The Seto Inland Sea, which is home to more than 700 islands, is surrounded by Kyushu, Shikoku, and Japan’s main island Honshu. The scenery encompassing the small islands hosted by the Seto Inland Sea is so unique that there is a special term in Japanese to describe its beauty — tatoubi (多島美) — roughly translated as the beauty of many islands.
In addition to the picturesque small islands, many bridges cross over the Seto Inland Sea. Some of these bridges are small and modestly beautiful. In contrast, the Akashi-Kaikyo at approximately four kilometers long is the longest suspension bridge in the world, effortlessly showing off its state-of-the-art architectural design.
The narrow straits such as Naruto Strait connecting the Seto Inland Sea with the Pacific Ocean, and Kanmon Strait to the Sea of Japan, also add to the beauty of the scenery.
The Seto Inland Sea features, including hundreds of islands, picturesque bridges, and the straits, result in a perfect setting for the iconic sunset scenery. In addition, there are many easily accessible lookout points surrounding the region to soak in the unique views.
Here are three lookout points in Hiroshima and Hyogo prefectures that offer some of the most spectacular scenery of the Seto Inland Sea.
Mount Ryuo in Hiroshima: Million Dollar Views of the Seto Inland Sea
Mount Ryuo offers one of the best examples of tatoubi in the entire Seto Inland Sea region. The 445-meter-high mountain and its neighboring Mt. Fudekage, with its equally splendid views, are a part of the Setonaikai National Park.
On a clear day, the scenery has many picturesque elements, including small islands, mountain ranges, and fisherman’s boats. There are days when you can even see seven bridges along Japan’s famous biking route — the Shimanami Kaido, which connects Onomichi in Hiroshima to Imabari in Ehime over the Seto Inland Sea.
The scenery from Mount Ryuo is justifiably praised as one of the most iconic sunset sceneries in all of Japan, and it has, not surprisingly, been featured in many TV shows and commercials.
During the sakura cherry blossom season, the beauty of the sunset over the Seto Inland Sea and the blend of the yellow, orange, and red skies is rivaled by the warmth of the white and pink colors flushing out of two thousand cherry trees surrounding the mountain. There are many points where the photographers can capture the beauty of the Sakura in the same frame with the sun setting over the Seto Inland Sea.
Mount Ryuo is easily accessible by car or bus, adding to its popularity.
Recommended Sightseeing Spots Near Mount Ryuo
Mihara City, a 30-minute drive from Mount Ryuo, is home to a diverse range of cultural and historical sites that will keep you busy for the whole day. In addition, the city is surrounded by castle ruins, including Mihara Castle and Niitakayama Castle, making it an ideal destination for castle tours.
Mihara is also home to the folk art of doll making. Mihara Daruma, a traditional Japanese doll and a symbol of luck, is one of the city’s most famous draws. The visitors can participate in a workshop to make their own Daruma dolls at the Mihara Daruma Kobo in Mihara Station and visit the museum dedicated to the art of Daruma doll making.
Kajitsu no Mori Park, meaning fruit forest in Japanese, is another wonderful, fun, and relaxing option near Mount Ryuo. Visitors can enjoy seasonal fruit picking in the park, where many fruits, including strawberries, kiwis, cherries, and peaches, are cultivated.
Ryusenji Temple, located on the summit of nearby Shirataki Mountain, is famous for its image of Buddha and two bodhisattvas carved into a cliff and is also worth a visit.
The Southern Tip of Awaji Island: Iconic Bridge Views Along the Naruto Strait
Awaji Island, which sits between Honshu and Shikoku, is another beautiful place to enjoy the panoramic scenery and sunset over the Seto Inland Sea. There are many lookout venues on the southern tip of the island, which overlooks the picturesque Naruto Strait and Onaruto Bridge.
Wakodo no Hiroba Park offers some of the most expansive views of the Naruto Strait and Onaruto Bridge. The park was designed by prized architect Kenzo Tange to honor the students who lost their lives during the Second World War built in 1967. The architect who was also in charge of the rebuilding of Hiroshima after the Second World War was known for his style of combining traditional Japanese architecture with modern features. Also known as the Youth Plaza, the park features a memorial, an eternal flame, and an exhibition Hall (displays the students’ belongings) honoring students who died during the Second World War. With panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea, it is also an excellent place for a stroll during the daytime.
While the park closes at 5:00 pm, a spacious lookout area next to the parking lot offers splendid views of Onaruto Bridge and Tokushima coastline.
