The smallest of Japan's big four islands, Shikoku is often overlooked by tourists for its lack of development. However, its mountainous interior is a paradise for outdoor adventurers looking to hike scenic valleys, raft down rivers, relax in hot springs, and visit ancient castles and temples.
Shikoku is most famous as the home of the breathtaking 88 Temples Pilgrimage Circuit, a 1,000-mile (1,609km) route that loops around the island, passing by 88 temples, and an additional 20 smaller temples and shrines. An estimated 100,000 pilgrims each year make the circuit, and while most travel by bus, some opt to trek the route on foot, which takes roughly 60 days.
Despite its reputation as a Japanese backwater, there are several cities on Shikoku worth visiting, including Matsuyama, home to the Matsuyama Castle and the famous Dogo Onsen hot springs; Takamatsu, which has beautiful Edo-period gardens; and Tokushima, site of the annual Awa-odori festival and close to the whirlpools of Naruto. All of the larger cities on Shikoku have good restaurants and shopping, though not on a par with cities like Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo.
Shikoku's tourism industry is still small; however, many travellers use this as an opportunity to see a more authentic Japan that isn't focused on foreign visitors. Travellers willing to go a little way off the beaten path will find a holiday on Shikoku a richly rewarding experience.