30 Things to Do in Shikoku Including Food and Sightseeing
The Shikoku region consists of four prefectures - Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi. It is an area that has much to offer, including ancient temples, shrines, and unique food. This article introduces 30 recommended things to do in Shikoku!
Where is Shikoku?
Shikoku consists of four prefectures - Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi. It is an island that can be found southwest of Japan. The closest part of Shikoku is about 1 hour and 20 minutes by plane from Tokyo. From Osaka, it is about 45 minutes by airplane and about an hour and 50 minutes on the shinkansen (bullet train). It is a nature-rich area surrounded by the sea.
Tokushima, which is in eastern Shikoku, has many tourist spots. Examples include the whirlpools of Naruto Strait, which is one of the world's three major tidal currents; Iyakei Valley; and the valleys of Oboke and Koboke. It is also an area rich in culture, with one example being the Awa Dance, which is a traditional folk dance with a history of approximately 400 years.
Enjoy Whitewater Rafting in Oboke and Koboke
Oboke and Koboke are valleys that are famous for their rapids, which are among the fastest in Japan. They have stunning vistas with V-shaped valleys created over 200 million years and beautiful marble-like rock surfaces. Both of them are designated as natural monuments and places of outstanding beauty by the national government. The thrilling whitewater rafting rides that you can experience there are also famous. Battle the rapids and splashes of water in a rubber boat! Every ride is accompanied by an instructor, so no experience is necessary.
Yoshinogawa NICE Rafting (http://www.yoshinogawa-nicerafting.com/index.html)
1-Day Tour (high school age and older): 8,500 JPY (incl. tax) and up
Family Rafting Tour: (high school age and older) 5,500 JPY and up, (ages 4 through junior high school) 5,000 JPY and up
*Prices all include tax and vary by season
See the Naruto Whirlpool
These whirlpools are created by Naruto Strait, which extends from Naruto City to Awaji Island. They are famous for being one of the three largest tides in the world. The whirlpools are created by the ebb and flow of the currents, which can be as large as 20 m in width with a speed of up to 20 km/hour. The way the tides flow, along with the thunderous sound, makes for a grand spectacle. The best time to see them is around 90 minutes before or after the high tide and low tide. Visitors can see the whirlpools from a glass-floored bridge known as the “Tokushima Prefectural Uzu-no-Michi” or from a whirlpool sightseeing boat that gets so close that water could splash on you!
Whirlpool sightseeing boats (https://www.uzusio.com/)
Wonder Naruto: 1,800 JPY/adult, 900 JPY/child
Aqua Eddy: 2,400 JPY/adult, 1,200 JPY/child (advance reservations required)
Enjoy the Secluded Hot Springs of Oboke-Iya
These hot springs are located in Iya, which is one of Japan's three top secluded regions. The hot spring water here, which has a soft and slightly viscous texture, is said to be highly effective in easing fatigue. Guests at Hotel Iya Onsen can take a cable car down to the bottom of the valley to enjoy open-air baths along the stream, which have fantastic views of the valley’s seasonal beauty. Kazurabashi - a suspension bridge made with the vines of shirakuchikazura (hardy kiwi) - is a popular tourist destination. Crossing the bridge is a thrilling experience thanks to the bridge swaying with every step!
See the Awa Dance
Tokushima’s foremost summer festival is held for four days between August 12 and 15 every year. During this festival, the traditional Awa Dance, which has a history of over 400 years, is performed all around the city. With approximately 100,000 dancers and 1.3 million people attending it, the whole city of Tokushima becomes one huge pot of excitement. This dance can also be experienced year round at the Awa Odori Kaikan, where visitors can watch and join in performances.
Enjoy Tokushima Ramen
This is the local ramen of Tokushima Prefecture. It usually consists of soft, straight, and short noodles in a tonkotsu (pork bone) soup with a rich soy sauce flavor. Common yet unique toppings include salty-sweet pork belly, cooked in a sukiyaki (hot pot) style, and raw egg. It has quite a strong flavor, which is why it is usually eaten with rice. There are other variations on the soup, such as the common clear soup or tonkotsu broth that has had light soy sauce added to it. It’s worth trying and comparing the three different types of soup!
Kagawa Prefecture is located in northeastern Shikoku, facing the Seto Inland Sea. It is the smallest prefecture in terms of land area in Japan. Kagawa is a popular base for trips to islands on the Seto Inland Sea and its sanuki udon is quite famous.
Photograph Fantastic Views at Shodoshima Angel Road
Shodoshima, an island on the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea, is a tourist destination that’s famous for its sunsets, hot springs, and olive orchards. The most recommended tourist spot is Angel Road, which is a sand road that appears out on the sea at low tide, as if to connect four islands together. A romantic myth is associated with it: if you walk that road with your special someone while holding hands, both of you can achieve happiness. The Promising Hill Vista Point, located on a nearby hill, is a great place from which to see the road and to take photographs.
