Japan City Guides: Tokushima
- situated on the north east coast of Shikoku Island at the mouth of the Yoshino River.
- population approximately 270,000.
- ferries to Wakayama and Tokyo.
- main attraction is the Awa Odori Bon dance in August.
- interesting museums and local crafts.
- Tokushima is the starting point for the '88 Sacred Temple' Pilgrimage.
- great views from the top of Mt. Bizen.
- Awa is the old name for the province
- Naruto Whirlpools nearby and onsens in Kamiyama to the south west.
Tokushima is a pleasant coastal city and the prefectural capital of Tokushima Prefecture on the eastern side of Shikoku Island. Tokushima is best-known for its amazing summer dance festival - the Awa Odori - when over a million people gather to participate in the 4-day street dancing from August 12-15 every year.
The Awa Odori Kaikan (Tel: 611 1611; open daily 9am-6pm; closed 2nd & 4th Wed. of the month) is Tokushima's main sightseeing attraction, especially if you cannot make the big event in the Obon period in August.
The five-storey building has exhibits relating to the big event including daily performances on the second floor, electronic dance machines where you can try out the fancy footwork, posters advertising the dance going back through the years and exhibits of the happi coats and straw hats worn by the dancers. The fifth floor has the ropeway station to the top of Mount Bizan (600 yen).
The Awa Odori supposedly dates back to 1587, when the local lord Hachisuka Iemasa, kicked off the celebration on the completion of his castle. The castle is no longer standing, but the party has continued. The dancers' famous refrain as they samba their way through the streets can be roughly translated as: "The dancing fool and the watching fool are both foolish. So why not get up and boogie?"
Ride the ropeway or walk up Mount Bizen for wonderful views of the Yoshino River delta, Awaji Island and the Inland Sea. On the summit is a Burmese-style pagoda dedicated to Japanese soldiers killed in Burma in World War II, the quirky Moraes Hall (Tel: 088 623 1002), dedicated to the Portuguese adventurer Wenceslau de Moraes (1854-1929), who lived out his later life in the area. Moraes is considered the Portuguese Lafcadio Hearn, of whom he was a direct contemporary.
At the base of Mount Bizen to the left of the Awara Odori Kaikan is a small temple from where the walk up the hill begins. A little further south is the larger Zuiganji Temple (Tel: 088 652 5968), with a noted Momoyama-style garden. The temple dates from 1614 and the garden costs 300 yen to enter.
On the other side of Awara Odori Kaikan is Teramachi, an area of historic temples. Moraes is buried in Choonji and the nearby Mt. Otaki is a local cherry-blossom viewing beauty spot lined with yakimochi (grilled rice-cake) shops.
Tokushima Station and Awa Odori inspired rest area
Tokushima manhole cover; Awa Odori mannequins
Back behind JR Tokushima Station is Chuo Park, which are the grounds of the old Tokushima Castle. All that remains of the castle are some stone walls and the moat, but the interesting Tokushima Castle Museum (Tel: 088 656 2525; admission 300 yen; 9.30am-5pm; closed Monday) contains a model replica of the original castle and heirlooms of the Hachisuka family, including beautiful lacquerware and samurai armor. The only surviving example of a feudal lord's boat is also on display. Nearby is the Shenshuku-teian, the former palace garden of the feudal lord. The former entrance gate Washi-no-mon is a modern reproduction.
Other museums and places of interest in or near Tokushima include the Literature and Calligraphy Museum (Tel: 088 625 7485), the Aizumicho Historical Museum (Ai-no-Kan) (Tel: 088 692 6317) an indigo-dyeing museum in Shozui, 10km north of town on the JR Kotoku Line, and the Awa Puppet Theater & Museum (Awa Jurobe Yashiki) (Tel: 088 665 2202) with performances of Bunraku puppet drama and displays of antique puppets.
Naruto, 13km north of the city is the starting point of the 88-temple pilgrimage at Ryozenji. The Naruto Whirlpools are a natural phenomenon created by the tides in the narrow channel between Awaji and Shikoku islands. Tourists boats sail out to catch the spectacle. Not for those who suffer from sea-sickness.
South west of Tokushima on National Highway 438 are the onsen hot spring baths at Kamiyama, with pleasant river walks nearby. The Anan coastal area has a number of small fishing hamlets, good beaches and sea turtles visit in summer to lay their eggs.
Mt Bizen ropeway and view, Tokushima
It is fairly easy to get around Tokushima on foot but there is a good municipal and local bus service with many buses departing from outside Tokushima Station. There is a free bicycle rental service (deposit required) at the underground bicycle park outside the station. Eki Rentacar (Tel: 088 622 1014) is just near the small tourist booth in Clement Plaza.
The small Tourist Information Center (Tel: 088 622 8556) is in a booth just outside JR Tokushima Station. On the 6th floor of the Clement Plaza station building the Tokushima Prefecture International Exchange Association (TOPIA) has more tourist information, a small library of English books and internet access. (Tel: 088 656 3303; daily 10am-6pm)
ASTY Tokushima (Tel: 088 624 5111) is a conference center, concert venue and also contains the Kogei Mura (Tel: 088 624 5000) arts complex which showcases and sells local crafts including indigo fabrics, pottery and puppets. Take a local bus from the station.
Ocean Tokyu Ferry; Wenceslau de Moraes; Kamiyama onsen
Tokushima pagoda dedicated to Japanese soldiers killed in Burma; Wenceslau de Moraes
The 5th floor of Clement Plaza at JR Tokushima Station has a number of places to eat including an Indian restaurant. Otherwise in the evening head for the bars and izakaya, of Akitamachi and Sakaemachi in and around the ACTY 21 Building (not to be confused with ASTY Tokushima conference center and concert hall), a local landmark and meeting place. The Shinmachi River Waterside Park has some pleasant shops and across the water the Shinmachi River Boardwalk has street stalls on weekends.
Tokushima Airport (Tel: 088 699 2831) is 8km north of the city with hourly buses to and from Tokushima Station (30 mins). There are daily flights to Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka and flights to Sapporo in summer from Tokushima.
There are JR express trains to JR Tokushima Station from Takamatsu (1 hour), Kochi (2 hours, 30 minutes) and Matsuyama (3 hours, 40 minutes). There are highway bus services to Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka (2 hours, 30 mins) and Kyoto (3 hours) over the Kobe Awaji Naruto Expressway.
The Ocean Tokyu Ferry (Tel: 088 662 0489) sails to Tokyo in 18 hours and then back to Tokushima and Kita-Kyushu-Tokushima-Tokyo in a loop.
Tokushima Shrine & Moraes plaque