Must see attractions in Shikoku

  • Top ChoiceSights in Higashi Iya

    Nagoro

    If you're travelling along Rte 439, it's not a matter of 'blink and you'll miss it', but blink, and blink again, because you may have a hard time believing your eyes when you hit Nagoro. Those 'people' – waiting at the bus stop, gossiping on a porch, toiling in the fields – are life-sized scarecrow-type dolls made by resident Ayano Tsukimi as a way of memorialising former inhabitants of her hometown, which continues to shrink in size. The figures are surprisingly lifelike from afar and strikingly expressive up close, each with a unique posture and face. Equal parts eerie and sweet, the dolls of Nagoro create a surreal tableau amid the quiet river valley. For a look into the village, check out the beautiful short film Valley of Dolls (www.vimeo.com/92453765), created by the German filmmaker Fritz Schumann, who visited with Ayano-san. While the scarecrows showcase the issue of rural communities disappearing as people move to large cities, the dolls have actually provided a lifeline to the small village, bringing in a small amount of tourist trade each year. Nagoro is located on Rte 439 between the towns of Otoyo and Kamiyama.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Higashi Iya

    Oku Iya Ni-jū Kazura-bashi

    Away from the crowds and tour buses, the spectacular Oku Iya Ni-jū Kazura-bashi are two secluded vine bridges hanging side by side high over the river. Cross one and come back over the other. A self-propelled, two-seated wooden cable-cart is another fun way to cross the river; there's a small public camping area on the other side. There are also a couple of spots where you can get down to the river and enjoy the serenity.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kotohira

    Konpira-san

    Konpira-san or, more formally, Kotohira-gū, was originally a Buddhist and Shintō temple dedicated to the guardian of mariners. It became exclusively a Shintō shrine after the Meiji Restoration. A lot of fuss is made about how strenuous the climb (1368 steps) to the top is, but if you've made it this far in Japan, you've probably completed a few lengthy ascents to shrines already.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kōchi

    Kōchi-jō

    Kōchi-jō is one of just a dozen castles in Japan to have survived with its original tenshu-kaku (keep) intact. The castle was originally built during the first decade of the 17th century by Yamanouchi Katsutoyo, who was appointed daimyō by Tokugawa Ieyasu after he fought on the victorious Tokugawa side in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. A major fire destroyed much of the original structure in 1727; the castle was largely rebuilt between 1748 and 1753.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Matsuyama

    Matsuyama-jō

    Perched on top of Mt Katsuyama in the centre of town, the castle dominates the city, as it has for centuries. Matsuyama-jō is one of Japan's finest surviving castles, and one of the very few with anything interesting to peruse inside: the castle has a treasure trove of artefacts with excellent English-language displays. A ropeway (one way/return ¥270/510) is on hand to whisk you up the hill, though there is a pleasant pathway if you prefer to walk.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Naruto

    Temple One: Ryōzen-ji

    Ryōzen-ji is Temple One of the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku pilgrimage. It is called Temple One because it was the first that temple pilgrims came to after arriving on Shikoku following a visit to Kōya-san in Wakayama Prefecture to ask Kōbō Daishi for his support on their journey. Everything you need is here, from guidebooks (in English too) to pilgrim wear and temple stamp books. Savour the serenity and the history – the pilgrimage has been walked for 1200 years.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Takamatsu

    Ritsurin-kōen

    One of the most beautiful gardens in the country, Ritsurin-kōen dates from the mid-1600s and took more than a century to complete. Designed as a walking garden for the enjoyment of the daimyō (regional lord), the park winds around a series of ponds, tearooms, bridges and islands. To the west, Shiun-zan (Mt Shiun) forms an impressive backdrop to the garden. The classic view of Engetsu-kyō bridge with the mountain in the background is one of the finest in Japan.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Hiwasa

    Temple 23: Yakuō-ji

    The major attraction of Hiwasa, Yakuō-ji, Temple 23, is the last temple in Tokushima Prefecture. Yakuō-ji dates back to the year 726, and is famous as a yakuyoke-no-tera (a temple with special powers to ward off ill fortune during unlucky years). The unluckiest age for men is 42; for women, 33 is the one to watch out for. Kōbō Daishi is said to have visited in 815, the year of his own 42nd birthday.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Zentsuji

    Temple 75: Zentsū-ji

    Zentsū-ji, Temple 75 of the sacred 88, is the largest of the temples – most of the other 87 could fit in its car park. This is where Kōbō Daishi was born, and the temple boasts a magnificent five-storey pagoda and giant camphor trees that are said to date back as far as Daishi's childhood. The temple is about 1.5km from the JR Zentsuji Station.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ehime Prefecture

    Temple 45: Iwaya-ji

    Pilgrims will be hoofing it through Shikoku's mountainous interior to get here, but you'll want your own wheels if you're not a henro to get to the isolated, but extremely atmospheric Temple 45, the Iwaya-ji. Its cliffside buildings tower precariously above the valley and visitors might almost feel the presence of the holy men of long ago. A trail lined with age-old statues winds up to the temple, then up and over the mountain above.

