Ten things to do on Awaji Island

Awaji is a large island off the Kobe coast that comprises one of Hyogo’s five main regions. It connects the Japanese mainland to the island of Shikoku via two suspension bridges, and is famous for its natural bounty, especially flowers, vegetables, beef, and seafood. Awaji has a unique atmosphere different from the mainland and a lot to offer the international traveler.

The best way to experience Awaji is by car. Rent a car in Kobe and drive across the bridge to the island. Spending the night there will give you an opportunity to explore the entire length of the island.

There are so many things to do on the island that I suggest picking and choosing. Here are ten of my favorites:

1. View the longest suspension bridge in the world at Matsuho Anchorage

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world, at 3991 meters. It was under construction during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, but was mainly unaffected by the disaster. The bridge was finally completed in 1998 and now forms part of an important link from the Japanese mainland to Shikoku.

You can view the bridge at the Anchorage for free (Awaji side), or you can participate in a tour that lets you walk on the bridge or even ride the elevator to the top of one of the towers! (Kobe side)

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Learn more here (English)

2. Try out a free tasting at Sennen-Ichi Shuzo Sake Brewery

Sennen-Ichi offers brewery tours with a personalized feel. This is a very small brewery, so you’re not seeing something that has been prepared for you behind a glass wall and explained by a chirpy woman in a bizarrely eighties-looking uniform, as is often the case in Japan (sigh). Instead, you get a chance to step right in to the actual brewery and see the brewers doing their work. Lots of gigantic vats and strange contraptions. Whoever is on duty at the time will gladly answer your questions. On the second floor of the brewery is a tasting room with a bar and a vintage feel. Here, your guide will encourage you to taste any or all of their sakes, including the high-grade Daiginjo. Of course, the assumption is that you will decide to buy a bottle of sake to take home – and I did!

Note: please drink responsibly. The designated driver should not participate in the tastings.

Sennen-Ichi Shuzo sake brewery

Learn more here (Japanese)

3. Enjoy an ocean view hot springs and stargazing at Kyukamura Minami Awaji

Kyukamura is a series of government-run lodgings situated in national parks throughout Japan. They offer a comfortable stay for very reasonable prices compared to private ryokan. At Kyukamura, you will stay in a traditional Japanese-style room, and dinner is a high-quality buffet of local seafood and produce. The Kyukamura on Awaji also has two special features: an outdoor hot springs with a beautiful ocean view, and a planetarium with nightly stargazing lectures. When I visited, I got a chance to view Jupiter, Sirius, and the Pleiades through the gigantic telescope. Recommended!

Kyukamura buffet

Kyukamura view

Learn more here (English)

4. See ocean whirlpools right up close on the Uzushio Cruise

Under the Naruto Ohashi Bridge on the southern side of Japan is the strait where the Seto Inland Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This collision produces some pretty fantastic whirlpools when the tide is right. You can see them from right up close on the Uzushio Cruise tour that departs from Fukura port.

Uzushio whirlpools

Learn more here (English)

5. View Japanese traditional puppet plays designated as an Intangible Folk Asset at Awaji Ningo-za

Viewing an Awaji Ningyo Joruri puppet play is a fascinating way to experience Awaji’s cultural heritage. These puppet plays have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years here on the island. A brand new theater has just been constructed specifically for the plays, and performances are held every day. At 45 minutes, they’re a lot easier for the non-Japanese tourist to digest than other art forms such as Bunraku or Kabuki. Before the play begins there is an explanation of how the puppets are manipulated (three puppeteers to one puppet), and afterwards you even get a chance to “meet” one of the puppets! The theater is accustomed to receiving foreign visitors.

Awaji Ningyo-za

Learn more here.

6. Taste the prizewinning Awaji Beef Burger at Tozaki

Tozaki is a nice little spot in southern Awaji where you can get a good view of the Naruto Ohashi Bridge that connects Awaji with Shikoku. There is also a restaurant there that serves the famous Awaji Burger, which won a prize in a national burger contest. (Who knew there was such a thing?) I can’t say whether it’s the best burger in Japan, but the rich taste of the Awaji beef combined with the crunchy deep-fried Awaji sweet onion is pretty delicious. I felt like ordering another burger as soon as I was finished with the first one.

Awaji burger

Learn more here.

7. Learn about the mythical origin of Japan at Izanagi Shrine

Awaji Island happens to be the very first part of Japan that was created by the gods Izanagi and Izanami in Japanese legend. This magnificent Shinto shrine commemorates that story. As a shrine associated with the imperial line of Japan, it’s much larger than a typical shrine and contains several interesting sights, including a Japanese garden, a gigantic horse statue, and two entwined camphor trees that symbolize romantic love. This historical landmark is worth visiting.

Izanagi Shrine

Learn more here (English)

8. Indulge in a world of scents at Parchez

Parchez is a facility completely dedicated to herbs and scents. If (like me) this is your thing, you’ll be in paradise. The main attraction is a hot spring where you can take a selection of different herbal baths including bay laurel, chamomile, lemon balm, sage, lavender, and lemongrass. That sounds like the ultimate in relaxation to me! The other highlight is the museum of scents where you can sample exotic scents such as kyara (agarwood), one of the most prized incense materials in Asia.

There is also a large greenhouse, and you can purchase potted plants and flowers. After picking up a pot of mint for my room, I loaded up on bath salts and other herb products in the gift shop and enjoyed a lavender ice cream! Lovely.

Parchez greenhouse

Kyara perfume

Learn more here (Japanese)

9. Learn about the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake at the Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park

This spot may be a little different than the others because it’s educational and sobering rather than fun and entertaining, but it’s very much worth a visit, especially for those from non-earthquake-prone regions. At the Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park, a gigantic fault that ripped through the farmlands is preserved as-is, showing visitors the destructive power of nature. There is also a room where you can experience simulated tremors at the level of those that caused the earthquake. I’ve been in several earthquakes, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. Not for the faint of heart.

Nojima fault

Earthquake room

Learn more here (English)

10. Tiptoe through the tulips at Awaji Hanasajiki

Finish your trip with a stroll through the endless fields of flowers at Awaji Hanasajiki. When I visited in March, most of the flowers weren’t blooming yet, but the nanohana (field mustard) flowers were brilliantly yellow. Other flowers should reach their peak in April and May.

Awaji Hanasajiki

Learn more here (English)

For more to do on Awaji, be sure to check out past posts in our Awaji category!

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