The view of the Seto Inland Sea from Mount Kurotaki in Hiroshima © Hiroshima Tourism Association
World Oceans Day takes place on 8th June every year, and will see hundreds of events take place all around the world to help protect and conserve our shared oceans. The purpose of the annual event is to teach people about the diversity of the world’s oceans as well as celebrate their huge positive impact on our lives.
Setouchi, Japan’s central inland sea region just west of Kyoto and Osaka, has a wealth of incredible natural occurrences, activities and sights to see, do and enjoy on its calm, clear waters. To mark this year's World Ocean Day, we take you through our top five recommendations for water-based activities in Setouchi below!
White water rafting in Yoshino River
1. Brave a Rafting Adventure on the Yoshino River, Tokushima Prefecture
The Yoshino River is known for having some of the best conditions for white water rafting in Japan. Not only is the Yoshino River the second longest waterway in Japan’s fourth-largest central island of Shikoku, it is also the only one that flows through all four of the island’s prefectures.
Adventure-seekers who raft down the Yoshino River will find themselves surrounded by incredible forestry and the impressive views of the Oboke and Koboke gorge. Experiencing rapid water flows and large dips, travellers can choose to take part in a full- or half-day course to enjoy the foaming waves.
2. Go Island Hopping via Bike
A bike with Tatara-Ohashi bridge in the background which connects Ikuchi Island to Omishima Island
Okay, so it’s not technically a water-based activity; however, there is no better way to take in the sheer breadth of the Seto Inland Sea’s beauty than to cycle between its many islands.
The most famous route is the Shimanami Kaido. Spanning 70km in length, it connects Japan’s main island of Honshu to the island of Shikoku, starting at Onomichi City in Hiroshima prefecture and ending in Imabari City in Ehime. Passing through 6 islands (Mukashima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatajima and Oshima), the Shimanami Kaido offers breath-taking views of the surrounding sea, beaches and coastal towns. Experienced cyclists can complete the entire route in 4 hours, but a leisurely cycle with stops at local tourist hotspots might take 10! Alternatively, you can choose one of the shorter courses and cycle just a section.
Shimanami Kaido is a scenic road connecting between Hiroshima and Ehime.
Just west of the Shimanami Kaido is the lesser-known Tobishima Kaido Cycling Route. Running along 46km of road, it crosses through the 7 Aki Nada Islands, starting from the town of Kure in Hiroshima to Imabari City in Ehime. While the bridges on the Tobishima Kaido are not as dramatic as the ones found on the Shimanami Kaido, the route offers cyclists a glimpse into authentic Japanese coastal townscapes so quaint that they appeared in big-screen features such as 'Drive My Car'.
The view of Itsukushima Shrine and its giant floating torii gate from above © Courtesy of Hiroshima Prefecture
3. Eyeball the Iconic ‘Floating Gate’ While Sea Kayaking, Hiroshima Prefecture
Travellers can take a sea kayak up to Itsukushima Shrine’s famous ‘floating’ torii shrine gate – the gate providing the perfect backdrop for a relaxing afternoon of paddling around the calm waters of the bay. While exploring the islands in your miniature vessel, you will be able to appreciate the region’s spectacular coastal from a new perspective, as well as seeing the famous shrine gate up close from your unique vantage point on the water.
4. Marvel at the Naruto Natural Whirlpools, Tokushima Prefecture
Visit the world’s largest whirlpools off the shore of Shikoku’s Tokushima prefecture and soak up the unique views of the natural phenomenon on daredevil a sightseeing cruise. Naruto’s astounding natural whirlpools can reach up to 20 metres in diameter due to the large volumes of water moving between the Pacific Ocean and the narrow strait of the Seto Inland Sea during high and low tide.
Sightseeing boats take inquisitive visitors right up to the whirlpools, putting you in prime position for some unmissable photo opportunities! If cruising headfirst into the mouth of a hungry whirlpool isn’t appealing, you can also watch this natural phenomenon from the Ohnaruto Bridge while sponging up the panoramic views.
The Angel Road sand strip that connects Shodoshima Island to one of its smaller neighbouring islands in Kagawa
5. Walk the Angel Road at Low Tide, Kagawa Prefecture
Appearing twice a day at low tide, Angel Road is a small strip of sand that connects the ‘mainland’ of Shodoshima Island to three smaller islands just off the shore. Picturesque Shodoshima Island is known for its quintessentially Japanese soy sauce production industry but also its Mediterranean-style olive tree plantations.
According to legend, couples who walk across Angel Road while holding hands will have their relationship blessed, which has encouraged loved-up travellers from around the world to come and leave their declarations of love around the island. Whether with or without a partner, you should make sure to hike up to the lookout point, known as the Hill of Promise, to admire the panoramic views of Angel Road.
The Seto Inland Sea and Takehara City © Hiroshima Tourism Association
Setouchi Tourism Authority is a membership organisation that supports the development of business and tourism in the Setouchi region. This area west of Kyoto encompasses the Seto Inland Sea, one of the most prominent multi-island seas in the world, and includes the seven prefectures of Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa and Ehime.
Known for incredible modern art and sculptures, design destinations in the region include Naoshima - Japan’s Art Island - and Miyajima Island – with Itsukushima Shrine’s torii gate standing proudly in the sea. Home to four UNESCO World Heritage sites, Setouchi is also known for its quality produce, such as Kobe beef, Hiroshima oysters, udon noodles from Kagawa, and 275 sake breweries.
The region hosts myriad seasonal events, from wisteria and cherry blossom festivals to traditional cultural and food festivals and the Setouchi Triennale International Art Festival.