Ozu castle, Shikoku
Vacations to Shikoku, Japan
The smallest, and possibly most serene of Japan’s major islands, shi (four) and koku (provinces) is named after its four distinctive prefectures – Ehime, Tokushima, Kochi and Kagawa.
Japan is famous the world over for its beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, and Shikoku is teeming with holy spots that offer peace and tranquility. A pilgrimage of 88 temples spanning 1,200 kilometers encircles the island, but the island’s diversity is its true draw.
Ehime is Shikoku’s western prefecture and its capital is Matsuyama, which also happens to be the island’s largest and liveliest city. The bright neon lights of the city's Ichiban-chō and Niban-chō neighborhoods are brim-full of bars and eateries, acting as the social hub for locals.
Accessible by cable car or chair lift, Matsuyama Castle sits in the picturesque Shiroyama Park and offers incredible panoramas of the city scape. The structure is surrounded by blossoming trees and brings together the essence of Japan's culture and values. Serene beauty, the appreciation of nature and showing respect for others are embodied in the castle's exquisite views, neatly manicured grounds and exceptionally polite stewards.
On the opposite side of the island, the eastern Tokushima prefecture is a more laid-back affair. Quaint ryokans (Japanese inns) and picturesque hot springs (onsens) are plentiful, all surrounded by jaw-dropping mountains and luxurious forest.
The southern curve of Shikoku is where you'll find the third of its provinces, and probably the most picturesque. Kōchi is a veritable collage of breathtaking nature, with its steep mountains, gushing rivers and stunning beaches. Katsurahama Beach is one of the most notable coastal resorts on the island, but it's the remote capes that set the island apart. Jutting out at Shikoku's southernmost tip, the rugged cliffs and Cape Ashizuri has some unobstructed views of azure Pacific Ocean.
The northern Kagawa prefecture is the smallest of all of Japan’s prefectures, but it is still bursting with cultural hotspots, beautiful temples and diverse landscapes. The province has 22 beautiful temples and marks the end of the famous 88 pilgrimage. It’s also home to some impressive shrines, including the mountaintop Kotohira Gu. Accessed by a steep climb of 1,368 steps, you’re rewarded for your efforts when you reach the top with the stunning views of the valley.
Kagawa was once known as Sanuki, and its namesake dish, Sanuki udon, is a long-established local delicacy that is favored in this region. These al dente noodles are served with a flavorsome broth made from tuna and kelp – an aromatic treat for pilgrims finishing their Henro.
Take a cable car up to the ancient Matsuyama Castle
Bask in the hot springs in the Tokushima prefecture
Climb the steps to the Kotohira Gu shrine in Kagawa