TOKYO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Shikoku Island was ranked sixth in the top 10 region category of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022 lists. Japan’s fourth largest island, Shikoku lies southwest of Japan’s main island, Honshu, and can be reached by plane in less than two hours from Tokyo. It consists of four prefectures: Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi and Tokushima. In addition to the attractions for which Shikoku is best known – the secluded Iya Valley and the ancient pilgrimage route – Lonely Planet’s selection also recognized destinations that have made efforts to promote sustainable tourism.
Shikoku is home to a pilgrimage route passing 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai, who lived over 1,200 years ago. It is one of the longest circular pilgrimage routes in the world, covering 1,400 km through Shikoku’s four prefectures. There are many eco-friendly ways to enjoy the trail; visitors can walk, cycle or take public transport. Walking the entire route takes about 40 days, but those with less time can still experience the pilgrimage by taking the recommended two-day model tour in Tokushima Prefecture. This walking route covers the first nine of the 88 temples, starting with Ryozenji Temple.
Travelers can also hop on a bicycle to explore the surroundings of Tokushima. Surrounded by lush forests, Kamikatsu City is one of the least populated municipalities in Shikoku, but it has received a lot of attention in recent years for its environmental strategies. In 2003, Kamikatsu became the first municipality in Japan to issue a zero waste statement. Households must sort their waste into 45 different categories before bringing it to the Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center. Inside this multifunctional complex, there is a quaint and eco-friendly hotel called “HOTEL WHY” where guests can experience a local way of life embodying the concept of sustainable living. In order to reduce the amount of plastic waste, the hotel does not provide any disposable equipment and guests are asked to cut only the soap they need from a soap bar upon check-in. During their stay, they are required to sort their waste into six baskets in their rooms; they take it to a communal facility for recycling upon departure.
As this is Japan, the country known for its advanced public transportation system, local train and bus lines criss-cross Shikoku, and some trains and buses will allow passengers to board with bicycles. In Ehime Prefecture, for example, there are “bicycle trains” on sections of the Iyotetsu Line that allow passengers to ride their bicycles. There are also special “bicycle buses” with bicycle racks. Bike rental services are also available at train stations and near many hotels.
At the end of 2021, two fuel cell buses started operating in Tokushima Prefecture, between Tokushima Station and the airport, and between other major sites in Tokushima City. Powered by clean, renewable hydrogen, these buses take travelers on a sustainable journey into the future.
From learning history by walking pilgrimage routes to taking a bike ride to explore unique rural towns and using different forms of public transport, a rich variety of experiences awaits visitors. travelers to Shikoku – and all can be enjoyed while respecting the environment!
To learn more about JNTO’s sustainable tourism initiatives, please see this article.
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