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Shikoku 四国

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© Lonely Planet Publications
624

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History

Shikoku 四国
For more than a millennium, o-henrō (pilgrims) have walked clockwise around Shikoku in
the footsteps of the great Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi (774–835), who achieved enlightenment on the island of his birth. Known as the ‘88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku’, the 1400km
journey is Japan’s best known pilgrimage and oldest tourist trail, though much has changed
in recent centuries.

Like the rest of Japan, Shikoku is a land of contradictions – lightning-fast trains race
alongside lumbering fishing boats while mountaintop shrines are lit up by walls of vending
machines. More than other destinations, however, Shikoku is home to that elusive bit of lost
Japan that seems virtually absent from the modern cityscape. Today, travellers can still hike
age-old trails that bear the footprints of countless others who set out in that ever-elusive
search for enlightenment.

HIGHLIGHTS
„ Tread time-worn paths on a pilgrimage to

the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku (p630)
„ Get off the beaten path in the stunning Iya
Takamatsu

Valley (p632), one of Japan’s three ‘Hidden
Regions’
„ Take a peaceful soak in the historic Dōgo

Onsen (p649), located in the capital city of
Matsuyama
„ Trek up 1368 granite steps to pay homage at

Kompira-san (p656) in the town of Kotohira
„ Climb the sacred peak of Ishizuchi-san

(p654), the highest mountain in western
Japan
„ Stroll through Takamatsu’s exquisite Edo-pe-

riod walking garden, Ritsurin-kōen (p658)

Kotohira

Matsuyama
Ishizuchi-san

Iya Valley

Climate
Shikoku has amazing variations of climate for
a small island. Summer can be stiflingly hot,
while in winter the higher peaks are snowcapped. Typhoons regularly pound the Pacific
coast from June until October. The village
of Monobe in Kōchi-ken prefecture claims
to have the highest rainfall levels in Japan,
while the protected northern side of the island
often suffers water shortages. The landscape
of Kagawa-ken is pockmarked with tame-ike
(water-collection ponds).

