Tokushima City Overview


2018.02.16

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

  • Tokushima City, the prefectural capital of Tokushima in the east of Japan’s ‘fourth island’ Shikoku, scores double points for natural beauty by being a coastal city that also boasts an enchanting mountain (the eyebrow-shaped Mt. Bizan) right at its center. Sitting right where the Yoshino, one of Japan’s three greatest rivers, meets the Seto Inland Sea, the city possesses a vibrant local culture that is deeply entwined with the famed Awa Odori dance.

    Established as a castle town around four centuries ago by the Hachisuka clan, a thriving indigo dyeing industry saw Tokushima grow into one of Shikoku’s main cities. Present-day Tokushima City was officially established in 1889. All that remains of the Hachisuka’s Tokushima Castle, its moat and some stone walls, can be found in Chuo Park close to JR Tokushima Station together with a museum featuring samurai armor and other artifacts left behind by the clan.

    The Hachisuka’s real legacy, besides the city itself, is the Awa Odori dance that since its ancient inception here has spread all over Japan and even been performed as far afield as Paris. At least allegedly, it is said that the Hachisuka created the highly spirited dance to celebrate their establishing of the castle, but other stories exist as to Awa Odori’s origins. For the full story, head to the Awa Odori Kaikan located a ten-minute walk southwest of the station. This museum/venue dedicated to the dance also offers a chance to witness (and join in with) Awa Odori all year round, whereas elsewhere it is limited to but a few days each August.

    Awa Odori Kaikan also serves as the gateway to Mt. Bizan, with the ropeway to the mountain’s summit leaving from the Kaikan’s fifth floor. Bizan, not the areas’s tallest peak but certainly its most revered, has been considered emblematic of the region since ancient times. With a name translating as ‘eyebrow mountain’ it is said to have an eyebrow-shaped silhouette whatever angle it is viewed from. Bizan is a popular destination in all seasons, offering a spectacular, almost 360-degree panorama, Shikoku’s best night view, and a giant outdoor kaleidoscope containing thousands of LEDs. Around the foot of Mt. Bizan are Teramachi, an historic temple area, and Zuiganji Temple which boasts a tranquil Japanese garden dating back to 1614.

    Down by the Okinosu River that you cross to access Bizan and the Awa Odori Kaikan from Tokushima Station, the Shinmachi Boardwalk has an atmosphere often compared to California’s Venice Beach, with street food stalls appearing at weekends along with various events including a cosplay festival. The nearby Shinmachigawa Mizugiwa Park, meanwhile, is the boarding point for a 30-minute boat cruise around Hyotanjima (‘Gourd Island’), proclaimed as an aqua metropolis in the centre of the city.

    The north of Tokushima City is bisected by the mighty Yoshino River which snakes westwards towards the Oboke and Koboke gorges. Cross the Awashirasagio Bridge (the closest to the river mouth of many bridges spanning the Yoshino) to visit the Awa Jurobe Yashiki, a bunraku puppet theater and museum.

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