Visiting or living in Shikoku is something special, for this island has always been the spiritual sanctuary of the Japanese people. No other place in Japan has been visited by so many generations of people from all over the country.

They have often spent more than 60 days walking along the whole circuit of the eighty-eight temples that compose the longest, oldest and most popular pilgrimage in Japan.

Even those who have arrived here in weariness of life, in unhappiness or weak health, have usually left the island with a lighter heart, more enlightened, and in many cases in improved health.

Though today the island is quite accessible and traveling around it can be very easy, some of the eighty-eight temples still remain very hard to reach.

This pilgrimage circling the island is nationally known as O-Shikoku-san, showing that "Dear old Shikoku Pilgrimage" is synonymous with this island and provides sanctuary to the soul of Japan. The scenes along the Shikoku Pilgrimage correspond well to what Shikoku offers -- the Seto Inland Sea, the Uwa-kai Sea, the Pacific Ocean, the green mountains that crown a large part of the island, cosy little towns and middle-sized cities that fringe the coasts.

Its climate is mild; the seas are bountiful; the land is fertile. Naturally local people have been content with their blessed island, even if it has remained underdeveloped since the 8th century. Until then the northern coast of Shikoku was among the first areas to enjoy civilization in Japan, as proved by so many archaelogical findings.

Remote as it was for many centuries, however, Shikoku did not stand aloof but observed movements on the Inland Sea as an artery of Japan's cultural, political and economic development. On the other hand, Shikoku's unique attractions such as the Shikoku Pilgrimage, Kompira worship and the Dogo Onsen hot spring spa have always drawn a large number of people from the capitals and other parts of the main island of Honshu and neighboring Kyushu.

Naturally those visitors brought something new with them each time, just as refugees and exiles from the capitals added color to the island's history. They were welcomed and sometimes the culture they brought here was carefully preserved or developed even long after being forgotten in its homeland -- language, festivals, arts and techniques. These cultural assets now peculiar to Shikoku have added another dimension rewarding travelers to this island.

A new type of attraction in Shikoku is the fruit of modern technology that the waves of development have finally brought here in the 1980's and 90's -- the colossal bridges connecting Shikoku with the main island, pleasure resorts, theme parks, museums, skyline drives and relatively inexpensive golf courses. So the charm of Shikoku can rightly be called an exquisite coexistence of tradition and modernity, nature and art.

Last but not least is the spiritual climate of Shikoku that has produced people like the father of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, who is often credited as a father of Japanese culture, the man who aired the idea of the Seto Ohashi Bridge, and two young men who turned out to be most instrumental in carrying out the modernization of Japan, opening Japan's door to the world as an independent nation. They were all rare cosmopolitans in Japanese history. There must have been something inspiring on this island.

We hope this guidebook will help you enjoy Shikoku, and Japan herself seen through Shikoku, finding inspiration of your own by traveling around this small but great island. Bon voyage!


Area: 18,256 square km

Population: approximately 4,000,000

Shikoku, literally meaning Four Lands, consists of four prefectures - Ehime and Kagawa on the Seto Inland Sea side, with Kochi and Tokushima on the Pacific Ocean side. Though the island is comfortably situated between Honshu and Kyushu, it was not always a convenient place to live.

The mountainous interior crowned by the highest peaks in western Japan - Mt.Ishizuchi (1982 m) and Mt.Tsurugi (1950 m) - long prevented the inhabitants from readily traveling across the island. So people in the coastal areas had to venture out onto the sea.

Fortunately the Seto Inland Sea in the early stages of Japan 's histry was a main route for advanced civilizations from the Continent into the capital provinces of Naniwa (Osaka), Nara and Kyoto. Since the 8th century the same sea has been an artery of Japan's cultural, political, economic and industrial activities.

