Secrets of Shikoku PART II - A Spring Journey

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! This PART II continuing the discovery of fascinating Shikoku!

HIGHLIGHTS

Visit some of the most revered food producers in Japan

Stay in boutique lodges and ryokans 

Participate in soba-making with a local villager

Witness the Spring splendors of Shikoku

ITINERARY

DAY 1: KOCHI / KURE / SHIMANTO

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 south making a stop in the small port town of Kure, a nostalgic fishing settlement renowned for its endeavours in pole and line fishing of bonito fish, blessed by the warm current off the Pacific Coast, bringing with it rich harvests from the sea for more than 400 years. Visit the Kure Taisho Town Market and enjoy sampling of "Katsuo no tataki" - seared bonito fish on the outside but raw on the inside like sashimi. Later, we visit the Nishioka Shuzoten sake brewery, founded in 1781 and the oldest sake brewery in Kochi Prefecture, renowned for its dry and neat flavors that combines excellently with seafood. Thereafter, we will continue a pleasant drive, hugging the coastline before arriving at the gorgeous Shimanto no Yado, at the mouth of the Shimanto River. 

Overnight: Shimanto no Yado, Shimanto

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: SHIMANTO / YUSUHARA

We spend a special day in the beautiful Shimanto River, Spanning 196km long, it is said to be the last clear stream of Japan, as well as the last undammed river. The morning begins with a drive to the historic Nakamura area where you may consider visiting the Shimanto City Historical Museum, located within the ruins of Nakamura Castle, ruled by the Sanmangoku Nakamura clan during the Edo Period. Enjoy some prime viewings of cherry blossoms at this spot and later, embark onto our private-chartered "yakatabune" low house boat where you enjoy a pleasant sail upstream on the beautiful Shimanto River. We will make a dedicated stop at the Nanohana no Mori (Rape flowers forest park) - a row of natural willow trees that follows the Shimanto River for about 4km, with also bright yellow rape flowers found by the footsteps. Colors of blue from the river, green from the willow and yellow flowers enhance the feeling of spring all along the Shimanto River. We then hop back onto the boat where we come face to face with the Sada Chinkabashi Bridge - the longest of all Chinkabashi (bridges designed to go underwater during a flood) crossing the Shimanto River, and is the one that is also located the farthest downstream. In the town there are also other bridges of this type such as Misato, Takase, Katsuma, Kuchiyanai, Iwama, Nagaoi, Nakahage, and Hage, and through them we can catch a glimpse of how people have interacted with the river in their daily lives. We disembark here, rejoin your vehicle as we then travel north towards the architectural capital of Kengo Kuma - Yusuhara. Witness the unique architecture style with its signature wooden constructions that make Yusuhara stand out. We then arrive at the Kumo no Ueno Hotel to check in and time to appreciate the splendid works of Kengo Kuma. 

Overnight: Kumo-no-Ue-no Hotel, Yusuhara

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 3: YUSUHARA / UCHIKO

Begin the day admiring the works of Kengo Kuma such as the unique Kumo-no-Ue-no Wooden Bridge Shaped Art Gallery, the impeccably-designed Community Market before we continue our journey north to the rustic town of Uchiko, once a prosperous center of wax and traditional Japanese paper production. Visit the historic Yokaichi & Gokoku district, lined with charming Edo and Meiji Period buildings which include residences and merchant houses - selected as an important traditional building conservation district. A definite visit is the Kamihaga Residence, former home and workshop of the Kamihaga family showcasing Uchiko's glorious past wax industry. Also worth a visit is the Uchiko-za Theatre, built in 1916 where performances such as kabuki or bunraku took place. Later, we visit the Tenjin Japanese Paper Factory where we learn about how Uchiko prospered as a producer of high quality paper from the abundance of pure and clean waters from the Odagawa River. Finally, we check in into the charming Auberge Uchiko where you can relax at leisure in the hot springs and tuck into a sumptuous French cuisine dinner tonight. 

