Takamatsu is the capital of Kagawa Prefecture. It’s a port city on the Seto Inland Sea, and it’s the closest of Shikoku’s port to Honshu. Consequently, it’s always been the main point of entry into Shikoku, and it flourished under the feudal system as a castle town of the fiefdom of Takamatsu in the Edo period.
The city stands on a flat plain dotted with interestingly shaped mountains which extend into the sea forming beautiful islands. Much of the city was destroyed by incendiary bombing in July 1945, so there are many modern buildings. Takamatsu city centre has a covered shopping arcade stretching from Takamatsu Castle to Ritsurin Koen, the longest in Japan at 2.7 km.
Sunport Takamatsu, a recent development comprising the port and train terminal, is dominated by the Symbol Tower standing 151 m high. You can take the lift up to the top and get a great view of Takamatsu and its surrounding mountains.
Nearby is the castle. The keep of the castle was demolished in the Meiji period. Nevertheless, the defensive walls remain 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. It used water from the sea as its main defence. Within the walls is a beautiful garden of pine trees and ponds, with an elegant government building from the 1920s.
The city’s major tourist attraction is Ritsurin Garden, created in the Edo period by a succession of feudal lords. With its lakes, small hills, villas and teahouses, it’s one of the most beautiful traditional gardens in Japan. In spring, the cherry blossoms are spectacular, and in autumn, the colourful foliage on Mt. Shiun beyond the garden makes a wonderful backdrop. Year round, the ancient pines present a memorable scene.
The eastern part of Takamatsu is dominated by the massive, prehistoric-looking plateau of Yashima. At the base of the mountain is Shikoku Mura, an open-air museum with historic buildings relocated from all over Shikoku. Temple No. 84, Yashima-ji, stands at the top of the mountain. The views over Takamatsu and the Seto Inland Sea are superb.
From Takamatsu port, you can sail to various islands of the Seto Inland Sea, including, Megijima, Ogijima, Naoshima, Teshima and Shodoshima. Since 2010, the Setouchi Triennale contemporary art festival has been hosted in Takamatsu and these islands, and the outdoor art installations are left on display between the events.
Takamatsu is the main setting of Haruki Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore and the anime Poco’s Udon World. The anime reflects Takamatsu’s status as the home of Sanuki udon, the best udon in the country and the object of pilgrimage by food lovers across Japan. Another Takamatsu favourite is chargrilled chicken, which makes a heavenly combination with Kagawa’s fine sake.
You can take tours of central Takamatsu in ’velo taxis’, pedalled by chatty and entertaining young men.
Name in Japanese: 高松市
Address: 21-20 Hamanocho, Takamatsu, Kagawa 760-0011