If you’ve been to Japan before and fancy doing something a little different to the big cities, then Shikoku could be the perfect island escape for you.
Shikoku is one of the biggest islands in Japan, located off the coast of Honshu. There are easy connections to Shikoku from Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara or Okayama.
The closest international airport is the Kansai International Airport. It connects the region as well as the airport with transport connections either by bus or train.
You can even take the Shinkansen high-speed train from Osaka to Okayama and then transfer to the rapid Marine Liner train to reach Takamatsu.
Normally, many trips to Shikoku start from Takamatsu which is located in the Kagawa Prefecture as you can reach many of the smaller islands from the harbour.
Spend a night in Takamatsu, Kagawa
Once you’ve made it to Takamatsu, be sure to walk around during the day as itís a great way to see the city and spend a night here. In the morning, you can go to the Takamatsu port and take a ferry to the surrounding islands.
In Takamatsu, I stayed at the JR Hotel Clement Takamatsu which is conveniently located across from Takamatsu JR station and within easy walking distance to the port.
Be sure to also check out the view from the sky bar as the hotel building is one of the highest on the whole island of Shikoku.
In Takamatsu, be sure to check out the stunning and peaceful Ritsurin Garden.
Ritsurin Garden is one of the most famous historical gardens that can be found in Japan, and itís considered one of the main attractions to visit in Takamatsu, so don’t miss it.
Also, be sure to try the tea ceremony which can be enjoyed in the tea house which offers stunning tranquil views across the lake and surrounding gardens.
Head over to the art island Naoshima
From Takamatsu port, you can take the local ferry over to the island of Naoshima, which is perfect for a day trip.
The island is popular for being home to many art displays, exhibitions and galleries. The island is best explored on a rental bike, which is a lovely way to get around between the galleries.
On Naoshima, you can see two of Yayoi Kusama’s polka dot pumpkins, each displayed on either end of the island.
The first one can be seen from your ferry as you arrive on the island.
First, I headed over to the Benesse House, then onwards to the Chichu Art Museum and Lee Ufan Museum and then finally to the Ando Museum which is located in town.
There are also a variety of art displays around the island as well as a selection of art house projects to which you can buy a pass to visit them all.
The Oboke Iya Valley, Tokushima
Head on over and spend some time exploring the Oboke Iya Valley in the Tokushima Prefecture which offers a lot to do for visitors.
You can also stay at the Hotel Obokekyo Mannaka, which is a traditional Japanese ryokan (inn) which normally includes breakfast and dinner as well as onsen (hot spring) access.
Travel along the Yoshino River in style and enjoy a relaxing and scenic Pleasure Boat experience of Oboke Gorge as you marvel at the wonders of the Oboke Iya Valley’s unique rock formation from the comfort of your seat.
You can also go visit the Peeing Boy statue which offers a good viewing point of the surrounding valley.
Stay at Hotel Iya Onsen
Looking for a stylish yet traditional place to stay in the Oboke Iya Valley? Then be sure to check out Hotel Iya Onsen.
The highlight has to be its stunning location above the valley as well as the unique self-driving tram ride that takes you down to the valley to a selection of Japanese onsens which can be used by guests of the hotel.
Also check out the hotel’s restaurant where you can have a meal from a Yusanbako which is a traditional Japanese lunch box, a bit like a bento box. Normally used during traditional events in Tokushima, a meal from a Yusanbako is a must-try on your trip to the area.
Here you can enjoy a delicious meal with a selection of locally sourced dishes such as tofu and soba whilst enjoying the stunning views of the surrounding mountains of the Oboke Iya Valley.
Forest Adventure Oboke Iya Valley
For those seeking an adventure, be sure to check out the Forest Adventure Oboke Iya Valley outdoor park.
Here you can find a selection of high rope courses which will take you along a selection of challenges through the forest.
You can end your trip by trying a zipline along the canyon that can be loads of fun to try in the Oboke Iya Valley.
