Awaji Island 淡路島
Awaji island (Awaji-shima) in Japan's Inland Sea is linked to Honshu island via Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge, and to Shikoku island via the Naruto Ohashi Bridge. Referenced in ancient Japanese lore, its 393km² area contains all the country has to offer: hot springs, temples and shrines, impressive landscapes, sandy beaches, artistic traditions and culinary delights.
Awaji Travel Guide
Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture is the largest island in Japan's Inland Sea after Shikoku, to which it is now joined after the building of the Naruto Ohashi and the Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi bridges. Awaji Island is easily reached from nearby Kobe, Kyoto or Osaka.
Awaji has changed much since the opening of the Akashi Straits Suspension Bridge (Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi) which connects Hyogo Prefecture to Awaji Island. The Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi, which opened in 1998, has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world, at 1,991m (6,532 ft).
For those visitors interested in the building of the bridge the Bridge Exhibition Center (Hashinokakagakukan) near Maiko Station on Honshu, south west of Kobe, has information on its construction. There are also tours of the bridge available for those that book online in advance. Nearby is also the Sun Yat-Sen Museum in Maiko Park, housed in an early 20th century residence moved here when the bridge was constructed.
Over on Awaji Island itself on the north west coast in the village of Hokudan is the Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park, which was the epicenter of the 1995 earthquake which devastated Kobe. Part of the 10 km fault line can still be seen.
Things to see and do in Awaji
Awaji is known for its beautiful flowers in season, onion cultivation, incense, some fine beaches on both the east and west coasts and its ancient burial mounds or kofun. Recently it has become something of a mecca for cyclists who can travel around the island in a couple of days.
The best beaches on Awajishima are the sandy Ohama Beach on the east coast and Goshiki Beach on the east coast, which is pebbled, but enjoys spectacular sunsets. There are a number of hotels close to both these beaches.
The Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji - National Awaji-Island Institute of Godzilla Disaster opened in 2020. The fun attraction consists of several different areas. Included are the world's largest Godzilla with a total length of around 120 meters, the world's first permanent Godzilla Museum, a zipline, theater and a shooting game. In addition the restaurant serves a Godzilla-inspired menu and there's a Godzilla shop, too. The attraction is an absolute must for fans of Japan's most-famous monster.
Temples & Shrines
Awaji has several temples and shrines worth a visit. World Peace Kannon at 80 meters in height was once one of the tallest statues in the world but has fallen into disrepair and is virtually abandoned. North-east of the island is Honpukuji Temple, situated on the top of a hill the temple faces Osaka Bay. This former temple of the Shingon esoteric school of Buddhism, dedicated to Yakushi Buddha, was renovated in 1991. The main building of the temple is Tadao Ando's Water Temple or Mizumido is a striking, modernist building. The circular concrete building has a lotus-filled pond for its roof and the temple interior is entered down a curved stairway.
Iwagami Shrine (岩神神社) and Izanagi Shrine (伊弉諾神宮) are located close to each other in north western part of the island. Izanagi Shrine is connected with the creation myths of Japan which has Awaji as the birthplace of Japan. It is the most important shrine on the island. Izanagi Shrine's spacious grounds are popular with locals for the important festivals of the Japanese year such as O-shogatsu (New Year) and Shichi-go-san.
The smaller Iwagami Shrine is dedicated to a cluster of holy rocks, hence the name of the shrine, which can be loosely translated as "rock or boulder god" shrine. The main hall or honden dates from the 16th century and the impressive rocks have been viewed since Heian times.
Senzan Senkoji Temple, dedicated to Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is found at the island's highest point, on Mount Senzan. From here, you have a splendid view of a string of islands and islets of the Inland Sea and the mountains of Shikoku Island.
Awaji is the home of ningyo joruri puppet theater, which is a fore-runner of bunraku. The Awaji Joruri Puppet Theater (9 am-5 pm; closed Wednesday; adults 1,500 yen) in Fukura in the south of the island offers short performances of this over 500 year old art.
The Awaji Yumebutai (Awaji Island Project) was designed by famous architect Tadao Ando to reuse the site from where earth was extracted for the construction of Kansai International Airport (KIX).
The site includes beautiful gardens, walking trails and Japan's biggest greenhouse. Another Ando building on Awaji is the modernist Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji; 本福寺) constructed in 1991 - a beautiful space constructed with pools and concrete walls.
There is an onsen (hot spring) in Sumoto with both indoor and outdoor baths. A number of resort style hotels are located here along with Sumoto Castle which was rebuilt in 1928 after the Edo Period original had been demolished in the 1630's. The Awajishima Museum, at the base of the castle, is dedicated to the history and culture of the island. It has displays on local festivals, puppet theater and the art of local painter, Tamao Naohara.
Matsuho-no-yu is a hot spring in the north of the island with views of the Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi from its outdoor baths.
The Awaji World Park Onokoro is an amusement park just south of Awaji city with a number of world sights such as the Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Wat Arun, the Colosseum and the Parthenon built at 4% of their original size.
What makes it the island most famous are the Naruto whirlpools, located in the south, in the Naruto Strait. These whirlpools are caused by tidal movements between the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The currents can reach 20 kilometers per hour! From the southern port of Fukura there are daily cruises to see the Naruto Whirlpools and the Naruto Ohashi Bridge (2000 yen). Or they can be seen from the port. The best time to see them is usually one hour before or after the start point of the tide, which takes place four times a day. Close to the whirlpools, Uzushio Science Museum explains the phenomenon of whirlpools through a 3D cinema and other presentations.
How to get to Awaji
Kobe Airport is the nearest airport to Awaji Island and has flights to Ibaraki, Ishigaki, Kagoshima, Naha (Okinawa), Nagasaki, Sapporo and Tokyo (Haneda). Kobe Airport is located on an artificial island just south of Port Island and connects to Sannomiya by Port Liner trains.
JR Shinkansen bullet train stops at Shin-Kobe Station. About 1 km south of Shin-Kobe Station, Sannomiya Station is the main rail hub for intercity Hankyu, Hanshin and JR trains to Osaka and Kyoto. There are no trains on Awaji Island.
There are direct ferry services to Iwaya on Awaji from Akashi Port, a short walk from JR Akashi Station. The Jenova ferry is a 13-minute crossing from Akashi to Iwaya. For adults the fare is 500 yen with an extra 220 yen fee for a bicycle.
The ferries run roughly every 20 minutes on weekdays, every 40 minutes on weekends.
The high-speed ferry service between Sumoto and Kansai International Airport (KIX) ceased in 2007.
There are Express Bus services from JR Shin-Kobe Station to Sumoto on Awaji (2 hours) and on to Tokushima on Shikoku.
Infrequent local buses around the island are provided by Awaji Kotsu. Hitch-hiking is a viable option if you get stuck.