Uzuno Oka Onaruto Bridge Memorial Hall is another popular viewpoint in Awaji Island, which offers magnificent views of Naruto Strait and many amenities to keep the visitors busy until the sunset. There is a restaurant in the park that serves gourmet cuisine and spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea.
The grounds also features a giant yet surprisingly photogenic onion sculpture — the local produce of Awaji Island. It is a popular photo stop for those wanting to capture this local Awaji fare in the same frame as the iconic Onaruto Bridge.
There is also a children’s museum, the Uzushio Science Museum, on the premises dedicated to the Naruto Whirlpools in the Naruto Strait, a unique natural phenomenon that can be observed up-close from under the nearby Onaruto Bridge.
Check out the other tourist spots near the southern tip of Awaji Island!
Whirlpool viewing spots include the boat tours, a walk along Uzunomichi Walkway, a 450-meter-log glass-lined pedestrian path under Onaruto Bridge, and the observatory points such as Senjojiki Observatory and Eska Hill, where you can watch the wild whirlpools from a close distance.
Keino-Matsubara Beach is a great alternative not far from Uzuno Oka Onaruto Bridge Memorial Hall if you prefer calmer waters and happen to be in the area in the summer season. This picturesque beach is listed as one of the best 100 bathing beaches in Japan.
Onokorojima Shrine features a huge wooden torii gate that is 21.7 meters high and is where the mythical creators of Japan, Izanagi and Izanami, are enshrined. It is also known as a “power spot” endowing its visitors with healing and revitalizing energy.
Mount Rokko: Mesmerizing Night Views Over One of Japan’s Best Lit City and Harbor
Mt. Rokko, at an elevation of 931-meters, overlooks one of the most architecturally rewarding cities in Japan – Kobe – and one of the busiest harbors of the country. The combination of the two results in one of the most spectacular night views in all of Japan.
A dense forest surrounds the mountain route leading to Mt. Rokko. One can easily forget that they’re near one of the busiest cities in Japan, making the scenery at the end of the road even more remarkable. There are many lookout points along the route, but Rokko Garden Terrace, located near the mountain peak, offers perhaps the city’s best views. Here, one can easily spend hours watching the uninterrupted views of Kobe’s city lights and harbor, which transforms at night into a spectacularly illuminated nightscape of bridges and glittering cruise ships.
While the sunset and the night sceneries are remarkable, Mount Rokko is also famous for its visual feast to its visitors during the twilight hours. One of the most beautiful scenes occurs during the 15 to 20 minute period when the sun dips below the horizon while coloring the sky. Often referred to as the “blue hour,” the red silhouette of Kobe Port Tower takes on another form against the backdrop of the blue skies, a scenery powerful enough to possibly make even the most devoted nature lovers fall in love with cityscapes.
Mount Rokko, apart from the lookout points, is home to numerous other attractions. One can easily spend the entire day in the area, visiting its restaurants, barbecue areas, and shops.
Rokkosan Athletic Park GREENIA is an athletic and adventure park in Mount Rokko that will please any adventure seeker, including a 200-meter-long zipline and ropes. In addition, there are 164 unique athletic facilities on the grounds for adults and children to enjoy.
Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden is located near the top of Mount Rokko at an altitude of 865 meters above sea level. Taking advantage of this cool climate, visitors can see more than 1,500 species of alpine plants and plants from cold climates in a state close to those in the wild.
Rokko Forest Sound Museum – formerly known as the International Music Box Museum – is another attractive and creative park feature (and is right next to Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden). The museum features many outdoor spaces associated with musical elements. A sound bench, which automatically plays music when someone sits on it, is one of the many charms of the museum aiming to combine the beauty of the outdoors with music.
These are three of the most rewarding venues around the Seto Inland Sea to experience the sunset over hundreds of islands and some of the world’s most iconic bridges. However, don’t wait until the evening to start your visit, as each site offers plenty of other experiences to fill your whole day of delightful exploration of the Seto Inland Sea.
Photographs and text by Burcu Basar
・ Wakodo no Hiroba Park
Opening days: Daily between 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
HP (Japanese): Minami Awaji City website
・ Uzuno Oka Onaruto Bridge Memorial Hall
Opening days: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; For hours of each feature including the restaurant, visit:https://kinen.uzunokuni.com/
Closing Days: Tuesdays
The opening hours may differ from the usual hours due to the Corona. For details, please see the website.
・Rokko Garden Terrace
1877-9 Gokayama, Rokkosan-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe city
Opening hours: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm (depending on the store and season)
Closed: Open all year round (depending on the store)
HP (English): https://www.rokkosan.com/gt/?lang=en