If you are holidaying on the island of Shikoku in Japan then you may want to drop by one of the less well known towns in the region which is Ikata in the Ehime Prefecture.
This region is known for its mountains and is also part of the wider Sadamisaki Peninsula.
This means that as well as taking in all the majesty of the surrounding mountains, you can also enjoy the ocean vistas making this a top spot for anyone looking for a mix of beachside venues and mountain passes.
This town will show you a far sleepier side of Japan but if you want to get off the beaten track and stay in local inns like ryokan while also seeing how people have lived and worked on Shikoku for centuries then this is a great place to do it.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Ikata…
1. Check out Sadamisaki Lighthouse
Sadamisaki Lighthouse is located at the end of the main peninsula in Ikata and faces the gorgeous Hoyo Strait.
From here you can look out across the strait and see the island of Kyushu if the weather is clear.
One of the other big draws of this area is that fact that there are a number of hiking trails that extend over almost two kilometers from the lighthouse so this makes a good place to start if you want to explore the area on foot.
If you want to stay a little longer there is also a camp site here.
2. Try the seafood
As Ikata is located next to the sea, it stands to reason that seafood regularly features on many restaurant menus.
There are many famous spots to visit if you want to try some of the freshest catch in town, but one of the best known is Marina-tei which is run by a celebrity chef who was once on the TV show Iron Chef.
The restaurant is in the Misaki neighborhood of Ikata and you will also find a range of other fine dining seafood restaurants here.
3. Visit Seto Wind Hill Park
Park of the Seto area of Ikata, the Seto Wind Hill Park is, as the name suggests, located on the top of one of the region’s many mountains.
Once you get to the top of the hill you can take in the gorgeous windmills and also look out to the Inland Sea and across to the Pacific Ocean.
This is also the site of the Ikata Windmill Festival and you can find special poems dedicated to the windmills here.
4. Take a ferry ride
If you are planning to travel to Shikoku but haven’t yet worked out the details of how to get there then you may want to consider a trip on the ferry across from neighboring Kyushu Island.
There are ferries that run between Beppu, Oita ad Saganoseki to Ikata and these all take you to Misaki Port.
A ferry ride is one of the best ways to take in the gorgeous scenery in this part of Japan and is one of the most relaxing ways to travel between the islands.
5. Stroll around Old Ikata
As you would expect from the name Old Ikata is known for being the traditional part of the city and this is a great place to come if you want to have a leisurely walk and see some of the sights.
Here you can find a number of old school eateries such as the charming Maruma Diner and this makes an ideal spot for some lunch as you are sightseeing.
Other places to check out in Old Ikata include the myriad coffee shops that line the streets and one of these that stands out in particular is Melody Cafe which is a traditional style shokudo or canteen where you can relax with a cup of the local coffee.
6. Try the juice
Ikata and wider Shikoku are known for their fruits and vegetables and if you want to have a drink on a hot day then make sure you try the local juice in these parts.
One of the most famous juices here is mikan juice which is akin to a mandarin and gives you a sweet and sour kick at the same time.
You can also check out a wide range of local produce and freshly pressed juices at Seto Agricultural Park.
7. Tour the Ikata Visitor’s Center
The Ikata Visitor’s Center doesn’t sound like much fun on the face of it but actually if you come here you will find a science museum that is dedicated to explaining how nuclear power works.
Many of the exhibits are also interactive so this is a great place to come with children and there is an aquarium next door.
This also makes a good place to pick up some souvenirs from Ikata and they also sell local produce, as do many places in this agricultural part of Japan.
8. Walk around Red Wing Park
Red Wing Park is located on the interestingly named Adventure Hill and you will find a number of attractions here.
In the park you will find a number of different rides for both older and younger children such as small roller coasters, climbing frames and other playground equipment like slides.
As such this is a good spot to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and also an ideal place if you are traveling with a family and looking for activities for children in the warmer months.
9. Go for a drive
One of the best ways to get around Ikata is to drive and you can rent a car here and then take in the stunning sea views.
One of the most famous drives in this part of Japan is along the Futami and Nagahama coastline and this lets you enjoy the crashing waves and glassy seas at any time of the year.
Another favorite spot for a drive in Ikata is along the mountain freeway which is also known as the Matsuyama Expressway which will take you past Ozu and through some gorgeous mountain scenery.
It is easy to hire a car in Ikata or you can also take a local bus.
10. Try the ice cream
Ikata is known for having some delicious gelato and if you want to try this then you should head to DanDan which is said to serve up some of the best ice cream in the region.
You can also buy a range of local fruits and vegetables at many ice cream shops and check out a range of inventive flavors made with local specialties such as sweet potatoes.
DanDan is close to Seto Agriculture Park so you can combine a visit to the two at the same time.
11. Soak in Kamegaike Onsen
Kamegaike Onsen is one of the most famous hot springs in Ikata and was built in 2007 in order to offer visitors a modern place to go for a dip.
As well as the hot springs you will also find an adjacent park here which is a good place to go for a relaxing walk in the late afternoon.
This is also the site of the Kamegaike Pond which is said to be the home of a resident giant crab.
12. Stay in a ryokan
If you are wondering where to stay in Ikata then there is some good news.
This part of Japan is known for its gorgeous traditional style inns which are known as ryokan.
These have authentic rooms which have beds on the floor places on mats and you can really get a sense of how people would have lived in Japan in the days of old.
With that in mind, if you are looking to try a night in a ryokan as part of a trip to Japan then make sure you book one when you visit Ikata.
13. Take a trip to Matsuyama
If you want to get out of Ikata for a day then consider a trip to neighboring Matsuyama which is the Japanese word for ‘Pine Mountain’. This is also the capital of the wider Ehime Prefecture although you won’t find a huge city here and the population is only around 500,000 people.
This gives Matsuyama a great atmosphere however as it is large enough to have a range of interesting attractions and small enough to have a laid back feeling to it which many travelers are sure to enjoy.
14. Have a meal to remember
Somewhat surprisingly considering its size, Ikata has a range of interesting restaurants to try, many of which have amazing vista of the surrounding countryside.
One of the most famous of these is the Windmill Restaurant which is located on the hill next to Seto Agriculture Park and you can also visit other places like Hot Road which is close to the Oku Observatory which is also located on another hill.
This means that when you dine in Ikata you almost always get a great view to pair with the excellent seafood in this part of Japan.
15. Go for a drink
Ikata is not well known for its nightlife scene but if you are looking for something to do in the evening then you may want to head to one of the izakaya restaurants in the center of town.
These serve up delicious local snacks like yakitori which are grilled skewers of meat and you can also get other delicacies such as seafood which is griddled to perfection to preserve all the juicy flavors of the sea.
Some of the most famous places to drink and snack in Ikata include Yakitori Ichiban, Hibari and Sakae.