Any visitor to Okayama should spend some time in Korakuen, a seven‑ teenth-century garden that the Japanese, with their fondness for ranking, have classified as one of the top three gardens in the nation. Just across the Asahi River is the spectacular if empty Okayama Castle.
1-5 Korakuen, Okayama-shi,
011 8186 272 1148
Foreign visitors can stay in the wonderful International Villas, five budget guesthouses in traditional villages in Okayama Prefecture. Hoops must be jumped through, as is often the case in Japan: one must join the villas’ association (it’s not expensive). Reservations, here as elsewhere in Japan, should be made well in advance.
Okayama International Villa Group
2-2-1 Hokancho, Okayama
011 8186 256 2535
Probably the most celebrated place in Matsuyama, on Shikoku’s northwest coast, is Dogo Onsen, a collection of public baths somewhat reminiscent of the bathhouse complex for spirits in Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning anime film, Spirited Away. Warning: a Japanese onsen is a terrific experience, but the cost can mount quickly.
Dogo Onsen Honkan (the main facility)
5-6 Yunomachi Dogo, Matsuyama
011 8189 921 5141
One of the most beautiful—and remote—places to stay on Shikoku is Chiiori, in the Iya Valley. The staff can usually pick you up at the nearest train station. To keep away unwanted visitors, Chiiori does not publish its address.
011 8188 388 5360
Minshuku—Japanese-style bed-and-breakfasts—are among the best ways to experience Japan. Like B&Bs, they are all over the place. One way to track them down is through Minshuku Network Japan, a nationwide referral service.
Minshuku Network Japan
011 8133 683 3396
Benesse House, on the island of Naoshima, off Shikoku, is one of the loveliest small museums in Japan. Splendid accommodations are available on the grounds and nearby. Families might especially enjoy staying in the pao, or Mongolian yurts, by the beach.
Gotanji, Naoshima, Kagawa
011 8187 892 2030