Japan City Guides: Takamatsu 高松
- situated on the north coast of Shikoku Island.
- population approximately 427,000.
- nearest port on Shikoku to Honshu.
- main attraction Ritsurin Park.
- prefectural capital of Kagawa.
- second largest city in Shikoku after Matsuyama.
- ferry hub for the islands in the Inland Sea.
- within easy reach of Konpira-san shrine, Marugame Castle and Zentsuji Temple.
Takamatsu, Shikoku's second largest city and the prefectural capital of Kagawa, is the island's gateway to Japan's main island of Honshu especially after the construction of the Seto Ohashi road and rail bridge. Ferries connect Takamatsu to Kobe, Okayama and the islands of Shodoshima and Naoshima in the Inland Sea.
There are a number of interesting temples in or around Takamatsu and some decent restaurants and bars and lively shopping and entertainment areas in its famous covered arcades.
Takamatsu's strategic position even in feudal times ensured the city's wealth and prompted the building of Takamatsu (Tamamo) Castle (Tel: 087 851 1521) by local warlord Chikamasu Ikoma in 1588.
Little now remains of Takamatsu Castle also known as Tamamo Castle, located in Tamamo Park not far from the main station.
First constructed from 1588-1590 by Chikamasa Ikoma, the castle later in 1642 became a residence of the Matsudaira clan, relatives of the ruling Tokugawa shogun.
The castle is of note as it faces the Inland Sea between Honshu and Shikoku islands and the moat was filled with sea water drawn in via sluice gates.
The moat and stone walls remain along with three turrets and a gate. The Tsukimi Yagura turret facing the sea was built for moon-viewing, hence the name (tsuki = moon; mi=see) and the Ushitora Yagura is a pleasant sight as you speed by on the trains running on the Kotoden Line.
Tamamo Park has a pleasant dry, stone garden and is planted with cherry trees and pine trees.
The castle was gradually demolished during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) as Takamatsu grew in size and was further damaged during World War II. Just outside the park to the east is the Kagawa Museum (Tel: 087 822 0002), with an interesting exhibition dedicated to Kobo Daishi and some fun, high-tech displays focused on the history and folk art of the prefecture.
Ritsurin Koen (Tel: 087 833 7411) is Takamatsu's main attraction and remains one of the country's most appealing and largest strolling gardens. Begun in the early 17th century by Ikoma Takatoshi, the garden was added to and expanded until 1745.
The picturesque and tranquil garden is divided into North and South sections and stretches around a series of ponds, with delicate bridges, teahouses and viewing hills dotting the carefully sculptured landscape.
Sample traditional green tea (matcha) at the historic, 17th century Kikugetsu-tei and Higurashi-tei (built in 1898) pavilions. Also in the garden near the East Gate is the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum displaying local crafts including basketwork and ceramics.
To get to the garden take a bus from Takamatsu Station to Ritsurin-mae bus stop or a JR train to Ritsurin Park Kitaguchi. Alternatively walk ten minutes from Kotoden Ritsurin Station.
Ritsurin-koen, Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture.
The JR Takamatsu Station area has been recently redeveloped and includes Shikoku's highest building - the 30-storey Symbol Tower (Tel: 087 811 2111), which has an observation deck (open 10am-8pm) with excellent views of the Inland Sea and Takamatsu city, plus a variety of shopping and restaurant outlets.
Sunport Takamatsu, behind the station, is a major redevelopment of Takamatsu's water front and port area. The area includes a promenade and a glass lighthouse which is illuminated red at night.
A short train journey east on the JR Kotoku Line or Kotoden Line to Yashima makes for a nice day or half-day trip from the center of Takamatsu. The area is famous for the Battle of Yashima, a prelude to the historic Battle of Dannoura between the Taira and Minamoto clans in 1185 in the Shimonoseki Strait.
Nowadays there are good views from the 293m high plateau and the interesting Yashima-ji Temple (Tel: 087 841 9418), number 84 of the 88 Sacred Temples, which has relics of the battle and the "Pond of Blood", where Minamoto warriors reputedly washed the blood of their Taira foes from their swords.
Shikoku Mura (Tel: 087 843 3111), near Kotoden Yashima Station, has an interesting collection of over twenty traditional buildings brought from all over Shikoku and surrounding islands and laid out in a pleasant parkland. There's a thatched kabuki stage from Shodoshima, a replica rope bridge (kazurabashi) from the Oboke Gorge area, an Edo-era border post and many other fine restored buildings, all with good English explanations. The Shikoku Mura Gallery, set in a beautiful water garden and designed by Tadao Ando features modern art by Picasso and Chagall among others and regular exhibitions of Oriental art.
East of Yashima is the traditional stonemasons' village of Mure. It was here that the celebrated American-Japanese sculptor and designer, Isamu Noguchi set up a home and studio in the 1970s. The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan (Tel: 087 870 1500) contains 150 of the great man's sculptures, some of them unfinished. Visitors from overseas can make a reservation to take an hour long tour of the house (2100 yen) and grounds by email or fax on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. the nearest station is Yakuri on the Kotoden Line.
It is fairly easy to get around central Takamatsu on foot or rental bicycle (100 yen) from the JR Station. Kotoden trains run to both Yashima and Kotohira for Konpira-san Shrine.
There is a Tourist Information Office (Tel: 087 851 2009) just outside JR Takamatsu Station. The Kagawa International Exchange Center (I-PAL), near Chuo-koen has more tourist information, English -language newspapers and books as well as internet access. (Tel: 087 837 5908; Tues-Sun 9am-6pm)
Ritsurin-koen, Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture.
Takamatsu is known for its Sanuki udon noodles and hand-made Hariko paper dolls. Takamatsu's covered arcades Hyogomachi, Lion Dori and Marugamemachi claim to be the longest in the country, and the streets around these arcades is the city's entertainment district with a number of good restaurants, bars and izakaya. The area around Kotoden Kawaramachi Station also has a number of restaurants and bars.
Takamatsu has a number of festivals throughout the year. August sees the Takamatsu Festival with fireworks and street dancing, in October the Autumn Festival has a parade of Edo-era samurai and at the end of the year, the Takamatsu Winter Festival sees the city illuminated with colored lights.
Takamatsu Airport (Tel: 087 851 2009) is 16km south of the city with buses to and from JR Takamatsu Station (35 mins). A taxi costs around 4000 yen. There are flights to Tokyo, Kagoshima and Naha (Okinawa), with an international flight to Seoul in Korea.
There are JR express trains over the Seto Ohashi Bridge to Okayama (55 minutes as well as connections within Shikoku on the JR Kotoku Line to Tokushima (1 hour), the JR Yosan Line to Matsuyama (20 hours, 30 mins) and the JR Dosan Line south to kochi (2 hours, 30 mins). There are highway bus services to Tokyo (9 hours, 30 mins), Nagoya (7 hours, 45 mins), and Yokohama (9 hours).
There are ferry connections from Takamatsu Port to Kobe, Okayama and to Naoshima, Shodoshima, Megishima and Ogishima in the Inland Sea.