The smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku remains an enigma to most Japanese, and sees comparatively few foreign visitors. Yet anyone seeking a glimpse of old Asia would do well to consider a foray into its remote, thickly forested interior, whose valleys enclose a forgotten world of tiny farmsteads, swaying vine bridges, hill shrines and misty cedar woods criss-crossed by ancient paved trails – like a vision from a Japanese folktale.
Some of these antique pathways form sections of the famous 88-Temple Pilgrimage Route, a 750-mile (1,200-km) circuit of the island whose followers don distinctive white robes and pointed straw hats for the duration of their journey. In the national psyche, Shikoku is equally famous as the home of the humble udon rice noodle, which originated here and is the perfect preamble for another legendary Shikoku speciality, seared bonito tuna, which local restaurants serve with wafer-thin slices of ginger, garlic and green onion.
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