Kushimoto (串本町 Kushimoto-chō) is a small coastal town in Wakayama prefecture, located in the Kansai region of Japan. It is a useful base for exploring and/or enjoying the activities of the prefecture's extreme south. In relation, the town sits on the southernmost point of Japan's main island of Honshu, which serves as tourist attraction itself.
The town is served by Kushimoto Station (串本駅 Kushimoto Eki).
From Kyoto, Osaka, and Wakayama City, the quickest way to reach Kushimoto is via limited express train, either on the Kuroshio (くろしお), Super Kuroshio (スーパーくろしお), or Ocean Arrow (オーシャンアロー) services. Cheaper but slower train service is also available and will require one or more transfers. Both express and local services go via the JR Hanwa Line (阪和線), directly connecting to the JR Kinokuni Line (きのくに線), which is also sometimes labeled as the JR Kisei Line (紀勢線). Total fare from Wakayama City via limited express and local is 4170 JPY (about 2h10m) and 2520 JPY respectively (about 3h40m).
Insider's Tip: on Kushimoto bound trains, ask for a seat on the right side (右側 migi-gawa) of the train to ensure unobstructed views of the coast. Moreover, a viewing car open to all passengers is available on all Ocean Arrow trains.
From Nagoya, the best way to reach Kushimoto via train is through the limited express Nanki (南紀) leading to Kii-Katsuura Station (紀伊勝浦駅), then transferring to a local train bound for Kushimoto and/or Kii-Tanabe Station (紀伊田辺駅). Local train travel from Nagoya is available but not recommended. Total fare from Nagoya via limited express is 9470 JPY (about 4h30m).
Train services run roughly once per hour from the big cities. Further, since all lines are run by JR, Japan Rail Pass holders are covered when riding any of the lines mentioned above.
Driving is a viable (and highly recommended) option, and it will be very useful to have a car when exploring the area. From Wakayama City onward, take the tolled Hanwa Expressway (阪和自動車道) southbound for Shirahama (白浜). Exit at Nanki-Tanabe Interchange (南紀田辺IC), which is currently the last exit, and get on Route 42 bound for Shingu (新宮) following it all the way to Kushimoto. Driving time from the exit is about 2 1/2 hours.
From Nagoya, follow the Higashi Meihan (東名阪自動車道) and Ise Expressways (伊勢自動車道) to get to the Kisei Expressway (紀勢自動車道). Exit at Omiya-Odai Interchange (大宮大台IC), which is currently the last exit, and get on Route 42 bound for Shingu (新宮) following it all the way to Kushimoto. Driving time from the exit is about 6 hours.
Once off the expressway, the route has many winds and turns and follows the coast very closely, and at some points it's quite a steep drop to the ocean, so use extreme caution when driving especially in bad weather. During the summer months, the expressways and Route 42 are heavily traveled by beach-goers coming from the Osaka area, particularly on weekends and holidays. Be advised that this causes lengthy delays, as the roads are not meant for heavy traffic.
The nearest airport is Nanki-Shirahama Airport in the town of Shirahama (白浜) about 2 hours away. There are daily flights to/from Tokyo-Haneda Airport, but international routes are not served. Take a bus to Shirahama Station (白浜駅) take one of the limited express trains mentioned above to get into town.
The nearest international airport is Kansai International Airport. Take a train or limousine bus to Wakayama Station (和歌山駅) and transfer onto one of the limited express trains mentioned above to get into town.
Anything in Central Kushimoto is easily accessible by foot, however the more interesting attractions outside town will not.
- Toyota Rent-a-Car (トヨタレンタカー)  has a branch just a couple minutes walk from the station located near the Okuwa Shopping Center. Reservations are recommended as their selection is limited.
- Kumano Transport (熊野交通 Kumano Kōtsū)  runs local bus services and has a main stop at Kushimoto Station.
- Taxis are plentiful at Kushimoto Station
Local road conditions in town vary widely; steep, narrow, windy, unpaved, or all of the above combined are common traits. Car-navigation is highly recommended, if not necessary. Major roads are:
- Route 38 - main road for Koza, follows the Koza River. Starts off of Route 42 and eventually connects to Route 371.
- Route 40 - branches off of Route 41, crosses the Kushimoto Big Bridge, eventually ending at the Turkish Memorial Museum and Kashino Lighthouse.
- Route 41 - starts/stops on Route 42, loops around Cape Shiono-Misaki.
- Route 42 - main business thoroughfare and the primary route for getting in and out of town. Stay on this and you won't get lost.
- Route 227 - parallels Route 38 opposite the Koza River
- Route 371 - mountain road for getting to the Koza River, Shichi-kawa Dam, and eventually to Tanabe City.
