Last week’s Weekly Shiritori post was about rikishi (りきし / 力士) so, this week, I need to start with し (shi). A big thank you to everyone who left comments and made suggestions. I really liked Sarah’s suggestion of “shogi” / しょうぎ(将棋), Japanese chess, but I don’t know anything about it and wouldn’t be able to write a very convincing post without a lot of research. However, the topic I chose in the end is also something I don’t know much about. With thanks to Blue Shoe for the excellent suggestion, this week’s topic is:
Shikoku (しこく / 四国)
Japan is made up of four main islands, and Shikoku is the smallest of these (you can see its location on the map above – the dark island towards the south of Japan). Although I have travelled quite a bit around Japan, unfortunately I haven’t yet made it to Shikoku.
From what I’ve read online and in travel guides, Shikoku looks like a beautiful place full of ancient traditions. According to my copy of Lonely Planet Japan, “For more than a millennium, o-henro (pilgrims) have walked clockwise around Shikoku in the footsteps of the great Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi (774-835), who achieved enlightenment on the island of his birth.“
© Ehime Prefecture/©JNTO
Now, the “88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku” (a 1400km journey) is Japan’s most well-known pilgrimage route and oldest tourist trail.
Inside Japan Tours run tours to rural Shikoku and say, “Wherever you are on Shikoku you are never far from one of the 88 temples of Japan’s well loved pilgrimage route. In honour of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, it takes two months to complete the 1,400km journey on foot. While you might not have that much time available, it’s certainly worth visiting a temple or two and looking out for the white clad pilgrims in their pointy straw hats.”
One place in Shikoku that I’ve had my eye on visiting for a long time is Naoshima (直島). Naoshima is a small island just off the main island of Shikoku (in the Seto Inland Sea, but still technically part of Shikoku), and it’s famous for being the “art island”. Inside Japan Tours say, “Hailed as one of the ‘seven places in the world you should see next’ by Conde Nast Traveller, Naoshima is a unique destination within Japan, with an international, original approach unlike anywhere else in the country. As part of the art route throughout the Inland Sea, a visit to the island takes you just a couple of hours from the main tourist route, but a long way from the ubiquitous crowds, high rises, shops and stereotypes found elsewhere.” With contemporary art galleries and museums, as well as outdoor exhibits, Naoshima is the place for art lovers in Japan.
Shikoku is probably not the place to go if you’re looking for bright city lights and modern technology, but if you’re after traditions and beautiful scenery, Shikoku should be high on your list. Once only accessible by ferry, Shikoku is now connected to Honshu (Japan’s main island) by three bridge systems. Most people travel to Shikoku either by train from Okayama or highway bus from Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. It’s also possible to travel there by air.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Japan today and reading about Shikoku tonight has made me really want to plan a trip. I would love to take a few months off just to travel, and visit each of the main islands of Japan. I’ve seen a lot of Honshu, but have barely scraped the surface elsewhere.
Shikoku (しこく) ends with く (ku), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “ku”. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below! And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v