Thus the northern people on the Inland Sea coast have maintained contact with the mainstream of civilization, taking advantage of their waterborne mobility. This is why the M-shaped northern coastline is dotted with sizeable cities such as Matsuyama, Imabari, Saijo, Niihama、Marugame, Sajaide, Takamatsu and Tokushima, including Uwajima on the Uwa-kai Sea.

Meanwhile the southern people on pacific coast turned to deep sea fishing as the warm Japan current 40 km offshore brought bonito and tuna in abundance. But along the W-shaped southern coastline the only city whose population is over 60,000 is Kochi. By the same token, the sparse population elsewhere in southern Shikoku preseves many natural assets for those seeking natural beauty or recreation.

Those cities mentioned above with only a few exceptions were castle towns from the 16th or 17th century. Today only four castles remain as they were in the Edo Period - Uwajima-jo, Matsuyama-jo, Marugame-jo and Kochi-jo. To the credit of Shikoku, however, they are among only a dozen authentic castles in Japan, not ferro-concrete replicas of the original ones.

Matsuyama 松山 (population: 420,000), Takamatsu 高松 (330,000), Tokushima 徳島 (250,000) and Kochi 高知 (310,000) are the capitals of Ehime Pref., Kagawa Pref., Tokushima Pref. and Kochi Pref. respectively. These cities can be good sightseeing bases.

Firstly they are all open to the sea, making their ports convenient approaches to Sikoku domestically. Recently the Seto Ohashi Bridge (the Kojima-Sakaide Route: the first bridge to connect Shikoku with Honshu) has made Shikoku quite accessible. Two other routes - the Akashi-Naruto Route [spring 1998] and the Onomichi-Imabari Route - are to be opened in several years.

Secondly they are efficiently linked to each other by rail and by bus. So it makes hardly any difference which capital city is your port of entry.

In Matsyama and Kochi, the focal point to visit first is the castle on the hill in the center of the city. It commands the best view of the city while the museum housed in the main donjon provides a historic survey of the region. Another attraction of Matsuyama is Dogo, a quiet district of historical interest that features Japan's oldest hot spring spa. Kochi's highlight is a wide stretch of the Pacific Ocean viewed from Godaisan Hill or from Katsurahama Beach, while its mountainous interior offers one of Japan's biggest stalacite caves, Ryugado.

Takamatsu is known for two celebrated beauty spots of Ritsurin Koen Park, a Japanese-style baronial garden, and Yashima Plateau. It will be rewarding to extend your trip to Kotohira-gu Shrine in Kotohira - a large shrine complex dedicated to a sea god that has long attracted devotees from all over this seafaring country. A large pleasure resort, Reoma World, is quite near Kotohira.

Tokushima is ideally visited during the O-bon season (August 12-15) to enjoy the fever of the Awa Odori dancing parade. A short trip to Awajishima Island across the Onaruto-bashi Bridge, below which you may see whirlpools, will be more memorable if you also visit Onaruto-bashi Memorial hall to see the Awaji Ningyo Joruri, a local puppet theater which late in the 18th century developed into the famous Bunraku Puppet Theater in Osaka.

The seas provide great pleasures, too. In the north, the calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea National Park dotted with over 800 islets are known for their manifold romantic beauty from season to season. In the south, the Pacific Ocean surges past the scenic promontories of Ashizuri and Muroto. The Ashizuri Uwakai National Park offers four aquatic parks bright with subtropical life along with the rocky coasts of Tatsukushi and Minokoshi, while the Muroto Anan quasi-National Park, also including two aquatic parks, has its own charm especially in its almost deserted coasts buffeted by the Japan Current.

It is fun to go deep into the mountains as well. Even the highest peaks of Mt. Ishizuchi and Mt.Tsurugi seem less forbidding when a large number of people visit Ishizuchi-jinja Shrine or Otsurugi-jinja Shrine for their Festivals on July 1 and August 1 respectively.

