When we first received the invite to explore Shikoku, Japan, my interest was immediately piqued, if only because an invitation like this doesn’t come very often. The BAZAAR team is known to visit the Land of the Rising Sun ever so often, but it’s always to Japan’s better known gems: Tokyo (been there), Kyoto (done that), Hokkaido (still have the bruises from that ski trip). Mention Shikoku, on the other hand, and you’re more likely to get a barrage of puzzled looks and questions than helpful tips on the newest best kept secrets to visit.
The smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku boasts four prefectures – each with their own unique character, distinct landscapes, not to mention local cuisine. Kagawa, for example, is famed for its silky udon and olive products, while tuna lovers will simply marvel at Kōchi’s katsuo tataki (seasoned and lightly seared bonito) dishes. Tokushima, on the other hand, offers awe-inspiring landscapes to take your breath away, and Ehime is home to one of Japan’s oldest hot springs, Dogo Onsen.
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Overall, the island has a myriad of rustic attractions and natural wonders that will appeal to visitors looking to explore a different side of Japan less trodden by globetrotting feet. (Shikoku does, however, have a regular flow of local tourists visiting its shores, thanks to the Shikoku Pilgrimage, which sees Buddhists making their way across the island to visit its 88 temples.) And with three main expressways (supplemented with an established railway system), connecting the island, Shikoku is the perfect destination for an epic road trip.
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So if ever you’re in the neighbourhood, here’s a couple of highlights to look out for, while making your way across Shikoku’s pristine grounds.