Tokushima (徳島) is the main transport hub of eastern Shikoku. It has only a few worthwhile attractions, but its palm-lined boulevards are pleasant enough to pass through on your way to more interesting places.
Pint-sized Tokushima Airport, to the north of the city, has daily services to Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo. Buses to JR Tokushima Station take 25 minutes and cost ¥430. The schedules are synchronized to flight departures/arrivals.
Buses run to the station from Kobe Airport every hour at 55 minutes past (2 1/2 hours, ¥3200). Airport Limousine buses operate from the nearest international gateway, Kansai International Airport in Osaka (2 3/4 hours, ¥4000 — cheaper if you purchase a round trip ticket).
From Okayama, take a Marine Liner rapid train to Takamatsu, then transfer to the Uzushio limited express for the run to Tokushima (2 hours, ¥4420). Two daily Uzushio trains run directly from Okayama, with no change of trains required (¥5050). If you are coming from Kansai or the east (i.e. Nagoya or Tokyo) then changing to a bus at Shin-Kobe will result in an easier trip to Tokushima - a wise investment for Japan Rail Pass holders, even if the pass doesn't cover the bus. (See By Bus below)
If arriving from Kansai via Awaji Island, you're pretty much guaranteed to end up in Tokushima. JR Bus operates many services to Tokushima: Awa Express bus service leaves from Kobe and Kobe Airport (2 hours from Shin-Kobe station, ¥3200, 15 daily round-trips), Osaka (2 3/4 hours, ¥3600, 23 daily round-trips), Kyoto (3 hours, ¥4100, 7 daily round-trips), and on weekends and holidays, Nara (4 hours, ¥3900, 2 round-trips). Keihan Railways has its own highway bus that travels to and from Kyoto and Hirakata.
Ocean East (tel. 03-5148-0109) operates a ferry service between Tokyo, Tokushima and Kitakyushu. Both the Tokyo and Kitakyushu runs are overnight; passengers can book Western-style bedrooms, bunks, or sleep on the floor. If you're sleeping on the floor, this is one of the cheapest ways to get to Tokushima: Tokyo fares are ¥9310 each way, and Kitakyushu fares are ¥6790 each way. First-class tickets are ¥25,480 on the Tokyo run and ¥17,920 on the Kitakyushu run.
Nankai Ferry (tel. 073-422-2156) operates another ferry to Wakayama, which is easily accessible from the Osaka/Kyoto/Nara area. The ferry takes just two hours, costs ¥2000, and runs every 2 hours or so, even in the middle of the night.
The city center is small enough to cover on foot, but bikes can be rented next to JR Tokushima Station (tel +081 088-652-6661, 9AM-5PM) at ¥500 per day.
- JR Tokushima Station, ☎ +81 88-622-8556. 9AM-8PM.
- Tokushima Prefectural International Exchange Association (トピア TOPIA), 1-61 Terashima Honcho Nishi, 6F Clement Plaza, ☎ +81 88-656-3303. 10AM-6PM. An excellent place to drop in with Internet access (¥50 for 10 min) and lots of guidebooks and other information to borrow. TOPIA staff can help you book accommodation and recommend things to see and do. It's on the 6th floor of the shopping mall above JR Tokushima Station.
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage passes through Tokushima, with temples 14 through 17 — Jōrakuji (常楽寺), Kokubunji (国分寺), Kan'onji (観音寺) and Idoji (井戸寺) — all located within city limits. Ryōzenji (霊山寺), the starting point of the pilgrimage, is just north of Tokushima in the city of Naruto.
- Awa Odori Kaikan (阿波おどり会館), 2-20 Shinmachi, ☎ +81 88-611-1611. 9AM-5PM. An interesting museum devoted to the Awa Odori Festival. Exhibits include video and panoramas of the festival, and even a dancing Odobotto robot to show you how it's done! There are several daily performances of the Awa Odori dances (¥500). ¥300.
- Tokushima Castle (徳島城 tokushima-jō url=http://www.city.tokushima.tokushima.jp/johaku), 1-8 Tokushima-cho, ☎ +81 88-656-2525. Garden and museum Tu-Su. A brisk uphill walk from Chuo Park, behind the station, takes you to the castle ruins and a view over the city. The castle museum (9:30AM-5PM) is set in an exquisite traditional Japanese garden — come early in the morning for a misty, meditative, and crowd-free experience. Admission to the garden and museum is ¥300 adults, ¥200 students.
- Awa Jurobe Yashiki (阿波十郎兵衛屋敷), 184 Ichikawa Naimachi Miyajima Honura (take a bus from JR Tokushima Station to the Jurobe Yashiki-mae stop), ☎ +81 88-665-2202. 9:30AM-5PM. Once the home of the samurai Jurobe, this is now a bunraku (puppet theater) museum. Performances are held at 11AM weekdays, with an additional show at 2PM weekends. ¥400 adults, ¥200 children.
- House of Indigo (藍の館 Ai-no-Yakata), Itano-gun, Aizumi-cho (kake a bus from JR Tokushima Station to the Higashi Nakatomi bus stop), ☎ +81 88-692-6317. W-M 9AM-5PM. Located in an old house formerly owned by an indigo merchant. For a small fee (¥500-3000), you can dye your own piece of fabric with real indigo, and learn how to create one of the traditional patterns. ¥300 adults, ¥150 children.
