From Hiroshima to Kobe: A 3-day self-drive through Shikoku
Shikoku (四国) is one of the best places in Japan for a road-trip, and its connections to the main island of Honshu (本州) make it easy to reach via shinkansen (新幹線). With the Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass, you can hop on the Sanyo Shinkansen (山陽新幹線 Sanyō Shinkansen) from Osaka (大阪市 Ōsaka-shi) to Hiroshima (広島市 Hiroshima-shi), explore the sights of Miyajima (宮島) for a day before embarking on your road trip. Head to Shin-Onomichi Station (新尾道駅 Shin-Onomichi-eki) on the Sanyo Shinkansen to pick up your rental car. There, you'll begin your 3-day road trip adventure across the Shimanami Kaido going through the four prefectures of Shikoku: Ehime (愛媛県 Ehime-ken), Kochi (高知県 Kōchi-ken), Kagawa (香川県 Kagawa-ken), and Tokushima (徳島県 Tokushima-ken). Enjoy a peaceful respite on the restful island of Shikoku with great food, nature, and udon (うどん) making!
Day 1: Across the Shimanami Kaidō
A map of the Shimanami Kaidō. (Image credit: Shimanami Japan Inc.)
From Shin-Onomichi Station, hop onto your rental car and make a beeline for the Shimanami Kaidō (しまなみ海道), a series of bridges that connect the main island of Honshu to Shikoku across six islands: Mukaishima (向島), Innoshima (因島), Ikuchijima (生口島), Ōmishima (大三島), Hakatajima (伯方島) and Ōshima (大島).
Enjoy some local wagashi (和菓子, Japanese sweets) with a view! (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
First off, make a pitstop on Innoshima for a light breakfast snack at Hassakuya (はっさく屋), famous for their homemade hassaku daifuku (はっさく大福) for ¥160. Each piece is made by hand, and this wagashi has a hassaku (八朔) orange in the centre, covered in shiroan (白餡 white bean paste), with a chewy mochi (餅) skin. The hassaku are picked local in Innoshima and the daifuku perfectly balances out the sourness of the hassaku with the sweetness of the white bean paste, not to mention the juiciness of the hassaku complementing the chewiness of the mochi skin.
Address: 246-1 Innoshima-ohamacho, Onomichi, Hiroshima 722-2101
Nearest station: Onomichi Station (尾道駅)
Access: 30-minute drive from the station
Opening hours: 8.30am–5pm (Closed Monday and Tuesday)
Tel: +81 845-24-0715
A yummy bowl of seafood. You can almost smell and taste this photo… (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
Two islands later on Ōmishima, you can find a 35-year-old seafood restaurant, Yoshikawa (よし川). Their kaisendon teishoku (海鮮丼定食) for ¥1,400 gives you the best bang for buck, with the chef’s selection of the freshest seafood from the Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海 Seto Naikai) topped with a raw egg yolk. You’ll get a good mixture of local fish, shellfish, and best of all, it’s complemented by their in-house dashi shōyu (出汁醤油) made with a blend of ikura (いくら fish roe), kaki (牡蠣 oysters), and ika (イカ squid).
Address: 5714-15 Omishimacho Miyaura, Imabari, Ehime 794-1304
Nearest station: Hashihama Station (波止浜駅)
Opening hours: 11am–2:30pm
Tel: +81 897-82-0392
Every view along the Shimanami Kaidō is postcard-worthy. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
Driving along the Shimanami Kaidō isn’t just about getting from place A to place B, but about exploring the various islands, stopping at random spots, and catching amazing views like these.
Few onsen ooze as much tradition as Dōgo Onsen. (Image credit: photoAC)
End the day soaking in the 100-year-old Dōgo Onsen (道後温泉), said to be one of the main inspirations for Miyazaki Hayao’s (宮崎 駿) 2001 film, “Spirited Away” (千と千尋の神隠し Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). You can soak in both the water and the atmosphere on the first two floors. There’s even a guided tour of the Yushinden (又新殿), a special section reserved only for the Japanese Imperial Family (皇室 Kōshitsu).
Dōgo Onsen (道後温泉)
Address: 5-6 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0842
Nearest station: Dōgo Onsen Station (道後温泉駅)
Access: 7-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 6am–11pm
Admission fee: From ¥420 (Entrance fee for bath), ¥260 (Guided tour of the Yushinden)
Tel: +81 899-21-5141
Note: Dōgo Onsen is currently undergoing restoration works, and different parts of the building might not be open for visitors until 2025.
Day 2: Across the island of Shikoku
The different mikan (みかん mandarin oranges) juices are differentiated by their levels of sweetness, sourness, and acidity. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
Kick off the morning with a refreshing mikan juice tasting at 10Factory, where you can try orange juice made from three different types of mikan for ¥500. It’s also a great spot for souvenirs, with mikan juice gift sets, mikan-flavoured coffee, mikan tea, mikan beer, and basically anything mikan you can think of.
Address: 3-2-25 Okaido, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0004
Nearest station: Ōkaidō Station (大街道駅)
Access: 4-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 10am–6pm
Tel: +81 899-68-2031
The serenity of the gorge really earns the reputation of being a power spot. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
Next, take in the great outdoors at Nakatsu Gorge (中津渓谷 Nakatsu Keikoku). This easy hike goes for about 40 minutes, without many inclines apart from the occasional stairs. The gorge runs along a clear blue river with the trail criss-crossing over the river (and sometimes even bridges without handrails). There’s also a small waterfall, Uryu Falls (雨竜の滝 Uryū no Taki), at the end to reward you for your hard work.
