Sea & Nature

Enjoy Natural Scenery in Setouchi at These Seven Locations

Enjoy Natural Scenery in Setouchi at These Seven Locations

The Setouchi Region on the island of Shikoku, Japan, is home to countless spots that shine a light on the natural beauty of the region. From the shining Seto Inland Sea and grand mountains to pastoral landscapes and cultural sites, here are seven must-see locations to take in the abundant nature of Setouchi.

See the Torii in the Sky at Takaya Shrine


The first spot on our list is Takaya Shrine, located atop Mt. Inazumi overlooking Kanonji City in Kagawa Prefecture. Nicknamed the “torii in the sky,” Takaya Shrine is known for its breathtaking views of the city and the mountains beyond, as well as the Seto Inland Sea, perfectly framed by a grand torii gate that is sure to excite photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Named one of the “88 Best Places in Shikoku” in 2018, you will understand exactly why once you see the incredible panorama spread out before you and feel the sea breeze whistling by. For an extra-special experience, visiting Takaya Shrine in time to see the sunset over the horizon is well worth it. 

There are a couple of ways to reach this mountaintop shrine. For the athletic and adventurous, a 1.5 kilometer walk from the precincts of Shimogu at the base of Mt. Inazumi to the top of the mountain will take you anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes. Don’t worry, this challenge is not without a spectacular reward! And for those who are less inclined to hike, on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays there is a shuttle bus that runs from the nearby Kotobuki Park parking lot to the summit. During the shuttle bus service hours, general vehicles are not allowed to pass, but at other times, private vehicles can be parked 300 meters from the main shrine, which is located at the Torii of the Sky. 

Enjoying Setouchi from the Kirosan Observation Park


For another unique bird’s-eye-view of the Seto Inland Sea and surrounding landscape, head to the Kirosan Observatory Park in Ehime Prefecture. This sleek, modern structure was designed by world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and features multiple viewing platforms connected by bridges and staircases. Not only is the surrounding landscape beautiful, the architecture of the observation park itself is sure to be of great interest to many. The observatory sits atop Mt. Kiro, or Kirosan, and is the perfect place for unobstructed views of Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, made up of three suspension bridges and part of the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, the Seto Inland Sea, and several small islands. On a clear day, you will be able to see for miles and miles, and of course, visitors will be able to admire the harmony of the white suspension bridge and the surrounding nature that is sure to take anyone’s breath away. The 360 degree panoramic views from the Kirosan Observatory Park have also been named among the best sceneries in Shikoku, so don’t forget to bring your camera! 

Visitors can access the observatory by car and park in a free parking lot at the top of the mountain. The road is narrow and windy, so be careful!

Coasting Over the Tsunoshima Bridge


The Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge is an architectural wonder that connects mainland Yamaguchi Prefecture to Tsunoshima Island. The bridge carries passengers over the deep turquoise waters of the gently curved Amagaseto Strait. 1,780 meters long, you have plenty of time to soak up the surrounding natural beauty: shimmering waters, white sand beaches, lush islands and forests, and the peaceful road ahead, before sloping gently onto Tsushima Island. Once you’re on the island, get ready to explore its charming selection of sites, including the Tsunoshima Lighthouse. Built in 1876, this historic structure is now a popular scenic spot, its white exterior standing in brilliant contrast to the blue sky and lush greenery. What’s more, visitors are welcome to climb to the top of the lighthouse (you will be asked to pay a small fee) to enjoy views of the island below and the surrounding seascape.
Drivers can park their cars near the lighthouse, where there is also a small area with cafes, gift shops, and toilets. Stop here for a local bite to eat and to rest before heading to your next scenic destination.

Coming Face-to-Face with the Naruto Whirlpools 


The next stop on this scenic tour of the Setouchi region is Tokushima Prefecture, or, more specifically, right off the coast of Tokushima Prefecture. Here, a combination of the unique geography of the seafloor and huge volumes of water tearing through the Naruto Strait between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean cause the natural phenomenon now known as the Naruto Whirlpools. The whirlpools happen every six hours as the tide goes in and out, the size and intensity of which change depending on the tides, which change depending on the time of year. On the other hand, there isn’t much to see on clear days or when the tides have stopped moving, so make sure to check the whirlpool schedules before planning your trip. To fully appreciate these swirling masses of water, we recommend taking one of several sightseeing cruises that are available from both sides of the strait. Get an up-close view of just how large the whirlpools can get and enjoy the views of Awaji Island and the mainland on this exciting journey through the Naruto Strait. To view the whirlpools from above, take a walk along the Uzu no Michi, a glass bottom walkway on the Onaruto Bridge. Suspended 45 meters above the ocean’s surface, not only will you get a spectacular bird’s-eye-view of the whirlpools, but you will also be graced with views of the stunning landscape of the coastline and surrounding nature.  

