+japan++shikoku++naruto whirlpools++jan 03 2006++mail rob sullivan bunyarra@hotmail.com+
A map showing the famous and regular whirlpools which appear under Onaruto Bridge in Tokushima Prefecture
Road on the approach to Onaruto Bridge in Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku, Japan
Road approaching Onaruto Bridge and Awaji Island off Shikoku
The grand Onaruto Bridge in Shikoku, Japan
An undershot of the aforementioned bridge
Under the bridge, in the rough current beneath, whirlpools often form
A view of a small island from the mighty Onaruto Bridge
A view from the bridge towards shore
There are glass plates built into the floor of the bridge to allow one to look down on the whirlpools
Do you dare to step on to this glass floor
The whirlpools of Naruto

n a r u t o ... w h i r l - p o o l s

Naruto Whirlpools ---- THE tourist brochures on display at the entrance to Onaruto Bridge describe the nearby Naruto Whirlpools as "one of the great natural wonders of the world". This is a gushing endorsement, and it stretches the truth more than a bit -- I am always sceptical when something is described as being "the best of its kind in the world", or "one of the best of its kinds in the world". It is a big world you know, and it is packed with wonders, so how could you presume that the thing in your backyard -- which you are so proud of -- is the best or one of the best. If the Naruto Whirlpools were truly one of the great natural wonders of the world, then everybody would know of them. But of course the Whirlpools are an obscure attraction even among Japanese tourists, and barely known in the outside world. That said, I did kind of enjoy my visit to see them on the day of January 3, 2006. While it hardly compares with other sights I have seen in my days -- for example the Pyramids of Giza -- it is not a bad diversion if you are passing through Shikoku. There is a cool bridge with glass pane floors you can walk across, to watch the eddies and whirlpools which might form beneath your feet. Children and old ladies take tentative steps on to the glass plates, as if terrified of walking on a transparent surface so high above the heaving seas. One level above, the traffic hurls itself out of Shikoku, on to Awaji Island. One of the local tourist sites had this to say about the place:

"The Seto Inland Sea and Kii Channel meet at Naruto Straits, between Naruto and Awaji Island. At this point the tidal difference is 1.3 meters and the speed of the current is 15-20 kph, generating many large and small whirlpools, some as big as 20 meters in diameter. The result is one of the world's major eddying currents, an awesome display of the forces of nature. The whirlpool can not be viewed at just any time. Please check viewing times for the whirlpools in Naruto Straits before your arrival. The best time to see the whirlpools is within approximately 1 and a half hours either side of the advertised time."

For a list of the best times to see the whirlpools, click here.

Unless you want to shell out for one of the boat tours which take you right into the midst of the eddies, the best thing to do is walk out across the Onaruto Bridge, where they have an observation deck called "Uzu no michi" (the Whirlpool Road). The last time I was there the bridge entrance cost was 500 Yen.

You might have detected a cynical tone in my writing at the top of the page -- but really, I have no right to be cynical. The Naruto Whirlpools are a natural phenomenon, and just because they weren't swirling the day I visited, doesn't mean they don't rock when they feel like it. Timing -- and luck -- is everything. This is what Jun said of his visit to Naruto in September 2004:


"On the first day of our Shikoku trip, after arriving at Tokushima Airport, we headed to Naruto City to see the Naruto Whirlpools. I wanted to see a clear swirl just like a naruto maki (fish sausage with a swirl pattern) in ramen noodle. But on that day the size of the swirl was only medium (a big swirl appears at the times marked red on this calendar). Anyway, we took the Undersea Eddy Current Observer Boat AQUA EDDY. When the boat started to splash and move quite fast, I remembered that I easily get seasick. Oops!"

If you have ever been inside a Japanese ramen noodles restaurant, you will have seen the naruto maki fishcake that Jun spoke of. That's right -- the distinctive red eddy shape on the fishcake is inspired by the whirpools of Naruto.

But that's another story...

[whirlpools -- onaruto bridge]
shikoku japan 2006

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