Getting To & Around Shikoku
For most international visitors, especially those holding a Japan Rail (JR) Pass, Shikoku is most easily accessed by train with the option of also traveling by ferry, air, express bus or driving yourself. On this page you will find the following information:
Separated from Japan’s main island of Honshu by the Seto Inland Sea, Shikoku sits quietly by itself and often goes overlooked by international visitors. It shouldn’t be. Shikoku is one of Japan’s most diverse, surprising and rewarding regions to travel around, easily accessed thanks to three bridge networks connecting different points of the island to Honshu.
The ‘Great Seto Bridge’ crosses the Seto Inland Sea from Okayama Prefecture on Honshu to Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku, with Takamatsu being the nearest major city on the island to any point on Honshu, The bridge carries both traffic and rail services making this route the most convenient for most international visitors. The ‘Onaruto Bridge’ connects Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku to the island of Awajima and onto Hyogo Prefecture and Kobe on Honshu. Tokushima City is the largest city in this part of Shikoku, making it another major access point (but noting that the Onaruto Bridge does not carry any rail services). Thirdly, the ‘Kurushima Kaiyo Bridges’ connect Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku to Hiroshima Prefecture on Honshu, providing access to Shikoku’s largest city – Matsuyama (there are no rail services on this bridge network).
For international visitors, especially those holding a Japan Rail (JR) Pass, traveling to and from Shikoku by train will be the most attractive option. As such, we recommend traveling to Shikoku using rail services over the Great Seto Bridge to Kagawa Prefecture and its main city, Takamatsu. Multiple services run over the bridge – as discussed below – from Okayama Station and beyond. As a stop on the San’yo Shinkansen line, Okayama is easy to access and the nearest shinkansen station on Honshu to any point on Shikoku.
WHERE IS SHIKOKU?
Consisting of four prefectures – Kagawa, Tokushima, Kochi and Ehime – the island of Shikoku sits to the south of Japan’s main island of Honshu and to the east of the island grouping of Kyushu. Shikoku is separated from Honshu by the Seto Inland Sea however three major bridges connect it to Japan’s main island – as discussed above – effectively connecting the cities to Takamatsu, Tokushima and Matsuyama directly to Honshu. It should be noted that Matsuyama, Takamatsu and Tokushima all have ferry services connecting them to Honshu while all three cities, along with Kochi City, are also serviced by airports. Most international visitors will however head to Shikoku by train over the Great Seto Bridge, meaning that Takamatsu is the most likely start and end point for your time on the island. Train services to / from Takamatsu run to Okayama Station on Honshu, at which you can switch to the San’yo Shinkansen / ‘Bullet Train’ which runs to destinations including Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kobe and Osaka with some services continuing onto Kyoto, Nagoya and as far as Tokyo.
HOW TO GET TO SHIKOKU
As shown on the map above, the island of Shikoku consists of four prefectures – Kagawa, Tokushima, Kochi and Ehime – with four cities – Takamatsu, Tokushima, Kochi and Matsuyama – being the largest in their respective regions. Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku with each of the four cities listed below serviced by an airport meaning that’s possible to enter and exit Shikoku via each city. However, most international visitors choose to make the journey by train and with only one rail connection to the island, it results in most travellers entering and exiting Shikoku…
VIA TAKAMATSU CITY, KAGAWA PREFECTURE
Takamatsu City sits on the north-east coast of Shikoku and is the nearest city on the island to Japan’s main island of Honshu. It is the main point of access for most international visitors, with the 13.1km long Great Seto Bridge connecting Okayama Prefecture on Honshu to Kagawa Prefecture on Kagawa. One of three bridges that connect Honshu to Shikoku, it is the only one of the three to carry rail as well as road traffic. You can also reach Takamatsu by ferry or flight via Takamatsu Airport:
By train: Takamatsu is easy to reach by train thanks to two services running across the Great Seto Bridge from the main island of Honshu:
LIMITED EXPRESS ‘MARINE LINER’
Running from Okayama Station to Takamatsu Station, the limited express ‘Marine Liner’ is the main train service by which travellers move between Japan’s main island of Honshu and Shikoku – taking between 55 to 65 minutes / JPY1550 one-way. Services begin around 05:30 and run until around 23:45 however it’s important to note that some early and late services to do not go all the way from Okayama to Takamatsu. The service includes non-reserved, reserved and Green Car carriages and is covered by the JR Pass.
