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Getting There


To repeat, this route assumes that you will be starting from the east (since that's where the main ferry and bus access from Honshu is) and heading west. However, Shikoku's central location just south of heavily populated Honshu means that you have many, many options. Buses run several times a day from major cities in Kansai, most of them to Tokushima, Takamatsu or Kochi. Train run along the Seto Ohashi bridge to Tokushima and Takamatsu. Several daily ferries link Kobe and Osaka with Takamatsu and Tokushima. There are also overnight ferries leaving from Osaka and two points in Kobe (the central Kobe ferry terminal and the one on Rokko Island) and making a stop at Matsuyama before going on to eastern Kyushu. So you can start on either side of the route.

However, as noted on the Alternatives page (with a photo), far and away the best way for cyclists to get to Shikoku is via the new Shimanami Kaido ("kaido" meaning "ocean route"). Of the three bridge systems linking Honshu with Shikoku, this is the only one on which you can go all the way by bicycle - on a route that is very clearly laid out and extremely pleasant. The 77 kilometers between Onomichi on Honshu and Imabari on Shikoku can be done in a single day or in two days with a stop in the middle. For more information, see the Shimanami route.

Accommodations


Since this route covers the entire island, we'll divide up the accommodations into areas.


ROUTE 1 (From TOKUSHIMA/NARUTO):


If you're planning to see the Naruto whirlpool, you'll probably have to spend the night in Tokushima or Naruto. There is a YH at Tokushima (088-663-1505) and some minshuku near the pier in Naruto (call 0886-87-0719 in Japanese for information). There's also another YH south of Tokushima at Komatsushima.


If you want to divide up the journey to Muroto Misaki, you're in luck: a new YH has been set up at Hiwasa (0884-77-0755), not quite the midway point but probably the perfect place for an overnighter, and right on the coast. The Muroto YH, named Hotsu-misakiji (yet another temple YH), is highly regarded (0887-23-0024). There is also a kokumin shukusha.


ROUTE 2 (From TAKAMATSU)


Takamatsu is a fairly large city and has ample accommodations available - but no real budget ones except the YH, Takamatsu Sakika Youth Guest House" (087-822-2111). Note that at 3900 yen, this is a bit more expensive than most YH, but it is quite highly rated. There is another YH quite a distance west of the city at Tadotsu. Supposedly there are also a few minshuku on the top of Yashima.


Kotohira used to have a YH, but now it appears there are only a few minshuku (0877-75-2526, etc.).


There are several minshuku in the Oboke-Koboke area and others near Kazurabashi; call 0883-87-2001 in Japanese for more information. Kazurabashi also has a campground that has tents available for rental.


If you're worn out from Kyobashira Pass, you might consider staying at Jofukuji YH (0887-74-0301); it's another one that the YH guide gives its highest 4-star rating.


ROUTE 3 (from TOKUSHIMA)


Tsurugi-san has a kokumin shukusha, Tsurugisan-so (0883-67-5150) and a minshuku, Kani-shukuhakujo (0883-67-5017) as well as a campground. This would be the logical stopping point, whether hiking up Tsurugi-san or continuing on to Kazurabashi and Oboke-Koboke.


KOCHI


Kochi has a wide range of accommodations, but unfortunately the YH appears to have closed. There is a kokumin shukusha at Katsurahama (0888-41-2201) and minshuku as well; call 0888-42-4433 in Japanese for more information.


Ashizuri has a kokumin shukusha, a number of minshuku and a youth hostel (08808-8-0324).


UWAJIMA


The youth hostel (0895-22-7177) is up the hill from Uwahiko Shrine; it's fairly well marked in Japanese, and the signs even point you to the one of two narrow routes that's a more gradual ascent if you're on a bicycle. It's still a steep 100km elevation, and seems to take forever (and near the end, you appear to be going up into uninhabited hills - don't get discouraged) - but the view on the way up and from the top near the hostel is worth it. Uwajima also has plenty of hotels and minshuku; ask at the station or call 0895-22-3934 for more information.


East of Uwajima, Nametoko has one YH, Mannenso (0893-24-2258). If you're heading toward the Shimantogawa River, this is a good midway point between Uwajima and the highly rated Shimanto-gawa YH (0880-54-1352) that will still allow you time for fishing, hiking, etc.


