Wakayama Prefecture is home to numerous sites related to the Kishu Tokugawa family, a branch of the country’s formerly ruling Tokugawa Clan. One such location is Bandoko Garden, found atop a cape protruding out to Wakaura Bay in Saikazaki, Wakayama City. The cape was once a lookout station (bandoko) of the Kishu Domain keeping watch over the seas, and the beautiful Japanese garden utilizing the remarkable landscape is a must-see. Also nearby are the various sites showing the wealth of the Kishu Tokugawa family, including the family villa Yosuien, Kimiidera Temple where the family prayed for prosperity and the lavish Kishu Toshogu Shrine.
Address: Bandokoro-no-hana, Saikazaki, Wakayama-shi, Wakayama
Opening Hours: April – August: 09:00 – 18:00, September – March: 08:00 – 17:00
Admission: Adults: ¥600, Children: ¥300
Ease of Access
Approximately 30 minutes’ drive from the Wakayama-minami Smart IC on the Hanwa Expressway
From Wakayamashi Station on the Nankai Railway or JR Wakayama Station, take the bus for approximately 30 minutes, get off at Saikazaki Yuen bus stop then walk for approximately 15 minutes.
Bandoko Garden is constructed on a unique landscape called the “Nose of Bandoko,” a long, flat cape protruding into the sea. Since the arrival of the American fleet to Japan in 1853, known as the Kurofune (black ships), the Kishu Domain became fully engaged in coastal defense. Out of the multiple long-distance lookout stations set up, Bandoko Garden played an important role as the closest post from Wakayama Castle. A very rare Japanese garden surrounded on all sides by the sea, Bandoko Garden also offers an amazing view of a spacious and vibrant lawn field against the blue ocean and skies, where you can enjoy swimming on the beach, sea fishing and barbecues.
Created by Tokugawa Harutomi, the 10th lord of Kishu Domain, Yosuien is a vast, 30,000-square-meter Daimyo garden. The pond draws in seawater, a very rare feature in Japan. The eastern side of the garden is designed simply using straight lines inspired by the West Lake in China, while the western area is a more traditional Japanese design with rounded lines, creating a fusion of Japanese and Chinese gardens. The Sukiya-zukuri architecture of Yosui-tei and the Omotesenke tea room add to the tasteful atmosphere, as seasonal flowers such as water irises and hydrangeas adorn the setting.
Generations of Kishu Domain lords prayed for prosperity at Kimiidera Temple, also famous as the second stop of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage route of 33 temples across the Kansai region. Walking through the Romon gate, you may be overwhelmed by the 231 stone steps that come into view. Brave the climb to the top, and you will be rewarded with a sweeping view of Wakaura Bay, including Bandoko Garden and Yosuien. The Rokkakudo, a hexagonal building, is said to have as much integrity as the Saigoku pilgrimage itself, visited by many worshippers. The temple is also well known for its early blooming cherry blossoms, starting off the cherry blossom season of the Kansai region.
Kishu Toshogu Shrine
The opulent shrine was established by Tokugawa Yorinobu, the first lord of the Kishu Domain. It enshrines himself and the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, and the Tokugawa family crest can be spotted all around the temple grounds. At the top of the stone steps is a vermillion lacquered Romon gate, said to be the only one in the Kansai region. The main hall and worship hall are beautifully decorated with brilliantly colored engravings, earning the nickname “Nikko of Kansai.” The Wakamatsuri Festival held every May features men dressed in white attire bravely carrying a portable shrine down the stone steps as well as a colorful parade of traditional performances.