Island
Shikoku
Largest City
Matsuyama
Population
3,977,205

Shikoku

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. It can be felt all around 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 and its celebrated Dogo Onsen.

Four prefectures

OnomichiKurushima kaikyo bridge in Ehime, Japan.

Kurushima kaikyo bridge along the Shimanami Kaido.

Shikoku has four prefectures: TokushimaKagawaEhime, and Kochi. The Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima City is one of Japan’s most famous dance festivals. At the same time, sunny Naoshima Island in Kagawa Prefecture is a curious collection of modern art museums and funky architecture.

Riding the Shimanami Kaido

You can cycle on the Shimanami Kaido, also known as the Nishiseto Expressway. It’s a 60-kilometer bridge that connects Honshu to Ehime and passes over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. There’s whale-watching at Cape Muroto on the southern tip of Kochi, and a chance to see ancient fishing techniques at the pristine Shimanto River near Nakamura.

Like the rest of Japan, each of Shikoku’s prefectures has its own local cuisine. Kagawa has chewy sanuki udon, while Tokushima ramen is heavy, flavorful, and topped with a raw egg. There is fresh bonito in Kochi, and Shikoku is also a top producer of citrus. Make sure you add a premium mandarin orange, sudachi, or yuzu into your hiking picnic before you head out.

88 Temple Pilgrimage

Ishite-ji temple Shikoku 88 temple matsuyama

Matsuyama’s Ishite-ji along the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

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.

Discover Shikoku with the links below!

Trivia

Riding the Shimanami Kaido

Shimanami Kaido links Imabari in Shikoku with Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture and is a bicycle-friendly 70km route across six islands of outstanding natural beauty.

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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.

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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.

Kochi Japan

Kochi

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

Tokushima

Bordered by rugged mountain cliffs and dangerous whirlpools, traveling through Tokushima feels like an Indiana Jones adventure.

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