Travel Report: Kii Peninsula (Japan)

It feels a bit strange to make a travel report on a country I live in, but I think this will be of interest to those either planning to visit Japan in the future, and/or those who want to send cards to be cancelled by certain post offices. As many are aware, Japan may be the GOAT when it comes to scenic cancels, as there are well over 10,000 available around the country. For the past few months I have been slowly (but steadily) working on a Google map of all the scenic cancels, seen here. Note: the first layer has the most recent/updated cancels from the Japan Post website, and I’ve mostly built up the Kansai area (where I live) cancels that are the older, more established ones (third layer). The Kyoto area alone (city+prefecture) took me about 8 hours to finish, so this is a long, ongoing process as I am working on it one region at a time (I’m about 20% finished).

In any event, I am interested not only in collecting scenic cancels, but especially in getting those that match the Gotochi cards that are available for all 47 prefectures. On the map that I’ve created, these matched fukei-in and Gotochi cards are indicated by stars. The Gotochi cards of course reflect what is the most well-known about a certain prefecture, but I’m finding the combination of Gotochi+fukei-in as a new way of exploring interesting places to visit. So without further ado, here is what I did:

The Kansai region is made up of 7 prefectures: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Shiga, Hyogo, Wakayama, and Mie. I think the first three are the most well-known to foreign tourists, the other 4 are not. I recently did a road trip around Mie and Wakayama, 2 prefectures that make up the bulk of the Kii Peninsula (along with Nara). Note: I did not visit every pin on the map, even though I had hoped to.

Mie is most well-known for Ise Shrine, the most important shrine in the country (but NOT a World Heritage Site, due to the fact that it is reconstructed every 20 years), and Wakayama is known for the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage (connected to the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage in Spain - if you do both you can get a certificate that makes you a dual pilgrim) - the sites here are World Heritage. The most famous part of the Kumano Kodo is Koya-san, a mountain that once had over 2000 Buddhist temples, and still marks the beginning (or the end) of the pilgrimage. There are a number of Gotochi cards and fukei-in scenic cancels that I was able to obtain while road-tripping around the peninsula, and they include:

Meota-Iwa, the “wedded rocks”. This is in Futami, a coastal area of Ise.

The Ama divers (female pearl divers) of Toba, further down the coast from Ise.

There are a number of cancels that feature these divers, but I was only able to get one as I only had time to visit one post office before day’s end. I also got this cancel on the “Pearl” Gotochi card.

The Oniga-jo (demon castle) and fireworks of Kumano.

Not exactly the right view, but the real view of this card was unaccessible due to damage from a recent typhoon.

Shrine maidens walking the Kumano Kodo trail.

I love the fukei-in for this, and the post office that has it is a tiny little branch office on a tiny one-car road in the middle of nowhere. They encouraged me to hand cancel the stamps myself, but I sort of regret it, since they are all smudged as I don’t have a good technique of getting a nice, clean cancel.
The tiny post office where I got this cancel:

There are other scenic cancels that are in this area that I wasn’t able to get, either due to lack of time, or because I couldn’t find the Gotochi card needed in any of the local post offices.
These include: Iga-ryu Ninja with Ueno Castle (Mie), banko ware (Mie), Matsusaka beef (Mie), Ise Shrimp (Mie), Koyasan Danjo Garan (Koya-san, Wakayama), and Whale (Wakayama - a bit of a controversial one). The last two were not possible for me due to the lack of cards in the post offices, even though I had time to visit specific post offices for the scenic cancels.

In addition to this, I was able to visit some other postal-related sites.

In Mie, there’s a road called the “Skyline Road” that winds through the mountains between Ise and Toba. At the peak, in addition to the amazing coastal views, is a post office box and a broomstick, to allow you to fulfill your “Kiki’s Delivery Service” fantasies. I took a number of photos for the young people there, but as I could barely jump off the ground with my bad knees and back I have no good photos of myself. Unfortunately I got there right a 5 p.m. when the gift shop had just closed, so I couldn’t buy any postcards from this place and/or get the cancel for this postbox.

