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Seven Quirky Spots in Setouchi, Japan


Giant red pumpkins, the best whirlpools in the world, an island full of rabbits and foot stomping noodles, the Setouchi region (Japan’s inland sea) is full of unusual activities and sights to satisfy every curious traveller. Here are seven of the quirkier reasons to visit the region.

1. Naruto Whirlpools – Tokushima Prefecture

Travellers can visit the some of the world’s largest whirlpools (see cover photo) in Tokushima and get a unique view of this geographical phenomenon on a sightseeing cruise. Due to the volumes of water moving between the narrow strait of the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean during high and low tide, the Naruto whirlpools can reach up to 20 metres in diameter. If cruising into a whirlpool isn’t appealing, visitors can also watch this natural occurrence from the Ohnaruto Bridge above whilst also taking in the panoramic views.

2. The “Yellow and Red Pumpkins” – Naoshima Island, Hiroshima Prefecture

Red-Pumpkin (c) Yayoi Kusama

As visitors arrive to Naoshima Island by ferry, they are met with Japan’s most iconic art installations, Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkins. Kusama is an acclaimed Japanese artist whose pumpkins have become a symbol of the island of Naoshima, which have contributed to the island becoming Japan’s hub for contemporary art.

3. Nakano Udon School and Noodle Taxi Tours, Kagawa Prefecture

Oodles of Noodles
Oodles of Noodles

At this unique cookery class, guests have to dance for their food. At the Nakano Udon School guests are able to learn the art of making Sanuki Udon, which just so happens to be the most popular noodle in the Kagawa Prefecture. The instructors are looking to have fun during the class so students should expect to be up on their feet, kneading in time to a tambourine followed by jumping up and down on the dough. Once the mini workout has finished, everyone is able to enjoy the fruits of their labour and tuck into a bowl of homemade Sanuki Udon over a vegetable hotpot. For those just looking to sample the best Udon in its home of Kagawa, foodies can hail a dedicated Udon Taxi to discover the tastiest dishes in the area. The Udon Taxis are easily recognisable by giant bowls of Udon attached to the roof of the cars.

4. An island full of bunnies, Okunoshima, Hiroshima Prefecture

For animal lovers, Bunny Island will be paradise, filled with around 1,000 bunnies waiting to greet you as the ferry rolls in from Tadanoumi. The rabbits are considered by many as a symbol of safe childbirth and fertility. Whilst on the island, in addition to fussing the cute little bunnies, visitors can hike to the island’s observation deck, rent bikes and grab a bite to eat at the island’s one hotel, Kyukamura. Visitors can opt for a two hour or half day tour, or even an overnight stay to make the most out of a trip to Bunny Island, as late evenings are the best time for photographing these furry creatures. Beyond the cute bunny-adorned façade of the island is a darker history – Okunoshima was once removed from maps as it was Japan’s gas and weaponry production site during World War II.

If you are more into wellness than quirkiness, read: Setouchi: Taking Japanese Wellness to the Next Level

5. Indigo Dyeing, Tokushima Prefecture

Blue, better known as Indigo in Japan, is one of the most well-known colours to come out of the country and Indigo Dyeing has a history dating back over 1,200 years, becoming extremely popular in the Edo era (1603-1868) as one of the few bright colours that common people were allowed to wear. Tokushima is one of the few places in Japan that still produces quality indigo and travellers can put on an apron and gloves to have a hand at indigo dyeing themselves at the Aizumi History Museum, which was once the home of a prosperous indigo producer and merchant.

6. “I Love Yu” Bathhouse, Naoshima Island, Hiroshima Prefecture

I Love You Bathhouse
I Love You Bathhouse

Travellers can literally take a dip into the kooky art world on Naoshima Island at the “I Love Yu” bathhouse, the latest addition to a growing collection of art installations on Naoshima Island, by the Benesse Corporation. Located just a few steps away from the Miyanoura Port, the “I Love Yu” bathhouse, designed by artist Shinro Ohtake, promises guests an unusual experience for visitors, from its eccentric exterior combining different tiles and posters to erotic collages at the bottom of each bath. Filled with curated art, visitors can soak in the installations as well as the hot water.

7. Jean Street, Okayama Prefecture
Fashionistas should visit the birthplace of jeans in Japan and take a trip down Jean Street. Denim is everywhere, from painted jeans murals as you exit the local train station to pairs of jeans hanging in line above the bustling street itself. It’s a great place to look out for the latest trends and shop in some of the most famous and well known shops selling denim. Visitors can even grab a picture next to the Jeans Bus which is adorned with denim.

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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