Overnight: Auberge Uchiko, Uchiko

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: UCHIKO (EXCURSION TO OZU & IZUMIDANI RICE FIELDS)

This morning, a short drive takes us to the historic and beautiful city of Ozu, dubbed as the "Little Kyoto" of Shikoku. Our first stop of the day is the small but stunning Ozu Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the wide Hijikawa River. Dated since the early 14th Century, the castle has went through numerous invasions and destruction and was rebuilt in phases since the 1950s. Enjoy spectacular panorama here as well as a prime spot for cherry blossoms viewing in Spring. We then head to the historic Old Town area, taking a step back in time witnessing charming Edo and Meiji Period buildings with nostalgic stone-paved alleys, merchant houses, samurai residences in Spring splendors. Thereafter, visit the outstanding Garyu Sanso, nestled by the riverbank of the Hijikawa River and impresses with its "sukiya-zukuri" thatched-roof style, designated as a Tangible Cultural Property of Ehime Prefecture. 

On our return to Uchiko, make a visit to the Izumidani terraced rice fields, designated as one of Japan’s best 100 rice terraces, consisting of 95 paddy fields on a steep mountain slope. The rice harvested here is the highest quality thanks to abundance of clear spring water throughout the year. The terraced fields skilfully lined with stone display beautiful seasonal color variations such as shining spring greens, golden stems of rice glowing in the summer sunshine, and scarlet-watered terrace fields reflecting the evening sunsets.

Overnight: Auberge Uchiko, Uchiko

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5: UCHIKO / MATSUYAMA

Leaving Uchiko today, we continue north towards Matsuyama - biggest city and capital of Ehime Prefecture and a renowned hot spring resort town since the Meiji Period. On arrival, we visit the historic Dogo Onsen, built since 1894 and featured in Studio Ghibli's Oscar-winning movie "Spirited Away". The entire area around the classical old building is filled with the spirit of the Meiji period - from the last tram station whose building dates back to 19th century, the Botchan Karakuri Clock which offers a show with figurines every hour, through the charming shopping arcade all the way to the hot spring facilities. Worth a visit too is the Ishiteji Temple, one of the 88 temples of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Later, visit the Matsuyama Castle, an exceptional spot for cherry blossoms viewing in Spring and one of the few originally surviving castles in Japan located on the top of a mountain with a great panorama view over the city and Seto Inland Sea. Finally, we will arrive at the contemporary Setouchi Retreat Aonagi, designed by Ando Tadao, a museum and hotel combined into one, offering a visually-impactful and minimalist stay in contemporary luxury. 

Overnight: Setouchi Retreat Aonagi, Matsuyama

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 6: DEPARTURE MATSUYAMA

Spend the day enjoying the peaceful and tranquil environments of the Setouchi Retreat Aonagi and thereafter, be transferred to Matsuyama Airport for your onward journey. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Shimanto no Yado, Shimanto

Shimanto no Yado is a relaxing, authentic Japanese-style hot spring inn located 15 minute drive from Nakamura Station. Situated on a high point near the mouth of the beautiful Shimanto River, the Japanese-style inn features exquisitely decorated traditional Japanese-style guest rooms as well as relaxing hot spring baths both indoors and outdoors. The inn is especially known for its fancy kaiseki meals made with seasonal ingredients that change on a monthly basis. 

Kumo no Ue no Hotel is nestled deep in the mountains in Yusuhara. The hotel's name, 'Kumo no Ue no Hotel' literally means 'hotel on top of the clouds' . The facade of the hotel is constructed in the image of an airplane's wing. Facilities include a communal bath, an open-air bath and a vending machine corner. The hotel possesses 16 guest rooms.

Kumo-no-Ue-no Hotel, Yusuhara

Situated in a quiet secluded area in central Aichi, Auberge Uchiko is located just a 5-minute drive from JR Uchiko Station. The inn features a restaurant and gift shop and offers a relaxing stay. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot springs and open-air baths while gazing at the beautiful scenery that changes over the seasons. International guests will enjoy the traditional accommodations. All guest rooms are Japanese-style rooms with tatami mat floors and futon bedding.

Auberge Uchiko, Uchiko

Setouchi Retreat Aonagi, Matsuyama

Experience the world with the renowned architecture Tadao Ando. Enjoy the calm wave, crystal clear ocean, and pure blue sky of Seto Inland Sea from the wide window of all 7 suite rooms. Completed 18 years ago as a private guesthouse, the building was later turned into a small modern art museum before re-opening as the Setouchi Retreat Aonagi. 

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