LIMITED EXPRESS ‘SETO SUNRISE’
The ‘Sunrise Seto’ is an overnight / sleeper train running from Tokyo to Takamatsu on Shikoku via major stations including Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Sannomiya (Kobe) and Okayama. Some services also continue past Takamatsu and run all the way to Kotohira Station in Shikoku. For travellers heading to Shikoku from Okayama, the short distance and convenience of the Marine Liner means that is the best service to use however if you’re headed there from further afield, the Sunrise Seto can be a novel option as sleeper trains in Japan are quite rare. The 14-car train, once daily service takes around 9.5 hours to cover the entire journey; departing Tokyo at 22:00 and arriving at Takamatsu at 07:27 – stopping at Okayama at 06:27. The return service departs Takamatsu at 21:26 and arrives at Tokyo at 07:08. The base fare for the service is covered by the JR Pass however you will need to pay a supplemental surcharge of between JPY9500 to JPY17,000 depending on your choice of sleeper carriage.
By bus / drive yourself: express bus services operate to Takamatsu from Tokyo and other starting points, taking around 10 hours and costing JPY6000 to JPY14,000 (depending on the date and time you want to travel) to get there from Tokyo. Alternatively, should you wish to drive to Takamatsu you can do so over the Great Seto Bridge. Okayama is the nearest major city on Honshu to Takamatsu – approximately 85km / 1.5 hour drive.
By ferry: Takamatsu is a port city and as such, ferry services connect it to the Setouchi art islands of Naoshima – 50 minutes / JPY520 – along with Shodoshima – 60 minutes / JPY 700 – and others. Services also run to both Okayama and Kobe on Honshu, taking around 4 to 4.5 hours / JPY2000 from Kobe.
By air: Takamatsu Airport is located around 15km southwest of the centre of Takamatsu City. Both All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) operates flights from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Takamatsu, while Jetstar Japan operates to and from Tokyo Narita Airport. Other airlines operate to Takamatsu from destinations in Asia including Hong Kong Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei. The flight time from Tokyo to Takamatsu is around 80 minutes.
VIA TOKUSHIMA CITY, TOKUSHIMA PREFECTURE
Tokushima City on the east coast of Shikoku and another point of access for the island. There no direct rail services to Tokushima from Honshu, however the journey can still be made by train via Takamatsu Station. Alternatively, the journey can also be made by ferry, bus, air or driving yourself over the Onaruto Bridge:
By train: it’s important to note that there are no rail services on the Onaruto Bridge, meaning should you wish to travel to Tokushima by train, you’ll need to first head to Takamatsu. Services run regularly throughout the day taking between 60 to 140 minutes / JPY1470 to JPY2670 (depending on which service you choose).
By bus / drive yourself: express buses operate to Tokushima from starting points including Osaka and Tokyo. From Tokyo, the journey takes around 9 hours and costs between JPY7500 and JPY11,200 (depending on your date and time of travel) while from Osaka, it takes around 2.5 hours and costs JPY3800. Buses cross the Onaruto Bridge to get to Tokushima, a route that you can also follow by renting a car and driving yourself – a 2.5 hour drive from Osaka or 3 hours from Kyoto.
By ferry: as another port city, Tokushima can be reached by Wakayama on Honshu or as far afield as Tokyo or Kita-Kyushu. From Wakayama, services take around 2 hours and cost JPY2200 for a standard passenger fare. From Tokyo, services take 18 hours and cost JPY13,390 for a standard fare while from Kita-Kyushu, services take around 14.5 hours and cost JPY10,240 for a standard fare.
