Tokushima, Shikoku Island
Authentic & off-the beaten-track, this is the perfect destination for those who want to avoid other international tourists and access the ‘real’ Japan. The main selling points of the area are as follows:
Friendly & welcoming: Because they don’t receive many international visitors, guests can be assured of a sincere and personal welcome.
Wildlife: Loggerhead sea turtles come to lay eggs here from May to August every year. A unique wildlife viewing opportunity.
Coastal & mountainous scenery: Ohama Beach is one of the 100 best beaches in Japan. The picturesque Minami Awa Sunline road is a 10 mile route along the coast; perfect for cyclists.
Outdoor activities galore: coastal walks, cruises, kayaking, cycling, surfing, climbing...
Characterful accommodation, covering all price points.
Foodie: Local specialities include oysters, fresh abalone and lobster. There is a great range of culinary experiences available including the intimate high end restaurant, La Triere Abe, and a local institution, Hiwasaya.
A hipster vibe: there is a burgeoning population of entrepreneurs choosing life way from the cities. Local shops, no Starbucks, intimate and characterful bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
Festivals galore: Minamicho offers some of Japan's most iconic and passionate annual festivities.
Japan-san's recommended itinerary inclusions for the area are listed below. Please select "CONNECT" in order to contact Japan-san for more information.
Real Japan. Family hospitality.
A passion project from mild-mannered local hipster/entrepreneur, Ken Baudet, who spent much of his life in France before embarking on a successful career working as a sommelier in some of Tokyo’s finest restaurants.
Ken-san has escaped the hustle and bustle of city life to return to his hometown, where he, his Mother and his wife built his guesthouse (run by his mother) and most recently a nearby bakery (run by his lovely wife). Ken-san speaks fluent English and French as does his Mother. She is a robust, outgoing character who will be absolutely loved by foreign travellers.
The guesthouse is elegant, simple, traditional and a story in itself (it is a converted merchant office).
Tea picking in the remote Shikoku mountains
Awa Bancha tea is only produced in the remote mountains of Shikoku Island. And most of it, almost all of it, is consumed
by the local population and is, therefore, quite rare and much sought after in the rest of Japan. It is famous for its unique
sour taste, which is a direct result of the fermentation process the leaves go through. On this excursion you will have the
opportunity to witness the entire process and then come away with some tea to take with you.
Guide, Kametaro-san (English-speaker), is a real local character and he is joined by Nijira-san, one of the owners of
the family-owned businesses which make up the area. She will show you the entire production process, from picking the
leaves in the pretty plantations, through rubbing and boiling and eventually to the unique fermentation process.
Fresh Oyster BBQ
Seafood BBQ by the sea
Enjoy a feast of fresh oysters, right next to the beach. Eat the finest shellfish in the world - plump, creamy oysters, nestling in their half shells, bathed in their own salty juices, straight out of the ocean. This seafood BBQ is served outdoors in a picnic spot nestled between the river, mountains and sea at Akimaru beach. The delicious oysters come straight from a local company - Umino - who supply and also distribute young oysters to over 100 local oyster farms across Japan. You can eat them raw, grilled, or any other way you prefer, as a group of local women cook and craft the daily catch with a “no fuss” attitude.
You then stay in Sunline Mobilage for an overnight stay, where you have you own small cottage. Here, you are in the deep primeval forest, where you may very well see wild monkeys, deer, raccoon dogs and rabbits. Cherry blossoms abound during the Spring, and beetles and stag beetles can be seen in summer. Autumn is the season for big fin reef squid fishing.
Overnight stay in Yakuouji Temple, hosted by the monks
“Yakuouji” can be translated as “Medicine King Temple” and this temple has quite a bit of cultural significance across Japan. For the Japanese there are “bad luck years” and these need to be attended to, and making your way to Yakuouji for purification and protection is part of the process. The monks who live here are practitioners of Shingon Buddhism, and know how to bring peace to body and mind in a turbulent world. This is your opportunity to spend some quality time with them, as they follow their daily rituals.
You join the monks in the late afternoon for ajikan, a form a meditation, and then the copying of sutras (ancient transcripts) – through both you will learn the practices and methods which will hopefully impact your spiritual life for many years. You are then shown around the temple, and privileged access to its inner sanctum, by one of the monks. Following this, it is time to bathe in the hots springs of Yakuouji and then a healthy, vegetarian dinner is served – this is what the monks also eat. After a night in lodgings provided by the temple, the following morning you observe the morning devotions in the temple at 6 a.m. The monks will follow rituals of worship and read sutras, during which you can join in the chanting.
Meet the locals
Inside access from local guides
As with any off the beaten track destination, local expertise is invaluable. With this in mind, Minamicho tourism offers English language guides free of charge where possible. Born in the region they ensure visitors enjoy a real insight into rural Japanese life.
Hugely hospitable and flexible, the Minamicho local guides go out of there way to help you access and understand the best of their region. As it is a small team their services are of course subject to availability and contact should be made well in advance.
Picnic on the beach
Real Japan. Family hospitality.
Although the Baudet family bakery has its own charming little seating area, they also give you the option of using their own food baskets, deck chairs and small tables so that you can head wherever you want to for your picnic lunch.
The friendly café owner, Mrs. Baudet, proficient in English, will happily make suggestions on where to head for your picnic. And the choices are endless – for those with a car can head anywhere along the beautiful coastline, with amazing sea views a constant. Or you may want to head in to the mountains and forests? If you are on foot, then both Ohama Beach (where the sea turtles come to lay their eggs) or the precincts of Yakuouji Temple (famous for getting rid of bad luck!) are both within easy strolling distance.
The café will let you use their baskets, deckchairs and picnic tables…as long as you kindly return them after use, of course.
Support the local wildlife conservation
Each year between May and late August, loggerhead sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs at Ohama beach on the southern coast of Tokushima. Minamicho have a museum dedicated to conserving and celebrating the turtles.
The Hiwasa Chelonian Museum Caretta is just across the road from Ohama beach and features exhibits about every aspect of these protected animals, including their evolution, preserved specimens, and photos and high-definition videos of the turtles laying eggs.
The town of Minami has been protecting the sea turtles for decades, and outside the museum you can see the artificial hatchery where some young turtles are reared until they can be released into the wild.
Look out for the pools that contain sea turtles over one meter in length. There are also tanks where you can watch the turtles swimming above you. At turtle feeding times, it is even possible to feed the little critters.
Hiking, cycling, coastal adventures
Minamicho and the surrounding areas is the Shikoku's adventure hub, boasting a huge array of sea, river and mountain activities. Examples include:
Snorkeling, diving, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Coasteering, Surfing
Watersports (Lake & Rivers):
Canoeing, Rafting, Canyon Rafting
Trekking, Climbing, "Shower" Climbing, Canyoning, Horse-riding
The Minami Awa Sun Line is 10 miles of stunning coastal road which is one of Japan's most picturesque cycling or driving routes.
True cultural immersion