Japan’s geography can be tricky to make sense of. While we tend to view the country as a whole, its land mass actually consists of over 6,000 islands, of which five main islands make up the majority of its mass – these are Honshu, the largest island, where cities such as Tokyo and Osaka are located; Hokkaido, a popular pick for tourists to the north; Kyushu, where Fukuoka can be found; Okinawa, further south from Kyushu; and finally, Shikoku.Shikoku, which is the second least populated of these islands after Okinawa, tends not to draw as much attention as the other islands. Indeed, most may not be able to name many notable attractions and cities in Shikoku. Yet the island of Shikoku is a treasure trove of sightseeing spots and cultural attractions that offer a decidedly different experience compared to travelling on the mainland.
There are four prefectures that make up Shikoku: Ehime Prefecture, Kagawa Prefecture, Kochi Prefecture, and Tokushima Prefecture.Each prefecture has its own sightseeing highlights – the crystal-clear waters of the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture, for example, is sure to appeal to nature lovers, while Ritsurin Koen in Kagawa Prefecture is a great place for a relaxing stroll amidst calming greenery.If activities are more your thing, onsen lovers will enjoy visiting Dogo Onsen in Ehime, which has long been an onsen destination for the Imperial Family. Looking to enjoy a scenic drive? The Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge that connects Shikoku to a small island called Oshima is a fun precursor to exploring Oshima for a one-day trip.Of course, all that exploring needs to be fuelled by a delicious array of Japan's food options, of which there is no shortage of in Shikoku. Kagawa Prefecture, which is sometimes called the ‘udon prefecture’ due to its famous sanuki udon noodles, and Kochi Prefecture, with its katsuo tataki (seared tuna), are good places to start. Ehime Prefecture’s mandarin oranges are also a popular choice, while Tokushima Prefecture’s ramen, which has gained popularity throughout the rest of Japan, is best enjoyed at the place it originated.
While Shikoku is the second smallest of the five main islands of Japan, its own land mass is still considerable. Driving around is certainly convenient, but for those who are unable to or would rather not self-navigate, the train lines here are also a dependable option.
Veteran travellers may already be aware of the JAPAN RAIL PASS that allows you to travel across Japan. Shikoku too has its own rail pass that will take you through all four prefectures on the island.The ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass, an overseas tourist-exclusive pass valid on JR Shikoku trains as well as local lines, such as Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad (Kotoden), Iyo Railway (Iyotetsu), Tosa Kuroshio Railway, Tosaden Kotsu Bus and Asa Kaigan Railway – is all you need for traversing the prefectures. Visitors heading to Shodoshima Island, between the islands of Honshu and Shikoku, can also hop on select ferries and route buses using this pass.
The ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass comes in four different options, separated by the number of consecutive days of use – 3 days, 4 days, 5 days and 7 days. While it can be purchased at major train stations within Shikoku, such as JR Takamatsu Station or JR Kochi Station, it will be slightly more expensive to buy within Japan than buying it abroad.
It is therefore advisable to buy a ticket exchange order for any rail passes before you travel to Japan. Travel agencies are a good place to consult, or you could choose to search online as well. Please remember that your ticket exchange order does not function as a rail pass – you will need to activate your pass by presenting your ticket exchange order at any of the major train stations in Shikoku to receive the actual pass.
If it is your first time in Shikoku and you are unsure of where to start, fear not!
We have compiled a few travel itineraries to use an example for your stay. With the ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass, you can enjoy visiting many interesting spots in Shikoku, even over a short 3-day period!
First, start off in Kagawa Prefecture by taking a stroll in Ritsurin Koen, designated a special place of scenic beauty in 1953, amidst lush greenery.
There is no doubt that you can enjoy it no matter which season you visit！After having a little walk in Takamatsu City, partake in Kagawa Prefecture’s locally famous sanuki udon to whet your appetite. The nearby island of Shodoshima is accessible via ferry.During low tide, you can walk down the sandy shore shallows referred to as Angel Road, to access the island. The scenic landscape is a great spot to take a few photos as a memento of your trip!Once you have had your fill of Kagawa Prefecture, travel down to Kochi Prefecture, where you can visit Kochi Castle – one of the few remaining castles in Japan.（the castle tower and Honmaru palace still remain.)You could also visit the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum, a museum dedicated to Sakamoto Ryoma - an important figure in Japanese history who played a pivotal role in the Meiji Restoration. Be sure to try out Kochi Prefecture’s prized citrus fruit - yuzu - a staple often used in local cuisine such as drinks and desserts!
Finally, drop by Ehime Prefecture in the northwest region of Shikoku. Kurushima Kaikyo Ohashi, the world’s first triple suspension bridge.It is a beautiful landmark to view Ehime’s natural beauty from and can be quite an experience to cross by bike or motorcycle. To give your legs a much-needed rest after all the exploring, head to Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture and soak in the welcome embrace of a nice, warm bath. The traditional architecture of the buildings nearby is one of the charms of the neighbourhood.
*The Setouchi Bus from JR Imabari Station bound for Kurushima Kaikyo Ohashi (Tenbodai Iriguchi bus stop) is not included in the ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass.This is by no means all that Shikoku has to offer – in fact, these sightseeing locations barely scratch the surface. If your interest has been piqued, take a look at our past entries on Shikoku! The more you uncover about Shikoku, the more you are bound to be drawn in by its charm.
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