Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles - Good morning, everyone it's Micaela, and this morning I'm at Himeji station. I've just arrived at Himeji station. And for the next two nights, three days, I'm going to be exploring the Setouchi region, extending from Himeji, to Tokushima, to Kagawa. And I'm so excited because this is an area that I don't actually get to visit very easily from Fukuoka City. It's a little bit far. If you're visiting Japan and you're coming from Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, this is a really cool off the beaten path type of area that's really worth exploring. I've heard so much about it and I can't wait to get out there and see what it has to offer. Let's go. - [Narrator] So our journey today begins in Himeji City, the second largest city in Hyogo Prefecture. It is home of what is said to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque castles in all of Japan. All right, so right behind me, is Himeji Castle, and although it looks like it is immediately behind me it's still quite a ways away because this castle is huge. The castle grounds are massive. This area is now a UNESCO world heritage site. And it's absolutely gorgeous. The castle has since been restored. The last time I came here, it was still under construction but it's gorgeous. I can't wait to see what's changed. When you look at it like this and you think that the JR Station is all the way down at the end of this street. It's crazy to think that Himeji Castle used to encompass all of this area in between the station here. That's a large amount of land. Because of its elegant white towering presence in the city, Himeji Castle is also affectionately referred to as Shirasagijo or White Heron Castle. If you come on a bright and sunny day the white walls seem to illuminate the entire city. And while the main attraction is the castle itself, the gardens are also incredibly gorgeous and fun to explore if you're looking for inspiration in Japanese architecture and design. (water flowing) (soft upbeat music) If you wanna have the best experience here at Himeji Castle and the surrounding gardens it's best to come in the morning and aim for that morning light, it illuminates the castle, plus there's barely any people here. It's like you have the place all to yourself. So now we're heading towards the Island of Shikoku through an Island called Awajishima. So on our way, we make a brief stop at Honpukuji Temple, a gorgeously designed temple by the famous architect Ando Tadao, who decided it should be located underground, underneath a fully functioning lotus pond. (upbeat music) You come down the stairs and then from here it's like an underground regular shrine. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside the temple but let me just say, it's impressive underground too. You should definitely check it out if you're ever in the area. So this morning, we started in Hyogo Prefecture and now we're crossing over to Tokushima Prefecture through Awajishima. Awaji Island, which is a little island that connects, I guess, Kobe, Osaka, Hyogo, Himeji with Shikoku, the Islands of Shikoku. Awajishima is apparently famous for its onions which I had never heard of until today, but I believe them. And this onion burger is supposed to be one of the best burgers in Japan. So I can't wait to give it a try. (speaking in Japanese) Hmm, there's nothing like a really good, thick, juicy sweet onion in the middle of a burger. And the fact that it's deep fried, ugh! This is so, so naughty, but it's so good. Over a large bridge, we depart Awajishima and cross the Naruto Strait into Tokushima Prefecture, on the Island of Shikoku. Once you make it to the other side of this bridge you can park and enter a walkway underneath the bridge. Keeping an eye on the turbulent waters below, you might even catch a glimpse of one of the famous Naruto Whirlpools if you arrive at the right time of day. Unfortunately we were just a little bit too late to see them ourselves. Okay, so now we are in Tokushima in Naruto City, and we are at Monzen Ichibangai which is the first stop on the pilgrimage around Shikoku. The history of this pilgrimage dates back over 1,200 years. And to this day, many people come to Shikoku to challenge it. Offering prayers to the gods along the way. So people who normally embark on this pilgrimage, they're gonna go to 88 different locations across Shikoku and it usually takes about 40 days. That's incredible. It would take incredible willpower, which I do not have. So we are just gonna go to one or two spots today before the sun goes down and just see what it's like, get a little taste of the pilgrimage before it gets dark. (praying in Japanese) All right, we've made it to the second stop along our two stop pilgrimage. This is location number two, if you're going all the way to the 88 different