By air: the city is serviced by the small Tokushima Awaodori Airport. Both All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) operates services to Tokushima including from Tokyo Haneda Airport – a flight of around 70 minutes – along with Fukuoka in Kyushu and Sapporo in Hokkaido.
VIA MATSUYAMA CITY, EHIME PREFECTURE
Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku, located on the north-west coast in Ehime Prefecture. The Kurushima Kaiyo Bridges connect Matsuyama to the main island of Honshu via a series of small islands, meaning that the city can be reach by car or bus. These bridges to do carry any rail services, however some services running across the Great Seto Bridge run directly to Matsuyama from Honshu. If you can’t time your travel to use those services, you can still make the journey by train but will need to transfer services at another station. Ferry services and flights are also available:
By train: the Limited Express ‘Shiokaze’ runs from stations on Honshu to Matsuyama, taking around 150 minutes / JPY6420. If your intended travel time does match with these services, you will need to take the Limited Express ‘Marine Liner’ or Limited Express ‘Nanpu’ and switch to the Limited Express ‘Ishizuchi’ at Sakaide Station, Utazu Station or Tadotsu Station – a total journey of around 200 minutes / JPY6200 to reach Matsuyama from Okayama Station.
By bus / drive yourself: overnight express buses run from Tokyo to Matsuyama in around 12.5 hours / JPY12,000. Express buses also operate from locations including Kobe – 4.5 hours – and Osaka – 6 hours. The cost ranges from around JPY4000 to JPY800 depending on your start and end points, and your intended date and time of travel. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive yourself to Matsuyama over the Kurushima Kaiyo Bridges – a 250km / 4-hour journey from Hiroshima,
By ferry: services connect to Matsuyama and multiple destinations including nearby islands, however for international visitors, the route to and from Hiroshima will be of most interest. From Hiroshima, the journey takes around 2.5 hours / JPY4500 for a standard fare. There are regular services throughout the day.
By air: Matsuyama Airport is located only 7km / 20 minutes from the centre of the city. Both All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) operate services from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Matsuyama while Jetstar Japan operates from Tokyo Narita Airport. The flight from Tokyo to Matsuyama is around 2.5 hours. ANA also operates from Osaka and Naha on Okinawa while JAL operates from Osaka and Fukuoka in Kyushu. International routes in Asia operate to and from Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei.
VIA KOCHI CITY, KOCHI PREFECTURE
Kochi City lies on Shikoku’s south coast and unlike the three cities listed above, it is not connected to Honshu by a bridge. As such, Kochi is rarely be used as a point of entry or departure from Shikoku for international visitors. There are no convenient ferry services to Kochi. Should you wish to travel to Shikoku via Kochi, flying will be your best option:
By air: Kochi Ryoma Airport sits around 17km / 25 minutes to the east of central Kochi City. All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) operates services to Kochi from Tokyo Haneda Airport, while Jetstar Japan operates from Tokyo Narita Airport. ANA and Jetstar also operate services from Osaka while Fuji Dream Airlines operates from Kobe and Nagoya. The flight from Tokyo takes around 90 minutes.
By train: it is possible to reach Kochi by train from Honshu, it just takes time. The Limited Express ‘Nanpu’ services run to Kochi Station, taking around 150 minutes / JPY5540 from Okayama Station on Honshu. If you cannot time your travel to use this service, you will need to transfer services at one of several stations in Shikoku, which will add time to the journey and take around 200 to 220 minutes to reach Kochi from Okayama.
By bus / drive yourself: overnight express buses run from Tokyo to Kochi in around 11.5 hours and cost JPY14,500 – crossing the Onaruto Bridge and heading onto Kochi via Tokushima. Should you wish to drive yourself by the same route, it will take around 4 hours to cover the 290km journey from Osaka.
