1. The Shikoku Pilgrimage follows the 1,400 km route of the 9th Century Shingon Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi, to 88 temples along the ocean sides and mountains. With staff in hand and donning a white vest, pilgrims are welcomed in cities, towns and villages to remote shrines with enchanting vistas.
2. Ritsurin Garden is one of the most beautiful in Japan. Manicured trees, twisting branches, lush pillows of green and heart-shaped azaleas peacefully beset the base of the mountain. Footpaths and bridges meander over small hills to a teahouse. Here we sip matcha and gaze at carp in the still pond around us.
3. Kagawa is Japan’s capital of udon noodles. Sanuki Udon is square with flat edges. There are four ingredients: wheat for the noodles, salt, soy sauce and dried sardines for the broth. An Udon Taxi picks us up at the airport and whisks us directly to select udon restaurants. Our driver is an udon specialist. Along with his driver’s license, he has passed a written test, field test and handmade udon test.
4. Chicken in Shikoku is clucking delicious! Never in my life have I tasted such tenderness. Awa-o-dori from Tokushima is firm and juicy beyond compare. The reddish meat is lean and chewy and has high levels of umami. Senzanki Fried Chicken from neighbouring Ehime Prefecture is addictive. You cannot beat this quality bird. Honetsuki-dori, the most popular chicken dish in Kagawa, is served bone-in. Aromatic and crisp, it is seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and grilled to mouth-watering tenderness.
5. Sanuki Olive Wagyu from Kagawa Prefecture is the most rare brand of Wagyu, and highest in oleic acid and umami. Indulge in this delicacy as well as Olive-Hamachi at Nishiki Restaurant in the Royal Park Hotel Takamatsu.
6. The best whitewater rafting in Japan is in the Yoshino River. World renowned for thrill seekers, there is apparently a quiet family section, too. Ferociously hurtling down river, winding through a majestic mountain range at Mach speed, the rush of this emerald green water is fantastic! Also available from Happy Raft are Canyoning expeditions. Tree-walk to a zip-line across the canyon, then slide down a waterfall into a deep pool and lazily drift with the current.
7. At LaboleA in the Olive Garden of Shodoshima, we blend our own olive oil using local and international oils. At Kinryo Shoyu we are educated in soy sauce and create our own blend.
8. Naoshima, the “Art Island” of Kagawa is an artist’s refuge to create or celebrate the Setouchi Triennali Art Festival. Open-air exhibits appear on the shore, like Yayoi Kusama’s iconic black-dotted yellow pumpkin. Galleries, sculpture gardens, contemporary art museums and architectural projects are humming. In Les Archives de Coeurs, we stand in the Heart Room to hear Christian Boltanski’s recordings of heartbeats from around the world. The Teshima Art Museum resembles a water droplet. It is a tranquil shell harmonizing nature, art and architecture, with openings for light, wind and flowing water from rain and idle rice terraces. The Chichu Art Museum houses such diverse works to admire and experience, from Claude Monet to James Turrell. Island art-hopping here is heaven for an art enthusiast.
9. As the remote village of Nagoro endures depopulation, emigrants and dearly departed are replaced by dolls! Known as Scarecrow Village, this is one of the most uniquely creepy visits you’ll find in the Iya Valley.
10. A Farm Stay in Tokushima Prefecture is the best way to experience Old World Japan. From remote towns in the Iya Valley with vine bridges, like Miyoshi and Oboke, to thatch-roofed houses in Ochiai Village, to impossibly steep agricultural fields up mountain slopes.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.