About 20 minutes by car from Wakayamashi Station, across a bridge to a reclaimed island, lies Wakayama Marina City and the Porto Europa theme park. Its faux Spanish, Italian, and French buildings and European-style street designs give visitors the impression of being on a slightly dilapidated film set.

Strolling around the area are a few Japanese- and Chinese-speaking visitors enjoying the scenery, waiting to get on a waterslide or shopping in the gift shop, all the way snapping photos.

"It's free, has a nice atmosphere and it's not really all that crowded," said Akemi Hoshino, 34, a Wakayama resident visiting the park with a friend.