Awaji Island Japan Guide
Awaji Island Map
The island of Awaji, also known as Awajishima, is the largest island in the Seto Inland Sea. It is a part of the Hyogo Prefecture and is located in between Osaka and Takamatsu. It is located in the Kansai region of Japan and is located between the islands of Shikoku and Honshu, two of Japan’s main islands. Between Shikoku island and Awajishima is the Naruto Strait while between Honshu and Awajishima is the Akashi Strait.
The total area of Awaji island is about 600 square kilometers. This makes the island pretty huge and much larger than many of the small cities in Japan. What is interesting about Awajishima is that many people believe that it is the first island in Japan which was created by the gods Izanagi and Izanami. Awaji island is the piece of land in Japan’s creation story. Although of course, it will be difficult to prove this scientifically, this belief has turned the island into one of the most prominent in the entire country both historically and religiously.
Awaji Island Weather
The climate experienced in Awaji island is warm and temperate. This means that they experience four different seasons every year. However, the temperatures are mostly warm which is why both the fall season and the winter season are mild. Interestingly, it rarely snows in Awajishima based on historical records and information.
Daily weather in the area is generally warm but dry. This means that there is also little rainfall throughout the year. The daily average temperature is about 15 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, it is a common occurrence for them to experience seasonal winds but the island is generally not susceptible to typhoons.
Awaji Island Population
The general population of the island is about 160,000 individuals. Compared to the area of the island, the population is actually quite low making the population density of the island low as well. The population of the island had remained steady and stable over the past decades and there is minimal migration occurring into and out of the island. This is because of the fact that the island has been quite flourishing even during the earlier times.
Travel Tips to Awaji Island Japan
Access to Awaji Island
There are different means of accessing Awajishima. It can be accessed via plane, car, bus, and even train. It is more common to see individual travelers from the train stations. However, the problem with this is that there are no direct train lines going to Awaji island. The good thing is that there are bus terminals from both the Shin-Kobe shinkansen station and the Osaka station from the JR line. Traveling by boat is also discouraged because of the behavior of the bodies of water and the frequent occurrences of whirlpools in the area.
Awaji Island to Kansai Airport
Since Awaji island is located in the Kansai region, the Kansai airport is the nearest airport from the island. It offers both international and local departures and arrivals. There used to be are high-speed ferries that run from Kansai International Airport going to Sumoto and vice versa. Nowadays, people who travel from the airport to the city can take highway buses that travel towards Sumoto. The cost is about 2,000 yen for a total of 120 minutes travel time.
Awaji Island Hotels
Since it is an island which boasts beaches and hot spring resorts, these are the two most common places to stay on Awaji island. There are luxury hotels also available but these come with a hefty price. Accommodation can be difficult to find during peak travel seasons so it would be best to prepare ahead of time.
Awaji Island Transportation
There are no local train lines that operate on the island. The best means of transportation available would be via shuttles or buses. The problem with this is that there is a limitation in the number of buses available in the island. In fact, public transport is of great difficulty, especially for first-time travelers.
Must-Haves from Awaji Island Japan
Awaji Island Incense
What is interesting about Awaji island is that it is known to produce more than half of the incense distributed in Japan. Ichimiya-KU is the center of incense production in Awaji island. Their incense is of great quality that they are also exported to different parts of the world. These are produced in different shapes and colors. They are also produced in different fragrances and aroma. Because of this, it has become highly commercialized and has changed the image of incense beyond its use in temples and shrines.
According to historical records, mass production of incense from Awaji island started in the mid-19th century. Since fishing is the primary source of living on the island, the cold season usually becomes the hardest time for the citizens. Because of this, they needed to find an alternative source of living during winter. This is why incense production became quite handy to provide an additional source of income during the cold season.
Awaji Island Onions
Also known as tamanegi or sweet onions, onions are among the most popular products exported by Awaji island. These tamanegi are quite bountiful during the summer season. They are known to be sweet and delicious and are known to be great even for eating raw. What is even better about this is the fact that there are shops and stalls in Awaji island that sell bags upon bags of tamanegi at affordable rates.
Awaji Beef or Awaji Gyu
Japan is home to what is known as Wagyu, or beef that is highly marbleized. These are kinds of beef which are melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Since the island is known for its lushness, mountain animals such as goats, sheep, and cows are known to be fed only the freshest and most organic greens. This makes this meat completely organic and it also adds a special flavor to their meat. What makes the Awaji gyu even more special is the fact that they are massaged on a daily basis so that they will have less fat and better marbleization.