The Naruto Whirlpools are accessible by bus or car, with parking spaces available at either of the two sightseeing cruise locations. 

Experience a Floating Shrine and


Torii Gate in Hiroshima


©Courtesy of Hiroshima Prefecture

Perhaps one of the most breathtaking scenes on the Setouchi coast is Itsukushima Shrine, famous for its “torii gate that appears to be floating,” in Hiroshima Prefecture. Itsukushima Shrine is located on what used to be known, perhaps unsurprisingly, as Itsukushima Island, now commonly known as Miyajima. According to ancient records, the original shrine was built in 593 by Saeki no Kuramoto, the governor of the island. The shrine was rebuilt in 1168 in the style of the aristocratic residences of the time by Taira no Kiyomori, and gained further popularity after that. In 1996, the shrine was named a World Heritage Site, and for good reason! The whole shrine looks like it is floating on the surface of the emerald waters, and at night, seeing the reflection of the vermillion shrine illuminated on the dark waters will be a memory that you will treasure forever. However, the shrine closes for the night, so if you want to walk through its floating halls, you will want to visit during the day. Nearby is Senjokaku Hall (also known as Hokoku Shrine), a vast space overlooking the rich nature of Miyajima, as well as the treasure hall that displays some of the treasures housed in the shrine. For a spectacular mix of culture, history, and nature, a visit to Itsukushima Shrine cannot be missed.

To note, Miyajima is accessible from Hiroshima via ferry, boat, and car.

Standing Atop Mt. Washuzan


For breathtaking views of the Seto Inland Sea National Park and Seto Ohashi Bridge, you cannot miss a visit to Mt. Washuzan. Located in historic Kurashiki City, this designated National Site of Scenic Beauty offers unparalleled views of the best of the Setouchi region’s natural scenery. From the summit of Mt. Washuzan, 133 meters tall, you can see 50 islands in the Seto Inland Sea in the immediate foreground and fading into the distance. The grand white bridge stretching around several of the islands is also a sight to see. For an extra special visit, we recommend a sunset visit to the top of this mountain to catch the fading daylight reflecting spectacularly on the emerald sea. There is an observatory and rest house, as well as the main observatory at the summit, that also offer great views and a resting place to enjoy the sea breeze. 

The summit is a 5 minute walk from the Washuzan Daini Tenboudai bus stop, and the observatories are accessible by car for a more flexible trip. 

Admiring Flowers and the Sea at Awaji Hanasajiki


©Awaji Hana Sajiki

For some floral fun, head to Awaji Hanasajiki in Hyogo Prefecture. Located on the rolling hills at the northern end of Awaji Island, the seaside park boasts a year-round roster of incredible blooms that will have you awestruck. In early spring, you can go see several varieties of bright yellow rapeseed blossoms covering fields upon fields in the park. They make an excellent backdrop for photographs and are themselves a wonderful ornament to the surrounding landscape. Later in the spring, vibrant blossoms of viola and poppies take the center stage, infusing the views of Setouchi’s vast greenery with even more life. And if you’re visiting the Awaji Hanasajiki park in the summer, you’re in for a treat! Sunflowers galore and fields of stunning reds and purple Salvia blossoms are absolutely breathtaking, a riot of color. In autumn, cosmos colored fuschia, pink, and white are among the many flowers that carpet the ground in a wonderful display. During the colder months is when the stock flowers are in full bloom on a hillside overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, a view you won’t want to miss. 

Awaji Hanasajiki is the perfect spot for those who appreciate a beautiful blossom or two. It’s accessible by public transportation or by car, which can be parked at the park for a small fee. The park is open every day unless stated otherwise, so check the website to see the schedule before your visit.

There’s no better place to round out this itinerary of scenic spots in the Setouchi region. Abound with natural sites, some officially recognized for their beauty and importance, outdoors enthusiasts, photographers, and casual visitors alike will enjoy visiting the scenery of Setouchi.

Text by Taeko Shiota, Photo by Todd Fong



Hiroshima is the central city of Chugoku region. Hiroshima Prefecture is dotted with Itsukushima Shrine, which has an elegant torii gate standing in the sea; the Atomic Bomb Dome that communicates the importance of peace; and many other attractions worth a visit. It also has world-famous handicrafts such as Kumano brushes.