[Japan, Osaka, Wakayama] Must-See Guide for Repeaters! Use the Nankai Electric Railway to Visit Deep into Kansai to Have Exciting Experiences & See Interesting World Heritage Sites

While we’re sure everyone has had a period in their life where they loved to go on shopping sprees abroad, there might also some times when you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a relaxing trip, learn more about your surroundings and go home feeling fulfilled.

One of the best choices for times like that is revisiting a location you’ve been to before and discovering some new spots you didn’t find the previous time, and in this article, we’re going to be revisiting Osaka!

Throughout this article, we will be making use of the Nankai Electric Railway which connects Osaka, Wakayama, and Mount Kōya, to go on a deep and involved railroad journey.

Let’s set off on our journey to Sakai, Osaka, and head for our first stop, the World Heritage Site Mount Kōya!

※How about checking out this video which was shot on-site allowing you to feel like you’re really there while reading this article?

The First Keyword to Remember When Sightseeing in Sakai is “Chasei” or “Tea Saint” - Sen No Rikyu

The saying goes “You should not talk about Sakai, without first being served tea”

Sakai is one of the central cities of Osaka which sits adjacent to Osaka City and can be reached a short 10-minute and single station train ride away from Namba Station.

If we’re going to be talking about Sakai, then we have to start with the story of tea ceremonies. As for why, it’s because Sen No Rikyu, a descendant of the Senke tea ceremony houses, regarded as the “Tea Saint”, or “Chasei” in Japanese, was born here! The tea master is also known through famous war generals such as Oda Nobunaga or Toyotomi Hideyoshi working as masters of the tea ceremony. We're sure if you’re big on history these are some names you’ve heard of at least once.

Feeling that we needed to increase our knowledge of tea ceremonies, the first place we headed to was the Sakai Risho no Mori (Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko). It’s around 10 minutes south from Sakai Station. If you walk along Phoenix Boulevard, you’ll soon see the large building with a glass exterior. Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko was opened with the intention of providing a location and base for all things history and culture within Sakai and has various exhibitions including both permanent and special limited time containing the works and history of artisans and authors who were born within Sakai, think Sen No Rikyuu and Yosano Akiko.

Sakai Risho no Mori (Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko)

  • Address:2-chōme-1-1 Shukuinchō-nishi, Sakai Ward, Sakai, Osaka

  • Open Hours:09:00~18:00(Final Entry 17:30)
  • Holidays:Every 3rd Tuesday(the following day if public holiday), New Year’s Period
  • Access:10-minute walk from Sakai Station

If you’ve gained even a small interest in tea ceremonies, trying out making and pouring your very own tea can be an extremely interesting experience! This Chashitsu Tearoom Tea-making Experience aimed at groups of people is great for beginners and extremely easy to follow. You’ll receive the instructions of a Senke tea master such as how to bow, how to eat and drink with proper manners, as well as how to appreciate tea utensils and even how to leave and enter the room.

It's a fully fleshed out experience from start to finish. You’ll also be given some sweets to try from a local sweet shop within Sakai, with the tea bowls also being made using “Minato ware”, a style of earthenware originating within Sakai. This activity is the shortcut to learning all you need to know to get you started on your tea ceremony journey.

Within the activity, you’ll be presented with some beautiful and delicious seasonal treats alongside kind hospitality. The one we received when we visited was a “Camellia Flower” made from white bean jam and strained bean paste.

It’s great watching the experienced master use the bamboo tea whisk to perform the tea ceremony up close and personal.

From the tearoom, you’re able to look out onto the ruins of Sen No Rikyu House. As the name suggests, it’s the ruins of the house site of Sen No Rikyu, which has the water well that was said to have been used to collect water for tea during those days.

Chashitsu Tearoom Tea-making Experience 

  • Time Slots:10:00~、11:30~、13:00~、14:30~、16:00~

  • Fee:¥1,020/Person(for groups of 5)
    ※Price may vary depending on size of group.
    ※If you’re visiting with less than 4 people, please use the individual tea ceremony experience instead.
    ※The individual experience can be reserved every 3rd Sunday of each month.
    ※You are required to make reservations at least 1 month in advance to visitation.

