Discover the highlights of Takamatsu, Japan’s green city

Venture beyond Tokyo to delve deeper into Japanese cuisine and traditional culture in Takamatsu

Team Wanderlust
28 February 2024

They say that good things come in small packages, so when exploring Japan, why not take the time to visit Takamatsu, the capital of Japan’s smallest prefecture, Kagawa, located in the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku. Takamatsu is the port city of Kagawa prefecture and the once historical entry point into Shikoku. Boasting stunning scenery, rich culture, and a warm climate, Takamatsu allows you to discover a Japan outside of the well-trodden tourist spots and dive deeper into the culture of the region. The icing on the cake; it’s only one extraordinary train ride from Tokyo.

Arrive by Sunrise Seto sleeper train

The Sunrise Seto train at Takamatsu Station

Getting out of Tokyo to visit this lesser known location is easy, and unique, thanks to Japan’s last regular sleeper train, the Sunrise Seto. Departing Tokyo Station at 9:50pm, this train offers overnight accommodation, including private cabins, that allow passengers to travel in comfort and style; there are even vending machines and showers onboard. The highlight of the journey is the stunning view of the Seto Inland Sea awash in the golden sunrise as you cross the Seto Ohashi Bridge. Having travelled 500 miles overnight, you’ll arrive in Takamatsu at 7:30am the following day, refreshed and ready to explore.

Marvel at the Ritsurin Garden

Kikugetsu-tei teahouse in the Ritsurin Garden

Upon arrival, take a breath of fresh, pine scented air in one of Japan’s most majestic traditional gardens, Ritsurin Garden. Created during the early Edo period by local feudal lords, this Takamatsu treasure is emblematic of the country’s rich landscaping history. Its 16-hectare garden offers ever changing scenery with every step; stroll around serene ponds, over undulating hills and bridges and discover historic Japanese buildings dotted throughout. Visitors can soothe their soul at Kikugetsu-tei teahouse, sipping tea on its veranda overlooking Nanko Pond, learn the garden’s history at Shoko Shoreikan, or glide across the water with a traditional boat ride.

Prepare your own udon noodles at Nakano Udon School

Handmade udon noodles at Nakano Udon School

Famously hailed as the ‘udon prefecture’, Kagawa is known for its firm, chewy ‘sanuki udon.’ There are a myriad of restaurants to enjoy udon in Takamatsu, but if you want to dive deeper into the region’s food culture, you should visit Nakano Udon School. Here, you’ll learn to make udon yourself with one very special ingredient: dancing! The school’s enthusiastic teachers invite students to dance on the noodle dough – covered in plastic of course – following the traditional practice of kneading udon dough by foot. Once kneaded, cut, and boiled, you can enjoy your well earned bowl of delicious udon with dipping sauce.

Learn about history and onsen culture in Busshozan

Busshozan Onsen, Takamatsu

Step back in time in Busshozan, a Takamatsu neighbourhood that retains the city’s Edo period charm. The area grew and prospered as merchants built elegant stores and houses around the popular Honenji Temple. Grab a bite to eat in a repurposed kimono shop now cafe, or pop into Kanzakiya, a rice vinegar store opened in 1789 that continues to operate to this day. In and amongst the old is also the new in the form of Busshozan Onsen; one of the few onsen in Takamatsu, its award-winning modern design and soothing waters will leave you feeling rejuvenated in mind, body and soul.

Relax at The Chelsea Breath Hotel

A sunset view from The Chelsea Breath

If a touch of luxury is desired, then a stay at The Chelsea Breath is a must. This hilltop hotel’s bold, modern interior design is complemented by breathtaking panoramic views. After a day of exploration, unwind in the hotel’s chic lobby, drink in hand, and watch a spectacular sunset over the vista. For maximum relaxation, head to the hotel’s immunity boosting hot springs. From artistic photographs of the region adorning the walls to quality ingredients sourced from all over Shikoku served in its restaurant, The Chelsea Breath showcases the best the island has to offer.

Take a ferry to Megijima Island

Ogre tiles inside Onigashima Cave on Megijima Island

A short skip, hop and 20-minute ferry ride away from Takamatsu’s port is the tiny island of Megijima. Megijima is known as “Ogre Island” since it’s said that the ogre from Japanese children’s folk story, Momotaro Legend, lived on Megijima. On Mt. Washigamine, explore the island’s ogre caves to discover colourful statues of the ogres that Momotaro defeated as well as traditional roof tiles adorned with ogre faces, created by roughly 3,000 students in the prefecture. After facing monsters, you can head just above the cave to a mountain park where an observation platform allows visitors a truly amazing 360-degree view of the Seto Inland Sea.

Wander around Ogijima Island

Public art on Ogijima Island

40 minutes by ferry from Takamatsu port is Megijima’s little brother, the idyllic Ogijima Island. Despite being smaller, Ogijima has a larger population, with roughly 150 permanent residents living on the slopes of the mountain overlooking the harbour. Stroll through the maze-like streets whilst keeping an eye out for the public artwork created as part of the Setouchi Triennale, an international arts festival held across the Seto Inland Sea’s islands. One such artwork is Ogijima’s Soul, a contemporary building you’ll spot as soon as you arrive on the island, which is helpful as it also serves as the island’s information centre.

Enjoy a tempura lunch at Japanese Cuisine Nishiki

Freshly made tempura at Japanese Cuisine Nishiki, Takamatsu

With the sea on one side and mountains on the other, Takamatsu is blessed with many delicious, seasonal ingredients. Nishiki’s head chef understands this well, utilising and promoting the region’s produce by crafting an exquisite fine dining experience. The restaurant’s recent gastronomical creation is a mouthwatering tempura performance which shows off Shikoku’s quality ingredients by preparing them right in front of you. Starting with lightly battered and deep fried seasonal vegetables, you’ll then move on to locally caught seafood, including puffer fish and squid. Accompanied by tantalising starters and a variety of side dishes, Nishiki’s cuisine is not to be missed.

Experience the art and craft of wasanbon at Mamehana

Artisanally crafted wasanbon moulds at Mamehana, Takamatsu

For those looking to indulge their sweet tooth, Takamatsu has the perfect, and prettiest, sweet treat. Wasanbon is a local speciality having been made in the region since the Edo period. Refined sugar, made from Shikoku grown sugarcane, is coloured, sieved, and placed into moulds of varying designs to create this beautiful confectionery. Yoshihiro Ichihara is the only craftsman left on the island to painstakingly make these mould designs by hand and his daughter, Ayumi, leads classes for guests to create their own wasanbon. Guests can choose from over 100 of her father’s moulds to create their own delicious, picture-perfect treats.

Feeling inspired to explore Takamatsu city?

Plan your cultural Japanese visit to Takamatsu today.

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