Awa-Ikeda Station is along the JR Dosan Line , which slices across the heart of Shikoku from Kubokawa and Kochi through the Oboke and Koboke gorges in the south to Tadotsu, Takamatsu and then Okayama in the north.
From Okayama, a stop on the San'yo Shinkansen, Awa-Ikeda can be reached on the hourly Nanpu limited express service (90 minutes; ¥3510).
The JR Tokushima Line also terminates here, the trip from Tokushima taking about 70 minutes on the Tsurugisan limited express service (¥3240), or two hours by local train (¥1580).
There is no charge for these trains with the Japan Rail Pass.
From Osaka or Kobe, Hankyu Bus runs several a day that go to the main Awa Ikeda Bus Terminal (阿波池田ＢT). The trip takes about 4 hours and runs at about ¥4500.
There are seven buses per day into the Iya Valley.
Central Ikeda is located a few minutes from the junction of Route 32 (going north/south) and Route 192 (going east/west). By toll highway, get off at the Ikawa/Ikeda IC, and head west (left turn at the intersection after the toll booth). After 200 meters, either turn left at the first light for the road through the center of the town, or continue straight on Route 192 westward along the river for about 5 minutes to reach Route 32 for Oboke and the Iya Valley.
A car is best for exploring this region.
There is an "Eki rental car" of the JR group in Awa Ikeda station, but you are not likely to be able to make a reservation in English. However, the staff at the tourist office just outside the station building may be able to help secure a car with their decent English.
- The Japan Railway (JR) Company car rental Japanese site is found here.
The car rental companies that you can make a reservation for in English is are listed below. However, these have no office in Awa Ikeda station. Only the airports and major cities in Shikoku have these rental agencies:
Budget has a unique and flexible option called Shikoku Pilgrimage Passport (四国巡礼パスポート) allowing 9, 12, and 15-day rental plans where you can either use all the days at once, or split the rental days into various trips within a one year period. Better still, with this plan cars can be picked up and dropped off at any Budget office in Shikoku or Okayama (on Honshu) for no additional cost. Nine day plans start at 37,800yen for a small car. Though Budget Japan's website offers English service, the page for this option is in Japanese only, so for English it would be better to call and reserve by phone.
The main bus station is located about 150 meters down the road from the train station (see the posted town map in either place to know which way). From here buses radiate out through the area, with buses going to/from Iyaguchi, Koboke, Oboke, and the Iya Valley.
But be warned: buses can be infrequent, confusing, inconvenient, and expensive for groups. If going to the Iya Valley, a one way fare can run about 1300-1800 (or more if going deeper) per person, making it about 5000-7000yen for two people just to get in and out, and it doesn't include further trips to explore the valley properly. Whereas a small car can be had for 5000/day
There are few sights in the town, but a couple blocks just after the end of the shopping arcade (past the Awa Bank) is the historic district (don't blink as you walk by, or you might miss it). There are a few restored buildings, a shop or two, and a Tobacco Museum in a pretty old house (with a small traditional Japanese garden) that highlights the once thriving tobacco industry of the area. On some weekends this area holds an outdoor flea market of local arts and food.
Most people use Ikeda as a hub for going elsewhere. Food, drink, and gear can be stocked up here before heading out, as the more picturesque and adventurous areas around have only limited supplies available.
- Unpenji Temple (雲辺寺) This is temple 66 of the 88 Temple Shikoku Pilgrimage. Located on a mountain top in the western part of town, near the border of Shikoku-chuo City (aka Kawanoe). To access, drive out westward from the town center on route 192 about 10-15 minutes, then follow the signs (in English) for the turn off on the right side. Drive a winding road up the mountain or park at the bottom of the mountain to hike the whole way (about 2 hours). Bring water if hiking. (Alternately, a cable car lift can be taken here from the north side of the mountain from Kanonji City in Kagawa Prefecture.) At 920m, it is the highest temple of the 88 Temple route.
- The Ikawa X Park has now closed.
- Awa-Odori The biggest festival in Ikeda is the annual Awa-Odori street dancing event held for three days each August 14-16 (may be +/- a day depending on year). Though not nearly as big as the main Awa-Odori event held in Tokushima City at the same time of year, the Ikeda event is still lots of fun and the streets are full of performing dance groups decked out in costume. Festivities are held each evening starting about 6pm, with lots of street vendors and locals out in yukata. It may even be possible that you will be pulled in to participate.