When it comes to Sakai’s food culture, you have to touch on their knives. It’s one of Japan’s 3 largest production locations for knives, and there’s even the Sakai Hamono Knife Museum which can be found on the 2nd floor of the Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum. There’s also Wada Shōten which has both a shop and a workshop closeby for you to explore. You can check out how knives are made in the workshop, and even engrave your name on a knife you purchase, plus mor spots that offer knife-making and polishing sessions. Try a knife from Sakai just once and you’ll understand why they’re so popular!

The Second Keyword to Remember when Visiting Sakai is the Name of the World Heritage Site “Kofun”

When talking about Sakai, one of the more recent memories people might have is when the Mozu Tombs were registered as a World Heritage Site in 2019.

Counted among the top 3 largest tombs in the world, the Mozu Tombs house the Mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku and were built from the middle of the 4th century before finishing in the latter half of the 5th century, with 44 of the total 100 mausoleums of the kings of various Japanese islands being housed here in Sakai’s north sector.

While you’re not able to go into Kofun (megalithic tomb in Japanese), you can still visit the Mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku, and walk around the neighboring Daisen Park, with many sights to see from outside of the institution.

The area that will open the curtain to our journey around Kofun is Daisen Park which is surrounded by 380,000㎡ of trees and plants, it’s a great spot to not only learn about the zone’s history but to enjoy the surrounding nature as well. In spring you’re able to see cherry blossom trees and in fall the bright orange colors. This serene space with fresh air almost makes you forget that you’re slap bang in the center of the city.

Exploring the entire park in 1 fell swoop would be pretty difficult, so when you’re a little tired, take a break at the nearby Japanese garden. It boasts a total size of 26,000㎡, and is created as a stroll garden with a central pond, when visiting the park, don’t forget to give the serving tea menu a try. You’re able to enjoy lovely and refreshing Matcha green tea which changes depending on the month alongside some seasonal dango while looking at the pond, rocks, and other surrounding plants, it’s sure to allow any traveler to rest not only their body but their soul as well.

There’s a set of matcha tea and higashi (dried candies) (¥300) as well as a matcha and omogashi (Japanese sweet eaten with koicha) set (¥450) to choose from.

Daisen Park Japanese Garden

  • Address:17 Daisen Nakamachi, Sakai Ward, Sakai, Osaka (within Daisen Park)

  • Business Hours:
    Mar~Nov 09:00〜17:00(Last Entry 16:30)
    Dec~Feb 09:30〜16:30(Last Entry 16:00)
    ※Currently, to help in the prevention of spread of COVID-19, the last order timing is 15:30.
  • Holidays:Mondays(in the event that Monday is a public holiday, the following weekday will be closed), the New Year’s period
  • Access:15-minute walk from JR Mozu Station

Close to the entrance of the park you’ll find Kofun-mae café IROHA which underwent a enewal and re-opening in March 2021, it’s becoming one of hottest spots in the surrounding area. The cafe / restaurant menu is filled with delicious items, but we especially recommend the volume-filled Kofun Burger. It opens at 9:00 meaning it’s a great spot to visit after a lovely morning walk through the park.

Nichinichi Kore Kōnichi / ¥1,800

A bento box that sold in limited quantities of just 20 per day. Pickled items, seasonal side dishes, tempura, and more can be found in these amazing packs. 

While you may think the icon looks like a keyhole, it’s actually the mark of Kofun! All of the staff wear T-shirts with Kofun’s mark printed on it.

Kofun-mae café IROHA

  • Address:2-chōme-204 Mozusekiunchō, Sakai Ward, Sakai, Osaka

  • Business Hours:09:00〜18:00
  • Holidays:Mondays(Tuesdays if Monday is a public holiday)

Similar to Kofun-mae café IROHA, the Mozu Mounded Tombs Visitor Center opened its doors in Spring of 2021, and allows visitors to see a projection map of the location for free in 8k quality! Saying the pictures astounding would be an understatement!

