Tokushima

Nestled on the eastern side of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Tokushima Prefecture is a treasure trove of cultural, natural, and historical attractions. Although it may be off the beaten path, those who venture to Tokushima will discover a wide range of experiences that provide a glimpse into the true essence of Japan. From vibrant festivals and ancient pilgrimages to breathtaking natural wonders, Tokushima has something for every traveler.

Exploring Tokushima: An Overview

Tokushima is known for its abundant natural beauty, with approximately 80% of its area consisting of mountains. The prefecture is easily accessible from major cities such as Osaka and Kobe, making it a convenient yet unique destination. The warm climate further adds to its charm as a sightseeing spot, offering a diverse range of attractions, from dynamic whirlpools to peaceful valleys.

Must-See Attractions in Tokushima

Awa Odori: Japan’s Largest Street Party

Every August, Tokushima comes alive with the Awa Odori dance festival. This event, which has a history of over 400 years, attracts over a million participants who take to the streets to dance. Visitors can also experience the festival year-round at the Awaodori Kaikan Museum, which provides a hands-on introduction to this cultural spectacle.

Whirlpools of Naruto

The Naruto Strait, situated between Shikoku and the island of Awaji, is renowned for its dramatic whirlpools. These tidal currents create some of the fastest whirlpools in the world, best observed from sightseeing boats. The optimal times to witness them are in the hour before high and low tide, particularly during spring, autumn, and full moons.

Vine Bridges of Iya Valley

For an adventurous experience, head to the Iya Valley and cross the ancient vine bridges. The most famous of these is Kazurabashi, a 45-meter-long bridge suspended above a rushing river. Historically, these bridges were the sole means of traversing this isolated valley, providing a thrilling walk with breathtaking views.

The 88 Temple Pilgrimage

Tokushima serves as the starting point for the renowned 88 Temple Pilgrimage, a 1400-kilometer route around Shikoku. The first two dozen temples, including the historic Ryozen-ji, are situated here. Pilgrims can commence their journey in Tokushima, where they can meet fellow travelers and acquire the traditional walking sticks, hats, and white robes.

Ochiai Village

Deep in the Iya Valley lies the terraced village of Ochiai. This picturesque hamlet, with its century-old farmhouses clinging to the mountainside, traces its roots back to the late Edo Period. The “House of the Flute” (Chiiori), restored and managed by Japanologist Alex Kerr, offers a glimpse into traditional Japanese rural life.

Ai-no-Yakata Indigo Dyeing

Indigo dyeing is a renowned traditional craft in Tokushima. At Ai-no-Yakata in Aizumi, visitors can learn about the history and intricate process of indigo dyeing. This hands-on craft museum, housed in an old indigo merchant’s mansion, allows visitors to try their hand at creating beautiful blue-tinged fabrics.

Oboke Gorge

The scenic Oboke Gorge, known for its unique crystalline schist formations, can be explored from the roads above or by taking a leisurely cruise on the Yoshino River. Visit during spring for cherry blossoms or in autumn for vibrant foliage that adorns the surrounding mountains.

Awa Jurobe Yashiki

Experience Awa Ningyo, a traditional puppetry art form, at the Awa Jurobe mansion. This historical site offers daily performances and a museum that showcases the construction and decoration of these life-sized puppets.

Where to Eat in Tokushima

Restaurant Arashi

A favorite among locals, Restaurant Arashi offers a variety of fresh seafood dishes sourced from contracted fishermen. The restaurant aims to provide a lively and crafted dining experience at reasonable prices.

Renmaru Cafe

Located in Naruto City, known for its high-quality lotus roots, Renmaru Cafe serves a variety of dishes featuring this unique ingredient. The cafe is a great spot to enjoy the local produce in creative culinary forms.

Ramen Inotani Main Store

Famous for its “Tokushima Ramen,” Ramen Inotani offers a rich soy sauce pork bone soup with homemade noodles. The recommended topping of raw egg adds a unique flavor to this local delicacy.

Ikko

Ikko specializes in “Awaodori” chicken, a renowned local brand. Their signature dish, “Honetsuki Awaodori,” features chicken seasoned with a secret sauce and grilled to perfection, offering a juicy and delicious dining experience.

Accommodation in Tokushima

Aoawo Naruto Resort

This resort offers stunning views of the Onaruto Bridge and Naruto Strait. With a variety of room types and natural hot springs known as the “hot spring of beauty,” it provides a luxurious stay with local cuisine highlighting seasonal ingredients.

Hotel Kazurabashi Iya Valley Hot Springs

Located in the scenic Iya Valley, this ryokan features an “open-air sky bath” accessible by a cable car, offering panoramic views of the valley. Guests can enjoy a traditional local cuisine dinner around a sunken hearth, providing an immersive cultural experience.

Suggested 5-Day Itinerary for Tokushima

Day 1: Arrival and Introduction

  • Morning: Arrive in Tokushima and check into your accommodation.
  • Afternoon: Visit the Awaodori Kaikan Museum and get an introduction to the Awa Odori dance.
  • Evening: Enjoy dinner at Restaurant Arashi.

Day 2: Exploring Nature

  • Morning: Take a sightseeing boat to view the Naruto Whirlpools.
  • Afternoon: Explore the Vine Bridges of Iya Valley.
  • Evening: Stay at Hotel Kazurabashi and relax in the hot springs.

Day 3: Cultural Immersion

  • Morning: Begin your day with a visit to Ryozen-ji, which is the first temple of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.
  • Afternoon: Participate in an indigo dyeing workshop at Ai-no-Yakata.
  • Evening: Enjoy dinner at Ramen Inotani Main Store.

Day 4: Appreciate Scenic Beauty

  • Morning: Take a leisurely cruise on the Yoshino River, exploring the stunning Oboke Gorge.
  • Afternoon: Explore Ochiai Village and visit the House of the Flute.
  • Evening: Dine at Ikko and savor the Awaodori chicken.

Day 5: Final Day

  • Morning: Immerse yourself in traditional puppetry at Awa Jurobe Yashiki.
  • Afternoon: Dedicate some time to shopping at AEON MALL Tokushima or YouMe Town Tokushima.
  • Evening: Depart from Tokushima.

Tips for Tourists

  • Transportation: Make the most of the efficient public transportation system, including trains and buses. For exploring remote areas, consider renting a car.
  • Weather: Check the local weather and pack accordingly, as Tokushima has a warm climate but can also be mountainous.
  • Language: Though English is not widely spoken, learning a few basic Japanese phrases can greatly enhance your experience.
  • Cultural Etiquette: Show respect for local customs and traditions, especially when visiting temples and participating in cultural activities.

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