The Pride and Glory of Awaji Island
It was in the early 18th century when the process of creating traditional Japanese pottery through a specialized process was founded in Awajishima. It was developed by a wealthy family whose business surrounded by the production of ceramics. What makes Minpei ware or Awaji ware special and distinct from others is the fact that they are produced with unusual glaze and colors. Some are white and cream while there are others with special colors of blue, yellow, and green.
Awaji Ningyo Joruri
The island of Awaji is known to be the origin of the Ningyo Joruri, a form of traditional Japanese puppet craft and theatre. Normally, these dolls are dressed in elaborate clothing and are used to play characters in puppet plays with interesting plots and dialog. Puppet shows in Japan are very popular, especially during the earlier times. It is one of the earliest forms of entertainment in Japan which is accessible for all people in different walks of life. There is road shows that tour the country like a circus. There are also shows in prestigious theaters in different parts of the country.
Thirteen Buddhas of Awaji Island
Since Awajishima plays a vital role in Japan’s history and religion, it is not surprising to find a multitude of shrines and temples all over the island. In fact, there is a group of Buddhist sacred sites in the island collectively known as the Thirteen Buddhas. These include the Senko-ji, Eifuku-ji, Hachiman-ji, and more.
Things to do in Awaji Island Japan
Awaji Island Beach
Since it is an island surrounded by the Naruto strait and the Akashi Strait, the coast of Awaji island is a popular destination during the summer time. There are many beaches on the island which are frequented by tourists when the swim season comes. One of these would be the Goshiki-Hama beach which has uniquely colored pebbles. The word Goshiki means five colors because there are literally five different shades of pebbles washed onto its shore.
Other than a day trip to the beaches of Awaji island, these shores are also popular camping grounds for budget travelers. Resorts in the area allow tourists to set up tents for the night’s stay. The thing is, on the other hand, the beaches in the Awajishima coast is not as popular as other parts of Japan. This is mainly because of the fact that they are not the “paradise-like” beaches (with white sand and clear blue waters) a traveler normally expects. Either way, Awajishima beaches are still great places to have an enjoyable vacation.
Iwaya Village Awaji Island
One of the most interesting places to visit in Japan would be the Iwaya village. There are shrines and temples to visit in this village. Another interesting aspect of it is that there is a shrine inside a small cave. The village is quite small but is enjoyable. There is even a beach near the village. There is also a tiny island known as Eshima located just next to Iwaya.
Awaji Island Naruto Whirlpool
Simultaneously amazing and terrifying phenomena, whirlpools are literally swirling bodies of water which are produced by opposing currents. What is interesting about these is that they are given very negative and exaggerated images in seafarer stories, but whirlpools are not powerful enough to suck in large objects. It can be quite dangerous for swimmers and surfers, however.
In the case of the Naruto whirlpool, these interesting behavior of the body of water is produced by the fact that current in the Naruto strait is extremely fast. The current can reach about 20 km per hour during the springtime – the fastest in Japan and the fourth fastest in the world.
Awaji Island Onsen
Other than the beaches, one of the best places to enjoy in Awaji would be their hot spring resorts. This attraction is quite common in many parts of Japan, especially locations which are right next to active volcanoes. There are a number of inns and ryokans in Awaji which are traditional – a truly educational and inspiring way to spend a relaxing vacation.
Awaji Island Sumoto Castle
The Sumoto Castle in Awaji island serves both as a park and a museum. The structures may be reconstructed but they are created in the same style and make the original castle keep. The architecture is fully preserved and is made to show the beauty of age-old Awaji. On the other hand, its large courtyard serves as a park which is a great place to be when enjoying Cherry blossoms in spring and Maple trees in the fall.
This particular Shinto shrine is recorded to be Japan’s oldest. There is a deep and interesting legend about how Awajishima plays an important role in the creation of Japan. It is said and believed that Awajishima is actually the birthplace of Japan. The Izanagi shrine is one of the largest shrines in the island and is dedicated to honoring the god Izanagi and his wife Izanami. It is said that the actual location of the shrine is the site where the two gods dwelled. This is where the two gods are believed to have lived out their lives after they transformed themselves into mortals.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
This particular bridge is one of the greatest pride of Awaji island. This is because of the fact that this island is the longest suspension bridge not only in Japan but the world. It connects Awaji island to the neighboring Shikoku. What makes it more important is the fact that it connects Kobe to Awaji island. This bridge is a well-known portion of the Honshu-Shikoku highway which was built in 1998.
The Akashi Kaikyo bridge is so popular that there are tours held here for four days every week. The tour includes a discussion of the bridge’s history, design, budget, and more. The construction of this bridge was not an easy feat because of the whirlpools that frequent the Naruto strait – exactly where the bridge is built on making it even more special.