Know This to Fully Enjoy Your Trip! Basic Information About Shikoku
If you know the characteristics of the towns you're visiting, you can enjoy your trip even more! Shikoku is an island with the four prefectures of Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi. Here is some basic information about this region so you can deepen your knowledge.
Shikoku is the smallest island of the main four islands that make up Japan, and is where the prefectures of Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi are located. In the past, they were called "Awa," "Sanuki," "Iyo," and "Tosa," and the names remain today in various forms such as "Awa-Odori," a famous dance, and "Sanuki udon," a famous dish. About 1,200 years ago, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kukai, erected 88 sacred grounds within Shikoku. Going through all 88 places in order is called the Shikoku Pilgrimage, and people have continued to follow that path since ancient times to the modern era.
The climate differs wildly based on what side you're on of the Shikoku mountain range that cuts through the center of the island. To the north, it's warm and has little rain. It isn't often hit by typhoons. However, the south is affected by the Kuroshio Current, so it's warm and gets tropical-level rain during the rainy season and typhoon season.
Kagawa, in the center of Shikoku, is full of people who enjoy the latest trends and fashions. They're said to be friendly and social. People from Tokushima are diligent and industrious, and are known to be moderate yet strong-willed. Ehime is home to people with good manners who are laid-back. They tend to be conservative and shy. People from Kochi are said to be large-hearted, extravagant, and open, and many people from Kochi love to drink.
Shikoku has a variety of dialects, including Awa-ben in Tokushima, Sanuki-ben in Kagawa, Iyo-ben in Ehime, and Tosa-ben in Kochi, but you can break up the dialects into two types on either side of the Shikoku mountain range. The northern dialects are soft and feminine. On the other hand, the southern dialects are said to be strong and masculine. They have many differences and characteristics in their expressions, but something that all of Shikoku has is using "ken" or "yaken" in place of "kara" or "dakara," meaning "because" in standard Japanese.
It's best to go to Shikoku via air from Tokyo. You can reach any of the prefectures within an hour or an hour and a half. From Osaka, you can reach Tokushima by highway bus within two hours, and Kagawa in about two hours via shinkansen (bullet train) and JR line. It's convenient to reach Ehime and Kochi by a flight that takes less than an hour. Takamatsu Airport and Matsuyama Airport has regular flights to and from many regions in Asia.
All of Shikoku has trains following the coast. Within the prefecture, the only line that cuts across is the Dosan Line connecting Kagawa, Tokushima, and Kochi. Tokushima also has its own railways within the prefecture along with the coastal trains. Also, cities like Takamatsu in Kagawa, Matsuyama in Kochi, and Kochi have streetcars. There are ferries to other islands within the Seto Inland Sea from ports like Takamatsu Port.
One of the most famous sightseeing spots in Shikoku is the Iya no Kazurabashi in Tokushima. It's a thrilling suspension bridge that sways and squeaks as you cross it. The art island, Naoshima (Kagawa), is dotted with art exhibits by modern artists so that it seems like the entire island is one large art museum. Ehime's Dogo Onsen is Japan's oldest hot spring area. You must see the architecture of the symbol of the city, the charming Dogo Onsen Honkan. You should also try to make your way to Ryugado in Kochi, a cave where you can experience a spiritual atmosphere. It took 175 million years for Ryugado to form, and it's registered as a national natural monument.
Kagawa is famous for Sanuki udon. You can eat udon all around the country, but it actually originated in Kagawa. There are various ways you can enjoy it, from having the chewy noodles in warm broth or dipping them in rich sauce. Tokushima is known for Tokushima ramen, which has a raw egg cracked into it. The flavors vary from shop to shop, and include tonkotsu (pork bone) based soups or chicken broth. Shikoku is surrounded by the ocean, so of course you can't miss the seafood! Kochi's katsuo (skipjack tuna) no tataki is a must-try. This regional dish is made by slicing katsuo in thick slices, broiling the surface, then eating it with a sauce. Jakoten, in which small fish are made into a round paste, bones and all, and fried, is an Ehime specialty that's also quite recommended.
For souvenirs, you definitely want things that you can only get within this region. For Tokushima, why not get accessories made using a dyeing technique called "aizome"? It's a technique registered as an intangible cultural property, and has a lovely deep indigo color that is famous. Kagawa's Marugame uchiwa is a traditional craft in which a fan is made using one piece of bamboo. They're known for their beautiful designs that will help cool you down to your soul. Ehime has Tobeyaki, a type of thick, fat porcelain that has been handed down through the ages. It's known for the beautiful indigo patterns painted onto the white china. Kochi offers coral items made from the high-quality coral around the prefecture. Actually, Ehime makes the most coral accessories in the world! Please check out the mystical colors unique to coral in these items.
*Photo is for illustration purposes
Shikoku is also home to the famous festivals, Awa-Odori (Tokushima) and Yosakoi Festival (Kochi), that attract visitors from all around the country. Both are held yearly in August. It's recommended that you plan your trip to check out the festivals too!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.