Though the local Kushimoto dialect (串本弁 Kushimoto-ben) shares many traits with the bigger, regional Kansai dialect (関西弁 Kansai-ben), it naturally has its own unique peculiarities. Locals claim that their dialect remains very close to the language spoken in Nara- and Heian-period Japan. If you have a decent command of Japanese, you might consider using some of the following phrases to score some laughs, brownie points, or maybe even a free beer with the locals:
- あがら (標準:わたしたち) we
- あたんする (標準:八つ当たりする) get angry suddenly
- いくで (標準:いくよ) I'm going... (で can be used with most verbs you would use よ with)
- かいだるい (標準:疲れた) tiring, tired
- がい (標準:ですよ) You know...!
- がいに (標準:強く) strongly
- くらんし (標準:ください) Please...
- まいせー (標準:やめておけ) Don't do that!
Other standard Kansai phrases should also get some smiles out of people.
- Hashigui Beach
- Hashigui-Iwa Rock Formations (橋杭岩 Hashigui Iwa) - legendary set of rock formations that stretch out sea for about 850 meters, and is pretty much ingrained into the town's identity to both locals and visitors. On Route 42 toward Koza / 20 minute walk from Kushimoto Station / Free parking.
- Japan-US Friendship Hall (日米修交記念館 Nichibei Shūkō Kinenkan) - Museum that commemorates the first actual arrival of an American ship in Japan- the USS Lady Washington in 1791- taking place decades before Commander Perry's more famed 19th century landing. Also houses a small collection of memorabilia of the town's American Sister City (Hemet, California). Exhibits have English-language recordings and materials. Admission 250 JPY / Student discounts available. Open 9:00-16:00 all year long. Off of Route 40 on Oshima Island / Free parking.
- Kashino Lighthouse (樫野埼灯台 Kashino Tōdai) - Japan's oldest stone lighthouse and is still in use. Also known for being the home of an Englishman who tended to the area, planting daffodils that continue to bloom to this day. Free admission. Hours of operation vary. Off of Route 40 on Oshima Island / Accessible via Kumano Bus (37 mins) / Free parking.
- Koza (古座町 Koza-chō) - now officially part of the town of Kushimoto, this town was independent until 2005 and continues to maintain its own identity. The scenery along the waterway that bisects the town, the Koza River, is quite picturesque. On Route 42 toward Shingu
- Kuroshima and Taijima
- Kushimoto Big Bridge Park (串本大橋公園 Kushimoto Ōhashi Kōen) - Small park with a wooden overlook structure allowing for views of Kushimoto Harbor and the channel between Cape Shiono-Misaki and Oshima. On Route 40 just after crossing the bridge / Free parking.
- Kushimoto Marine Park (串本海中公園 Kushimoto Kaichū Kōen)  - see the local sea life through its underwater exhibit built underwater and through a glass bottomed boat ride. Admission 2400 JPY / Student discounts available. Open 9AM-4:30PM all year long. On Route 42 toward Tanabe / Accessible via Kumano Bus / Free parking.
- Mt. Kasane (重畳山 Kasane-san) - one of the highest peaks in the area. The park at the summit has a playground and has a breathtaking overlook of Kushimoto Harbor, the Kushimoto Big Bridge, Oshima Island and more. A popular destination for day-hikers and BBQ parties. Road entrance to summit located off Route 38 in Koza / Free parking.
- Okyoro Art Museum (串本応挙芦雪館 Kushimoto Ōkyoro Setsukan) - housed within the Muryou-Ji (無量寺) Buddhist temple, this art museum prides itself as being Japan's smallest. Houses a fine collection of "India-ink" paintings. Admission 1000 JPY / Student discounts and Groups of 30+ discounts available. Open 9:30AM-4:30PM all year long. Off of Route 42 / 10 minute walk from Kushimoto Station / Free parking.
- Oshima Port (大島港 Ōshima-kō) - the site of the annual Boat Race Festival is not much to look at itself, but it offers an amazing view of Kushimoto Harbor and the rest of the mainland, and the mountains that background everything else. Be advised that the road to get here is semi-treacherous. Off of Route 40 / Free parking.
- Shiono-Misaki Southernmost Point Park (本州最南端の地 Honshū Sainan Hashi no Chi) - grassy area that denotes the southernmost point of Honshu and serves as the festival grounds for the annual Fire Festival. Nearby watchtower offers views of the area. Watchtower Admission 300 JPY / Student discounts available. Open 8:30AM-4:30PM all year long. On Route 41 / Accessible via Kumano Bus (17 mins) / Free parking.
- Shiono-Misaki Lighthouse (潮岬灯台 Shiono Misaki Tōdai) - Built in 1873 and at 19.55 meters, this Meiji-era lighthouse served as an important marker for ships entering Osaka Bay. Admission 150 JPY / Student discounts available. Open 9:00-16:00 all year long. On Route 41 / Accessible via Kumano Bus (17 mins) / Parking 300 JPY.
