Known locally as Awajishima, Awaji is the largest island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea with diverse attractions ranging from an anime themed amusement park, to scenic beaches. The island is easily accessible from Osaka or Kobe via the impressive Akashi-Kaikyo suspension bridge, making it a great destination for a day trip or longer.

Awaji and Japan’s origins

In the historic narrative of the nation’s creation myth in the Kojiki, Awaji Island is considered the origin of Japan. Two gods, Izanagi and Izanami, were sent to stir the chaotic waters of the world with a spear. When a drop fell from the raised spear to the earth, it hardened. The two gods descended to that tiny island, ‘Onogoroshima’, which some say is Nushima Island in the south or possibly Eshima in the north. Here, they engaged in creating the beautiful islands now called Japan.

Things to do in Awaji Island

In the north of Awaji you will find more interactive experiences such Nijigen-no-Mori, three Hello Kitty attractions, Parchez House of Scents, and Onokoro Theme Park. Other attractions are the famous Yumebutai, Hanasajiki flower fields, and Izanagi Shrine. In the south is Sumoto Castle, English Hill Farm, and around the southern tip there’s kayaking, fishing, and the Naruto Whirlpools.

Naruto x Boruto Shinobizato | Photo by Ⓒ岸本斉史 スコット/集英社・テレビ東京・ぴえろ

To know more about key attractions follow the links below or continue reading about how to get to and around Awajishima. If you’re limited to one-day and public transport, it’s best to choose your transport options according to your preferred destination.

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Getting to and around Awajishima

Getting to Awajishima is straightforward, but not cheap. A one-way trip from nearby Kobe City will cost at least ¥1,890 or more by car or bus. There are no trains going to or running on the island.

Take a boat – the cheapest way to Awaji Island

  • Adult ticket one way ¥550
  • Child ticket one way ¥280
  • Osaka to JR Akashi ¥940 and 37 min

Akashi is the only port for getting to Awaji by boat. There are no more boats from either Kobe or Osaka. The once famed Tako Ferry, from Akashi Port, is sadly no longer running. From Akashi Station, it’s a 10-minute-walk to the port.

The boat from Akashi goes to Iwaya Port on the north side of Awajishima. For weekends and holidays, boats depart once on the half hour. The last boat back to the mainland is at 11:20 p.m. From Iwaya Port there are free shuttles to the Hello Kitty attractions and Nijigen-no-Mori. The north island loop buses stop there too.

In Iwaya town, you can walk to Eshima Island, there’s a nice beach, and bicyle rentals. Right near the island is the tourist information office. The Matsuho Onsen Hotel has great views, and the Umi-no-Mori is a small and cozy onsen.

Charter a sightseeing taxi – best way around Awaji

The best option for getting around Awaji Island is a sightseeing charter taxi. Your bus ticket to Awajishima is a separate cost. You pay per vehicle capacity, so for a group of up to four people, the split cost isn’t that bad. KKday is one such company and they offer 5-hr or 8-hr packages.

Kobe and Osaka bus to Awaji Island

For budget and solo travelers, anime otaku, Hello Kitty fans, a scheduled tour, or visiting just a few select sights in one day, a highway bus is your best choice.

Awaji Kotsu runs routes from Sannomiya and Kosoku-Maiko Stations, plus one from Osaka Hankyu Sanbangai. All routes include Awaji IC stop for Hello Kitty and Nijigen-no-Mori except for the Fukura Line (福良線) to the far south.

There are also Nishi Nihon JR Buses with package deals and free passes. Shinki Bus Co. departing from Shin-Kobe Station runs a number of Awaji and Tokushima bus lines.

Prices may differ according to how far you want to go or package deals. We detail the best route for each attraction mentioned.

Awaji Island by car

Riding over Akashi Kaikyo Bridge to Awaji IslandRiding over Akashi Kaikyo Bridge to Awaji Island
Photo by Roger Shitaki

If you’re traveling by car, rental or otherwise, you need to make sure you have ETC installed for discount rates when crossing the Akashi-Kaikyo. Bridge toll rates vary between weekends and weekdays.

