It’s no understatement to say that we’re dying for travel to be possible again. And when that finally happens, Japan is sure to be one of the top destinations Singaporeans are sure to book flights for.
If city life in Singapore has gotten the better of you, you might be craving a change of scenery. Bookmark Shikoku for your next post-Covid trip if you’re in need of relaxing activities like onsen baths and soaking up gorgeous natural sights. Here are eight zen things to do in Shikoku once when we can all travel again.
Image credit: Iya Onsen
If there’s anything more relaxing than a hot bath, it’s an open air onsen that comes with beautiful scenery to admire while you’re indulging in some self-care. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Iya Onsen, nestled within the scenic Iya Valley. You’ll have to take a cable car down to get there, and the 5-minute ride will be nothing short of panoramic views.
The hot spring water comes directly from the natural spring, and contains a balance of minerals like sulphur, potassium and calcium.
Image credit: Iya Onsen
Visitors can stay overnight at Hotel Iyaonsen to catch the sunrise and enjoy the night sky while soaking in the onsen. All rooms are well-equipped with luxuries like massage chairs for maximum relaxation. There are rooms that come with views of Iya Valley and the mountains, and some of them have their very own private baths.
Image credit: Iyaonsen
Address: 367-28 Matsuo Matumoto Ikeda-cho Miyoshi-shii, Tokushima Prefecture
Telephone: +81 88-375-2311
Hotel Iyaonsen website
Image credit: @cbicamera
Natural crystal clear water is a rare sight to behold, especially for us city folk. That said, you’ll want to pay a visit to Shimanto River for its dream-like riverbank that’s surrounded by hills.
A slew of water sports like rafting, snorkeling and swimming is available all-year-round, but for those who just want to take in the natural sights, a relaxing canoe tour down the river will do the trick. It’s beginner-friendly and suitable for all ages, and some tours even operate during winter.
Price: from ¥2,600/2 hours (~S$33.16) with guided tours available
If you’re paying a visit to Shikoku, a few days’ stay at Shodoshima island is a must. Home to a number of sightseeing spots that include the seaside, mountains and olive plantations, this charming destination is perfect for winding down surrounded nature.
Image credit: @mi_4son
While you’re here, head up to Olive Park, an olive plantation and IG-worthy spot that’s located on top of a hill. You’ll be able to catch gorgeous views of the Seto Inland Sea, and snap quirky pics with the park’s landmark Greek windmill. Be sure to try the park’s signature olive soft serve ice cream, and get your hands on souvenirs made from olives like cosmetics and candy.
Address: 1941-1 Nishimura-kou, Shodoshima-cho, Shozu-gun, 761-4434 Kagawa, Japan
Opening hours: 8.30AM-5PM, Daily
Telephone: +81 879-82-2200
A visit to the seaside is undoubtedly calming, hence our love for beach holidays. Those who love sand, sun and sea will appreciate Angel Road’s natural formation. It’s a sandbar that only appears during low tide, revealing a pathway that leads you to a lone island.
This area is also home to a lookout point called Lover’s Sanctuary, where you can catch stunning views of the sandbar and surrounding waters. Love birds heading there can ring the bell to pledge their love to each other – the romantic backdrop is also a perfect spot for a proposal.
View Angel Road’s ebb tide schedule when you’re planning a visit here.
Address: Ginpaura, Tonosho-cho, Shozu-gun, Kagawa 761-4101, Japan
Whether you’re a nature lover or not, a ride on the Kankakei Ropeway will reward you with spectacular views of the Kankakei Gorge, one of the most beautiful valleys in Japan that’s nestled at the center of Shodoshima island. It’s also the only ropeway in Japan where you’ll get to see the sky, valley and sea all at one go.
Image credit: Kankakei
At the Kankakei summit, there’ll be a slew of things to do such as drinking maple cider, making leaf bookmarks to bring home, and souvenir shopping.
Image credit: Kankakei
You can easily dedicate a whole day to enjoy the views from one of the many hiking and walking trails here. Beginners can follow the zen paved path of the Kankakei Omote 12 Scene Trail to seek out 12 gorgeous viewpoints along the way. This includes spiritual stops like Azukijima Shrine and Kiyotakisan Temple – the 14th of the 88 temples of Shodoshima.
Price: One-way ¥1,050 (~$13.44) | Round Trip ¥1,890 (~$24.19)
Address: 372-1, Otsu, Kankake-dori, Shodoshima-cho Shozugun, Kagawa 761-4433 Japan
Opening hours: 8.30AM-5PM, Daily
Image credit: Kagawa Prefecture Tourism Association
Nothing personifies “zen” more than a 17th-century Japanese garden. Perfect for those looking to clear their mind, Ritsurin Garden is home to ponds, hills, streams, pavilions and ancient buildings that visitors can spend an entire day exploring.
