Say "NO" to Mainstream Tourism!
Since this is my first post, let me introduce myself. My name is Zoe, Canadian, and been living in Tokyo for 3 years and a few months.
Let me tell you. I have seen Senso-ji Temple more than I ever wished to. When I came as a tourist, when I studied for the summer, when I studied for a year, when my mom came, when my dad came, etc... I believe I have seen it 7 times or more.
The unfortunate thing with tourism in Japan is that, thanks to google, most recommendations are stopped at the big cities; Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, etc. Well, I understand. The first time I came, all I wanted to see was Tokyo. But enough is enough. I want more exciting and rare experience where I don't feel like the pictures I'm taking have already been taken a million times and a million times better than mine.
This is where it all started. My search for underrated locations to visit.
I found a gem.
Awaji-shima is in Hyogo Prefecture, but if you are as good as me with geography, it's about an hour and a bit from Osaka and 45 minutes from Kobe. To be honest, it's easier to get there if you rent a car, but totally doable by bus.
Okay, once I go there, now what?
Well... there is surprisingly a lot to see and a lot to do in Awaji!
I have made two itineraries (The wonderful images at the top - you are welcome !) assuming you are coming from the North of the Island, coming in from Kobe. As all tours, to be able to jam pack the most experiences in a day, I suggest going early! Also, I made the itinerary based on if you had rented a car, which I strongly recommend. Okay! Let’s get started!
1.Akashi Kaikyo Bridge:
‘’Crossing the bridge’’
In Awaji, you can find the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. This is the world’s longest suspension bridge! Sure, Odaiba’s Rainbow bridge is great and stuff… but Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is impressive!! And the light up that happens at night makes it magical~! It is even very impressive during the day! The tour hasn’t really started yet, but I thought you’d enjoy a bit of information.
2. Harmony Farm
Do you like horses? Now what about Japanese horses? Okay, what about riding one?! Harmony Farm is probably where you can enjoy Japan’s best horseback riding. Nice morning activity! During warmer days, it is possible to ride the horses in the ocean!! But even if you don’t, the view is breathtaking. You can go from 10 mins (for children) to 60 mins!
3. Nojima Scuola
Awaji Island’s population has been reducing, with young people going to cities. I think this phenomenon is happening everywhere in the world, unfortunately... With less children an elementary school closed. That elementary school was transformed and renovated to become Nojima Scuola. Inside there is a market where they sell produce made in Awaji. So super local. If you are like me, the little family stores on the side of the roads are a bit intimidating to enter. However, this market makes it more accessible! You might be hungry by now, so I recommend going to the restaurant that prepares food made with ingredients of Awaji! Finally, there is also a farm with animals. There is an Alpaca famous for kissing girls on the cheek! So. Cute. (sorry boys~)
4. Awaji Hanasajiki
You need to be careful depending on which season you go, but this here is an amazing garden. Flowers e-ve-ry-where. Beautiful. So many possibilities to take pictures!!! There are some bushes in the shape of birds and flowers I can't even name! (to be honest I only know like… tulips and roses?)
Okay. So, from here is when the itineraries differ. "Course A" is for those that are too tired after horseback riding and want to take it more easy, and "Course B" is for those who are still full of energy.
"COURSE A" (if you are still full of energy, skip until "Course B")
5. Craft Circus
Craft Circus is really interesting. You wouldn’t expect to see such a décor in Awaji. It almost has the feel of a resort. But there is a marché inside where they sell products made by local artisans! Tired of buying souvenirs at Narita Airport! Well, there you go! Original souvenirs! However, be sure to not spend too much time at the market because you NEED to see the sunset from the deck. It’s a-ma-zing. This sunset was nominated as one of the 100 best sunsets! And you can watch while you eat at the Craft Circus restaurant food, once again, made with local ingredients.
6. Hyogo Prefecture Awajishima Park
In the Hyogo Prefecture Awajishima Park, there is a place called Nijigen no Mori and in Nijigen no Mori, there is a place called Night Walk. You need to go after sunset. They use projection mapping and like sounds and lights mixed with the amazing nature. It is really impressive. I strongly recommend. It is an amazing way to finish the day!
5. Awaji Shima Park
In Awaji Shiima Park, there is a place called Nijigen no Mori. In that place, you can do so much! I wrote in more details below:
5.1 Crayon Shin-chan’s Adventure Park
Crayon Shin-chan is an anime for children... but don’t let that scare you away!! Very long water zipline and water guns? Count me in!! There is also a really cool athletic park with a high wood structure that you can climb and feel like a child again while still being challenging and... even a bit scary!
5.2 Mori no Terrace
You can then eat at the restaurant in the forest. This way, you don’t need to get out of the forest and back in, since our next and final activity is in the Awaji Shima Park. I know I said it a lot… but here too the food is made with local ingredients. I know, I know~ but isn't that really cool?
5.3 Night Walk
Okay. I’m a geek. And I love anime. I know, what a surprise. Well I am sure that you have all heard of the father of manga, Osamu Tezuka, or at least of Astro Boy? Well, this is a map projection with the nature, sounds, lights… it’s beautiful. And it’s inspired of Osamu Tezuka’s ‘’Phoenix’’. I can’t recommend this more.
Since Awaji Island is less touristic, if you have a Japanese friend that could help, that would be awesome. However, if you don’t, use easy English and you will be able to get by! I think that’s actually part of the experience! Gesture away~!
When you go, I would love to know how much you loved it! So, let me know!