Traditionally, Japan can be divided into nine regions that subsequently can be subdivided into several prefectures. The nine regions are based on their geographical and historical background but don’t function as administrative, independent regions. Each region has its own dialect, customs, and unique traditions and can differ quite a lot from each other.
Shikoku Region – 四国地方
Shikoku is the smallest of the four main islands of Japan, located southwest of the main island of Honshu. The region consists of four prefectures true to its name: Shikoku which literally means four countries. The four prefectures are Ehime, Kagawa, Kouchi and Tokushima, known for its beautiful nature and scenic views, delicious fresh food from the Seto Inland Sea and rich history. Being historically isolated from the mainland, the island of Shikoku has developed its own unique culture and traditions as well as it is boasting some amazing architectural and natural highlights! Dogo Onsen – said to be an inspiration for Ghibli’s Spirited Away -, the Awa Odori festival, Naoshima art island and the scenic Shimanami Kaido cycling route, are just a few of the region’s amazing highlights. We have a ready-to-use 7 days itinerary covering some of the highlights of Shikoku, but there are many more so in this article, we will briefly introduce Shikoku’s four prefectures and our main recommendations subsequently!
Highlights of Ehime – 愛媛
Ehime prefectures covers the western part of Shikoku and includes a bunch of smaller islands in front of the coast. The prefectural capital, Matsuyama, is home to Dogo Onsen, which is said to be the inspiration of the bath house featured in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated Ghibli film Spirited Away. Ehime prefecture is also the final prefecture of the Shimanami Kaido, a 60km long scenic toll road, that is also very popular among cyclist (the cycling route is about 80 km ). The Kurushima Bridge is the longest bridge of the road, located in north Ehima, connecting Imabari to Oshima island. Other hotspots in the prefecture include, the highest mountain in western Japan, Mount Ishizuchi, Shikoku Karst and 26 of the temples that together form the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage.
Highlights of Kagawa – 香川
Japan smallest prefecture of Kagawa is known as the Udon prefecture, with the most famous type being Sanuki udon, named after the prefecture’s former name (Sanuki). The main sights of Kagawa are located in the north, from which you can also easily access some of beautiful islands dotted in the Seto Inland Sea. Take a trip to Shodoshima with its stunning Angel Road or visit the art island of Naoshima, perhaps Kagawa’s most famous spot where you can find many art works of internationally renowned architects like Takao Ando, Yayoi Kusama and many more. The island is the main venue of the Setouchi Triennale art festival. Kompirasan, the head shrine of Kompira shrines in Japan, Ritsurin Garden, Chichibugahama Beach and Shiudeyama Mountain are other must visits in Kagawa Prefecture.
Highlights of Kochi – 高知
The rural area long the south western coast of Shikoku is part of the prefecture of Kouchi, known for its untouched nature, beaches and mountains. Due to its mountainous landscape, the prefecture is one of the less discovered area and popular among outdoor activity lovers. Kouchi Castle is the best preserved of the Japan’s 12 original feudal castles, offering nice views from the tower’s top floor. Katsurahama beach, Shimanto river, Cape Ashizuri, Kashiwa Island and Monet’s Garden Marmottan in Kitagawa Village are some of the many amazing natural spots the prefecture has to offer, all with their own aesthetic beauty.
Highlights of Tokushima – 徳島
Tokushima Prefecture is Shikoku’s most eastern prefecture and in connected to the mainland of Japan by bridge. Underneath this bridge you can see the world’s largest whirlpools, Naruto Uzushio. In the west side of the prefecture, you can enjoy thrilling outdoor activities in the Oboke and Koboke Gorges, which were formed by the rapid current of Yoshino River. Iya Valley is a remote valley located in western Tokushima famous for the several hiking options and vine bridges. In august you can indulge your cultural senses at Japan’s most famous dance festival, Awa Odori, organised annually in Tokushima City.
In Shikoku, you can have many amazing experiences enjoying the rich culture and/or the stunning nature. Being Japan’s smallest main island, this somewhat remote gem isn’t discovered by the large of tourists yet and offers many authentic experiences. Plan ahead and make most out of your trip to Japan!
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