Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture is the largest island in Japan's Inland Sea after Shikoku, to which it is now joined after the building of the Naruto Ohashi and the Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi bridges. Awaji Island is easily reached from nearby Kobe, Kyoto or Osaka.
Awaji has changed much since the opening of the Akashi Straits Suspension Bridge (Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi) which connects Hyogo Prefecture to Awaji Island. The Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi, which opened in 1998, has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world, at 1,991m (6,532 ft).
For those visitors interested in the building of the bridge the Bridge Exhibition Center (Hashinokakagakukan) near Maiko Station on Honshu, south west of Kobe, has information on its construction. Nearby is also the Sun Yat-Sen Museum, housed in an early 20th century residence moved here when the bridge was constructed.
Over on Awaji Island itself on the north west coast in the village of Hokudan is the Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park, which was the epicenter of the 1995 earthquake which devastated Kobe. Part of the 10km fault line can still be seen.
Things to see and do in Awaji
Awaji is known for its beautiful flowers in season, onion cultivation, incense, some fine beaches on both the east and west coasts and its ancient burial mounds or kofun. Recently it has become something of a mecca for cyclists who can travel around the island in a couple of days.
The best beaches on Awajishima are the sandy Ohama Beach on the east coast and Goshiki Beach on the east coast, which is pebble, but enjoys spectacular sunsets. There are a number of hotels close to both these beaches.
Awaji is the home of ningyo joruri puppet theater, which is a fore-runner of bunraku. The Awaji Joruri Puppet Theater (9am-5pm; closed Wednesday; adults 1,500 yen) in Fukura in the south of the island offers short performances of this over 500 year old art.
The Awaji Yume Butai (Awaji Island Project) was designed by famous architect Tadao Ando to reuse the site from where earth was extracted for the construction of Kansai International Airport (KIX). The site includes beautiful gardens, walking trails and Japan's biggest greenhouse. Another Ando building on Awaji is the modernist Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji; 本福寺) constructed in 1991 - a beautiful space constructed with pools and concrete walls.
There is an onsen (hot spring) in Sumoto with both indoor and outdoor baths. A number of resort style hotels are located here along with Sumoto Castle which was rebuilt in 1928 after the Edo Period original had been demolished in the 1630's. Matsuho-no-yu is a hot spring in the north of the island with views of the Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi from its outdoor baths.
The Awaji World Park Onokoro is an amusement park just south of Awaji city with a number of world sights such as the Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Wat Arun, the Colosseum and the Parthenon built at 4% of their original size.
From the southern port of Fukura there are daily cruises to see the Naruto Whirlpools and the Naruto Ohashi Bridge (2000 yen).
Accommodation on Awaji
Accommodation on Awaji includes the luxury The Westin Resort & Conference Center Awaji Island, where the England football team stayed during the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. There was a brief boom among young Japanese women after the tournament to stay in the room where David Beckham had slept. In Awaji city options include the Athena Kaigetsu, which is handy for the Awaji World Park Onokoro. Further south on the east coast at Sumoto are the Kaigetsukan, the Yumekaiyu, the Umi no Hotel Shimahana and the Hotel New Awaji. On the west coast are the Awaji Hamarikyu and Pension Le Mer. There are also a number of campsites on the island for the budget traveler.
Getting To & From Awaji
Kobe Airport is the nearest airport to Awaji Island and has flights to to Ibaraki, Ishigaki, Kagoshima, Naha (Okinawa), Nagasaki, Sapporo and Tokyo (Haneda). Kobe Airport is located on an artificial island just south of Port Island and connects to Sannomiya by Port Liner trains.
JR Shinkansen bullet train stops at Shin-Kobe Station. About 1km south of Shin-Kobe Station, Sannomiya Station is the main rail hub for intercity Hankyu, Hanshin and JR trains to Osaka and Kyoto. There are no trains on Awaji Island.
There are direct ferry services to Iwaya on Awaji from Akashi Port, a short walk from JR Akashi Station. The Jenova ferry is a 13-minute crossing from Akashi to Iwaya. For adults the fare is 500 yen with an extra 220 yen fee for a bicycle.
The ferries run roughly every 20 minutes on weekdays, every 40 minutes on weekends. See the Jenova ferry schedule (top chart: weekdays, lower chart: weekends/public holidays; left hand side: Iwaya to Akashi, right hand side: Akashi to Iwaya).
The high-speed ferry service between Sumoto and Kansai International Airport (KIX) ceased in 2007.
Infrequent local buses around the island are provided by Awaji Kotsu. Hitch-hiking is a viable option if you get stuck.
View Kobe Map & Awaji Island Map in a larger map