Getting There & Away
Before 1986 Shikoku was considered much
more remote, with access being mainly by
ferry. Today, however, there are a total of
three bridge systems linking Shikoku with
Honshū. Heading east to west, the Akashi
Kaikyō–Ōhashi is west of Kōbe and leads to
Tokushima (via Awaji-shima island). The
Seto–Ōhashi bridge connects Okayama to
Sakaide, which is west of Takamatsu. Finally,
the Kurushima Kaikyō–Ōhashi island-hops
along the Shimanami Hwy (Shim...
SHIKOKU
SHIKOKU
lonelyplanet.com TOKUSHIMA-KEN
For more than a millennium, o-henrō (pilgrims) have walked clockwise around Shikoku in
the footsteps of the great Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi (774–835), who achieved enlighten-
ment on the island of his birth. Known as the ‘88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku’, the 1400km
journey is Japan’s best known pilgrimage and oldest tourist trail, though much has changed
in recent centuries.
Before the publication of the first guidebook in 1685, pilgrims frequently disappeared
forever in Shikoku’s rugged and mountainous interior. Before the advent of modern con-
veniences such as weather forecasts, mobile phones (cell phones) and convenience stores,
pilgrims frequently fell ill and perished along the journey. Nowadays, hardship is not a factor
as o-henrō buzz around the island in air-conditioned vehicles while giving little thought to
the trials and tribulations of the past. In recent years, however, disenchantment with modern
life has led to an increase in the number of Japanese who strike out on foot in search of
meaning and self-realisation.
Like the rest of Japan, Shikoku is a land of contradictions – lightning-fast trains race
alongside lumbering fishing boats while mountaintop shrines are lit up by walls of vending
machines. More than other destinations, however, Shikoku is home to that elusive bit of lost
Japan that seems virtually absent from the modern cityscape. Today, travellers can still hike
age-old trails that bear the footprints of countless others who set out in that ever-elusive
search for enlightenment.
Shikoku 四国
History
In Japan’s feudal past, the island of Shikoku
was divided into four regions – hence the name
shi (four) and koku (region). The provinces of
Awa, Tosa, Iyo and Sanuki became the modern-
day prefectures of Tokushima-ken, Kōchi-ken,
Ehime-ken and Kagawa-ken. The old names are
still in common use in their prefectures.
Despite its geographical proximity to the
historical centres of power of Osaka and
Kyoto, Shikoku has always been considered
somewhat remote throughout Japanese his-
tory. Getting there required a boat ride – until
three bridge links to Honshū were built over
the last couple of decades.
Shikoku is a rugged land. In the 12th cen-
tury, defeated Heike warriors disappeared
into the mountainous interiors to escape
their Genji pursuers. Until very recently, the
88 Temples pilgrims returned from Shikoku
with stories of extreme hardship that had to be
overcome in their search for enlightenment.
It is natural that Shikoku’s northern coast is
more developed. The southern coast was cut
off by the island’s mountainous topography,
ensuring that it lagged behind the northern
coast in terms of development. As a result the
people of Kōchi have historically been consid-
ered tough, hardy and independent.
Climate
Shikoku has amazing variations of climate for
a small island. Summer can be stiflingly hot,
while in winter the higher peaks are snow-
capped. Typhoons regularly pound the Pacific
coast from June until October. The village
of Monobe in Kōchi-ken prefecture claims
to have the highest rainfall levels in Japan,
while the protected northern side of the island
often suffers water shortages. The landscape
of Kagawa-ken is pockmarked with tame-ike
(water-collection ponds).
Getting There & Away
Before 1986 Shikoku was considered much
more remote, with access being mainly by
ferry. Today, however, there are a total of
three bridge systems linking Shikoku with
Honshū. Heading east to west, the Akashi
KaikyōŌhashi is west of Kōbe and leads to
Tokushima (via Awaji-shima island). The
Seto–Ōhashi bridge connects Okayama to
Sakaide, which is west of Takamatsu. Finally,
the Kurushima KaikyōŌhashi island-hops
along the Shimanami Hwy (Shimanami-
kaidō) from Onomichi in Hiroshima-ken
prefecture to Imabari in Ehime-ken.
As a result of the improved infrastructure,
ferry services are on the decline, though
Shikoku is still linked to a few major ports
on Kyūshū and the San-yō coast of Honshū.
However, most visitors arrive on the island
either by train from Okayama or highway
bus from Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. Air serv-
ices also connect major cities in Shikoku with
Tokyo, Osaka and other major centres.
Getting Around
This chapter’s coverage follows the same order
that most of Shikoku’s visitors have used to
travel around the island over the past 1000
years – in a circle starting in Tokushima and
moving through Kōchi, Ehime and Kagawa
prefectures. However, Shikoku’s only train
connection with Honshū is via the Seto-
Ōhashi, so if you arrive by rail, your first
prefecture will be Kagawa-ken ( p655 ).
For more information on visiting the 88
Sacred Temples of Shikoku, see the boxed
text ( p630 ).
TOKUSHIMA-KEN
徳島県
Home to the first 23 of the 88 temples, the
prefecture of Tokushima is known to o-henrō
as Hosshin-no-dōjō, the ‘place to determine to
achieve enlightenment’. The first 10 temples
are more or less on an east–west line spanning
about 25km on the north side of the Yoshino-
gawa river valley. In the days of old, they were
considered a mini-pilgrimage, and remain
a worthy alternative if you don’t intend to
complete the full 88-temple circuit.
Noteworthy temples in Tokushima-ken in-
clude Temple 1, Ryōzen-ji (see p630 ), which is
the pilgrimage’s traditional starting point on
the island of Shikoku. The walk from temples
11 to 12, which winds through the mountains
of the Yoshino-gawa valley, has the reputa-
tion of being the steepest and hardest climb
on the pilgrimage. Temple 19, Tatsue-ji, is a
barrier temple – only those who are ‘pure of
intention’ can pass.
Other notable attractions include the lively
Awa-odori festival (Awa Dance Festival) in
Tokushima, the mighty channel whirlpools
of the Naruto Channel (Naruto-kaikyō), the
pristine scenery of the Iya Valley and the surf
beaches of the southern coast.
HIGHLIGHTS
Tread time-worn paths on a pilgrimage to
the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku ( p630 )
Get off the beaten path in the stunning Iya
Valley ( p632 ), one of Japan’s three ‘Hidden
Regions’
Take a peaceful soak in the historic Dōgo
Onsen ( p649 ), located in the capital city of
Matsuyama
Trek up 1368 granite steps to pay homage at
Kompira-san ( p656 ) in the town of Kotohira
Climb the sacred peak of Ishizuchi-san
( p654 ), the highest mountain in western
Japan
Stroll through Takamatsu’s exquisite Edo-pe-
riod walking garden, Ritsurin-kōen ( p658 )
Ishizuchi-san
Takamatsu
Kotohira
Matsuyama
Iya Valley
© Lonely Planet Publications
624 625
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