Number 1 on Japan’s list of 3, and the most challenging point to navigate by boat, the Kurushima Strait is located off the coast of Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture. After Kurushima, the other big rapid straits are Naruto and Bakanseto (Kanmon).
With a total length of about 4 km, “Shimanami Kaidō” expressway’s “Kurushima-Kaikyō Bridge” was the world’s first triple suspension bridge. From sea level to the top of the main tower, the second and third Kurushima-Kaikyō Bridge sections are 184m tall, which allows even the most gigantic ships to pass under. (Tourist boats pass beneath it, too!)
Here and there, the sea still has some traces of past pirate activity…
Ships couldn’t sail here without an expert who could read the tides.
Rough tides, whirlpools that eddy side by side… This is an unusual spot where raging seawater can be seen.
Scarily, ships sail close to these whirlpools…
During spring tide, “Hachiman-Uzu”, huge whirlpools sometimes with diameters of 10m or more, appear. There is a local legend connected with the whirlpools:
Ōhama Hachimangu Shrine is located in Imabari city. Following a festival at the shrine in the autumn of 1356, a boat carrying a Mikoshi (miniature shrine) sank into a whirlpool on the way back to the house of Murakami, the lord of a castle in Kurushima. Fearing a curse, Murakami made offerings to the sea, performed Kagura (sacred dance with music), and prayed. He then received divine instructions to “build a shrine somewhere with a great view and worship me”.
That night, San’yakō (light) flew out of the center of the whirlpool. Deciding that it must be another message from the god, Murakami built a shrine where the light fell.
He was also told, “I am in the whirlpool so I’ll stay in the whirlpool (if you want me to stay in the shrine, bring the whirlpool).”So, he scooped water from the whirlpool and enshrined it.
This is how the whirlpool is connected to god.
In Medieval Japan, the pirates (Murakami Suigun) that were active in the Seto Inland Sea were separated into three families; the Noto-murakami, Kurushima-murakami, and Innoshima-murakami families.
This was the Kushima family’s home base.
Here and there, some traces of that time remain: These stairs are said to have been made by Murakami Suigun!
With a circumference of only about 3kms, “Oshima” is a tiny island on which traces of history can be found.
Before the Russo-Japanese War broke out, Japan built a fortress here to prepare for the invasion of Setouchi by Russia. As a Meiji era (1868-1912) coastal fortress, this is the only one left in near-perfect condition.
The fortress is also associated with “Saka no Ue no Kumo (Clouds over the slope)”, a novel written by Shiba Ryōtarō. In front of the port there is a 28 cm Howitzer L/10 replica that was used in a TV drama.
I found a small shrine standing quietly at the scene of many historical battles…
A sea where human history and the gods are entwined…
If you visit once, I wager its beauty and mystic atmosphere will hold you spellbound.
Please visit and feel it for yourself.
Tickets: Road Station Yoshiumi Iki-iki Kan
Address: 4520-2 Yoshiumichōmyō, Imabari-shi, Ehime
Boarding point: Iyo Ōshima Shitadami port
Closed: Open daily from December to February (Only for groups of 5 or more)
Hours: 9am to 4pm (approx.)
Price: Adults 1,500JPY (13 years-old and up)
Elementary School Children 1,000JPY (7 to 12-years old)
Children 6-years old and under go for free (if their number is less than the number of adults
Website (English): http://www.imabari-shimanami.jp/kurushima/language/en.html
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Ohashi
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