Nakatsu Gorge (中津渓谷)
Address: Nanokawa, Niyodogawa, Agawa-gun, Kochi 781-1741
Nearest station: Nishi-Sakawa Station (西佐川駅)
Access: 35-minute bus ride from Nanokawa bus stop via the Kuroiwa Kanko Bus, followed by a 10-minute walk.
(Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
Catch the sunset at Chichibugama Beach (父母ヶ浜), one of the most popular sunset spots in Shikoku. You can also get some kakigōri (かき氷 shaved ice), coffee, or pastries in one of the cafes along the beach as you watch the sunset.
Chichibugama Beach (父母ヶ浜)
Address: 203-3 Otsu Niocho Nio, Mitoyo, Kagawa 769-1404
Nearest station: Takuma Station (詫間駅)
Access: 25-minute bus ride on the Nio Line (仁尾線)
The meal truly achieving the goshiki (五色 five colours) concept of Japanese cuisine. (Image credit: Chan Qiu Qing)
Lastly, dig into honetsuki dori (骨付鳥 chicken with bone attached), a Kagawa specialty, at 70-year-old restaurant, Ikkaku (一鶴). Grilled for a crispy skin on the outside, and a juicy inside, you can choose between oyadori (親鳥) for ¥941 and hinadori (ひな鳥) for ¥1,062. Hinadori is a young chicken, with a soft and tender texture, similar to the regular type of chicken you would find. Oyadori is chewier and tougher, with a heavier and thicker umami from the chicken meat.
Address: 317 Hamamachi, Marugame, Kagawa 763-0022
Nearest station: Marugame Station (丸亀駅)
Access: 3-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 11am–1.45pm, 5pm–9.30pm (Weekdays, Closed on Tuesdays), 11am–9.30pm (Weekends)
Tel: +81 877-22-9111
Day 3: Across noodles & whirlpools
A for effort; F for cutting skills. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
No trip to Kagawa would be complete without their signature sanuki udon (讃岐うどん). To figure out the secret behind their chewy texture, you can give udon-making a shot at Nakano Udon School Takamatsu (中野うどん学校 高松校 Nakano-udongakkō Takamatsu-kō) from mixing and kneading the dough, to cutting it. They’ll also teach you the secret to making chewy udon: stepping on it during the kneading process. Don’t worry, the dough is within a ziplock bag for hygiene purposes.
Nakano Udon School Takamatsu (中野うどん学校 高松校)
Address: 8 Nariaicho, Takamatsu, Kagawa 761-8081
Nearest station: Enza Station (円座駅)
Access: 20-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 9am–5pm
Admission fee: ¥1,760
Tel: +81 878-85-3200
(Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
After a morning of hard labour churning out udon, give an expert’s udon a try at Fugetsu (風月). Their most popular dish is the Kashiwa Ten Oroshi Udon (かしわ天おろしうどん) for ¥750, a hearty and simple dish with cold, chewy udon, topped with kashiwa tempura (かしわ天ぷら Japanese brown rooster meat tempura) in a crispy light batter. Be sure to head there early, because a long line forms during lunch time.
Address: 4−13 Konyamachi, Takamatsu, Kagawa 760-0027
Nearest station: Takamatsu Station (高松駅)
Access: 10-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 11:15am–2pm (Closed on Sunday)
Tel: +81 905-716-4445
Be sure to check for the peak timings before going. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
One of Tokushima’s icons is the Naruto Whirlpools (鳴門の渦潮 Naruto no Uzushio), the natural phenomena that has inspired narutomaki (鳴門巻き), the white fishcake with a pink swirl, and the iconic manga Naruto. You can view them up-close and personal via a ferry, or from above on a glass-bottomed walkway. The Uzushio Sightseeing Ferry (うずしお観潮船 Uzushio-kanshio-sen) brings you right next to the whirlpools as it weaves through and around the whirlpools. The Uzu no Michi (渦の道) gives you a bird’s eye view of the whirlpool, letting you appreciate the spiral shape moving in all its glory.
Uzushio Sightseeing Ferry (うずしお観潮船)
Address: 264-1 Oge Narutocho Tosadomariura, Naruto, Tokushima 772-0053
Nearest station: Naruto Station (鳴門駅)
Access: 20-minute bus ride from the station
Opening hours: 9am–4.20pm (Subject to weather conditions)
Admission fee: ¥1,800
Tel: +81 88-687-0101
Uzu no Michi (渦の道)
Address: Narutokouennai, Naruto, Tokushima 772-0053
Nearest station: Naruto Station (鳴門駅)
Access: 20-minute bus ride from the station, followed by 8-minute walk
Opening hours: 9am–6pm (Changes by season)
Admission fee: ¥1,510
Tel: +81 88-683-6262
Back to Honshu
(Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
End your road trip by driving across the Onaruto Bridge (大鳴門橋 Ōnaruto-kyō), above the whirlpools, through Awaji Island, across the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge (明石海峡大橋 Akashi Kaikyō Ōhashi), one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, and into Kobe.
After a fulfilling 3-day journey of food, sights, and wonders, you can resume your rail journey from Shin-Kobe Station (新神戸駅 Shin-Kōbe-eki), hopping back onto the Sanyō Shinkansen for more adventures!
Header image credit: Jeremy Jee