Uchiko has no budget accommodations, so you can expect to pay at least 10,000 yen for a room plus two meals. A viable option for budget cyclists is to stay at the Ozu Kyodokan YH (0893-24-2258) in nearby Ozu (12 km away) and do Uchiko in a long day-trip. Note that the YH sometimes does not offer food, so you'll be on your own; they can recommend places to eat nearby. If you decide you want to stay in Uchiko (which would allow you to more thoroughly enjoy this lovely town), call the Uchiko tourist office at (0893) 44-2111 for information or check the web site at: http://www.islands.ne.jp/uchiko/index.html .


MATSUYAMA


Again, lots of choices. The YH (089-933-6366) is very near Dogo Onsen, up atop a hill; I recommend that you ask for directions before you start puffing up hills, or (like me) you may end up spending a lot of energy for nothing. The YH has the highest 4-star rating, and it's not hard to see why: it's modern and very nice, with private 2-person rooms with their own shower units, and a very friendly staff. When I asked the best place to eat nearby, the owner said with conviction: "Hands down - the Indian restaurant." Too bad I wanted seafood... Dogo also has the ryokan that you'd expect, as well as a few minshuku (0899-24-8386, etc.) and the usual business hotels.


Sights


In addition to the information given in the Story section, here are specific routes and some random notes.


THE SHIKOKU 88 TEMPLE PILGRIMAGE


No description of sights on Shikoku is possible without first mentioning the 88 temple pilgrimage, which is the main reason that many tourists both from Japan and abroad come here. Wherever you go on Shikoku, you will see many pilgrims (henro in Japanese) dressed in white, wearing backpacks and carrying walking sticks, making their way slowly from one temple to another until they have visited all 88 temples designated by Saint Kobo (Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai). Although serious pilgrims walk the entire way, some people do the pilgrimage in sections, while others go by vehicle. Accordingly, doing the pilgrimage by bicycle, combining the temple visits with a bit of tourism, would be a great "hook" to see the island. However, be forewarned that it will take you quite awhile, since even the super-speedy bus tour takes 11 days to get to all 88 temples (that’s an average of 8 temples a day!). Further information is available on the Internet at a number of sites, including http://www.mandala.co.jp/echoes/jhguide.html which contains a great deal of what would appear to be valuable practical advice.


ROUTE 1 (From TOKUSHIMA/NARUTO)


Route: From Naruto, east along the coast (Route 11 and side roads) through Tokushima. Since Route 11 is quite crowded with vehicles, I recommend taking the smaller coastal roads whenever possible. You'll have to go to Route 55 to get through Tokushima and follow it down to around Anan, where you can start taking smaller roads; I recommend the tiny and hilly Route 26 to Yuki-cho and then Route 25 to Hiwasa; from Hiwasa, the coastal but quite hilly Sun Line is also worth doing. From there, you're limited to Route 55 all the way down and around. There is an official bikepath from Nangoku into Kochi, but as I recall it just goes along the highway for most of the way. Still, if it gets you away from the cars...


Sights


The Naruto Whirlpool is visible every 6 hours or so, which means you have two chances to see it in daylight. You can take an hour-long boat cruise (which will cost you 2,000 yen) or see it from the top of Tsujigaoka (Azalea Hill) in Naruto Park, right at the start of the bridge..

Otherwise, Tokushima is known principally for Awa-odori, the huge summer dancing festival held during the obon period of August 12-16, at which time the entire city goes berserk with dancing in the streets. The population of the city doubles and even triples during this period; if you're planning to start or end your trip during this time, reservations for accommodations are a MUST.


ROUTE 2 (From TAKAMATSU)


Route: There are any number of roads that will take you from Takamatsu to Ikeda, where you pick up Route 32 down through Oboke-Koboke. The most direct would undoubtedly be to pick up Route 32 only a few km out of Takamatsu and then follow it all the way down. At the other end of the spectrum, hardcore mountaineers will want to head for Kotohira and then take tiny Route 4 up the 630m pass (Higashiyama-toge) to Ikeda; my map shows lots of autumn leaf markings, so this might be a good one if you're going in the autumn. Right after Oboke-Koboke, hang a left on Route 45 to get to Kazurabashi, then either cycle back and continue on down on Route 32 or, if you're going to go up the 1,130m pass (Kyobashira-toge), keep on going east from Kazurabashi and head diagonally down on Route 439 which joins up with Route 32 again further south. From that point, it's a straight shot down into Kochi.


