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Travel and Adventure

The People of Shikoku

Here we look at the people whose activity has made Shikoku what it is today.

The People of Shikoku

Here we look at the people whose activity has made Shikoku what it is today. We look at both historical and contemporary personages. Some played only local roles, never becoming known outside their island, but many had a national and even a global impact.

People related to the Shikoku Pilgrimage

The long history of the Shikoku Pilgrimage is full of interesting personalities, from the religious ascetics who inspired its origin and the mendicant priests and scholars who established it, the warriors who did their best to wreck its fabric, to the pioneering foreign nationals who brought it to the attention of the West.

Here we look at these pilgrimage-related personages, starting with the legendary Emon Saburo. Going back over 1,200 years, people in every age made contributions to the pilgrimage, and today there are several notable scholars and pilgrim guides who are working to document and promote the Shikoku Henro.


Like the rest of Japan, Shikoku’s history encompasses centuries of warlordism, with gradual consolidation into feudal domains, leading finally to unification under a national government. Shikoku’s warriors typically combined land-based clans and sea-going clans, the kaizoku, or ‘pirates, whose internecine battles led to involvement with outside forces. The Heike warriors, losers in the Genpei War, famously took refuge in the Iya region.

In more modern times, low-ranking samurai of Kochi played a major role in the Meiji Restoration, while the Akiyama brothers of Matsuyama made a name for themselves in the Russo-Japanese war.

Poets and Writers

As an idyllic backwater, Shikoku has been the stage and inspiration for ground-breaking novelists and poets. From ancient times, haiku poets have found their way here, and Matsuyama became a hotbed of haikuists, which led to a revolution in the poetic form. And one of the world’s first novelists may have been buried at Konpira Shrine.

Artists and Craftsmen

Shikoku is a treasure trove of high art and architecture. The island’s pilgrimage temples and shrines have their treasure houses packed with religious artefacts and screens dramatically painted by local masters. The galleries and ateliers of modern artists draw visitors from all over the world to Shikoku. But the vernacular crafts are also still practised at a high level today, and you can try your hand at indigo dyeing or blacksmithing under the gentle guidance of an expert practitioner.


Despite its relative isolation, Shikoku has produced numerous talented people who carved out a place in the history of Japan and the wider world.

Industrialists and Inventors

Surprisingly, Japan’s industrial revolution made an early start in Shikoku, driven by the far-sighted vision of ambitious samurai.

Characters and Monsters

Shikoku is home to various cartoon characters, monsters, hobgoblins and other not so real personages.