Located at the northeastern end of Shikoku, Naruto is famous for its whirlpools. Unfortunately, they were a bit weak on the day of my visit due to the moon's movements. Nevertheless, I made the journey out on a spectacularly-clean (and typically Japanese) boat for the whirlpool cruise. I could barely find a single speck of rust on deck. That was how clean this thing was.
Cruise boats run several times an hour and their website shows which times are the best based on the tidal schedule. The whirlpools are caused by opposing currents from the Seto Inland Sea and the Kii Channel meeting here. For those who can get boat-sick, the Onaruto Bridge that crosses the waters has an observation deck 45m above the sea built to view the whirlpools.
After the cruise, I set off into the interior of Shikoku, where a surprise lunch awaited. This delicious lunch was not even 700 yen in a beautifully-decorated house / restaurant, albeit in the middle of nowhere.
Oboke and Koboke are located along the Yoshino River in western Tokushima. Nestled in the mountains, it is a slow but scenic drive into this popular tourist area, which literally means "big / small dangerous to walk along" due to the rocky landscape. Hoping for some fall colours, I was a bit disappointed.
There were several small strip malls along the valley road where you can park your car, admire the natural beauty, take a cruise or conquer the rapids.
This refurbished school bus can be hired for tours.
Want to try some local fish freshly cooked?
The Iya Valley is quite remote but still accessible by car. This 45m vine bridge crosses the Iya River, a tributary of the Yoshino River. To keep it safe for tourists, it is rebuilt every 3 years.
Tourists make the slow trek across the bridge, noting the wide gaps between the platforms and how easy it can be to lose your shoe in between.
With still sufficient day-light, the next stop was deep in the mountains to see the statue of a peeing boy. This isn't Belgium but the guide book featured it so perhaps it was worth a look. The drive to this spot was quite dangerous. 2 lanes of traffic were squeezed into 1 as the road winded around the mountain bends. You cannot possibly drive over 30km/h as you needed to keep a watch for opposite traffic coming and hope there is sufficient room to hide and let the other pass.
The statue was tiny and this place was utterly disappointing. It is located on the side of a road along a widened bend where passing cars could squeeze through. So if you arrive earlier in the day, there is likely no spot for you to park (illegally) for a quick photo.
It would have been much nicer if the valley was lit up in fall colours.