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Japan's Shikoku named a top Asian destination by Lonely Planet

Known for Naruto whirlpools and 88-temple pilgrimage, island draws new notice

The Naruto whirlpools in Tokushima Prefecture.

NEW YORK -- The major Japanese island of Shikoku has landed on Lonely Planet's list of the best places to visit in the Asia-Pacific region this year.

"'88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku' pilgrims may have been journeying around Japan's fourth largest island for 1200 years," the travel guide publisher explained, "but this somewhat off-the-beaten-path haven is finally being discovered by non-Japanese visitors, with an increasing number of international flights winging into the main cities of Takamatsu and Matsuyama."

The island is known for its natural beauty, from the Iya Valley to the Pacific coastline. Visitors often enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking and surfing.

The history-rich island consists of four prefectures: Kagawa, Tokushima, Kochi and Ehime. In Tokushima, travelers can take in the Naruto whirlpools and Yoshino River. Shikoku also boasts Kochi Castle, Ritsurin Garden, and an 88-temple Buddhist pilgrimage route that stretches for 1,400 km. Tourists can also recharge at one of the oldest hot-spring houses, Dogo Onsen.

Shimantogawa, one of Japan's cleanest rivers, in Kochi Prefecture. (Photo by Yoshiharu Takeuchi)

Kagawa Prefecture celebrated the selection in a news release. Thanks to the prefecture's efforts to pitch the region, Lonely Planet chose Shikoku as the sole Japanese destination for the list, it said, noting an "opportunity to promote the region's many splendors" to the world.

The prefecture is eyeing major sports events to be held in Japan, such as this year's Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and expects longer stays by foreign tourists visiting the country.

Lonely Planet is famous for its picks of destinations. Its top 10 Asia-Pacific list for 2019 also named Margaret River and southern Western Australia, central Vietnam, Singapore, Palawan in the Philippines, Beijing, and Cambodia.

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