- Shikoku Sake Tasting Festival Held usually the third weekend of February, dozens of Shikoku's sake brewers converge in Ikeda to show off their flavors. The three local distilleries also open their doors to the public for tours/tasting. A great experience for any hard core sake aficionado, though expect lots of middle aged Japanese men getting their game on. Tickets at door are 2000yen. http://www.shikoku-sakematuri.com/ in Japanese (an English description an be found here)
A large shopping center is located in the same parking area as the bus station, including a supermarket, 100yen shop, and a home center (hardware store). Some camping supplies can be found here. Most stores are open 9am to 8pm (home center is open till 7:30pm)
A 24 hour 7/11 is located just beyond the home center.
From the train station, a generally lifeless shopping arcade extends straight in front of it. There are few stores that sell anything here anymore, just some restaurants.
An Awa Bank is located at the end of the arcade. A JP office (Japan Post) with an ATM that takes foreign cards is located about halfway down the arcade and then one and a half blocks to the left (when going from the train station).
The best as well as cheapest alcohol selection (and dry-food store) in town is located heading out on Route 192 going west towards Route 32 (to Kochi), about 300 meters from the 7/11 (not to be confused with the other 7/11 located in the town center by the home center). It is in a yellow warehouse-looking building on the left (English sign says 'Liquor and Foods') directly across from the large 'Idemitsu' gasoline station. It could be easy to miss, but it's the first building on the left side of Route 192 after the 7/11.
A noodle restaurant is located just outside the bus station.
In between the defunct shops along the shopping arcade that extends from the station are several small restaurants serving noodles, barbecue, rice dishes and other set courses.
On the main road Route 192 (along the river) just east of the 7/11 and across from the police station is the "川の駅" (kawa-no-eki 'river station') which offers a large vegetable market and butcher, as well as two restaurants: upstairs has breakfast buffet and a variety of lunch and dinner options; in the basement is a slightly classier meat barbecue restaurant.
The supermarket near the bus station sells bentos (lunch boxes).
If you find yourself stuck here for some reason, and most definitely in need of a drink, then it would probably be best to simply grab a six-pack from the supermarket or the 7/11 and just drown your sorrows on a bench. But for a bit of social atmosphere in exchange for over-priced Asahi Super Dry, various places along the shopping arcade offer up a beer. There are also a few small bars located in the narrow blocks outside the end of the arcade just beyond the Awa Bank. Some have hostesses. The cafe/bar next to the Tobacco Museum is probably one of the only ones not exclusively filled with crusty middle-aged men.
- Awa-Ikeda Youth Hostel, ☎ . Located over 5 km from the station in a temple area on the top (several minutes drive) of a hill. Overnight fare is ¥3000+1000 non-member fee. It is staffed by a lone caretaker who seems rather surprised to actually have a visitor. Arrange your travel so that you arrive before 6pm at the station so they pick you up (a day's advance notice required), otherwise taxi costs ¥1800.
- Business Hotel Yamashiro, ☎ . From the railway station, go into Ekimae road, take the second side street towards the left, the hotel is near the beginning on the right-hand side. Single room with ensuite bathroom ¥5000 per night.
- Sushi-Roku, ☎ . Located on the left-hand side of Ekimae road. Rooms are Japanese-style and the owners apparently cannot speak English. ¥3500 per night, (English) breakfast ¥500.
- Oboke and Koboke -Adventure abounds here with some of JApan's most awesome white water rafting.
- Iya Valley -A wild, rugged place for great mountain hiking, traditional villages, and daring vine bridges.
- Mima -Step back in time while walking through the old 'Udatsu' town district.
- Tokushima -Dance your heart out at the famous Awa-Odori.
- Kami -Let your inner otaku have fun at the Anpanman Museum
- Kochi -Head south for beach fun, great sushi, and Japan's highest concentration of alcoholics.
- Kotohira -Climb the 1000 steps of their impressive mountain temple.
- Takamatsu -Go north for some unbeatable udon noodles and some of Japan's best gardens.