What Could Be More Perfect Than A Day At The Beach Together In Shirahama?

Beaches, bus passes, and bidding on choice tuna cuts. These are the beats of a new romance set in Shirahama, starring some sweethearts searching for sun. This tiny town at the southern tip of Wakayama prefecture hits all the high notes when it comes to a relaxing day date and the opportunity to explore off the beaten path together. From the best beaches in Kansai to one of the most beautiful, natural onsen in the country (big claims, but justified) , Shirahama is worth the two hour trip to reach it. Plus, with Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Kyoto being hot and humid in summer, Shirahama provides a great place to escape to and cool off for those dating in Japan and searching for fun with a potential true love.

Good for:

  • Late spring and summer day trips
  • Outdoor explorers
  • Onsen enthusiasts

Quick points:

  • Day long date
  • 2 hours by train from Osaka
  • Lunch recommendations
  • Wear sunscreen

How to get there

For those not flying or driving, the limited express train, Super Kuroshio, takes a little over two hours to get to JR Shirahama station from Osaka. Navigating the labyrinth of Osaka’s JR station is perhaps the most difficult part of the journey. The mysterious Platform 21, from which express trains depart, can only be accessed via a series of up, over, and underground passages. Too complex to describe in detail here, lost lovers should look for sign boards at the station or check with staff on arrival.

Retro Level: 80s

Shirahama JR Station Easy From Osaka

Shirahama was the Hawaii of the boom era. The place where families would pack up and party over summer. Expensive hotels cling to the seashore, the local airport still services a route to Tokyo a few times a week, and five of Japan’s thirteen pandas grace the safari theme park, Adventure World. However, the economic bubble burst in the 90s and Shirahama’s popularity went into decline. Foreign visitors today are now more familiar with Tanabe next door, gateway to the World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Shirahama however maintains excellent tourist infrastructure including frequent buses, taxis, and English sightseeing maps. In addition, the town retains the charm of an earlier era. Lovers can slip back to a simpler time while pursuing the lunch options at a shokudo by the station. Upstairs they can lounge on tatami mats while sipping on beer and slurping noodles all at pre-inflation prices.

Itani souvenir shop and eatery

Itani souvenir shop and eatery (いたに土産物店) across from the station serves up some humble but filling food for those peckish after a long journey.

Shirahama has a one-day bus pass in scratch-it form

Similar to other tourist centres, Shirahama has a one-day bus pass (in scratch-it form) which at time of writing cost 1100 yen and hits all the main attractions from Adventure World to Tore Tore Ichiba.

Destination: Tore Tore Ichiba

Tore Tore Ichiba provides shopping and food

A five minute bus ride from the station, Tore Tore Ichiba provides shopping, food and even a place to bathe for those in need.

Not just a place to enjoy freshly caught fish but a wholesaler of other tasty tidbits from Wakayama and surrounding regions, Tore Tore Ichiba sells everything edible. Fruits and their juices, a stunning array of seaweed, and, of course, future sashimi still swimming in the tank and yet to be served. A fun stop for foodies, the repetitive theme song and factory floor fluorescent lighting does not create the most romantic ambience. However, the gift shop also contains items of the soft, cute and fluffy variety for those wanting to impress their dates with a present.
fluffy octopus tentacle pillows on sale at Tore Tore Ichiba

Soft, cute, fluffy octopus tentacle pillows on sale at Tore Tore Ichiba.

Natural harvest of Wakayama and surrounding regions available to taste

The natural harvest of Wakayama and surrounding regions available to taste, try and bring home as souvenirs.

Fresh fish can be sliced into sashimi for instant consumption

Fresh fish can be sliced into sashimi for instant consumption and enjoyment (for free!)

A staff member carefully slices up prime pieces of tuna

A staff member carefully slices up prime pieces of tuna.

In peak season, a bell rings to herald the start of tuna bidding. Frenetic and fast-paced, the discerning and lucky aspirants can take home fins, tails, whole heads and other more usual parts of the fish for a bargain. Couples can build camaraderie while competing for the tastiest offerings, celebrating the win with some soy sauce and wasabi soon after. However, be aware that the tuna carving show is only performed during peak season. Weekends and holidays are a safe bet.

Seaweed varieties less readily available in supermarkets

Seaweed varieties less readily available in supermarkets available for a free sample.

fresh sushi is available at any time

For those with a less adventurous palate, fresh sushi is available at any time.

Destination: Shirahama Beach And Onsen

What makes Shirahama so popular for vacationers, is its double natural bounty of seawater and hot water.

The shore gleams. The white sand is imported annually from the Gold Coast, Australia. These beautiful sandy stretches have been a popular destination in Japan for so long that, for many, Wakayama prefecture is synonymous with a beach holiday. Couples looking to avoid the crowds should visit before Ocean Day, on July 15th, and August’s Obon. At these times, sun umbrellas obscure every grain of sand and giant inflatable unicorns cruise the waves. A weekday might mean some shops and attractions are closed, but more of the beach is available for a romantic stroll.

Stunning empty white sandy beach in Shirahama

On a recent June morning, the beach was empty but for a collection of sporting nations assembled to play Ultimate Frisbee Shirahama.

Shirahama plenty of beautiful empty beach to enjoy

However, there was still plenty of empty beach to enjoy.

In one special Shirahama spot, the sea and the hot springs combine.

Saki no Yu’s history spans hundreds of years, as Emperors in the past along with their retinue once travelled down the coast just to soak in it. Nowadays, the onsen feels a little unknown and tucked away, as many visitors prefer to bathe in their hotel.

But they are missing out.

On blustery days, the waves wash into Saki no Yu’s bottom pool, its edges crusted with seaweed and the occasional sea creature. Walls protect those within from indecent exposure and the recent addition of a wooden slatted roof keeps bathers from getting burnt. A hinoki wood bath sits above, giving bathers an uninterrupted view of the blue sea.

A clear view to the horizon from the uppermost bath at Saki no Yu

A clear view to the horizon from the uppermost bath at Saki no Yu.

Hot thermal water bubbles up into the river at Kawayu onsen

Wakayama boasts other such nature-based springs, where bathers are completely immersed in the environment. For instance, hot thermal water bubbles up into the river at Kawayu onsen. Equally stunning views as Saki no Yu but more difficult to access without a car.

From its sun-kissed beaches to its nostalgic charm, Shirahama offers a perfect blend of relaxation, culinary adventure, and 80s retro for couples seeking a memorable day date that will help build a great relationship. Whether you’re exploring the town, bidding on fresh tuna, or soaking in an onsen with a sea view, Shirahama is a destination that promises romance. So pack your sunscreen, grab a bus pass, and let Shirahama sweep you and your soulmate off your feet.

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