Folded deep in the western range of Mt.Tsurgi are two of the remotest villages in Japan - Iyayama-son. The villagers are said to be the descendants of the Taira clan, who once ruled Japan but in 1185 were ultimately beaten by their rival clan the Minamotos, fleeing until they arrived here to lead a secluded life for centuries since then.

Ringing the whole island is the Shikoku Pilgrimage, for which "Shikoku, the remote" has been best-known for hundreds of years, a long trek around 88 representative Buddhist temples. It is a nonsectarian Walking Zen. Those from overseas would also find it a deep plunge into the culture of Japan, where tradition is still strong and folklore vital.

The climate of Sikoku is not uniform. The mountainous interior is usually cool, with the most rain, while the Island Sea area is the sunniest part of Japan with little rainfall (around 1,000 mm a year). The Pacific Ocean side is a bit tropical with palms and native subtropical flora, struck by typhoons bringing much rain in summer and early autumn (around 3,000mm a year). That is why greenhouse culture of vegetables is extensively practiced along its coastal areas.

Regional characters differ, too. The trademark of Kochi People is the so-called igosso. You will find some igosso people in this little book, too. The natives of Ehime Prefecture, which was formed of eight fiefdoms, think highly of tradition. Tokushima people are known for their animated spirit expressed in their folk dance called Awa Odori, while Kagawa, the smallest prefecture in Japan, is often referred to as 'Japan in miniature' in terms of the spirit and behavior-patterns of the natives.

According to Japanese mythology, when Shikoku Island was created by Izanami, it had four faces named Ehime (female), Takeyoriwake (male), Ogetsu hime (female) and Iiyorihiko (male). And each of them was to hold sway over the Lands of Iyo, Tosa, Awa and Sanuki respectively.

Early in the Edo period (1603-1867) the island was divided into 13 fiefdoms. But in 1889 it was reorganized into four prefectures based on the ancient Lands - Ehime Pref. on Iyo, Kagawa Pref. on Sanuki, Tokushima Pref. on Awa and Kochi Pref. on Tosa. That explains why the best-known local specialties still bear their ancient names as seen on the following page.

Despite these variations, however, the natives do perceive Shikoku or Four Lands as tied together by virtue of the Eighty - eight Sacred Places along the pilgrimage route encircling the island.

Main Local Products


Iyo-gasuri cloth
Iyo-kan mandarin oranges
Tobe-yoki ceramics
Ozu washi paper
hand-made candles
hand-made paper
paper crafts
roofing tiles
chemicals, bio-chemicals
pearls, marine products

KAGAWA (Sanuki)

Sanuki lacquer ware
somen noodles
Sanuki udon noodles
soy sauce
Sanuki-bori wood carvings
pine bonsai
round paper fans
granite masonry
olive prodiucts
marine products


Awa ai indigo dyeing
Deko dolls
Awa washi paper
roofing tiles
Shijira-ori textile
somen noodles
Otani-yaki pottery
incense sticks
bamboo crafts
wooden furniture
marine products

KOCHI (Tosa)

Tosa bushi dried bonito
coral crafts
Tosa washi paper
onaga-dori cocks
Tosa suzuri inkstones
Uchiharano products
lumber & wood products
lime, calcium oxide
greenhouse culture of vegetables & fruits
marine products

Glossary 語彙説明

Administrative Divisions of Japan

From ancient times through the middle ages, Japan was divided into kuni. In this book Land is used for Kuni (E.g., the Land of Awa).

When Toyotomi Hideyoshi was completing the unification of Japan in the 1580's, he had the whole land surveyed and reorganized it according to the amount of rice production.This established the boundaries of feudal domains. In the Edo Period (1603-1867), the nation was thus divided into about 300 fiefdoms granted to daimyo or feudal lords.

Those fiefdoms were called han. In this book province is used for Han (e.g., Tosa Province).

Modern Japan is divided into 47 ken or prefectures

In this book Prefecture (Pref.) is used.

Thus the administrative divisions of Shikoku evolved as follows:

The Land of Awa -> Tokushima Province -> Tokushima Pref.

