[2018 Edition] 10 Popular Sightseeing Spots in the Shikoku Area for Beginners
Shikoku is comprised of four prefectures: Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi. It is an area that has been enjoying growing popularity thanks to its temperate climate that comes from being surrounded by the sea, as well as its abundant nature and unique culture. Below are some of the famous tourist destinations in Shikoku that you should check out!
1. Naruto Whirlpools (Tokushima)
Stretching from Tokushima’s Naruto City to Awaji Island (an outlying island between the main island of Japan and Shikoku), Naruto Strait is famous for its whirlpools that are produced by the ebb and flow of tides. It is known as one of the three greatest tidal currents in the world and flows at a really high speed.
The whirlpools are visible during high tide and low tide. Both tides happen twice each day, and the best time to see the whirlpools is about 90 minutes before or after these tides. The whirlpools are biggest in spring and autumn. Making a roaring sound, the whirlpools can reach a maximum diameter of 20m and speed of 20km/hr. You can go to the 45m long promenade called “Uzu no Michi” (510 JPY for adults) that is built over the water to better appreciate the whirlpools through a glass floor. There are English, Chinese, and Korean audio guides that you can borrow at the promenade. If you get on a sightseeing boat (fares start at 1,800 JPY for adults), then you will be able to marvel at the whirlpools up close.
2. Oboke and Koboke Gorges (Tokushima)
The contrast between the white rocks that form these precipitous gorges and the emerald green Yoshino River that flows through them will take your breath away! These approximately 8km gorges were created by the raging stream over a period of 200 million years. Visiting them is a sure way to enjoy all that nature has to offer. Why not try experiencing the roughness of the clear stream for yourself by sailing downstream aboard the Oboke Sightseeing Gorge Cruise or participating in some thrilling whitewater rafting? The scenery changes with the seasons, so expect to enjoy sakura (cherry blossoms) in the spring, numerous koinobori (big cloth carp streamers that are set up to pray for the growth of children), verdure in the summer, and fall foliage in the autumn.
3. Kotohiragu Shrine (Kagawa)
Kotohiragu is a shrine that has been drawing throngs of worshippers since ancient times thanks to the wide array of benefits that it gives to them, including blessings for abundant harvests, large catches, and thriving businesses.
This shrine is famous for the long stone stairway that leads to it. It takes 785 steps and 1,368 steps to get to the main shrine and the back shrine, respectively. There are shops along the road from JR Kotohira Station to the stone stairway where you can rent a walking stick to help you walk up those steps. When you get to the shrine, you have to see the Omote-shoin, which has paintings on wall partitions and images drawn on fusuma (sliding doors) that were done by Maruyama Okyo, one of the artists that best represent the Edo period (1603 – 1867). Do also check out the beautiful and elaborate carvings of the historic Asahi-yashiro Shrine.
Entrance fee to Omote-shoin: 800 JPY/General, 400 JPY/University and high school students
4. Ritsurin Garden (Kagawa)
With Mt. Shiun in the background, Ritsurin Garden is the largest garden in Japan. Within its vast grounds that measure approximately 162,000 sq.m., there is a garden that is actually open for people to explore on foot. The stones and trees are placed in such a way that the scenery changes with every step you take. While you’re there, try going on a roughly 30-minute cruise around Nanko Pond on a Japanese-style boat! Enjoying a Japanese garden from a boat is not something that happens every day.
5. Naoshima (Kagawa)
Naoshima, an outlying island of Kagawa Prefecture that floats on the Seto Inland Sea, is a famous as an art island. From Takamatsu Port, you can get to the island in about an hour on a ferry, or in around 30 minutes if you take a high-speed boat.
The island has an old-fashioned townscape and is dotted with museums and outdoor artworks that fuse with the scenery. One of the most iconic art pieces is the one resembling a pumpkin that was created by the world-famous artist, Yayoi Kusama. There is also a public bathhouse (510 JPY for adults) where you can soak while being surrounded by artworks. Aside from facilities where hotels are integrated into art museums, there are also ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and guesthouses, so do spend a night when you visit.
6. Matsuyama Castle (Ehime)
If you go to Ehime, you have to visit Matsuyama Castle that is perched on top of a mountain, offering an unbroken view of the castle town of Matsuyama below.
Famous for its strong defense, this castle is filled with various traps and mechanisms for thwarting invasion. Even the castle tower at its center has an entrance that is reinforced with the kind of armaments that surround the building. There are only 12 castles built during the Edo period (1603 – 1867) that have managed to preserve their castle towers from the time they were constructed, and Matsuyama Castle is one of them. When you visit, you can also try on the armors and helmets inside the castle. Another highlight of this castle is the picturesque view of the castle town from its top floor.
Entrance fee to Matsuyama Castle’s tower: 510 JPY/Adults, 150 JPY/Elementary school students
7. Shikoku Karst (Ehime)
On a plateau along a mountain ridge with an altitude between 1,000m to 1,485m, you can find a beautiful karst landscape that is dotted with white limestones. Apart from grassland where cows graze, there are also guesthouses and campgrounds in the area, so it’s no wonder that this spot is a popular summer retreat for tourists. When you visit, make sure to eat some delicious soft-serve ice cream while enjoying the refreshing breeze coming from the gaps between the strangely shaped white rocks!
8. Cape Ashizuri (Kochi)
Located at the southernmost tip of Shikoku, this is a cape in Ashizuri Peninsula that juts out to the deep blue Pacific Ocean.
If you go up the observation platform, you will enjoy a gorgeous panoramic view created by the sea that stretches as far as the eye can see and rough, precipitous cliffs. If you look at the horizon, you can visualize just how round the Earth really is. This area is also home to a white lighthouse by the cape; Hakusan Domon, one of the largest sea caves in Japan that has been registered as a natural monument of the prefecture; and foot baths that you can soak in for free. Sunsets and sunrises look particularly beautiful there!
9. Katsurahama (Kochi)
Katsurahama is a white and sandy beach that is famous for its bow-shaped shore and rough waves. While marveling at the beautiful beach, you might want to hike up to Watatsumi Shrine that sits atop the cliff to your right. From this shrine that is said to give blessings like safety at sea, success in business, and luck in matchmaking, you can gaze down at Katsurahama and the Pacific Ocean. The sight of the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean and the white waves that pound on the shore truly packs a punch! Katsurahama is also famous for its view of the moon. You will be in for a treat when you see the light of the moon rising beyond the sea illuminate Watatsumi Shrine.
10. Kochi Castle (Kochi)
When you go to Kochi Castle, you shouldn’t miss the massive Otemon (main gate) and Tenshu (castle tower) that is listed as one of the 12 remaining original castle towers in Japan today. Located at the entrance of the castle, the Otemon is built for battle, ready to guard against attacks from three directions: both sides of the stone walls and from the top of the gate. If you stand in front of the Otemon, you will get to see the gate and the castle tower in the same frame - worthy of a photo, no? After you’re done viewing the various cultural properties inside the castle, try to climb to its highest level. If you do, you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the town of Kochi below.
Entrance fee to Kochi Castle (Tenshu, Kaitokukan, Azuma Tamon, and Rokamon): 420 JPY/Adults (18 years old and above), Free/Children (below 18 years old)
If you plan to visit Shikoku, refer to this guide when planning your travel itinerary!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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