• A Four-Day Tour of  Setouchi’s Art Islands, Dogo Onsen and the Shimanami Kaido


A Four-Day Tour of Setouchi’s Art Islands, Dogo Onsen and the Shimanami Kaido

Recommended Length: 4 Days

This four-day tour will give you an insight into the unique art, history, and culture of the Setouchi region. Explore the vibrant art scene of Setouchi’s art islands, relax in the hot springs at Dogo Onsen and cross the famous Shimanami Kaido island chain that connects Imabari on Shikoku with Onomichi on Honshu.

Day 1

Travel: Osaka to Naoshima

・Take the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Okayama Station (Approx 50 minutes)
・Take the local train from Okayama Station to Uno Port (changing at Chayamachi Station) (Approx 40 minutes)
・Take the ferry from Uno Port to Miyaura Port on Naoshima (Approx 1 hour)

Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House Museum, Art House Project

Chichu Art Museum Photo: FUJITSUKA Mitsumasa

Benesse House Photo: Tadasu Yamamoto

Art House Project “Haisha” Shinro Ohtake"Dreaming Tongue BOKKON-NOZOKI" Photo: Ken'ichi Suzuki

People travel from far and wide to visit Naoshima – the most famous of Setouchi’s ‘Art Islands.’ Naoshima’s appeal is enriched by Tadao Ando’s unique architecture that houses so many of the artworks and museums. In the Chichu Art Museum, natural light and Tadao Ando’s architecture add another dimension to the masterpieces by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria, and James Turrell on display. The Benesse House Museum houses an incredible array of work by contemporary artists including works by Yayoi Kusama and Andy Warhol. Make sure you leave enough time to visit Naoshima’s Art House Project. This art initiative transforms traditional Japanese houses into art spaces.

Accommodation: Naoshima Ryokan Roka

A ten-minute-walk from Naoshima’s Honmura Port, Naoshima Ryokan Roka is a beautifully designed, high-end ryokan hotel that opened in April 2022. This is the perfect accommodation for art lovers looking for luxury accommodation on the island. Each suite comes with an open-air bath with artworks and installations by upcoming contemporary Japanese artists displayed throughout the building.

The ryokan is curated to reflect both the island's art culture and traditional Japan. The name Roka comes from the Japanese for hearth (ro) combined with the Japanese for woodland mist (ka). The concept is to create an accommodation where people and art can come together in one space.

The restaurant’s kaiseki menu is full of fresh local seafood and seasonal vegetables. Naoshima Ryokan Roka also provides a delicious vegan menu.

URL: https://roka.voyage/en/

Day 2

Travel: Naoshima to Shodoshima

・Take the ferry from Naoshima to the island of Shodoshima. Charter ferries can make the journey in approx 45 minutes.
・By public transport, take the ferry from Naoshima (Miyaura Port) to Teshima (Ieura Port) and then another ferry to Shodoshima (Tonosho Port).

・Find local ferry information in English here

・The best way to get the most out of a visit to Shodoshima is by rental car or chartered taxi.

Art Installations, Yamaroku Soysauce, MORIKUNI, Sekimondo Temple, Kankakei Gorge

Kankakei Gorge and Ropeway in Autumn

Yamaroku Soy Sauce Production

Yamaroku Soy Sauce Barrels

Morikuni Sake Brewery Cafe

Morikuni Cafe and Sake Tasting Area

Morikuni Sake Brewery Cafe Inside

The enchanting island of Shodoshima, listed as a top green destination, is full of cultural, historical and natural wonders waiting to be discovered. The island also plays a central part in the Setouchi Triennale art event and many art installations are dotted throughout the island. Visit Yamaroku Soy Sauce to witness traditional soy sauce production in enormous wooden barrels. In recent years, Yamaroku’s artisanal soy sauce is gaining global recognition and demand is skyrocketing.

MORIKUNI is a renowned Shodoshima sake brewery and restaurant. You can taste a selection of fine Japanese sake along with a delicious meal. Their shop also stocks an extensive range of sake to take home. Like the Ohenro Pilgrimage on Shikoku, Shodoshima has its own 88-sacred-site pilgrimage route. One such site is Sekimon-do Temple, a Buddhist sanctuary and a haven for quiet contemplation and reflection. To fully experience the natural splendor of Shodoshima, head up to Kankakei Gorge with its majestic peaks and panoramic views.