Stroll Around Ritsurin Garden
This garden has been given three stars by the Michelin Green Guide Japan. Designated as a special place of scenic beauty by the Japanese government, this huge and historical 40-acre garden has six ponds and 13 artificial hills. Go on a stroll around this hilly garden to discover a wide variety of natural beauty. There are guided tours provided by volunteers in English, Korean, and Chinese. For more details, check the official website.
Entrance fee: 410 JPY/adult, 170 JPY/child (elementary and junior high school age)
Enjoy New Reoma World
This is the largest theme park in the regions of Chugoku and Shikoku. It is filled with thrilling attractions and shows, including a VR roller coaster ride through meteorites, 3D projection mapping, and a light show with 2.5 million lights. There is so much to do and see here that one day may not be enough!
Entrance fee: 1,600 JPY/adult (junior high school age and older), 1,100 JPY/child (age 3 through elementary school) *All prices include tax
*There are separate fees for rides and attractions
Stroll Around Konpira Shrine
This shrine has always been a place that Japanese people aspired to visit at least once in their lifetimes. Today, it is Kagawa Prefecture's foremost tourist destination, together with the surrounding town that still retains a traditional facade. The shrine is famous for its long stone staircase with 785 steps that leads up to the main building. There are many historic buildings, as well as buildings housing valuable artwork, along the way. The main building is a majestic structure that has been renovated and reopened repeatedly over a period of more than 1,000 years. The deity enshrined in it is said to grant blessings for safe ship navigation, a successful business, and good health.
Buy Souvenirs at Youme Town Takamatsu
Youme Town is a shopping center in Takamatsu City. It is one of the largest in Shikoku and is crowded with shoppers during the weekend. This place is certainly a shopping paradise thanks to its variety of shops, including clothing stores and places that sell adorable knick-knacks. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to food, as they have restaurants serving all sorts of cuisines, including Japanese, Western, and Chinese cuisines.
Play With Dolphins at the Japan Dolphin Center
This is a tourist spot where you can enjoy interacting with dolphins. Feed the dolphins with the “Feeding Experience”, learn sign language to interact and become friends with dolphins through the “Trainer Experience”, or opt for the most popular program, "Dolphin Swim", which lets you swim with dolphins in the sea. If a dolphin likes you, you might even get to swim through the water while holding onto its fin! You'll be wearing buoyant wetsuits, so you don't even need to be able to swim.
Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult (junior high school age and older), 400 JPY/child (age 4 through elementary school), Free/children age 3 and under
*There is a separate fee to participate in each program. Some of these programs require advance reservation and have age restrictions, so be sure to check the official website!
Japan Dolphin Center
Japan Dolphin Center
Try the Udon
Kagawa Prefecture is particularly known for its sanuki udon, which comes with incredible chewy noodles. There are approximately 800 shops in the prefecture serving a variety of udon, ranging from the basic kake udon (udon noodles served in a light broth), all the way up to niku udon (udon with meat) and curry udon. These restaurants also offer several kinds of side dishes, such as tempura and oden. Choose your favorite and eat it together with the noodles!
Ehime Prefecture is located in northwestern Shikoku, facing the Seto Inland Sea. Famous spots in this region include Dogo Onsen, considered to be the oldest hot spring in Japan, and Shimanami Kaido, a reputable producer of mandarin oranges.
Visit Matsuyama Castle
This castle was built between the summit (132 m in altitude) and foot of Mt. Katsu. It has many gates, watchtowers, and walls, and 21 of its structures have been designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan. The highlight of this castle is the main tenshu (castle tower) at the top of the mountain. This majestic and historic structure is just one of the 12 original tenshu that still remain in Japan today. It can be accessed via a ropeway or lift.
All-inclusive ticket (entry to the castle, round trip on ropeway/lift): 1,020 JPY/adult, 410 JPY/child
Pay Your Respects at Iwaya-ji
Official Name: Kaiganzan Iwaya-ji
This ancient temple was said to have been built in 815. It is located at an altitude of 700 m, at the end of a sharp inclined path leading through a deep forest. It has long been a training ground for Shugendo (a sect of Japanese Buddhism) and is a mysterious spot associated with many legends. The grounds have a serene and sacred feel, with buildings that appear to be built into a huge rock on the side of the mountain. The highlight is the Daishido, which is a building to the south of the main hall. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property for its unique architectural style, which is based on traditional temple architecture but incorporates elements of Western architecture.
