Road Trip on Nankai Koya Line (Part 2)

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Road Trip on Nankai Koya Line (Part 2)

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We continue our two-day journey along the Nankai Koya Line. At the end of the first day, we spend the night at Nantenen. The next morning, after a refreshing bath in the hotel’s natural hot spring, we enjoy a hearty breakfast of grilled fish and fried eggs. We then go to Amami Station and catch the 9.40am train. The train goes through the Kimi Tunnel before crossing into Wakayama Prefecture and arriving at Kimitoge Station, which is surrounded by mountains.

We drop by a cafe near the station to ask for well-known spots in the area. We are told about a hermitage called Yosoan. It is named after Yoso, the senior disciple of the locally famous Zen monk Ikkyu. Yoso is credited with spreading Zen teachings in the Muromachi period to nobles and the common folk. It is believed that after moving from Kyoto to Sakai, he had settled in this area for a while. This hermitage has been preserved with great care, thanks to the efforts of the locals.

After visiting the hermitage, we take the 10.45am train to Hashimoto Station. Hashimoto is known for its persimmons so we drop by a sweets store in front of the station. It sells items like persimmon skewers, which are made from dried persimmons. The shop’s proprietor suggests we go to Kamuro Station and visit the facility where the persimmons come from. So we take his advice and travel two stops ahead to Kamuro.

We walk for 15 minutes to the huge Marugaku Fruit-Sorting Centre. Farmers would bring their persimmons here and they are sorted before being delivered to markets all around the country. Wakayama is one of the top areas in Japan for growing persimmons, with most of them being cultivated in the north of the prefecture. In the fall, large quantities of persimmons are brought in to the Marugaku facility every day. They are sorted by size, type and quality. On a busy day, 100 tonnes of persimmons are sorted by a group of around 70 women. We get to taste a type of persimmon called Tonewase at the centre.  

Next, we board the 1.10pm train at Kamuro Station and go to Kudoyama. The first thing we notice here is the Rokumonsen, the emblem of the Sanada clan. The father and son of Sanada were defeated in the Battle of Sekigahara. They were placed under house arrest in Koyasan. However, they could not endure the cold so they were moved to Kudoyama for 14 years. We have an hour till our next train leaves at 2.10pm. We ask a passerby to suggest a place for lunch and he tells us about Kuwaraku, known for its sushi with persimmon leaves. The eatery opened about 17 years ago and is run by a husband-and-wife team. We get to try some shiitake mushroom and mackerel sushi, both of which are wrapped with persimmon leaves.

We head back to Kudoyama Station and take the train to Gokurakubashi. Then, we ride a cable car to our final stop of this trip, the World Heritage Site of Koyasan. We enjoy the breathtaking view as the cable car climbs up a steep incline to Koyasan Station. A local recommends we first visit the Kongobuji Temple, the main temple of Mount Koya. To get there, we have to take a bus from Koyasan Station. Koyasan, founded by Kobo Daishi, is a mountain of temple grounds. There are 117 temples and about 3,000 people live here. Training monks used to stay at Kongobuji. We visit the kitchen and dining hall used by the monks. During busy periods, up to 2,000 monks would eat here and take a break from their strict training regimen.

After visiting Kongobuji, we ask a local to suggest another spot. He recommends a cafe called Fuzen, which sells unusual things such as sasamaki, a vegetarian item for monks who don’t eat meat or fish. It features sweet bean paste wrapped in wheat starch. So we end our two-day journey along the Nankai Koya Line by trying this unique sweet which is only found at Koyasan. 

1) Persimmons are one of the specialities of Wakayama Prefecture
2) Try the unique sasamaki sweet at the Fuzen cafe at Koyasan