Olive Beef and Olive Hamachi

As you travel around Shodoshima, you will notice the vast olive groves growing on the hillsides - a testament to the island’s flourishing olive oil industry. This thriving business has led to positive changes to some other branches of food production in Shodoshima.

Olive feed made from the leftovers of olive oil production is fed to wagyu beef cattle to create a succulent and tender meat full of umami. The flavor profile of Olive Beef has received plaudits from chefs and customers from all over Japan.

A similar type of olive feed is also fed to farmed yellowtail (hamachi) to create Olive Hamachi. The olives improve the hamachi’s quality resulting in more collagen in the muscles compared to other types of farmed fish. A trip to Shodoshima is not complete until you try both of these delicious island delicacies.

Accommodation: Olivean Shodoshima Yuhigaoka Hotel

Enjoy incredible views of the Seto Inland Sea islands and stunning sunsets from the recently refurbished suites on the Olivean Shodoshima Yuhigaoka Hotel’s Executive Floor. Soaking in the slightly alkaline waters of the on site hot springs will soak away the tiredness of travel and is a treat for your skin.

URL: https://olivean.com/en/

Day 3
Takamatsu and Dogo Onsen

Travel: Shodoshima to Takamatsu

・Take the ferry from Shodoshima (Tonosho Port) to Takamatsu Port (Approx 1 hour)

・Find local ferry information in English here

Ritsurin Garden

Enjoy traditional Japanese tea and a tranquil boat ride in Takamatsu’s world-renowned 400-year-old Ritsurin Garden. Famous for its picture postcard views and hundreds of well-manicured pine trees, Ritsurin Garden is designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and received a glowing three-star review in the Michelin Green Guide Japan.

Bonsai or Sanuki Udon Noodle Experience

You have two great options for a traditional workshop experience in Takamatsu.

Bonsai at Takumikumo in Kinashi Town

Bonsai or Sanuki Udon Noodle Experience

After wandering among the pine trees of Ritsurin Garden, check out some in miniature in the nearby town of Kinashi. Takamatsu is said to produce 80% of Japan’s bonsai pines and Kinashi Town is the home of Takamatsu Bonsai. Nakanishi Chinshoen’s fifth generation-owner Yoichi Nakanishi is keen to help visitors interact with bonsai to learn more about this age-old craft. At Takumikumo Village, visitors can explore a forest of exquisite bonsai trees and leave with a newfound understanding of the philosophy, skill and patience needed to create these living masterpieces.

2.5 hour tour of the gardens and nursery, led by a bonsai master, followed by your choice of cultural experience (choose from creating your own bonsai moss ball, trying kintsugi golden joinery, making wagashi sweets, lacquerware or uchiwa fans) are available with 2 weeks advance notice.

Beautifully prepared lunches and dinners, using seasonal ingredients and served on artisanal tableware can also be arranged for groups of 4 people or more (Halal, vegetarian, vegan options also available) with 2 weeks advance notice.

URL: https://v.takumikumo.com

Make your own Sanuki Udon Noodles at Nakano Udon School

Travel: Takamatsu to Matsuyama and Dogo Onsen

・The Ishizuchi Limited Express service is the fastest train service from Takamatsu to Matsuyama (Approx 2 hours 30 minutes)
・Dogo Onsen is 30-40 minutes by streetcar or 15 minutes by taxi from Matsuyama Station.

Start your visit to Matsuyama with a trip to the iconic Dogo Onsen, one of Japan's oldest and most revered hot springs. Step into the beautifully preserved Dogo Onsen Honkan, a historic bathhouse that has welcomed visitors for centuries. After feeling rejuvenated by the hot springs, treat yourself to a taste of Matsuyama's local craft beer. Sample the rich and distinctive flavors created by local brewers who try to incorporate local ingredients and flavors into the beer.

Matsuyama’s sea bream rice and goshiki somen noodles

Matsuyama is known for its delicious cuisine and these two dishes are held in high esteem. To create the sea bream rice (tai-meshi), sea bream and kelp are slow-cooked with the rice, infusing the whole dish with umami-rich flavors. Before serving, some regions around Matsuyama arrange raw slices of sea bream on top while others mix carrot and fried tofu into the rice.