Visit the Shikoku Karust
This is a limestone plain that crosses over Ehime Prefecture and Kochi Prefecture. It spans 25 km east to west and has an altitude between 1,000 m to 1,500 m. It is known as one of Japan's three major karusts, together with Akiyoshidai in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Hiraodai in Fukuoka Prefecture. A unique landscape consisting of bare white limestone peeking out of the surface awaits you there. It is also popular for biking, driving, and camping. Mezurudaira, found in the center of this plain, is a tourist destination filled with grassland as far as the eye can see. Enjoy the idyllic view of the grazing cows!
Relax at Dogo Onsen Honkan
Dogo Onsen is said to be the oldest hot spring in Japan. It offers more than 100 lodging options for you to choose from. and has more than 100 places to stay at. One of the most famous ones is the Dogo Onsen Honkan, which has earned three stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japan. This hot spring facility is housed in a three-story wooden building that’s over 100 years old. It offers two luxurious baths, along with an airy lounge where one can relax after bathing.
Sample rates (Kami no Yu 2F Course): 840 JPY/adult (age 12 and older), 420 JPY/child (ages 2 to 12) *There is a time limit of 1 hour
Buy Towels in Imabari
Imabari is Japan's leading production region for towels. These towels are made using the area's high-quality soft water to bring out the cotton's natural softness, delicate texture, and bright color. They are known for their functionality. For example, they quickly soak up moisture, so you can wipe yourself after taking a bath without feeling sticky. Lately, more Imabari towels that are meant to be used as fashion items or interior decorations are being made, making them great souvenirs.
See the Uwajima Togyu Bullfighting
In Uwajima City, bullfighting tournaments are held five times a year at the Uwajima City Bullfighting Arena. In these tournaments, bulls that weigh over a ton fight against each other in a 20 m diameter ring. The sound of the bulls' breath and the clashing horns is absolutely thrilling!
Entrance fee (same-day): 3,000 JPY/adult, Free/children (junior high school age or younger)
Dates: January 2, 1st Sunday of April, July 24, August 14, 4th Sunday of October
*These dates are subject to change
Cycle on the Shimanami Kaido
Shimanami Kaido is the popular name for the Nishiseto Expressway, which connects Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture with Imabari in Ehime Prefecture. It is a 60 km route with bridges connecting islands on the Seto Inland Sea. From this expressway, you can savor a majestic view created by the natural beauty of the islands and the beautiful design of the bridges. It is well-known for having separate paths dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists, with its cycling path even being chosen as one of the "7 Best Bike Routes in the World" by CNN. Cycle away on this route and feel the ocean breeze on your skin!
Treat Yourself to Sumptuous Tai-meshi
Ehime Prefecture, which has a long coastline, is blessed with wonderful seafood. In fact, it is Japan's top producer for farmed sea bream. A local specialty of this seafood-loving prefecture is tai-meshi (rice cooked with sea bream). There are different ways of cooking it. For example, the areas of Toyo and Chuyo - found in the east and center of the prefecture - generally cook it using a whole sea bream. The whole sea bream on top of the rice has a lovely aroma that stimulates the appetite. In the Nanyo region, which is to the south of the prefecture, this dish is made with sea bream sashimi, allowing you to enjoy the fresh flavor of sea bream together with warm rice.
Enjoy Citrus Fruits!
Ehime Prefecture is also Japan's top citrus fruit producer. A wide range of citrus fruits are grown here, including the popular Unshu Mikan; Dekopon, which has a striking protrusion at the top; and Iyokan, known for its refreshing sweetness and aroma. There are also original citrus varieties created in Ehime, such as the Beni Madonna, which has a jelly-like texture. You’ll also find many sweets and juices made with citrus fruits from the prefecture that are worth trying.
This is a mandarin orange orchard.
This is a Dekopon.
Kochi Prefecture, which is in southern Shikoku, is known for its many clear rivers, such as the Shimanto River. This area is especially recommended for people looking to enjoy its rich natural environment at places like Katsurahama, Cape Muroto, and Cape Ashizuri.
Known as one of Kochi’s best scenic spots, Katsurahama is a beautifully curved beach that can be found at the tip of Urado Peninsula. It has long been considered as a great place to see the moon from, and is sung about in a local folk song. It is famous for its sand that comes in five colors: red, green, white, black, and grey. The sandy beach that shines when the waves come in, the azure of the sea, and the green cypress trees in the background combine to create beautiful scenery. Nearby, you can find the retro Katsurahama Aquarium and the statue of Sakamoto Ryoma, which is known to be the tallest statue in Japan.
Stroll Around Kochi Castle
This is where you’ll find Kochi Castle, which is the only castle in Japan that still has all of its honmaru (main part of the castle) buildings. 15 of the buildings, including the Otemon Gate, are designated as Important Cultural Properties. The 18.5 m tenshu is a particular must-see. Originally built in 1603, it was lost in a fire and rebuilt in 1749. If you visit it, you can get a glimpse of what life was like back then, along with a fabulous view of Kochi from the top floor.
