KOBE, AWAJI ISLAND & TOKUSHIMA
A myth of the birth of Japan and bridge to the sea

The area has a unique panoramic ocean feel with its inland sea islands, opposite shores of the city center, and steep straits. A place where the sun rises and sets on the sea. This is the landscape of the sea where the myth of the birth of the nation was born and gave birth to the unique worldview of the Japanese people. Enjoy the luxury of gazing at the sea.

Overview

The sea in this region is quite different to oceans or beach resorts. As an inland sea it is dotted with island silhouettes and alive with swirling tidal currents; calm yet vast and rich with changes. The climate here is warm, similar to that of the Mediterranean Sea, and the region is blessed with the bounties of both sea and mountain. Also distinct is its richness in both history and culture. Awaji Island is the island of the Kuniumi creation myth, which tells of the birth of ancient Japan. Around the Yoshino River basin, which is the second widest stretch of river in Japan, indigo cultivation and indigo dyeing industries developed as local people made good use of the soil, made fertile by river flooding. The wealth that these industries brought led in turn to the development of folk culture such as Ningyo Joruri and Awa Odori. Kobe developed as a global trading port, becoming a gateway for diverse cultures. By travelling from south to north as you take in this panoramic seascape, these many and varied stories will enable you to deepen your understanding of the local people, their history, cuisine, and everyday culture.

Recommended Spots

  • Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum
    The only museum in Japan dedicated to carpentry tools, with around a thousand carpentry tools on display. The atrium displays include a model of Toshodaiji's Temple's Kondo (Golden Hall) and a structural model of a teahouse which allows you to view the intricacies of Sukiya-style architecture. The museum offers a wide variety of exhibits which speak to all five senses, through video, audio guides, and the scent of wood. Here you can truly feel the richness of traditional Japanese craftsmanship.
  • Walk from Sumaura Park, the starting point of the Rokko traverse course, for around an hour along a mountain road boasting beautiful vistas and you'll find yourself at Uma no Se. This gorgeous spot was given its name (literally “the horse's back”) after the steep rocks that stretch out to resemble a horse's back. Walk another hour from here and you will arrive at Takatori Shrine. From the shrine you can take in the Kobe cityscape, and perhaps even as far as the Akashi Strait and Awaji Island.
  • This is a popular hiking course suitable for everyone from beginners onwards. Walk some 10 minutes from Shin-Kobe station and you will arrive at Nunobiki Falls, a beautiful spot with four interweaving waterfalls. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens is one of Japan's largest herb gardens, boasting 75,000 flowers and herbs of around 200 different kinds. Enjoy a gentle swing in a hammock in the gardens while gazing down at the Kobe cityscape.
  • Izanagi Jingu Shrine in the center of Awaji Island is dedicated to the Kamis (Shinto "Gods") Izanagi and Izanami, creators of Japan. According to the Records of Ancient Matters (Kojiki) and the Chronicles of Japan (Nihonshoki), after completing the great task of creating the nation and its Kamis, Izanagi spent the rest of his life in the land of Taga on Awaji Island.
    This Shinto shrine is the most important on the island and is considered one of Japan's oldest shrines. It commemorates the Kamis Izanagi and Izanami. According to the mythology, Kamis Izanagi and Izanami created the first of Japan's islands.
    Most of the buildings in the complex date back to the Meiji Era. The sanctuary has been designated as a Prefectural Cultural Property. Nine statues of Kamis were discovered there. They would represent Izanami-no-mikoto and date from the Heian to Kamakura periods. There are some remarkable trees there, including an 800-year-old sacred tree (a camphor).
  • The Awaji Ningyo Joruri puppet theatre has over 500 years history. Well established as a sacred seasonal event celebrating the blessings of the sea and the safety of fishing, the puppets, valuable works of art, perform stories of joy, anger, sorrow and humor with emotional narration and shamisen accompaniment.
    Audio Guide
  • According to mythology, Onokoro Island was the first Japanese island created by the gods. Various legends surround the local islands, Nushima with its giant towering Kamitategami rock, Eshima's Iwakusu Shrine, Awaji Island's Onokorojima Shrine, and Tomogashima, said to be the site of Katsuragi Shugen, the first ascetic practice of En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo.
    Audio Guide
  • Sumoto Castle Ruins is among the largest of such sites in western Japan. The castle complex runs some 800m east to west and 600m north to south, when the lower castle is included. On the site you can find the remains of uphill stone walls ("nobori-ishigaki"), which are rarely found in such good condition. From the main castle tower, you can take in panoramic views of the townscape, pine fields in Ohama, and Osaka Bay. This stunning seascape is one of the so-called "Eight Views of Sumoto".
  • Awajishima Museum introduces visitors to the history and culture of Awaji Island, from ancient times to the present day. On the first floor you'll find the Historical Gallery, which introduces the history of Awaji, and the Large Gallery which features displays of Ningyo Joruri and more. The second floor is home to the Folk Gallery, which displays everyday, agricultural, and fishing tools, as well as the Art Gallery. The third floor is a memorial gallery dedicated to Gyokusei Jikihara, a master of Nanga (Southern Chinese style brush painting).
  • The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the world's longest suspension bridge, connects Kobe City in Hyogo Prefecture to Awaji Island, while the O-Naruto Bridge connects Awaji Island to Naruto City in Tokushima Prefecture.
    Audio Guide
  • Otsuka Museum of Art
    This museum is home to around a thousand life-size ceramic reproductions of masterpieces of Western art, housed in museum collections in 26 countries around the world. Here you can enjoy famous paintings from around the world, all while remaining in Japan. Along the 4 km-long viewing route you'll see works by da Vinci, Monet, and van Gogh. Particularly spectacular among the exhibits are the reproductions of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling and murals and Picasso's Guernica.
  • For over 400 years, the Awa Odori has been one of Japan's three major Bon Odori dances, with around 100,000 energetic dancers performing to musical instruments. It is staged at various locations in Tokushima Prefecture on August 9, and the main event takes place over the next four days from August 12 to 15 annually in Tokushima City.
    Audio Guide
  • The distinct color of indigo dye, known to the world as "Japan Blue", is special to Japanese people. Way back when, the popularity of "ai-zome", or indigo-dyeing, turned the whole of Japan blue. Tokushima was at the very heart of that trend, as a place where high quality indigo was produced, as well as the home of sukumo, a fermented indigo dye. The knowledge and expertise of Tokushima's indigo producers and dye masters played a major role in the popularization of indigo, and it continues to be passed on to this day. Here, you can use authentic Awa-ai (Awa-grown indigo) to dye fabric using traditional techniques.
  • Yusanbako is a three-tiered lunch box unique to Tokushima's Awa region. Yusan refers to the custom of going to play in the mountains, fields or seashore to honor the gods of fertility.
    Audio Guide
  • The whirlpools of Naruto, one of the world's three largest whirlpools, are a natural phenomenon caused by the violent tidal currents of the Seto Inland Sea and Kii Channel. The whirlpools, which can reach 20 meters in diameter, are at their peak during the high tides of spring and autumn.
    Audio Guide
  • The seafood rich Kada region of Wakayama Prefecture is working towards maintaining a sustainable ocean. The beautiful coastline faces the Kitan Strait, where quality sea bream raised in the strong tides are caught in the Tomogashima area. Enjoy the local flavor of fresh sea bream caught one by one in the traditional method.
    Audio Guide

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