Shikoku is the smallest of the four main islands of Japan, with a total surface of 18,800km² and 4.5 millions inhabitants. Divided into 4 prefectures, its main cities are Matsuyama, Takamatsu, Kochi and Tokushima. More rural than touristic, it is known for its luxurious nature and the pilgrimage of the 88 buddhist temples.
Shikoku is often left behind by travelers coming to Japan. Its name literally means “four countries”. Indeed the island counts 4 prefectures:
- Ehime (formerly Iyo) and its capital Matsuyama, with 516,000 inhabitants
- Kagawa (Sanuki) and Takamatsu with 419,000 inhabitants
- Kochi (Tosa) and its eponymous city, with 340,000 inhabitants
- Tokushima (Awa) and Tokushima with 264,000 inhabitants
Separated from the West of Honshu (Chugoku region) by the Seto sea, Shikoku has numerous charming places to offer. First of all, the famous Kobo-Daishi 88 temples pilgrimage, called “Hachijuhakkasho”, which spreads onto 1,170 kilometers and appeals several thousands of “Henro” pilgrims every year during one or two months (it celebrated its 1,200 years old anniversary in 2014). Then, the famous Awa-Odori dance festival, which happens every year in mid-August in Tokushima city. And as an anecdote, the city of Naruto, with its 64,000 inhabitants and the natural phenomenon happening in the ocean, giving the city its name : the whirlpools.
Important note is that Shikoku is also a quite famous dog breed, called Kochi-en (“Dog of Kochi”), from the name of the prefecture they are originated.
Shikoku island has been ranked as the 35th place to visit in 2015 by the New York Times, as being the only elected place of all Japan.
Things to do in Shikoku
By train -- there are no Shinkansen on the Shikoku island, however JR trains connect the island ( at Takamatsu) to Honshu island via Okayama
By car -- Bridges allow the access to Shikoku by Naruto on the East, Seto on the North or Shimanami/Imabari on the North-West
By plane -- There are also 4 airports on the island : Takamatsu (North), Tokushima (East), Kochi (South) and Matsuyama (West).
By boat -- Finally, numerous ferry lines exist, particularly at Takamatsu on the North, but also Matsuyama (North-West), Tokushima on the East and also Yamatahama (West).
Count two to three days to see the essential places
Official Shikoku tourism website (in English)
7 days = US$ 273
14 days = US$ 435