Shikoku itinerary | Self Drive style 9 Days
Shikoku – Escape at your own pace
Shikoku is the smallest island in the west of Japan and – as the name suggests ‘Shi’ meaning four and ‘Koku’ meaning region or country.
Shikoku is made up of four prefectures – Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima. Nothing compares to a self-drive tour of Shikoku to gain a full appreciation of the beauty of this island, from driving through old towns, to crossing amazingly-small bridges running across the clearest of streams. The roads are smooth and well maintained and the city streets are presented in a way which makes them easy to navigate – especially when using a handy on-board English-language site navigation system.
This 500 km suggested itinerary provides a load of fun on the roads that traverse Shikoku from the lowest valleys to the highest peaks of the surrounding mountains. While driving in Koichi you will come across some amazing mountain roads, one in particular twisting and climbing above the cloud line to view the statue of “The Peeing Boy of Iya Valley”. This little trouble maker has become a symbol of local folklore and from the mountain road there is an incredible view back to the Iya Valley.
Japan Holidays recommends that a self- driving adventure around Shikoku commences in Takamatsu where collecting the car is simple. A maneuverable, compact car is the ideal choice for this thrilling itinerary.
Shikoku Self Drive Itinerary | 9 Days / 8 Nights
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Pick up your rental car from Takamatsu (Station or Airport), from there drive to Takamatsu Port, where you will take a highspeed Ferry from Miyonura Port for a day visit to Naoshima Art Island.
-Day Tour Naoshima Art Island
Naoshima is known as an art island, art is blended into island life. Popular attractions include “Chichu Art Museum” and “Benesse House Museum”. This beautiful island is rich in nature and delights visitors all year round.
Return back to Takamatsu Port (by high speed ferry), and free time in the afternoon / evening.
Accommodation: JR Hotel Clement Takamatsu
Today you will head east down Shikoku to see the gorgeous sights, from green gardens to blue whirlpools.
Start your day by visiting Ritsurin park (Approx. 10 mins). Stroll through the garden at your own pace and enjoy a traditional Japanese tea at one of its Tea Ceremony rooms, overlooking the Japanese gardens.
Ritsurin Garden is the largest Cultural Property Garden in all of Japan and is an important cultural asset that has been maintained for nearly 400 years, as it was originally created in the Edo period.
Continue your journey east to the joining point between Shikoku and Awaji Island (approx. 1 hour 10 minutes’ drive) See some of the world’s greatest whirlpools from afar, or on a whirlpool cruise.
Considered as one of the three greatest currents exist in the Naruto Strait under the Onaruto Bridge that connects Tokushima and Awaji Island. There are whirlpools in the Naruto Strait that can reach up to 30m in diameter at the maximum. The boat cruise can go very close to the whirlpools and pass right above the whirlpools for everyone to get a good look safely.
Continue down the island for 40 minutes to the Awaodori Kaikan.
Awa Odori is the one of the greatest traditional performing arts in Japan. Awa Odori Festival is held in Tokushima Pref. between the 12th and 15th of August every year – however, we would like people from all over the world to enjoy Awa Odori all year round. This was the reason Awa Odori Festival Hall was established. You can enjoy a great performance of Awa Odori at any time. Also, you can learn how to dance Awa Odori from the team members and dance together with them.
Afterwards continue south west to the Iya Valley, where you will be spending the evening.
Accommodation: Iya Valley Accommodation
Choose your own adventure today with various sights to choose from! See the sights of the Iya Valley or Oboke River
-Iya Kuzura Vine Bridge
Iya Kuzura Vine Bridge is made of Actinidia auguta (a kind of kiwi vine) and is 45 meters long, 2 meters wide. It weighs approx. 6 tones and is suspended 14 meters above streams. The bridge is changed every three years. (Designated as a National and Prefectural significant folk cultural asset)
-Oboke Ravine Cruise
The Oboke Ravine Pleasure Boat travels down and then back the Yoshino River in about 30 minutes, offering the passengers scenic vistas of the grandeur of nature’s handiwork. You will enjoy the changing season through fresh green in summer, coloured leaves in autumn and even snow in winter.
You will continue south to the Kochi central city (approx. 1.5 hours by car).
60 stalls are inside the market, offering Kochi’s specialty food, beer, Sake and even souvenir shops with unique local products.
Accommodation: Hotel Takasago
O-Henro is the journey to the 88 sacred sites of Shikoku taken by the Buddhist monk *Kukai 1200 years ago.
