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Shikoku makes Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022 list

Kazurabashi Vine Bridge in autumn, Iya Valley, Tokushima Prefecture Photo by @mitch.cox and @cleocohen on Instagram

The island of Shikoku has been recognised in travel authority Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022 list, coming in sixth in the "Top 10 Regions" category. 

Though Shikoku is the smallest of Japan's four major islands and is off-the-beaten path to travellers, it is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Made up of the prefectures of Ehime, Kochi, Kagawa and Tokushima, Shikoku offers mountainous terrain, deep valleys, ancient vine bridges, surf beaches, scenic drives and natural hot spring waters.

To celebrate the announcement, here are 10 recommended experiences you can have in Shikoku.

1. Cross an ancient vine bridge

Location: Iya Valley, Tokushima Prefecture

Kazurabashi Vine Bridge from the Iya Valley, Tokushima Prefecture © City of Miyoshi

In the remote Iya Valley in Tokushima Prefecture, there are two vine bridges, Kazurabashi and Oku-Iya Niju Kazurabashi.  Once a common sight, these woven bridges were an important lifeline for the people living in the region. Though theories of their origins vary, one is that they were used by the Heike Clan to flee from their pursuers into the mountains.

2. Bathe in one of the nation's oldest hot springs

Location: Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture

Outside of Dogo Onsen, one of Japan's oldest hot spring resorts in Ehime Prefecture © Ehime Prefecture

Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture is thought to be one of Japan's oldest hot spring resorts, dating back over 3,000 years. The bathhouse in animated film "Spirited Away" was inspired by Dogo Onsen. Relax in the mineral-rich baths to make your skin silky-smooth or take a tour of the bath used exclusively by the Imperial family.

3. Stay overnight in a restored farmhouse

Location: Miyoshi City, Tokushima Prefecture

Kominka old house in Miyoshi city, Tokushima Prefecture Photo by @mitch.cox and @cleocohen on Instagram

Known as "kominka", these 100-400 year old thatch-roofed farmhouses have been fitted out with modern comforts like a kitchen, bathroom and Wi-Fi while retaining their rustic charm. Stay overnight and wake up to see the valley covered in morning mist.

4. Stroll through a 400-year old Japanese garden

Location: Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture

Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture © Kagawa Prefecture Tourism Association

Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, is a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and the nation's largest Cultural Property Garden. Featuring six ponds, thirteen landscaped hills, plants and Mt Shuin in the background, this beautifully maintained garden is designed for strolling.

5. Hike to one of the nation's most beautiful rivers

Location: Niyodo River, Kochi Prefecture

Nikobuchi Falls, Niyodo River in Kochi Prefecture  © Kochi Visitors & Convention Association

Running 124km from deep in the mountains of Shikoku all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the Niyodo River consistently ranks as one of the purest rivers in Japan. Nicknamed "Niyodo Blue" due to its striking cobalt blue waters, one of the best places to admire the river is from Nikobuchi Falls, located upstream.

Note: As Nikobuchi is considered a sacred spot, swimming is not permitted.

6. Get your adrenaline pumping with whitewater rafting

Location: Oboke Gorge, Tokushima Prefecture

Oboke Rafting in Oboke Gorge Tokushima Prefecture

The mighty Yoshino River courses through the rocky canyons of Oboke and Koboke in Tokushima Prefecture, creating the perfect conditions for whitewater rafting. In fact, the World Rafting Championships in 2017 were held there. Full or half-day tours are available with English-speaking guides for adventurers of all ages and skill levels.

7. Chow down on Sanuki udon

Location: Kagawa Prefecture

Sanuki Udon noodles from Kagawa Prefecture © Kagawa Prefecture Tourism Association

While Sanuki udon (thick wheat noodles with plenty of bite) can be found all around Japan, the best place to get a bowl of the good stuff is Kagawa Prefecture, nicknamed the "Udon Prefecture". Kagawa Prefecture has the perfect climate and soil for growing wheat and is home to over 600 udon shops, showing just how passionate the locals are about the dish!

8. Take a pilgrimage to 88 temples

Location: All prefectures

Temple 38 Kongofukuji in Kochi Prefecture, part of the Shikoku Ohenro pilgrimage  #38 Kongofukuji Temple © Kochi Visitors & Convention Association

The Shikoku Ohenro is a pilgrimage route spanning 1,400km to 88 temples across all four prefectures in Shikoku. Traditionally it would take 1-2 months to complete it on foot, staying overnight in shukubo (temple-lodging) along the way, but modern pilgrims take a combination of public transport, cycling and walking to complete it.

9. Cycle across six islands on Japan's most scenic bike route

Location: Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture

Shimanami Kaido cycling road view from Imabari city, Ehime Prefecture © Ehime Prefecture

The Shimanami Kaido is a 70km cycling road across nine bridges and six islands which starts in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture and ends in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture. Experienced cyclists can cycle the entire route in 1-day, but to explore the islands at a more leisurely pace, we recommend stopping overnight along the way. The route ends in Imabari City, home to Imabari Castle with its saltwater moat inhabited by (small) sharks!

10. Catch a wave at one of the nation's top surf spots

Location: Ikumi Beach, Kochi Prefecture

Surfing at Ikumi Beach, Kochi Prefecture © Kochi Visitors & Convention Association

Surfing made its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and when it comes to top surf spots in Japan, you can't miss a visit to Ikumi Beach in Kochi Prefecture. The beach has hosted many major surfing competitions including the Surfing World Championship. The left side of the beach has larger waves and is better for experienced surfers, but the right side is perfect for beginners.

 

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