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Japan: Tokushima Prefecture (Naruto Whirlpools)

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The name Shikoku literally translates to “four countries” and appropriately the island is home to four prefectures: Tokushima, Kagawa, Kochi and Ehime. Tokushima is best known for the Awa Odori Festival, which takes place in August and Naruto no Uzushio (whirlpools of Naruto).

Naruto is located in the northeastern part of Shikoku Island and the whirlpools can be seen in the Strait of Naruto beneath the Onaruto Bridge, which connects Tokushima with Awaji Island. The whirlpools are created by large volumes of water moving between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean with the changing of the tide. The current in the strait is the fastest in Japan and the fourth fastest in the world. The whirlpools occur approximately every six hours and can typically be seen once in the morning and once in the afternoon. They vary in size depending on the intensity of the tides and tend to be larger during the spring months. Under ideal conditions, whirlpools as large as 65 feet in diameter can be formed. Alternatively, on calm days or outside of peak times, there really isn’t much to see. It is imperative to check the whirlpool schedules before planning a visit to Naruto.

The whirlpools do not pose a threat to the various site seeing boats that get right up next to the swirling waters. There are two companies who operate sightseeing cruises in Shikoku: Uzushio Kisen and Uzushio Kankosen. The first company operates small boats, which depart from a pier just outside of Naruto Park. The later operates medium sized boats (Aqua Eddy) and large boats (Wonder Naruto) from a pier a little further away.

You can also view the whirlpools from an enclosed walkway, the Uzu no Michi, which extends under the Onaruto Bridge. There are glass observation windows installed in the floor of the walkway from which visitors can observe the whirlpools from 147 feet above the strait.

The Koen Mizuno Ryokan (http://koen-mizuno.com/) with its expansive Japanese-style rooms offering magnificent views of the sea is yet another option for enjoying the whirlpools at a more relaxed pace.

There are buses, which run from Naruto Station to Naruto Park with a frequency of 1 to 2 buses per hour. The journey will require approximately 25 minutes. You can also take a bus to Naruto Park from Tokushima Station. The buses run hourly beginning at 9:00 AM and the journey will take approximately 1.5 hours.

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