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Round Trip of Shikoku Starting from Takamatsu

3 nights, 4 days

Round Trip of Shikoku Starting from Takamatsu

Whirlpools, ancient shrines, valleys and historic towns. Visiting the four prefectures of Shikoku where nature and Japanese tradition are very much alive.

Tokyo (Haneda Airport) > Takamatsu Airport: 1 hour 20 minutes
Shin-Osaka Station > Shinkansen (Bullet trains) > Okayama Station > Rapid train Marine Liner > Takamatsu Station: 1 hour 50 minutes

*Shikoku Free Ticket (15,700 yen)
Valid for 3 days This ticket allows unlimited travel on all railway lines of JR Shikoku, the section between Kubokawa and Wakai on the Tosa Kuroshio Tetsudo line and the JR Shikoku Bus. It is sold at the ticket offices (midori-no-madoguchi) of JR Shikoku stations, travel centers and travel agencies such as JTB. It takes more time to issue than an ordinary ticket, so you should allow extra time when you visit the business counter.

1st Day
Tokushima City Area Whirling Waves of Naruto
Takamatsu Station > (1 hour and 10 minutes on the JR Kotoku line) > Tokushima Station > (10 minute walk) > Awaodori Kaikan Hall > Mt. Bizan > (10 minute walk) > Tokushima Station > (1 hour by bus) > Naruto Park > Whirling Wave Observation Boat > Uzu-no-michi > (10 minute walk) > Otsuka Museum of Art > (1 hour by bus) > Tokushima Station
Takamatsu City
Shikoku is one of the islands forming the Japanese archipelago. It is surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea and Pacific Ocean and is blessed with a mild climate and bountiful nature.

Takamatsu City in Kagawa Prefecture is famous for its delicious Sanuki-udon noodles, reasonably priced food enjoyed by the common people. There are about 800 udon restaurants in the city area, but remember that some restaurants open at 9 o'clock in the morning and close around 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

Tokushima City
You will travel to Tokushima city center in Tokushima Prefecture on the JR Kotoku line.
For 4 days from August 12 to 15 every year, passionate Awa dance groups perform through the streets of Tokushima city. This Awa-Odori Folk Dance festival attracts over a million people every year.

Even if you do not visit during this period, you can still feel the atmosphere at the Awa Odori Kaikan Hall where 3 or 4 performances are held every day. There is also a museum attached. On the 5th floor, there is a ropeway landing stage (return ticket 1,000 yen) for trips to Mt. Bizan, a beautiful mountain that appears to be shaped like an eyebrow from any direction.

Naruto Park
Take a bus from Tokushima Station to get to Naruto Park facing the Naruto Channel.
The channel, which connects Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean, is only 1.3-km wide, so seawater flows in and out from the Seto Inland Sea according to the rhythm of the tides. The height difference between high tide and low tide reaches 1.5 meters max., creating numerous large and small whirlpools. This phenomenon occurs every 6 hours. During the spring tides in the season of spring and autumn in particular, the diameter of the whirlpools reaches 20 meters max. with a speed of 20 km/hr. The sight of the roaring whirlpools forming one after another is extremely dynamic.

Aboard a whirling wave observation boat, you can get very close to the waves. There is also a boat service called 'Aqua Eddy' (booking is required), which has an underwater observation room from which you can observe the spiraling whirlpools.
Or, you can look down at the whirlpools from `Uzu-no-michi', a walkway set on the Onaruto Bridge over the sea.

Otsuka Museum of Art
A 10-minute walk away is the 'Otsuka Museum of Art', which has the largest exhibition space in Japan. About 1,000 reproductions of ancient and modern paintings in the museums of 25 countries are exhibited here. All reproductions are made on a life-size ceramic plate using special techniques. You can enjoy world masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper', Monet's 'Water Lilies' or the frescoes of the Sistine Hall.

*photo: Sistine Hall / the Otsuka Museum of Art
(This image shown here is a photograph of artworks displayed at the Otsuka Museum of Art.)

The restaurants in Naruto serve very tasty fish dishes such as sea bream. Highly recommended are sashimi, tempura and miso soup with wakame or seaweed, which is a specialty of Naruto.

2nd Day
Konpira Oboke
Tokushima Station > (1 hour 10 minutes on the JR Kotoku line) Takamatsu Station > 5-minute walk > Takamatsu Chikko Station > (Approx. 1 hour on the Takamatsu Kotohira Dentetsu line, 610 yen) > Kotoden Kotohira Station > (10-minute walk) Konpira-gu Shrine> (10-minute walk) JR Kotohira Station > (Approx. 50 minutes by Limited Express on the Yosan line) > Oboke Station > 15 minutes by taxi
Shikoku-mura (Shikoku Village)
'Shikoku-mura' (Shikoku Village), within 15 minutes on the Takamatsu Kotohira Dentetsu line, is an open-air museum that features 33 folk houses and warehouses of the 18th to 19th century that were moved to this village from various places in Shikoku and reconstructed. There is a small village Kabuki stage, fisherman's houses and farmer's houses, so you can discover the traditional way of life of ordinary Japanese people. At the 'Shikoku-mura Gallery' designed by architect Tadao Ando, you can appreciate oriental fine arts together with a beautiful garden.

