The Naruto Whirlpools

Of Japan’s four largest islands, Shikoku is probably the least visited by foreign travelers. If you’re looking for a bit of contrast away from the urban centers, it possesses its own brand of charm where the pace of life is slower and quieter. Additionally, the easternmost end of Shikoku island is home to a natural phenomenon which is very accessible if you’re coming from the Kansai area: The Naruto whirlpools (Naruto no Uzushio).

Japan’s Inland Sea, which separates Shikoku from Honshu, mixes with the Pacific Ocean through several small straits with the rise and fall of the tides. The Naruto strait, which separates the eastern tip of Shikoku from the southwestern end of Awaji Island, witnesses a large volume of seawater going through. This movement of passing water spawns one of the fastest natural currents in the world and gives rise to churning, naturally-formed whirlpools.


Naruto can be reached either by bus or car. From Kansai, the journey will cross the Akashi Kaikyō bridge, one of the world’s longest suspension bridges, to Awaji Island. Awaji Island is a sleepy, rural destination which is particularly proud of its onions; a variety of onion-based products ranging from soup to curry can be found at any of the local shops. While you’re there, you can also try some of the island’s small onsen hot-spring spas and Awaji gyu, a marbled, pricey beef from high-quality cattle.


The Naruto whirlpools can be observed from several different points. It is possible to get a view of the currents from the walkways and glass floors underneath the large Onaruto Bridge which spans the water. Sightseeing boats for the whirlpools leave from both Awaji and Shikoku on opposite sides of the strait. There are also viewing points on land from which you can see the whirlpools at a distance, such as Naruto Park on Awaji Island and Eska Hill on Shikoku.


The Naruto whirlpools occur according to the tides, often once in the morning and once in the afternoon. They last for about an hour and tend to be largest during the spring tides. Timing is very important and it is probably a good idea to consult the whirlpool schedules beforehand to plan your visit to be there at the best times for viewing (link available below).


After seeing Naruto, you can continue on to places further afield on Shikoku island such as cities like Tokushima or Kagawa. Perhaps you could opt to stay overnight at a nearby ryokan inn. Regardless, a day trip out to the Naruto whirlpools offers a variety of attractions ranging from the natural to the man-made amid a quiet, rural setting. This is definitely a recommended trip if you’d like to get a taste of rural Japan and its natural attractions.

Uzu no Michi & Eddy website (English): Contains a timetable for the Naruto Whirlpools.

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