shrines, this would be the second one. There are actually no rules to how you complete a pilgrimage. Whether you do it on foot by bicycle or by car is up to you. This might be a fun way to spend an early summer in Shikoku. As you know, traveling in recent times has been really hard. But hotels are doing everything they can to stay afloat and accommodate guests, even in these difficult times. With frequent hand sanitizing, masks, temperature checks and the limiting of large groups, it is still possible to travel safely as long as you're traveling smart. So something interesting that I learned last night was that Tokushima-ken, the prefecture of Tokushima is actually also formerly called Awa. The traditional name is Awa. And Awa Odori is this traditional dance that's usually performed at festivals here in the Tokushima area. But if you come to Tokushima during a non festival time when there's not much going on you can still catch the dancers here at the Awaodori Kaikan which is what we're gonna do right now. (traditional music) After checking out the Awaodori Museum, we headed up to the theater and watched a 40 minute Awaodori show. With nonstop energy and vibrant costumes, this was a great way to take a break before a very busy day. There are four daytime performances and one night type performance. So if you're in the city and it fits into your schedule, definitely drop by. From the fifth floor of the Awaodori Kaikan, you can take a cable car all the way up to the top of Mount Bizan, a small mountain in Tokushima City that offers a gorgeous panoramic view of the entire area. On a clear sunny day, you can see back towards Awaji Island and the main Island Honshu. It's a great way to get some fresh air and recalibrate your bearings. (upbeat cheerful music) Now, today we're leaving Tokushima City and we're heading towards Kagawa Prefecture. But first we have to stop for some lunch. I'm trying Tokushima ramen. It is lunchtime, and I'm getting ready to enjoy a bowl of Tokushima ramen. So this particular ramen is made from a very rich and intense tonkotsu pork bone broth that has been flavored with soy. So it's a lot saltier and a little bit more thick and strong than hakata tonkotsu ramen. And then the marinated pork belly on top is quite strong in flavor as well. And the noodles are a bit thicker. So I think that that's the main differences I can tell so far. (overlapping background chatter) (soft music) So we are on our way to Konpirasan, which is a shrine that lies the top of 700 steps. We're about halfway right now. And so a lot of fishermen will take this track, up the 700 stairs to pray for a safe sailing, but it's also very popular with tourists, as well. And it's a little bit harder on my body than I expected. But we're almost at the top. So like I said, because this is a shrine for the gods of the sea, over here we have photos of boats. A boat here in the center as well. I guess it really is famous for safe voyages. And just amazing there's a horse there. Look at this cafe, just look at the cafe. (screaming excitedly) We are at the halfway point at a cafe run by Shiseido Parlour, which means that they have super gorgeous, refined, desserts and coffee. This is a good spot to stop and take a little breather. I'll have some tea because it was very cold outside. There's really so much going on in this cafe. There's so many different flavors. But they're all my favorite flavors, it's really good. (upbeat music) For tonight's stay, I'm staying at Kotohira Onsen, Shikishima-kan, a lovely ryokan packed with amenities. A delicious full course kaiseki meal that includes Kagawa specialty foods and several private baths that can be reserved 24 hours a day. I wish I could have spent more time here yo be honest. (cheerful music) Good morning, so it is about 9:30 AM and we've just arrived at the Nakano Udon School here in Takamatsu, where I'm going to learn how to make some Udon, which is famous in the Kagawa region. It's a fairly simple process. It says right here, you enroll and 50 minutes later, you graduate. Kagawa Prefecture has the perfect soil for growing wheat. So it's natural that udon became a specialty here. I expected to learn about Kagawa's special sanuki udon today. But what I got was so much more. (upbeat music) My udon teacher had me dancing, mixing, stomping and kneading my dough to tracks of popular Japanese idols. I was surprised by how many of them I recognized. Then we cut the noodles, prepared them for eating, and let me tell you, there's nothing more delicious than Japanese food that you've made yourself. Especially after a work out. After a quick lunch, I scrambled the Takamatsu port, to catch the ferry to Shodoshima. Shodoshima is a small island about one hour by boat, famous for its olive trees, mediterranean climate and gorgeous scenery. I love coming to little island towns like this.