Shikoku, Japan: The Perfect Getaway

31st Jan 2014
Photo of Shikoku, Japan: The Perfect Getaway 1/5 by Ashna Rawat
French inspired architecture of Bansuiso
Photo of Shikoku, Japan: The Perfect Getaway 2/5 by Ashna Rawat
Tallest mountain on the island: Mount Ishizuc
Photo of Shikoku, Japan: The Perfect Getaway 3/5 by Ashna Rawat
The fascinating city of Yashima
Photo of Shikoku, Japan: The Perfect Getaway 4/5 by Ashna Rawat
Cliffs featuring tall lighthouse at Cape Ashi
Photo of Shikoku, Japan: The Perfect Getaway 5/5 by Ashna Rawat
Scenic view of Yoshino River

We indulge our minds in literature, heal our hearts by penning down stories and carefully sew our souls with every moment of the journey we undertake. And this feeling is best experienced in a land that stands for harmony, for serenity and unhurt scenery. Japan is not a land that has been spared from stereotypes. But if you ask a traveler, this country won’t cease to surprise you irrespective of whichever road, whichever slope, whichever valley you turn to. Japan is painted as a braggart boasting the most sophisticated technology, sky-high towers and fast paced life. Yes, there is no taking away of any of this. But why don’t we explore beyond the known?

As an answer to my quest, I found myself in the heart of one of the most forgotten islands of Japan- Shikoku. In spite of not being hyped on travel websites or blogs, there are some iconic must-see locations on this island. There is still so much untouched nature in Shikoku which is a pleasant contrast to the common picture of Japan. From refreshing hikes to adrenal pumping white water rafting, you can’t whine of having nothing to indulge in. Shikoku is primarily agricultural island which is celebrated for abundant supply of citrus fruits and clear waters of Yoshino River which cuts through the centre of the island. If you are thinking of buying a traditional kimono or charming your way to seek sushi secrets, I suggest you splurge on udon noodles which can be bought from almost any souvenir shop.

Shikoku is one of the most off beat places in Japan. Here is a list of few places you can visit but you might just end up finding some other new, more intriguing, unidentified terrains. If you are a curious soul wandering for some tranquility, Shikoku is the place you need to be.

Resting cozily between the Ishizuchi mountain range to the south and Takanawa Mountains to the north, Matsuyama is a perfect example of sleepy countryside city. If you are a hot spring enthusiast, Dōgo Onsen won’t disappoint you. This allegedly oldest public bath in Japan is a star attraction of the city. The highlight of the city lies in the literary chattels thanks to a native called Masaoka Shiki who is attributed with revitalizing Japanese poetry and modernizing its themes. The French inspired architecture of Bansuiso was constructed in Taishō Era in 1922. The once venue of many elite parties is now used as the Museum of Art's annex. The two floors proudly showcase ink paintings by Shiki, Sōseki, and other Ehime residents. Dōgo Kōen is an important part of Matsuyama's identity because it harbors the ruins of Yuzuki Castle. The 14 years of excavation over 30,000 square meter successfully retrieved castle, gardens, and residences.
Photo of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, Japan by Ashna Rawat
Mount Ishizuchi is the tallest mountain on Shikoku with 1982 m height. The best time to hike here is between July 1st and October. I would recommend that you should keep at least 5 hours in your itinerary to do full justice to this climb. The variety of stone hammers constitutes an elegant complex of shrines in form of Jōju. Some travelers don’t go exploring the slopes which can turn out to be one of the best hikes of your life. The hiking trail starts from Jōju. You will pass through a series of wooden steps and thick forests before you reach the Yoakashi pass. To experience this place in its true spirit, climb up the near-vertical giant iron chains bolted to the cliffs. There are three sets of chains in order of their size: 33m, 65m and 68m. But it is the last one (68 m) which is one spine-tingling climb. Travel Tip - Note that the first day of the season for hiking is reserved for men only. Also, carry a good pair of boots to ensure a safe climb.
Photo of Mount Ishizuchi, Saijo, Ehime Prefecture, Japan by Ashna Rawat
It is the largest city in Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. Yashima is a mini haven for those fascinated by local historical places and is just 10 min away by train. Festivals are a pompous affair in this locale. With beautiful fireworks, graceful dance performances and splurging on the shopping arcade is typical picturesque view of Sanuki Takamatsu Festival. Winter festival is another time when this city lights up to showcase the beautiful Christmas displays. If you plan to stay here longer, trail along the temples, museums and shrines that will help you tour this quaint city better.
Photo of Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan by Ashna Rawat
The locals explained that the name of the place loosely translated would mean "big steps dangerous" and "small steps dangerous". You will agree with this if you are the adventurous kind to accept the perils of white-water rafting deep in the Yoshino River. The clear waters further add to the utter exciting experience. Don’t forget to capture the amazing rock formations which will greet you when you least expect it. If you still have managed to maintain your penchant for extensive crystal water, you can go soak in some bubbling hot springs.
Photo of Ōboke and Koboke by Ashna Rawat
It is the southernmost point of the island. The small town of Ashizuri is in the north of the cape. A peaceful seaside walk is the best way to reach the cape which is just a few kilometers away. This place constitutes for a perfect sunset location, with cliffs featuring white, tall and well structured lighthouses. Watching the ocean stretch miles across before your naked eyes is a view that barely any of us are blessed with. Tengu-no-Hana means "Tengu's Nose". Tengu are long-nosed half-human half-bird gods. This is a main attraction of this place. Along with this, Kongōfuku-ji Temple is one of the largest temples on the 88 Temple Pilgrimages which is said to be built in 822. This is one place that will surely be worth your watch.
Photo of Cape Ashizuri by Ashna Rawat