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  • - 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.

  • Everything is so remote and quiet and peaceful.

  • And you can imagine that the people

  • who live here on the Island

  • have a completely different lifestyle

  • than something you'd see in a big city in Japan.

  • (upbeat music)

  • This is Nonaka, a small Japanese restaurant

  • in a remodeled old home on