Awaji Island or Awaji-shima (淡路島) is located between Honshu (本州) and Shikoku (四国) in the Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海). It is near the city of Kobe (神戸) within the Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県). From beautiful sceneries to vibrant festivals and captivating performing arts, this island has everything to offer. Here are 10 awesome things to do when you are in the Awaji Island of Japan:
Awaji Island is world-famous for its traditional 500-year-old puppet shows. The Awaji Puppet Theatre or the Awaji Ningyoza is a puppet theater located in the southern part of Awaji called Minamiawaji (南あわじ). The “Ningyo-Joruri (人形浄瑠璃)” a.k.a. the puppet theater is considered as a cultural asset of Japan by the Japanese government. The famous Bunraku (文楽) style of puppet show, which is also a cultural asset, was started by a man from Awaji called Bunrakuken Uemura (植村 文楽軒). There are over 80 puppet theaters all over Japan. The Awaji Puppet Theatre went all across the world giving performances and gaining accolades.
Puppets have been seen in relation to religious events in many parts of the world. The Awaji islanders pray to the god of Ebisu for good harvest and well-being by doing puppet shows. The founder of this puppet theater is said to be Hyakudayu (百太夫). His followers went to different places of Japan popularizing this art. The puppets are usually well dressed and are managed by three puppeteers – one for the legs, one for the left hand, and the other for the right hand.
Have you ever been to a park to witness a fault that is a branch of a tectonic line? The Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 caused severe destruction in Japan and its pain is felt until today by families across the world. There are many active dip-slip faults in Japan just like Nojima that caused the 1995 earthquake.
The Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park in Awaji is a must-visit when you are touring the island. You can walk by a 140-meter long fault in the Nojima Fault Preservation Museum. There are monuments built for earthquake victims along with a model room to experience a quake at the place.
Akashi-Kaikyo is the world’s longest suspension bridge with a total length of 3,911 meters connecting the Awaji Island to Kobe City. In the past, people used to take boats to cross the Inland Sea but due to whirlpools, they lost their lives. The Japanese government started this mega project in 1988 and it took ten years to complete. It is a part of the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Project and has three spans, the longest being 1,991 meters.
The bridge is lit in colors during evenings and festivals, thus making it one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. If you want to see this bridge, you may want to go to Kobe City or Iwaya City on Awaji Island.
Constructed in 1871, Esaki Lighthouse is one of the oldest stone lighthouses in Japan. Richard Henry Brunton, known as the “Father of Japanese Lighthouses,” built this site to check on foreign ships sailing towards the island. He was born in Scotland and served as an adviser to the Meiji Government. He also founded the first-ever Japanese civil engineering school during the Meiji era. The focal height of Esaki Lighthouse is 48.50 meters. It is also a cultural property of Japan.
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Sumoto Castle is a historic site on Awaji Island that is partially reconstructed. It was built in the 16th century with stone walls. Most parts of the castle is lost and only certain remains, including a reinforced concrete keep, exist. The castle is located on the Sankuma Mountain (三熊山) in Sumoto City (洲本市) of Awaji Island. The place is calm and beautiful with a picturesque view.
Awaji Hanasajiki is located in the northern hilly side of Awaji Island facing Osaka Bay (大阪湾). It is a beautiful garden with plenty of flowers especially loquat fruit (biwa) and cherry blossoms. The whole place is good for hiking, horse riding, and other activities. There are some nice country farms nearby. You can also fill your stomach with delicious Kobe beef at any countryside restaurant here.
Izanagi Shrine, albeit unrecorded, is said to be the oldest shrine in Japan. It is dedicated to the deity who founded the country as there is a legend that Japan was created from the shores of Awaji by the god (kami), Izanagi. It is believed that kami Izanagi and Izanami stirred the waters with a spear and while lifting it, a brine dropped and hardened to become the Awaji Island. Soon, they started creating entire Japan.
If you are into the Japanese way of life and religion, you may want to check out this beautiful shrine. Many locals regardless of age visit this shrine to pray for success and well-being.
The Honpukuji Temple (本福寺) a.k.a. the Water Temple is an interesting piece of architecture that was constructed according to the principles of the ancient sect, Tantric Buddhism. It has a pool that reflects the light of the surroundings and its walls are mysteriously designed paving way underground to have a meditative effect. It was constructed in 1991 by a famous architect named Ando Tadao (安藤忠雄) who also built the beautiful Awaji Yumebutai (淡路夢舞台) which has a garden in staircases along the hillside.
The Naruto Strait, over which the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is built, has an interesting phenomenon that takes place twice a day. Strong whirlpools are created and one can go near them while on guide boats. This is one of the reasons why Akashi-Kaikyo was built as these whirlpools could be dangerous, some swirling at extreme speeds.
Awaji Island is blessed with awesome hot springs such as View Matsuho no Sato (美湯松帆の郷) located just near the coast facing the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge. There are a number of other onsens on the island that can help you relax anytime.
Also, there is a famous beach on the south-western side of Awaji, namely the Keino Matsubara Beach (慶野松原), which is a perfect place on the island to relax at. The waters are clean and the views are romantic at this beach.
So what are you waiting for? Get in the car and drive over the longest suspension bridge in the world to go to Awaji, the birthplace of Japanese folklore. Awaji is just two hours away from Osaka and is easily accessible from cities such as Kobe. Take a break amidst the scenic beauty of this beautiful island of Japan.