pretty chopsticks and a set of rice bowls. I recommend the store to those looking for souvenirs for people from other countries because here you can buy good quality vintage Japanese tableware at about 1,000 to 2,000 yen per item.
Address: 2-2-1 Nakano-cho, Shingu City, Wakayama
Hours: 10: 00 - 17: 00 (Closed on Tuesdays)
・ Kumano Bussan Kamikura Main Store
If you are looking for seafood-related souvenirs, Kumano Bussan Kamikura Main Store is the place to shop. You can purchase souvenirs that allow you to enjoy the taste of different raw fish, like dried shark and dried whole Pacific saury. Even those who aren't in the market for fish can find something for themselves here, including dried Kishu Ume plums, T-shirts with the Kumano motif, and "Kumano bancha green tea" named after the Kumano Kodo routes.
"Kumano bancha green tea", made from tea leaves cultivated carefully in the mountains of Kumano Main Shrine is priced at 630 yen.
・Kumano Bussan Kamikura Main Store
Address: 2-8-11 Kamikura, Shingu City, Wakayama 2-8-11
Hours: 9: 00-19: 00 (Closed on Wednesdays; or the following Thursday if Wednesday falls on a national holiday)
・Amanogawa (Japanese sweets)
Matsubaya is a still-yet-to-be-discovered Japanese confectionery shop in Shingu City. There is no shop sign outside the store, and the only indicator from the outside is a wooden plate hung on the window frame that reads “Amanogawa”. I think you can enjoy a unique crispy texture from this treat that looks like adzuki beans put together in a bar with agar. The shop closes when they are sold out, so if you really want to try this treat in your trip, you should go to the store in the morning!
Packed with mocha-flavored cream made with heavy cream and custard, the soft crust is coated with high quality chocolate. Take a short break with this elegant sweetness that costs only 190 yen per piece.
・Nankaido Pastry Store
Address: 3-2-1 Ohashidori, Shingu-shi, Wakayama
9 Summary of the Food and Activities in Kumano
So what did you think about the food and activities in Shingu City? To add onto the gourmet food I introduced, there is also the "Tendai Uyaku jelly" and the "Ume plum ice cream", which are both just delicious. Eat, play, and buy – it may sound like a pretty normal way of enjoying a your trip, but the quality of your time spent will be guaranteed here in Shingu!
If you get tired from riding a bike, stop by the café “Carrot” and take a break with their Tendai Uyaku jelly
At Kaki-no-ate, I had their Ume plum ice cream. It is loaded with the flesh of the Ume plum, which is produced in Kishu. It was so good, I'm counting down the days until I can have it again.