The iconic mailbox

As mentioned above, Wakayama is famous for the Kumano Kodo and one of the most important shrines there is Kumano Hongu Taisha. The official World Heritage center is directly across the street from it, and sells nice postcards of the shrine. Not only is it the head shrine for all Kumano shrines in the country, it also features its own unique postbox, which is topped with a crow (the crow is a symbol of the shrine). Almost all shrines and temples in Japan have small wooden plaques called “ema” which features an image particular to the temple/shrine on one side, and allows worshippers/visitors to write wishes on the blank side. This may be the only shrine in the country that allows you to buy a special ema that features a postbox, and then allows you to mail that ema as a postcard anywhere you want. Of course I mailed one to myself (and got it within 2 days), but I also sent one as an official Postcrossing postcard as well. I sure hope it makes it!

Crow mailbox

Kumano Hongu Taisha ema postcard

Posting the ema postcard

Another interesting location was the underwater postbox located in Susami, Wakayama, just south of Shirahama, which is famous for its beaches (but I didn’t have time to go there). While in Susami I was able to write a number of postcards to be posted in the underwater postbox. The cards have the postage pre-paid, and the place where you buy them have markers that you can use to write and decorate the cards (they are pretty basic). The diver there told me he would post them on that morning’s dive (a Friday), and that the postbox would be emptied the following Tuesday. I received the one I mailed to myself about a week after writing it.

Retired underwater mailbox

Underwater postcards ready to be mailed

Not far from Susami is the “Postal Bridge”, a bridge that is connected to the early days of the postal service in Japan, and it features a number of stone postboxes at the start of the bridge. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but it was kind of on the way back home so I had a quick stop there.

Postal Bridge (Yubin-Bashi) Monument

Other side of the bridge

I ended my trip in Wakayama with a nice train ride down to Kishi, the rail station known for having a cat station master. This line was going to shut down, but the popularity of the cat station master (known as Tama) not only revived the line, but earned enough money to rebuild the station in cat form, with cafe and gift shop that features the cat (after Tama passed away, her role was taken over by Nitama (Tama the Second), who was resting peacefully in her spot the entire time I was there. There are plenty of Tama (and successors) goods there - postcards, washi tape, cookies, etc. It was a fun way to end the trip as I have always wanted to visit this station and see the cat (and send some postcards from there as well).

Tama Train

Nitama on her perch


Thanks for your travel report! It was a lot of fun to read. Japanese culture is so interesting and I love the Gotochi you shared with us :heart_eyes:


Amazing :grinning:

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What a wonderful trip! Thank you for sharing! Adding to my bucket list.

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Incredible! Are the scenic cancels normal for those post offices? Or did you have to ask for a special cancel? Thanks for your in-depth reporting!

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The scenic cancels are not the main cancels, you have to ask for them specially (in smaller places it’s likely that they’ll have to adjust the dates since they don’t use them on a daily basis). But it’s not a big deal, Japan is a country that loves stamping things (I use my own personal stamp at work fairly regularly) so if you ask for it they’ll totally do it (and in some cases, allow you to do it).

However, the red fukei-in (scenic cancel) only works by itself in Japan. If you want to send mail internationally, you will need to get a second, smaller black cancel (also hand stamped) since it will have the information in the Latin alphabet written on it. But in my experience they will use the scenic cancel on the stamps, and the black cancel elsewhere on the card (or envelope) - sometimes on the stamps, but not usually.


Thank you for the information! If I ever get to Japan I’ll keep this in mind.

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This is so interesting! And all the work you have done to map and document is amazing. Thank you for sharing!

