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Shikoku: Kochi and Ehime Discovery


7 Days, 6 Nights

Activity Level

Start / Finish

Kochi / Matsuyama

Technical Level

A walking tour following pilgrimage and historical rural trails in west Shikoku.

Guided walking exploring a variety of trails including pilgrimage routes in remote countryside. Comfortable walking with some steep ascents and descents through lush and rural countryside between the ocean and mountains. Bountiful Japanese seafood cuisine and comfortable hotel accommodation.

January to June, and September to December.

Shikoku: Kochi & Ehime Discovery is a fully-guided tour suitable for anyone who is a regular walker and can walk for four to five hours in comfort. In general, the route is gently undulating but also includes some short steeper ascents and descents. Please read more on Tour Levels here.


Tour accommodation is in Japanese and Western-style hotels. The maximum group size is 12 people and there is no minimum size. If we accept a booking we guarantee to run the tour.


Walk Japan’s Shikoku: Kochi & Ehime Discovery travels through the western reaches of Shikoku, Japan’s fourth main island, leading us on a journey of discovery through Kochi and Ehime, two of Japan’s most beautiful but least visited prefectures. This is an elegant and tranquil region where sparklingly clear rivers and streams wind slowly and circuitously from mountains through verdant valleys to the shimmering Pacific Ocean. Here the population is sparse and mostly spread amongst farming villages, surrounded by citrus groves, ginger and rice fields, and small fishing towns. Here, an ageless and gentle day-to-day rhythm of life is still sustained. Even Kochi City, the urban central district where our tour begins, is imbued by its surrounding countryside with a slower yet distinctively attractive charisma.


The unhurried gracefulness of life in this charming far-flung region suffuses our journey together. This immersive easy-to-moderate walking tour is composed of ancient and historic trails that complement each with their own distinct ambience and interest; from the sacred to the worldly, and from the age-old to the modern day.


We begin our exploration on a long-overlooked forested mountain path that brought salt, once a precious commodity, from the coast to the inland communities on its route. Pilgrimage has for millennia been an everyday feature of life in Shikoku and is an inclusive part of our journey. Shikoku is famed for its 1,200 kilometre-long O-henro, the focus of our Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage tour. On this tour, however, we reign in our sights and visit some of the 88 temples of a 12 kilometre-long mini-pilgrimage.


Sakamoto Ryoma, a son of Kochi, is a much romanticised hero in Japan and provides us with another insightful and intriguing feature to our tour. Influenced by democratic principles, Ryoma absconded on foot from his feudal samurai clan under pain of death and he went on to formulate proposals that helped establish the modern government of Japan in 1868. We follow in his footsteps along several beautiful sections of his escape route, known as the dappan-no-michi. He leads us to Yusuhara, an elegant town set deep in Kochi’s mountains, and to another modern-day Japanese protagonist, the world-renowned architect Kuma Kengo.


Kuma designed the Japan National Stadium built for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which is celebrated for its plentiful use of wood, a signature element of much of his work. Kuma first visited Yusuhara in the 1980s, when he was inspired to use natural materials and apply traditional Japanese construction techniques to his architecture.


Ryoma also leads us from Kochi Prefecture and into Ehime Prefecture and to Ozu, which counts amongst Japan’s most beautifully-situated and picturesque towns. Although small in scale, Ozu oozes attractiveness; its town centre of period buildings is skirted by a crystal clear river and flanked on each side by an imposing castle and Garyu Sanso, an intimate Japanese masterpiece comprising of a garden, villa and teahouse.


Every evening, our meals are always delicious feasts, which are composed of the freshest seasonal produce sourced from the surrounding mountains, fields and seas. Katsuo seared bonito, each of which are individually fished by rod and line, is a firm favourite in Kochi and invariably crowns our meals there morning and night. Each night we stay in comfortable Japanese or western-style hotels and include an experience in traditional accommodation with onsen hot spring baths.


In concert with the serene countryside our daily walking is between nine and 12 kilometres following rural trails and quiet country lanes. We negotiate a few passes but these are always climbed at a comfortable pace. Each day our main baggage is sent ahead by vehicle so we need only take what is required each day in a small backpack.


