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Shikoku’s Little Brother

So much is said about Japan’s “four main islands,” it’s easy to forget that Japan has several medium-sized islands just off the shores of said main ones.

Many of these are in the Sea of Japan, from Sado Island off Niigata, to the Oki Islands off Shimane prefecture, to a cluster of islands just north of Nagasaki. This is to say nothing of Okinawa, which itself is an entirely separate archipelago from the rest of Japan.

Then, of course, there’s Awaji-shima, which is something of a land bridge between the islands of Honshu and Shikoku, so important and conspicuous that it’s oddly easy to miss. Continue reading to learn why it’s impossible to forget, in spite of this—and, of course, for my recommendations about things to do in Awaji Island.

How to Get to Awaji Island

Whether you take an Awaji Island day trip or stay the night, the island is difficult to access by Japanese standards—there’s no train station, so you need to come either by private car or by bus. Buses depart both from Kobe on Honshu island and Tokushima on Shikoku. You can also rent a car in both these cities, though doing so will mean you have to pay bridge tolls to access the island, so it’s better to wait until you get to Awaji to rent your vehicle.

Now, Awaji Island might not be the first destination you associate with cryptocurrency—many of the older residents here won’t even have heard of it. To me, however, this makes it all the more appealing a destination for travelers who are passionate about crypto. Among other reasons, things tend to close down pretty early for the night here, which means that you’ll have plenty of time to try your luck at one of the bitcoin casinos available in Japan after you’ve completed your day’s sightseeing.

What to Do in Awaji Island

Admire the Akashi Kaikyo bridge


I followed my own advice when I visited Awaji Island with my friend Eriko: We took a bus from Kobe over to Awaji Island, and picked up a rental car when we got there. However, although we had crossed the mammoth Akashi Kaikyo bridge via bus, we made sure to drive back to the north coast of the island to admire it from beneath.

Say a prayer at Izanagi Shrine


The first of the things to do in Awaji Island I’m going to recommend is Izanagi Shrine. Located in the center of the island not far from Awaji city, it was the island’s main shrine back when it was the anchor of Awaji province, during Samurai times. Named for one of the progenitor gods in Japanese mythology, it was first built in the 9th century.

Eat an onion


Given how largely rural it is, it isn’t surprising that Awaji Island has a robust agricultural industry. The most important crop is the famously sweet Awaji onion, which is spotlighted in cuisine served in restaurants around the island. You’ll also see onion mascots and paraphernalia as you drive, so keep an eye out!

Enjoy the view from Sumoto Castle


A castle visit might not be one of the things to do in Awaji that you seek out, given that Himeji just over the bridge is home to one of Japan’s best castles. However, what Sumoto Castle lacks in originality—it was rebuilt in 1928—it makes up for with the stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea you enjoy from its tenshu.

Appreciate the design of Hachijo-ji temple


On the surface, the tiny Hachijo-ji temple near the town of Sano might not seem worth spotlighting. But in addition to the uniqueness of its design (which strongly resembles the Danjo-garan temple complex at Mt. Koya), it is also said to house the “Seven Lucky Gods,” making it an auspicious place for Buddhist and Shinto worshippers.

Is Awaji Island Worth Visiting?

I’ll be honest: Awaji Island takes a lot of effort to visit. It’s not a matter of getting on a Shinkansen and making a short walk, as is the case when you visit nearby Himeji Castle from Osaka or Kyoto. You’ll either need to rent a car (which is expensive), or spend time planning out a bus trip that depends on rather lean schedules around the island, which will probably necessitate at least one night in a hotel.

With this being said, I do think the island is worth visiting, no matter how many days in Awaji Island you ultimately end up spending. The difficulty of getting there and around means that there aren’t many tourists, making Awaji-shima one of the most authentic places in Japan. Then, of course, there’s the objective awesomeness of all the things to do in Awaji I’ve lived (which, let’s face it, are only really the beginning).


Other FAQ About Visiting Awaji Island

How do you get around Awaji?

There are only two ways to get around Awaji Island. The first and best is to use your own private car, whether you live in Japan and own one, or rent one after you get there. The second option is to utilize the local bus network, which has a hub at Sumoto Bus Center on the east coast of the island.

Where is Awaji Island located?

Awaji Island is located just southwest of Kobe, and more or less serves as a land bridge between the islands of Honshu and Shikoku, to which it connects near the city of Tokushima. The closest major international airport to Awaji is Osaka’s Kansai Airport.

How do I get from Osaka to Awaji Island by train?

You can’t ride a train all the way from Osaka to Awaji Island. Rather, you can ride a JR Special Rapid Service from Osaka Station to Kobe’s Sannomiya Station, then get the Awaji Kotsu highway bus from there.  You can also ride a bus to Awaji Island from the city of Tokushima on Shikoku island.

The Bottom Line

While the list of things to do in Awaji Island I’ve provided within this post isn’t comprehensive, it definitely gives you an adventurous head-start. Like many places in Japan—and like Japan more broadly—it’s a lot bigger than it looks on the map. Even if you rent a car (which is really necessary to explore this no-train island) and see off from Kobe or Tokushima early in the morning, the reality is that a day is really not enough to appreciate it in its entirety—stay overnight and explore two days to get the full picture. Need personalized help putting your Awaji adventure together? Consider hiring me to plan your Japan itinerary!


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