Secrets of Shikoku PART I - An Autumn Sojourn

The least-visited region in Japan appeals to the seasoned traveler with an appreciation of nature, adventure, culture and intoxicating hot springs. Experience a Japan less-trodden!

HIGHLIGHTS

Visit some of the most revered food producers in Japan

Stay in mesmerizing mountain lodge and ryokans in Shikoku

Participate in soba-making with a local villager

Witness Japan's most mesmerizing Autumn foliage

ITINERARY

DAY 1: KOCHI / OBOKE / IYA VALLEY

Arrive Kochi - capital city of Kochi Prefecture in southern Shikoku, blessed with the harvests of the mountains and the Pacific Ocean and a city synonymous with pickles. Every Sunday, experience the atmospheric buzz of local farmers and vendors showcasing traditional pickles, local produce, fruits and vegetables at the "Sunday Market "Nichiyouichi" , a 1.3km stretch of stalls that leads all the way to the impressive Kochi Castle - one of the prime spots for autumn leaves viewing in season. First built during the early 17th Century, it was reconstructed in the mid 18th Century after a fire. Thereafter, we will embark on our journey to the Iya Valley

En route, we make stops along the stunning Koboke and Oboke Gorges, with spectacular steep-sided cliffs, rocky river bed and rapids of the mesmerizingly-turquoise Yoshino River. As we arrive into the picturesque Iya Valley filled with the autumn splendors of beautiful autumn leaves, we come across our first sighting of the Kazurabashi vine bridge where you may experience a walk through and perhaps a pleasant walk on the river bed to marvel at the picture-perfect scenery. Finally, we will arrive at the private Chiiori Lodge, a 300 years old traditional thatched-roof farm house deep in Oku Iya, splendidly refurbished and transformed. This evening, enjoy an authentic dinner lovingly-prepared by village women at your lodge.

Overnight: Chiiori Lodge, Iya Valley

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: IYA VALLEY

Today, we spend an experiential day deep in the Iya Valley beginning with a visit to Oku Iya visiting the peaceful and less-visited Oku Iya Double vine bridges. Enjoy the tranquil environments and the stunning settings and thereafter, a short drive away arrives us at the Valley of the Dolls - "Kakashi no Sato", an abandoned village now occupied with hundreds of hand-made life-sized doll replicas to replace the residents that used to call this village home. Fighting the loneliness battle is Japanese artist, Ayano Tsukimi who is the only person left living in the village and the dolls are created in all forms of daily lives as if they are living residents. 

Later, we enjoy a soba-making experience with village women to create one of Iya Valley's signature folk comfort food and get to taste your own efforts lovingly prepared and served with tempura, vegetables and rice. We then make a return back to Chiiori Lodge and the evening, you will have bento dinner delivered warm to your lodge. 

Overnight: Chiiori Lodge, Iya Valley

Meals: Dinner

DAY 3: IYA VALLEY / TAKAMATSU / SHODOSHIMA

We leave the Iya Valley today making a scenic drive north to the coastal city of Takamatsu (2.5hrs drive). En route, we stop athe spectacular Honen'ike Dam with stunning multiple arches and a height of 32m high, completed in 1930. Later, we arrive on the edge of the Seto Inland Sea to Takamatsu, visit the interesting and bohemian Kitahama Alley where old warehouses have been converted into boutique and charming cafes, restaurants, shops and art galleries. Enjoy some time at leisure and thereafter, head to Takamatsu Port where we board a short and scenic ferry to the stunning island of Shodoshima, dubbed as the "Island of Olives". 

Arriving onto Shodoshima Island, we will make a visit to the beautiful Angel Road, a sand bar of approximately 500m connecting Shodoshima to small offshore islands during low tide which occurs twice a day. Thereafter, we head to the historic Yamaroku Soy Sauce factory, in business for 5 generations since the late 19th Century. Enter the facility to take a step back in time marveling at the old "kioke" cedar barrels used for the fermentation of traditional soy sauce that make Yamaroku an outstanding brand in Japan. Finally, we will then arrive at the outstanding Mari Ryokan, a traditional ryokan that evokes a timeless setting and the impressive culinary offerings. 