We meet in Kochi, on Shikoku’s southern Pacific Ocean coast, to travel through Kochi and into Ehime, where we finish our journey in Dogo Onsen, a hot spring resort, in Matsuyama. Walk Japan provides tour participants with easily followed, detailed instructions on how to join and leave the tour.

Map image
The itinerary for the Shikoku: Kochi & Ehime Discovery tour is ground-only, beginning in Kochi and ending in Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama. Prior to the tour, Walk Japan will provide detailed instructions for travelling to the meeting point in Kochi.


Please note that on Day 5 the main baggage will be shipped in advance overnight. On this day, you will need to carry all items you require overnight; your daypack should be sufficiently large to accommodate these items.


Day 1 Kochi

The tour starts at 6pm in the tour hotel, which is located in central Kochi, one of Japan’s further flung and more distinctive regional cities. Your Walk Japan Tour Leader awaits to greet everybody and provide the tour briefing, after which dinner together follows at a local restaurant.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel.
Meals: Dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.


Day 2 Kochi - Monobe - Inomachi

After enjoying breakfast in our accommodation, a dedicated vehicle whisks us together with our luggage to the beginning of our first walk today along the route of an historic salt road. In days gone by, salt was a precious commodity and usually refined in open pans along the coast. From here it was transported to the settlements inland. We reverse the journey by starting in a mountain village exploring the best preserved sections as we gently descend to the lowlands along forest trails and quiet country lanes. Often we encounter knowledgeable locals en route and encourage us to shoulder wooden frames. These were once used by bokka porters to transport not only salt but also fish and other products.


After a delicious locally-made bento lunch we say farewell to our companions and continue our journey by vehicle to this evening’s accommodation. En route, we visit the beautiful Makino Botanical Garden and neighbouring Chikurin-ji, the 31st temple of Shikoku’s Henro, the famed 88 Temple Pilgrimage.


Our accommodation is a small country town hotel with expansive views across the surrounding countryside. We enjoy the scenery from our rooms and also while we dine together this evening.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 8.7km (5.4 miles), 4.5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 521m (1,709ft).


Day 3 Inomachi - Tosa-Kure

Today, we first make a short visit to a delightful washi paper museum before heading off by dedicated vehicle deeper into Kochi’s verdant mountains to explore a little-known mini 88 temple pilgrimage that is 12 kilometres in length. The energetic can walk this in one day compared to the 40 to 45 days usually required to complete the 1,200 kilometre-long Shikoku Henro.


We walk through delightful rural scenery passing by many of the pilgrimage’s temples, all of which are symbolised by simple stone statuary. Although the route follows a gently rising valley, a few of the temples are located on steep outcrops. However, there is always an alternative gentle route for those who wish to circumvent these more difficult sections.


Lunch, once again, is a delicious locally-made bento, which we eat on our pilgrimage. After paying our final respects at the 88th temple, we journey on by our vehicle to another spiritual home of the Japanese, a nihonshu sake brewery. After sampling its libations, which is traditionally used in purification rites, we move on to our accommodation. Set on a cliff aside the Pacific Ocean, we first relax in our hotel baths, which afford grand views over blue seas and Tosa-Kure’s fishing port. Dinner, a gourmet feast follows and it inevitably includes katsuo, mouthwatering seared bonito for which the town is particularly famed.

Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 9km (5.6 miles), 4.5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 550m (1,804ft).


Day 4 Tosa-Kure - Awa - Tosa-Kure

We enjoy a relaxed time today. Our morning walk first takes us to the nearby wooded precincts of Tosa-Kure's main Shinto shrine, which is dedicated to Hachiman the protector deity of Japan, farmers and, most importantly here, fishers. Situated just beyond the shrine's main gate is a tsunami evacuation tower that, from its upper level, affords panoramic views over the town below, surrounding mountains and the seas.


From here we begin a leisurely exploration of a quiet coastal road that leads us to the small seaside village of Awa. Our route is a section of the 1,546 kilometre-long Shikoku Nature Trail that takes us past small coves and hidden surf beaches. Almost throughout, forested hills rise on one side of us, while on the other we enjoy uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean.


