As I was curating my favorite Shikoku photos this morning, I thought back to the first time I ever heard Japan’s least-visited island referenced in conversation. It was on my third day in Japan—my third day in Japan, ever—as I waited in line to watch the tuna auction as Tokyo’s Tsukiji market one rainy Tuesday morning just past four.
“You’d better get there soon,” said one of the American expats I’d been chatting up, when I expressed interest in seeing the place he and his colleagues all lived for myself. “They say we’re on the brink of the big one—a typhoon, an earthquake or even a tsunami.”
It would be nearly three years before I’d set foot on Shikoku myself. But from my first moments swirling around the bizarre Naruto Whirlpools near Tokushima one chilly January afternoon to my last moments (thus far, anyway) watching sunrise over the Seto Inland Sea onboard the first train of the day departing sakura-steeped Takamatsu, I felt puzzled why so many people—even those who resided here—would belittle the smallest of Japan’s major islands, even in a self-deprecating way, and certainly with any reference to disaster.
Most importantly, the Shikoku pictures you’re about to enjoy capture the tangible experience of traveling around the island. I take you from soulful Tokushima through the lush Iya Valley to eclectic Takamatsu, and from the island’s largest city, Matsuyama, halfway around its oblong perimeter to cozy Kochi, where you can tear into its most delectable culinary tradition—not necessarily in order, of course.
Indeed, I’ve striven in parallel to lead a more impressionistic tour, be that through elements like earth, wind, fire and water, or sketches of Shikoku throughout its four seasons, which are admittedly less defined than the ones farther north in Japan. I want to show you (because you’ll know, if you’ve read my other articles about Shikoku, I’ve already repeatedly and breathlessly told you) why I can’t shut up about Japan’s least talked-about island.
As coronavirus continues to bring both Japan and the world to a standstill, I imagine you’re envisioning a future where you take none of your freedoms—least of all your freedom to dare—for granted. Can you see yourself, tomorrow, making a bold choice where you would’ve made a safe one yesterday?
Even if you’ve never been to Japan before, or have a range of experiences (so far, anyway) that extends barely beyond a Tokyo tuna auction, I hope these Shikoku pictures will inspire you to venture off Japan’s beaten path. Whenever, that is, we’re all lucky enough to be back on that path—I hope it’s soon.