The smallest and least populated of Japan’s main islands, Shikoku literally translated as “four countries”, reflecting the four prefectures on the Island: Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi and Tokushima Prefectures. Lost in Japan two week itinerary features Shikoku as the main area visited (as well as the major sights in Tokyo & Kyoto). If you prefer to join a small group tour, then Hidden Treasures of Japan features a good chunk of Shikoku while on tour.
Kagawa is the smallest prefecture in Japan, and is famous for its sanuki udon noodles, which are square with flat sides. Shikoku’s most popular shrine, Kompirasan, is in Kagawa and is dedicated to sea faring, reflecting Kagawa’s rich nautical history. There are two popular islands also part of Kagawa Prefecture. Naoshima Island is one of Japan’s most creative places, and is full of modern art museums, architecture and sculptures. Shodoshima Island, one the other hand, is known for growing olives and the quality of the olive oil produced there.
Ehime is home to the largest city in Shikoku, the prefectural capital of Matsuyama. In the middle of Matsuyama city is one of Japan’s 12 original castles: Matsuyama Castle, one of the most complex castles in the country. Located on Mount Katsuyama, the castle commands a stunning view of the surrounding area. Also in Matsuyama is Dogo Onsen, hugely popular in Japan, and one of the oldest onsen hot springs in the country. There are a large number of public baths and traditional Japanese inns here, as well as a number of shrines and temples. The Dogo Onsen Honkan, a public bathhouse built in 1894 will be familiar to anyone who has seen the Studio Ghibli movie “Spirited Away”, as it was the inspiration for the movie.
Like Matsuyama in Ehime, Kochi city, the capital of Kochi prefecture, is home to one of Japan’s few original castles. Kochi is also home to Sakamoto Ryoma, a hugely influential samurai in Japan’s history, who played a key role in the Meiji Restoration. Kochi is rightfully proud of Sakamoto, and the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum can be visited in Kochi city.
Tokushima is the fourth prefecture on Shikoku. The capital city, also called Tokushima, is famous for its Awa Odori, a dance festival dating back 400 years. For a few days in August, the festival takes place with the main attraction happening in the evenings when dancers take to the streets to perform the “fool’s dance”. Just north of Tokushima city, is Naruto. Not to be confused for the cartoon character of the same name, Naruto is renowned for the whirlpools which swirl off its coast, around the Onaruto Bridge. Finally, the Iya Valley is an isolated mountain valley, complete with rocky gorges and steep mountain sides. There are three intact, maintained vine bridges that are used to criss-cross the valley.
Tours featuring SHIKOKU ISLAND: