• Art, Nature and Thills on this Four-day Journey to Shikoku and Setouchi’s Art Islands


Art, Nature and Thills on this Four-day Journey to Shikoku and Setouchi’s Art Islands

Recommended Length: 4 Days

Journey to Shikoku from Osaka through the lesser-traveled, eclectic Awaji Island, where you can climb a 300m high bridge, take a whirlpool cruise and enjoy a Zen experience like no other in Japan. In Tokushima, explore the prefectural capitals' culture of dance and try indigo dying in a traditional village, before immersing yourself in the spectacular Iya Valley. The second half 4-day itinerary includes visits to the world renowned ‘Art Islands’ of ’Naoshima and Teshima.

Day 1
Awaji Island and Naruto

Travel: Osaka to Awaji Island

・Take the JR Kobe Line Special Rapid Service from Osaka to Akashi, the gateway to Awaji Island (37 minutes)
・Awaji Island is best explored by rental car chartered taxi.

Climb the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

When the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge opened in 1998 linking Kobe on the mainland to Awaji Island, it had the longest span of any suspension bridge in the world. As well as its length, the enormous support towers on the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge rise an astounding 300m above sea level. You can ascend the towers if you sign up for the Bridge World tour run by bridge operators Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Company Ltd. This thrilling tour will take you underneath the road section and up the towers to the viewing platform at the top. The panoramic view from the platform is astounding. This is not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights!

URL: https://www.jb-honshi.co.jp/english/bridgeworld/

Zen Meditation at Zenbo Seinei

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, Zenbo Seinei is a Zen retreat and wellness facility on Awaji Island. The incredible wooden deck jutting out from a ridge removes the boundaries between you and the surrounding countryside. This is the perfect place to practice Zen meditation and realign yourself with nature. They also offer original, healthy, vegan “Zenbo Cuisine”, and accommodation options. They have different plans available so make sure to check their website before you go.

URL: https://zenbo-seinei.com

Naruto Whirlpool Cruise

You’ve been to the heights of the Akashi Bridge; now experience the Naruto Straits at sea level! The Naruto Straits see some of the largest tidal shifts in the world, creating the famous Naruto whirlpools. Although you can see the whirlpools from up high on the bridge, going on a whirlpool cruise is by far the best way to get up close to these iconic eddies. There are a number of different cruise operators running out of Naruto and they adjust departure times to match the tidal changes.

Accommodation: Hotel Ridge

Stay overnight at the Hotel Ridge, a secluded wellness resort with stunning views of the Naruto whirlpools and the Naruto Ohashi Bridge. Everything at Hotel Ridge has been curated to make your stay as relaxing as possible. The hotel suite’s minimalist design and unobstructed views of the Seto Inland Sea all add to the general feeling of serenity. At dinner, the attention to detail in the presentation of the kaiseki meal will take your breath away. Treat your tastebuds to an ensemble of fresh seasonal ingredients. Along with their natural hot spring spa, Hotel Ridge offers guests thalassotherapy massages and treatments that harness the soothing properties of the sea.

URL: https://hotelridge.jp

Day 2
Tokushima, Wakimachi and Iya Valley

Travel: Naruto to Tokushima

・Take a local train from Naruto Station to Tokushima Station (Approx 40 minutes)

Dance the Awa Odori at the Awa Odori Kaikan

The Awa Odori is a festive dance famous for its energy and high-tempo music. The dance originated in Tokushima and every August over a million revelers attend the city’s Awa Odori Dance Festival making it one of the biggest festivals in Japan. Whatever the time of year, you can visit the Awa Odori Kaikan Hall to see live dance performances and take to the stage yourself to learn the Awa Odori from the professionals.

URL: https://www.awaodori-kaikan.jp

Travel: Tokushima to Wakimachi Town in Miwa City

・Take the Tsurugisan Limited Express train to Anabuki Station (Approx 40 minutes)
・Take a taxi to Wakimachi (Approx 10 minutes)

Explore Wakimachi Udatsu Street and Try Aizome Indigo Dyeing

Wakimachi, Udatsu Street

Aizome indigo dyeing workshop in Wakimachi

Mima-shi Kanko Koryu Center

The town of Wakimachi was the heart of Tokushima’s aizome indigo dyeing industry during the Edo period (1603-1868).

Tokushima (formerly known as Awa) has been a center of indigo dye production for around 800 years. The land, well-irrigated by the Yoshino River, is ideal for growing the indigo plant (ai) from which the natural dye is extracted. Demand was ensured by a statute that Indigo blue was one of the few colors samurai were allowed to wear during the Edo period (1603-1868). As techniques improved Awa-ai became renowned for its quality and merchants in towns like Wakimachi prospered.

