Awaji island is the largest island in the Seto inland sea and only an hour away from Osaka Umeda station, and about 40 minutes from Kobe Sannomiya. The island is known for its onions and vast aray of local seafood but also as the very first island of Japan according to the ancient texts.
As a result, there are a few unique places around the island that you just can’t find elsewhere. Here we try to list them so you can make the most of your Awaji trip.
Table of Contents
Izanagi Jingu Shrine
Izanagi Jingu is a prominent and revered Shinto shrine located on Awaji Island. It holds significant historical and cultural importance as it is believed to be one of the oldest shrines in the country. The shrine stands as a testament to Japan’s mythical beginnings and offers a serene atmosphere for contemplation and prayer.
This ancient shrine embodies the great deities, Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto, who are said to have given birth to Japan. A visit to Izanagi Shrine is a must when you arrive on Awaji Island. The establishment of Izanagi Shrine is recorded in the oldest Japanese texts, Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.
It is said to be the remains of the residence of the god Izanagi, who built the shrine to spend the rest of his days in, after entrusting his powers to his daughter, Amaterasu Ōmikami. Facing his eventual demise, Izanagi constructed a tomb at his Taga residence on Awaji Island. Izanagi Shrine was built around the relics of this tomb and is one of the very oldest shrines in Japan.
For those who want to learn more about the Onokoro Island myth please see the whole article on it.
The Gossakai Toiseki Ruins
On Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture are the remains of a hilltop village known as the Gossakai Toiseki Ruins where ironware manufacturing once flourished in the late Yayoi period roughly 1,800 to 1,900 years ago. Anyone can visit this historic site to see and touch a part of Japan’s ancient past surrounded by the island’s stunning scenery for a precious experience only possible here.
Nijigen no Mori Anime Park
Welcome to the number 1 tourist attraction on Awaji Island Nijigen no Mori Anime Theme Park, where the world of anime and pop culture come to life! Nijigen no Mori has permanent attractions for Naruto, Godzilla, Dragon Quest and Crayon Shin-chan. The current limited time attraction, Demon Slayer Night Walk continues until January 2024. Nijigen no Mori hosts multiple different anime and pop culture attractions inside the municipal park. Going to the park and gift stores is free, as is the parking, only the attractions have entrance fees (see full guide here.)
|NIJIGEN NO MORI
|2425-2 Kusumoto, Awaji City, Hyogo Pref. 656-2301
*Each attraction has a different last reception time and closing time.
HELLO KITTY SHOW BOX & HELLO KITTY SMILE
The HELLO KITTY SHOW BOX is a fun place to enjoy shows, dining, and shopping. During lunchtime, you can enjoy the popular HELLO KITTY JAZZ BAND show with its cheerful performance and giant screen. The show changes with the season, so you can enjoy the show again and again. The food is vegan and contains no animal products. You will be surprised at how delicious the food is.
|HELLO KITTY SHOW BOX
|177-5 Nojimahirabayashi, Awaji City, Hyogo Pref. 656-1724
|10 minutes by car from Awaji IC and 15 minutes from Hokudan Interchange on Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway.
|Free parking available
|12:10-13:30(Open at 11:00, Last In at 12:00)
|Café and Greetings by HELLO KITTY
|14:00-17:00 Greeting at 14:30-/16:00- Café Show and Greetings by HELLO KITTY: 14:30~ / 16:00~
HELLO KITTY SMILE is the only Hello Kitty-themed facility in Japan, that offers the latest media art depicting Hello Kitty in the ocean as well as Hello Kitty-related goods in eight areas including a 360-degree theater. Hello Kitty also greets you in the gallery and restaurants.
At HELLO KITTY SMILE, visitors can enjoy a projection mapping world inspired by the Palace of Dragon Princess, the palace which appears in an old Japanese folk story. There are various photogenic spot where the entire wall is covered with Hello Kitty and a wall that reacts when touched. Visitors can also try playing the “Gara-pon” lottery, where they can receive a present if they complete all of the missions.
|HELLO KITTY SMILE
|985-1 Nojimahikinoura, Awaji City, Hyogo Pref. 656-1721
|10 minutes by car from Awaji IC or Hokudan IC on Awaji-Kobe-Naruto Expressway.
|Free parking available
Sat., Sun, & Public Holidays 10:00~19:00
Please note that each restaurant/café has different operating hours.
Zenbo Seinei – Wellness and Yoga retreat
Zenbo Seinei has become increasingly popular since its opening, attracting individuals who seek a break from their busy lives to prioritize mental and physical well-being. Offering instructor-led sessions of yoga and meditation, visitors can recharge their body, mind and soul. Awaji Island’s tranquil environment is an ideal backdrop for a Zen retreat, to reconnect not only with ourselves but also with nature, for a sense of mental and spiritual “wholeness”.
Zenbo Seinei is an architectural indulgence as itself. It is designed by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who is known for his innovative and sustainable designs. Shigeru Ban is particularly acclaimed for his work with disaster relief projects, utilizing materials such as cardboard tubes and paper in his designs. Zenbo Seinei is built from Japanese Cedar wood and the most prevalent feature is the almost 100 meter long deck to view the surrounding nature from a 360° point of view.
|2594-5 Aza-Banaka, Kusumoto, Awaji City, Hyogo Pref. 656-2301
Closed: Varies depending on a month. Please inquire.
Unique Architecture: Tadao Ando Buildings
World-renowned architect Tadao Ando has gained global acclaim for his minimalist design and innovative use of light and space. For his inspiring contributions to the world of architecture, the Osaka native has been awarded numerous honors, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1995, regarded as the field’s highest honor.
A must-visit landmark on Awaji Island is the renowned “Awaji Yumebutai.” Designed by architect Tadao Ando, this architectural marvel is centered around the concept of “harmony between nature and humanity.” Among the concrete halls, the “Hyakudanen” or “Garden of Hundred Steps” definitely steals the show. With the arrangement of 100 flowerbeds cascading down the mountainside in perfect squares, it is a must visit place for Instagram enthusiasts!
Honpukuji Mizumido ‘Water Temple’
Also envisioned by Tadao Ando, Honpukuji Mizumido, also known as Honpukuji Water Temple, epitomizes the harmonious connection between architecture and nature. Nestled amid a reflective water pool, the temple embodies tranquility and evokes a sense of oneness with the natural elements. Tadao Ando’s architectural prowess shines through in his use of light, enhancing the temple’s allure.
Honpukuji Water Temple is a truly remarkable and captivating place. Unlike most Buddhist temples where visitors ascend upwards, Ando ingeniously reverses the direction. The entrance leads downward, guiding visitors through a staircase that cuts through an expansive and glistening pool of waterlilies, beautifully mirroring the sky and trees around it. As we descend through the unadorned concrete walls into darkness, a gentle radiance gradually illuminates the curving path that follows the pool’s contours above. Finally, we find ourselves in the vibrant heart of the inner sanctum, bathed in a crimson glow.
The illumination comes from natural light, filtered through a sharp geometric grid and strategically placed gaps, creating an ethereal atmosphere that permeates the space with a divine aura. The stark contrast between the simple exterior and the vermillion center, along with the interplay of light and shadow, makes for an incredibly moving and immersive sensory journey.
In this article we have highlighted the many things that are unique to Awaji island and where you can enjoy them. However, there are multiple other things to see and experience on the island so make sure to check out our itineraries page and other articles that list the must see places and top 5 instagrammable places.