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Shikoku – 四国


Shikoku is the smallest and least populated of Japan’s four main islands, which include Honshu, Kyushu, and Hokkaido. The name “Shikoku” means “four countries,” reflecting its division into four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima.

If you’re seeking a rural region with fewer tourists, Shikoku is a fantastic destination. The island features great natural beauty, including rivers, valleys, mountains, cliffs, marine life and sea, of course. The culinary scene is vibrant and specific in each prefecture – with fresh bonito, sea bream, mountain vegetables, udon and soba noodles, and exceptional citrus fruits.

Traveling in Shikoku

In 2024, we spent 18 days exploring Shikoku, building on our previous visits that covered the major attractions and larger cities. While the well-known destinations are easily accessible by train, the rest of Shikoku is best explored by car due to the limited availability of public transport in rural areas.

What is Shikoku famous for?

Of course the side of Shikoku facing the Seto Inland Sea is easily accessible and not fst from Honshu and the main shinkansen line. The art Islands like Naochima and Teshima definitely have thinsg to offer to contemporary Art lovers. Takamatsu is also a very vibrant city, with many food options and a bustling nightlife. On the other side of the Island, Matsuyama is famous for its old onsen building and castle but it is also a layed back relaxed place.

Hiking in Shikoku

Finding well-defined hiking routes in Shikoku was challenging. Unlike the Kyushu Olle Trail and other well-marked hiking trails in Japan, we found limited English information. Here some of the more known hiking regions and organisations.

Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage

Shikoku is famous for the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, a 1,400-kilometer journey connecting temples around the island. However, the pilgrimage route often follows national roads along the coastline, making the journey less cozy, noisy, and not as scenic. Regretfully, this causes to miss out on the serene and beautiful landscapes found in the island’s interior.

Hiking the mountains of Iya and

The mountain range in the deep parts of Iya Valley has some of the highest peaks in Shikoku. Hiking is recommended from April onwards, as it can be snowy before then. The Iya Valley hiking portal is a very useful and concise resource containing hiking routes, sleeping options in Iya Valley, and also, hiking maps for Mount Ishizuchi, the highest peak in Ehime prefecture.

Iya Valley hiking portal

Shikoku Nature Trail

An initiative by the Shikoku Board of Tourism, this trail offers various walking options. However, there are two main drawbacks. First, it lacks loop trails, making organization and timing difficult as most paths are one-way. Second, many trails include paved roads, making them more suitable for walking than hiking. Despite this, the lack of popularity in Shikoku means even these roads are not very busy, providing a quiet walking experience.