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A Cultural Journey Through Awaji-shima, Japan

A Cultural Journey Through Awaji-shima, Japan

Ohaka-mairi, or grave visiting plays a large and important part in Japanese culture. During late summer through fall, most Japanese make a point of returning home to visit and maintain family graves.

Both of my host parents are from Awaji Island, an island important to the creation myth of Japan. This small, rural island lies between Honshu and Shikoku. It is connected to both of these islands from each end by the longest suspension bridge in the world, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, also known as Pearl Bridge.

I was fortunate enough to be invited by my host family to make the journey with them and after a weekend away, I left with a better understanding and appreciation for cultural traditions.

Our Journey to Awaji-shima Through Photos

Awaji SA ferris wheel

Our first stop was the giant, green Awaji SA ferris wheel.

Awaji SA looking at Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Visiting the “Lover’s Sanctuary” and looking out at the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge mascot Wataru

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge has a mascot named Wataru. Do you know what he is supposed to be?

Wataru Mascot

We later learned he was supposed to be a cross section of the bridge, which is obviously why he has a car on his head.

Rural Japan in Awaji

Upon arriving in Sumoto, we spent the whole first day with my host mom’s side of the family.

Japanese grave offerings

My host sisters carefully crafted these for the graves of their grandparents.

Pulling out sweet potatoes in Japan

A few minutes into our walk, my host sisters ran off the path and began trying to pull something out of the ground…

Finding sweet potatoes in Japan

A yam!

Growing rice in rural Japan

We continued our walk through the rice fields to reach their family grave site.

Cleaning graves

When we reached the graves it was time to scrub them clean before presenting the offerings and chanting prayers.

Modern Japanese homes

Early the next morning, we packed our bags into the van and began the trip to visit my host dad’s side of the family.

Rural Japan

We went from rural Awaji…to…really rural Awaji.

Traditional Japanese homes

Inside the traditional Japanese house my host dad grew up in.

Collecting branches

Soon again it was time to tend to the graves, so my host sisters began gathering branches.

Japanese grave site

Laying the branches on the graves as offering, before beginning more chanting.

Houses in rural Japan

When we were finished, we went into town to help their family do errands.

Pikachu statue

The town was very small, but it was still most certainly Japan. Hey You, Pikachu!

Outside the onsen

My host mother led us to a small building in the parking lot. What could be inside?

Enjoying an onsen footbath

It was a hot bath for our feet, perfect after a long day of errands. The world needs more of these!

Awaji Island in Japan

After spending the weekend with my host family’s family, seeing 4 generations of family all together was really something. But the time came when it was time to return home.

What are YOUR eye-opening cultural experiences?


  1. Wow, not the Japan I picture in my mind!

  2. Thanks for sharing some cultural insight.
    I’ve never even heard of this place!

  3. Is this island easy to get to from the mainland of Japan?