Goshiki somen noodles come in five bright colors – brown, green, red, yellow and white. They achieve the different colors by kneading various ingredients into the noodles, such as matcha tea, mandarin oranges and ume plums.

Both goshiki somen noodles and sea bream rice can be ordered at Goshiki, 5 minutes walk south of Okaido streetcar stop fairly close to Matsuyama Castle.

Accommodation: Yamatoya Besso

Nestled in the heart of Matsuyama, Yamatoya Besso is an elegant ryokan hotel steeped in Japanese tradition and hospitality. The ryokan's rooms are built entirely out of Japanese cypress creating a calming atmosphere. The attentive staff will welcome you and attend to your every need during your stay. You can also indulge in the culinary delights of Yamatoya Besso, where kaiseki meals are skillfully crafted with the finest local ingredients.

URL: https://yamatoyabesso.com

Day 4
Shimanami Kaido and Onomichi

Travel: Matsuyama to Imabari

・Take the Shiokaze Limited Express train from Matsuyama Station to Imabari Station (Approx 40 minutes)

Cycle the Shimanami Kaido on E-bikes

Shimanami Kaido - Kurshima Straits Bridge

E-bikes are now widely available for rent along the Shimanami Kaido

Oyamazumi Shirine on Omishima Island

WAKKA on Omishima

Take a break at WAKKA's stylish cafe

From island hopping by ferry to island hopping by bicycle! Set off on a cycling adventure along the world-famous Shimanami Kaido that connects Onomichi on Honshu to Imabari in Shikoku via a chain of six islands linked by a series of impressive bridges. E-bikes allow you to enjoy the benefits of cycling without enduring the full weight of the uphill climbs.

Setting off from Imabari, you will be awestruck by the magnificent Kurushima Kaikyo Bridges - a series of three suspension bridges that spans 4km crosses the Seto Inland Sea from Imabari to Oshima. As you cycle through delightful coastal towns and villages, citrus groves, and idyllic beaches, make sure to stop and relax in the roadside cafes and restaurants to sample some local delicacies. Explore the charming Oyamazumi Shrine on Omishima, a sacred site renowned for its impressive collection of samurai armor and weaponry.

The largest of the Shimanami islands, the best way to get the most out of Omishima is to contact WAKKA ahead of time to arrange a tour or a bike expedition. As well as their own rental bikes and high end accommodation, WAKKA’s bike and luggage transportation service allows for great flexibility when exploring the Shimanami Kaido.

Travel: Omishima to Setoda

・Travel the approx 10 km from WAKKA to Setoda by bicycle or chartered taxi


Exploring Setoda

Kosanji Temple in Setoda

Kojoji Temple pagoda in Setoda

Kousanji is a fascinating temple complex known for its colorful architectural motifs and serene atmosphere. Marvel at the intricate sculptures, stunning gardens, and tranquil ponds that make Kosanji a popular destination. Continue to the Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art, where you can see masterpieces by the acclaimed Setoda-born artist famous for his dreamy Silk Road paintings. Finally, quieten the mind with Zen meditation and sutra copying at Kojoji Temple.

Travel: Setoda to Onomichi

・Take the ferry from Setoda Port to Onomichi Port (Approx 40 minutes)

Refuel at U2 Cycle Cafe

Whether you visit the temples and cats on Mt Senkoji, the retro shopping arcade, or the stylish boutique hotels and restaurants, Onomichi has something for everyone. Begin your adventure at Onomichi U2, a repurposed warehouse that has been transformed into a must-visit destination. The complex boasts stylish shops, a restaurant and the Hotel Cycle – a chic hotel designed and built for cyclists. Ride the ropeway to the top of Mt Senkoji for a panoramic view of Onomichi and Mukaishima Island across the strait. Stroll along the retro shopping arcade and explore the maze of alleyways branching off the main street. If you can find it, try to visit Tea Stand Gen, a charming tea shop with a loyal fanbase who travel from far and wide to sample the delicious organically grown teas.

LOG, a boutique hotel designed by renowned architect Bijoy Jain, sits halfway up on Mt. Senkoji overlooking Onomichi. This one-of-a-kind accommodation is the perfect choice for anyone looking to spend an extra night in Onomichi.