The pilgrim road is running for about 1,200km and passes through all four prefectures on Shikoku. On completion of the pilgrimage, it’s said that one can find themselves and be freed of earthly desires: “a journey of the mind” as some call it. The appeal of this pilgrimage is that anyone can join, regardless of nationality or religion. Pilgrims can also choose which order they visit the sacred sites in and even the mode of transportation. This is the experience of a part of the route which is from 31st temple Chikurin-ji temple to 33rd temple Sekkei-ji temple. The highlight of this program is to walk together with monk of Chikurin-ji temple.
Accommodation: Hotel Takasago
After checking out of your hotel drive to Kochi Castle (5-minute drive)
Kochi Castle Constructed at the beginning of the 17th century, Kochi Castle is the only castle in Japan where the original tenshu and honmaru (castle tower and main keep) are still standing. 15 of the structures in the castle grounds have been designated as Important National Cultural Properties.
Drive west to Nakatsu Gorge to see the amazing nature and the many shades of green & blue (Approx. 1-hour drive)
Japan Holidays recommendation! – enjoy lunch at Cha Café Asunaro before making your way to the Nakatsu Gorge walking trek. Authentic Japanese lunch or tea & sweets made with local fresh produce!
Foot path along the gorge leads you to the waterfall at the end of the path. It takes about 30 to 40mins to go and return the same way back for another 30mins. You can see the miraculously blue water river, the leaves seasonably changing the colours, and colourful rocks along the gorge.
Once you’ve soaked up enough of Nakatsu gorge, make your way to your accommodation for the evening at Taisho Town, and stop by the road stop Nakatosa along the way (approx. 1 hour 20 minutes travel)
– Michinoeki Nakatosa
Michinoeki Nakatosa located in front of Kure fishery harbor has local market, seafood restaurant, bakery and café. Products including rice, vegetables and seafood sold here are from local farmers and fishermen.
Accommodation: Kuroshio Honjin Ryokan (with open air onsen)
Enjoy Kure town before heading to Shimanto. Stroll through the Kure Taisho Town Market and have lunch with the locals!
-Kure Taisho Town Market
Kure Taisho Town Market has been popular with locals for well over 100 years. The fish caught that morning by the local fishermen are displayed out the front of each store by 11:00am, so this is the best time to see the market in action. If you’re not sure what type of fish you’re looking at, feel free to ask the store staff – communication with the friendly locals is part of the fun of the market!
Enjoy your drive to Shimanto (approx. 1 hour 20 minutes) where Japan Holidays recommends arriving to your hotel before checking in, and seeing the area by cycle, which you can rent from the accommodation.
– Shimanto River Valley “The Best Kept Secret”
The Shimanto River is known as the last crystal-clear river in Japan, which does not have a dam. A single crystal-clear river flows down from deep in the mountains, twisting and turning, and combining with tributary rivers before becoming a much larger river and flowing out into the Pacific Ocean. 196km in length, this magnificent river is not only beautiful, but also the lifeblood of the region, being a part of the livelihood and culture of the people living here. You can have several activities along the river, cycling, canoeing, river cruise and even traditional craft such as blacksmith.
Accommodation: New Royal Hotel Shimanto
Try your hand at crafting true Japanese steel the traditional way, and have a fantastic knife souvenir to bring home with you
-Blacksmith Experience at “Kurogane” (approx. 4 hours experience)
Between the riverbanks of the Shimanto River, try your hand at a true authentic blacksmithing experience. Make your own knife or blade, forged using traditional blacksmithing techniques.
Japan Holidays recommendation – Have lunch afterwards at one of the Local farmers restaurant, Shaenjiri.
Enjoy the rest of the day at Shimanto river and try your hand at canoeing or stand up paddle boarding.
Accommodation: Hotel Seira Shimanto
Bid farewell to Shimanto and time to continue your trip to the north west of Shikoku, to Matsuyama city. (approx. 2 hours by train)
Have lunch in Matsuyama city, sightsee the town and visit Matsuyama Castle. The rest of the day is to enjoy the nature and refreshing onsen hot springs at Dogo Onsen
Accommodation: Ryokan in Dogo Onsen area.
After checking out of your hotel continue through with your journey. You can drop off the car at Matsuyama station or Matsuyama airport in case Matsuyama is the final destination. If you choose other options such as continuing your trip to Hiroshima or go back to Takamatsu, Japan Holidays can arrange a keep the car by the end of the road.