Overnight: Mari Ryokan, Shodoshima

Meals: Breakfast & Kaiseki Dinner

DAY 4: SHODOSHIMA

A beautiful autumn day in Shodoshima begins with a visit to the incredibly-gorgeous Kankakei Gorge offering spectacular panorama of the autumn foliage and the shimmering Seto Inland Sea. Enjoy a ropeway up enjoying the stunning colours of red, yellow and orange blanketing the gorge.

 

Later, descend on foot to enjoy a different perspective of the autumn foliage. Next, we head over to a Somen & Udon production factory to learn about the intricate process of Shodoshima's revered noodles where you will enjoy an interactive participation. 

Next, we head inland into the rice terraces of Nakayama, renowned as one of the most incredibly-beautiful rice fields in Japan and a chance to enjoy a delightful "Olive Beef burger" while soaking in the views of terraces. Finally, a Beyond X Boundaries exclusive experience awaits as we come face to face with the creator of Shodoshima's "Olive Beef", learning about possibly Japan's next big export and a contender to Kobe's wagyu status. 

Overnight: Mari Ryokan, Shodoshima

Meals: Breakfast & Kaiseki Dinner

DAY 5: SHODOSHIMA / TESHIMA / KOJIMA / KURASHIKI

This morning, we say farewell to Shodoshima boarding a short ferry ride over to the beautiful art island of Teshima, part of the renowned Setouchi Triennale art festival held every 3 years. We visit the intriguing Teshima Art Museum, situated among rice fields displaying an incredible expression of contemporary art and design. Later, we re-embark on the ferry for a pleasant journey back to mainland Japan where we make a short drive to Kojima, En route, we visit the stunning Yugasan Rendaiji Temple on a private and exclusive visit of the temple grounds followed by a sumptuous "Shojin-ryori" (vegetarian cuisine). 

Thereafter, arrive into the town of Kojima where we visit an Indigo dyeing studio to learn about the process of indigo dyeing process and an interactive participation. Later, spend some time to take a stroll on Kojima Jeans Street, adorned with boutique jeans shops before we arrive into the beautiful canal town of Kurashiki, dubbed the "Venice of Japan". 

Overnight: Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki

Meals: Breakfast & Kaiseki Dinner

DAY 6: KURASHIKI / OKAYAMA / OSAKA

Spend the day enjoying the peaceful and tranquil canal town of Kurashiki where you can visit the Bikan Historical Quarter with its array of museums such as the Ohara Museum of Art and the Japan Toy Museum.  Later in the afternoon, you will be transferred to Okayama Station for your shinkansen bullet train ride to Osaka where you may continue your onwards journey in Japan. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Chiiori Lodge, Iya Valley

Located in the mythical mountainous region of Iya Valley, regularly coined as the ‘Tibet of Japan’, Chiiori Mountain Lodge is set amidst nature and retains the original beauty of an eco-friendly retreat rooted in Japan’s traditional culture. Aiming to preserve the rustic experience of an 18th century residence, the lodge proposes a ‘time travel’ hospitality concept for adventurous visitors. 

Mari's heart is the mind of "entertaining with sauce". What they think important here is to privide profound sincerity and hospitality and treasure an encounter of once-in-a-lifetime, with traditional sauce "hishio" (miso-like paste made from koji mold and salt water) made by island nature. It aims to be an "island ryokan" like guests can relax and feel this island.

Mari Ryokan, Shodoshima

Ryokan Kurashiki is located right in the heart of the historic merchant's quarter surrounded by beautifully-preserved 17th Century architecture with traditional black and white kura (wooden storehouses) lining the narrow streets. With just 5 guest rooms spread across 3 buildings, each is furnished with traditional Japanese tatami, low-slung furniture and western-styled beds are available. FREE Wi-Fi is available in room and exquisite seasonal kaiseki cuisine is served  

Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki

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