In yesterday’s post, “橋 hashi—bridge” I wrote about the first part of our trip to Awajishima island. Our goal was the famous Naruto whirlpools at the southern end of the island.
In the map, you can see how Awajishima (circled in red) almost completely closes off the Inland Sea from the open waters of the Pacific. Twice a day, the rising tide filling the Inland Sea has to make its way around the island through the narrow channels of the Akashi Strait (to the north) and the Naruto Strait (to the south); twice a day the falling tide has to make its way past in the other direction.
The Naruto Strait in particular experiences one of the fastest tidal currents in the world; at 10 knots supposedly the fourth fastest after two locations in Norway (including the famous maelstrom that claimed Captain Nemo’s Nautilus) and one in Nova Scotia.
The Naruto Strait is crossed by the Great Naruto Bridge—not as long as the Akashi bridge but still an impressive and beautiful structure with a central span of 876 metres.
We drove across this bridge to the island of Shikoku; the smallest of Japan’s 4 main islands. It was my first time to visit Shikoku.
We had timed our visit for the maximum tidal current; the mid-falling tide at 2:00 pm. We parked the car and walked up to a spot overlooking the strait, to enjoy the show.
お茶園 means “tea garden”—it seems the local lord had a tea-house here long ago.
Our elevated viewing place overlooked this little island: Tobishima.
The whirlpools never really materialised. Clearly, there was a huge amount of turbulence and overfall as the water rushed under the bridge at high velocity, but it didn’t develop into the kind of hollow vortex that we imagined, and that we had seen in the pictures.
The best indication of the speed and vorticity of the water came from watching the boats that were bringing tourists out for a closer look (I imagine they buy sick-bags by the pallet-load). Boats coming under the bridge with the current attained amazing speeds, then when they entered the turbulent area they were spun violently around.
As usual, our poor dogs were suffering from the heat. They love the snow and the cold weather, but in the height of the Japanese summer there is no escape from the heat and humidity, day or night. Even the ground gets uncomfortably warm for them. Here you can see they are wearing bandannas packed with ice to keep them cool.
After watching the whirlpools (or rather, the turbulent waters, the whirlpools having failed to materialise), we went down to the souvenir shop area for some lunch. We got Naruto noodles. The swirly design in the Naruto fish sausage represents the whirlpools.
Note on the word of the day:
潮 shio, meaning tide, is pronounced in the same way as 塩 shio, meaning salt. The character breaks down into semantic and phonetic elements as follows:
The three strokes on the left (semantic) side are a reduced form of 水 meaning water. This element is found in hundreds of characters with meanings related to water, such as lake, wash, sea, swim, wave, and so on. The right (phonetic) side 朝 means “morning”, but here it is just used for its (Chinese) pronunciation chou. So together, the character contains the information “a water-related word that sounds like chou“.