- Shichi-kawa Dam (七川ダム Shichi-kawa Damu) - Recreational area popular during the cherry blossom viewing season with spectacular views. 40 minute drive from Central Koza on Route 38 / Free parking.
- Turkish Memorial and Museum
- Umikongo Rock Formations (海金剛 Umikongō) - Rock formations taking on strangely recognizable shapes, such as pyramids and lion masks. Declared in 1983 by Asahi Shimbun Newspaper as one of Japan's 100 Most Important Natural Treasures for the 21st Century. Off of Route 40 / Accessible via Kumano Bus (35 mins) / Free parking.
The Kushimoto Coral Communities, designated as a protected wetlands by the 2005 Ramsar Convention, encompasses 574 hectares (3.4 sq. mi) and is home to numerous species of coral and waterfowl. Numerous dive shops along Route 42 offer dive tours and rentals.
- Akashachi (赤鯱) 
- Ai Shop 
- Aqua Meister Kushimoto (アクアマイスター串本) 
- Boat Diving S.E.B 
- Club Do Diving Center (クラブドゥダイビングセンター) 
- Coral Queen (コーラルクイーン) 
- Dive & Boat Porpoise (Dive & Boat ポーパス) 
- Dive Resort Tako (ダイブリゾート田子) 
- Dive Station, Kushimoto Branch (ダイブステーション串本店) 
- Divers Shinkai (ダイバーズシンカイ) 
- Diving Boat Nakiri 
- Inana DBS Club (イナーナＤＢＳクラブ) 
- Kamiura Seaside Club (上浦シーサイドクラブ) 
- Kushimoto Diving Park (串本ダイビングパーク) 
- Kushimoto Marine Center (串本マリンセンター) 
- Nanki Seamans Club (南紀シーマンズクラブ) 
- Orange House (オレンジハウス) 
- Sea Friend Arita (シーフレンド有田) 
- Sea Mate (シーメイト) 
- Seanon Diving Service (シーノンダイビングサービス) 
- Suichu O-Sanpo Club (水中お散歩クラブ) 
- Oheji Trail (大辺路街道 Ōheji Kaidō) - the trailhead starts in the community of Tanami (田並), located in the western part of town. Oheji is actually a coastal branch of the bigger Kumano Kodo Road (熊野古道), a Heian-era pilgrimage road linking the 3 Grand Shrines of Kumano (熊野三山): Nachi Taisha (那智大社), Hongu Taisha (本宮大社), and Hayatama Taisha (速玉大社).
- Mt. Kasane Trail
- Koza Sightseeing Association Canoe Rental (古座観光協会カヌーレンタル Koza Kankō Kyōkai Kanu Rentaru) - offers kayak + gear rentals for use on the Koza River. Be sure to plan ahead in the warmer months as reservations fill up quickly. Courses available: 5km/hr (1500 JPY), 8km/2hr (2000 JPY), 12km/3hr (3000 JPY), 16km/4hr (4000 JPY). Taxi fare to starting area not included. Seasonal. Reservations Tel. 0735-72-0645 (Japanese only). Reservation window located inside Koza Station, rental pickup located outside Koza Station.
Surfing and Wind Surfing
As with most small Japanese towns, many businesses (especially restaurants) do not take credit cards. Be on the safe side and secure enough cash before heading into town.
That said, people with cards issued in Japan may be able to use ATMs these local banks:
- Daisan Bank (第三銀行)
- Kinokuni Bank (きのくに銀行)
- Kiyo Bank (紀陽銀行)
Major international currencies may be exchanged at the Kushimoto Post Office (串本郵便局 Kushimoto Yūbin Kyoku), located just off of Route 42 near the Lawson Convenience Store in Central Kushimoto. Be advised that they may not be able to exchange large sums of money (50000+ JPY).
As the case with the rest of Japan, most local post offices have ATMs that take major international cards and have English menus.
- A-Coop Supermarket （Aコープ) - Chain supermarket, good selection of bento boxes and fresh sushi to-go. On Route 41, across the street from Kushimoto Junior High School.
- Eiden - Electronics. On Route 42 just before Hashigui-Iwa.
- Matsuda Souvenir Shop (松田土産物店) - Convenient location and good selection of food and non-food gifts. Outside Kushimoto Station.
- Okuwa Shopping Center (オークワ) - 24-hour grocery store. Biggest selection of clothing, housewares, and 100-yen goods in town. On Route 42 just after Kushimoto Station
- Tsutaya - Books, music, and movies. On Route 42 across from the Okuwa Shopping Center.
