Food

Meals in Minshuku, Ryokan, and Temple Lodging

Almost all minshuku and ryokan come with meal options, which you should specify during reservation so they can prepare ahead of time.

Staying overnight with dinner and breakfast: ippaku nishoku (一泊二食)
Staying overnight with just dinner: ippaku isshoku (一泊一食)
Staying overnight without meals: sudomari (素泊り)

Dinners are usually served between 6-7pm. If you will be arriving late, please notify them in advance. Breakfasts are usually served between 6-7am.

Minshuku Dinner
Minshuku Dinner
Minshuku Dinner

Michi No Eki (道の駅)

These are government-designated roadside stations found alongside roads and highways. Shikoku has an expansive interconnected network of toll-based expressways that span from east to west and north to south, mostly along coastlines. Beginning in the 1990s, in order to promote mobilization and encourage people to utilize these expressways, the Japanese government initiated a nationwide project to install michi no eki along them. These areas provided free parking, bathroom facilities, telephone services, and useful information for travellers. Because their mission is largely to promote local tourism and trade, you will often find unique local meals, snacks, produce, and other merchandise. You can find all michi no eki locations in Shikoku in your guidebook.

A meal at a michi no eki
A meal at a michi no eki
A meal at a michi no eki

Convenience Stores (コンビニ)

A convenience store in Shikoku This may come as a surprise to many Americans, but some of the tastiest foods I've had in Japan were from convenience stores (konbini). Convenience stores sell a large range of meals in a take-out box, including Western and Japanese meals, which you can then heat up at the cash register (the cashier will ask if you'd like it to be heated and microwave it for you). For pilgrims looking for food that is easy to carry and consume, you can opt for some onigiri, rice balls with various fillings and flavors. There will also be a huge selection of sweets, snacks, and drinks. You will find handy non-food products such as stationery, toiletries, batteries, rain gear, and some clothes. Each convenience store chain has their own unqiue products and features. Some specialize in low-calorie and healthy foods. Some even have spaces for customers to sit down and relax while enjoying a nice drink.

Shikoku has thousands of convenience stores scattered all over the cities and countryside. If you anticipate the road ahead will be nothing but wilderness, this is a good opportunity to purchase food for the rest of the day, or even the next morning. They are also super convenient for pilgrims who are camping or sleeping at a place that doesn't provide food. On a few occasions, before staying overnight at a public area, I would buy two bread items (pan) and a small yogurt drink, to keep things light, and then consume them the next morning when I wake up so I can carry on without worrying about food.

Convenience stores in Japan truly live up to their name by providing a wide variety of services. I'm gonna have to steer away from the food topic for a second here. At convenience stores in Japan, you can find photocopiers with copying, scanning, and fax functions. You can even print photos from digital cameras or purchase various tickets. The 24-7 ATMs may allow you to withdraw money with an international cash card if it has "international" written on it. If you are travelling without cellular data or a wifi pocket, some convenience stores will have wifi hotspots that are free of charge to the public, although you will have to go through a registration process on your smartphone. Unlike typical stores in Japan, many convenience stores accept credit card payments, most of the time providing that your purchase is above a certain amount.

Roadside Vending Machines & Shops

Vending machines are one of Japan's most amazing wonders. Even in the rural and suburban regions of Shikoku, you will be able to find a vending machine standing out in the middle of a rice field. Vending machines will only take ¥1,000 notes and change. During warmer months, you'll find more fruit juices and energy drinks. During colder months, there is usually a mixture of cold and hot drinks. A great way to stay warm in Japan is to purchase a can of hot coffee, hot cocoa, or hot oshiruko (sweet red-bean soup) and hold it in your coat pocket with your hand. Because you will be burning energy all day long, I should also mention that there is a popular "ion supply drink" in Japan called Pocari Sweat. It is slightly sweet and non-carbonated, and can be found in many vending machines as well as convenience stores. In addition, if you come across vending machines selling alcohol, you will have to go through an ID verification process.

As the livelihood of many residents of Shikoku revolve around farming, you may occasionally encounter these quaint little roadside stands with produce and other products for sale. Although there may not be a person supervising the goods, they are not for free – prices are indicated somewhere, and a box or basket will be provided on the side for payments. These farmers rely on the good will of the people to make a living.

A can of pudding jelly drink
A can of pudding jelly drink
A can of pudding jelly drink

Kagawa-ken the Udon Prefecture

Sanuki udon (讃岐うどん), also informally known as udon-ken (udon prefecture), is the soul food of Kagawa Prefecture. The former name of the prefecture is "the land of Sanuki," and therefore is also the birthplace of this simple yet delightful dish. There are over 800 udon shops in Kagawa Prefecture, which you can find at the airport, small towns along the coast, or farm villages in the mountains. Bukkake is a popular style to enjoy Sanuki udon, where the udon noodles are transferred from boiling water to bouillon soup made from dried sardine, and finally topped with an egg and finely chopped scallions. During my adventure in Kagawa Prefecture, my fellow pilgrim and I made sure we achieved our goal of eating udon every single day while we were there. Most of the udon were around ¥400-700, but there were a few shops that offer udon at just ¥200 per bowl.

Udon shop in Ehime Prefecture
Udon shop in Ehime Prefecture
Udon shop in Ehime Prefecture