10 Best Things to Do in Awaji Island (Awajishima)

Awaji's Best Kept Secrets: Top 10 Must-Visit Spots

Did you know Awaji Island is one of the most sacred places in all of Japan? According to the ancient Japanese creation myth recorded in the “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki,” the first chronicles of Japan, Awaji Island is considered the very first island created by the divine beings Izanagi and Izanami during the creation of the Japanese archipelago. They used a heavenly jeweled spear to churn the ocean, and as drops fell from the spear, Awaji Island was formed. This myth places Awaji at the center of the creation of Japan, making it a foundational site in Japanese mythology.

Legends aside, Awaji Island, the largest island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, brings together the best of natural beauty, rich culture, and historical significance, enchanting visitors with its lush landscapes and spiritual sites like the ancient Izanagi Shrine. And beyond its spiritual allure, there are also plenty of fun experiences! So here we go with the top 10 things to do in Awaji Island!

Where is Awaji Island (Awajishima)?

Awaji Island is located in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea in Japan, strategically positioned between the main island of Honshu and Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. It belongs to Hyogo Prefecture and is connected to Honshu by the impressive Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world, which links it to the city of Kobe. To the south, it connects to Shikoku via the Naruto Bridge. This location makes Awaji Island a significant crossroads between western and eastern Japan, both geographically and culturally. Its central position has historically been pivotal for maritime traffic and has influenced its cultural and economic development. 

1. Have a Fantastical Adventure art Nijigen no Mori

Godzilla at Nijigen no Mori
©2024 Nijigennomori Inc.

Nijigen no Mori (ニジゲンノモリ) on Awaji Island elevates the anime theme park experience by blending iconic series like “Naruto” and “Boruto” with the colossal presence of the “Godzilla” franchise. The park’s Naruto and Boruto area, a haven for fans, is an interactive space where visitors can engage in ninja-themed activities, testing their agility and strength in environments reminiscent of the anime’s world. 

A standout attraction is the “Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji,” a thrilling addition for Godzilla fans. This experience centers around the world’s first life-size replica of Godzilla, where participants engage in a mission to stop Godzilla, navigating through challenging tasks and obstacles. There’s also a “Crayon Shin-chan Adventure Park” where the world of this beloved show comes to life!

2. Have a Floral Feast for the Eyes at Awaji Hanasajiki 

Cosmos flowers at Awaji Hanasajiki
©2022 公益財団法人兵庫県園芸・公園協会

Awaji Hanasajiki (兵庫県立公園あわじ花さじき), a spectacular garden located on the slopes of Awaji Island, is an expansive garden renowned for its seasonal floral displays that cover the area in vibrant colors throughout the year. The park features various types of flowers that bloom in harmony with the changing seasons, like beautiful tulips and daffodils in spring or sunflowers and cosmos in summer, followed by the rich hues of cosmos and salvia in autumn, creating a feast for the eyes. 

It’s an ideal spot for nature lovers, photographers, and anyone seeking a peaceful retreat amidst natural beauty. Visitors can stroll along the paths, enjoying the fragrant air and picturesque scenery. Additionally, Awaji Hanasajiki hosts flower festivals and events, adding to its allure as a must-visit destination on Awaji Island.

3. Journey into Japan’s Mythological Past at Izanagi Shrine

Izanagi ShrineIzanagi Shrine (伊弉諾神宮) is one of the most significant places both from a spiritual and historical point of view. Revered as one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, it is dedicated to the deity Izanagi, who, according to Japanese mythology, played a key role in the creation of the Japanese archipelago. 

The shrine’s ambiance offers a glimpse into ancient Japanese spiritual practices and beliefs. Its majestic torii gate leads to a path surrounded by lush greenery, creating a sense of stepping back in time with the shrine’s traditional architecture. It’s a place where one can experience the deep roots of Japanese culture and Shintoism, reflected in the rituals and festivals held here throughout the year. 

4. Enjoy the Sights by the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge at Awaji Highway Oasis

Awaji Highway OasisAwaji Highway Oasis (淡路ハイウェイオアシス) is a rest stop located near the majestic Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge. It’s a popular spot for both travelers and locals alike because of its panoramic views of the longest suspension bridge in the world from its observation deck, making it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.  

The Oasis also features a wide array of dining options that showcase local flavors, including fresh sushi, udon, and fusion cuisine, as well as local souvenirs. Visitors can enjoy their meals while gazing at the impressive bridge and the picturesque surroundings. The site also includes a large park with beautiful flower fields and grassy areas, ideal for leisurely walks and relaxation.

