Whales and dolphins in Wakayama
travelling with children is not difficult
just make sure you cater to their interests too
In this article:
- go watch and learn about whale and dolphins in a semi-natural setting
- discover a coastline filled with cliffs, blue bays, fishing ports and views
- where to park for the night in southern Wakayama
- how you easily include this adventure in your own camper trip
Actually I do not like it..
Talking about ‘kids and how to keep them entertained.’ About ‘hardships of travelling with children.’ Because we do not feel it is hard. At least not that hard. Not harder than travelling with any other people. When you are with several people, you have to keep all of you happy. With kids it is the same. So you regularly go to places you may not have visited otherwise. And 9 out of 10 times it is fun and interesting for adults too. Like “The Whale museum and Taishi whale beach park” in Taishi, southern Wakayama.
Japan and whaling: the controversy
Japan is famous for many great things. And for some not so great things. Whaling is one of them. Possibly the most unpopular even. In short: most whales-types are endangered, all humans should take care of these animals. No hunting.
But looking from the perspective of countries that traditionally hunt whales, it gets a little difficult. Especially for those living in the actual communities that (used to) depend on whaling for their existence. What to do?
There is only 1 good way to hunt whales
For me it is simple. Humans can hunt whales, and all other animals. But only with their cameras. And we should follow some other rules too. Like not getting too close to minimise disturbing the animals. And maybe leave them well alone when they have young. We do not have to kill whales anymore because there isn’t anything that we need from them. In history, yes. But these days we have alternatives. Or we can develop them. And we should help the communities who still depend on whaling for a living, if any. For example by developing eco tourism as their new source of revenue.
So we enjoyed the museum in Taishi, about the whales and dolphins in Wakayama. There is enough to learn, also for non-Japanese speakers, and the shows are staged beautifully outside, in a closed part of the bay.
Whales and dolphins in Wakayama: museum and shows
There are several shows a day. Dolphin shows and shows with whales. These shows will not be the most spectacular you have ever seen but even so they are great. The speed of these large mammals and how high they can jump, in such an easy way, is always amazing. I enjoyed the whale performance better, simply because I don’t recall having ever seen trained whales. The show times are well signposted at the entrance and at the stages, you can’t miss them. At the end is a link to the museum website, in Japanese, but still useful for general information. Especially with Google Translate.
The museum has one main building with several floors. Huge (replicas) of skeletons hang overhead, to give you an idea of the actually size of these animals. Outside is another small building which displays several hunting methods, including old and not so old harpoons. It is rather limited, in the sense that you do not learn so much about whaling and the importance of it for Japanese culture. Which is a pity. I almost think that this museum is not an actual big fan of hunting!
A stunning ride along the coast
Most roads in Japan give you the feeling that they were only build yesterday. Smooth tarmac, fresh paint. It makes for easy driving. Following the coastal route in Wakayama keeps the driver a little busy though. Winding left to right and up and down. Great views across the ocean, high from cliffs and from below, when the road hugs small bays with blue-green water. Fishing ports and rock formations. Beaches and beach parks. And let’s not forget the many side roads into the hills, would get enough of the never ending ocean.
Practicalities: where to sleep
Where you sleep depends on what else you want to do on the day you visit. You could park near the entrance, there is a public toilet building too. It is green and quiet and there is a short hiking trail over the cliffs and around the small bay where the shows are held. Advantage is that you can enter early and catch the first shows. Before the crowds, would there be any.
We did not do that. We parked at a view point more to the south, close to the actual most southern point of the whole peninsular. It had a nice grassy field and some shaded benches for outside cooking and dinner. High on a cliffside with superb views at sunset and sunrise. And a clean public toilet of course. It is in Kushimoto only 30 minutes away. You can find all details in the Ride Summary at the end.
For shopping and such, the road along the coast has numerous villages big and small. Mostly small. Supermarkets you will see every now and then but convenience stores there are plenty. You can buy fresh fish and seafood for your barbecue in the harbours of most towns. Note these shops open mostly in the morning, so a seafood lunch is a better idea than keeping your little fridge filled with fish until dinner..
Hot springs to wash and bath are also readily available, the closest one to the whales and dolphins is just a few kilometers to the east. Your map and GPS will show you others too.
Combine your trip
Tip: use the Go Camper Japan!-map on this page for an overview of all destinations in Japan that we have explored and documented. The ones in this area are on it too.
Now you are in the Southern tip of the Wakayama peninsular, or Kii Peninsular as it is actually called. You have many great places to visit on the way to and from here. Actually, the southern Kansai might well be one of my favourite spots in all of Japan.
- To the north in the heart of the you will find Mount Koya, or Koyasan. Ancient temples and the most sought-after cemetary of the country. A must visit high in the mountains.
- Also north, but a lot closer and easily within a days reach, are the many hot springs of Hongu. Like Kawayu, hot-spring-inside-a-river. And Yunomine town. Another must I am afraid..
- East is coastal scenery all the way to Ise and the most important Shinto shrine in Japan. Can I say must again?
- West is more coastal scenery. Wild cliffs and some good beaches around Shirahama. With hot springs on them.
And there is lots more. Like the ancient pilgrim trails of Kumano. And the Nachi falls, the highest falls of Japan. And a hot spring know for its beautifying waters.
One day we will find time to write about all of them!
Create your unique trip. Go Camper Japan!
All about The Whale museum and Taishi whale beach park (in Japanese only)
About whaling in Japan, by Wikipedia
About Wakayama prefecture, in English
A top 10 in Wakayama by CNN