Famed for unique whirlpools and sharing the name of a world-famous manga star, Naruto City is a small, unassuming spot in Shikoku. Drawing visitors as they begin their pilgrimage between Shikoku’s 88-temples and welcoming art fans, the city has a natural draw not too different from its well-known water-wonders.
Where is Naruto City?
Naruto is located on the eastern edge of Shikoku Island, in southwest Japan. The coastal city is in Tokushima prefecture is connected to Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture by the impressive Onaruto suspension bridge. The city only has approximately 56,000 residents and is best known for the unusual whirlpools found on its coast.
Is Naruto City the Home of Manga’s Naruto?
The globally popular manga ‘Naruto’ was written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto and has sold over 250 million copies. Unfortunately, Kishimoto is not from Naruto City, but from nearby Okayama, and has stated that his inspiration for the manga’s setting of Konoha was inspired by his hometown of Nagi in Okayama. While there is no direct link to the city of Naruto, it may well have been the inspiration for the character’s name, as Uzumaki, Naruto's clan name, can also mean whirlpool (note: Naruto Whirlpools are called Uzushio).
What Causes the Famous Naruto Whirlpools?
The whirlpools are found in the Naruto Straight, which reaches depths of up to 90m. They are caused by tidal flows and the whirlpools can reach up to 20m in diameter. The movement of water between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean between changing tides and the underwater landscape combine to create the unique requirements for impressive natural whirlpools.
When to visit the Naruto Whirlpools
Due to the tides, the whirlpools are best visited at specific times. They occur roughly every six hours, visible in the morning and in the afternoon. The tides determine the intensity of the whirlpools, which tend to be at their strongest in summer. A schedule is available to check the conditions and tour operators will inform you of the best options on your visit, with boats timed to see the best whirlpool action.
How to Visit the Naruto Whirlpools
Surprisingly the whirlpools are not dangerous to boats, and the fearless can choose to ride one of the local sightseeing boats to get a closer look at the natural wonders. There are two boat companies offering tours from the Naruto side, with another operating from Awaji Island. The Uzushio Kisen has water-level decks offering a closer view while Uzushio Kanko Kisen offer medium and larger boats with rooftop decks. Boat rides last 30 minutes and are regular throughout peak whirlpool times, although it is advised to check this schedule in advance.
For a different view, the impressive Onaruto bridge has a special viewing platform called Uzu no Michi fitted with glass floors so viewers can step across the whirlpools at a distance. Naruto Park has many vantage points at which to admire the whirlpools, with walking trails and the Onaruto Bridge Memorial Museum Eddy which showcases the construction employed in making the suspension bridge.
- Name: Naruto Whirlpools (鳴門の渦潮)
- Address: Naruto, Tokushima, 772-0000
- Location: The whirlpools are located to the Tokushima side of the Naruto Strait, below the Onaruto Suspension Bridge.
- Access: The Whirlpools are best accessed by car or using public transport, with a bus stop at Naruto Park served by local buses, including routes to and from Naruto Station.
- Entry: Free
Soak in Naruto’s Natural Hot Springs
Naruto city has its own hot springs - a very different way to enjoy the wonders of nature while you’re in the region. For visitors, the Naruto Natural Aratae-no-yu Hot Spring is a public bath with sea views. There are a number of different baths and a sauna, and a free footbath available to those not wanting to use the full baths. You can try a Shigaraki pot bath (a special pottery type from the Shiga area of Japan) or a roman-style tub, with carbonated waters and electric baths also an option.
- Name: Aratae-no-yu Natural Hot Spring Naruto (鳴門天然温泉 あらたえの湯)
- Address: 8-2 Okuwajima Kitanohama, Muyacho, Naruto, Tokushima
- Location: The public bath is located on the mainland side of Naruto, just before the Konaruto Bridge and the nearby Boat Racecourse.
- Access: The baths are 20-minute walk from Naruto Station but are also accessible by local bus, with visitors alighting at Naruto Boat Racecourse-mae stop.
