This post was last updated on February 1st, 2020 at 06:18 pm
The island of Shikoku has a laid-back atmosphere, friendly people and beautiful beaches. It is the fourth island of Japan and, oddly enough, a lot of travelers skip this island. A shame because with the beautiful Iya Valley, the impressive coastline, flowing rivers, mountain ranges, and a culture that you won’t find anywhere else, Shikoku is a special place!
Shikoku, the Island of Enlightenment
Shikoku is the birthplace of Buddhist Kobo Daishi (774–835). On Shikoku, you will also find the 88 Temple Route, the best known and most important pilgrim route in Japan. However, the island is more than enlightenment and pilgrims (henros).
This is one of the most beautiful islands in Japan. Nature here is overwhelming and the beaches and surrounding islands, in particular, are stunningly beautiful.
The water around Shikoku can be explored with boats and you can also enjoy surfing. If you really want to see everything the area has to offer, you can easily stay here for a week. The best-known sights here include Matsuyama’s castle and the hot springs at Dogo.
You can also look at the Ritsurin-koen gardens in Takamatsu. And when you have done all that, you can take a boat to the art island of Naoshima.
The Best Beaches in Shikoku
The beaches of Shikoku are really beautiful with white sand and clear water. You can do excellent scuba diving, kayaking and especially surfing. Shikoku is the place to surf. The two best beaches to surf at are Ikumi Beach in Shikoku and Ozuna Kaisuiyokujo in Tokushima City.
With the former, you can windsurf well. The latter is a good place for wave surfing. In the summer, the “Awa Odori” festival is also held in Tokushima. Kaifu Point, the best beach to surf in Japan, is a two-hour drive from Ozuna Kaisuiyokujo.
TIP – Done surfing? Then look for relief at Muroto-misaki, as Kobo once did.
There is plenty to see on Shikoku. It is a big island and you can’t list all the sights. That is why we have made a selection with (in our opinion) the most beautiful and nicest sights on this island.
1. Climb the Ishizuchi-san
With an altitude of 1,982 meters, the Ishizuchi-san is the highest mountain in western Japan. It was once one of the holy mountains. Many pilgrims, therefore, still come to this mountain to climb it.
The best time to climb the Ishizuchi-san is between July and August. In the winter (December to March) you can ski here. You can take a cable car up to 1,400 meters. From there it is a 5-hour walk to the top and back.
2. Walk the 88 Temple Pilgrimage
This pilgrimage is one of the most beautiful and famous in Japan. Everywhere you go you will see people walking on this trail. Rightly so. Because you will walk a beautiful route through valleys, along with forests and rivers and over mountains.
Of course, you also pass a number of impressive temples. Make no mistake about the distance; it is a small 1,400 kilometers that you can travel. On foot no less!
3. Explore Okinohama
Most residents of Shikoku (just over four million) live in the four largest cities Takamatsu, Tokushima, Kochi, and Matsuyama. The island is split in two by a huge mountain range that runs from east to west.
As a result, the northern part is more developed than the rural south where the Pacific Ocean has formed a rugged coastline with cliffs and boulders.
4. Visit the Iya Valley
The Iya Valley is a special place in Japan. With its deep gorges, mountain forests, the icy blue waters of the Iya River and ancient rope bridges, it is the ideal place for walking and nature lovers.
Active travelers can enjoy themselves on Japan’s most beautiful hiking trails around Tsurugi-san or go rafting in one of the best locations in the world; the Oboke and the Koboke Gorges.
The Iya Valley is a feast for the eyes. The bizarre green mountains with wild rivers are connected by characteristic rope bridges to give a spectacular view.
Shikoku, an Island of Culture
According to ancient stories, Shikoku is the second island where Izanagi and Izanami were born. These two important gods are seen as the ancestors of Japan. This makes Shikoku one of Japan’s most culturally rich places.
Shikoku has long been cut off from civilization and this isolated existence led to a quiet history. Although the island is still wonderfully quiet, its isolated location, with the arrival of the Seto Ohashi in 1989, has ended. These are six bridges that now connect the islands.
Best Time to Visit Shikoku
The winters (December to March) are fairly mild here. Around the beginning of April, you can see the famous cherry blossoms (Sakura), making it a little busier. Spring and summer are a pleasant time on Shikoku (and Kyushu) because the temperatures are pleasant and the days are generally sunny.
From June there will be more rainfall and there is a chance of typhoons when the summer changes into autumn (August-September). As soon as the typhoon season is over, the autumnal days return and the weather becomes dry with pleasant temperatures.
How to Get to Shikoku
You can reach Shikoku from Osaka or Tokyo. It takes about 3 hours by train from Osaka and 6 hours from Tokyo. Don’t worry too much about this ride because the view during this train journey is breathtaking.