I was in Himeji, Japan. I needed to get out of Japan in about 10 days, otherwise I would overstay my visitor entry-stamp. Since my next destination was South Korea, that meant going to Shimonoseki or Fukuoka to catch a ferry to Busan.
By that point, I had already travelled three of Japan’s four large islands – Honshu, Kyushu, and Hokkaido. The one major island I had yet to visit was Shikoku … which just happened to be between Himeji and Shimonoseki/Fukuoka (at least on an east/west axis). Since it was the last large region in Japan, besides Kanto, which I had yet to explore, going through Shikoku was an obvious choice for me.
I think, out of the four big islands, Shikoku is probably the one which sees the fewest foreign travellers, though it just might be ahead of Hokkaido. It is certainly sees way, way, way fewer foreigners than Honshu and Kyushu.
From what I’d heard from other foreigners who had visited Shikoku, it would be rural, sparsely populated, and inconvenient. One traveller, who had visited a friend living in Shikoku, said that they had to drive for more than half an hour one way from that friend’s home just to get to a convenience store.
‘Shikoku’ means ‘Four Countries/Kingdoms’. And Shikoku was, originally, four domains/provinces with a high degree of independence: Sanuki, Awa, Tosa, and Iyo. The heart of Shikoku is mountainous, which naturally divides these four regions. Nowadays, Shikoku is split into four prefectures: Kagawa, Tokushima, Kochi, and Ehime. However, there are many references to the old names – train stations often have names like ‘Awa-Ikeda’, ‘Iyo-Saijo’, ‘Tosa-Iwahara’, ‘Sanuki-Tsuda’ etc.
I wanted to go to every prefecture, but it takes time to get to the most interesting parts of Kochi prefecture (Tosa), time which I didn’t have. Given a choice between seeing a less interesting part of Kochi just so I could say I’ve been to Kochi, and spending more time at more interesting places in Kagawa/Tokushima/Ehime, I chose the later.
Since I had already seen a lot of Japan, I didn’t really expect Shikoku to dazzle me. However, I certainly wanted to be able to say ‘I’ve been to every major island in Japan’, and more importantly, I was curious about what Shikoku was like. Is it just like anywhere else in Japan? What is unique about Shikoku?
Want to know what I experienced in Shikoku? Then be sure to read this series of posts.