Japan (October 2018): Fifteen Days in Shikoku


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With an area of 18,800sq.km (roughly 225km in length and 50 to 150km in width) and a population of 3.8 million, Shikoku is by far the smallest of the main Japanese islands, behind Honshu, Hokkaido and Kyushu. But it is much larger than Okinawa, the fifth biggest. It lies between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean, south of Honshu and northeast of Kyushu. A large fraction of the island is rugged, mountainous, and sparsely populated. Its highest peak is Ishizuchi-san (1982m) located south of the city of Saijo. Unlike the other three main Japanese islands it has no volcano. Its main rivers are the 196km-long Shimanto-gawa that flows mostly north to south to reach the town of Nakamura on the southern coast and the 194km-long Yoshino-gawa that flows west to east to reach the city of Tokushima. The island is administratively divided into four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi and Tokushima. Their capitals are, respectively, Matsuyama, Takamatsu, Kochi, and Tokushima.


Among its visitors Shikoku is most famous for the Shikoku Henro an approximatively 1,200km pilgrimage route around the island, which connects 88 temples (numbered #1 to #88) where the great Buddhist monk Kukai (known posthumously as Kobo Daishi) spent time and/or trained during the 9th century. Nowadays the route often follows roads. Only very few pilgrims go on foot; most use a combination of train, cars, buses, and (sometimes) bicycles. But Shikoku has much more to offer, including well-preserved castles, beautiful Shinto temples, old Kabuki theaters, historic neighborhoods with merchant and samurai houses dating from the Edo (1603-1867) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods, serene countryside...


On this trip I visited the following places:

- Tokushima, one of the four largest cities of Shikoku, at the northeastern tip of the island,

- Hiwasa (home of Temple #23) and Mugi, two small fishing ports on the Pacific Ocean,

- The historical neighborhood/street known as Udatsu in the town of Wakimachi,

- Kotohira, home of an important Shinto temple (Kompira-san), and Zentsu-ji, the place where Kobo Taishi was born and home of Temple #75,

- Matsuyama, the largest city on the island, home of one of Japan′s finest surviving castles (and of 8 Henro Temples),

- Uwajima, another castle town, with Temples #41 and #42 nearby,

- Ozu and Uchiko, two small towns with historical neighborhoods, with a day hike to Ishidatami, a village in the hills above Uchiko,

- Kikuma, a coastal town north of Matsuyama, home of Otomouma-no-Hashirikomi, a colorful annual horse racing festival.

In total I only visited seven Henro temples (#23, #41, #42, #49, #50, #51, #75). I also skipped completely the Kochi prefecture.


To see photos of this trip click on the links below.




Hiwasa, Mugi, and Wakimachi

Kotohira and Zentsuji






Uwajima and around


Ozu, Uchiko, and Ishidatami

Otomouma-no-Hashirikomi in Kikuma





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