The Seto Inland Sea region of Japan is home to a number of natural wonders to take travellers away from the tourist trail. From seasonal events, such as firefly and blossom seasons, to caves and gorges which have developed gradually over thousands of years, travel lovers will be in awe of the Setouchi region’s natural beauty.

The area west of Kyoto encompasses the Seto Inland Sea, which is one of the most prominent multi-island seas in the world. Setouchi includes the seven prefectures of Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa and Ehime.

Known for incredible modern art and sculptures, design in the region includes Naoshima, Japan’s Art Island, and Miyajima – the shrine of Itsuku-shima standing in the sea. Home to four UNESCO World Heritage sites, Setouchi is also known for its quality produce, such as  traditionally-made udon noodles in Kagawa, and 275 Sake breweries.

Marvel at the natural Naruto Whirlpools, Tokushima Prefecture

Travel lovers can visit the some of the world’s largest naturally occurring whirlpools 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, travel here to also watch this natural occurrence from the Ohnaruto Bridge above whilst also taking in the panoramic views.

uzushiokisen whirlpool japan

Whirlpool

Spot fireflies in Hyogo Prefecture

Travel lovers can experience the magical glow of fireflies in Setouchi as firefly season takes hold from early May each year. Once used as a metaphor for passionate love in 8thCentury poetry, fireflies continue to mesmerise. There are many prime spots to watch these tiny insects light up the region and between June and July, the hime-botaru fireflies buzz around the torii gate of Uchio Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture.

You can choose to learn more about the mystical activities of these native fireflies during the 40-minute “Hikami Dream Tour”, in which the best spots for observing these insects are identified.

shimane-Luciola fireflies japan

Fireflies

Explore Akiyoshido Cave, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Mine City in Yamaguchi Prefecture is home to Akiyoshidai, the plateau with the highest concentration of karst formations in Japan. The Akiyoshidai Plateau was once a coral reef and traces back 300 million years.

akiyoshidai japan

Akiyoshidai Plateau

As a result, the lands are scattered with limestone pinnacles creating a landscape rarely seen in Japan. Travel to Akiyoshido Cave to find Japan’s largest and longest limestone cave, with 1 km of its 9 km total open for exploration. The cave is easy to navigate enabling travellers to see the natural formations which have gradually developed over thousands of years, as well as underground waterfalls and limestone pools.

akiyoshidai japan

Akiyoshido Cave

Hike Kankakei Gorge, Kagawa Prefecture

Located in the middle of Shodoshima Island is the Kankakei Gorge – a breathtaking ravine considered by many as one of Japan’s most beautiful gorges – which is one of the country’s nationally designated Places of Scenic Beauty. A must-see on your Japan trip.

Active explorers can take one of the two hiking trails beginning at the torii Shinto gate and weaving through the forest to the top of Kankakei Gorge. During the autumn months, travel lovers will see a different perspective as they climb the slopes of Mount Hoshigajyo to the top of the gorge as the area is densely populated by Japanese red maple trees.

If you want an easier incline, you can travel to the top of the gorge in 6 minutes via the ropeway cable car to be greeted by stunning views at the highest point of the island. Once at the peak, incredible vistas of the Seto Inland Sea can be seen at the observation deck, with noteworthy views including Kayogaku – which many people say is reminiscent of the veined back of a lotus leaf – and Tsutenso, a hollow rock said to look like a window to heaven.

Kankakei aerial tramway Kagawa

Kankakei aerial tramway, Kagawa

We hope you enjoy these stunning natural wonders on your Japan trip.

Find out more on the official Setouchi website

Also Read: 

10 Things to Know Before Your Japan Trip

Japan Travel: The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Tokyo