Animated by some of the fastest moving currents in the world, the Naruto Strait is 1.3 kilometers wide and lies between the city of Naruto in Tokushima Prefecture and Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture.
When the waters of the Seto Inland Sea collide with the opposing Pacific Ocean currents in the Kii Channel at high and low tide, they create one of nature's most unique phenomena: the Naruto Whirlpools. Visitors to the Naruto Strait can watch these powerful, swirling eddies from the Onaruto Bridge, which spans the strait, or from one of the port's many sightseeing boats or viewing points.
From either Tokushima Station or Naruto Station, catch a local bus to Naruto Park. If you are traveling by plane from outside the region, there is a bus service available from Tokushima Awaodori Airport; the airport bus will take you to Naruto in approximately 40 minutes.
With major bridges connecting Honshu and Shikoku via Awaji Island, Naruto is accessible from the major cities in the Kansai region by bus. The bus ride from Kobe to Naruto is about 1 hour and 20 minutes; from Osaka, about 2 hours; and from Kyoto, about 2 and a half hours.
The Naruto Strait has the fastest currents in Japan
The best time to see the whirlpools is low tide in spring and autumn
The whirlpools can reach up to 20 meters in diameter
The whirlpools have inspired a manga character (Naruto Uzumaki) and a style of ramen (Narutomaki)
The Naruto Strait's narrow width and underwater topography cause the tides between the Seto Inland Sea and the Kii Channel to vary by up to 1.5 meters, as water rushes through the Strait at a speed of about 13–15 kilometers per hour. The tide is generally strongest in spring and autumn when water coursing through the strait at up to 20 km/h creates whirlpools nearly 20 meters in diameter.
Since high tide and low tide cycle about every 6 hours, the best time to see the Naruto Whirlpools will differ depending on the day and conditions, so check tide information, which is updated online, in advance.
There are several ways to appreciate this incredible force of nature. One of the most popular is to board a sightseeing boat and set off to see the whirlpools from the deck, up close. Some boats even have glass panels in the hull below the water for a thrilling submariner's view of the whirlpools. The boats provide marvelous views of Naruto and the surrounding coastal scenery.
These sightseeing cruises are reasonably priced (around 2,000 yen for adults), do not require reservations and are scheduled regularly throughout the day.
Another popular option is to view the Naruto Whirlpools from overhead. Built on the lower deck of the Onaruto Bridge, which connects Tokushima to Awaji Island, the 450-meter-long Uzu-no-Michi Walkway has sturdy glass floor panels that allow you to watch the whirlpools form and spin. Suspended 45 meters above the sea, the spectacular bird's-eye view makes it easier to spot multiple whirlpools in a single glance.
After catching the view from above on the Onaruto Bridge, head over to the Senjojiki Observatory to admire the Bridge itself in full, as well as the magnificent natural scenery surrounding the Naruto Strait. Those so inclined can travel up the 68-meter (223 ft) escalator to the Eska Hill Naruto observation deck for a thrilling 360-degree panoramic view of the landscape.
After taking in the untamed natural wonder of the Naruto Strait, why not make the short trip over to the Otsuka Museum of Art to appreciate some culture? With the largest exhibition space in Japan, the museum houses a vast and varied collection, including over 1,000 reproductions of historical masterpieces ranging from Michelangelo's sublime Sistine Chapel to Picasso's iconoclastic Guernica. Interestingly, these reproductions have been executed on ceramic board, so that they resist the wear and fade of time.