My Trip to Japan continues to surprise me with a new adventure daily. I’ve seen so many things that I would never have expected Japan to have on offer. During my final day in Japan as a guest of the JTNO my lovely guide Miko took me on my favourite experience in the country so far, a trip over the Tokushima Kenritsu uzu no michi observation deck on the Ōnaruto Bridge followed by an exciting boat ride.
This wasn’t any ordinary bridge and boat sight seeing adventure. The area is known for intense tides which collide together and create a strong whirlpool effect. This natural occurrence makes for interesting viewing and great photos from both above, below and on the water surface.
Our first stop was the Ohnaruto bridge observation deck, which costs 510 yen for entry. This entry fee will allow you to spend as much time on the bridge and observation deck as you please. It’s a nice and easy flat walk across the bridge that all ages and fitness levels can do withe ease. The walkway of the bridge is scattered with thick glass panels that are positioned above the whirling tides, offering a very unique and somewhat thrilling view. The best bit is that these glass panels are not for show, they are able to be stood on. Standing on the glass panels and looking down gives the illusion that you are floating above the water with the crushing tides below, it’s quite the experience. I’m personally not one to get scared of heights and love to enjoy trippy views, but there here many others on the bridge that did not share my enthusiasm for standing on the observation panels. As you can imagine many people are quite scared or nervous, which makes for excellent people watching as travellers laugh, joke and dare one another to stand on the glass above the roaring sea. For me the best bit of the bridge wasn’t standing on the panels myself, but watching other peoples reactions and antics as they tested there fear of heights. I’m a sucker for people watching as you can probably tell!
After the birds eye view experience we headed to the near by lookout, which gives you a great view of the bridge and the waterways. The lookout has many seating areas to relax and also has fixed binoculars which give a powerful view of the surrounding area. Just be sure to have some spare Yen coins on hand so you can use them.
The lookout also acts as the perfect food stop with many eateries scattered around, some with great views of the bridge. During my trip we were running tight for time as we had planned a boat trip, so we indulged in some local Japanese street food to eat on route to the Marina, which was equally just as delicious. Sticky rice balls and fish sticks anyone? YUM!
A short 10 minute cab ride later we arrived at xxx marina where we bought tickets aboard our tour boat ‘the Aqua Eddy’. Our tickets were 2400 Yen each, however you can shop around for cheaper boat rides or more expensive ones, depending on your preference there are 3 major boat companies operating out of the area, each offering their own pros, cons and experiences
The boat trip had to be my favourite experience of the day. Here I was thinking we were going on your average boat ride, standing above deck taking some photos, but boy was I wrong! Once we were all aboard, suddenly we and were ushered down below the deck and into the hull. It was there that we all found individual seats facing huge glass panels along the boat length, giving you an amazing underwater view. The idea of the Aqua Eddy is that you get a below sea level and above sea level view of the whirlpools. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to being in a submarine and while I didn’t see any fish, it’s basically like being in a moving aquarium. Once we were all below, the captain then drove the boat into the whirlpools, allowing the boat to be spun by the tides all while you are below looking out from the glass. It felt like a mini rollercoaster and enables you to see the waters strength from below. Looking out from the panels you could actually see whirlpools forming in the water, which was really cool. After that the staff invited us up on deck to take photos while the boat got as close to the whirlpools as possible.
Things To Remember
My trip was in March, which meant it was still fairly cold in Japan. Both the observation deck and the boat have a serious wind chill factor so I would suggest layering up. In hindsight I wish i’d had gloves with me, because my hands were popsicles by the end of the day. A jacket with a hoodie or a beanie also would’ve been a great idea.
– Tides: The whirlpools are best within an hour of high tide and this is when they are the strongest and deepest. If you want the best experience, do a tide check online in the area and plan your visit around the highest tide to get the best photos.
– Lunch time! While there are many places to eat in the area, if you’ve gone from the bridge and only have an hour for lunch before your boat ride you may be a little tight for time like we were, as many of the local eateries get full around lunch. While there are loads of street food options for a quick bite, if you’re hoping to sit down, relax and enjoy a longer lunch, leave an hour and a half to ensure you get a table.
All in all the Ōnaruto Bridge and boat ride into the whirlpools were my favourite experiences in Japan, I love anything adventurous and thrilling, plus it was so cool to see the whirlpools in real life, because unlike some I’d only ever heard of them and never experienced one fist hand. I definitely recommend you making a similar experience to mine as part of your Japan itinerary.