Shikoku (四国, literally “Four Provinces”) is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, and also the least populated. As such, it is an ideal area to explore by car, taking advantage of the country’s superb road infrastructure. On a 10-day roadtrip, some friends and I visited almost every corner of this green and mountainous island, experiencing the area’s unique culture and traditions.
One such glimpse into old rural Japan can be found in Yokaichi Old Town, a preserved historical district near the town of Uchiko, southwest of Matsuyama city in Ehime Prefecture. Lining the narrow streets are rows of preserved (and some restored) traditional merchant houses from the peak of Uchiko’s fame as the center of the country’s wax manufacturing and trade. Today there are still a number of craft shops operating among a few museums and residential buildings, and there are thankfully no cheesy souvenir stalls in sight. Visit early in the morning for a crowd-free stroll through the quiet streets. At the top of the hill, Koshiji Temple houses a large statue of a reclining Buddha and offers a great view of the village below.