Anan is a small city in Tokushima Prefecture. Within the boundary of the city lies Cape Gamoda, a small peninsula that juts out into the Kii Channel, which separates Tokushima on Shikoku, and Wakayama on Honshu. Gamoda is the easternmost point of Shikoku and residents of the island who care for such things visit here on New Year’s morning to greet the first sun of the year. At the tip of the peninsula is a small hill cloaked in windswept trees and topped with a lighthouse. From here you can see Awaji Island and the expanse of the Kii Channel which opens into the Pacific.
Anan is home to Nichia, an electronic materials manufacturer that produced the first blue LEDs. During the Christmas and New Year period, Nichia festoons Ushikijoshi Park in the centre of the city with LED illuminations, turning this former castle site into a little night wonderland.
A short drive from central Anan is the Omatsu Daigongen shrine to vengeful cat. In the early the Edo period, the headman of Kamo Village borrowed money from a wealthy man to save the village during a famine. He repaid the debt, but the wealthy man falsely accused him of not paying. In despair, the village headman died of an illness, and the rich man confiscated the land as collateral for the debt. When the village headman’s wife, Omatsu, complained to the magistrate’s office, the magistrate, bribed by the rich man, gave an unfair judgement. Then, when Omatsu tried to complain directly to the daimyo, she was executed. Omatsu’s pet cat became a vengeful spirit and drove the families of the wealthy man and the corrupt magistrate to ruin. Omatsu’s grave lies within the shrine, among every kind of cat statuary and art. The shrine is also home to a fluffy grey cat who catches mice.
Travelling further inland, you come to Tairyu-ji Temple, No. 21 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Since it’s located high in the mountains, the temple is accessed by a cable car, although it’s also a delightful walk up. This beautiful temple stands among huge, ancient cypress trees. The carving on the buildings is exquisite, of a quality rarely seen. The ‘ryu’ in ‘Tairyu’ means ‘dragon’, and on the ceiling of the temple office you can see a large, expressive ink painting of a dragon, which dates from the Meiji period.
A short walk from the temple brings you to a statue of Kukai meditating on a rocky crag with a fantastic view over the mountains and sea. The path is lined with statues related to each of the Shikoku pilgrimage temples.
On the road south of Anan is a strange brick building created by an eccentric artist who lives there. It’s called Daibosatsu Toge. You can wander into the building freely. It houses a woodworking studio and a truly unique café. It’s a memorable place to eat or to enjoy a coffee break.
Anan is the eastern gateway to the Muroto Peninsula in the south-eastern corner of Shikoku. It’s worth spending at least one night here to give you time to visit all the interesting places in the vicinity.