GETTING TO SHIKOKU BY TRAIN
As stated above, for most international visitors, traveling to and from Shikoku using train services over the Great Seto Bridge to Kagawa Prefecture / Takamatsu City will be the most convenient option. Some services running over the bridge travel to destinations including Matsuyama, Tokushima and Kochi with almost all services stopping at Takamatsu Station. With that in mind, in this section we explain how to get to Takamatsu Station from the following starting points:
We endeavour to keep this information as up-to-date as possible and in recognition that most international visitors will be using the train network to move around Japan, most directions are for using the trains. The travel times and fares listed below are correct as of time of publication however subject to change and should only be used as a guide. It should also be noted that the Japan Rail (JR) Pass does not cover the ‘Nozomi’ or ‘Mizuho’ services on the San’yo Shinkansen and Tokaido Shinkansen lines. Should you wish not to use there services, your travel time to Shikoku will be slightly extended past some of the estimates given below.
FROM OKAYAMA / between 55 to 85 minutes
Okayama Station is the nearest station on the ‘Shinkansen’ or ‘Bullet Train’ network to any point on Shikoku. Services on the San’yo Shinkansen line run frequently to Okayama, making it a convenient starting point from where to head to Shikoku. Using the Limited Express ‘Marine Liner’ is the fastest and easiest option, taking between 55 to 65 minutes / JPY1550 to travel from Okayama to Takamatsu. Alternatively, you can use the Limited Express ‘Shiokaze’ or the Limited Express ‘Nanpu’ to Utazu Station and transfer to local services onto Takamatsu – around 85 minutes / JPY2110. It should also be noted that the Limited Express ‘Seto Sunrise’ stops at Okayama before heading onto Shikoku however given the nature of this service – as a sleeper train – using it only really makes sense when travelling overnight from one of its more distant stops such as Tokyo.
FROM FUKUOKA / between 185 to 215 minutes
Located in Fukuoka City, Hakata Station is the western terminus of the San’yo Shinkansen making it an easy point from where to head to Shikoku. Take the San’yo Shinkansen to Okayama and transfer to any service headed to Shikoku, of which the ‘Marine Line’ is likely to be the most convenient – a total journey of 185 minutes / JPY13,190. You can also choose to use other services – as listed above from Okayama to Shikoku – however they’ll add time to the journey.
FROM HIROSHIMA / between 120 to 150 minutes
From Hiroshima Station, take the San’yo Shinkansen to Okayama Station and then transfer to the Limited Express ‘Marine Liner’ – a total journey time of around 120 minutes / JPY6810. You can also choose to use other services – as listed above from Okayama to Shikoku – however they’ll add time to the journey.
FROM KOBE / between 115 to 135 minutes
Another stop on the San’yo Shinkansen line, Shin-Kobe Station is within easy reach of Shikoku. Use the shinkansen to reach Okayama and transfer to the ‘Marine Liner’ bound for Shikoku – a total journey of 115 minutes / JPY6480 to reach Takamatsu Station. You can also choose to use other services – as listed above from Okayama to Shikoku – however they’ll add time to the journey.
FROM OSAKA / between 130 to 150 minutes
Shin-Osaka Station is the eastern terminus of the San’yo Shinkansen, making it an easy point from where to reach Shikoku. Take the shinkansen to reach Okayama and transfer to the ‘Marine Liner’ bound for Shikoku – a total journey of 130 minutes / JPY7250 to reach Takamatsu Station. You can also choose to use other services – as listed above from Okayama to Shikoku – however they’ll add time to the journey.
FROM KANSAI AIRPORT / between 195 to 255 minutes
The easiest way to reach Shikoku by train from Kansai International Airport is to take the Limited Express ‘Haruka’ to Shin-Osaka Station – 50 minutes – and then switch to the San’yo Shinkansen bound for – a total journey time of 195 minutes / JPY8950. Alternatively, you can take local lines to reach Shin-Osaka Station however they take around 30 to 60 minutes longer and require multiple transfers. For that reason, we recommend using the service above using the Limited Express ‘Haruka’.