Entrance fee: 420 JPY/adult, Free/people age 18 and younger
Explore Ryugado Cave
Ryugado Cave is a limestone cave that was created over a period of 175 million years. The numerous stalagmite and stalactite create a magical scene. It is designated as both a Natural Monument and Historic Site by the national government. Approximately 1 km of the cave can be seen through the general viewing course, but if you pay for the Adventure Course (reservations required), you can have the fabulous experience of exploring 200 m of a pitch dark portion of the cave using headlamps.
Prices: 1,100 JPY/adult (high school age and older), 700 JPY/junior high school age, 550 JPY/elementary school age *All prices include tax
*An additional 1,000 JPY is required for the Adventure Course
Enjoy the Niyodo Blue at Nikobuchi
Niyodo River is a clear stream with the highest quality of water in Japan. The surface has a unique tinge of blue that people called "Niyodo blue". The best place to enjoy it is Nikobuchi, which is a beautiful waterfall basin that has long been considered sacred by locals. At Nikobuchi, you will be able to see a truly phenomenal scene that changes constantly between different shades of blue and green depending on the light. The best time to visit is around noon, when the whole basin is covered in light.
*Access to the basin is currently restricted due to fallen rocks. It is scheduled to reopen by August 2018, but be sure to check before going.
Enjoy the Sunday Market
This street market, consisting of approximately 420 stalls placed along a 1.3 km stretch of land, is held every Sunday in Kochi City. A variety of local produce and items are sold at this market, including vegetables and fruits, homemade sweets, toys, and Tosa knives. It is also popular among tourists, attracting about 17,000 people per day. You can also find foods that are perfect for eating while strolling, such as freshly fried yam tempura.
*Note that the market does not open at the turn of the year or during the Yosakoi Festival.
Experience the Yosakoi Festival
This is a summer festival in Kochi where people dance the Yosakoi Odori, holding a percussion instrument called "naruko" with both hands. During the festival, approximately 18,000 dancers, separated into roughly 200 teams, dance through the streets of Kochi and perform at competition halls and theaters. The dancers must move forward while holding the naruko in both hands, but there are no other rules regarding the dance or costumes, so each team is able to present an incredibly creative and original dance. The elaborately decorated trucks, called "jigatasha", are also well worth seeing.
2018 Schedule: August 9 (Thu) - August 12 (Sun)
Enjoy Canoeing, Kayaking, and Cruising on the Shimanto River
With a length of 196 km, this river is well-known for its clear waters and high water level. It is the largest river in Shikoku and offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, rafting, SUP (stand up paddle boarding), and snorkeling. A particular recommendation is river cruising on boats called "yakatabune" (roofed pleasure boat). It is a great way to truly enjoy the grand nature of the area. Relax and take in the greenery of the mountains and the clear blue of the river!
Sample Yakatabune Boarding Fees (Shimanto River Houseboat Cruising Service "Nattoku"): 2,000 JPY/adult (junior high school age and older), 1,000 JPY/child (elementary school age) *All the prices include tax
*Free for children under school age
Enjoy Straw-grilled Katsuo Tataki at Hirome Market
Hirome Market is a tourist spot in the center of Kochi City that has more than 60 shops selling food and other items. The purchased food can be enjoyed in an area of the market with tables and chairs or out on the streets. This is a great place to try some Kochi specialties with beer or local sake. One recommended shop to purchase food at is Myojinmaru, which is famous for its Warayaki Tataki. This dish consists of katsuo (skipjack tuna) seared with straw that’s been set alight. The freshly grilled tuna, along with the aroma of the straw, is outstanding.
Enjoy Shimanto Unagi
There are many freshwater fish living in Shimanto River, which is renowned for its clean water. As such, the surrounding areas are known for the fish caught from this river, such as ayu (sweetfish), freshwater shrimp, and soft-shelled turtle. Among them, the wild unagi - rare to see even in Japan - is well worth trying. Unlike farmed fish, which tend to be fatty and thick, it has a light flavor and is quite lean. Many restaurants in this prefecture serve unagi, so there are plenty of opportunities to try dishes that incorporate it, such as "kabayaki" (unagi grilled on a stick with sauce).
Be sure to refer to this article when making your travel plans for Shikoku!
*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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- #Beautiful Natural Scenery
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- #Katsuo no Tataki (Seared Bonito)
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- #Kotohiragu Shrine
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- #Shimanami Kaido
- #Shimanto River
- #Temples and Shrines
- #Uwajima Castle
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- #Vine Bridges in the Iya Valley
- #Visit Ehime
- #Visit Kagawa
- #Visit Kochi
- #Visit the Shikoku region
- #Visit Tokushima
- #Yosakoi Festival
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