Around Shikoku

On my recent Shikoku roadtrip, every corner of the island was fair game. From Takamatsu in the north, through the secluded central Iya Valley, to serene Shimanto river in the south.

Ritsurin Garden

A main attraction of Takamatsu city, and one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan, Ritsurin Koen (栗林公園) is also considered one of the most beautiful in the country. Some four centuries old, the landscaped garden cleverly uses wooded Mount Shiun as the backdrop for its ponds, bridges, tea houses, and manicured trees.

We arrived at the garden at dusk, so we rushed a little – to really do it justice, you need spend a good 2-3 hours there, and if possible visit during fall foliage season. Still, a peaceful stroll along the groomed trails is rewarding any time of year. It’s like walking through a scene from an old Japanese wood block print.

Ritsurin Garden

View of Ritsurin Garden and its characteristic arched bridge.

Ritsurin Garden

Manicured trees throughout the garden.

Ritsurin Garden

Stepping stones across the pond.

Ritsurin Garden

A network of water passageways.

Ritsurin Garden

Perfectly groomed with the mountain as backdrop.

Iya Valley

Located in Tokusima Prefecture, Iya Valley (祖谷渓谷) in the central Shikoku mountain range is known for its little villages, historic vine bridges, and dramatic valley scenery. This remote, mountainous area is visited for its deep rocky gorges, hot springs, and hiking; access is mostly via single-lane mountain roads, so the lack of tour buses means that crowds are virtually non-existent.

The Iya Kazurabashi bridge is a popular attraction, and is typical of the vine bridges that were traditionally used to cross the river valleys.

Iya Valley

Ochiai hamlet, Higashi-Iya. This is a village with traditional thatched roof buildings, and is a national historic preservation district.

Iya Valley

Quirky company at the Ochiai hamlet viewpoint. These are lifesize dolls by local artist Ayano Tsukimi and can be found throughout Iya Valley.

Iya Valley

Iya no Kazurabashi vine bridge over the river.

Iya Valley

The vine bridge spanning the gorge. This one is rebuilt every three years.

Iya Valley

Waterfall at the bottom of the gorge.

Iya Valley

The Iya River cuts through the valley.

Iya Valley

Looking downstream towards the vine bridge.

Iya Valley

The Manneken Peeing Boy statue, 200m over the bottom of the valley. Supposedly passers-by used to pee off the ledge as a testament of their bravery.

Shimanto

On the southwestern side of Shikoku, in Kochi Prefecture, the Shimanto-gawa river is considered to be Japan’s last pristine waterway, remote located away from any major cities. There are no dams on the river throughout its 196-km journey to the Pacific Ocean. The frequent river crossings are unique in that they do not have any guardrails. These chinkabashi (沈下橋, literally sinking bridge) allow the water to flow in times of high floods, and are today considered a cultural heritage. Single lanes makes driving across a little unnerving!

The area is popular for river cruising and fishing. Farming is still the main way of life here.

Shimanto

One of the many low water crossings on Shimanto-gawa.

Shimanto

River tour boat.

Shimanto

Water wheel at Yasunami.

Shimanto

Rice paddies.

Shimanto

Rice field irrigation using water from the Shimanto River.

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Location Map

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