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Shikoku 四国

Teahouse in Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu
Teahouse in Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu.

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Shikoku (pop. 4 million) is Japan's fourth main island in terms of size and population. It is also the least visited part of Japan, an off-the-beaten-track destination with a relaxed pace and abrupt landscapes.

The name Shikoku means "4 countries", and indeed the island is divided into four prefectures (Kōchi, Ehime, Kagawa and Tokushima), corresponding roughly to the four old feudal domains (respectively Tosa, Iyo, Sanuki and Awa). The feudal domain of Tosa, covering most of southwestern Shikoku, was one of the most powerful and insubordinate domains in the Tokugawa era.

Things to see

Shikoku is often ignored by both Japanese and foreign tourists due to its remoteness and lack of compelling attractions. Although it isn't that far from Osaka, transportation inside the island is usually slow, expensive and irregular.

The town of Takamatsu in Kagawa prefecture boasts one of Japan's loveliest garden, the Ritsurin-kōen (栗林公園).

Four of Japan's twelve original castles (as opposed to modern concrete reconstructions) are to be found in Shikoku. They are in the town of Kōchi, Marugame, Matsuyama and Uwajima. The most picturesque is probably Matsuyama's, in the prefectural capital of Ehime. South of Matsuyama the small towns of Ōzu and Uchiko have managed to safeguard a good part of their historic heritage, with delightful alleys of white Edo-era houses.

At the boundary of central Ehime and Kōchi prefectures rises Ishizuchi-san (石鎚山, 1982m), one of Japan's 7 Holy Mountains and Shikoku's tallest mountain. This sacred place of pilgrimage, once barred to women, is now part of the Ishizuchi Quasi National Park and is a popular destination for hiking in summer and skiing in winter.

If you have plenty of time and energy, you could try the Kōbō Daishi's 88 Temples Circuit around the island, which is the best possible highlight of Shikoku's traditional (or Buddhist) heritage. It is Japan's most famous pilgrimage, and requires about two months to walk the 1500 km trail. Nothing prevents you to use public transports to speed up the journey, or to limit yourself to a section of the circuit. One of the most popular stop is Kotohira's Kompira-san Shrine in Kagawa prefecture.

Tokushima is the usual starting point of the 88 Temples Circuit, and is reputed for its Awa dances and puppets.

The Ōboke Gorge and Iya valley in central Shikoku were made famous by Alex Kerr's book Lost Japan.



outstanding Matsuyama (pop. 473,000) is the capital of Ehime prefecture and the largest city of Shikoku. Matsuyama Castle is considered as one of the most beautiful original Japanese castles. Dogo Onsen is the oldest spa resort in Japan...Read more
Uwajima Castle
very good The small, laid-back town of Uwajima (pop. 70,000) is known within Japan for its bull fights, its castle, and the very unusual deity of its Taiga Shrine. Uwajima is located in the middle of Shikoku's west coast...Read more
Uchikoza, Uchiko (photo by Reggaeman - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Uchiko is a reasonably well-preserved traditional town. From the 1720s to the 1930s, Uchiko prospered as a production center for traditional wax and rice paper. Many warehouses and other historic buildings survive in the Yokaichi & Gokoku neighbourhoods. Two merchant houses, the Kamihaga Residence and the Honhaga Residence, have museums that delve into the history of wax production.


very good The little town of Kotohira wouldn't attract the tourist's attention if it wasn't for the famous pilgrimage destination of Mount Kompira-san and its Kotohira-gu Shrine. The Japanese consider the ascend to the shrine among the most...Read more
Iya Valley
Kazurabashi bridge, Iya Valley (photo by 京浜にけ at ja.wikipedia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Called one of the three hidden region of Japan, the Iya-kei Valley is certainly one of the most scenic spot in Western Japan, along with the gorges in Takachiho and Mount Aso in Kyushu. The main attractions are the Kazura Vine Suspension...Read more
Kochi Castle (photo by Taisyo - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Kōchi is a relaxed town on the southern coast of Shikoku, well-known for its Yosokoi Festival in August. Kōchi possesses one of Japan's last authentic medieval castles. Sakamoto Ryōma, a famous samurai from Kōchi, played an vital role in...Read more


Takamatsu (© Wa-pedia.com)
outstanding Known as Sanuki in feudal times, Takamatsu is the capital of Japan's smallest prefecture, Kagawa, and Shikoku's second largest city. It is renowned especially for its traditional gardens, the Ritsurin-koen...Read more
Awa-odori Dance, Tokushima (photo by Rosino - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.)
good Tokushima (pop. 268,000) is the capital of Tokushima prefecture, and the first major town coming from Osaka across Awajima-shima Island and the Naruto Channel. It is mostly famous for its traditional Awa-odori dances...Read more
Marugame Castle (photo by 663highland - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
good Built in 1597 as the residence of the lord of the Sanuki Province, Ikoma Chikamasa, Marugame Castle is one of the 12 original castles of Japan surviving to this day.

Wa-pedia's Rating System

Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

good : moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
very good : recommended - to visit if you have time
outstanding : outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
must-see : best of the country - shouldn't be missed
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Natural attractions

good : interesting
very good : recommended
outstanding : highly recommended
must-see : world-class
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