Shikoku (四国, shikoku) is the smallest of the four main islands that make up Japan and the least populous, home to only 3% of the population. The name Shikoku means “four countries” or “four provinces”, a reference to the four provinces that used to constitute the island: Awa, Tosa, Sanuki, and Iyo.

Today, the four prefectures of Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima divide up the island which is regarded somewhat as a rural backwater compared to the rest of Japan. But Shikoku has much to offer visitors. It’s natural beauty aside, it is home to Japan’s most sacred pilgrimage route, the “88 Temple Pilgrimage”, its most famous bathing house, and one of its biggest festivals, Tokushima’s Awa Odori.

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