Located between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean is the island of Shikoku, home to its four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Tokushima and Kochi. Despite being the smallest among Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku stands as a culinary haven shaped by its distinctive geography and the bounty of local ingredients. The island’s limited transportation options, coupled with the absence of shinkansen lines, offer visitors an unspoiled and immersive encounter with Japanese culture, far removed from the bustling city streets of Tokyo and Osaka.
Shikoku takes advantage of its coastal and mountainous geographical landscape to offer unique and diverse culinary delights. Each prefecture boasts a variety of dishes influenced by its respective landscape and traditions. Exploring the culinary landscape of Shikoku is a must-try for any food-loving traveler, whether you’re searing tuna to dip in yuzu juice, Kochi’s iconic citrus fruit or kneading dough for soba. Here are four hands-on food-making experiences to learn traditional Shikoku specialty cuisine.
Nakano Udon School
A specialty of Kagawa, Sanuki udon is characterized by its thick square shape and firmer, chewy texture. At Nakano Udon School, visitors can experience making this famous local cuisine from scratch. In 50 minutes, you’ll knead and mix water and flour to produce your own block of dough. Instructions are only in Japanese, but don’t fret! Nakano Udon School has devised an interesting method to break the language barrier. The tempo of kneading is conveyed through the beat of pop songs and tambourine playing. Prepare to have even more fun as you’ll be instructed to knead the dough as past udon masters did—with their feet!
Once you’ve cut the dough into your desired length and thickness, you’re brought a large pot of boiling water to scatter the noodles. You also have the option to take home your uncooked udon instead. After eight minutes of boiling, enjoy the taste of your freshly made udon noodles with their house-special soy sauce. As a sign of ‘graduation’ from this course, you’ll receive a rolling pin and a hanging scroll with the udon recipe as a memento.
Katsubune Tosa Tataki Dojo
Katsuo no tataki (seared bonito) is Kochi’s soul food. It is sliced bonito (skipjack tuna) traditionally seared over a straw fire and served alongside toppings such as spring onions, ginger and garlic. Katsuo no tataki can be easily found at restaurants, izakaya, supermarkets or even the popular sushi chains in Kochi. However, the best way to experience the dish is to cook it yourself. At Katsubune Tosa Tataki Dojo, you can sear a freshly caught bonito over a blazing straw fire yourself (under the supervision of experienced staff).
Your freshly seared katsuo will be sliced and served with toppings. Season your katsuo no tataki with either salt, soy sauce or the local favorite – yuzu juice, and enjoy. The bonito is fresh, so it won’t have a fishy taste. It is a good introduction for those interested but intimidated by trying sashimi.
Cultivating rice paddy fields is difficult in the picturesque landscapes of Iya, Tokushima, characterized by deep and steep valleys. As a result, the locals adapted to the terrain by focusing on growing alternative grains, with soba being one of their primary choices.
At Atelier Tsuzuki, you’ll transform brown grains into tasty soba noodles by grinding buckwheat flour using meticulously crafted hand-powered millstones. You’ll learn the art of kneading the flour and skillfully rolling the dough, preparing it for the final step of slicing it into perfect noodles.
As you grind the buckwheat flour, immerse yourself in the serene ambiance of the natural sounds surrounding you, complemented by the charming folk songs sung by the instructors. The whole experience turns cooking into a relaxing and meditative journey. The culmination of your efforts is a feast for the senses—freshly made noodles boiled to perfection and served for lunch in a traditional Japanese room adorned with a sunken hearth. Indulge in the region’s flavors as you savor the soba and other locally sourced Iya delicacies.
Wasanbon (granulated Japanese sugar), known as the “king of all sugars,” is a specialty sugar from the Shikoku region traditionally crafted in the prefectures of Kagawa and Tokushima. Owned by Ayumi Uehara, Mamehana is a cozy space where you can learn the art of making your own wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) using the renowned wasanbon. You’ll be provided a sugar bowl, and an edible colored dye will be added based on your color preference. The dye is then hand-mixed into the sugar and sifted to ensure a smooth texture.
Participants can choose a wooden mold to shape their sugar. These molds, crafted from over a hundred-year-old mountain cherry trees, are made by Uehara’s father, one of Japan’s foremost wooden mold craftsmen and the last remaining one in Shikoku. The selection includes various shapes, from flower motifs to traditional Japanese designs such as oni masks. A box will be provided to take home the wagashi you’ve created. Wagashi best complements the bitterness of matcha. To complete the experience, Ayumi Uehara will prepare a cup of matcha to enjoy alongside your freshly made sweets.