Pass Through the Instagram-Worthy Station and Make Your Way to The Holy Land

Let’s take a trip for around 1 ½ hours from Namba Station. Once we reach the final station on the Nankai-Koya Line, we reach Gokurakubashi Station. From here, we have to switch to the Koyasan Cable Car, to reach another World Heritage Site, Mount Kōya… is what we would say, but you simply have to stay a while and experience everything Gokurakubashi Station has to offer!

If you’re wondering why, take a look at this picture, there are so many things to take pictures of to show off to your friends and family! In July 2020, with the concept of “the Gate to Holy Land, Gokurakubashi” designs were created with “Earthly Life” as the concept of the train concourse, and the “Holy Land” as the concept of the cable car concourse, or, as we like to call the whole thing, “The Holy Land of Instagram Photo Spots”.

Find over 50 types of decorative ceiling paintings depicting bird of paradise and Mount Kōya plants as well as Chōzuya (place for ritual cleansing of hands and mouth with water when visiting shrines) and some “paper feathers” which have been created in the image of the wings of a bird of paradise, there’s so many spots that are garnering a lot of attention. 

Don’t lose track of time taking pictures of all of these amazing things, or you might miss your cable car!

Feather Wish / ¥100

There are 3 colors available to choose from, red (representing Resolution), white (representing the Release of the Heart), and orange (representing Love), on which you can write your wish before hanging it up. All of these feathers and wishes are collected every year during March for the Kōya Fire Festival.

※Orange color is only sold during “Gokuraku Day” on the 5th and 9th day every month.

Stay at a Temple and Visit Uesugi Kenshin & Oda Nobunaga

If you’re looking for the best shot, it’s time to take a 5-minute ride to the sky on the mountain cable car that’s directly connected to Kōyasan Station. At an elevation of 328m, it’s almost the same height as Tokyo Tower.

Next let’s head back 1,200 years to check out some of Mt. Kōya’s history. The Shingon sect of Buddhism was opened by Kukai (posthumously named Koubou Daishi), with Koubou Daishi said to be living on within the Okuonin Temple (inner shrine) till modern days, causing many people from around the world visit to wish for peace and happiness, it’s a place deeply rooted in religious belief.

Even if you haven’t visited Mount Kōya before, you may have heard the name of someone who has strong ties with the mountain. The graves of some of the most well known Japanese people in the world lay at rest here, namely Uesugi Kenshin, Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Date Masamune.

Within the total 117 temples found on Mt. Kōya, you’re able to stay in 51 in the visitor's or pilgrims' lodgings, there are various characteristics unique to each including vegetarian cuisine originally derived from the dietary restrictions of Buddhist monks, guest rooms, bathing facilities, and gardens. Even people not within the Buddhist Religion are allowed to stay here, allowing for an experience different to that of your normal lodgings. Tonight night we decided to stay at Muryoko-in. It’s so exciting!

All the meals served here use absolutely no fish or meat, just vegetables. It’s sure to not only be delicious, but also be great for your digestive system.

At nighttime, the monks give a guided night tour of Okuno-in. The tour lasts for 1 hour and takes you to see the graves of the famous warriors buried here such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi and Tokugawa clans. It was a thrilling experience that really taught us about Japan’s history and culture. (English support available)

Spending a relaxing morning sleeping in is just another bonus of a day off, but since we’re on a trip, it’d be a waste to sleep until noon! So we decided to join the 6:00 preparations. We were able to see the Homa (ritual) up close and personal, it made waking up that early very worth it!


  • Address:611 Kōyasan, Koya, Ito District, Wakayama

Great Value Tickets to Travel To & Around Mount Kōya

To make the most out of your trip to Mount Kōya, a must-need item is the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket! 

It’s a round-trip ticket from your boarding station to Mount Kōya (¥640 from Namba Station), as well as an added bonus of a 2-day free ride pass for mountain buses and discounts for Buddhist facilities. It even lets you get to and enter Kongobu-ji Temple, Konpon Chudo, and more locations we weren’t able to fully introduce in this article!

Koyasan World Heritage Ticket