North Awajishima Bus Loop

Honshi Bus Co. runs a number of loop and connecting bus lines— Awajin-Awahime Bus Loop (あわ神あわ姫バス)— for the north side of Awajishima down to Onokoro Park. If you have some Japanese skill you can view the PDF route map

You can use these routes to connect to Iwaya Port, Awaji IC, Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Hanasajiki, Higashiura Bus Terminal (not IC), Parchez House of Scents, Izanagi Jingu Shrine, Kita Awaji IC, Tsuna Port Terminal, and Onokoro Park.

  • ¥500 per ride
  • Or, buy a ¥1,000 day-pass on the bus

Awaji Island hands-on fun experiences

These days, Awaji is becoming an attractive destination for younger crowds — especially anime lovers, Hello Kitty fans, and families with younger kids. Places like Nijigen-no-Mori Anime Park also offer visitors a truly unique and memorable Japan experience.

Nijigen-no-Mori incl. Godzilla Inception Operation

godzilla zipline at nijigen no mori
Photo by © TOHO CO., LTD

Nijigen-no-Mori is one of Japan’s most cutting-edge amusement parks featuring the world’s only real-sized Godzilla attraction! Attractions vary in price from ¥2,000 and up for adults, but ticket sets and package deals with transportation are the better option.

The stop for Nijigen-no-Mori is Awaji IC and buses depart from Osaka-Namba, Osaka JR, Sannomiya, Shin-Kobe, and Kosoku-Maiko stations. From Kansai International, Itami, and Kobe Airports take the limousine bus to Awaji IC. There’s a free shuttle bus from Iwaya Port.

Awaji Hello Kitty Smile, Showbox, and Appleland

Along the west coast of Awaji Island are three Hello Kitty hangouts. At Hello Kitty Smile you can enjoy photogenic food menus, outdoor terraces, and all sorts of Hello Kitty memorabilia, shopping, photo ops, and greeting events. 

Further up the coast, towards Iwaya Port, is Hello Kitty Showbox with jazz shows featuring Hello Kitty dancing and playing a trumpet. The building’s roof is a Hello Kitty face — the largest in the world (!). You can view it from the giant red apple-shaped building or Hello Kitty Appleland’s viewing deck. It has to be lived to be believed!

You can buy a ticket set including either lunch or the cafe. Lunch is pricey, the food is okay, but the Cafe set is more affordable. There are separate tickets too.

  • By bus: Get off at the Awaji IC stop and catch a shuttle bus to either Hello Kitty Smile or Hello Kitty Showbox.
  • By boat: Catch the boat at Akashi Port to Iwaya Port on Awajishima and then the free shuttle bus.

Bonus spots: Just a few minutes walk north of Hello Kitty Showbox is the Awaji Craft Circus with more shopping and restaurant choices. There’s even a dog cafe to treat your pooch to haute cuisine. A 10-minute-walk south is Seikaiha — an excellent dining choice with vintage sake, shochu, and plum wine. You can buy gift sets too.

Other experiences on Awajishima

Parchez House of Scents – At Parchez you can participate in workshops such as making candles, soaps, incense, and perfume, flower arranging, or picking herbs and flowers. Workshop prices range from ¥750 for soap making to ¥3,950 for distilling essential oils. There’s a local organic cuisine restaurant with a buffet. Alternatively, adjacent is a local hot spring house with its own restaurant. 

  • Take Awaji Kotsu Highway Bus Nishiura Line (西浦線) from Sannomiya and get off at Gunke (郡家) stop. From there, take a taxi (5-min).
  • The Awajin-Awahime ‘minamibu-kankoumawari’ (南部観光周遊回り) or green line southern loop bus departing from Hokudan-jimushyo-mae or Tsuna Port Terminal stop right outside.

