Shikoku (四国) may be the smallest of the four Japan islands, but it is by no means a titan at capturing the hearts of those who fancy a journey off the beaten track. On this soulful island, the intimacy with Japan’s picturesque and gorgeous nature will be an adventure of a lifetime. We begin our exploration of this unassuming beauty with Kagawa Prefecture (香川県), one of the four prefectures that forms the beating heart of Shikoku.
Interweaving traditions into its modern art scene, Takamatsu is the epitome of a perfect balance between the old and new. The renowned Ritsurin Koen (栗林公園) tells such a tale. The 75-acres vast landscape is divided into two, with the South showcasing traditional Japanese gardens and the North displaying contemporary Western gardens. Nearby at the Tamamo Park (玉藻公園), Takamatsu Castle is one of the only three castles in Japan to boast of a moat. Sitting in the middle of the castle park is the alluring Hiunkaku (飛雲閣) – what used to be a Matsudaira Clan’s residence is now both a traditional tea ceremony hall and concert hall.
Downtown Takamatsu, Machi no Schule 963 or “The Neighbourhood School” attempts to redesign the traditions. The cafe has dedicated immense efforts into paying tribute to modern and traditional art – one can find traditional Kagawa items alongside artworks by local artists, each accompanied with a detailed introduction. Apart from buying funky souvenirs, one can visit to simply appreciate the visual aesthetics of lovely artworks!
ADDRESS: 2nd Floor, Takamatsu Marugamemachi Sanbangai East Building, 13-3 Marugame-cho, Takamatsu City OPENING HOURS: 11:00am - 7:30pm (Shop)/ 11:30am - 6:00pm (Cafe, Mon - Thurs) / 11:30am - 10:00pm (Fri - Sun) *Closed on 3rd Sunday of the month
If you are a fan of Wasanbon (和三盆), a traditional Japanese fine-grained sugar, then you are in for a treat at Mamehana (豆花). The humble establishment is owned by Yoshiro Ichihara, the last surviving person in Western Japan to handcraft Kashiki-gata (樫木方) used to make Wasanbon. Together with his daughter, the family is determined to preserve this precious tradition. They conduct English workshops with step-by-step guidance, and serve the participants with a frothy cup of authentic matcha green tea to go with their personalised handiwork.
ADDRESS: 1-7-30 Hanazo-Cho, Takamatsu City CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 090-7575-1212 WORKSHOP FEE: 1000Yen/hour (Reservations to be made prior)
Shodo Island (小豆島)
According to legend, Shodo-shima was one of the first Japanese islands to be created by the gods. Known for its olive plantations and Mediterranean climate, the island offers many viewpoints, such as Mt. Hoshigajo, where one can catch a spectacular view of neighbouring islands. In particular, this Angel’s Road is only accessible at low tide, where the sandy path emerges out out of the waters.
TAKATMATSU PORT to TONOSHO PORT: 30 minutes via High Speed Boat (1170Yen/ pax) 60 minutes via Regular Car Ferry (690Yen/ pax)
Naoshima Island (直島)
Another participant of the Setouchi Triennale, Naoshima is an island offshore north of Kagawa. Nestled deep underground on Naoshima Island, lies the secretive Chi Chu Museum (地中美術館). Raved as the world’s best museum, the intimate Japanese museum utilizes solely natural light to illuminate itself and its artworks. Renowned American painter Claude Monte’s Water Lilies series and sculpture Walter de Maria’s installations are also found in the museum. From Miyanoura Port, visitors need only take a 10-minutes free shuttle bus ride to reach the Museum.
TAKAMATSU PORT TO MIYANOURA PORT: 25 minutes via High Speed Ferry (1200Yen [Adults]/ 610 Yen [Child]) 50 minutes via Regular Car Ferry (520Yen [Adults]/ 260Yen [Child])
Kotohira Town (琴平町)
Kotohira is a charming little town with much religious importance. It is home to the famous Mount Zozu’s Kompira-gu Shrine (象頭山金刀比羅宮), which is said to have been the destination of pilgrimage since a thousand years ago. The enshrined deity is believed to be the guardian of sailors. Getting here is no easy task – it takes 785 stone steps to the Main Shrine, and another 1368 stone steps to the Inner Shrine.
ADDRESS: 892-1 Kotohira-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa *Opens daily | Free Admission
Near the shrine, there are many food and drink stalls. One must DEFINITELY try the Sanuki Udon (讃岐うどん)! In fact, udon shops are known to be everywhere in Kagawa. As its name suggest, the traditional Sanuki Udon was born in Sanuki country. The most popular method of cooking is bukkake (ぶっかけ) – style, by removing the udon from boiling water and serving it in bouillon soup with a topping of egg and chopped scallions.
North of Kagawa, on this very flat topped mountain, the Taira Clan was defeated in what was to be their last battle by the Minamoto Clan during the 12th century. One can see the ancient battleground from the Dankorei Observation Deck. At the base of Yashima also sits Shikokumura (四国村), a replica of the way of life in old Shikoku during the Edo era to Taisho period.
ADDRESS: 91 Yashima-nakamachi, Takamatsu City *Opens daily from 8:30am - 5:30pm
*Header imager by Jake Jung