Wow. So this is some commitment. You have looked carefully through the abundance of updates and links and articles here on this site that you are ready for the big dive into Shikoku. You go for a couple of days in Tokyo and Kyoto to come to Shikoku for your Deep Japan Adventure. This is a very good choice, and a marvelous life-changing decision.
You have ten unbelievable days.
First, you need to come to Shikoku in style. Naturally, you ride the singularly incredible SETO SUNRISE. It’s the best way to see the Seto Inland Sea. You will weep tears of happiness as the sun comes up on the water.
You arrive in Takamatsu station in the early morning and you have a whole day to spend in Takamatsu. You have saved an overnight hotel stay. Let’s hit the ground running:
DAY ONE: Embark on the ferry and spend a day in Naoshima. This is the famous art island you have heard of. Breathe in Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkins, and ride all over the place on electric bicycles (no need to overly strain yourself). There are art exhibits, stylish little cafes, and beautiful beaches all over, and as you travel make sure to get a map to check out all the linked-exhibits too. Return to Takamatsu later on in the day, and check into your hotel.
I really recommend the Clement Hotel, Rhiga Hotel, and the Dormy Inn. All are very reasonably priced, and the service in each is top-notch.
In the evening get outside and take a walk through the covered arcade and find some local restaurant to try out. Don’t be shy if you don’t see an English menu outside a place that smells great. Lots of places are familiar with out of town visitors, so it will be perfectly okay. Open the door and find a seat and enjoy some local hospitality.
At the end of the day wander on down to Grandfather’s Pub. It’s the very best pub in town for listening to music and enjoying some “old school” Japanese pub hospitality. These guys are really the best. http://grandfather.jp/takamatsu/
DAY TWO: Get up and venture out Ritsurin Garden. It’s beautiful, historic, and full of flowers, pine trees, green tea, and carp. A must-visit when you come to Takamatsu. You can take a gentle boat ride around the lake, have a lovely tea from a tea house, and maybe even take a guided tour as well. It’s soothingly healing. After that, travel back to Takamatsu station and climb aboard the train.
Let’s head to Tokushima!
When you get to Tokushima station venture out to take in the NARUTO WHIRLPOOLS. This is such a fantastic experience, and if the whirlpools are in high season it is quite cool. You can get out on a ship and see it closely if you like. Seriously, don’t fret, you will be perfectly safe. https://www.uzusio.com/en/access/
There are lots of activities to enjoy for the rest of your day in Tokushima. I like Annette White’s “bucket list for Tokushima”. Check this out! There are some great recommendations: https://bucketlistjourney.net/tokushima-bucket-list-best-things-to-do-in-japans-prefecture/
After spending the day pottering about, check in at your hotel in Tokushima city. I suggest the Smile Hotel Tokushima, Hotel Sunshine Tokushima, and the Tokushima Grandviro Hotel. Each has superb service, is clean, and you will feel safe and secure.
DAY THREE: Wake up and get out to the Ryouzenji Temple. This is the very first temple of the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage of Shikoku. It is a marvelous and beautiful experience for anyone. Go to the shop and ask them about what you might need to take a day walk on the pilgrimage. You might want the white overcoat and the “stamp book” (nokyouchou) that will contain the beautiful seals and calligraphy from each temple you visit. You can easily book a day on a tour, and get explanations along the way. Check this out: https://www.samuraitours.com/shikoku-88-temple-pilgrimage-day-1-temple-1-10/
DAY FOUR: Let’s take a journey into a more rural environment, but with nice people and at your own leisurely pace. Head on over to Brompton Tours run by the Awa-re company. The owner, Mr. Saeki is such a tremendous guy. Spend the day with him and his team zipping around the countryside on fold-up bicycles that can jump on and off trains all over the area. See gorgeous rivers and bridges, stop for a delicious somen noodle lunch, visit fruit fields, and experience local handicraft too. At the end of the day, enjoy the night at a local inn.
DAY FIVE: Let’s take the train for a few hours and get on out to the very edge of Shikoku: Kochi Prefecture. Kochi is a huge prefecture, comparatively speaking, and counts for about half of all of Shikoku. Take the train and ride along the coast of the south of Shikoku. Enjoy the sight of yuzu fruit orchards and the rolling landscape until you come to Kochi City. Spend the day scrambling up Kochi Castle, and the evening at the Hirome market, where you can eat and drink with locals. If you have time during the day it would be great to get on a canoe or paddle boat on the Niyodo River. The water is so pure and clear, you can see straight to the bottom of the river. It’s like floating on a mirror.
DAY SIX: After an evening of pleasant revelry with Kochi locals, it’s time to travel north to Ehime Prefecture. There are some wonderful things to see here. Let’s go to the famous Uwajima Castle. The structure has been so carefully and meticulously designed and maintained. Standing on the hill and climbing to the top you can really enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding area. After visiting here I strongly suggest a visit to the marvel that is Garyu Sanso. This is an incredibly designed tea house with a lovely garden. The architecture and garden are combined in such a way that the Japanese aesthetic of “wabi-sabi” is sure to be better understood, even for a Canadian barbarian former street-hockey player like myself.
DAY SEVEN: No trip to Ehime would be complete with a visit to both the Matsuyama Castle, which is extremely cool, and the Dogo Onsen, an ancient onsen bath that must be experienced to be understood. The buildings and culture of the area are unparalleled. And if you have time, go and visit Ishiteji, a beautiful temple near the station, and which contains a key story to the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
DAY EIGHT: Taking the train now from west to east, stop at Zentsuji Temple. This is the 75th temple and the birthplace of the high priest, Kukai. It is possible to get a tour of the facility (bring your guide with you though), and also to even stay overnight. You can experience dining as the monks do, with a complete vegetarian meal. Stay in the on-temple premises and sleep in the kinds of austere conditions that monks do. In the morning, join the monks at their morning prayers, but make sure to set your alarm and wake up super early to do so.
DAY NINE: Travel a little towards the south to the city of Kotohira. This rustic, and thoroughly charming town is home to Konpira, an incredible shrine at the top of many sets of stairs that brings you to the very top. This is the shrine that seafarers come to worship. And the mountain itself is considered holy by the locals. There is a great shopping district and places to have some authentic udon. You can also take a class at the Nakano Udon School and be certified that very day as an udon artist.
DAY TEN: You have now arrived back in Takamatsu. But do not think for a moment you have “seen it all”. No, that is hardly true at all. Laughable in fact! On your last day you have some options. How about going out on the ferries again, but this time go and venture out to Teshima, Megijima, or one of my favorites, Ogijima? They are all beautiful, and host art exhibits. Each has their own style and flavor as well. Or, you might think of traveling a little east towards Yashima, which is a famous sight for an ancient samurai battle. You might also want to visit the Shikoku Mura which has period buildings and bridges for you to enter and enjoy. Either one of these possible day trips will surely leave you satisfied and almost overloaded with the deep Japan experiences you’ve had thus far.
DAY ELEVEN: Alas, our time is so fleeting, and here we are at the end of a Shikoku adventure. There is still so much to see and experience, but I hope you will save those to explore and enjoy on your next visit to this region. You’ve come so far to have the ultimate Shikoku Deep Japan adventure. Surely you will have memories for a lifetime, and an open invitation to come again!
All of these are suggestions for you to come out to Shikoku and put together as a tour for yourself. But, if you would like someone to arrange all this for you, please contact us directly. We have a number of land-operators and tour companies we consult with and design plans with. They can help you put together a seamless and unforgettable deep Japan experience for you.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We will get you on your way here!