Takamatsu Top Ten
Takamatsu Top Ten
In this series of articles, we look at the top ten places in the four main cities of Shikoku – Matsuyama, Kochi, Tokushima and Takamatsu. Here we look at Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa Prefecture.
This is one of most celebrated traditional gardens in Japan. It was created by the feudal lord of Takamatsu in 1625, using the ’borrowed landscape’ of Mt. Shiun behind (which you can climb, and see ancient tombs!). The garden features numerous small hills, ponds, and pine trees of the most amazing shapes and sizes. There are also several tea houses and pavilions where you can take tea and enjoy the atmosphere of provincial sophistication.
Also known as Tamamo Castle, this is often called a ’ruin’ because its keep was destroyed in the Meiji period. Nevertheless, its walls are in excellent condition, and its several remaining watchtowers are almost big and elaborate enough to pass as castle keeps. Takamatsu Castle was built in 1590 by the first feudal lord of Takamatsu Domain. Like Imabari Castle, also in Shikoku, it used water from the sea as its main defense. Within the walls is a beautiful garden of pine trees and ponds, with an elegant government building from the 1920s.
This open-air architectural park at the foot of Mt. Yashima has over twenty buildings brought from around Shikoku dating from the Edo period through to the Taisho period. There’s also a passable reconstruction of an Iya Valley vine bridge, a lighthouse keeper’s residence designed in 1871 by British architect R. H. Brunton (1841-1901), and the Shikoku Mura Gallery designed by renowned architect AndoTadao. For those who love architecture and photography, this charming theme park could fill a day.
Seto Inland Sea Folk History Museum
This museum is located on top of Goshikidai, the mountain that dominates the western side of Takamatsu. The building itself was inspired by the castles of the regions’ maritime clans. Exhibits include ships, shipbuilding, farming, festivals, art and the Shikoku Pilgrimage. From the rooftop of the museum, you can see an expanse of the Seto Inland Sea including Ogijima, Megijima, Naoshima, Teshima, and Shodoshima. Admission to this wonderful museum is free.
You can get to Megijima by ferry in 20 minutes. The huge cave atop the island is associated with legendary ogres, and the observation deck above it offers a panaromic view of the Inland Sea. The surrounding park is planted with hundreds of cherry trees which blossom in early April. A large statue of the Buddhist saint Nichiren graces a nearby peak. The village of rustic wooden houses offers plenty of old-time charm, and the beach is very pleasant in summer.
This small island is a 40-minute ferry ride from Takamatsu Port, beyond Megijima. It’s known as the location of the cult classic Battle Royale. The island has a single village and ferry terminal on the southern end, and a pictureque lighthouse at the northern end. It takes 30 minutes to walk between these points along a pleasant road through fields and forest. As one of the venues of the Setouchi Triennale art festival, there are various indoor and outdoor installations to visit.
Nakano Udon School
The udon noodles of Takamatsu are known throughout Japan as being the most flavourful and toothsome. They’re called ’Sanuki udon’ after the name of the region in feudal times. The Nakano Udon School is equally renowned as a fun place to make and eat this simple dish. Cheerful and garrulous old people are on the mike to give instructions, which involve kneading the wheat dough by dancing on it. Once you’ve finished kneading, rolling and cutting the noodles, you can cook and eat them too. Good fun all round.
This long, high plateau dominates the eastern skyline of Takamatsu. This too is actually an island, although it can be accessed by numerous bridges. It was the site of a decisive battle in the Genpei War of the 12th century. The mountaintop is also home to Yashimaji, Temple No. 84 of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, which has a museum with historical artefacts. There are many places to take in the dramatic views of Takamatsu and the Inland Sea from this commanding height.
Tosaka Chicken and Sake Restaurant
The down-home Tosaka Restaurant is located next to the railway tracks near Kataharamachi Station. The master prepares his delicious chicken-centric food in an island kitchen that runs down the middle of the restaurant. You can have chicken cooked every which way, including lightly seared (i.e., largely raw), or slow-grilled over charcoal with lashings of chicken fat. It’s a great place to try some of the best sake of Kagawa, which goes phenomenally well with the chicken.
This train, bus and ferry hub at the heart of Takamatsu is built on a scale more typical of the big cities of Honshu than Shikoku. The Symbol Tower looks shockingly big and out of place, but it affords a good view of Takamatsu if you ride its lift to the top. The district has several large art installations from the Setouchi Triennale. The unashamed modernism of Sunport makes an interesting contrast with the castle park which adjoins it. You can take tours of the area in ’velo taxis’, pedalled by chatty and entertaining young men.
We haven’t mentioned that Takamatsu also has an extraordinary network of arcades to explore, and there’s plenty else to see and do. But this Top Ten is a good introduction to Takamatsu.