Island
Shikoku
Largest City
Matsuyama
Population
3,977,205

Shikoku

Find yourself on Japan's zen island

Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four islands, is a hidden gem of history and spirituality.

More info:West Japan Disater Info 2018


Shikoku, the smallest and least populated of Japan’s four islands, is probably it’s most zen destination. The pre Honshu-Shikoku bridge years of isolation can be felt throughout the island; from the hidden Iya valley to the sacred peak of Ishizuchi mountain, to the whirlpools of Naruto and the bustling castle town of Matsuyama with its historic Dogo onsen (hot spring bath).

Iya valley and Kazurabashi vine bridge, Tokushima Prefecture

Cross vine bridges in the hidden Iya valley in Tokushima.

Shikoku is most famous for its ‘88 Temple’ pilgrimage – an ancient 1400 kilometer route that circles through sweeping valleys, past tranquil streams and secret rural communities, up to misty mountaintop shrines and self-realisation. Although modern pilgrims have the option to follow the route by bus, it’s worth making at least some of the 40 day route on foot to really experience what Shikoku has to offer.

Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture

The historic Dogo Onsen in Ehime was the inspiration for the bathhouse in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

There are four prefectures on Shikoku: Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime and Kochi. The Awa Odori festival held in Tokushima city is one of Japan’s most famous dance festivals while sunny Naoshima island in Kagawa prefecture is a curious collection of modern art museums and funky architecture. You can cycle the Shimanami Kaido, also known as the Nishiseto Expressway, a 60 kilometer bridge that connects Honshu to Ehime, passing over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. There’s whale watching at wild Cape Muroto at the southern tip of Kochi and a chance to see ancient fishing techniques at the pristine Shimanto-gawa river around Nakamura.

Part of the Shimanami Kaido, the Kurushima-Kaikyō Bridge connects Ōshima, Ehime to the main part of Shikoku.

Cycle the Shimanami Kaido – a series of bridges connecting Honshu to Shikoku.

Like the rest of Japan, each of Shikoku’s prefectures has their own local cuisine. There’s Sanuki udon, Tokushima ramen, topped with a raw egg, and flavorful raw bonito from Kochi to try. Shikoku is also a top producer of citrus, so pop a premium mandarin orange, sudachi or yuzu into your hiking picnic before you head out in search of yourself.

Destinations in Shikoku

Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture

Ehime

Pilgrim paths and ancient baths; Ehime is as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Kompira-san shrine in Kagawa Prefecture

Kagawa

For pilgrims on the Shikoku 88 this is the end of the road. But that doesn’t mean you should stop exploring - Kagawa's array of attractions won’t let you anyway.

Cape Ashizuri in Kochi Prefecture

Kochi

Wild and rebellious, Kochi is one of Japan’s most rewarding off-the-beaten-track destinations.

Iya valley and Kazurabashi vine bridge, Tokushima Prefecture

Tokushima

Bordered by rugged mountain cliffs on one side and ocean whirlpools on the other, travelling through Tokushima feels like an Indiana Jones adventure.