From Hello Kitty, the loop bus continues down to Hokudan-jimushyo-mae where you change loops. Four stops before (Hokudan-shinsai-mae) is the Great Hanshin Earthquake memorial park. You can see a cross section of the actual fault line, and despite numerous interesting displays and an earthquake simulator, it’s all in Japanese. Entry is ¥700 for adults and ¥300 for children. From Parchez, the bus continues to Izanagi Shrine.

Onokoro Theme Park – One of those quirky Japanese theme parks, but nevertheless often liked by foreign visitors. It’s on the east coast down from Tsuna Port. Apart from lots of attractions for younger kids, there’s a zipline adventure, air gun shooting range, big wheel, 3D maze, zombie house, scaled-down historic sites, gigantic dinosaurs, and more.

  • Entrance: Adults ¥1,400 / Kids ¥700.
  • All rides pass: Adults ¥4,400 / Kids ¥3,700.
  • JR Maiko Station: Sumoto Line (洲本線) direct bus link.
  • JR Osaka Station: Bus to Tsuna Port Terminal, then Platform 4 bus bound for Sumoto stopping at World Park Onokoro Mae.
  • Shin-Kobe Station: Shinki Bus Sumoto Line directly to Onokoro Park.

Farm Park English Hill: A place to enjoy seasonal flower gardens, veg and fruit picking, tons of kids’ activities, air-jumping, small animal enclosures (incl. smelly koalas), and farm house food and goodies. It’s one of Awaji Island’s key attractions in the south.

  • Adults ¥1,000 / Kids ¥200
  • Sumoto Bus Center: Fukura local bus to Awaji Farm Park bus stop.
  • Sumoto Line (洲本線) buses run from Kosoku-Maiko, Sannomiya, and Osaka Hankyu Sanbangai.

Awaji Yumebutai, flowers, parks, and gardens

Photo by iStock.com/MASAHIKO NARAGAKI

Awajishima is Japan’s ‘onion island’. Farmers grow a ton of tasty tear jerkers here, but Awaji is also most famous for its flowers and parks:

  • Yumebutai — a truly fascinating green architectural complex by Tadoa Ando. It’s free to wander around, but some places have a small entry fee. 
  • Kiseki-no-Hoshi Botanic Museum — A modern designer glass house with five climate zones, a tree atrium, and special showrooms. All school goers are free, and adults are ¥750
  • Akashi Kaikyo National Park — A vast and beautifully landscaped garden park with year-round flower beds, a boating lake, various streams, and a restaurant. It’s ¥450 for adults. 

All the above locations are within easy walking distance to each other. It’s a 10-min taxi ride from the Awaji IC. Alternatively, you can take the Awajin-Awahime bus loop from Iwaya or Awaji IC.

From JR Shinkobe or JR Maiko Stations the Awajishima highway bus bound for Higashiura Bus Terminal stops by Awaji Yumebutai.

Yumebutai shares the same Awajin-Awahime bus loop as Awaji Hanasajiki where there are better lunch or dining options. From Awaji Hanasajiki, you can loop around to Iwaya Port for Hello Kitty attractions, or loop anti-clockwise to the Higashiura Bus Terminal hub.

Bonus spot: near to the international conference center is the small but interesting Kakuya Oishi Museum of Art showcasing Awaji’s most famous local artist. It’s ¥800 for adults to enter.

Awaji Island Hanasajiki

Awaji Hanasajiki is probably the best place to enjoy flowers in Awajishima. You can ramble along 15 acres of undulating hilltops with altitudes reaching 300 meters with fantastic vistas — and it’s free! There’s a terrace restaurant and a farmers market which also sells local souvenirs.

  • Higashiura IC: 10-min by taxi
  • Iwaya Port: 18-min by taxi
  • Take the Awajin-Awahime ‘kitabu-kankou-mawari’ bus loop (北部観光周遊回り) from Iwaya Port, Awaji IC, Yumebutai, or Higashiura Bus Terminal to Awaji-hanasajiki bus stop.

