Shikoku - Off Japan's Tourist Route
The fourth and smallest of Japan’s main islands.... Shikoku sits below Honshu and is very easily accessed.
- The shinkansen- goes from Okayama to the four main cities – Tokushima, Takamatsu, Matsuyama and Kochi.
- Plane or ferry are frequent.
- Bus from Kobe...takes you across the Akashi Kaikyo bridge...the largest suspension in the world.... which stretches from Kobe to Awajiri Island. You then drive across the Onaruto Bridge over the Naruto Straits. You can look down and see if you can see the huge whirlpools the Naruto Straits are famous for.It takes about an hour and a half from Kobe to Tokushima. Osaka is so close to Kobe by bus or train both cities are easily accessed from Tokushima .
Shikoku is off Japan's tourist route for international visitors which makes it a refreshing change from the more populated places.Although as fascinating travel destinations go...it is definitely a special part of Japan.
Beaches - You will find some of Japan’s best beaches for surfing along the coast, icy green rivers coursing through gorges with high grey rocky sides, forest covered mountains....this is an island with many natural attributes!
Shrines - With 88 shrines dotted around a 1647 kilometre loop that encircles the island, pilgrims wander the highways and byways between the shrines.
They are easily recognised as they walk the roads in their white robes and coolie hats. Shikoku is where many Japanese like to take their holidays. It still maintains the old traditional Japanese lifestyle.
Vine Bridges - An attraction and major draw card for Japanese tourists in the mountains are the Vine Bridges crossing the Iya Valley with the river coursing through the gorge below.
The vines are replaced every four years.....so you pay to traverse these amazing swing bridges. But the views are just magical and the bridges quite unique. Originally they were built so they could easily be cut to stop invading enemy reaching the other side!
Onsens in the mountains
There are some wonderful onsens on Shikoku.
- Dogo Onsen - found near Matsayuma is probably Japan’s oldest Onsen and is very famous. The Town which is what is referred to when people talk of Dogo Onsen... has hot spring hotels, restaurants
- Iya Hotel Onsen - This looks stunning! You take a cable car down to the open air onsen overlooking the pristine gorge scenery Iya Hotel Onsen Information
- Hikyo-no-yu,Iya Gorge Hot Spring Hotel – This is the onsen we enjoyed up in the mountains. It was quite a large onsen with pools inside and outside with variations in temperature. It is one of the biggest onsens I have been to. We went here because the Iya Onsen was closed....while Iya Hotel Onsen sounds very special ...this onsen was also very good.
- Out of the Way Hot Springs - another onsen in the Iya Gorge area
Tokushima Castle and Gardens – this is an interesting place to visit and see some of the history of the area.
Ningyo Joruri - a puppet theatre.....it has been popular local entertainment since the early Edo period.
Shrines to Visit - there are several shrines or temples in and around Tokushima...part of the chain of 88! Oasohiko Shrine at Naruto Tokushima is the Tokushima Shrine.
Tokushima Awa Dori Festival
The famous Awa Dori special to Shikoku held in September is one of the many Japanese festivals that attracts a large number of Japanese visitors.
If you can’t make the main event you can go to the mini one held earlier in August for an idea of the Awa dori....although the proper Awa Dori where tourists can become involved sounds like a fascinating experience.
If you are there at the wrong time you can get a taste with the year round Awa Dori Kaikan show. You could then take the cable car to the top of Mt Bizen for some expansive views of the city surrounds.
White Water Rafting
The Oboke and Konoke Gorges on the Yoshinogawa River are just perfect for white water rafting. Our daughter lived near Tokushima for two years....and when we visited she suggested we do some white water rafting because it was so hot and humid at the time.With our son living in Himeji at the time he came too so it was a family affair!
It was a fabulous experience. A full day..... first we learned the ropes. Ready to put our new found knowledge into practice we piled into the rubber rafts and covered 12 kms of the river over an 8 hour period.....with a break for lunch.
Along the way we had time to jump off high rocks into the river.....my daughter was most impressed Mum did it too! At a point where it was suitable we also had the option of drifting feet first down the river. Very relaxing!
We rafted rapids and rushes of water under the guidance of our experienced rafting leader. There was lots of noise as we all yelled paddles up..... then paddle as fast as you can. There were one or two near calls...but we managed not to capsize. Through stunning scenic countryside this was a highlight of Shikoku for me.
Camping in Iya Gorge
You can hire tents from the camping ground in the Iya Gorge. For something different it was nice to camp beside the river. Bathroom and Cooking facilities were available and we found the friendly campers most helpful....as we tried to erect a tent that was different to those we have used!
Shikoku Beaches and Surfing
Shikoku has some lovely beaches ....and along with Kyushu has Japan’s best surfing. Ikumi is considered a good surfing spot along with other beaches along the same coast south of Tokushima. Kochi is considered a surfing centre for the island.
Miscellaneous Shikoku Specialties
Shikoku has several crafts that are special to the area including
- Puppet theatre (Ningyo Joruri)
- indigo dyeing (Aizome) / textile manufacturing (shijira-ori)
- wooden products
- Sudachi (citrus fruit) etc
- Seafood is a special feature of Shikoku cuisine
Getting Around Shikoku
Buses are the main public transport. But to go into the mountains if you can hire a car I suggest this would be your best means of transport. The roads are narrow and windy in the mountains. Some areas of the island are good for cycling. Our daughter and her friends did a 140 km cycle taking them over the Seto Ohashi Bridge bridge which runs through the centre of the Setonaikai National Park to Hiroshima Prefecture...the views are apparently amazing.
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