FROM KYOTO / between 140 to 180 minutes
Kyoto Station is a stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, with some service carrying onto past the terminal of Shin-Osaka and directly onto Okayama. From Kyoto, take the ‘Nozomi’ shinkansen service to Okayama Station and transfer to the ‘Marine Liner’ service bound for Shikoku – a total journey of 140 to 150 minutes / JPY8780. You can also choose to use other services – as listed above from Okayama to Shikoku – however they’ll add time to the journey.
FROM NAGOYA / between 180 to 230 minutes
Nagoya Station is another stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, with some service carrying onto past the terminal of Shin-Osaka and directly onto Okayama. From Nagoya, take the ‘Nozomi’ shinkansen service to Okayama Station and transfer to the ‘Marine Liner’ service bound for Shikoku – a total journey of 180 to 190 minutes / JPY11,530. You can also choose to use other services – as listed above from Okayama to Shikoku – however they’ll add time to the journey. It is also worth noting the overnight Limited Express ‘Seto Sunrise’ stops at Nagoya – see below for details.
FROM TOKYO / between 275 to 310 minutes
Tokyo Station is the eastern terminus of the Tokaido Shinkansen. ‘Nozomi’ services originate at Tokyo, with some running onto Okayama where you can switch to the Limited Express ‘Marine Liner’ onto Shikoku – a total journey of 275 minutes / JPY17,470. Alternatively, the ‘Sunrise Seto’ is an overnight / sleeper train running from Tokyo to Takamatsu on Shikoku via major stations including Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Sannomiya (Kobe) and Okayama. It takes 9.5 hours with fares vary depending on the time of sleeper carriage you wish to book. The base fare for the service is covered by the JR Pass however you will need to pay a supplemental surcharge of between JPY9500 to JPY17,000 depending on your choice of sleeper carriage.
FROM NARITA AIRPORT / between 275 to 345 minutes
When heading directly to Shikoku from Narita Airport, flying is likely to be a better option than train with Jetstar Japan flying to all four of Shikoku’s airports – including Takamatsu, Tokushima, Matsuyama and Kochi. It will be much faster and may well be cheaper. However, should you wish to make the journey by train you can do so using either the Narita Express (NEX) to Tokyo Station or the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori and switch to a local line to reach Tokyo Station. Once there, transfer to a shinkansen service bound for Okayama and then switch to a service onto Shikoku. The total journey takes between 275 to 345 minutes and costs around JPY21,000 (depending on which service you choose) – noting that while the NEX and shinkansen services are covered by the JR Pass, the Keisei Skyliner is not.
FROM HANEDA AIRPORT / between 245 to 315 minutes
When heading directly to Shikoku from Haneda Airport, flying is likely to be a better option than train with both All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) flying to all four of Shikoku’s airports – including Takamatsu, Tokushima, Matsuyama and Kochi. It will be much faster and may well be cheaper. However, should you wish to make the journey by train you can do so using the Keikyu Main / Airport Line Rapid service to Shinagawa Station – a journey of only 15 minutes – and then switch to the shinkansen bound for Okayama Station and onto Shikoku – a total journey time of around 245 to 315 minutes (depending on which service you choose) / approx. JPY19,000.
FROM NAGANO / around 375 to 385 minutes
When heading to Shikoku from Nagano Station, you can do so via Nagoya or Tokyo. To do so via Nagoya, take the Limited Express ‘Shinano’ from Nagano to Nagoya Station and switch to a shinkansen service bound for Okayama Station, and then switch to a service bound for Shikoku – a total journey time of around 375 minutes / JPY15,930. Alternatively, to do so via Tokyo, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Nagano to Tokyo Station and switch shinkansen services to one bound for Okayama and onto Shikoku – approx. 385 minutes / JPY22,750.