The taxi is around ¥1,500 from Higashiura IC, and it may be a good idea to book one in advance if you can.

Bonus spot: For a unique dining experience, try Nature Lab. It’s one stop away (Awaji Country Garden) on the same bus but the clockwise loop (時計回り) and a short walk.

Religious, cultural, and historic sites

Izanagi Jingu Shrine on Awaji Island
Photo by Roger Shitaki

Izanagi Jingū Shrine is the key religious and historic site on Awajishima dedicated to the two gods who created Japan. Entry is free and there’s a 900-year-old sacred twin camphor tree called Meoto-no-Okusu. 

  • Shin-Kobe Station: Direct link via Shinki Bus Goshiki route
  • Awajin-Awahime bus loop from Iwaya Port, Tsuna Port Terminal, Onokoro World Park, or Kita Awaji IC to Izanagi-jingu-mae (伊弉諾神宮前).

Honpukuji Water Temple is famous for its annex lotus pond and subterranean Fudo Myō temple designed by Tado Ando. The structure encapsulates Ando’s skill at spatial manipulation, the water element, as well as mastery of light and reflection. It’s a little out of the way, but you can combine this with a visit to Awaji Farm Park English Hill.

  • Entry: ¥400
  • 15-min walk from Higashiura IC using google navigation

Other Temples: Awaji’s historic yet small temples are mostly off the main bus routes. There is, however, a monthly ‘meguri bus tour’ that visits Awajishima’s key 13 Buddhist temples. Senkoji, on the summit of Sakiyama — Japan’s ‘first mountain’ — is 8km from Sumoto Bus Center by car or taxi.

Sumoto Castle Ruins: A nice place to ramble around. It has impressive walls, a reconstructed tower keep, and great views over Sumoto City. Entry is free, but the only viable transport is by car or taxi or the Sumoto castle hiking loop.

Bunraku Theater: Awaji puppetry (bunraku), known as Awaji Ningyo Joruri, was hugely popular during the Edo Period. These unique large-headed puppets almost died out! However, in 1969 a united puppet group, the Awaji Island Puppet Theater, was formed. You can now view these fantastic shows at the purpose-built theater in Fukura. Check out their online English language guides to each show. A nearby place to stay is the Minato Koyado hot spring hotel.

  • The theater is right opposite Fukura Bus Terminal.
  • Tickets: Adults ¥1,800 / Teens 1 ¥300 / Kids ¥1,000

Bonus Spot: Near to Higashiura Bus Terminal is the Nakahama Cat Art Museum and pottery shop. It has a unique collection of Japanese cat art.

Naruto Whirlpools from Awaji

The Naruto Whirlpools are one of the top attractions on Awaji Island. Whirlpools only form during high and low tides with two daytime viewing periods. The best seasons are spring and autumn. It’s recommended to check the tidal whirlpool calendar before you go.

From the Awaji side, your only viewing option is a whirlpool boat cruise. The cruise port is at Fukura which is the end point on the Awaji Kotsu Fukura Line. If you take the Maiko Fukura Line from Kosoku-Maiko Station, this line also stops at the Awajishima Minami IC where you can get a shuttle bus to Uzu Hill and the giant Onion.

Uzu Hill Onion

Giant onion on Uzu Hill Awaji Island
Photo by Roger Shitaki

Apart from photo ops with a giant onion, there are superb vistas from Uzu Hill, especially of Naruto Ohashi Bridge. A top spot is the real snazzy Uzunokuni restaurant. It serves up some of the best Awaji specialities including Awaji beef, conger eel, sea urchin, Awaji soba, local fish, and of course onions. There’s also a burger speciality restaurant, a souvenir and local produce shop, and a chilled out viewing terrace.

Naruto Whirlpools from Tokushima

The cheaper option for viewing the Naruto Whirlpools is actually across the bridge in Naruto City which is part of Shikoku Island’s Tokushima Prefecture. Awaji Kotsu buses do not cross these waters, so you have to take a Tokushima bus route.