- Tokushima Modern Art Museum (近代美術館 kindai bijustukan) (take a bus to Bunka-no-Mori Park from JR Tokushima Station, or walk west from JR Bunkanomori Station.), ☎ +81 88-668-1088. Tu-Su 9:30AM-5PM. One of the most acclaimed modern art museums in western Japan, with work by contemporary Western and Japanese artists. ¥200 regular, ¥600 including special exhibits.
- Tokushima Prefectural Museum (徳島県立博物館 tokushima kenritsu hakubutsukan) (like the Modern Art Museum, it's in Bunka-no-Mori Park), ☎ +81 88-668-3636. Tu-Su 9:30AM-5PM. Natural and geological museum covering pre-historic Shikoku to the present day, with some hands-on exhibitions. ¥200 adults, ¥50 children.
- The Awa Odori (阿波おどり) festival, held August 12-15 annually, is by far Tokushima's largest claim to fame. With a history of over 400 years, people dance in the streets according to the complex choreography. As the proverb says, "The dancing fool and the watching fool are both fools, so why not dance!"
- Mount Bizan (眉山) has 1500 cherry blossom trees, making it an impressive sight at blossom time. At the Awa Odori Kaikan, there's a ropeway (9AM-5:30PM, later during festival periods; ¥600/1000 one-way/round-trip) to the top of Bizan. The walk down takes about 15 minutes.
- Chuo Park, directly behind the station, has some nice gardens and ponds. It makes for a pleasant walk while waiting for your bus, or at night, when people are out exercising and you can listen to the frogs, birds, and other animals. You can climb up to the top of the hill to the castle ruins to overlook the city.
Tokushima became a major city in part because of indigo, which is used locally to dye beautiful patterns in products from handkerchiefs and scarves to cushions and large door-curtains. Otani-yaki pottery, with its natural muted colors and rustic-looking shapes, is another popular souvenir, as is handmade paper.
- SOGO, 1-5 Terashima Honcho Nishi, ☎ +81 88-602-1611. 10AM-7:30PM. Has a Kinokuniya bookshop with English-language books on the 8th floor.
Tokushima is famous for its wonderful strawberries and sudachi, a small round green citrus fruit with a lime-like flavour. In the summer, sugata sushi is available, wherein a whole small fish is stuffed with sushi rice. Another popular local treat is narutokintoki, a kind of sweet potato.
There are some nice places to eat on the 5th floor of Clement Plaza, which is above the train station, and also in the department stores nearby.
- Inotani (いのたに), 4-25 Nishi Daikumachi, ☎ +81 88-653-1482. Tu-Su 10:30AM-5PM. This shop represents Tokushima ramen (pork, seafood, lots of vegetables) at the prestigious Ramen Museum in Yokohama. Back home, it's a busy lunch spot. ¥450.
- Takeda (たけだ), 2-15 Ichibanchou, ☎ +81 88-623-3848. 10AM-6PM. A shrine for all things related to 60's surf culture. The owner, Takeda-San, appears in many of the surfing pictures on the walls; he cooks and serves customers himself, so don't arrive in a hurry, but the food is great and the atmosphere is fun. It's on the second floor up a tiny staircase, but it has a sandwich board out front and the awning is white with black lettering. Great breakfast or lunch and even better coffee for less than ¥1000.
The aforementioned sudachi fruit is used to flavor local shochu and sake. Most of the bars are clustered around the ACTY 21 building.
- Alpha Hotel Tokushima (アルファホテル徳島), 2-11 Toudaikou, ☎ +81 88-655-0222. Business hotel about ten minutes from the station. All rooms have a free Internet connection, and PC rentals are available. Rooms from ¥5800 single, ¥9800 twin.
- Hotel Clement Tokushima (ホテルクレメント徳島), ☎ +81 88-656-3111. Luxury Western-style rooms, with a few Japanese-style. There are three restaurants, including one on the 18th floor with a bar. It's directly connected to JR Tokushima Station. Rooms from ¥10,000 single, ¥19,600 twin.
- APA Hotel. Decent, clean, and inexpensive business hotel close to the station. Exit JR Tokushima Station and turn left along the main street. From there walk about 3 minutes until you reach a small private bus company on a corner on your left. Turn down this street APA will be in front of you. The hotel is a thin white 10-story building. ¥5500 semi-double (tiny room for 2 people with double bed and bathroom).
- Tokushima Youth Hostel (徳島ＹＨ), ☎ +81 88-663-1505, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Somewhat inconveniently but beautifully located in the green seaside hills of Omiko (大神子), a 30-minute bus ride from the station. The last bus departs at 6:45PM on weekdays, 5:35PM on weekends and holidays. A bed for the night costs ¥3000; alternatively, you can camp in the little park by the seashore for free.
- Check out the tidal whirlpools at Naruto, but confirm the times before you go — they can only be seen at certain times.
- See the beautiful and wild Anan coast in southern Tokushima prefecture. Area around Hiwasa (2 hours, about ¥1000 from Tokushima) is especially beautiful.
- Mima is a small city to the west of Tokushima city, located about one hour by train on the Tokushima line. The city is mostly known for several historic locations, as well as campsites, and outdoor/nature activities (hiking, kayaking, fishing, etc.).