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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogShikoku: Five Amazing Places to Explore on the Island!

Shikoku: Five Amazing Places to Explore on the Island!

Thuy FangThuy Fang
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June 11, 2024
A lush forest on SHikoku Island.

Shikoku is one of the four main islands in Japan. It presents a captivating blend of natural wonders, rich history, and delightful traditions. Let’s learn more about the allure of Shikoku Island and discover five unique hidden gem spots you can’t miss here!

Where is Shikoku Island?

Shikoku Island is between the serene Seto Inland Sea and the vibrant Pacific Ocean. This central island of Japan is located south of Honshu and northeast of Kyushu. Shikoku comprises four prefectures: Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi. Each region’s unique charm and cultural heritage contribute to the island’s distinctive character.

Shodoshima Angel Road in Shikoku.
Shikoku is the smallest main island. Image via Shutterstock

Historically, Shikoku was isolated, preserving much of Japan’s ancient cultural essence. “Shikoku” means “four countries,” referring to the old provinces of Awa, Tosa, Sanuki, and Iyo, which now correspond to the island’s prefectures. Seto Ohashi, Kurushima Kaikyo, and Akashi Kaikyo are the three impressive bridges that help connect the island to the mainland.

The island’s mountains and lush landscapes create a picturesque setting. It’s main highlight is Mount Ishizuchi being the highest peak, attracting many hikers and nature enthusiasts. In addition, its production and agriculture are also noteworthy. Shikoku is famous for its citrus fruits, especially mikan oranges, and other agricultural products like rice. Plus, the coastal regions also boast a rich fishing industry. Local shops and markets are always filled with these fresh, local products.

Here are five recommended spots for you to visit on this beautiful island!

Otsuka Museum of Art

The Otsuka Museum of Art, located in Naruto City of Tokushima Prefecture, is a truly unique and fascinating art museum. Established in 1998 by the Otsuka Pharmaceutical Group to celebrate its 75th anniversary, this museum has Japan’s most significant exhibition space. The museum is a five-story building covering a vast area of 29,412 square meters.

A Sistine Chapel-like ceiling in Otsuka Museum of Art.
The Otsuka Museum of Art has many Western influences. Image via Setouchi Reflection Trip

It’s famous for housing over a thousand full-size ceramic reproductions of major Western artworks, including the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Last Supper, and Picasso’s Guernica. The Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics Corporation meticulously created these reproductions using special techniques. The artworks are printed on special ceramic boards, then baked and touched up to stay bright and detailed for over 2,000 years. 

The Otsuka Museum of Art also features a robot named “Mr. Art”. He provides engaging hour-long gallery talks to enhance the visitor experience. The museum includes several outdoor terraces, lovely gardens, a gourmet restaurant, and a cozy cafe. There’s even a shop where art lovers can purchase exclusive souvenirs.

Noichi Zoological Park of Koichi Prefecture

Noichi Zoological Park, located in Noichicho, Konan City, offers a peaceful and harmonious experience. It’s one of the best locations where you can see animals in their natural state, as it’s designed to resemble their natural habitats, which helps us feel connected to the world around us. Here, you can meet over 100 wildlife species and learn their appearance and behavioral features. 

A giraffe and zebra in Noichi Zoologoical Park.
This zoo has a rainforest exhibit! Image via GLT JP

The park is divided into several zones, each offering a unique experience. Visitors can discover different habitats and animals worldwide in the Jungle Museum, Temperate Forest, Tropical Forest, and Africa & Australia Zones. You’ll see various creatures in environments, from kangaroos to red pandas and otters. There is also a small Children’s Zoo where kids can interact with adorable guinea pigs and little ponies!

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Naoshima Bath

Naoshima Bath, also known as “I Love Yu” (the “yu” means bath), is a one-of-a-kind blend of contemporary art and traditional Japanese bathhouse experience. Situated in Noichicho, this art facility is the brainchild of artist Shinro Ohtake. At Naoshima Bath, visitors can immerse themselves in art while taking a bath. The design of Naoshima Bath is a delightful mix of color and materials. Its exterior and interior clearly showcase the artist’s unique style. 

The entrance of Naoshima Bath in Shikoku Island.
This public bathhouse is also an art site. Image via Shutterstock

The facade of the building is a collage of tiles, mosaics, sculptures, neon lights, and tropical plants, creating a visually stunning masterpiece. Inside the bathhouse, guests will find various artworks such as video screens, paintings, posters, and collages decorating the changing rooms, entrance, and even toilets. The painted glass ceilings and cool elephant statue will also add to the relaxing vibe of the bath area.

Kochi Castle

Kochi Castle is situated on Otakayama Hill in the heart of Kochi City. Built between 1601 and 1611, the castle originally served as the center of the Tosa Domain, governed by the Yamauchi clan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is one of Japan’s twelve original castles that made it through numerous wars and disasters. The castle’s hilltop location provides breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding Kochi Plain. 

Kochi Castle in the daytime.
Kochi Castle has some of the beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring. Image via Shutterstock

The castle grounds are also beloved for their beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, making them a popular spot for hanami (flower viewing). The nearby Kochi Castle Museum of History has a vast collection of over 67,000 historical artifacts and artworks about the region’s past. Around the castle, many shops also sell local crafts, souvenirs, and yummy Kochi specialties.

Ritsurin Garden

Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu is a historic garden that started in the 1600s. Initially created as a private property for local feudal lords, it opened to the public in 1875 and has become one of Kagawa Prefecture’s top tourist destinations. With Mt. Shiun in the background, the garden spreads across 750,000 square meters, ranking among Japan’s biggest strolling gardens.

Ritsurin Garden. It has a large pond.
This was originally a private strolling garden for feudal lords. Image via Shutterstock

The garden mixes Japanese and Western styles. In the south, you’ll find historic teahouses and more than thousands of shaped pine trees, while the northern section has Western-style designs and modern museums. Throughout the garden, you can also explore many ponds, artificial hills, and scenic viewpoints, each contributing a unique perspective on the landscape. 

The garden also boasts several iconic landmarks, including the Kikugetsu-tei (Moon Scooping Pavilion) and the Hiraiho Hill, designed to mimic Mt. Fuji. Moreover, Ritsurin Garden also hosts diverse activities and events, namely traditional tea ceremonies in the Kikugetsu-tei teahouse and guided boat rides on the lakes.

Why should I visit these places in Shikoku?

You should visit Shikoku Island because it offers a different array of experiences, from the artistic wonders of the Otsuka Museum of Art and Naoshima Bath to the natural beauty of Noichi Zoological Park. And if you love history and architecture, just stop by Kochi Castle.

Finally, don’t forget to lose yourself in the tranquility of Ritsurin Garden’s expansive landscapes. Each spot offers a unique blend of culture, nature, and artistry, inviting you to create unforgettable memories. Have you visited any of these places yet? Share your thoughts below!

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