Konpira-gu shrine
After, take the Takamatsu Kotohira Dentetsu line again, change at Kawaramachi Station and go to Kotoden Kotohira Station. When you exit JR Kotohira Station, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century, you'll see rows of stone lanterns. Kotohira is the nearest station to the Konpira-gu shrine, which is more familiar under the nickname of 'Konpira-san'. People in bygone days used to dream of visiting this shrine at least once in their lives, and some would even ask travelers to take their dog to visit the shrine in their place. The ancient Konpira-gu has long been a site of worship for those praying for safety on the seas. This shrine is particularly highly esteemed by the Imperial Family, and some believe that the shrine has spiritual powers. This idea has spread among ordinary people, along with the yearning for a journey to a far-away place.

It is still difficult to get to this shrine. Situated on the slopes of Mt. Konpira-gu, you have to climb 1,368 stone steps to reach the shrine pavilion set at the far end. Even to reach the main pavilion, you must climb 785 steps. You can take a palanquin at the bottom up to around 360 steps. Some shops lend out shoes and walking sticks.

One of the characteristic features of this shrine is the collection of 3000 works of fine art, housed in buildings scattered throughout the premises. In one of these buildings called Omote-Shoin built around 1660, works by Okyo Maruyama and Jakuchu Ito are exhibited.

On the way back, pop in to 'Kanamaru-za', the oldest existing playhouse in Japan built in 1853. Dramas performed by Kabuki actors take place in grand style in April every year.

Go to Oboke Station by Limited Express on the JR Yosan line.
'Boke' of Oboke situated in Miyoshi City of Tokushima Prefecture is a steep valley in Yoshino River. Boke means cliff in ancient Japanese. The upper stream, Koboke-kei, is known as the wildest torrent in Japan, and is popular for rafting.

Take a taxi to get to the Shin-Iya-onsen Hot Spring deeper in the mountains. The steep valley extending 10 kilometers is one of three hidden regions of Japan. It is said that warriors who had failed in battle came here to live in secret.

Among the hotels in the mountains, there is one that takes its guests to open-air spas by cable car, and there are others that serve your meals around a fireplace. Try a relaxing taste of the nature's grandeur in Shikoku.

Stay at Iya

*Photo (C) Kagawa Pref. Tourist Association
*Photo (C) Tokushima Pref. Tourist Association

3rd Day
Iya-kyo Valley Kochi Castle
Iya Valley > 15 minutes by taxi > Oboke Station > (1 hour on the JR Dosan line) Kochi Station > (10 minutes on the Tosa Denki Tetsudo line, 180 yen) > Kochi-jo-mae stop > (10 minutes on the Tosa Denki Tetsudo line, 180 yen) > (2 hours 30 minutes by bus) > Matsuyama city area > (20 minutes on the Iyo Tetsudo line, 150 yen) > Dogo-onsen Hot Spring
Iya-kyo Valley
Enjoy the scenery of Iya Valley as you walk along the 'Kazura Bridge', a suspension bridge made of kudzu or Japanese arrowroot that grows on the mountain. It is said that this bridge was made by defeated warriors to throw off pursuers. The season of red leaves around October is particularly beautiful here.

Let's return to Oboke Station, and if you have time, get on an Oboke Valley sightseeing boat that cruises back and forth along a 1-kilometer stretch of the Oboke Valley for a 30-minute view of the dynamic canyon.

Kochi City
Go to Kochi Station from Oboke Station on the JR Dosan line.
You will visit Kochi city area in Kochi Prefecture.

The Kochi Castle standing in the middle of the town was rebuilt in 1753, and it is one of the few ancient castles in Japan still retaining some remnants from the period. The castle keep has been made into a documents archive, and you can overlook Kochi city center from the top floor. The scenery is exceptionally beautiful during the last 2 weeks of March, when about 400 cherry trees are in full bloom.

On the 1-kilometer road extending to the east from the Ottemon gate of the castle, there is a 'Sunday market' with a history of 300 years and more than 600 stalls open for business. Although it's called a Sunday market, it is actually open every day but Monday, from 5 o'clock in the morning to the late afternoon. All kinds of items are sold here including udon noodles, rice cakes and tempura, and tabi, or Japanese socks, and antiques.

Katsurahama Beach
If you have time while in Kochi City, you might like to travel to Katsurahama, a beach on the Pacific Ocean, which is 30 minutes by bus from Kochi Station.

The first thing you will notice is a statue of the gallant Ryoma Sakamoto facing the beach.

Ryoma Sakamoto (1835-1867), a heroic visionary, was born in Kochi and lived in the turbulent days of the shift from the Edo Period to Meiji Era. Utilizing his varied network of contacts, he made great efforts to overthrow the shogunate and establish a new government. It is said that he founded the first limited company in Japan. Sadly, he was assassinated at the young age of 33. To this day, there are still many devoted fans of his character and way of life. You might enjoy visiting the Ryoma Sakamoto Memorial Museum situated in Katsurahama.

