Awajishima is a popular spot for both vacationers and tourists alike. Located in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, it sits between two of the main islands of Japan, Honshu and Shikoku, and it is on the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea. The name Awaji means “the road to Awa” and Awa was the former province that is now located in present-day Tokushima, famously known for tis Awa Odori dance festival in summer. Combine a tour in the city of Kobe with a more rural experience in Awajishima.
The history of Awajishima is very important in Japan and the native religion of Japan, Shintoism, states that eight islands, composing Japan, were originally created by the gods Izanagi and Izanami. Of these eight islands, Awajishima was the first one created by the gods, according to myth. The island’s historical significance continued into the twenty-first century when Japan was struck by the Kobe Earthquake, also known as The Great Hanshin Earthquake, in 1995. Awajishima was the epicenter of this massive quake. Ten years later, in 2005, Awa merged with the towns of Ichiba, Donari and Yoshino to create what is known today as Awa City. So what makes Awajishima such a popular destination aside from its historical significance? Let’s take a look at ten of the best things that the island has to offer.
1. Ziplining with Godzilla at Nijigen no Mori
Nijigen no Mori (ニジゲンノモリ) is a theme park located on Awajishima with some attractions based on well known Japanese anime and pop culture. Towards the end of 2020, a new exhibit opened to cater to all the Godzilla fans out there. The Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji is divided into four parts: a theater, a zip line, a shooting game and a museum. For the price of admission, you can watch an exclusive Godzilla short film that explains how Godzilla came to be in Awajishima. For those seeking adventure, there is a zip line course that goes right into the mouth of the largest Godzilla statue in the world. There is also a shooting game for those who are not quite ready for the zip line. And for the history buff, there is a Godzilla museum that includes models and props from the Godzilla franchise.
Nijigen no Mori
Opening time 12-9 pm (weekdays) 10am – 9 pm (weekends and holidays)
Admission fee different options, tickets to the Godzilla Attraction (incl. zipline) ¥3,800 (adults).
2. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (明石海峡大橋) connects the city of Kobe to Iwaya, located on Awajishima. Completed in 1998, this bridge has three spans and is noteworthy for having the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world. The span of a bridge is measured by the length of the suspended roadway between the bridge’s towers. The Great Hanshin Earthquake caused the bridge towers to shift so much that the span was increased by about one meter! If you want to see Japan’s very own version of the Golden Gate Bridge, Awajishima is the place to see it. You can also visit the bridge from up close and walk the Maiko Marine Promenade, a circuit of observatory walkways under the bridge’s platform or visit the Bridge Exhibition Centre on the Kobe side of the bridge.
When you’re not afraid of heights you can also take the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge World Tour and go up to the top of one of the main 300-meter high towers of the bridge and enjoy an incredibly stunning panoramic view of Kobe and Awaji Island. Unfortunately due to corona, this tour is currently suspended.
3. Uzushio Whirlpool Cruise
The Naruto Strait (鳴門海峡) at the southern end of Awajishima has some unique looking whirlpools. For those who want to get a closer look at these natural wonders, there is the Uzushio Cruise. The intensity and speed of these whirlpools ranges from 13 kilometers per hour up to 20 kilometers per hour. These are the fastest tides in all of Japan, and some of the fastest tides in the entire world. The boat used to view the tides is a replica of the original screw-driven steam warship used by Japan, dubbed the Kanrin Maru.
At the very southern tip of Awaji Island, there is also Uzushio Roadside Station which is the closest roadside station to the Uzushio. Uzushio Roadside Station offers a nice view of the O-Naruto Bridge which connects Awaji Island and Shikoku, along with a restaurant, café, and souvenir shops.
Admission fee ¥1,600 (adult)
Daily departures between 8am – 1.30pm *schedule depends on the tide levels
4. Keino Matsubara
Keino Matsubara Beach (慶野松原海水浴場), also known as the Seto Inland Sea National Park, is famous for its beautiful clear water, white beaches, and the more than 50,000 pine trees planted along the beach. This beach is constantly winning prizes and often included on “best of” lists in Japan. The beach is approximately 2,500 meters long and includes five public toilets, a large parking lot, and numerous other amenities. It’s also tattoo-friendly for those inked-up travelers looking for a nice relaxing beach.
This tiny island is a remote getaway with only one small village, located about 10 minutes from Awajishima by boat. Nushima Island (沼島) has many hiking trails and while there, one can see the many unique rock formations around the island. Perhaps the most famous of these rock formations is Kamitategami Rock, with its hollowed-out interior, it is widely regarded as a symbol of love. The island is also home to a number of shrines.
6. Izanagi Shrine
Izanagi Shrine (淡路國一之宮 伊弉諾神宮) is one of the oldest shrines in Japan and is dedicated to the Shinto gods, Izanagi and Izanami. They were a brother-sister team who together created the land that is known today as Japan, according to Shinto beliefs. Izanagi Shrine is an “ichinomiya,” which is an honor bestowed upon the highest ranked shrine in an area. Izanagi Shrine was the highest ranked shrine in the Awaji Province and is still popular today.
7. Ohama Beach
Ohama Beach (大浜海水浴場) sits right in the middle of town on the eastern side of Awajishima and is incredibly popular on weekends and holidays. Its name literally means “big beach,” and it has beautiful white sand and designated swimming areas. A relaxing beach just a few steps away from town.
8. Awaji Hanasajiki
Awaji Hanasajiki Garden (兵庫県立公園あわじ花さじき) has a large flower field with a beautiful view looking out over the ocean. From this viewpoint, one can see the Akashi Strait and the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, as well as Osaka Bay and Kobe. Another great reason to visit this garden is that the colors of the flowers change depending on the season, so one can be sure to see many different colors no matter when they visit.
9. Awaji Yumebutai
The Awaji Yumebutai is a hotel complex operated by the Westin Hotels and Resorts chain. This beautiful building was designed by the famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who has worked on such as projects as Tokyo Skytree, Japan’s Art Island Naoshima and the world’s biggest Starbucks Roastery in Tokyo. The name “yumebutai” means a “dream stage” and represents the aim to restore the ecology of the island. One of the most inspiring aspects of this building is its “Hundred Stepped Gardens” which consists of 100 flower beds laid across an incline so that they are all positioned on different levels. This is a stunning sight that one can’t miss.
10. Sumoto Onsen
Onsen is a favorite past-time in Japan, and Sumoto Onsen (洲本市) is the largest spa resort located on the island. It has open-air baths with amazing ocean views. New hot springs were discovered here as recently as 1993, some even claim that the water here is good for the skin. So enjoy a nice soak after a long day of exploring the island and test it out yourself. You can also visit the small yet beautiful Sumoto castle and some shrines nearby.
Accomodation on Awajishima
- Hotel Anaga – a peaceful hotel with outdoor pools and amazing sunset views
- Yumekaiyu Awajishima – a Japanese style hotel, located next to Ohara Beach and with free bicycle rental.
- Kotobukian 寿庵 – luxurious accomodation in old renovated folk house that offers pottery experiences too.
Awajishima is the perfect getaway, whether you are looking to relax, or do some exploring in nature, it is all available to you. You can spend your time sightseeing during the day or relaxing on the beach, and take a nice dip in the onsen in the evening after a long day. Now that we’ve shared some of the best things to do in Awajishima, it’s your turn. Please let us know which activity you enjoyed the most or which activity you are most excited for. Happy exploring!
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Trevor Jones is an educator and an aspiring marketer. Originally from the United States, he moved to Tokyo in 2017. Trevor enjoys exploring new destinations and sharing his experiences. He can be found on Instagram at @tjones312