Shikoku is home to numerous famous landmarks and tourist attractions, such as the famous “Shimanami Kaido Highway.” Here you’ll also find a host of other wonderful attractions, such as Marugame Castle, Matsuyama Castle, Uwajima Castle, and Kōchi Castle (all some of Japan’s original 12 castles), the Kotohira-gu and Kinsenji shrines, lush scenic views, clear blue streams, and historic buildings aplenty. But in addition to all of these, Shikoku is also the site of a number of charming onsen resorts. Here we’ll guide you through some of the best spots a local might recommend.
1.Shōdo Island, Kagawa Prefecture
First, we’ll visit an onsen resort in Kagawa prefecture, located on “Shōdo Island” on the Seto Inland Sea. At only two and a half hours from Osaka by high-speed ship (such as “The Sunflower”), this sightseeing attraction is very easy to visit, and is also popular as an island resort destination thanks to its relative ease of access by Okayama and Takamatsu. Since it’s also famous as the birthplace of olive production in Japan, you can plenty of fantatstic souvenirs to take home, such as olive oil for cooking, cleansing, and hand creams. The island features so many different onsen spots ranging from olive oil baths to “tachiyori-yu” (springs that you can visit without having to stay in a room) that you could make a tour of the island just by visiting them all! There’s simply no better way to heal yourself than by taking a relaxing, hot soak in this island’s wide-open environment.
2.Konoka Onsen, Kōchi Prefecture
You’ll find the tranquil, atmospheric Konoka Onsen nestled into the mountains in the town of Ino in Awaga-gun, Kōchi prefecture, close to the border of Ehime prefecture. This ferruginous sodium chloride spring is famous for its effectivness at dealing with various ailments such as muscle pain, nerve pain, joint pain, stiff shoulders, as well as aiding in digestive health, skin diseases, skin sensitivity, physically weak children, women’s diseases, menstrual disorders, recovering from exhaustion, and the like. Many people travel from outside the prefecture simply to take advantage of this onsen’s various benefits.
We love the way you immerse yourself into the warm water while listening to the water from the river flowing by outside. The tub itself is situated near a large window where you can gaze at the meandering Kuwase river and the Ishizuchi mountain range all four seasons of the year.
In spring, this sight is punctuated by blossoming sakura; in autumn, the changing leaves on the mountains are especially beautiful. And on a clear evening, you can gaze upon a night sky dazzled with brilliant stars.
3.Dōgo Onsen, Ehime Prefecture
Finally, we’d like to introduce you to Dōgo Onsen, an establishment with a legacy spanning back over 3,000 years. As one of Japan’s Three Ancient Springs, its reputation goes back to ancient times when it was once known as “Nikitatsu,” (a derivation of ‘Nieru-yu no Tsu’, or ‘The simmering hot-spring haven’). It even appeared in volume one of Manyoushuu. Dōgo Onsen is so representative of the Ehime prefecture that theory has it the prefecture’s ancient name of “Iyo no Kuni” was derived from “Yu no kuni” (or the land of hot springs) and is a very well-regarded attraction among locals. If you want to experience it from a literary perspective, it was even featured in Soseki Natsume’s novel “Botchan.”
According to the locals, the best time to use the baths is in the early morning. One of the hidden pleasures of this onsen resort is the experience of enjoying a secluded bath while the drums start beating at six in the morning. Not many tourists know of this well-kept secret, so we encourage you to wake up as early as possible to give it a try if you come to visit. The ‘ichibanburo,’ or freshly-drawn bath, is signaled when the “Toki Daiko” (drum) is struck with a resounding THONK in the Shinrokaku (or white heron tower) from atop of the main building every morning, noon, and night. It’s quite a bit of fun to take a dip in the spring first thing in the morning, so enjoy the retro building and baths, and then don your yukata once you’re finished to stroll the elegant little shopping center of Dōgo Onsen. We also recommend visiting the nearby attractions such as the Shiki Memorial Museum and Dōgo Public Park, so why not clear your schedule for a little extra fun?
This post is also available in: Japanese