Most introductions to Shikoku will be made at Takamatsu. And, thanks to its position on the Sento Inland Sea, its Edo period riches live on in a charming castle old town and Ritsurin Koen, a historic garden where delicate bridges lead to lakeside pavilions and teahouses. It’s also an excellent jumping off point to Naoshima Island, where sandy beaches and green, contoured interiors are the canvas for an internationally renowned art movement.
However, that’s not to say that Shikoku’s fabled past is painted over; in spite of its size, the island packs in plenty of historic superlatives. In Kotohira you’ll find Japan’s oldest kabuki theatre and the island’s most revered temple while Matsuyama marks the site of the country’s first hot springs, lauded in in classical Japanese literature. For a more animated past, the traditional dances and bunraku puppet theatres of Tokushima are equally charming. And, scattered about the island’s prefectural capitals, you’ll also find some of the country’s best examples of feudal era castles. Contemporary galleries – hosting such heavyweights as Warhol and Monet – and innovative exhibits marry cutting-edge architectural expression with the island’s own natural beauty.
Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Shikoku
There’s also plenty of natural beauty to discover. Iya Valley’s peaks, canyon troughs and bubbling onsen are as much a verdant retreat today as when they hosted defeated clans and political rebels in centuries past while Kochi is ringed by mountaintop temples and golden sands backed by pine forests. Come the summer, its waters are ideal for whale watching.
Shodoshima Angel, Shikoku, Japan