Visiting The Extraordinary Naruto Whirlpools in Japan

The Naruto Whirlpools are swirling vortices of water that form as the Pacific Ocean rushes in to meet the Seto Inland Sea. The natural phenomenon is located where the Japanese home island of Shikoku is separated from the island of Awaji via the Naruto Strait. The whirlpools have become a symbol of Naruto City, with whirlpool motifs featuring on their flag, city emblem,and manhole covers; even their soccer team (the Tokushima Vortis)!

Drawing of Naruto Whirlpool maelstrom Japanese Bridge

Naruto is the northernmost city on Shikoku Island in Tokushima prefecture, and the whirlpools are its most visited attraction. The whirlpools appear underneath Ōnaruto Bridge four times per day as the Pacific Ocean moves water into the Seto Inland Sea twice per day (two vortices as it moves in, and two as it moves out). They appear as the different tides water bodies offset the water heights by 1.5 metres (4 feet) when they meet, and usually last about an hour. Whirlpools can form up to 20 metres (66 feet) in diameter.

There are some days outside of peak season, or on calm days, where there isn’t much to see. There are schedules provided by boat tour companies, that can help you predict when the Whirlpool will begin.

Viewing the Naruto Whirlpools

As a major attraction in the area, there are plenty of ways to view the Naruto Whirlpools.

Viewing the Naruto Whirlpools From a Tour Boat

The most closeup way to view the whirlpools is to take a boat tour into the Naruto Strait. Boats can actually pass safely over the whirlpools! Operators such as Uzushio-Kisen boat tours and Uzusio leave on frequent trips to see the whirlpools, however it’s worth checking the schedules on their websites to see if any whirlpools will actually be available. The boats typically go out for around 25 minutes, and some have viewing areas just below water level, to see the whirlpools from below.

Drawing of naruto city whirlpool ship

Viewing the Naruto Whirlpools From Ōnaruto Bridge

Ōnaruto Bridge is the main suspension bridge spanning the Naruto Strait, and as it passes directly over the whirlpools, is also one of the best places to see them. There is a special walkway for pedestrians on the bridge, called the Uzu-no-Michi Walkway. This 450 metre stretch of indoor walkway is elevated 45 metres above the sea, and has a series of glass panels in the floor, so you can look right through to the rushing whirlpools below!

Viewing the Naruto Whirlpools From the Shore

There are several vantage points that are perfect for seeing the Naruto Whirlpools, without having to get too close. Nearby Naruto Park (Naruto Koen) has lots of walking trails that have some great lookout spots along the way. Also in the park are the specially built Senjojiki Observatory, and Eska Hill viewpoints, great places for a birds-eye view of the Ōnaruto Bridge and the Whirlpools.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Naruto Whirlpools and the Ōnaruto Bridge, there is the Ōnaruto Bridge Museum Eddy, a museum with information about the city’s main attraction. The park is also home to Japan’s largest museum, the Otsuka Museum of Art, which features ceramic reproductions of western art.

Drawing of Naruto City whirlpool decorative manhole cover design
Naruto City whirlpools on their manhole cover

What Would Happen If Someone Jumped in the Naruto Whirlpool?

Probably not a good idea. While there are no reports of people crazy enough to swim in the Naruto Whirlpools, similar geographic phenomena have been deadly (such as the whirlpool in Cornwall, in which a man drowned in 2013).

What To Do In Naruto City

Besides the Naruto Whirlpools, Naruto is probably best known for its position of the starting point for the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is a circular walking trail that runs the entire circumference of Shikoku Island. The walk is associated with Buddhist monk Kōbō Daishi, and passes 88 temples as pilgrims walk the epic 1-2 month journey.

While that activity requires visitors to leave Naruto, there is lots to discover inside the city itself. The city’s most famous temple is Ryozenji Temple, an impressive wooden structure which is the first of the 88 pilgrimage temples (and the ending point).

Naruto is also well known for its Otani Ware, a form of fine ceramic craft from the city. The clay wares have a high iron content, with a characteristic rough texture and dark brown finish. Some of the larger pieces, such as jugs the height of a human, are baked in kilns which are the largest in Japan. There are pottery workshops which are available to visit in Naruto, where you can buy your own Otani ware.

Japan is known for its fine ceramics. In the south island of Kyushu is the town of Okawachiyama, home of beautifully painted porcelain Imari Ware.

When it’s time to sit down for lunch, try udon noodles, speciality of the island of Shikoku. Naruchuru udon is the particular udon popular in Naruto, a rich noodle soup with golden soy sauce, chopped green onion, and fried tofu. Also popular is chikuwa, a kind of fish, egg and starch cake which is wrapped around a bamboo stick, to give it a tube shape. For dessert, try a dish made with Naruto kintoki, a sweet potato with a golden centre and high sugar content. It can be found in puddings, but is mostly eaten baked, fried or steamed.

Was The Character of Naruto Named After The Naruto Whirlpool?

For many people, the name Naruto is reserved for the beloved anime and manga character, Naruto Uzumaki. So, is the character named after the whirlpools?

It’s difficult to know for sure. He may be named after the city, and he may be named after a narutomaki, those little white fishcakes with a pink swirl commonly found in noodle dishes (which themselves are named after the Naruto Whirlpools)! Regardless, there is certainly a link, as the swirl design on his forehead protector seems to look like a swirling whirlpool.

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The Naruto Whirlpools are a natural phenomenon that are amazing to see close up. Whether you take a tour boat, view the whirlpools from the Uzu-no-Michi Walkway, or just take a seat in Naruto Park, it is well worth checking out. And while you’re in Naruto, don’t forget to try a hot bowl of Naruchuru udon and enjoy the city!