Tanabe / WakayamaRejuvenate in a Peaceful, Seaside Town: Tanabe in Wakayama Prefecture


Approximately two hours south of Osaka by train along the coast of the Kii Peninsula, Tanabe is Wakayama Prefecture’s second largest city. For well over a millennia Tanabe has been a key junction for the Kumano Kodo, an ancient pilgrimage network granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004; even now the city serves as a gateway to one of the three main Kumano shrines, the Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Tanabe’s expansive area provides a diverse geography: dramatic coastlines quickly give way to hills laden with ume (plum) and mandarin orange orchards, while further inland mountains and waterfalls tempt those interested in hiking and trekking. The city is also the birthplace of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, one of Japan’s most famous martial arts.

Enjoy a Buffet of Healthy Local Ingredients

Mikan Batake focuses on fresh, healthy, local ingredients, made by local residents.

At its own building on the Akizuno Garten premises, farmer’s restaurant Mikan Batake encourages hungry eaters to partake of their “slow food buffet.” Using vegetables grown from the restaurant’s own farm, as well as by local farmers, Tanabe mothers prepare home-cooked dishes made without any pre-packaged or frozen foods, and whip up more than 30 kinds of tasty Japanese dishes each day.

Weather permitting, sit outside to really appreciate the slow-food buffet.

The restaurant overlooks an old wooden elementary school building, which now serves as Akizuno Garten’s main office and sweets workshop. On sunny days, you can take your lunch tray outside to one of the shaded tables set up in the grassy courtyard, and enjoy the pleasant breezes streaming through the surrounding trees.

Pick Your Own Fresh Mandarin Oranges

Colorful oranges decorate Tanabe’s hillside orchards.

Close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, with its warm Kuroshio Current flowing just off the Kii Peninsula, gives Tanabe a relatively mild climate which is ideal for producing mandarin oranges. Along with ume, a kind of sour Japanese plum, mandarin oranges are one of the city’s primary agricultural products.

There’s more than meets the eye –
a farmer shares his secrets to producing sweet fruit.

Local farmers grow dozens of mandarin orange varieties. Throughout the year you’re bound to spot the distinctive bright orange dots of ripe citrus crops contrasting with the green hills. While stores and farmer’s markets in Tanabe stock the delicious fruit, Akizuno Garten offers the chance to join a local farmer and pick fresh mandarin oranges right off the trees in an orchard!

Pick your own fruit and take it back to enjoy later.

For a flat fee, the farmer will meet you at Akizuno Garten, drive you to his or her orchard, and let you pick about two kilograms of mandarin oranges before returning you back to Akizuno Garten. This is a great way to learn about the characteristics of different varieties, as well as the vast knowledge these veterans of the field have accumulated, such as utilizing the lay of the land and microclimate conditions.

Enjoy Wild Game at a French Restaurant

The intimate French restaurant occupies an old remodeled storehouse.

Restaurant Caravansarai is a popular new French restaurant in the Tanabe countryside that opened in March, 2020. After honing his skills as a chef for five years in Osaka, followed by another four in Nagano, owner Ryosuke Sarai returned to his hometown, renovated his grandfather’s old storehouse for pickling ume plums, and started cooking.

The gourmet fare includes slices of truffle with venison in wine sauce.

Sarai partnered with a local organization called Team Hinata to find a creative use for surplus wild game meat. Deer and boar that pester the crops of local Tanabe farmers are trapped and slaughtered, and rather than letting the meat go to waste, staff at Team Hinata select the best cuts and supply these to Restaurant Caravansarai, among other places.

Enjoy the warm ambience of the wood interior combined with a subtle yet stylish decor.

Sarai prepares this meat and other local ingredients into sumptuous fare, such as thin slices of venison draped in a red wine sauce. While enjoying Sarai’s artfully presented course meal, look up at the walls and you may spot the white scribbles of his grandfather’s old handwritten recipes for ume-boshi, salted pickled plums. If you’re interested, you can also speak to the hunters and butchers at Team Hinata and learn firsthand about their operations.

Stay at an Old Country Home

Serenity and sunshine are in full supply at Guesthouse Tao.

Guesthouse Tao occupies an old Japanese home in the Tanabe countryside and from the moment you step inside, you’ll be treated like family by owner/operator Megumi Okahata, who lives right next door. Okahata and her husband are plum and mandarin orange farmers, and their fields are just a stone’s throw from the guesthouse, should you be interested in picking some fruit yourself.

Okahata sharing stories and some of her farm’s sweet mandarin oranges.

Left with some unused space, Okahata decided to convert the residence into a guesthouse and even remodeled some of the key areas herself. While retaining the charm of a traditional Japanese home such as tatami mats, soft futons, and cozy kotatsu heated tables, she’s made the interior warm and bright with colorful blankets, strands of lights, and festive wallpaper.

The best of both worlds – a soft futon surrounded by cheerful decor.

With plenty of peace and quiet in this countryside spot, you’re bound to get a good night’s rest here. But before turning in, step outside and savor the fresh, clean air—weather permitting, you might gaze up at a spectacular starry night sky. Then upon waking up, look forward to Okahata’s homemade breakfast made with love and possibly a touch of her home-grown Japanese ume plum.

Learn about Aikido and Its Founder

This is an authentic set of Ueshiba’s Aikido dogi (uniform).

Tanabe is the birthplace of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Japanese martial art Aikido. Constructed amid a peaceful pine grove near the sea, the Ueshiba Morihei Memorial Museum opened in October, 2020 and with free admission, invites visitors to learn about Ueshiba’s life and the history of Aikido. Artifacts from Ueshiba such as his actual dogi (uniform) are also on display.

Try out some basic movements of Aikido with this interactive exhibit.

Fittingly, there’s even an interactive corner that introduces a few of the basic movements of Aikido, which teaches self-defense without injuring one’s attacker. Study the examples on screen and then as you imitate them, a camera records your movements for a quick self-assessment via playback afterwards.

Enjoy Tanabe’s Spectacular Scenery by Bicycle

Rent your bicycle and start off from Akizuno Garten’s old wooden schoolhouse building.

Tanabe is one of the largest cities in the Kinki region, so having transportation is a must. Relatively uncrowded roads, gorgeous countryside scenery and fresh, clean air makes cycling a perfect option. Furthermore, the casual cyclist need not fear the occasional hilly terrain and long distances, for Akizuno Garten has recently acquired new power assist electrical bicycles with long-lasting lithium-ion batteries.

Light reflecting off the shallow tide pools at Tenjinzaki Cape makes for some great photos.

Equipped with one of these new rental e-bikes, you have several routes from which to choose. Mountain courses wind up through plum and mandarin orange orchards, affording magnificent views of the ocean and the Kii Peninsula. Meanwhile, one of the recommended coastal routes brings you to Tenjinzaki Cape, where, if weather conditions such as tide level and wind permit, you can play around with reflection photography.

Access information

Getting to Tanabe, Wakayama:

Tanabe City is located in the middle southern part of Wakayama Prefecture, about two hours from Shin-Osaka Station via express train.

Article provided by: JTB Communication Design, Inc.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change. Unless stated otherwise, prices do not include tax.
*Unauthorized reproduction of material in this article is strictly prohibited.

About “Countryside Stays“

If you’re looking for a new way to experience Japan, sign up for a farm-stay experience through the Countryside Stays Japan program and participate in traditional rural-lifestyle activities in recommended countryside locations.


Search by Photo