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Shikoku (四国) is an oft-forgotten island in Japan. The smallest of Japan's Big Four with around four million inhabitants, it lies to the south of Honshu. The island is thought of as a rural backwater, with few must-see attractions, but a visit there can wash away those doubts; the mountainous inner regions offer some good hiking. It is also the home of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage of the Shingon sect of Buddhism.
Shikoku literally means "four countries", and it indeed consists of four ancient countries (now prefectures) on Shikoku island, conveniently arranged around the compass points. Each prefecture also has an old provincial name, still often found in place names and listed in parenthesis below.
(Iyo) — to the west
(Sanuki) — to the north
(Tosa) — to the south
(Awa) — to the east

==Other destinations==
Shikoku is the smallest of Japan's four main islands. It's known for its abundant nature and pristine rivers, including the Shimanto River in Shimanto nicknamed the "last clearwater river in Japan" and the Yoshino River whose turbulent rapids make for great rafting. The island is also rich in cultural heritage. Like the rest of the country, Shikoku was also targeted by air raids in WWII and although some cultural sites, such as the home of Sakamoto Ryoma were destroyed, most of the island's heritage sites were spared. It is now home to more original castles (four) than any other region in the country and arguably the most famous pilgrimage route in the nation.


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