Sights


Takamatsu basically has two main attractions: Ritsurin Koen, which I recommend wholeheartedly, and Yashima, a huge plateau overlooking the ocean. It's worth puffing up the latter for two reasons: (a) the view and (b) Shikoku-mura, a folk village where many traditional houses have been collected. Touristy but interesting - the houses are divided into areas that represent the traditional domains of Shikoku (Awa, Sanuki, Iyo and Tosa, which correspond to the modern Tokushima, Takamatsu, Ehime and Kochi prefectures, respectively). Needless to say, this is recommended only if you have the time.


There are two attractions of note outside Takamatsu: Zentsuji, noted as the place where Saint Kobo (Kobo Daishi) was born, and Kotohira (a.k.a. Konpira), a wonderful hilltop shrine (oddly enough, devoted to the sea god!) that you have to climb a 1,000 step stairway to get to. This is far enough from Takamatsu that you might consider overnighting at one of the minshuku here.


As noted in the Story section, Iya-kei, or the Iya Valley starts just east of the Oboke-Koboke region and encompasses Kazurabashi and parts further north and east. This area is gaining popularity as arguably Shikoku's most famous "hidden valley," and it holds special interest to foreign visitors as the setting for Chiiori, the farmhouse restored by Alex Kerr, the only foreigner ever to win a Japanese literary award for a book he'd written in Japanese (Ushinawareta Nippon, or "Lost Japan"). Chiiori is open to the public at certain times; see the schedule at:

http://www.chiiori.org/schedule.html

Iya also has a hot springs and accommodations, and might make a nice overnighter. To visit the entire west Iya area, turn left on tiny Route 32 just north of Oboke-Koboke; it's the same road that leads to Kazurabashi. East Iya can be seen by taking Route 439, as described under Route 3 below.


ROUTE 3 (for serious mountaineers only)


Cyclists who really like elevations might want to consider a third route, starting from Tokushima and then, via route 438 which turns into 439, going ALL the way diagonally southwest straight to Kochi. This route enables you to cycle through the entire Iya-kei area (both west and east Iya) and hit both of the Kazurabashi vine bridges and, with a little backtracking or looping, see Oboke-Koboke as well - all enroute to Kochi, a la Route 2. However, you've got to like ups and downs: the route goes up BOTH of the highest passes on the island: one at 1210 m and the aforementioned Kyobashira-toge at 1,173 m. One advantage of this route over other routes is that you get to see (and, if you like, climb) Tsurugi-san, Shikoku's second-highest mountain (only slightly lower than the more famous Ishizuchi-san to the west).



KOCHI


Route: From Kochi, head west on tiny coastal roads 14 and 23. If you're going to go up the hilly coastal route (recommended), choose Route 47; if not, continue around on 23. After Tosa, the hilly terrain means you're stuck on Route 56 all the way down to Ashizuri; there's only one tiny section near Nakamura that you can get off it at all and still make forward progress. Your options increase after that point; I remember taking several of the tiny (and very hilly) coastal roads between Ashizuri and Uwajima and enjoying them all.


Sights


Among Japanese tourists, Kochi is famous mostly for the beach at Katsurahama, as well as for one of the Shikoku 88 temples, Chikurinji, that offers an excellent view. But mostly it's just a very nice city in which to spend a day or two. Like Uwajima, food is relatively inexpensive and good. There is also a large morning market on Sundays, selling produce and porcelain. The tropical garden (Makino Botanical Garden) has a good reputation for unusual plants, such as water lilies so big that kids can climb on them (these are frequently shown on morning variety TV shows).


As noted in the text, you have to make a choice around Nakamura: whether to go to Cape Ashizuri or go inland to cycle the Shimantogawa River to Nametoko and then to Uwajima. Personally, I'd do a loop, then either cycle or train back and continue onward. Further information on the Shimantogawa River will be added to this route in the future.


Just east of Uwajima is Nametoko Gorge, introduced in the Story section: a nice river with fast-flowing water that offers great fishing. Be advised that the road up along the river (tiny Route 317) is relatively steep. However, you can loop around on Route 270 to rejoin Route 8 and continue on either to the Shimantogawa River or into Uwajima.