The historical Udatsu Street in the center of the town is an illustration of the wealth the industry generated. Udatsu is the name given to the earthen firebreaks fixed between the houses, but here in Wakimachi they also served as ornate signifiers of wealth. Walking the streets of Wakimachi is a delight as many of the period buildings have been beautifully preserved and restored.

You can try your hand at indigo dyeing yourself at the Mima-shi Kankokoryu Center. You can dye and create patterns on your very own indigo handkerchief and browse other aizome products for sale in the shop.

Travel: Wakimachi to Iya Valley

・Take the train from Anabuki Station to Oboke Station, changing trains at Awa-Ikeda Station (Approx 1-2 hours)
・Taxis or rental cars are recommended when traveling around Iya Valley.

Iya Kazurabashi Vine Bridge

If you have your own transport, be sure to visit Iya’s famous Kazurabashi suspension bridge – a woven vine bridge spanning 45 meters across the Iya River.

Accommodation: Hotel Iya Onsen

This magnificent hotel with views of the Iya Valley stretching into the distance is the perfect way to take in the beauty of the Iya Valley in comfort and luxury. One of the highlights of a stay at Iya Onsen is the cable car journey down the mountain to their open-air bath next to the flowing Iya River. In autumn, you will be treated to a spectacle of color as the trees around the hotel turn into bright hues of red and gold.

The cuisine at Hotel Iya Onsen is second to none. Using only the best seasonal ingredients from the region, you will be treated to an unforgettable culinary experience.

Hotel Iya Onsen provides a shuttle service between the hotel and Oboke Station (once a day, in each direction) by reservation. The bus takes approximately 30 minutes.

URL: https://www.iyaonsen.co.jp/en

Day 3
Takamatsu and Naoshima

Travel: Iya Valley to Takamatsu

・Take the train from Oboke Station Takamatsu Station (Approx 1 hour 25 minutes - 2 hours)
・As there is no direct train, please check schedules for where to change trains.

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 at Takumikumo in Kinashi Town

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

Travel: Takamatsu to Naoshima

・Take a ferry from Takamatsu Port to Miyaura Port on Naoshima (Car ferry 50 minutes, high speed passenger ferry 30 minutes)

Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House Museum, Art House Project

Chichu Art Museum Photo: FUJITSUKA Mitsumasa

Benesse House Oval Photo: Osamu Watanabe

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: Benesse House

Benesse House Photo: Tadasu Yamamoto

Benesse House seamlessly merges contemporary art, high-end hospitality and Naoshima’s natural landscape in a unified space. Today, Benesse House is the leading destination for art lovers from around the world.

Designed by architect Tadao Ando, Benesse House has four accommodation types for you to choose from: Museum, Oval, Park, and Beach. As the name suggests, Museum joined to the actual museum, meaning you are never far from the artwork in Benesse Museum’s impressive collection.

Guests access the Oval via a monorail from the museum. Ando built Oval on the top of the hill, giving guests spectacular views from every window. Park looks out across a wide lawn adorned with art installations, with the sea glistening in the background. Beach is the closest accommodation to the sea where you will be soothed by the sound of gently lapping waves.

The restaurants at Benesse House offer a range of high-quality dishes using the best ingredients sourced from the region’s top producers. Throughout your stay at Benesse House, you will encounter contemporary artworks and installations at every turn.

URL: https://benesse-artsite.jp/en/stay/

Day 4

Travel: Naoshima to Teshima

・Take the ferry from Miyaura Port on Naoshima to Ieura Port on Teshima (Approx 20 minutes)

・Find ferry information in English here.

Teshima Art Museum and Shima Kitchen

Teshima Art Museum Photo: Noboru Morikawa

Ryo Abe "Shima Kitchen" Photo: Kimito Takahashi

The result of a collaboration between artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum features a single, smooth concrete shell with no pillars. The oval windows create a bridge between the interior of the structure and the natural landscape outside. Your experience within the museum is influenced directly by the changing seasons and weather outside, meaning no two visits to the site will ever feel the same.

The restaurant Shima Kitchen aims to connect people through food and art. Shima Kitchen was created by architect Ryo Abe during the Setouchi International Art Festival 2010 and serves lunch on weekends, Mondays and public holidays. Run by local residents, it is a great place to feel the local community vibe. They also host regular performances and other events throughout the year. Make sure to check their website for opening hours and event information before you go.

Travel: Teshima to Okayama

・Take the ferry from Teshima to Uno Port (Car ferry approx 40 minutes, high speed passenger ferry approx 25 minutes)
・Take a local train from Uno Station to Okayama Station (Approx 50 minutes)

La Malle de Bois

Continue the artistic theme by taking this retro-styled scenic train that makes the journey from Uno to Okayama on a limited number of days during the year. Should your visit coincide with one of these days, consider making a reservation and booking yourself a fresh seafood lunch box or sweets set to enjoy on your way to Okayama.

URL: https://www.jr-odekake.net/railroad/kankoutrain/area_okayama/lamalledebois/