Visit the Oku-Iya Double Vine Bridge
This is a fun attraction to visit if you happen to be driving past the area. The two bridges are called the Husband Bridge (Otto no Hashi) and the Wife Bridge (Tsuma no Hashi). Here you can also try the self-driving gondola called Yaen which means Wild Monkey.
Great fun to try on your road trip around Shikoku.
Another similar bridge to visit in the area is the Kazura bashi Bridge which is also made from natural materials and replaced every so often.
It’s like you’re in the Tarzan books when you’re crossing this style of bridge.
Soba noodle making the old-fashioned way
Why not try a local soba noodle making class? You can learn the good old-fashioned techniques of making this dish at Experience Atelier Tsuzuki.
Start by manually grinding the buckwheat by hand with a traditional stone mortar to make the flour of the soba noodle.
Then knead the dough and cut the soba into fine slices.
From here you cook the soba noodles and serve them with a selection of dishes such as tempura.
Now, the best bit is that you get to enjoy a dining experience having the food that you’ve learned to make.
Learning how to prepare soba noodles is a delightful experience. Itís a local delicacy that is enjoyed around the island of Shikoku.
Community of Ochiai
The Community of Ochiai is a village that was set up to preserve a group of historical buildings. Many of the buildings were built in the middle of the Edo period to the early Showa period.
The area consists of a selection of houses spread along the mountainside. Visitors to the area can rent out one of the houses as some of them have been renovated to host visiting guests who wish to stay overnight.
This place offers spectacular views above the clouds looking over the valleys. Great spot to enjoy a sunrise.
Some of the houses are unique for using a thatched roof style of the Togenkyo-Iya cottages. Every season offers its stunning unique landscape of the surrounding area.
Ochiai in the Higashi-Iya (East Iya) was set up to protect the style and unique craft of the thatched roofs which is rare to come across in this part of Japan.
The house that I stayed in was called the Ten-Ippou which translates into the sky’s perspective ñ a majestic and boundless landscape.
Explore the crafts in Mima, Nishi-Awa region
Indigo dye from the indigo plant has traditionally been used for dyeing a variety of products.
The practice slowly started to fade away around Japan, but the tradition is kept alive here in the Tokushima Prefecture.
It’s said that itís very demanding to produce the indigo colour as the process is a love of the labour.
You can also find Japanese umbrellas called wagasa at the Traditional Crafts Center in the city of Mima. In the umbrellas, they use bamboo and washi paper exclusive to Japan. There used to be around 200 wagasa shops in Mima but after the Western umbrellas became more popular, the traditional Japanese umbrella making decreased around 1950. Today there are volunteers reviving the production of old-fashioned Japanese umbrellas.
You can also find other kinds of crafts in Mima and the Nishi-Awa region, such as bamboo dolls, Tung Wood Geta (sandals), bamboo cups, wooden origami cranes, plant pots, bamboo flutes as well as arts and crafts shops.
End your journey at a local farm stay in Tokushima prefecture
If you want to find out what a local home looks like, be sure to try out a local farm stay in Tokushima prefecture to get a glimpse of everyday life in Japan.
Some farmers have started to offer to visit guests accommodation and a cooking and farming experience.
Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inn offers a network of local farmers wanting to open up their homes to visitors to give them an authentic farm stay on Shikoku island.
The farm stay grows organic sweet potatoes and fresh plum tomatoes. Be sure to take part in a cooking workshop where you can make dango, which is a sweet dumpling made from sweet potatoes and rice flour.
Your room for the night will be a traditional Japanese style tatami futon room with shared bathroom. Normally dinner and breakfast can also be arranged and most of the dishes are sourced from the farm so you’re in for a tasty treat.
It’s also possible to arrange transportation with the host to and from Takamatsu Airport if you want to connect the farm stay with the main city.
Thank you for reading my guide to the Japanese island of Shikoku
Thank you for reading my guide to the Japanese island of Shikoku, I hope you look forward to visiting here on your next trip to Japan.
If you have any questions, feel free to message me and I will be more than happy to help.
Enjoy exploring the island!