- Entry: 700 yen (adults, weekdays) 850 yen (adults, weekends and holidays) reductions available for students and children as well as additional prices for Sauna use and massage services.
- Hours: 08:00 - 24:00 (last entry 23:00)
Be Amazed at Otsuka Museum of Art
A museum dedicated to Western Art, the Otsuka Museum is perhaps less interesting for visitors, but an impressive collection nonetheless. With items such as the Monet’s Waterlillies, The Mona Lisa and the entire interior of the Sistine Chapel, it may not come as a surprise that the museum is dedicated to reproductions and in fact has life-size repros of almost every masterpiece in the art world. The museum is the largest in Japan and has tombs, paintings, gardens and more, making it a fantastic place to explore. While you may not be seeing the real thing, it may be the closest thing.
- Name: Otsuka Museum of Art (大塚国際美術館)
- Address: 65-1 Tosadomariura Fukuike, Narutocho, Naruto, Tokushima
- Location: The museum is located on the northeastern stretch of the city, close to Naruto Park and the Whirlpools.
- Access: There is a dedicated bus stop at the museum entrance served by routes heading to the whirlpools and park.
- Entry: 3,300 yen (adults) 2,200 yen (students) 550 yen (school students) with some savings available if you book ahead in advance.
Start your Pilgrimage at Ryozenji
The first of Shikoku’s 88-temple pilgrimage, Naruto’s Ryozen Temple is a Shingon Temple set inland from the famous waterside attractions of Naruto. The temple was founded in the 8th century as the closest to Koyasan in Wakayama, it serves as the starting point for pilgrims. The route traces around Shikoku, taking approximately two months if walked. You don’t have to be a pilgrim to visit the temple, although if you are a few items such as hats and robes are on sale. The grounds feature ponds and a lantern-lit hall, although many original buildings have been lost to fire over the centuries.
- Name: Ryozenji (霊山寺)
- Address: 126 Higashisukahana, Oasacho, Naruto, Tokushima 779-0230
- Location: The temple is located between Bando Station and the Naruto German House.
- Access: The temple is within walking distance of Bando station on the JR Kotoku Line.
How to Get to Naruto City
Naruto city is located in Tokushima prefecture, which is located next to Kagawa prefecture on the island of Shikoku, in southwest Japan. It is on the eastern side of Shikoku, connected to Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture by the Onaruto suspension bridge. While Tokushima is not directly connected to Okayama like Kagawa, going via Okayama-Kagawa-Tokushima is the easiest route to travel by train or road. From Osaka, you can take the route through Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture. If traveling from Tokyo, direct flights are easiest, while those traveling from Kansai have a variety of options.
Visiting Naruto City From Osaka
Naruto is just over four hours from Osaka by train, with a combination of bullet trains and local services. Visitors can catch the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Okayama, changing to the Marine Liner for Takamatsu, then the Limited Express Uzushio for Tokushima. From there, it is a 35-minute journey on the local Naruto Line to Naruto city. The journey costs 9,800 yen for unreserved seating and would be covered by the JR pass.
Highway buses run from 3,500 yen per person between Osaka and Tokushima stopping at Naruto, taking around two hours depending on the time of day and traffic.
Visiting Naruto City From Hiroshima
The journey by train is somewhat more complicated and is expensive for those travelling without a Japan Rail Pass. It takes between 2.5 and five hours depending on time of day and connections. On the shortest route, visitors can catch the shinkansen from Hiroshima to Okayama, changing to the Marine Liner for Takamatsu, then the Limited Express Uzushio to Ikenotani and finally the local JR Naruto Line to Naruto. In total, the journey costs 8,890 yen for unreserved seating.
There are some buses running between Hiroshima and Takamatsu, with continued services on to Naruto best travelled by train. The bus journey takes 3.5 hours while the remainder of the journey takes approximately an hour and a half using the Limited Express Uzushio to Ikenotani and the JR Naruto Line from there.