Kagawa Prefecture is located on the northeastern corner of Shikoku, facing Okayama Prefecture across the Seto Inland Sea. It can be reached from Honshu by road via the Seto Ohashi Bridge, by ferry from Okayama, Kobe and Osaka, and by air. Kagawa has the distinction of being Japan’s smallest prefecture. The prefectural capital of Kagawa is Takamatsu.
In the prefectural capital Takamatsu itself, there’s Ritsurin Garden, one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan, with bridges over carp-filled ponds, footpaths and small hills, all redolent of the many pines that grow there. There’s also a castle which, although lacking a main keep, is a pleasant place to visit. In contrast, the castle at Marugame still has its original keep.
As part of the Ohenro Shikoku Pilgrimage, Kagawa is the fourth prefecture that pilgrims visit. Each of the prefectures has been assigned a symbolic phase — Kagawa represents the idea of Entering Nirvana. Kukai, the Buddhist monk credited with founding the Shikoku Pilgrimage, was born and raised in Kagawa.
Kagawa is known as much for its islands in the Inland Sea as for its attractions on Shikoku. Naoshima is home to several contemporary art museums, notably the Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House, both designed by the acclaimed architect Tadao Ando. Another popular island destination is Shodoshima. With its many olive groves, it has a Mediterranean appearance. It’s home to an old soy sauce factory and museum, wild monkeys, beaches, and a miniature version of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The Kankakei Gorge on the island is something of natural wonder.
Visitors to Kagawa often wonder at the unique shape of its mountains. They resemble comic-book volcanoes, interspersed with prehistoric-looking plateaus from The Lost World. By an accident of geology, most of the mountains in Kagawa Prefecture are formed of granite, which is susceptible to weathering and erosion. However, they’re capped by tough andesite which resists erosion. Only the portion with the andesite remains protected, leaving a mountain shaped like a sine wave. If there’s a small amount of andesite, the mountain will be shaped like Sanuki Fuji, whereas if the andesite forms a band, it results in a plateau like Yashima. Andesite is created by volcanic eruptions, so the phenomenon isn’t completely unrelated to volcanoes. However, these volcanoes were active more than 10 million years ago.
No introduction of Kagawa would be complete without mention of its noodles known as sanuki udon. While these white noodles are available all over Japan, the udon of Kagawa uses wheat with a higher protein content that gives them a special taste.