  • Sights in Naruto

    Otsuka Museum of Art

    One from the 'only in Japan file', this incredible 'ceramic board masterpiece museum' features more than 1000 replicas of priceless Western art on ceramic boards in a five-storey museum built inside a mountain at Naruto Park. Absolutely mind-boggling; there is even a life-size Sistine Chapel, built as part of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Group's 75th anniversary. See the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, Guernica and more on ceramic boards that will keep them in perfect condition for an estimated 2000 years.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kanonji

    Temple 66: Unpen-ji

    Unpen-ji, aptly meaning 'Temple of the Surrounding Clouds', is the highest of the 88 Temples at 900m. Surprisingly, it actually sits in Tokushima Prefecture, although it's more or less right on the Kagawa Prefecture border. While walking pilgrims dreaded the climb for centuries, modern henro ride the cable car up from the Kagawa side. There are 500 marvellous Rakan statues here. It is said that everyone has a lookalike among the 500 – see if you can find yours.

  • Sights in Kōchi

    Temple 31: Chikurin-ji

    At Godaisan in the east of the city, you'll find Chikurin-ji, Temple 31 of the 88. The extensive grounds feature a five-storey pagoda and thousands of statues of the Bodhisattva Jizō, guardian deity of children and travellers. The temple's Treasure House (¥400; 8am–5pm) hosts an impressive collection of Buddhist sculpture from the Heian and Kamakura periods; the same ticket gets you in to see the temple's lovely Kamakura-period garden opposite.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Uchiko

    Yōkaichi Historic District

    Uchiko's picturesque and protected main street has a number of interesting buildings, many of which now serve as museums, souvenir stalls, craft shops, accommodation and charming teahouses. The old buildings typically have cream-coloured plaster walls and 'wings' under the eaves that serve to prevent fire spreading from house to house. As the street is in the Historic District Preservation Zone, there are strict regulations on how buildings are renovated.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yashima

    Shikoku-mura

    About 500m north of Yashima station, Shikoku-mura is an excellent village museum that houses old buildings transported here from all over Shikoku and neighbouring islands. The village's fine kabuki stage came from Shōdo-shima, which is famous for its traditional farmers' kabuki performances. There is also an excellent restaurant serving, you guessed it, Sanuki-udon (from ¥450) in an old farmhouse building as you leave the village.

  • Sights in Yashima

    Temple 85: Yakuri-ji

    Half the fun of visiting Yakuri-ji may be riding the retro cable car up and down to the temple, but this is a spectacular place in its own right, sitting in the forest under the high cliffs of Goken-san. As this is Temple 85 of the 88, most pilgrims at Yakuri-ji are excited as they get close to their goal. This is a temple at which to pray for success in business, study and matchmaking!

  • Top ChoiceSights in Marugame

    Marugame-jō

    This small castle dates from 1597. It took five years to build and is one of only 12 castles in Japan to have its original wooden donjon intact. It's known for its exquisite stone walls, moat and 1000 cherry trees that virtually explode with blossoms in spring. The entrance fee is for the castle keep; it's free to stroll inside the castle. Marugame Castle is a 10-minute walk southeast from JR Marugame Station.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Hiwasa

    Sea Turtle Museum Caretta

    Dedicated to sea turtles, the museum's name – Caretta – comes from the scientific name for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Inside, there's a lot of turtle info, small tanks and a hatchery with baby turtles aged up to three years. The outside pools house turtles from age four upwards. The facility is on Ōhama Beach, known as a turtle egg-laying spot from May to August.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kōchi

    Kōchi Castle Museum of History

    This new museum (opened in 2017), celebrating the history of Kōchi castle, is an architectural achievement in its own right. Entry is free to the museum shop (1st floor) and to the 2nd floor cafe and terrace – both with marvellous views of the castle and its grounds. The entry fee gives you access to the 3rd floor where you'll find interesting exhibitions on the history of the castle and the city of Kōchi.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tokushima & the Anan Coast

    Rise & Win Brewing Co. BBQ & General Store

    Got to love this place. Everything at Rise & Win's brewery restaurant in Kamikatsu is recycled from old town buildings, from the incredible spectacle of framed windows that make up the building's facade to the centrepiece 'bottle chandelier'. Kamikatsu is on a mission to be Japan's first zero-waste town and Rise & Win is living the dream, attracting plenty of craft-beer fans to its inventive HQ.