With a name that translates literally to mean “four provinces”, the four prefectures of Shikoku -Tokushima, Ehime, Kochi and Kagawa – while uniquely distinct, all offer refreshingly sweet waters, lush virgin forests, and warm hospitality. Unlike the more cosmopolitan cities in Japan that have a tendency to make you feel hemmed in or overly hassled, Shikoku’s heart beats to a mellower drum, promising historical castles and storybook gardens. Come autumn, the landscape changes hue to a brilliant palette of crimsons and ochre. The only island of Japan without any volcanoes, Shikoku’s terrain has traditionally been used to cultivate a variety of citrus fruits and wheat.
Be sure to sample some of the stellar local delicacies, including the famous Sanuki udon, renowned for its bouncy bite and clean taste; tataki, flame roasted bonito steak; and local sakes that are deliciously silky and fragrant thanks to the pristine waters of the Shimanto River. One of the many highlights of Shikoku is its dedicated ‘art island’, Benesse Art Site Naoshima, a heaven for modern art lovers with multiple museums and installation pieces scattered across the island.
The Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House and Lee Ufan Museum all house a great selection of contemporary art (most of which are of the tilt-your-head-to-appreciate variety), with many of these buildings designed by renowned Japanese architect Ando Tadao. The Art House Project is a particularly fascinating collection of art installations depicting different themes, from the magic of light to the beauty of time.