5. Discover Nushima’s Natural Wonders: Trails, Rocks, and Symbols of Love

Kamitategami Rock at NushimaNushima (沼島), a secluded and picturesque island off the coast of Awaji, is a hidden gem for nature lovers and adventurers. Accessible via a short boat ride, its landscape is marked by unique rock formations and rugged coastlines, creating a dramatic backdrop for exploration. Among its geological wonders is the Kamitategami Rock, renowned for its striking appearance and considered a symbol of love. 

Nushima’s hiking trails offer an immersive experience into the island’s peaceful environment, leading visitors through lush greenery and to vantage points with breathtaking views of the surrounding sea. The island is also home to quaint shrines that add a touch of spirituality to your day trip.

6. Visit Tadao Ando’s Architectural Masterpiece and Floral Splendor

Awaji YumebutaiAwaji Yumebutai (淡路夢舞台), designed by the acclaimed architect Tadao Ando, is an architectural marvel that integrates human creativity with the natural landscape of Awaji Island. This multifaceted complex includes a hotel, conference center, and the stunning “Hundred Stepped Gardens”. These terraced gardens feature a hundred flower beds arranged in steps, creating a strikingly flowered geometrical pattern that changes colors and textures with each season. 

The complex also showcases Ando’s signature use of concrete, water, and light, creating spaces that are both contemplative yet impressive. Yumebutai is intended as a symbol of regeneration and hope, built on a site once scarred by soil extraction that now tries to showcase the coexistence between architecture and nature.

7. Rejuvenate with Sumoto Onsen’s Natural Hot Springs

Photo by 663highland (Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Sumoto Onsen (洲本温泉), in the heart of Awaji Island, is a luxurious retreat that promises relaxation and rejuvenation.. These natural springs, discovered relatively recently, are believed to have skin-beautifying properties, attracting visitors seeking both relaxation and wellness.

The onsen town is home to a range of bathing facilities, from public bathhouses to exclusive ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) offering private open-air baths. Many of these establishments provide stunning vistas of the surrounding sea and landscape and visitors can also explore the town of Sumoto, known for its castle ruins and local cuisine.

8. Have Some Family Fun at Awaji Farm Park England Hill

Awaji Farm Park England HillAwaji Farm Park England Hill (淡路ファームパーク イングランドの丘) is a delightful destination for families and nature enthusiasts on Awaji Island. This is an extensive agricultural park inspired by the English countryside that takes advantage of outdoor fun for educational experiences. Visitors can interact with a variety of farm animals, offering a chance for up-close encounters and learning about rural life. 

The park also features various attractions like go-karts, playgrounds, and hands-on workshops, ensuring entertainment for all ages. The park’s picturesque setting, with its rolling hills and green landscapes, provides a perfect backdrop for a day of leisure and exploration. 

9. Find Local Treasures and Enjoy Scenic Views at Road Station Awaji

Road Station AwajiRoad Station Awaji (道の駅 あわじ) is another rest stop with stunning views of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and the surrounding cityscapes of Akashi and Kobe. This station is a hub of local culture and commerce, featuring a range of facilities where visitors can enjoy delicious local cuisine, including fresh seafood, and shop for unique souvenirs and regional specialties. 

The station’s highlight is its vantage point next to the bridge that provides breathtaking panoramic views, making it a sought after spot for tourists and photographers. This is the perfect place to rest and dive into the local flavors.

10. Experience the Naruto Strait’s Dramatic Whirlpools

The Uzushio Cruise (うずしおクルーズ) takes visitors on a journey through the Naruto Strait, famous for its dynamic and natural whirlpools. This unique marine phenomenon, resulting from the interaction of tides and underwater geography, presents a thrilling spectacle that is best experienced aboard a cruise. 

As the boat navigates the strait, guests can witness the powerful force of nature creating swirling water patterns, a rare sight that captures the imagination. The cruise offers informative commentary, providing insights into the science behind these natural wonders. With varying intensities depending on the tide, each cruise offers a distinct experience.

How to Get to Awaji Island

The island is well-connected to major cities in Japan, making it easily accessible for travelers. 

From Osaka, the fastest route is by car or bus via the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway, crossing the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge from Kobe. For those traveling from Kansai International Airport, direct bus services are available to the island, taking about two hours to reach the main bus terminal in Sumoto, the heart of Awaji Island. Additionally, visitors can opt for ferry services available from Akashi to Iwaya on Awaji Island, offering a more leisurely and picturesque approach.

Awaji Island is a vivid exploration of contrasts, where ancient lore intertwines with contemporary excitement. Come here to discover the birthplace of Japan for a journey filled with varied and exciting experiences!

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Written by

Photographer, journalist, and avid urban cyclist, making sense of Japan since 2017. I was born in Caracas and lived for 14 years in Barcelona before moving to Tokyo. Currently working towards my goal of visiting every prefecture in Japan, I hope to share with readers the everlasting joy of discovery and the neverending urge to keep exploring.