FROM KANAZAWA / between 295 to 315 minutes
From Kanazawa Station, take the Limited Express ‘Thunderbird’ service to Kyoto Station. Once at Kyoto, switch to a San’yo Shinkansen service bound for Okayama and then transfer to a service bound for Shikoku – a total journey of between 295 to 315 minutes / JPY13,180.
GETTING AROUND SHIKOKU
Much of Shikoku is connected by a rail network that allows visitors to move easily around the island. The JR Shikoku Line is the primary rail line around the island, connecting all four prefectures, their major cities in Takamatsu, Tokushima, Kochi and Matsuyama, along with many other destinations including inland locations such as the Iya Valley. In addition to this line, regional lines operate in each prefecture – the Kotoden Line in Kagawa, Asa Kaigan Tetsudo Line in Tokushima, Tosaden Kotsu Line in Kochi and Iyotetsu Line in Ehime. Operated by Japan Rail, all services on the main Shikoku Line are covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass however the pass may not cover all services on the smaller regional lines. Visitors also have the option of purchasing an ‘All Shikoku Rail Pass’ covering all train services on Shikoku along with the ferry to and bus services on the popular Shodoshima.
While the rail network on Shikoku is good, it doesn’t quite match those found in other regions of Japan. Rapid services are limited while local services can take significant time. If you have the time, this can actually be a great way to go a little slower and enjoy the region however if you’re limited for time, it can be frustrating. Added to that, there are regions of Shikoku, most notably large sections of the Pacific coast, with no rail lines. This effectively cuts them off to travellers unless you have your own transport.
Driving Yourself Around Shikoku
Shikoku is a great region to explore by renting a car and driving yourself. Some of its most rewarding destinations such as the Iya Valley, Shimanto River, the Kochi surf coast or temples along the ‘Shikoku Henro’ cannot be reach using the train, or even if they can, take significant time to get there by public transport. For that reason, if you’re planning an extended visit to the island we suggest renting a car and driving yourself. To rent a car and drive in Japan you must:
— be 18 years of age or older, and
— have a valid Japanese drivers license, or
— have a valid drivers license in your home country and a valid international drivers license*
It is important to note that if you do not have a Japanese drivers license, you cannot drive in Japan unless you are also carrying a valid international license – even if you have a valid license in your home country. To obtain one, you will need to apply and have it issued before traveling to Japan. The process and cost varies by country so check with your local/national automotive association for further details.
You’ll find car rental outlets at major train stations, airports and other locations in Shikoku’s main cities. Renting is typically economical and easy, just make sure to have them set your navigation system to English prior to driving away. For more information about renting a car and driving in Japan, see our ‘Moving Around Japan: Using Trains, Buses, Plans or Drive Yourself’ page; and for more suggestions of the best things to see and do around Shikoku, read on to the section below.
*Nationals of Belgium, Estonia France, Germany, Monaco, Switzerland and Taiwan are not eligible for an international drivers license. However agreements between those countries and Japan means that those nationals can drive in Japan on the drivers license issued in their home country as long as they are also carrying an official Japanese translation of it.
30 THINGS TO DO AROUND SHIKOKU & WHERE TO STAY
The smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku is – for international visitors – also the least visited region of the country. Those who do make the journey discover an island blessed with outstanding natural landscapes including the islands and coastline of the Seto Inland Sea, surfing, great fishing and seafood, secluded river valleys, lost villages, and of course the ‘Shikoku Henro’ – an 88 temple pilgrimage trail that draws visitors from all over the world. For more information about just what’s on offer, see our ‘30 Things to Do Around Shikoku & Where to Stay’ page.
PLAN YOUR VISIT TO JAPAN
Heading to Shikoku using the rail system is quick, easy and comfortable. Unfathomable in its size and efficiency, moving around the country by train opens-up all regions of Japan for exploration. Our ‘Plan Your Visit’ page has everything you need to know about visiting Japan – from tips on the best time to travel, times to avoid, entering and exiting the country, money matters, staying connected, accommodation, staying safe and healthy and plenty more to ensure that you get the most out of your time here.