Wakayama, Japan (CNN)“Wakayama? Wakawhat? Wakawhere?”
Overshadowed by the neighboring city of Osaka, this humble Japanese prefecture is home to arguably Japan’s most delicious ramen, a 1,700-year-old fire festival and a giant open-air bath fed by a hot spring.
You’ll find much of what you need for the complete Japanese experience on this little crescent of land on the southern coast of the country’s largest island, Honshu.
Here are 11 ways to begin to get to know this little Japanese secret.
1. Eat Japan’s “most delicious” ramen
Ever since Ide Shoten’s Wakayama ramen was voted “Japan’s most delicious” by a Japanese food show, this humble noodle shop has become sacred ground for ramen lovers.
Wakayama ramen has a unique soup base, made with an extremely savory pork bone and soy sauce broth.
But it’s generally known to locals as chuka soba — not ramen — which means “Chinese noodles” in Japanese. These steaming bowls of soup with their satisfying pork and lard flavor can fast become an addiction.
Cooked eggs and mackerel sushi on tables are the traditional appetizers. Diners just have to report how many they have eaten when it’s time to get the bill.
How to get there: Exit from Wakayama JR station, walk straight ahead then turn left at Kokutai Road. Walk straight until you reach Sannen-zaka Dori. Ide Shoten is on the left.
2. Learn how to cut fresh tuna
Think sitting in an inflated raft while rushing down white-water rapids is hardcore?
You haven’t tried Japan’s wildest rafting experience.
Kitayama village offers tourists a chance to sail down the swift currents of Kitayama River on traditional logging rafts.
Here’s the kicker — you’re not even seated.
Riders stand in a line on the sturdy, long wooden rafts, clutching only the metal/wooden handles that rise from the base of the rafts.
The adventure sport was inspired by Japan’s traditional lumber industry, in which felled wood was assembled into rafts then sent down the river — a transport method used for more than 600 years.
Game? The rafting season lasts from May to September, with reservations accepted from April 1. Days and times vary depending on month.
More on the experience here: Is this the world’s most unusual rafting experience?