Apart from strolling around, you can take a 30-minute Japanese boat ride (¥520, ~S$6.66/adult, ¥310, ~S$3.97/child) that brings you around the Nanko Pond. A guide decked in traditional wear will talk about the history of the garden during the ride. You can also rent a kimono to fully immerse in the culture and snap photos for the ’gram.
To complete the garden experience, be sure to hit up Hanazono-tei Tea House for a traditional breakfast. Tucked away at the end of the South Garden, this nature-surrounded place serves a special morning congee for early birds who reach there between 7AM-10AM.
Image credit: Art Takamatsu
Connected to the restaurant is a remote tea room, Hanka-tei, which faces the North Pond of the garden, with the glorious Mount Shiun in the background. Its huge open window makes it one of the best spots to view the garden scenery, as it’s the only place where no buildings can be seen – only diners at Hanazono-tei Tea House will get to enjoy it.
If you’re there during winter or spring, you may even chance upon their tea ceremonies that’s free to join. Reservations are a must – simply give them a call to arrange.
Getting there: Take a 3-minute walk from JR Ritsurin Koen Kitaguchi Station.
Address: 1-20-16 Ritsurincho, Takamatsu, Kagawa 760-0073, Japan
Opening hours: Hours based on sunrise to sunset
Telephone: +81 87-833-7411
Price: ¥410/adult (~S$5.23) | ¥170/child (~S$2.17)
Hanazono-tei Tea House
Address: 1-20-3 Ritsurincho, Takamatsu, Kagawa 760-0073, Japan
Opening hours: 8AM-6PM, Daily
Telephone: +81 87-831-5255
Home to the pristine Shimanto River and rolling hills, Shimanto Town’s countryside vibes and natural scenery is calming to say the least. One way to explore the local sights is by renting a bike (¥400/2 hours, ~S$5.11) from Old House Hanpei Cafe.
Image credit: Npo-life
After a scenic bike ride, wind down with a meal at Old House Hanpei Cafe with some authentic local fare. They serve dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients such as their popular Hanpei Tonmai Curry (¥800, ~S$10.20), as well as seasonal desserts such as Handmade Zenzai (¥650, ~S$8.30) which is a type of mochi made locally.
Old House Hanpei Cafe
Address: 2-3 Shigekushimachi, Shimanto-cho, Takaoka-gun, Kochi 786-0004, Japan
Opening hours: Sat – Sun 9AM-5PM (Closed on weekdays)
Telephone: +81 50-8807-5075
Cafe Hanpei website
Most Singaporeans are familiar with miso – the star ingredient of miso soup that’s sure to be served with any Japanese set meal. Foodies can head to the source of miso and take in a behind-the-scenes miso-making tour at the Inoue Kouji Store in Shimanto town.
Up till today, the miso paste here is made using traditional ways without electricity and gas. Instead, they use firewood and wooden barrels to do the deed.
Image credit: Inoue Kouji
Apart from understanding how they produce miso, you can learn the craft at their miso making workshops (from ¥1,000, ~S$12.76). There’s a minimum of three pax required for each workshop, and you can reserve a slot by calling them. They also sell a variety of miso made from rice and wheat as well as miso-making kits that you can bring home.
Inoue Kouji Store
Address: 21 Rokutanji, Shimanto-cho, Takaoka-gun District, Kochi 786-0035, Japan
Opening hours: 9AM-6PM, Daily
Telephone: +81 880-22-8210
Inoue Kouji Store website
Many of us will be in need of some R&R once the Covid-19 situation is fully under control and we can travel the world again. For some truly zen vibes and self-care, take a trip to Shikoku, where tons of natural sights and relaxing activities await you.
Those who love immersing themselves in local culture will also revel in the many peaceful spiritual sites such as the Iwamotoji Temple that’s more than 200 years old. Shikoku is known for its 1,200KM 88-temple Buddhist pilgrimage route, so you can bet that you’ll be able to clear your mind amid historic structures and quiet paths.
Activities like traditional Japanese paper-making known as Tosa washi, and cutlery making are also available within Kochi prefecture for visitors who appreciate artisanal craftsmanship.
While you’re here, soak in the full experience at the local hotels. There are options like Auberge Tosayama that’s surrounded by nature, set against the backdrop of Mount Kuishi with the Kagami River flowing through the hotel.
Travel may still be on the backburner for now, but it never hurts to plan ahead to take on 2021 with lots of positivity. Good news is, you can now take a free virtual tour around Shikoku on 21st February 2021, 2PM-3.30PM by tuning in to the Shikoku Wellness Virtual Tour.
This tour will take you through the unique things to do on Shikoku, such as the Japanese Tosa Washi making and Yamaroku Soy Sauce Brewery. For an experience that combines both nature and wellness for the mind and body, check out the virtual tour and mark down Shikoku for your next trip post-Covid.
This post was brought to you by Kagawa Prefecture Tourism Association, Iya Valley and Other Wonders (Tokushima), Kochi Visitors & Convention Association.
Cover image adapted from: Kankakei, Iya Onsen, Shimanto Kankou & Matcha-jp
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