In Japan’s feudal past, the island of Shikoku was divided into four regions – hence the name shi (four) and koku (region). The provinces of Awa, Tosa, Iyo and Sanuki became the modern-day prefectures of Tokushima-ken, Kōchi-ken, Ehime-ken and Kagawa-ken. The old names are still in common use in their prefectures.
Despite its geographical proximity to the historical centres of power of Osaka and Kyoto, Shikoku has always been considered somewhat remote throughout Japanese history. Getting there required a boat ride – until three bridge links to Honshū were built over the last couple of decades.
Shikoku is a rugged land. In the 12th century, defeated Heike warriors disappeared into the mountainous interiors to escape their Genji pursuers. Until very recently, the 88 Temples pilgrims returned from Shikoku with stories of extreme hardship that had to be overcome in their search for enlightenment.
It is natural that Shikoku’s northern coast is more developed. The southern coast was cut off by the island’s mountainous topography, ensuring that it lagged behind the northern coast in terms of development. As a result the people of Kōchi have historically been considered tough, hardy and independent.