At the improved Katsurahama Beach, you can visit the Tosa Fighting Dog Center, the Shell Palace exhibiting rare shells of the world and the Katsurahama Aquarium with its giant sea turtles and water wheels.

The 'Yosakoi Festival' is held from August 9 to 12 every year. Dancers perform to the rhythm of narukos, an instrument similar to castanets with a handle, in time to Yosakoi music. Yosakoi dance groups have been established throughout the country, and they wear costumes ranging from Kimono to modern outfits. They also arrange their music into various styles such as samba and rock. Try not to miss this passionate parade.

Matsuyama City
Travel to Matsuyama city center in Ehime Prefecture and change to the Iyo Tetsudo line for an overnight stay at the Dogo-onsen Hot Spring, the oldest spa in Japan that is believed to have sprung up 3000 years ago. The symbol of this spa resort is 'Dogo-onsen Honkan', a public bath built more than 100 years ago. Anyone can use the baths with a charge from 400 yen including the rental of a yukata bathrobe even if you do not stay overnight. In town, there are also some footbaths that you can use at no charge.

The Dogo-onsen Hot Spring is also famous for its mention in the novel 'Botchan', written by renowned Japanese author Soseki Natsume. The Tetsudo line operates a diesel locomotive called the 'Botchan Train' after this novel. When night falls, stroll down the shopping street wearing a yukata. Rickshaws are available for guided tours around the town from 7 o'clock at night (from 10 minutes, 1,500 yen).

If you do not have sufficient time, stay within the Kochi city area and depart for Matsuyama on the next day.

*Photo (C) Tokushima Pref. Tourist Association
*Photo (C) Kochi Visitors & Convention Association
*Photo (C) Ehime Pref. Tourism Association

4th Day
Matsuyama Dogo-onsen Hot Spring
Dogo Onsen Station > (20 minutes on the Iyo Tetsudo line, 150 yen) > Matsuyama Station > (Iyo Tetsudo line, 150 yen) > Okaido > 5-minute walk > Matsuyama Castle > Matsuyama Station > 20 minutes by bus > Iyo Kasuri Kaikan Hall > (20 minutes by Iyo Tetsudo bus, 600 yen) >Matsuyama Station

Matsuyama Station >(20 minutes by bus) > Matsuyama Airport
Dogo Park
In the 'Dogo High Collar Dori' shopping area of Dogo Onsen, there are many shops selling traditional Japanese craftwork and confectionary. Bamboo craftwork and 'Tobeyaki' pottery with a history of more than 200 years make wonderful souvenirs.

In 'Dogo Park', about a 5-minute walk from Dogo Onsen town, there used to be a castle (Yuzuki Castle) from the 14th to 16th century, and the park is arranged so as to utilize the cultural assets. You can see reproductions of old Samurai residences and document archives free of charge. If you are interested in haiku, you should visit the museum of Shiki Masaoka, a haiku poet of Japan. If you go up to the observatory there is a wonderful view of the Seto Inland Sea on a fine day. The place is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms in spring.

Isaniwa-jinja shrine
After walking for about 5 minutes, you will reach the colorful and luxurious Isaniwa-jinja shrine. Built in 1667, it is one of three pavilions in Japan constructed by a method known as Hachiman-zukuri. There are various construction methods for shrines, and one characteristic feature of Hachiman-zukuri is that two Kirizuma/Hirairi style buildings (gabled building with an entrance on the side parallel to the building) are connected together. When you look at the building from the side, the connected roof forms an M shape.

It is generally believed that God spends the daytime in the Gaiden or outer palace and moves to the Naiden or inner palace at night.

It is very impressive to see the main shrine building made entirely of Japanese cypress with pillars covered in gold foil and treated with detailed engraving.

Matsuyama Castle
Go to Matsuyama city center from Dogo Onsen Station on the Iyo Tetsudo line, and exit at Okaido Station. At the center of the city is the Matsuyama Castle, which was constructed in 1602. As in the case of Kochi Castle, it is one of the few castles in Japan that still has the original castle keep, which stands at the top of a 132-meter mountain.

There is a ropeway or lift (return ticket 500 yen) up to the mountain top. When you get off the ropeway there is a 10-minute walk up a slope and some stairs to reach the base of the soaring castle keep. You can imagine the feeling of a Samurai lord as you survey the panoramic view of the town laid out below.

A bus to Unten Menkyo Center (driving license center) takes you to 'Mingei Iyo Kasuri Kaikan' within 20 minutes. A textile fabric called Iyo Kasuri which has an impressive grid-like pattern is one of the major textile fabrics in Japan. Kimono, clothes, small items made of Iyo Kasuri fabric and tie-dyed T-shirts make excellent souvenirs.

It takes 20 minutes by bus from Matsuyama Station to Matsuyama Airport.

*Photo (C) Ehime Pref. tourism Association