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Naruto Whirlpools 鳴門

Naruto is a place I had wanted to see for a long time. Naruto is on Shikoku on the opposite side of Kobe on Honshu. Due to the shape of the seabed there, during high and low tides, huge whirlpools appear in the middle of the sea. The whirlpools last about 1hr before and after the tide peaks, and are not visible every day. The problem is that it’s very hard to get to, requiring careful timing of transfers so that you arrive in time for the tides. Getting there took about 2.5hrs, but getting out took us 5hrs because we couldn’t link the transfers.

We left Osaka at a bit past 9, transferred 2 trains to Maiko, onto a bus to Naruto, and were dumped at the Naruto koen stop. We then found the other bus stop to the port and made it just in time to book the 12.20 cruise. The ferry was a 2 decker, and we paid the premium to use the upper deck. Surprisingly, on a boatful of maybe 80 people, there were only 5 including us prepared to pay for a vastly superior vantage point and air conditioning. It was great having the whole deck to ourselves.

The trip out took under 10min. Despite knowing the reason for these whirlpools, when you first see the raging seas ahead you get a rush of adrenalin as you wonder whether your boat would be sucked in. The whirlpools were huge, and some of them seemed about 2m deep. The whole sea was extremely choppy, and yet if you look only 20m away the sea was completely calm. The boat didn’t rock much though. There seemed to be a pattern in the flow, the vortices always seemed to grow out of certain areas.

Here you can see the rush of water, even though the boat was almost stationary in relation to the bridge and background. You can see some vortices forming, but unfortunately I was not yet used to my new camera, the video is a bit overexposed and you can’t see the depth in the middle. It really doesn’t do justice to the scene there. We were running all around the deck trying to capture these moments, and then after about 15min it was over and we headed back.

Back on land, we rushed (bussed) back to the bridge, where there was a walkway underneath. The peak of the tide was over, but from this point high above the sea you could still see the flow and the patterns of the whirlpools. It was a bit hard shooting through glass though.

The flows were visibly slowing down, but kept going for at least the hour we spent there. Other cruises were still going out for a while.

Later we went on a (paid) escalator to the mountaintop, expecting wonderful views. Unfortunately the glass domed escalator was not air conditioned and it was like a glasshouse. The 3 minute ride to the top was enough to get us sweating again. The building up the top was a bit derelict, and looked like it was abandoned years ago. The view itself was OK, but not really worth the trip up and down.

Photos turned out a bit better than the videos, though you can really only see the swirls in a few of them. I started off at shutter speeds of 1/160, but these turned out to be too slow for the raging seas. Some later pics at 1/320 turned out a bit better. You can see the change in color from the calm to the moving waters.

Published by Valent Lau

Photographer at

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