The Seto Inland Sea, referred to as Seto Naikai in Japanese, is surrounded by three main islands of Japan: Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. The sea has a total coastline of 7,200 km and is home to more than 700 islands. Due to the large number of small islands it hosts, the Seto Inland Sea is also often referred to as the “Aegean Sea of the East.” But, as a native of Turkey, a country that shares the coastline along the Aegean Sea, I don’t think this comparison does any justice to the uniqueness of the Japanese inland sea. The general aura of the Seto Inland Sea and its islands are so distinctively Japanese that – for me – it is inconceivable to compare the experience with any other sea in the world.

The best way to immerse in the beauty of the Seto Inland Sea panorama is to get off dry land and approach the unique archipelago from sea level. There are three cruise options in the Seto Inland Sea, each departing from a different prefecture and introducing another side of the Seto Inland Sea and its culture. The cruise that departs from Kobe of Hyogo prefecture allows you to experience the majestic harbor scenery with the backdrop of a colorful urban silhouette. The catamaran tours starting from Okayama, on the other hand, will enable one to explore the small islands of Seto Inland Sea. Finally, the boat tours departing from Tokushima prefecture take you right up to one of the most intimidating yet exciting natural phenomena in the world – whirlpools!

Kobe Cruise Concerto : Enjoy the Panoramic Views from a Movie-Like Setting

The beautiful scenery of the port city of Kobe shows many faces in a day, from the bustle of the city during the day to the fantastic sight of the illuminated lights at night. I especially love the emotional atmosphere of the cityscape with the Port of Kobe in the background that emerges from the station toward the seaside on a slightly foggy day.

One of the best ways to experience the coastal scenery of Kobe — where picturesque bridges perfectly complement the stylish urban architecture and Rokko’s mountain range — is to take a tour on the tastefully luxurious Kobe Cruise Concerto. Departing from Kobe Harborland Mosaic, the symbol of Kobe, the Concerto has a calm interior and an elegant atmosphere with live piano and violin music. In my opinion, this magnificent city view within the Seto Inland Sea rivals iconic cityscapes such as New York City and Tokyo, both during the day and the night when the city towers and the iconic bridges stylishly light up.

There are four daily cruise departures, each with a different theme. The Lunch Cruise departs at noon, whereas the Night Cruise departs at 7:30 pm – both lasting for two hours. There is a gourmet meal offered on both tours, including French cuisine, the famous Kobe beef, and Teppanyaki. Dining is optional on all cruises, and the passengers can opt out and simply pay the boarding fee to enjoy the scenery.

A Tea Cruise also departs, where passengers can enjoy a light meal or a dessert set.

For those who want to enjoy the beautiful setting sun at dusk and fantastic views of the city of Kobe, the Twilight Cruise  is recommended.

Or, if you want to fully enjoy the wonderful night view of Kobe, enjoy a night cruise.

While Kobe’s many landmark buildings, such as Kobe Port Tower, Kobe Maritime Museum, and Kobe Ohashi and Akashi-Kaikyo (the longest suspension bridge in the world), can be seen from the cruise, it is the majestic beauty of the entire panorama that will likely stay with you.

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Luxury Catamaran Yacht from Okayama Uno Port: Taking You to the Heart of the Seto Inland Sea

While the Kobe Cruise Concerto is a beautiful way to appreciate the grandeur of the scenery along Kobe Harbor, the day and overnight luxury catamaran charters departing from Okayama offer the chance to sail deeper into the Seto Inland Sea and explore its unique culture.

There are many different catamaran tour plans that you can choose from that will take you to different sets of islands. The length of the tours also varies, including three-hour-long lunch or sunset tours, full-day and overnight tours. You can also customize a private itinerary of and the length of the trip.

Naoshima, Teshima, and Inujima are three islands you can visit on a catamaran tour. The “Art Hopping” plan is an ideal way to explore these three islands – where artistic innovation meets the nature of Japan – at a leisurely pace. The plan involves two-night stays on board and full-day visits to each of the islands. Each has its own permanent art museums, including the Teshima Art Museum, Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum, and plenty of outdoor contemporary art sculptures spread around the islands to visit.

Another plan takes you to Shodoshima Island, the second largest island on the Seto Inland Sea after Awajishima. The island is home to many beaches and nature sites with a mountainous interior. Although it is much less known than the famous Shikoku Pilgrimage Route, the island is also home to a 180-kilometer-long pilgrimage covering 94 sacred sites.

