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Referencing Shikoku Island, acclaimed travel writer Don George wrote, “[It’s] a Japan I hadn’t known existed: a place of farms and fishing villages, mountainside shrines and seaside temples, rugged seacoasts and forested hills.” On this 12-day journey, we unlock the secrets to Japan's smallest and most rural main island. Don himself is leading our spring departures, which are timed to coincide with magnificently blooming cherry blossoms and azaleas.
We begin in Kyoto, spending our first few days exploring one of the country’s best preserved cities. We visit splendid Saiho-ji Temple and its famous moss garden, stroll the cherry tree-lined Philosopher’s Path and embark on an evening walking tour of Gion, immortalized in Memoirs of a Geisha. After stepping out for a visit to nearby Nara and its glorious temples, we return for a culinary jaunt through Kyoto's celebrated outdoor Nishiki Market.
Next, we venture via bullet train and ferry to remote Shikoku Island, where Don's wife was raised. We tour a centuries-old castle, explore a pilgrimage path, and wander along Cape Ashizuri’s granite cliffs. Perhaps best of all, we ramble through the verdant and stunning Iya Valley, hiking lush trails, crossing vine bridges, soaking in soothing onsens and experiencing traditional Japanese living at an enchanting ancient farmhouse.
Read accounts of this trip by a GeoEx staffer.
Itinerary at a Glance
- Day 1:
arrive in Osaka, to Kyoto by train
- Day 2:
Arashiyama’s temples and famed moss garden
- Days 3 & 4:
explore Kyoto, visit Nara temples
- Day 5:
bullet train and ferry to Shikoku
- Day 6:
Matsuyama tour, drive to Cape Ashizuri via coast and villages
- Day 7:
Cape Ashizuri exploring and time at leisure
- Day 8:
drive to Kochi with cultural stops en route
- Days 9 & 10:
into the Iya Valley, explore trails and hot springs
- Day 11:
drive to Takamatsu via Kotohira
- Day 12:
drive to Osaka, depart.