UWAJIMA


Uwajima's small-town feel makes it a great place to cycle around. Specific attractions include the castle hillock in the city center (a small charge to climb to the top of the castle, and a nice small museum of historical items and photographs), and Taga Jinja (otherwise known as the Dekoboko Shrine), which was mentioned in the Story section; Taga's entrance fee is around 800 yen. Two other shrines, Warei Jinja and Uwatsuhiko Shrine, are also well worth seeing; the latter is just down the hill from the YH. Supposedly the Tensha-en Garden just west of the castle is also nice.

Food is wonderful. The youth hostel has a very helpful map of restaurants in the immediate vicinity (designed mainly for people on foot), and they can recommend others nearby that are not on that map. I enjoyed Gaiya (0895-25-0003), a modern robata-yaki place with a young energetic staff and clientele and reasonable prices. The older, more established restaurant is Hozumi-tei, near the Hozumi Bridge in the center of town.


Ozu and Uchiko have been described in detail in the Story text. Both are nice towns, but Uchiko is one of Shikoku's star attractions and should be the one you choose if you can only visit one.


Further west, long, thin Cape Sata actually has two roads: the main Route 157 which reportedly offers spectacular views and a tiny coastal road (255). Therefore, if you have the time, you can make a circuit of the entire cape without backtracking hardly at all. Needless to say, as even the relatively straight main road is 33km (with at least 15 km after that to the end of the cape), this is only for cyclists with loads of time. A better option might be to do it one-way on your way to Kyushu; a ferry to Saganoseki (near Oita) leaves from Mizaki where the main road ends.


MATSUYAMA


Dogo Onsen is Matsuyama's star attraction, and as you'd expect it's been touristed to death: a very expensive clock with moving figurines was just put in to add to the hype (ask at the information centers for the times that it operates). Nevertheless, Dogo is well worth a visit, if only to see the massive wooden Honkan building which dates from 1894. This hot springs is one of Japan's oldest, and it's even said to have been disocvered as long as 3,000 years ago. Note that, as with most public baths, you are NOT allowed to take in alcoholic beverages, and since they are used to seeing tourists it's probably not even worth trying the I-don't-speak-Japanese bit (assuming you're that cheeky). Drinking before and after is probably just as good. There is supposedly an 80-minute time limit for staying in the bath, but it's rarely enforced. Nearby are a nice temple (Ishite-ji) and shrine (Isaniwa) if you want to cool down from either the bath or the alcohol. The “ashiyu” boom has also hit Matsuyama, and you can get a map of places in the city center at which you can take off your shoes and cool (or rather warm) your heels.@@@

In addition to Dogo, Matsuyama has a nice castle that's mostly the original one constructed in 1627, and the southern part of the city has some marvelous tiny rural streets that are wonderful to pedal lazily around - like going back in time. In the general area of the station is the Nohmen Jinja (proper name Shinonome Shrine) with a collection of hundreds of Noh masks and costumes, plus samurai weaponry, that would be worth a visit if you have the time. However, overall Matsuyama is a huge, sprawling city, and considering how long it takes to get anywhere, you may find other cities more interesting. Souvenir buyers might consider Iyo-kasuri, the famous local indigo dyed fabrics; check any shop in town or the Iyo-Kasuri Kaikan (hall) 2km north of the station.


Getting Away


Once again, you have a wide variety of options. From Matsuyama or several other points nearby, ferries go both west to Kyushu and east to Honshu; returning by overnight ferry is a particularly attractive option. There are also more exotic ferries, such as the aforementioned Kyushu-bound one near the end of Cape Sata, so you can even cycle the long, thin Cape Sata and then bounce across the water to Kyushu to continue your trip. By road, buses now link most every major city on Shikoku with Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto, and there is also a route that links Matsuyama / Imabari on Shikoku with Hiroshima and Onomichi on Honshu. Train service is available on the central of the three bridge systems linking Honshu and Shikoku, the Seto-Ohashi: trains go from Takamatsu via Sakaide on Shikoku to Okayama on Honshu. However, if you’re trying to get to major cities, going by ferry or bus is generally the cheapest option next to cycling the whole way.


For other options, see Alternatives.

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