Five of the best visits in Shikoku using the Japan Rail Pass.
The island of Shikoku is located just south of Honshu and is the smallest of the four main islands that make Japan. The island known for being remote and less developed than other parts of Japan, however this only adds to the charm for those looking for a break from the always busy city life. One of the main attractions of Shikoku is the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, average takes 6 weeks to complete on foot. This is a bit too long for most travellers, so we’ve made a list of the best 5 places to visit in Shikoku, that can easily be fitted in any itinerary.
Access to Shikoku: Train travel to Shikoku is always via the great Seto Ohashi bridge, connecting Shikoku to mainland Japan. Coming from the big cities (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and so on), take the Shinkansen to Okayama. From here limited express trains run to Shikoku, over Seto Ohashi bridge and from there travel to different cities in Shikoku.
Alternatively, Shikoku can be reached by ferry from Wakayama (Kansai), Hiroshima (Honshu) and Beppu (Kyushu).
Tokushima and Naruto
Tokushima is mostly famous for the Awa Odori or Awa Dance Festival, held every year from 12 to 15 August during Obon. The festival turns the streets in a long dance parade, complete with traditional instruments and Taiko drums. Hotels fill up completely during the festival, so either book in advance or make a day trip from elsewhere, such as Osaka or Okayama. Outside the festival period, Tokushima is a small, quiet city with a pleasant atmosphere.
There’s the Awa Odori Kaikan an interesting museum dedicated to the Awa dance, there are daily live performances, and you can take dance lessons from a robot. Behind the museum a rope-way goes up to Mount Bizan where visitors have a beautiful panoramic view of the city and Shikoku islands. The castle ground and surrounding park is enjoyable to walk around and is a great place to meet picnicking locals. Within close proximity of Tokushima lies Naruto both the name of the city and Japanese for whirlpool (not to be confused with the Manga). About 40 minutes by train from Tokushima, the city is famous for watching whirlpools during the change of tides. Naruto is a great side trip to make from Tokushima. There’s a local train service from Tokushima directly to Naruto about every hour, taking about 40 minutes and covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Located near the west side of the island, Matsuyama is the largest city of Shikoku. It is famous for its local bathhouse, Dogo Onsen Honkan and the Dogo Onsen itself. Easy to combine with a visit to the Dogo Onsen is Ishiteji Temple. This temple is the part of 88 Shikoku pilgrimage temple, and it is common to see pilgrims clothed in white making a visit. The special part of the temple is a 200-meter-long limestone cave decorated with many religions paintings and ornaments, it leads the visitor to the inner sanctum of the temple.
Tokushima city castle is well worth a visit too. The castle is one of the 12 authentic castles that remain in Japan today, it is one of the most impressive. Climbing to the top will take some time because of the complexity of the castle, however the view over the city is well worth the time.
Matsuyama Dogo Spa.
Takamatsu is located on the north side of Shikoku and one of the most accessible cities on the island by rail. The main attraction of Takamatsu is the beautiful landscape garden of Ritsurin-Koen. The garden was created back in the feudal period of Japan as private garden to one of the local rulers. These days it is open to the public, to walk around in, enjoy the scenery or relax at a tea house. Because sees a lot less tourists than other famous gardens in Japan, it is a brilliant place to find true Zen. Takamatsu also has one of the longest shopping arcades in Japan with over 2.5 km of covered shopping streets. Housing everything from famous department stores to small local craft stores. Additionally, Takamatsu makes for a good base to visit other small islands from in Shikoku. Namely: Naoshima and Teshima.
Naoshima and Teshima
The art pumpkin at Naoshima island.
Naoshima is an island of art, architecture, beautiful beaches and good weather. The island is a gem for those looking for a break from the busy city life or just some peace and quiet. For art, visit the Art House Project here a collection of abandoned houses, temples and workplaces have been turned into workshops and exhibition places for artists. The island is not large and in is wonderful to explore the island on bicycle during a sunny day. Visits to art sights are easily combined with a relaxing stay on the beach or walk through the local scenery.
Teshima is a close-by island to Naoshima and like Naoshima dedicated to art. The main attraction is the Teshima Art Museum, an enchanting modern art experiences. There are also smaller art sites scattered over the island. For transport there are buses on the island but exploring the island by rental bicycle is by far the best way.
Access to Naoshima and Teshima
The islands are not connected by bridge to mainland Japan and visitors have to use the ferry from either Takamatsu or Uno. Coming from Tokyo, or Kansai take the Shinkansen to Okayama from where local trans depart to Uno. The ferry terminal is in walking distance from the station and ferries depart frequently and visit both Naoshima and Teshima.
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Awa-dance by Rosino
Naoshima by cotaro70s
Matsuyama Dogo Spa by Japanexperterna.se
Written by: Daniel-san