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Awaji Island

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Earth : Asia : East Asia : Japan : Kansai : Hyogo : Awaji Island
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Awaji Island (淡路島 Awajishima in Japanese) is a not-terribly-large island - about the same size as Singapore - that marks the eastern boundary of the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. Thanks to a set of new bridges and a cross-island expressway, most visitors just zip through on their way from Honshu to Shikoku.



Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Awajishima has some claim to being the oldest settled area in Japan; the Kojiki mentions it under the name "Onokoroshima" and burial mounds (kofun) dating back thousands of years have been found on the island. The ningyo joruri puppet theater, which has evolved into bunraku, seems to originate from Awajishima.

Awajishima made a highly unusual but brief appearance on the world stage as the epicenter of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 that killed over 6000 people. However, Awajishima was (and remains) far less built up than the suburbs of Kobe across the bay, which took the brunt of the damage. It was also the island where the England soccer team stayed during the World Cup in 2002.


The southern tip lies a mere kilometer off the coast of Shikoku, and a bridge now straddles the Naruto Strait, famed for the whirlpools that form as the tide flows in and out. The very name "Awaji" means "road to Awa", the former name of current Shikoku prefecture of Tokushima.

At the other end of the island, some 50 kilometers away, the northern tip is not far from the port city of Kobe on Honshu, and the immense 3.5 km Akashi Kaikyo Bridge — Japan's third longest — now connects Awaji to the mainland. Politically (and in geographic terms somewhat oddly), despite its proximity to Shikoku, Awaji is a part of Honshu's Hyogo prefecture.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Highway buses connect Kobe Airport and Sumoto four times daily (two hours, ¥2000).

A highspeed ferry used to run between Sumoto and Kansai International Airport but this service stopped in 2007.

By car[edit]

The inter-island expressway will get you from Akashi to Naruto, but it isn't advised unless you're willing to part with ¥5000 in tolls. Furthermore, signage is in Japanese and may be incomprehensible to a foreigner.

By bus[edit]

A more affordable option than private cars are highway buses, which charge around ¥600 for crossing the bridge and ¥1800 for a one-way trip from Kobe to Sumoto.

By train[edit]

There are no direct train services to Awaji Island. Highway buses run directly from major train stations, such as Shin-Kobe on the shinkansen (¥1800 to Sumoto), and Osaka and Sannomiya stations on the regular JR line (¥2300 and ¥1800 to Sumoto, respectively). From Shin-Osaka station you must either take a local train one stop to Osaka station, or remain on the shinkansen to Shin-Kobe, to transfer to the bus.

Buses to Awaji Island are not valid with the Japan Rail Pass. Tickets can be purchased from "Midori-no-Madoguchi" locations at each station.

By ferry[edit]

Even cheaper and more scenic, but available for the northern crossing only, are ferries that cross from Akashi to Iwaya for a mere ¥320 on the slow boat (all of 24 minutes)[1] or ¥450 for the fast boat (a zippy 13 minutes) via the Jenova Line [2] located south of JR Akashi Station.

Get around[edit]

Public transport is limited to very occasional buses. Awaji Kotsu posts the bus schedule [3] (only available in Japanese). Unusually for Japan, there are no trains on the island. If you don't have your own set of wheels, hitchhiking is a viable option.

See[edit][add listing]

Sumoto Castle
Kiseki no Hoshi Botanical Museum

Very little evidence of Awaji's history remains though, and today's Awajishima is a typically Japanese densely populated but still rural area, known primarily for its onions. The current total population hovers around 150,000, and (unlike most rural areas in Japan) is slowly on the rise due to the improved connections to the mainland, and these days Awaji's most impressive structures are its bridges.

  • Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (明石海峡大橋), [4]. Completed in 1998, this majestic bridge dwarfs the village of Iwaya below. The bridge's total length is 3,991 meters, and the main span's length of 1,991m makes it the longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge is attractively lit at night.
    • To get to the bridge, take JR Kobe line from Osaka and get off at Maiko station. Here you can walk under the bridge and enter the observation deck. From the next station, Asagiri, you can walk down to the water and get a nice view over the bridge.
  • To see the Naruto whirlpools, stop at the expressway rest area at the southernmost tip of the island near the Onaruto bridge. If you have money to spare, you can take a little boat cruise to see them up close; note that whirlpools only appear when the tide is coming in or out.
  • Aside from whirlpools and burial mounds and onions, Awajishima's main claim to fame are its beaches, especially on the more sparsely settled northern coast. They're nothing spectacular by international standards, but a popular nearby summer getaway for Kansai-ites just the same, and Awajishima has many campgrounds that cater to the budget traveller.
  • There are also a number of hot springs (onsen), the best known of which are Awaji's largest town Sumoto and the mildly radioactive(!) waters of Iwaya adjacent to the northern bridge.
  • The Sumoto Castle [5] requires quite a hike but is a small beautiful castle at the top of a hill and can be seen from all over Sumoto. The view from the top is extraordinary.

  • There are two buildings designed by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando on Awaji Shima: Water Temple [6] and Yume no Butai.
  • A section of the Nojima Fault, responsible for the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake, is preserved at Nojima Fault Preservation Museum, also known colloquially as Hokudan Earthquake Museum. The museum memorializes the damage sustained from the famous 1995 Kobe earthquake and includes a preserved building broken in half, an earthquake simulator that you can ride, cracks in the ground and walls and other damage to help one appreciate the extent of the quake. Small entrance fee.
  • The Kiseki no Hoshi Botanical Museum [7]is a beautiful stop on the bus line. The botanical museum is part of Awaji Yumebutai, which has numerous exhibits indoor and out, and which is connected to the Westin Hotel. Involves a lot of stairways. Entrance is free and it can be accessed through the hotel.

Scattered here and there are a number of herb and biwa (loquat) farms. The southern coast, however, is essentially one long semi-urban sprawl filled with the stink scent of ripening onions; the only breaks in the monotony are a fairly hideous (but huge) concrete statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon and the inevitable Onokoro Amusement Park. Onokoro seeks to take one on a "world tour" such that it has built miniature figures of famous attractions from all over the world.

Awaji-shima Koen- Located on the northern part of the island just off of the freeway is a giant park full of open fields, fountains, playgrounds, slides and walking paths. Free.

Awaji Hanasajiki- Located in the central/northern part of the island, this park is not to be missed during spring bloom. The park is filled with flowers and a breathtaking view. Free.

Awaji Highway Oasis- A highway stop on the northern part of the island where you can buy souvenirs, eat and ride the ever famous ferris wheel.

Akashi-Kaikyo National Government Park- Located right next door to the Awaji Yumebutai, this park has flowers, flower sculptures, a large playground, a train that goes around the grounds and a pond where one can rent a paddle boat that looks like a swan. Small entrance fee.

Yuzuruha Dam- Located in Minami (southern) Awaji is a beautiful damn and park. A great place for viewing cherry blossoms in the spring (hanami).

Eat[edit][add listing]

Onions ("tamanegi")- During the summer, you'll find onions at every stand along the road. Some places sell large bags for around 200 yen. The onions are sweet and are even better than Maui Onions.

Awaji beef (Awaji gyu)- Cows are raised deep in the mountains and fed special diets and (supposedly) massaged daily to create a meat with a perfect, fatty marble. Awaji-gyu is much more exquisite and delicious than its counter-part, Kobe beef.

Awaji Coffee Milk- This can be found at any grocery store or convenience store (konbini) on the island, and is a rich blend of creamy milk coffee that is not to be missed. You can even visit the factory in Minami Awaji (the southern part of the island).

Squid (Ika) Senbei- This can be found at the Awaji Highway Oasis (large souvenir store on the northern tip of the highway), or at the factory itself located in central Awaji.

Takoyaki- Fried dough balls/dumplings filled with octopus are famous in the Kansai area.

Okonomiyaki- The "Japanese pancake" can be topped with an array of toppings (bacon, onions, squid, etc.) and is also famous in the Kansai area.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Awaji has a scattering of ryokan and minshuku, concentrated in the hot spring areas. There are also a number of campsites, especially on the less populated western coast.

  • Hamabesō (浜辺荘) is a typical quiet minshuku, at the foot of the Akashi Kaikyo bridge some 20 min on foot from Iwaya port. ¥5500 with breakfast.
  • The Went is a nice hotel and resort on the east coast. Nice rooms. Pool, spa, fine dining and other necessities. Is accessible by the local (slow) bus and is located in Aiga (安乎).
  • Westin [8] is a giant beautiful hotel with many activities around it. It's located in the north-eastern part of the island and is easily accessible by bus.


Get out[edit]

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