Kuma Kogen temple and rocks

Kuma Kogen Highland is an expansive inhabited area at a high elevation in central Ehime bordering Kochi Prefecture. Kuma is nominally a town, although it’s basically a wilderness with some inhabited valleys and a central village. It has an interesting foundation myth. Kuma is the name of a woman who lived all alone in this once poor area. When the celebrated priest Kobo Daishi and founder of the Shikoku pilgrimage passed through, she begged him to provide her with company, so he miraculously produced a river. This enabled crops to be grown, and soon farmers arrived. Kuma had company. The town that they established is named after her. The river still flows, crops still grow, and the people of Kuma remain very welcoming to strangers.

One of the covered bridges of Uchiko

Uchiko is a rural area in Ehime Prefecture, about an hour's journey from Matsuyama. The town of Uchiko is known for its streets of well-preserved historic buildings which now house museums and stylish eateries. But the countryside around is fascinating too. Covered bridges are hidden away in numerous valleys and even on the tops of mountains. They span little streams and ponds. The construction of each bridge is different, but they have in common an ineffable rustic charm.

Pilgrims at Kongofuku-ji Temple

The Hata area is in the southwestern part of Kochi, forming the bottom left corner of Shikoku island. Here the mighty Shimanto River ends its loop and flows into the Pacific Ocean in Shimanto city. The rugged coastline of this area seems to go on forever, with many beautiful bays and inlets offering dramatic vistas at any time of year. Tosashimizu, one of the towns in this area, aims to become a Geopark in 2017, reflecting the special geological character of the region.

Kure Taishomachi market fishwife

The Koban area of Kochi lies to the southwest of Kochi city. The storied Shimanto River rises in this area, heading south then west into the mountains before beginning its loop back towards the Pacific in the southwest of Kochi Prefecture. Koban is home to a couple of wonderful sake breweries and many excellent places to eat.

Niyodogawa chinkabashi

The Niyodo River is one of the three major rivers of Shikoku, which also include the Shimanto and Yoshino Rivers. It rises in the mountains of central Shikoku, running southeastward through the Kochi and flowing into the Pacific at Tosa city. There are many things to see and do along the river.

The Monobe River rises in the mountains inland above the Muroto Peninsular and meanders in a southwards curve, flowing into Tosa Bay. The amazing Ryugado Caves are on a tributary of the Monobe River.

Iyonada Monogatori tourism train

The Iyonada Monogatari is a sightseeing train, a luxury travel genre that’s currently enjoying something of a boom in Japan. This classic train, fitted out in ‘retro-modern’ style at considerable expense, takes you on a stylish journey through the coastal and mountain region of western Shikoku known as Iyonada. As you travel through this picturesque scenery, you can enjoy delicious meals prepared using the specialties of the region.

Kurushima Bridge from Kirosan on the Shimanami Kaido

The Shimanami Kaido is a chain of islands across the Seto Inland Sea, joined by a series of bridges which carry an expressway and cycle paths. The route joins Imabari in Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku, with Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture on Honshu. From the Ehime side, the islands are Oshima, Hakatajima, Omishima, Ikuchijima, Innoshima, and Mukojima.

The Muroto Peninsula from the air

The Muroto Peninsula forms the southwest part of Shikoku, coming to an acute point in the Pacific Ocean. Part of Kochi Prefecture, the southernmost tip of the peninsula goes by the name Muroto City, although it’s a very rural area with no urban agglomeration bigger than a small town.

The Uwakai Sea is part of Japan’s Inland Sea. It lies between western Shikoku and Kyushu, joining the Seto Inland Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The sea has a rugged coastline, offering beautiful vistas of peninsulas and islands. The highly indented coastline also makes it ideal for aquaculture. Pearl oysters have been cultured here for decades, and recently yellowtail and sea bream have been farmed here successfully. Pearl products are available at many places around the Uwakai, but particularly in the small city of Uwajima. The seafood harvested in the bays and inlets is served up in the  charming little eateries in the ports.

The ferry from Osaka to Shikoku

You can get to Shikoku from Honshu, by bridge, by train and by plane. But before these routes were available, there were ships. And by ship is a very nice way to go. The Orange Ferry from Osaka is an especially comfortable way to get to Shikoku. Taking a cabin saves you the cost of a night’s accommodation, and offers a relaxing way to reach your destination.