From Awa, we return by local train to Tosa-Kure, where we enjoy a leisurely lunch. We recommend eating in the town’s atmospheric market, especially at the stall run by an engaging and energetic local. Satiated, we stroll through the town and its port back to our accommodation for another relaxing soak and delicious evening meal.


Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11km (6.8 miles), 4 hours.
Total elevation gain: 144m (472ft).


Day 5 Tosa-Kure - Yusuhara

After breakfast, we forward our luggage to the tour’s final night accommodation on Day 6 in Dogen Onsen. We transfer to the beginning of today’s adventure, which introduces us to Sakamoto Ryoma, one of Japan’s heroes. Ryoma, on pain of death, renounced his position as a low-ranking samurai in service to the daimyo lord of the Tosa domain, modern-day Kochi, and deserted to Kyushu. Today and tomorrow we follow in his footsteps along his escape route, known as the Dappan-no-Michi.


An initial walk takes us along a forested trail and over an easily negotiated pass before onward travel by vehicle up a long rural valley to the second section of the Dappan-no-Michi that we walk today. This leads us through rice terraces and a quiet village and down into Yusuhara. En route, we visit the Kumo-no-Ue-no-Gallery designed by Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s top architects.


Kuma is renowned for reinterpreting traditional Japanese wooden construction methods. He relates that his inspiration for this comes from first visiting Yusuhara in the 1980s. Besides his gallery there are four more intriguing buildings designed by him in Yusuhara including our accommodation for the evening. We explore this delightful town before dining out at a nearby restaurant popular with the locals.

Accommodation: Western-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11km (6.8miles), 4 hours.
Total elevation gain: 277m (908ft).


Day 6 Yusuhara - Ozu - Dogo Onsen

Today, we continue along the Dappan-no-Michi. Once again, a dedicated vehicle takes us to the beginning of our walk, which leads us along a forested trail that zig-zags up over a pass and then down through a long narrow rural valley strung with rice paddies and farmhouses. Rejoining our transport we travel into neighbouring Ehime Prefecture to the gorgeous castle town of Ozu.

Ozu once flourished as a major centre of candle wax production. This industry is long gone but the wealth it once generated is apparent in the genteel historic townscape, which through sensitive restoration and repurposing of buildings is bringing new life to the community.


We leisurely explore Ozu including visits to the exquisite Garyu Sanso, a traditional villa, tea house and gardens, and Ozu’s castle, which towers over the town. From Ozu we ride a local train to Matsuyama, where we stay in the city’s Dogo Onsen district, which is famed for its onsen hot spring baths. Our final evening meal of the tour is another sumptuous dinner.


Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11km (6.8 miles), 4 hours.
Total elevation gain: 440m (1443ft).


Day 7 Dogo Onsen

The tour ends after breakfast and your Tour Leader will be on hand to advise on how to purchase train tickets for onward journeys within Japan or to your departure airport. Please do not hesitate to make your travel requirements known during the tour.


Accommodation: N/A.
Meals: Breakfast provided.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.


This itinerary is subject to change.

The itinerary for the Shikoku: Kochi & Ehime Adventure tour is ground-only, beginning in Kochi City and ending in Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama City.


Kochi City is accessible by train but those with limited time may need to consider flying to join the tour.
Kochi City is accessible by train but those with limited time may need to consider flying to join the tour. The airport closest to the tour's start is Kochi Ryoma Airport (KCZ), domestic flights connect with Narita International Airport (NRT), Haneda International Airport (HND), and Fukuoka International Airport (FUK). Buses run between Kochi Ryoma Airport and Kochi Station, where our hotel is located. The fare is JPY740 and the journey is 35 minutes.
Travelling by train to Kochi takes up to 4 hours 20 minutes from Kyoto and over seven hours from central Tokyo.

The pre-tour pack includes detailed instructions, including a map, for travel to the accommodation at the start of the tour.


Similar to Kochi, Matsuyama is also relatively remote and train journeys to Japan’s major cities are lengthy. Matsuyama Airport has connecting flights to Narita, Haneda and Fukuoka. We would encourage customers not to book same day international flights upon completion of the tour.