Best of Shikoku
Best of Shikoku
Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, and unfortunately one of the country’s least traveled to areas. The island is made up of four prefectures that are all, with the exception of Ehime, fairly small both in size and population. Although the prefectures may be small, there are plenty of fantastic reasons to come explore Shikoku. One of the most famous of these reasons is the Shikoku Pilgrimage that takes you all around the island to 88 temples. The pilgrimage is one of the most famous pilgrimages in all of Japan and makes for a fantastic way to see the entire island. Between the history, temples, and natural beauty, we are sure you will find plenty to enjoy in our picks of the Best of Shikoku.
We feel that we did a great job pulling a wide range of attractions to provide a worthwhile Best of Shikoku list, but we easily could have missed a few. Please leave a comment if there is anything we should try to include. Thanks and enjoy!
Best of Shikoku
Best of Shikoku: Ehime
In terms of population, Ehime is the largest prefecture in Shikoku. With the prefecture’s historic Dogo Onsen and Matsuyama Castle, the prefecture tends to be one of the most visited prefectures on the island and has become fairly popular with tourists. The prefecture holds a lot of interesting events that you just can’t find anywhere else, one of our favorites is Bull Sumo. We also want to point out that Matsuyama Castle got our number 3 slot for Japan’s Must See Castles, so you know its good.
Found in Ehime’s Matsuyama, the famous Dogo Onsen is believed to be one of the oldest onsen in all of Japan. It’s interesting architecture is one of the onsen’s major attractions and was even used to model the bath house in “Spirited Away.” With the lengthy history, this onsen has accumulated several fascinating artifacts that are worth checking out as well including an enormous and ancient clock. Of course after enjoying the beauty and history of this building you can then relax in one of its onsen. We also include this fine onsen in our “Japan Bucket List” be sure and check out our full list.
Matsuyama Castle, located in Matsuyama City in Ehime, is a five story flatland castle that was built in 1603. The castle is one of the few that survived the Meiji Restoration, but was unfortunately sections of the castle were destroyed by air raids during World War 2. These sections are still under renovation, but is mainly finished and is a beautiful attraction to go see. The castle is classified as a flatland castle, but don’t let that confuse you. This castle is located on top of a fairly steep hill. To reach the castle you can either climb the hill yourself or take the Ropeway or Chair Lift. The castle also offers a spectacular view of the city from atop its mountain perch. The castle is also included in our list of “Japan’s Must See Castles,” be sure to check out the full list.
This little city has some of the most peculiar sites in all of Japan and is certainly worth a visit if you are in Ehime. The city is world famous for two very unique attractions: Sex Museums and Bull Sumo. Sex museums may not seem to out of place in Japan, but the Bull Sumo is strikes us as very random. Still though it is quite amazing and happens fairly regularly throughout the year (January 2nd, the 1st Sunday of March, the 3rd Sunday of May, July 24 (during the Warei Festival), August 14, and the 3rd Sunday of November. On top of all that fun and excitement, Uwajima even has a castle to check out.
Best of Shikoku
Best of Shikoku: Kagawa
Kagawa is a prefecture rich in natural and artistic beauty. One of the prefecture’s most well known attractions is its Naoshima which is a small island that contains several of the country’s most spectacular modern art museums. The prefecture also contains one of the nation’s most beloved traditional gardens. Overall there is a lot to see and do in this small prefecture that makes it a must visit while in Shikoku.
Naoshima is a small island off the coast of Kagawa and contains a several of the country’s best modern art museums. The museums are all quite unique and hold several pieces that are absolutely stunning. You can even find some of the artwork just scattered around the island. One of the more unique museums is the 007 Museum that is devoted to the James Bond novel, “The Man with the Red Tattoo.” All in all you won’t want to miss this artistic island.
Kompirasan is the most popular shrine in all of Kagawa, and is the head Kompira shrine in all of Japan. The shrine is dedicated to the safety of sailors across Japan and is located on the steep slopes of a mountain. The climb up to the shrine can be a tough one and includes 1,368 stone steps, so be ready for a long and difficult hike. You reach the main hall at around the 785th step, which will give you an incredible view (pictured above) of the town below. If you are feeling adventurous though you can continue up the stairs to the inner shrine. The paths are quite beautiful and the shrine, although tough, is a fun experience. Don’t miss it.
Ritsurin Koen is a landscape garden that is often viewed to be one of the best in all of Japan. The park contains several great ponds, pavilions, paths, hills, trees, and even a tea house. The garden was established for the feudal lords of the day, but is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Kagawa.
Best of Shikoku
Best of Shikoku: Kochi
Kochi has something for everyone which makes for a fantastic family get away. The prefecture is famous for its unique natural beauty which includes one of the Top 3 Caves in Japan as well as a mountain temple that includes a expansive botanical garden. On top of that the prefecture is home to the Anpanman Museum which is always popular with the kids. It won’t be hard to find something to do or enjoy while exploring Kochi.
One of the 12 remaining original castles, Kochi Castle is certainly a site to behold. The castle dates back to the early 1600’s, but due to a massive fire, the structure had to be rebuilt in 1748. Kochi Castle’s historical significance and beautiful design is what makes it worthy of not only being one of the best in all of Kochi, but also one of the Best of Shikoku.
Considered to be one of Japan’s Top 3 Caves, Kochi’s Ryugado Cave is an absolute must see for anyone visiting the prefecture. This massive limestone cave stretches on for 4 kilometers and contains a great deal of both natural beauty and history. At the entrance of the cave you can see ancient pottery stuck in the walls that date back to the Yayoi Period.
Godaisan is one of the more famous mountains in Shikoku and lies to the east of Kochi City. The mountain is not famous for its hiking or for any natural reason, but rather the temples and schools that developed on it. Years ago Chinese priests came to the mountain and established the Chikurinji Temple. The temple has become quite popular and is even one of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Near the temple lies a spacious botanical garden that contains some lengthy walking paths and beautiful plant life.
If you do not know Anpanman, then you have not been in Japan very long. This bread-headed super hero is one of the most beloved characters in all of Japan, and that is saying a lot. The creator of the series was born in Kochi making it the ideal area to build a children’s museum dedicated to Anpanman. Its fun for all, but probably best if you go with children.
Best of Shikoku
Best of Shikoku: Tokushima
Tokushima is one of the most visited prefectures on the island due to its bridge that connects Shikoku to Honshu. What makes Tokushima so loved though is its wealth of both interesting and beautiful natural attractions. That and the ever popular Awa Odori Festival make for some of the top sites in all of Shikoku. Do not miss Tokushima on your travels!
Naruto is not just anime series, but also a city in Tokushima that contains some fantastic whirlpools. These whirlpools can get up to 20 meters in diameter if the conditions are right, but when conditions are poor you risk not having any to see at all. There are tour boats that go out everyday to give the best views of the whirlpools, so be sure to look into one of their tours before going.
The Iya Valley, located in western Tokushima, is a scenic valley that contains some excellent hiking, beautiful bridges, and some pretty spectacular onsen. Some of the more interesting attractions in the valley are some bridges that are made from vines found in the valley. The bridges are quite stunning and make for excellent additions to the surrounding natural beauty.
Awa Odori Dance Festival
The Awa Odori Dance Festival takes place in Tokushima City during Obon season, and is one of the most popular festivals in all of Japan. The festival contains a lot of music, parades, and of course dancing. One of the most popular dances of the festival is the Fool’s Dance which has been a tradition for the past several centuries. If you are interested in coming to the festival, you will you want to book your hotel in advance. During the festival the city is quite crowded and the hotels will surely be booked. Keep that in mind as you are planning your trip.
Best of Shikoku