Located south of Honshu, Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s five main islands after Okinawa. Historically isolated from the mainland, Shikoku developed unique architectural and religious characteristics. The region is also a top producer of citrus.
Shikoku is most famous for its 88 Temple Pilgrimage, a 1400 kilometer route established by Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. The pilgrimage circles through sweeping valleys, past tranquil streams, and secret rural communities, up to misty mountaintop shrines and self-realization. Although modern pilgrims can travel the route by bus, it’s worth making at least some of the journey on foot to really experience what Shikoku has to offer.
Tokushima is situated between lush mountain ranges and the Naruto whirlpools. The prefectural capital is host to the Awa Odori Festival which is one of Japan’s most famous dance festivals. For those looking to embark on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Tokushima serves as the starting point. Before embarking on the pilgrimage, try the many local delicacies like Tokushima ramen which is best described to be heavy, flavorful and topped with a raw egg.
Ehime is the final destination on the Shimanami Kaido, which is a cycling course that is made up of several bridges that link Honshu to Shikoku. The trail passes over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea and offers beautiful views of the surrounding seascape. In the prefectural capital of Matsuyama City, tourists can take the ropeway up to Matsuyama Castle for a sweeping panoramic view of the city’s landscape. For Ghibli fans, remember to drop by Dogo Onsen which has over 1,000 years of history and been said to be the inspiration for the bathhouse in "Spirited Away."
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