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2022.02 Discover the Rich Layers of Culture in Awaji Ningyo Joruri, the Traditional Performing Art of Hyogo’s Awaji Island [PR] Visit Minami Awaji, home to the Awaji Puppet Theatre and mysterious Naruto whirlpools

Awaji Island lies in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea, off the coast of Hyogo Prefecture. It is known as the “Island of Kuniumi (birth of Japan)" in Japanese mythology, and there are many places on the island related to Japan’s creation myth. Awaji is also home to Awaji Ningyo Joruri, a traditional performing art that has a history of about 500 years, that is still performed today. In the sea to the southwest of the island, the Naruto whirlpools, one of the world's three greatest currents, demonstrate the power of nature. Visit Awaji Island to experience Japan’s ancient origins, distinct culture, and magnificent natural beauty. 


Awaji Ningyo Joruri, a link to the origins of Japanese culture


According to the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, Japan’s oldest historical texts, written more than 1,300 years ago, Awaji Island was the first island in the Japanese archipelago, created by the male and female deities Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto. These deities are enshrined at Onokorojima Jinja Shinto Shrine in Minami Awaji, as deities of marriage and safe childbirth.


Awaji Island’s ancient puppet performance, the Awaji Ningyo Joruri, is a must-see in Minami Awaji. The art form was brought to Awaji Island around 500 years ago and is said to have originated from a puppet show to comfort the deity Hiruko-no-mikoto (also known as the deity Ebisu), a child of Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto. In the past, more than 40 such puppet troupes toured throughout the country, but now only the Awaji Puppet Theatre continues to perform this ancient art.



© Awaji-island Tourist Association


Onokorojima Jinja Shinto Shrine is located on a hill called the “Sacred Ground of Kuniumi (birth of Japan)”.


Awaji Ningyo Joruri is designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property and is performed not only in Japan but also overseas.


At the Awaji Puppet Theatre, there are exhibits on the history of the Awaji Ningyo Joruri, as well as on the tayu (narrator), shamisen (Japanese lute), and puppets.


Layers of Japanese culture expressed through Awaji Puppet Theatre


The Awaji Puppet Theatre performs Awaji Ningyo Joruri, a form of puppet theater that has been passed down through the generations, using the tools, equipment, and ingenuity of over 260 years. Many of the performances convey the essence of Japanese culture, recounting legends and historical stories such as the auspicious Ebisu-mai, which features Ebisu, the deity of good fortune, and a story of Taira no Atsumori, a military commander from the late Heian period (794–1185).


The joyful dance of the deity Ebisu reminds us that the key to happiness is to live with a positive attitude.


Experience the Awaji Ningyo Joruri


Before a performance of the Ningyo Joruri at the Awaji Puppet Theatre, a member of the troupe will demonstrate and explain the inner mechanisms of the puppets and how they are moved. During the performance, you can see the three roles that convey the stories: puppeteer, tayu (narrator), and shamisen (Japanese lute). Enjoy an immersive cultural experience through this fascinating performing art.


The explanation and demonstration of the puppets' emotions and gestures are a must-see.


The Naruto whirlpools: experience the power of nature


The Naruto whirlpools are said to be one of the world's largest whirlpools, and their power reminds visitors of the story of the birth of Japan, when the islands were created in the swirling seas. The whirlpools are located off the southwest corner of Awaji Island. The best way to experience the whirlpools up close is on the Uzushio Cruise from Fukura Port. The cruise will take you to spots where the whirlpools are likely to occur, depending on the current and time of day. Due to the nature of the phenomenon, the whirlpools may not appear at all.


During the high tides of spring and autumn, the Uzushio Cruise offers the chance to see the world's largest whirlpool, with a diameter of up to 20 metres.


After seeing the powerful whirlpools, you can enjoy the beautiful sunset over the Seto Inland Sea.


Enjoy local flavors and relaxing hot springs in Minami Awaji 


Awaji Island is rich in fresh produce, including vegetables and seafood.  Fukura Marche, located near Fukura Port, sells vegetables, fresh seafood, processed products, and other items. The focus is on Awaji Island products, and the concept of “bringing the delicacies of Awaji Island to you”. 



Fukura Marche


Try fresh fish and shellfish around Fukura Port (image for illustration purposes only).


At Shiosaki Onsen hot springs, you can refresh your mind and body, while enjoying a spectacular view of the sea and pleasant sea breezes. 


Art lovers should experience the impressive works of Japanese Nanga, a school and style of painting that rose to prominence in the eighteenth century. The style originated from China’s Nanshuga (Nanzhonghua in Chinese), the Southern School of Chinese Painting, and usually depicts traditional Chinese landscapes, birds, and flowers. The Minami Awaji City Takigawa Memorial Museum Gyokuseikan has a collection of paintings by Jikihara Gyokusei (1904–2005), a leading Japanese Nanga artist who grew up on Awaji Island.


The Minami Awaji City Takigawa Memorial Museum Gyokuseikan displays many masterpieces by Jikihara Gyokusei. (© Awaji-island Tourist Association)


Getting to Minami Awaji


To get to Fukura, the main city in Minami Awaji, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Shin-Kobe Station, then transfer to the Kobe Municipal Subway to Sannomiya Station. At Kobe Sannomiya Bus Terminal, take the bus to Fukura Bus Terminal, which takes about 90 minutes. Within the Minami Awaji area, you can walk or rent a bike, or take a bus or taxi to see the main sights.


Related Links


Another Hyogo


Hyogo Tourism


Hyogo: The Heart of Japan


hyogonavi_official (Japanese)


Awaji Puppet Theatre


Fukura Marche (Japanese)


The Minami Awaji City Takigawa Memorial Museum Gyokuseikan (Japanese)


Awaji Island Tourism Guide


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