The Land of Iyo -> Matsuyama Province & 7 other provinces -> Ehime Pref.

The Land of Sanuki -> Takamatsu Province & 2 other provinces -> Kagawa Pref.

The Land of Tosa -> Tosa Province -> Kochi Pref.

-do 堂 An ending meaning temple or shrine hall.

eki 駅 A railroad station.

-en 園 An ending meaning spacious garden.

-en 円 ¥ (yen).

-gu 宮 An ending meaning Shinto shrine,same as jinja 神社 or miya 宮.

-hashi 橋 An ending meaning bridge, sometimes -bashi.

henro A pilgrimage or a pilgrim.

-ji 寺 An ending meaning Buddhist temple,same as -tera or-dera.

jinja 神社 Shinto shrine.

-jo 城 An ending meaning castle.

-Kai 海 An ending meaning sea.

-Kan 館 An ending meaning hall.

Kannon The Buddhist embodiment of compassion.

-Kawa 川 An ending meaning river,sometimes-gawa.

Koen 公園 A park.

Koku Revenue in Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1867) based on the fiefdoms totaled about 20,000,000 koku. one koku was about 180 liters of rice or the amount of rice to feed a man for one year.

About half of all revenues belonged to the Shogun and his own feudal domains. The other half was divided among about 300 feudal lords according to their power.

Kokumin shukusha A lodge run by the state.

mae 前 Front: of ten used in the names of bus stops (E.g., koen mae).

matsuri 祭 A festival.

minshuku 民宿 A guest house.

mura 村 A village.

noriba のりば A bus stop or a streetcar stop.

O- A polite prefix formerly used before the first name of girls or women (E.g. O-tsuru).

O- A polite prefix used before a noun or a place name.

onsen 温泉 A hot spring spa.

-san 山 An ending meaning mountain, sometimes -zan or -yama.

-san An honorific suffix used after a person's name.

It can be used after a first name as well as a last name.

shikki 漆器 Lacquer ware.

-shima 島 An ending meaning island, sometimes -jima.

-sen 線 A railroad line, as honsen means main line.

Shukubo A pilgrims' lodge run by the temple.
washi Japanese paper made in a traditional way.

-yaki A regional variety of ceramic ware.

Some Japanese for Tourists

Excuse me, but ... Sumimasen ...

Where is the station? Eki wa doko desuka?

hospital (byoin) toilet (toire) bank (ginko)

police box (koban) post office (yubin kyoku)

Is this bound for .... ? Korewa ... ikidesuka?

Where is this bound for? Kore wa doko iki desuka?

Where are we now? Kore wa doko desuka?

I'd like to go to ... e ikitai (ndesuga)

I'd like to have .... o kudasai

I'd like to get off at ... de oritai (ndesuga)

this (kore) that (are)

here (koko) there (soko)

I'll take this. How much? Kore o kudasai. Ikura?

I feel pain here. Koko ga itai (ndesuga)

teeth (ha) head (atama) stomach (onaka)

throat (nodo) eye (me)

Fire! Kaji! -> tel 119

Ambulance! Kyukyusha! -> tel 119

Stop thief! Dorobo! -> tel 110

I have some trouble. Komatte imasu

That is wrong. Chigaimasu

I've naku narimashita

wallet (saifu) key (kagi) ticket (kippu)

My name is .... desu

My country is .... kara kimashita

I stay at .... ni imasu

Thank you. Arigato

See you again! Ja, mata!

From the English-Japanese Shikoku Bilingual Guidebook, by Akiko Takemoto and Steve McCarty. Takamatsu: Biko Books. E-mail the Editor of this Website: Steve McCarty

Updated on 22 October 2016

Click to return to the Table of Contents

Go to the French version Introduction

Japanese-English Global Shikoku Internet Project

Bilingualism and Japanology Intersection English version - an Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library 4-star site