The spacious interior of the luxurious and comfortable yacht is just like a hotel, with three private rooms, toilets and showers, as well as a full range of amenities and wi-fi. Meals can be enjoyed according to your travel style, including boxed lunches, catered meals, and options prepared by a dedicated chef.

Whirlpool Sightseeing Boat in Tokushima: Get Close to One of the Most Powerful Whirlpools in the World!

Tokushima whirlpool sightseeing boats departing from Naruto Park in Tokushima offer an experience unlike any other. These boats have only one mission and a specific target — to get you up close to one of the most powerful whirlpools in the world!

Naruto Whirlpools (that can reach 30-meters in diameter) occur in the narrow Naruto Strait connecting the Seto Inland Sea to Kii Channel, which opens to the Pacific Ocean. The narrow strait is home to one of the three strongest currents globally, reaching speeds as high as 20 km/hour, alongside the powerful Strait of Messina in Italy and Seymour Narrows in Canada. This large-scale whirlpool is attributed to the narrow width and unique topography of the Naruto Straits.

While the idea of traveling close to a whirlpool may seem a little too venturesome, the whirlpools are not dangerous for the boats, making the Naruto sightseeing boats one of the most thrilling (as often evidenced by the cheering passengers) yet safe ways to experience this natural phenomenon up close. The morning and afternoon tours are the most popular since the Naruto whirlpools can best be observed twice a day within the one-to-two hour time frame before and after each tide. The online tide calendar is a great tool to track the best viewing hours.

There are two boat options available to take you to the center of the action. A ride in Wonder Naruto does not require any reservation, and the boat can host up to 399 passengers. There are 12 trips per day, lasting around 30 minutes for 1,800 JPY. With an extra fee of 1,000 JPY, you can also board the second floor of the boat, offering even better views of the whirlpools. The other alternative is Aqua Eddy, a smaller option at 2,400 JPY that can accommodate up to 46 people. This boat has a window at the bottom of the boat that allows you to look into the water and see the whirlpools.

While the experience of getting close to one of the most powerful whirlpools is exciting enough, the scenery along the way featuring Onaruto Bridge, Awajishima, and Tokushima coastlines and the picturesque boats do not disappoint either.

While I love the scenic beauty of the bridges that serve all the Seto Inland Sea coasts, getting in a boat and approaching this archipelago from the sea level makes me feel more immersed in its unique geography.

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Photographs and text by Burcu Basar

More Information
・Kobe Cruise Concerto
Boarding Address: Kobe Harborland Mosaic 1F 1-6-1 Higashikawasaki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Sailing time: Lunch Cruise (12:00 pm – 2:00 pm); Tea Cruise (2:30 pm – 4:00pm); Twilight Cruise (5:15 pm– 7:00 pm (4/1-9/30), 4:30 pm – 6:15 pm (10/1-3/31); Night Cruise 7:30pm – 9:15pm (4/1-9/30), 7:15 pm – 9:00 pm (10/1-3/31)
Fees: Lunch cruise: Adults: 3,190 JPY; Children: 1,600 JPY; Tea Cruise: Adults: 2,420 JPY; Children: 1,210 JPY; Twilight Cruise: Adults: 2,750 JPY, Children; 1,380 JPY; Night Cruise: Adult 2,750 JPY; Child 1,380 JPY *Meals are charged separately.
For reservations and more information:

・Setouchi Yacht Charter
Boarding place: Pier next to Setouchi Onsen Tama no Yu
Address: 1-1-11 Chikko, Tamano-shi, Okayama
Fare: Varies depending on the plan.
For reservations and more information on routes and rates, please visit

・Uzushio Tidal Boat
Wander Naruto
Fare: Adults 1,800 JPY, elementary school students 900 JPY
Hours of operation: 9:00 am – 4:20 pm *12 services per day
Boarding time: approx. 30 min.Aqua Eddy
Fare: Adults 2,400 JPY, Elementary school students 1,200 JPY
Hours of operation: 9:15 am – 4:15 pm *15 services a day
Boarding time: approx. 25 min.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Naruto Uzushio Kankyo Boat website (




Kobe Cruise Concerto(神戸クルーズ コンチェルト)


Catamaran Yacht(瀬戸内ヨットチャーター)


Whirlpool Sightseeing Boat(うずしお観潮船)


Akashi Kaikyo Bridge - Climbing the Tallest and Longest Suspension Bridge in the World

Skirting the epic ocean whirlpools of the Naruto Strait

Awaji Hamarikyu - Sun, Sea, Sand and Sakura Trout