By Cathy Cawood
Within Hyogo Prefecture lies the quaint island of Awaji, a peaceful and beautiful area boasting nature, relaxation and rich culture. With a variety of attractions within the island to visit and explore, we are sharing some of the best areas to check out.
Biyu Matsuho no Sato – Best for Relaxing
At the entrance to the island of Awaji lies Biyu Matsuho no Sato, a luxurious hot spring designed for customers to relax and take in the stunning views of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. The hot spring contains two indoor and two outdoor baths, and they alternate between men’s and women’s each day. The outdoor baths are especially recommended, as the temperature is perfect, and when accompanied by the illuminated bridge at night, cannot be beaten after a long day. Each of the baths has a unique design, based on either Japanese or Western architecture, adding to the original atmosphere offered here.
After a relaxing dip in the hot springs, try some refreshing milk and explore the other facilities at Biyu Matsuho no Sato. Follow up with a massage to completely relax, or peruse the gift shop which boasts a wide variety of local specialty sweets, snacks and more. You can also grab a meal in the restaurant, or take advantage of the popular BBQ facilities offered outside.
Awaji Roadside Station – Best for Finding Local Produce
If you are making the journey through Awaji by car, stop by the Awaji Roadside Station near the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. The rest area has a great selection of restaurants and local shops selling speciality goods from the area. This area is useful for picking up gifts or for grabbing a bite to eat while accompanied by the serene view of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
Steak House Genpei – Best for Dining
Steak House Genpei is a small but stunning restaurant specializing in teppanyaki-style beef. Your own personal chef guides you through the entire meal featuring high-quality Awaji beef, which is on equal footing with Kobe beef, and local organic vegetables packed with flavor. The restaurant offers both Western and Japanese style courses, each arranged with care in front of you to bring out the full range of flavors on your palate.
Awaji Yumebutai – Best for Appreciating Nature
Awaji Yumebutai is a huge collection of facilities for holiday-goers to fully enjoy what Awaji has to offer. The area is built upon a large slope where a mountain was removed for the construction of various man-made islands in Osaka Bay, including Kansai International Airport.
After destroying all the natural environment, extra effort was made to restore and appreciate the land by re-introducing the native flora to the slopes. Once the environment was re-established, the Yumebutai was built with the assistance of Tadao Ando, the world-famous architect who specialises in utilizing natural light and designing structures that follow the forms of nature.
The Yumebutai area hosts the International Conference Center, the Westin Awaji Island Hotel, Observation Terrace, Oval Forum, the Kiseki no Hoshi Greenhouse, and the neighboring Akashi Kaikyo National Government Park. Each section of the area offers stunning views and insights into the fantastic designs by Ando, as well as enhancing the natural beauty of the area. With the Westin Awaji Island Hotel, visitors can also enjoy an excellent range of restaurants, shops and tours of the area.
With an emphasis on nature, the Kiseki no Hoshi Greenhouse, also known as the Miracle Planet Museum of Plants, is located here. With the theme of “The Creation of Nature” the greenhouse, which is the largest in Japan, hosts an experimental botanical garden which fuses nature, art and peacefulness together to bring about a deep appreciation for the beauty and wonders of nature.
Adjacent to Yumebutai, you'll also find the Akashi Kaikyo Park. Between early to mid-April, enjoy the park's seasonal flowers including the largest number of spring tulips in Kansai.
Bicycle Hub Awaji – Best for Exploring
Awaji Island has a large variety of fascinating areas to explore. Those who are regular road-cyclists and biking enthusiasts can rent sport bikes and take part in a unique tour of the island. Bicycle Hub Awaji offers a large variety of sport bikes, as well as cycling route maps for exploring tourist spots and other areas of interest around the island. Each route is categorized by difficulty, time and elevation, allowing you to choose the best route that suits you.
Sennen-ichi Brewery – Best for Sake
One of the more fascinating parts of Awaji is their production of sake. Where most sake breweries are based in the colder cities of Japan, Awaji hosts the distinguished brewery for Sennen-ichi Sake. The teamwork between its staff of sixty in the colder months, from October to March each year, produces a variety of delicious and distinctive-tasting sake.
The brewery is open for Japanese tours which you can reserve, which include detailed explanations of the creation process, the techniques for bringing out different flavours, and a small history of their brewery. The tour also includes a special sake tasting allowing you to try out all the flavours, giving a greater understanding to how different processes can impact the sake’s taste.
Indigo Trip – Best for a Unique Experience
Indigo Trip offers a completely new experience in Awaji, allowing visitors to experience the art of indigo dyeing in the quiet countryside. The local expert offers experiences in English, as well as accommodation for travellers looking for something new and different.
Indigo Trip teaches you the art of dyeing your own hemp cotton clothing or takes custom orders to create a personalised dye job for you. With a warm and welcoming home and a one-of-a-kind experience on offer, this is definitely one to explore.
Izanagi Shrine – Best for Culture
Izanagi Shrine holds great historical importance to Japan, as it houses the two great gods Izanagi and Izanami, who are credited in Japanese mythology as the creators of Japan. The shrine itself is lovely and you are free to wander the grounds. In addition, on the 22nd of each month there is a special event you can join.
This night-time event starts with a tour of the shine grounds, explaining the history and meaning behind various parts of the shrine grounds, and proper etiquette when visiting shrines. The tour is fascinating as the tour guide not only gives great detail, but also adds interesting anecdotes which would usually go unknown. Once the tour is over, you are led into the shrine’s main building to take part in a ceremony where you can send your wishes to the gods – perfect if you are interested in traditional Japanese ceremonies.
Afterward, the highlight of the evening begins – a Shinto theatrical dance called Kagura. Each month features a different story, often rotating between the three biggest myths from the Awaji area. The play we enjoyed was a detailed telling of the creation of Japan and how the gods Izanagi and Izanami birthed the various islands of Japan. The whole show is steeped with traditional Japanese culture and is worth the visit for those wanting to experience it.
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