There was an interesting article about how much Wakayama prefecture relies on foreigners in workforce in the Nikkei newspaper last week.（The article was in Japanese only.)
According to the government stats, Wakayama has the highest growth rate of working foreigners (increase of 2.3% from the previous year) among six prefectures in Kansai region. The most popular field is ‘Accommodation and Food Services’ followed by ‘Manufacturing’.The article featured the increasing demand of foreign staff in inbound tourism, showing the example of a Vietnamese staff who works at a hotel in Shirahama Beach town. It also cited the case of technical intern trainees working at a curtain manufacturer in the prefecture.
In addition to Shirahama Beach, Wakayama has popular tourist spots such as Mount Koya and Kumano Kodo, which comprise “the Sacred Site and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”, registered as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. Kurt Genso, a Swiss-born priest of Mount Koya, who speaks five languages and guides foreign tourists, is also famous. Accommodation is one of the fourteen industries foreigners on the tokutei ginoh (designated skills) visa, a new working visa available from this April, can work. So the number of foreigners working at hotels and ryokans will surely increase.
I also went on a family trip to Shirahama Beach town last month for the first time in my life. We really enjoyed staying there- beautiful beach, onsen (Shirahama onsen is one of the Three Ancient Springs in Japan!) , fresh seafood, mikan (mandarin oranges) and ume (plum) - local specialities in Wakayama, and a baby panda, Saihin at the Adventure World! It’s easy to access from Kyoto and Osaka. I strongly recommended the area for your weekend trip!