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Advice on Shikoku trip

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Advice on Shikoku trip 2010/3/4 20:45
Hi, I am in the middle of planning an itinerary for a trip through Shikoku in April, and was wondering if anyone could give me some advise on my itinerary thus far.

Day 1: We pick up a car in Kyoto and drive to Awaji Island to see this Tadao Ando Temple that looks cool. From there, we drive the length of the island to end up in Naruto.

Does anyone have suggestions for inexpensive places to stay in either Naruto or Tokushima cities?

Day 2: Drive to the Iya Valley and spend the day sightseeing.

Day 3: Second day in Iya Valley. Would like to go hiking on Mt. Tsuguri.

I've allocated two days to the Iya Valley. Is this enough, or would you recommend spending more time.

Day 4: Drive to Matsuyama to go to Dogo Onsen.

Day 5: Make our way back to Kyoto. Driving straight back takes a long time (about 5 hours?) so we were thinking about breaking it up into two days. We were thinking we could drive through the Seto Inland Sea via Imabari to end up in Onomichi, do some sightseeing there, drive further up, maybe to Okayama and overnight there, continuing on to Kyoto the following day. Does that seem feasible? Or would anyone recommend a different route?

Thanks in advance.

by Barney13 (guest)  

Shikoku 2010/3/5 18:04
First of all let me congratulate you on getting off the beaten path to see Shikoku. I have lived here for 3 years and far too many people pass up the island for other Japan destinations. Now on to your questions in order just to make it easy.

Day 1: I would recommend staying in Tokushima. Naruto is not a very big town and lodging options are pretty limited to pricey all-inclusive Japanese style inns. Tokushima city has lots of reasonably priced business accommodation around the main JR train station. You should be able to book these through any major travel website.

Day 2&3: The Iya valley is absolutely gorgeous and you will most certainly not be disappointed. If you have to days to spend there you should consider camping over night and BBQing in one of the valleys. If you are so inclined your hotel can most likely help you set this up. Whether you camp or not however, I think two days will be plenty.

Day 4: If you are driving to Matsuyama just for the dogo onsen I would recommend against it. The dogo onsen is actually very small, touristy, and on the whole a big let down. Unless you are really interested in the history of onsen's I would recommend skipping that portion all together. Driving there form Iya can take upwards of 4 hours each way if you use expensive express ways. If not be prepared for a much longer journey. If you are looking for another day trip walking up Mt. Konpira in Kotohira is an unforgettable experience and fairly close to Iya.

If you have the time driving to Okayama isnt a bad idea, there is lots to see and do there. However, it will expose you to more of the expensive expressway system so be prepared to spend more.

On a final note make SURE, your rental car includes an ETC high way pass. Without it, you will pay upwards of double the normal highway tolls (and it makes getting past the tollways much faster). Have fun on your trip!

by nsmith4 (guest) rate this post as useful

To nsmith, re ETC tags 2010/3/5 22:34
Just returned from Japan and going back in July to Shikoku. Rented a Toyota during my last trip and paid through the nose in tolls driving for 7 days. I did ask Toyota before arriving in Japan and they told me that Toyota does not provide any ETC tags to renters and furthermore, you need to be a resident in Japan to get an ETC tag. Does that mean that overseas tourists driving in Japan CANNOT avoid paying through the nose in highway tolls ?
by mthk (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2010/3/6 08:50
Note that Mount Tsurugi is at the eastern end of the Iya Valley. If you want to climb it, you should climb it on day 2 and not on day 3, because you are driving westtwards. You definitely need two days.

Drive to Matsuyama to go to Dogo Onsen.

As mentioned, this is a long drive.

Make our way back to Kyoto. Driving straight back takes a long time (about 5 hours?)

Indeed, this is a very long drive. Better split into two days. Via Onomichi sounds attractive.

And I don't agree with nsmith4's evaluation of Dogo Onsen. I find it one of the nicest in Japan. Of course it is touristy. So, if you are going there expecting a remote onsen town free of tourists, you have the wrong expectations. I recommend to stay overnight at the ryokan around the central bath. That allows you to scroll around the area in yukata and geta after dark and visit the bath house when it is less busy than during daytime. You better avoid the bath house during the daytime on a busy day as it can be too crowded.

Also note that ETC cannot be used unless you have an ETC Card. Unfortunatelly, foreign tourists cannot get an ETC card.

by Uji rate this post as useful

ETC, Dogo 2010/3/6 11:18

Note that Mount Tsurugi is at the eastern end of the Iya Valley. If you want to climb it, you should climb it on day 2 and not on day 3, because you are driving westtwards. You definitely need two days.

This is excellent advice, I hadn't thought about the direction but following Uji's plan will save you lots of time and hassle.

When I mentioned the ETC above I meant make sure to get a car with an ETC reader so you can stick your own card in. However I had no idea tourists couldn't get a card. That is really harsh and you will end up paying through the nose to use the expressways (I think Iya to Matsuyama can cost over 5,000yen ONE WAY with out a card).

And I don't agree with nsmith4's evaluation of Dogo Onsen. I find it one of the nicest in Japan.

Let me clarify what I said about Dogo. The onsen itself is nice and if you are interested in the history of onsens you will love Dogo since it is the oldest in japan. However (and this is a big however) I think driving all the way to Matsuyama specifically to go to Dogo will be a big let down. The onsen itself is only two baths which are exactly the same, not unique compared to other onsens, and generally packed the the brim with bathers. I doubt you will stay interested for more than an hour and then start to wonder if it was really worth going all the way across Shikoku to get there. I highly recommend you save yourself the disappointment and axe that part from your trip.

by nsmith4 (guest) rate this post as useful

Thanks 2010/3/6 14:02
Thanks a lot for your replies. We are currently in discussion about whether or not to do Dogo Onsen...

Yes, it does make more sense to do East Iya the first day rather than the second. We like the idea of camping, but will it be warm enough in April?

I understand foreign tourists can't get an ETC card, but we are residents. How might a foreign resident go about getting the card?

by Barney13 rate this post as useful

... 2010/3/6 18:57
Yes, I agree it is too much effort to drive across Shikoku just for Dogo Onsen. I would certainly recommend to see Matsuyama's other sights, too.

As for ETC cards, they are essentially a type of credit card and usually come as part of a credit card or a separate card that comes along with a credit card. So, you will basically have to apply for a credit card, which can be difficult if you do not have a few years of good credit history in Japan. Some banks even seem to flatly refuse anybody without at least permanent residence.

by Uji rate this post as useful

shikoku 2010/3/7 10:25
Yes, it does make more sense to do East Iya the first day rather than the second. We like the idea of camping, but will it be warm enough in April?

Like everywhere else in Japan the temp can swing wildly, even within the same week. However I found April to have pleasant days and chilly, but not freezing, nights. With sleeping bags and some warm gear you should have no problem.

The ETC card, like Uji mentioned, is tied to credit card or bank account. You can get a card from the official highway website (a quick google search should help out) but most people just have a credit card with ETC capability. I got mine with my Mizuho credit card so Im not sure how long it takes to get a regular one. Maybe you could borrow a friend's and pay them back?

by nsmith4 (guest) rate this post as useful

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