Follow the pilgrims
Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's five main islands, is a hidden gem of history and spirituality.
Located south of Honshu, Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s five main islands after Okinawa. Historically isolated from the mainland, Shikoku developed unique architectural and religious characteristics. The region is also a top producer of citrus.
Shikoku is most famous for its 88 Temple Pilgrimage, a 1400 kilometer route established by Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. The pilgrimage circles through sweeping valleys, past tranquil streams, and secret rural communities, up to misty mountaintop shrines and self-realization. Although modern pilgrims can travel the route by bus, it’s worth making at least some of the journey on foot to really experience what Shikoku has to offer.
Tokushima is situated between lush mountain ranges and the Naruto whirlpools. The prefectural capital is host to the Awa Odori Festival which is one of Japan’s most famous dance festivals. For those looking to embark on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Tokushima serves as the starting point. Before embarking on the pilgrimage, try the many local delicacies like Tokushima ramen which is best described to be heavy, flavorful and topped with a raw egg.
Ehime is the final destination on the Shimanami Kaido, which is a cycling course that is made up of several bridges that link Honshu to Shikoku. The trail passes over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea and offers beautiful views of the surrounding seascape. In the prefectural capital of Matsuyama City, tourists can take the ropeway up to Matsuyama Castle for a sweeping panoramic view of the city’s landscape. For Ghibli fans, remember to drop by Dogo Onsen which has over 1,000 years of history and been said to be the inspiration for the bathhouse in Spirited Away.
Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the vast wilderness of Kochi. Start your stay at the capital city by visiting the Kochi Sunday Market to sample the freshest produce and enjoy the local atmosphere. From the market, make your way toward the city center and spend a few hours roaming the grounds of Kochi Castle. Afterwards, fill your itinerary with all sorts of outdoor activities. There’s whale-watching at Cape Muroto on the southern tip of the prefecture, and a chance to see ancient fishing techniques at the pristine Shimanto River near Nakamura.
Kagawa marks the last leg of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage as it has the remaining 22 temples. While it the smallest of the four prefectures that make up the Shikoku region, Kagawa is home to Zentsu-ji which is the largest among the temples on the trail. For those who would want a more laid back experience, the prefecture has a handful of islands dedicated to modern art museums such as Naoshima Island and Teshima Island.
Try the ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass to keep transportation costs down. If you are traveling within Shikoku and you are a temporary visitor try this pass, you may want to try this flexible multi-day pass (validity period varies from 3 to 7 days).
The prices range from ¥9,500-¥13,500 for an adult and ¥4,750-¥6,750 for children (6 to 11). If you are purchasing from overseas, typically there is a slight discount of ¥500 off for adults and ¥250 off for children.