TOKYO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The island of Shikoku was ranked sixth in the Top 10 Regions category in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022 lists. Japan’s fourth largest island, Shikoku lies southwest of Japan’s main island of Honshu, and is reachable by plane in under two hours from Tokyo. It consists of four prefectures: Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi and Tokushima. In addition to the attractions Shikoku is best known for—the remote Iya Valley and the ancient pilgrimage route—Lonely Planet’s selection also acknowledged destinations that have made efforts to promote sustainable tourism.
Shikoku is home to a pilgrimage route taking in 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai, who lived over 1,200 years ago. It is one of the world’s longest circular pilgrimage routes, covering 1,400 km across Shikoku’s four prefectures. There are many environmentally-friendly ways to enjoy the trail; visitors can walk, cycle, or take public transportation. Walking the entire course takes around 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 course covers the first nine of the 88 temples, beginning at Ryozenji Temple.
Travelers can also hop on a bike to explore nearby areas in Tokushima. Surrounded by lush forests, Kamikatsu town is one of the least populated municipalities in Shikoku, but it has received much attention in recent years for its environmental strategies. In 2003, Kamikatsu became the first municipality in Japan to issue a zero-waste declaration. Households must separate their garbage into as many as 45 different categories before taking them to the Kamikatsu Zero Waste Centre. Inside this multi-functional complex, there is a quaint and eco-friendly hotel called “HOTEL WHY” where guests can experience a local lifestyle embodying the concept of sustainable living. In order to reduce the amount of plastic waste, the hotel provides no disposable amenities, and guests are asked to cut just the soap they need from a soap bar at check-in. During their stay, they are required to sort their trash into six baskets in their rooms; they take this to a communal facility for recycling when checking out.
As this is Japan, the country known for its advanced public transportation system, local train and bus routes criss-cross Shikoku, and certain trains and buses will allow passengers to board with bicycles. In Ehime prefecture, for example, there are “cycle trains” on sections of the Iyotetsu line that allow passengers to ride with their bikes. There are also special “cycle buses” with bike racks. Rental bicycle services can also be found at train stations as well as 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 within Tokushima city. Powered by clean, renewable hydrogen, these buses take travelers on a sustainable ride into the future.
From learning about history by walking pilgrimage routes to taking a bike ride to explore unique rural towns and utilizing different forms of public transportation, a rich variety of experiences awaits travelers in Shikoku – and all can be enjoyed while showing consideration to the environment!
To learn more about JNTO’s sustainable tourism initiatives, please see this article.
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