Whirlpools, some of the largest in the world
Naruto city, located in the northeast of Tokushima Prefecture, is the closest city in Shikoku to Osaka and Kobe and it has prospered as the door to Shikoku since old times. It is right across the Naruto Strait from Awaji Island floating on the Inland Sea of Japan. The width of the narrowest part of the strait is only about 1.4 km (3,280ft).
The most convenient way to access Naruto from airports and major cities in Kansai region is the bus, as 2 long-span bridges connect Honshu and Shikoku via Awaji Island. It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Kobe, about 2 hours from Osaka, about 2 and a half hours from Kyoto, and about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Kansai International Airport. From Tokyo and Fukuoka, fly to Tokushima Awaodori Airport, take a bus and you will arrive in Naruto City in about 40 minutes.
When you go to Naruto, you must experience the “whirlpools”, a natural phenomenon where the tide swirls violently on the surface. The tidal current of the Naruto Strait is fast, ranked one of the 3 biggest tidal currents in the world, and the flow of this current into the narrow strait between the Pacific Ocean and the Inland Sea of Japan is the main cause of the whirlpools. The tidal current is fastest during a full moon and new moon every month and, especially in the Spring and Autumn, the whirlpools make a roaring sound. These same whirlpools were painted on Ukiyoe, Japanese woodblock prints, more than 150 years ago. The whirlpools of Naruto, which can measure up to about 20m (66ft) in diameter, are said to be the largest in the world.
Let’s go see the whirlpools!
In order to see the whirlpools up close, we recommend trying “Kanchosen”, a tide-watching boat which gets so close to the whirlpools that your clothes get wet. There is a large ship, where you can relax in calmer waters, and a small ship that goes close to the whirlpools until they are right in front of your eyes and you can hear them roar.
You need to pay close attention to the boarding time. The whirlpools are a phenomenon that depends on the tide, so the day and the time when you can see them changes every day. Make sure to check in advance for a good time to go. Except during bad weather or special holidays, Kanchosen operates every day from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, in 30- to 40-minutes intervals. No reservation is necessary as passengers are accepted in the order of their check-in. The ride lasts for 20 to 30 minutes and the ticket price is 1,500 to 2,000 yen for adults and 800 to 1,000 yen for children.
Boarding place: Kameura Port, Naruto Park, Naruto City
Naruto Kanko Kisen
Boarding place: Kameura Kanko Port, Naruto Park, Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture
The Ohnaruto bridge is perfect for viewing the whirlpools, too. On “Uzu-no-michi”, the promenade that runs on the underside of the bridge, you can enjoy a stroll above the ocean, watching the grand sight of the Pacific Ocean and the Inland Sea of Japan . There are some glass floors on the promenade and in the observation room where you look down from as high as 45m (148ft) above the ocean and have a thrilling view of the violent tidal current.
You will also want to enjoy the view of the beautiful blue Inland Sea of Japan and the grand Ohnaruto Bridge together with the whirlpools. “Eska Hill Naruto” commands a panoramic 360° view which is appealing to all that visit. The observation point is accessible by taking a long, 68m (223 ft) escalator, the tallest escalator in the East. On a sunny day, the view of the Naruto Strait and the Ohnaruto Bridge from Eska Hill Naruto is simply superb and you can see islands floating on the Inland Sea of Japan in the distance, as well as Awaji Island.
Eska Hill Naruto
Address: Naruto-cho, Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture (In Naruto Park)
Open: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Admission fee: 400 yen (100 yen for age 13 and under)
If you want to take a photo with the Ohnaruto Bridge in the background, “Senjojiki Observatory”, next to the entrance of “Uzu-no-michi”, is the best spot. You can see the spectacular view of Ohnaruto Bridge up close. There are restaurants and souvenir shops selling specialties of Naruto and many tourists taking memorable photos.
Take a relaxing stroll in the city of Naruto
Whirlpools are not the only attraction of Naruto. The city of Naruto has prospered as the door of Shikoku. The city used to be called “Muya” and it was the starting point of the Muya Highway that runs across Shikoku. Along the highway between JR Muya station and Konpiramae Station, you can still see the old townscape of the city that used be crowded with people and merchandise coming and going. You can take a relaxing stroll along the highway and feel time slow down. As you walk, you will see “Ryozenji Temple”, the first of the 88 Fudasho or temples visited by pilgrims, close to Bando Station. Why not visit this temple and feel as if you were one of the pilgrims?
Address: 126 Bando Tsukahana, Oasa-cho, Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture
The traditional craft of Naruto is Otaniware. There are a lot of pottery workshops making Otani ware around Awaotani Station. In the past, Otani ware was made by hand on a potter’s wheel by professional potters and were baked in the kiln on the hillside. You can still see the kiln at the pottery workshops today and there are shops next to the workshops as well. Why don’t you look for your favorite plate while taking a relaxing stroll?
Aside from a stroll along the Muya Highway, we also recommend visiting the “Otsuka Museum of Art” in Naruto Park which exhibits more than 1,000 painting masterpieces duplicated with porcelain tiles, and “Awaji Ningyo-za” in Awaji Island where Ningyo Joruri, a Japanese puppet drama, is performed.
Finally, the real pleasure of travelling is delicious local food. Shikoku is known for Udon noodles and Naruto is famous for “Naruchuru Udon” which has been loved by local people since old times. The simple flavor of the golden light broth with chopped deep-fried tofu and spring onion on top will be a taste you cannot forget. Their fresh seafood cuisine, a specialty of cities along the ocean, is exquisite. “Takechikuwa”, a tube-shaped fish paste cake made using a bamboo stick as a core rod, is also famous. There are also shops selling sweets made from sweet potatoes called “Naruto Kintoki”, the local specialty, and we recommend you try it, too.