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This is amazing and so informative!
Thank you for all your posts, keep up the good work! :smiley:

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Wow, another interesting travel report! :smiley: Thank you! :hugs:

They are amongst my favourite things to read and I love all the precious postmarks and beautiful stamps. :heart_eyes:

And a crow postbox, how cool is that!? Crows are amongst my favourite animals and I often feed them on my way to work and back to the bus stop and yesterday, after having run out of almonds, 6 crows waited patiently (and full of hope! :wink:) at the bus stop with me. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Thank you for the tips as I’m traveling Kumano-kodo next week !!
I’m definetely send some cards form the post office you mentioned.
Hope someone here will receive my postcards :wink:


Thank you so much for the detailed report, this is very helpful. I hope to be able to send from one of these one day.

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I love your report! Curious, do you have a favorite Shinto shrine?

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Good question! I don’t have a single favourite, as there are so many worth visiting. In terms of the most famous/popular shrines, I do love Fushimi Inari Shrine here in Kyoto, and Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima (Hiroshima). Even with all the tourists, they are still worth exploring - and since I have lived in both places, it has meant that I could visit the shrines year round at different times of day, so I know when to avoid the worst congestion, or how to prepare for it if I can’t.

Some of the most important shrines in the country, like Ise Shrine in Mie and Izumo Shrine in Shimane, don’t necessarily have the same ‘wow’ factor as some of the more popular shrines, but the vast grounds and understated buildings are really very beautiful and peaceful.

However, I really enjoy visiting shrines that are off-the-beaten-track, have some unusual aspect to them, or are just beautiful because of the surrounding nature or the age/wabi sabi nature of the place. Some of these include:

Udo Shrine in Miyazaki - stunning seaside location and cave shrine
Amano Iwato Shrine (and more specifically Amano Yasukawara) in Miyazaki - cave shrine connected to the sun goddess and one of the imperial treasures of Japan
Usa Shrine in Oita - beautiful grounds and stunning buildings, this was an unexpected pleasure to visit [Usa is pronounced oo-sah (oo like in food)]
Yutoku Inari Shrine in Saga - this is another inari shrine (similar to Fushimi Inari) but has some Buddhist temple elements (just like Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi, also stunning and worth visiting). It really is beautiful and was one of my favourites to visit while in Kyushu.
Tozan Shrine in Saga - this is in Arita, which is famous for its pottery. The shrine torii gate is made of pottery, as are most of the statues and other decor around the shrine. There’s also a train that runs directly in front of the shrine.
Oouo Shrine in Saga - it’s not the shrine itself, but the floating torii gates in the sea that are the main attraction - worth visiting at both low and high tide.
Kompira Shrine in Kagawa - get your steps in because there are 785 steps up the mountain to the main shrine (more if you want to visit other buildings). I’ve been here 3 times and it’s one of my favourites. Shrines often have animals connected to them (Inari shrines have foxes, other shrines have horses, etc.) This shrine is unusual in that instead of statues of horses, it has real horses!

This is just a short list based on some of my more recent travels but you can see that there are a lot of interesting shrines (and temples - but that’s another list altogether) out there that never make the “listicles” of places to visit in Japan, mostly because they are out of the Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima/Kanazawa/Japanese Alps/Mt Fuji loop, which is what most people do on their first (and maybe only) visit to Japan.


Amazing, thank you!!! Saving this for reference.

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If you really want to find interesting temples and shrines to visit (beyond the obvious ones), it’s worth visiting each prefecture’s tourism site, and/or to look for other local area sites or blogs - that’s where I’ve found a lot of information of places I’ve never heard of. I’ve been to all 47 prefectures in Japan (achieved that goal in March 2022) and I’m slowly working my way around the country again, this time to focus on more off-the-beaten path places. That said, the majority of the prefectures are off-the-beaten path when it comes to tourism (something the Japanese government is trying to fix, to alleviate the over-tourism in places like Kyoto that can barely handle it). Google Images and Instagram are also helpful, although they may feature the place at its best, for example, in a particular season or month, and/or may not have useful information on how to get there/access the area.