The globetrotter’s guide to retreats that recharge your batteries
The 392-year-old Ritsurin
Garden is located in
Shikoku’s Takamatsu city
From left: A mountain vine suspension
bridge in the Iya Valley. The Shouben
Kozou (“Peeing Boy statue”) overlooking
a u-shaped valley in Tokushima
The Lost World
The smallest and least populous of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku rarely registers as a travel destination with holidaymakers looking for their next great escape. Yet this oversight is one that intrepid explorers would do well to take advantage of. Located just an hour’s flight away from Tokyo, the island boasts four prefectures—Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi and Tokushima—each with its own unique down-to-earth culture and personality that endears with its quaint and somewhat quirky charms. What remains consistent throughout, however, is a rustic hospitality and camaraderie that the locals extend to its guests, and pristine mountainous landscapes that take one’s breath away with their vastness and serenity.
From the lush, cloudcovered Iya Valley that recalls the visual nuances of a classical Chinese ink painting, to the cultivated bonsai-shaped pine trees of the historical Ritsurin Garden, to the mystical crystal clear azure waters of the Shimanto River (the island’s longest river at 196km), Shikoku has much to offer travellers who are after a different side of Japan, away from the cityscapes and formal traditions of Japan’s more famous cities. For a more spiritual take, don a white byakue and partake in Shikoku’s famed 88 Temple Pilgrimage, which spans an approximate 1,450 km across the island. Even if you run out of time before its completion, you’ll still walk away with some great sights and memories, and the satisfying knowledge that you took the road less travelled by.