- Wakamatsu-ya Bakery (若松屋) - local bakery with the good selection of pastries and desserts. On Route 42 just after Tsutaya
- Awabi (アワビ) - abalone
- Ise-ebi (伊勢海老・イセエビ) - Japanese spiny lobster, highly prized.
- Katsuo (鰹・カツオ) - bonito (aka skipjack tuna) caught through local "kenken" style fly fishing. One of Kushimoto's more important exports.
- Kinkan (キンカン) - kumquats, abundant in late winter.
- Mikan / Ponkan (ミカン・ポンカン) - relative of the mandarin orange and tangerine, found anywhere and everywhere during colder months.
- Maguro (鮪・マグロ) - tuna
- Sazae (サザエ) - sea snail
- Tobiuo (飛魚・トビウオ) - flying fish
- Zori-ebi (ゾウリエビ) - Japanese mitten lobster
- Daikichi (大吉) - Branch of the fairly well-known yakitori chain. Across the street from Kushimoto Station. 1500 JPY per person up.
- Kuroshio Sushi (黒潮寿司) - Kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi restaurant, fairly cheap prices and good selection. Safe bet for tourists who don't speak Japanese. Down the street from the Okuwa Shopping Center toward Hashigui-Iwa. 130 JPY per sushi plate up.
- Hikochan (彦ちゃん) - Local izakaya that takes advantage of the local seafood. Known for Ochazuke Rice & Tea Porridge (お茶漬け), Miso Yakisoba (味噌焼ソバ), Minced Bonito (鰹たたき Katsuo Tataki), and of course various kinds of sushi. Down the street from Kushimoto Station. 1500 JPY per person up.
- Oak (レストランオーク) - Fairly drab and uninspired family restaurant chain serving typical Japanese and Western meals. Next to Tsutaya. Full meals 1000 JPY up.
- Sun Doria (サンドリア) - Locally owned family restaurant. As the name states, they specialize in Japanese-style doria (casseroles), but also carry standard Japanese and Western fare. Down the street from the Kushimoto Cultural Center (串本文化センター Kushimoto Bunka Senta). Full meals 1000 JPY up.
- Udon Hashigui (うどん橋杭) - Serves a full selection of udon. Shrimp Tempura Udon is probably the best in town. Across from Hashigui-Iwa. 600 JPY up.
- Yakiniku Juju (焼肉樹樹) - Tabletop charcoal grills, serves kuroge wagyu beef (黒毛和牛). On Route 42, near the turnoff for A-Coop and Kushimoto High School. 1500 JPY per person up.
- Log House Sun Villa
- Resort Oshima
- Ebisu Inn
- Minshuku Hashigui
- Kushimoto Royal Hotel (串本ロイヤルホテル Kushimoto Roiyaru Hoteru). Set atop a hill overlooking the harbor, this is the best bet in town in terms of size, amenities, location, and convenience. Rooms are modern and available in Western and Japanese styles. Be sure to get a room that faces the harbor. Pool, hot springs, arcade, karaoke box, banquet halls, and restaurants on hotel grounds. Average rates 7000 JPY to 20000 JPY per person per night. Internet and package discounts available. Off of Route 42 near Kushimoto Station and Okuwa Shopping Center / Walking distance from Kushimoto Station, but will require walking up a hill / Shuttle from station available / Free parking.
- Hotel Submarine
- Hotel San Marin
- Urashima Harbor Hotel (浦島ハーバーホテル Urashima Hâbâ Hoteru). As the name implies, this hotel is right by the water, however it could have probably taken better advantage of it. The exterior seems utilitarian and almost jail-like, but interior is a little more welcoming. Be sure to get a room that faces the harbor. Pool, hot springs, restaurants, and banquet halls on hotel grounds. Average rates 10000 JPY per person per night, includes breakfast. Off of Route 42 near Eiden and Kushimoto Hospital / 15 minute walk from Kushimoto Station / Free Parking.
The following towns can be easily explored as day trips from Kushimoto:
- Hongu (本宮町 Hongū-chō) - Small town with an important religious history and ancient hot springs. Home of Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine mentioned above.
- Kozagawa (古座川町 Kozagawa-chō) - As the name suggests, this town centers around the Koza River. Lots of beautiful scenery and home of Shichi-kawa Dam.
- Nachi-Katsuura (那智勝浦町 Nachikatsuura-chō) - Home of Nachi Falls (one of the tallest waterfalls in Japan), Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine, the Urashima Hotel (pseudo hot springs "theme park"), and a big tuna market.
- Shingu (新宮市 Shingū-shi) - Though a "city" by political defitions, still maintains a small town charm. Biggest selection of movie theaters, restaurants, and shopping in the extreme south. Home of Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine mentioned above.
- Susami (すさみ町 Susami-chō) - Quaint little town that has the world's only undersea mailbox.