Seto Inland Sea: Shikoku and Naoshima

Shikoku is one of Japan’s four main islands, the smallest of the four in terms of both area and population. It wasn’t till I started to write up this entry that I realized on my first trip to Japan I visited only Honshu, my second trip only Hokkaido, my third trip only Kyushu, and here I am on my fourth trip to Japan visiting Shikoku for the first time!

The first place we visited on Shikoku was Matsuyama, the largest city on the island. Our first destination in Matsuyama was the castle. It’s one of only 12 original castles in Japan. Most have either burned down or were demolished during the Meiji Restoration. The only other of those 12 that I’ve visited is Matsumoto Castle, one of the great stops on my first bicycle tour in Japan.

I also loved this visit to Matsuyama Castle.

IMG_20231113_140908 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Unlike the castle Ferda and I visited in Osaka a couple weeks earlier, the wooden floors of Matsuyama Castle give the interior an authentic original feel.

The air was cool and stunningly clear. I loved looking out passed the city to the islands (1900 of them!) of the Seto Inland Sea.

IMG_20231113_144011 by bryandkeith on flickr

Before heading to our fancy hot springs ryokan, we stopped at the Buddhist Ishite-ji Temple, dedicated to Kuki, a Buddhist scholar from Shikoku. We learned that Buddhist stupa (which house a part of Buddha (bones, ashes, fingernails, e.g.)) are bell-shaped in many countries — think Borobudur or Thailand or Sri Lanka. When Buddhism came to China, the bell-shape of the stupa turned into a pagoda.

IMG_20231113_155305 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Ishite-ji is one of the 88 temples on a pilgrimage circuit in Shikoku. Could that make a nice bicycle tour, I wonder?

It seemed like this tour in Japan was all about eating wonderful food, perhaps reaching the pinnacle at Yamatoya Honten in Matsuyama.

IMG_20231114_190408 by bryandkeith on flickr
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We also had excellent evening entertainment.

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The next day we did a bus excursion to Uwajima and Uchiko. Our first stop was Tensha-en Garden in Uwajima.

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Uwajima also has one of Japan’s original castles and made it onto my list when I was planning a Shikoku trip five years ago (that didn’t happen). I guess we didn’t have time on this trip, but more puzzling to me was why we skipped Ozu (also on my list) for Uchiko. Uchiko wasn’t so exciting (and realize I’ve never been to Ozu). Here are some Uchiko photos:

IMG_20231114_160032 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Another soak in hot springs and more amazing meals at Yamatoya Honten, but we had to leave in the morning.

IMG_20231115_083349 by bryandkeith on flickr

Isamu Noguchi may be famous for his California Scenario and Spirit of the Lima Bean (just a couple miles east of where I worked in high school) or perhaps for his affair with Frida Kahlo. If you’re heading to Takamatsu in the very north of Shikoku, I highly recommend trying to get reservations to visit the Noguchi Garden and Museum. The rocks seem to move, make your eyes with them, and make you want to move around the rocks. The more you observe you realize that each rock is connected artistically to nearby rocks, but as you move around, those connections change! It’s incredible really. Photography’s not allowed, except for here:

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Takamatsu is famous for its Udon. The town mascot apparently has udon noodles for his brain, but I never did see an image.

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Ritsurin Garden is conveniently located in the center of the city.

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One of the concepts that we heard again and again in Japanese gardens is the idea of “borrowed scenery”. An example is the hill in the background here:

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and perhaps the buildings here?

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Between Takamatsu and Okayama is the small island of Naoshima where we spent two nights. Naoshima is known by tourists as being an “art island”, and indeed the Chichu Art Museum was excellent. It’s all about the use of light. There is a room of Monet water lilies (ala Musée de l’Orangerie?) with diffuse natural light coming in from offset gaps in the ceiling. The colors and light of the painting (there are five; I concentrated on one) never stopped changing as (presumably) clouds were crossing in front of the sun. We were lucky with the light. Others in our group had tickets for the afternoon (when it was raining) and had no such excitement. Ferda and my Dad really loved the James Turrell. Again, no photos, except this:

IMG_20231117_110138 by bryandkeith on flickr

The rest of the art on the island felt like a mixed bag, stuff you might see at Burning Man.

IMG_20231117_084346 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Red and green digital lights under water?!

IMG_20231117_143154 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Bye bye, Seto Inland Sea.

IMG_20231118_082459 by bryandkeith on flickr
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