Dogo Park on Shikoku Island, Japan. Picture: Supplied
Dogo Park on Shikoku Island, Japan. Picture: Supplied

5 reasons why you should visit Shikoku Island, Japan

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Nov 2, 2018

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Many people know of the popular destinations like Osaka, Kyoto or Tokyo, but there are gems around the country which are steadily growing as popular destinations - and one of those destinations is Shikoku Island.

While there is no folklore attached to the island, there are interesting facts about it that should entice travellers to explore the island while on their trip to Japan.

5 reasons why you should visit Shikoku Island:

1. The locals have a unique taste in food

Here’s an interesting fact: Shikoku Island was a separate region from Japan, and only rejoined the country in 1988. So, during the time in which they were disconnected, the people of Shikoku developed their own unique food culture.

Japanese udon noodle soup with miso. Picture: Zomato

It’s especially known for being the ‘home of udon’ – the thick white noodles served in a warming broth. Kagawa, on the northeast coast, is so proud of this reputation they created the world’s first ‘udon taxi’ to drive visitors between restaurants. Not only does the driver take you to his favourite places, but he also eats with you, teaching you about the local food, culture and history.

2. The islands are dedicated to modern art

Between Shikoku and mainland Honshu lies a collection of tiny islands that are connected by ferry. Nestled in the folds of the mountains and near the islands’ sandy beaches are installations of modern art in underground galleries.

The art project was started as a resurgence effort after the islands’ populations dwindled, turning many of the abandoned homes into exhibition spaces or artworks themselves.

contemporary art on Bensee Beach, Naoshima Island. Picture: Medium

The Setouchi Triennale International Art Festival, which takes place on 12 of the islands every three years, is a celebration of this art effort.

Some of the modern mechanical structures and sculptures can make visitors feel as though they are part of a Japanese simulation game.

3. The island is a famous Japanese pilgrimage

Temple 88 on the Shikoku pilgrimage. Picture: Trip Advisor

The 88 temple Shikoku Pilgrimage is a famous 1,200-kilometre route that loops the entire island – one of the few circular-shaped pilgrimages in the world.

The route is traditionally completed on foot taking at least a month, but modern-day pilgrims also use modern-day means, including cars and buses.

It’s easy to get by, staying in traditional inns and huts along the way, and relying on the generosity of the Shikoku locals who offer snacks to pilgrims passing by.

While many people complete the route for religious reasons, it’s also an opportunity to escape the pace of life and spend time reflecting.

4. You can literally go back in time

Ritsurin Garden, Shikoku Island. Picture: Wikimedia

Shikoku Island allows you to go back in time and experience one of its oldest, historical gardens.

Ritsurin Garden, in Kagawa, is considered one of the best historical gardens in Japan. It was built for the feudal lords of the Edo period, featuring mirror-like green lakes, intricately-shaped bonsai trees and pavilions soaked in light.

The tea house is a good place to stop and soak up the view. Close by is Matsuyama Castle, one of Japan’s 12 ‘original castles’, which is accessible via a rope walk bridge.

Kanamaruza Kabuki Theatre. Picture: Irie Akihiko

Kagawa is also home to Japan’s oldest complete kabuki playhouse, Kotohira Kanamaruza Theatre, which is dedicated to the classical Japanese dance-drama.

If you’re lucky, you can catch a show and watch a performance style unchanged since the Edo period.

5. The island has natural whirlpools on the Eastern side

The Naruto whirlpools, Shikoku Island. Picture: Supplied

The Naruto Whirlpools, which are just as bizarre and amazing as the sound of their name, are about 30 minutes from the centre of the city of Tokushima—and, incidentally, directly underneath the expressway that leads people to the mainland.

The good news is that these whirlpools are the result of temporary current aberrations, and are not persistent in nature. - otherwise, they'd suck boats (and, maybe, the city of Tokushima) right in!

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