There are hidden gems destinations and then there are hidden gem destinations in Japan, a country that still doesn’t court foreign visitors with reckless abandon. Feigned enthusiasm is more like it. As a result, stumbling around the four main islands of Nihon can be a slightly frustrating but, indeed, richly rewarding experience. The discovery of an off the beaten track jewel? Even more delicious.
Somewhere in Shikoku – Photo credit
With that in mind, may we introduce Shikoku. The most diminutive main island in Japan contains just over 4 million people – pretty much the same as your average Tokyo neighbourhood – and a cavalcade of terrific nooks to explore. Check out our top 20 must-sees and must-dos in Shikoku.
Uchiko Antique Street
Walk into a veritable antiquing time warp in Ehime Prefecture.
Built in 1603 on Mount Katsuyama, Matsuyama Castle is a prominent point of interest in Shikoku.
Likewise, Kochi Castle is a foremost National Treasure in Japan.
Masaoka Shiki Memorial Museum
A haiku master
Meiji period poet
Ninomaru Shiseki Tei-en
Idyllic outer castle garden that serves as a sanctuary for Matsuyama locals.
The unusual Towel Museum in Asakura is part of the industrial heritage route of Ehime Prefecture, along with the Asahi Brewery and others.
88 Sacred Temples Pilgrimage
Ishite-ji temple in Matsuyama, Shikoku – Photo credit
Shikoku is home to one of the most devout pilgrimage rituals in the world, with no less than 88 sacred temples en route.
Spectacular scenery is omnipresent on Shikoku island, with Oboke Gorge a notable linchpin.
Famous in Japan as the last unspoilt river left in the country, the Shimanto is a remarkable waterway for quiet repose.
Old vine spans, not for the faint of heart, crisscross this dramatic area of Shikoku. Definitely not where you want to be sans camera.
Dogo Onsen – Photo credit
The onsen, or thermal waters, of Shikoku are rightfully famous and constitute a requisite ritual. Purify and cleanse yourself the local way.
Ehime Prefectural Science Museum
The Ehime Prefectural Science Museum in Niihama is home to the largest planetarium in the world.
Delve into the clandestine world of the once-powerful Date clan, in a museum that unfurls a collection of more than 40,000 artefacts.
Unpenji Cable Car
For a thrill, ride a cable car for 2 plus km to Temple 66 on the Shikoku pilgrimage. Sporty types will enjoy summit gems like Snow Park Unpenji, a ski resort, as well as Wind Park Unpenji, for avid paragliders.
A park built on the ruins of a late 16th century castle is one of the best landmarks in Kagawa Prefecture.
Lotus Root Farms
Visit a lotus root farm in Tokushima Prefecture and commune with a Shikoku agricultural staple.
Domestic tourists flock from all over Japan to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous Todoroki Waterfall.
Kamiyama Forest Park
The forty minute drive from Tokushima City is well worth the time and effort to take in beautiful Kamiyama Forest Park. Perfect for outdoor bento picnics.
Kiragawa Old Street
Play Meiji merchant as you stroll down a Kochi Prefecture street time has yet to alter.
Typical Japanese bullfight – Photo credit
Bullfights? In Japan? Indeed, except these contests involve two bulls and no dramatic torero nonsense. A must-see Shikoku phenomena.
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