Taking a Step Back in Time in Shikoku Mura – Part 2

Date: 21 November 2018

Last week I introduced Shikoku Mura, an open-air museum exhibiting traditional buildings and structures from all over Shikoku Region, mostly dating back to the Edo and Meiji periods. Due to the sheer amount of exhibits, I have decided to split this travel report into several parts in which last week’s post covered a tomariya, the Iya Vine Bridge, the Shodoshima’s Kabuki Theatre, boar fences, the Yamashita Family House, and the Kono Family House.

Next was the Satoshime Goya, sugar mills from the Sanuki Province (current Kagawa Prefecture) dating back to the 1860s. Sanuki Province was known for its fine white-sugar in the late Edo era and sugar-making was so popular in the region that sugar mills became a common sight. The sugar mills are easily identifiable by its conical roofs which are supported by suspended rafters and strong curved walls.

Satoshime Goya

Inside the sugar mill you will see three stone mortars attached to an udegi (long crossbeam) which is pulled by cattle going around the inside of the building to grind the sugar cane. The circular structure of the building was for this purpose.

Stone mortars and udegi

After the sugar mills, on the far left is the Shikoku Mura Gallery designed by famous architect Tadao Ando. The gallery houses a wide range of artworks including paintings, sculptures, calligraphy, and ceramics. There was supposed to be an additional admission fee for this gallery (correct me if you know otherwise), but no one was at the ticket booth when I entered and so I left without seeing the inner water garden.

The path then led me to the Nanyo chado (tea hall) which was previously situated along the Ryuuoukaido, a road between Tosa Province (Kochi Prefecture today) and Iyo Province (Ehime Prefecture today) which was heavily used by pilgrims (henro) on the Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage. This type of structure is usually called an “odo” which simply meant “hall” in a polite term and often serves multiple purposes – as a temple, resting area, and meeting point. The villagers of Hiromi built this hall to sought religious merits by serving tea to the henros, thus the name “chado”.

Nanyo Chado

After the tea hall was a path lined with bamboo groves. I was glad that there were these “intermissions” in between the structures / buildings to rest my eyes.

Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves

The Okunoshima no Todai (Okunoshima Lighthouse) comes into sight at the end of the bamboo grove lane, a structure I did not expect to see in Shikoku Mura. Some of you might have heard of Okunoshima – yes it is that famous rabbit island just off the coast of Hiroshima. This lighthouse was built in 1893 at the southernmost end of the small (only about 4km in circumference) island. First used in May 1894 powered by oil, it then used acetylene gas in 1925, followed by electricity in 1936. The lighthouse was lighted every 3 seconds and can be seen from as far as 25km. In World War II, Okunoshima was used as a poison gas factory and the island was even removed from some maps to maintain secrecy of the operations that was going on in the island. This lighthouse continued to be in use until it became obsolete in 1992.

Okunoshima Lighthouse

Following the Okunoshima Lighthouse is a row of lighthouse keepers’ residences from the Seto Inland Sea – one from Cape Esaki, Awajishima, one from Nabeshima (Kagawa Prefecture), and another from Kudakoshima (Ehime Prefecture).

As part of the several treaties signed with the U.S., Russia, U.K., and France by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 1850s, a number of lighthouses were required to be built to ease navigation and facilitate the opening of Japanese ports to foreign trade. They requested assistance from U.K. and France in the construction of these lighthouses. This was continued by the Meiji Government following the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868. One of the foreign advisors who was employed to oversee these constructions was Richard Henry Brunton from U.K. who was responsible for the construction of 28 lighthouses in Japan, earning him the nickname “Father of Japanese Lighthouses”. He established a system of lighthouse keeper which diminished over time when lighthouses became automated. In the 1950s, most lighthouse keepers were no longer required and so several of the keeper’s houses were brought to Shikoku Mura for preservation.


The Cape Esaki Lighthouse was built in 1871 to guide ships through the Akashi Kaikyo (Akashi Strait) at the northern-end of Awajishima, said to be one of the most difficult routes in the Seto Inland Sea. The lighthouse was constructed by Brunton and was the eight western-style lighthouse constructed in Japan. This keeper’s house is built of large stone blocks with roof made of wooden trusses covered with lightweight curved tiles. The floors are of tatami mats. This house was severely damaged during the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and was then moved to Shikoku Mura for repairs and preservation.

Cape Esaki Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence
Inside Cape Esaki Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence

The following lighthouse was built in 1871 by Brunton as well and was from Nabeshima, an island in the north of Sakaide of Kagawa Prefecture. The keeper’s house was constructed in 1873 and continued to be used until 1955 when it became a communications post for the Maritime Safety Agency. As seen in the picture below, the front of the house has an open porch with six round pillars. The 60-cm thick stone walls are made of Yoshima granite while the roof are made of wooden-truss surfaced with tiles enabling the house to withstand considerable weight and strong winds.

Exterior of Nabeshima Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence
Interior of Nabeshima Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence

The final lighthouse was from the very small island of Kudakoshima located off the northwestern coast of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture. The lighthouse was built in 1902 and commenced operations the following year. The keeper’s residence was moved to Shikoku Mura after this lighthouse was automated. At first glance from afar, I thought “Oh, another keeper’s house”. However, even though it’s made of brick with mortar walls, it was the most peculiar thanks to its Japanese-style rooms.

Exterior of the Kudakoshima Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence
The unexpected Japanese-style room in Kudakoshima Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence

Can’t believe we are at the end of Part 2 even though I have not covered even half of the structures / buildings in Shikoku Mura! Well then, please look forward to next week’s post in which I’ll be covering the bark-steaming hut (for paper-making) mentioned in Part 1 and more traditional family houses.


Admission fee: 1,000 yen (definitely worth it)

Opening hours: 08:30 – 18:00 (17:30 in November till March). Last admission is one hour before closing. No closing days.

You will most likely spend a good amount of time in this massive ‘village’ (translated from ‘Mura’), so be sure to allocate ample of time if you are planning to visit.

As mentioned in my previous post, there is a good amount of English labels and explanations for each structure, which was a pleasant surprise since I did not expect this after seeing the lack of foreign tourist in both Shikoku and Yashima.

Official website (Japanese)


The nearest train stations to Shikoku Mura are the Kotoden Yashima Station (5-10 mins walk), and the JR Yashima Station (15 mins walk).

How to get to Kotoden-Yashima Station:

  • From Kotoden Kawaramachi Station, take the Kotoden Shido line (15 mins, 240 yen)

How to get to JR Yashima Station:

  • From Takamatsu Station, take JR Kotoku Line (16 mins, 220 yen)
  • From Tokushima Station, take JR Kotoku Line (2 hours, 1,280 yen). The Limited Express JR Uzushio will cut down the travel time from Tokushima by an hour, but would cost 2,980 yen.

If you are not keen on walking, you can even take the Kotoden bus from any of these stations (timetable here) @ 100 yen (10 mins from JR Yashima Station and 2 mins from Kotoden Yashima Station). The same bus will make a stop at Yashima Sanjo, thus making it a good combined trip.


2 thoughts on “Taking a Step Back in Time in Shikoku Mura – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Taking a Step Back in Time in Shikoku Mura – Part 3 – Japan's Wonders

  2. Pingback: Taking a Step Back in Time in Shikoku Mura – The Final Part – Japan's Wonders

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