[From November Issue 2012]
Kagawa Prefecture is located in the north east of the Shikoku region. In recent years it’s been gaining a lot of attention as the “Udon Prefecture” because of a PR campaign promoting the unique appeal of the area’s “sannuki udon” (noodle soup) dish. To the north, facing the Seto Inland Sea is a wide flat plain and to the south, surrounded by the Sanuki Mountains, is an area which has a long history of maritime trading.
Since the Seto Ohashi Bridge opened in 1988, connecting Shikoku with Honshu (the main island of Japan), Takamatsu City, the capital of Kagawa Prefecture, has been playing an even more important role as a gateway to the Shikoku region. It’s a hub for artistic events, like the Setouchi International Art Festival that will be held for the second time next year.
You might want to begin your trip by visiting Ritsurin Garden. Built during the Edo Period, it took about 100 years for successive daimyou (lords) of the Sanuki Takamatsu Domain to complete the garden. Divided into a southern garden and a northern garden, the garden contains six artificial ponds and 13 miniature hills. It’s not only been designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan, but it’s also known all over the world for being a lovely garden and has been featured in foreign magazines.
Kagawa Prefecture is a place deeply associated with the military leader, TAIRA no Kiyomori, who is featured in a period drama currently being broadcast on NHK. Partly because of this, the Takamatsu Heike Monogatari Historical Museum is attracting attention. The museum allows you to see the world of “The Tale of the Heike,” an epic which centers around Taira no Kiyomori and depicts the rise and fall of the Heike clan in the Heian period (8 ~ 12th century). The 300 lifelike wax dolls are a must-see.
Yashima appeared in “The Tale of the Heike” as the site of the battle that took place between the Genji and the Heike. Having a number of landmarks related to the battle, it is constantly being visited by history buffs. This area also boasts a host of leisure facilities. At the summit of Mount Yashima, there is an observation deck and an aquarium commanding beautiful views of the Seto Inland Sea. The New Yashima Aquarium houses 300 kinds of creatures and is the only aquarium in Japan to stand on top of a 290-meter mountain. Dolphin and sea lion shows are very popular among children.
When you get hungry, go to a sanuki udon shop. The udon is a delicious al dente noodle and its base is a refreshing broth made from small dried sardines. With more than 900 sanuki udon shops, Kagawa Prefecture boasts the highest number of udon shops per capita and produces the largest amount of udon noodles in Japan.
The climate and soil in Kagawa Prefecture is well suited for growing wheat and the prefecture has long thrived on producing salt and soy sauce, as well as dried sardines, all of which are used to make the broth. Featured in magazines and movies, Kagawa became known all over the nation. Many tourists visit the prefecture to eat udon, and there are even “udon tours” available.
Art lovers should visit the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum. The museum has a collection of over 150 works by NOGUCHI Isamu. One of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century, Noguchi spent his twilight years in Kagawa Prefecture and wanted his works to be a source of inspiration for future artists and researchers. It’s no exaggeration to say that the museum, which embodies that wish of his, is his life itself.
Another place known for art is Naoshima. Located about 50 to 60 minutes away from Takamatsu Port by ferry, the island is a popular tourist spot that blends nature, urban life and modern art. In 2013, the Setouchi International Art Festival, a modern art festival that showcases the islands in the Seto Inland Sea as one museum, will be held once again. As a major attraction of this festival, Naoshima captivates visitors from both home and abroad.
A must-visit place in Kagawa is Kotohira-gu. This historic site enshrines a god of the sea. Especially famous is the long approach of stone steps connecting the main shrine with the rear shrine. With 1,368 steps in total, it’s known for its great length. Attracting scores of visitors throughout the year, the shrine has a number of treasure halls containing important cultural properties and ancient shaden (buildings that enshrine holy objects).
Close to Kotohira-gu is the Old Konpira Ooshibai Kabuki Theater (Kanamaruza), known as Japan’s oldest existing playhouse. Designated as an important cultural property, this place is considered to be a mecca for kabuki by actors and fans. Held in April each year, Shikoku Konpira Kabuki Ooshibai is a traditional event that heralds the arrival of spring.
Inside Takamatsu City is Aji Onsen, a hot spring that commands views of the Seto Island Sea. Here you can enjoy open-air baths, saunas and cold-water plunge pools. The hot springs are effective for treating neuralgia, muscle pain and skin diseases, as well as for relieving fatigue. You can also savor reasonably priced seafood dishes made with the fresh catch of the day from Aji Port.
To get to Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, it takes about one hour and 15 minutes to fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Takamatsu Airport. There are limousine buses available from the airport to JR Takamatsu Station. From JR Tokyo Station, you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen and get to Okayama Station in roughly three hours and 15 minutes. Transferring for the JR Seto Ohashi Line at Okayama Station, you will arrive at Takamatsu Station in approximately 50 minutes. You can also get there in about 11 hours on an expressway bus departing from the vicinity of Tokyo Station.
Text: OOMORI Saori