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The Setouchi Retreat (Part 2)

7 Prefectures, 1 Seto Inland Sea. That is how vast the Setouchi’s coverage is from Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Okayama and Hyogo Prefectures in Honshu and Kagawa, Tokushima and Ehime Prefectures in Shikoku. The Setouchi’s unique identity and beauty comes from the many islands, each with its own personality and traditions, that dots Japan’s equivalent of Europe and North Africa’s Mediterranean. On this 2-part journey, we uncover some of the most fascinating culture, arts, crafts, lifestyle, gastronomy as well as traversing deep inland into the less-trodden parts of Shikoku.

This journey outline is by no means fixed. As the traveller takes centre stage in our planning – from the type of lodging to daily activities – your journey will be crafted to suit you.

Day by Day Highlights

Day 1
Kurashiki / Uno / Naoshima

Depart Kurashiki to Uno Port where we will embark onto the Shikoku Kisen ferry to Naoshima -  home to some of the most fascinating contemporary art, museums and sculptures in Japan.

A visit of Naoshima has no schedule and is on a completely fluid basis. Over the next 2 days, you will have the opportunity to visit the museums, installations and outdoor arts at your schedule in depth, such as the Benesse House Museum, Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum, Ando Museum, The Pumpkins of Yayoi Kusama, Hiroshi Sugimoto Gallery, The Valley Gallery, Art House Project and more.

Day 2
Naoshima (option to visit Teshima)

You have another day to visit the incredible art of Naoshima or the option to visit the enigmatic art island of Teshima, via the Shikoku Kisen ferry. Kagawa Prefecture’s second-largest island after Shodoshima is a sparsely-populated island sheltering mystifying works of contemporary art and an abundance of serenity. Have the opportunity to visit the intriguing art installations and contemporary art such as Teshima Art Museum, Les Archives du Coeur, Teshima Yokoo House etc.

Travelling around Teshima employs exclusively the use of the island’s shuttle bus service with a maximum capacity of 28 passengers, with priority given to local islanders. An alternative option is commuting around with rental bicycle.  

Day 3
Naoshima / Takamatsu / Kotohira

Depart on the Shikoku Kisen ferry to Takamatsu (1 hour). Continue on our scheduled visit to the revered Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum. Needing little introduction, Isamu Noguchi was one of the most important sculptors of his time who had accomplished an incredible amount of conceptual projects, landscaped environments, earthworks, gardens, plazas and more in his portfolio.

Later, Enjoy an exclusive lunch experience in the private Hankatei teahouse, built under the supervision of tea master Yurin Sai of the Mushakouji Senke school of tea. Our exclusive experience continues when you stroll through the 3 Michelin-starred Ritsurin Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan with a veteran gardener of the garden, explaining the intricacies of pine bonsai gardening, one of the most difficult skills and traditional crafts to master.

Day 4
Kotohira Blessed by the Gods

Visit the Kotohiragu Shrine, the head shrine of all “Konpira shrines” in Japan has been worshipped since ancient times as the “God of the Sea”. Continue to the Konpira Kabuki, Japan’s oldest kabuki theatre established since 1833, designated an “Important Cultural Property”. On a special experience, we take a backstage tour to witness the old atmosphere and you may experience putting on kabuki make-up, called “kumadori” (OPTIONAL) where colorful lines are drawn on the face that delineate the blood vessels and muscles.

Later in the day, we visit the Kinryo Sake Museum. As the sake of choice, Kinryo has been loved among pilgrims for Kotohiragu Shrine since the Edo Period.

Day 5
Kotohira / Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari Train Journey / Oboke / Iya Valley

Transfer to Kotohira Station, embark onto the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari train bound for Oboke where a mesmerizing rail journey ensues. Experience some of the most spectacular visual adventures in Japan with breathtaking scenery as you traverse through jaw-dropping mountains and valleys. Enjoy a delightful bento lunch onboard before we arrive at Oboke Station.  

Day 6
Heart of the Iya Valley & the Ochiai Hamlet

Set off to explore the heart of the Iya Valley – one of the best hidden scenic places in Japan, home to sublime natural beauty and traces of the legendary Samurai clan, the Heike. Located in the remote, largely unpopulated mountain ranges of Mt Tsurugi, the V-shaped formation of the valley snakes along the Iya River for 10km with steep cliffs. Walk on the Kazurabashi vine bridge, ancient suspension bridges made of “shirakuchi-kazura” vines. Later, enjoy a soba-making class where you will learn the secrets, grinding buckwheat with a stone mortar, knead and roll the dough before precision chopping into noodle form.

Continue to the historic Ochiai Village, climbs nearly 400m vertically up the side of a mountain, an enduring example of a traditional Iya hamlet. Due to its collection of ancient houses, with many dating back well over 200 years, Ochiai has been classified as a Nationally Important Preservation District. We have the opportunity to visit the thatched-roof Nagaoka-ke historic house, an example of an 18th Century farmhouse of the area where you can reimagine life in the era. Enter into the Nagoro Scarecrow Village. Over 200 scarecrows inhabit the town, made by Ayano Tsukimi, one of 30 remaining villagers still living in the village. There is an opportunity to witness the Oku-Iya Niju Kazurabashi double vine bridges, tucked in the deepest part of the Iya Valley. This pair of vine bridges are set within dense forest and are known as the “Husband and Wife bridges”. You may also try the “Yaen” monkey cart which also spans the river here, formerly used to transport goods across the river.

Day 7
Departure Iya Valley

Our journey comes to an end today where you may continue your onward journey in Japan or transfer to Kochi Ryoma Airport for departure.

Let’s plan your perfect escape. To start the conversation, contact us via our interactive form or drop us an email at


Practical Information

Locations covered

Naoshima, Takamatsu, Kotohira,Oboke, Iya Valley

Recommended months to travel

Late March – Early December

Level of difficulty


Indicative price

SGD$9,000 - $11,000/pax based on twin-sharing, on a private basis. Excludes international flights.

As we’ll customise your journey based on your preferences and needs, please note that this indicative price is just a rough estimate. Prices can fluctuate depending on season, type of accommodation and activities/experiences chosen (private vs. shared) etc.

This journey outline is by no means conclusive. It is just a guideline and can be tailored according to your comfort level, interests and preferences for every detail from accommodation to activities.

This journey outline is by no means conclusive. It is just a guideline and can be tailored according to your comfort level, interests and preferences for every detail from accommodation to activities.

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