Naruto Whirlpool
Naruto Whirlpool | Photo by istock.com/10max

Here, you can brave the Uzu-no-Michi Walkway which is a glass structure on the underside of the bridge. Be sure to check their online viewing schedule ahead of time. Nearby, is the Otsuka Museum of Art housing stunning locally produced replicas of famous art pieces. There’s also the Onaruto Memorial Bridge Museum. 

  • Shin-Kobe Station: Take the Shinki Bus Tokushima Line and get off at Naruto Koenguchi.
  • There are buses from JR Kyoto, JR Osaka, and Osaka-Namba stations, Universal Studios, and Kosoku-Maiko Station that stop at Naruto Koenguchi.

Recreational things to do and Awaji Island beaches

If you seek more than action theme parks, ziplines, and trampling around flower gardens, Awaji Island has no shortage of recreational activities.

Cycling around Awaji Island

Cycling is a much loved Awajishima recreational activity. Cyclism Awaji is the best bike rental place on the island. They are located at the upper end of the Akashi Kaikyo National Park and the Yumebutai, next to the Aquaignis Hotel. There’s also a rental-return shop at Iwaya Port.

Rental bikes include anything from carbon fiber road bikes, electric bikes, mountains bikes, kids bikes, and more. Rental periods are 2-hrs, 4-hrs, 1-day, and 2-days. Day rental for a kid’s bike is ¥2,800 and prices range up to ¥7,500 for a top-end adult bike. Prices include insurance, lights, helmets, and a puncture repair kit. The website and its online reservation are only in Japanese, but you can contact them by email. Advanced booking is recommended.

Check out their recommended cycling routes done in Google Maps, and you can also download English language PDFs of official cycling routes and info.

Walking and hiking

There are quite a number of hiking routes (PDF) across Awajishima. Half-day courses are between 2-3 hours and full-day ones are up to 7-hours. The most accessible short courses are around Sumuto City and castle, the Green Park loop from Iwaya Port, and the Taganohama beach loop including Izanagi Shrine.

A half-day walk around Nushima Island is a unique thing to do in Awaji. The ferry to this one-town island leaves from the Nada town port of Habu. There’s a bus from Sumoto Bus Center to Nushima-kisenjo-mae at the ferry port.

Watersports and fishing

About 5km down from the Fukura terminal is the Janohire recreational area. Sea kayak rentals are pricey, up to ¥7,000 for 75-min, but SUPs are slightly cheaper. Janohire also has fishing, camping, and other accommodations nearby. It’s a typical Japanese family resort area, so don’t expect much English.

Sea Moon Resort north of Sumoto City has parasailing, jet boats, hurricane boats and various types of recreational rentals. You can also find ticket deals online.

Beaches of Awaji Island

Beyond the azure waters of Okinawa, beach vacationing in Japan is more likely to satisfy locals. Awaji Island, however, has some relatively good beaches.

Ohama Beach on the Sumoto City foreshore is the most popular sandy beach of Awaji. It is wide and long, with shady pine tree sections and clear waters. There are excellent facilities and places to stay nearby. Just a 20-minute walk to the north, is the Takenokuchigyoko Park with a marina and small swimming area.

Iwaya Beach is a short distance down from Iwaya Port. There are nice sandy sections, shade, and the facilities are good. You can walk to nearby Eshima Island.

Keino-Matsubara Beach on the lower west side is a quieter option with a range of accommodations including higher-end. It’s a really long beach, great for walking, and colorful sunsets.

Taganohoma Beach on the mid west coast is a 1km stretch of grassy and sandy beachfront. The main place to stay is Otowa Ryokan, 1km south of Gunke bus stop. Taganohama is very local but has easy access to Izanagi Shine and Parchez House of Scents. A 5-minute walk straight down the road from Otowa Ryokan is Chisou Gallery (梅薫堂) — one of many uniquely special Awaji incense makers found in Ei ‘incense town’, which also has a beautiful beach.

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